Hunting Category

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Although the author of this piece is a real live outdoor enthusiast, he neglected to mention the 22LR is the favorite rifle of deer poachers. Don't take my word for it (although I too am an outdoor enthusiast). Here are just three of the hundreds of credible news stories of game warden investigations that confirm this:

Sport hunting and survival hunting are different. I can sit on my porch and take a deer from twenty feet away with a 22LR. My neighbor gets more out of season than in and the 22LR, being much quieter, doesn't hurt any. - A.C.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Many times, we get so caught up in buying our toys and getting them out of the package to play that we don't pay attention to the fine details that really matter. It's no surprise that prepping has generally been all about more, bigger, and better firearms and ammunition. Yet, there is so much to be learned about the proper use and care of your firearms that becomes lost on the average person. Many times we buy the gun, we get it out of the package, throw all of our tacti-cool stuff on it, maybe shoot it a few times, and then we lay it in a closet without another thought. We check off the box for "protection" and move on. Yet, this is the piece of the puzzle that we rely upon to save our lives and protect our families and belongings. When the time comes, whether it's for protection or for providing, will you know how your rifle performs? Will you know how to care for it? Perhaps most importantly, have you ironed out all the potential problems that use in the field can throw at you? This is a complicated piece of equipment and the chances of you getting it all correct the first time through are very slim. Once you are in the field, trying to figure out why your rifle can't hit something you are aiming at is too late. 

I am sure you have heard it said about your carry gun, usually some variation of: "Don't rely on it until you try it." What's that mean? Take it out shooting. Know how it performs. Learn how to compensate for it. Know what ammo it likes. Yet in a TEOTWAWKI setting, the rifle is infinitely more useful and important, though much more complex to take care of and learn. The average person doesn't have a place where they can practice with a rifle, especially not at distances greater than 50 yards or so, making it hard to fully understand the performance of their life-saving tool. Luckily, millions of American's are hunters, so they have learned the ins and outs of setting up, maintaining, learning, and successfully operating their rifle. Even so, it has become obvious to me that using a rifle more than a few times a year is almost a necessity. There is only so much you can learn by shooting your rifle 5 times a year. Sometimes potential problems don't show up with 1 shot a year. I want to talk to you about a problem I have faced this year.

I don't remember if I addressed this a few weeks ago on my deer hunting post, but something had happened this year that had never happened before. On my first hunt of the year, I had a relatively long shot at a doe, who was walking across a field about 180 yards from me. I had a good rest and I took the shot, but nothing happened other than she scurried away. 

I was pretty upset about it, not having missed a shot since my very first hunt when I was 13 years old. But the shot was fairly long and the deer was moving, so I just assumed that it was my time. A few days later, I was sitting in the exact same shooting house and the exact same deer came out. She walked the same path as the one days before, so I took aim and shot. And I shot again. And again. No luck.

At that point I knew something was wrong. How could I miss that many shots by that wide of a margin? Of course, that caused me to start thinking analytically on how the performance of my rifle could be degraded or at least affected by a handful of variables. It was amazing how many different things I could come up with that were all plausible. Perhaps the crosswind was too much. Maybe the change in ammunition had a greater effect than I thought. Had my gun been dropped at some point or the scope somehow been knocked? Any and all of these things were possible. There was only one thing to do: check out the "zero" on the gun. 

Because my shoulder didn't need repetitive knocks, my dad took the gun and sighted it in. He reported back that it was shooting 6 inches low at 60 yards, but it was fixed. Yet, the windage was excellent. I thought that was odd, but didn't really think about it too much. We just assumed that either the scope was knocked off or the change from a 160 grain to a 180 grain bullet accounted for the massive ballistics change. Either way, the gun was back on and I could go back to hunting. 

I took it hunting the next day and had a fairly simple 75 yard shot, which resulted in a nice kill. 

Just a few days later, I took the gun back out. Very close to dark, I was presented a shot. It was a decently long shot, and it was near dark but I took it. The deer had nearly no reaction to the shot other than to scamper a few yards closer to me. I took a second shot. The deer came even closer to me, just under 50 yards. I tried for a 3rd shot and missed again. 

Frustrated as I have never been while hunting, I stormed home. When I got home, I took the gun inside and inspected it. That's when I noticed this:

Do you see that scrape just above the rings? Well, that brought back some memories. So, let's talk about them. Initially, I had a cheaper scope on this gun with a 30mm aperture, which limited my visibility in low light conditions. The scope also had cheaper rings on it, but they worked. After deer season last year, we swapped the old scope for a Nikon Monarch, but kept the old rings. After sighting it in, I did notice that the scope seemed to have slid "forward" in the rings. Actually, what happened was the momentum of the  gunshots had pushed the gun backwards and was unable to transfer the momentum to the scope, but slipped in the rings. But, the gun was sighted in so I tightened the ring bolts as tight as I could and went on about my life. The first time I fired it after sighting it in was the aforementioned miss you read about earlier. 

Obviously, there was something that needed to be changed. I wasn't sure what it was, but I knew I couldn't simply tighten down the screws on the rings anymore. In fact, not only was I worried that squeezing the tube could cause some sort of refraction or misalignment of the glass inside of the scope, but I was doubtful that I could even get the screws out without stripping them. 

Indeed, that was the case. The more force I applied to the allen wrench to get the screws out, the more it looked like I would have to take drastic measures else the screws would just strip. So, I got creative. I used a C-clamp and compressed the edges of the rings in order to take the pressure off of the screws. They came out fairly easily.

When I inspected the inside of the rings and the outer diameter of the scope tube, it seemed that there was remnants of some sort of fluid. I figure it was either oil left over on the scope's packaging or perhaps some loctite from the installations of the screws. Additionally, I started thinking about why this scope was having problems but I never had any problems with the other scope. I thought about the installation of the scope itself.

I recalled that it was a cold day and I was in a hurry to get it installed and sighted in. I also recall that I didn't level the scope out entirely, which caused the crosshairs to not be quit flat. Is it possible that in my rush I had made a fundamental error? Perhaps I didn't sequence the tightening of the bolts properly? While the bolts would appear to be tight, the ring itself may not have had the proper contact patch from the uneven tightening. Perhaps it was simply because the rings themselves had form-fitted to a different scope that had, at best, the same dimensions but different tolerances. It could be that the scopes were entirely different sizes or shapes.

Regardless of the why and how, the fact is, the rifle was useless in this condition. After every other shot, the zero was completely lost. Like I stated above, it could be my own fault from a lack of attention to detail or it could have been bad luck. But, I was determined to crunch the variables this time around and ensure that this gun would become reliable. So, I bought new (and better) rings. I really wanted to go with a complete set of Leupold bases and rings, but unfortunately, they don't make a set that fits my Marlin and the Nikon scope. So, I had to use the bases that were on it plus adjustable Leupold rings.

I started out by wiping down the mating services with alcohol, removing any debris or fluids.  

I then leveled up the rifle itself.

Then, after cleaning the scope and rings thoroughly, I placed the scope in the rings and leveled the scope in both directions. 

Lastly, I placed the ring caps on the scope and tightened them down. First, I tightened them until they were snug, then I alternated tightening in 90 degree turns on each screw until they were tight. 

Now, understand that there is a lot more that I could do to install this scope to even better standards. With a quick search, you can find all kinds of ways to properly install and sight in a scope. However, I don't have the setup to do that, so this is the best I can do. Furthermore, this post isn't about teaching how to do what I have done so much as it is for you to learn that you can't learn much about a gun by throwing it in your Bug Out Bag. I am just as guilty as the next person. I built my budget AR and have yet to fire it. I would go so far as to say that you don't know your gun by firing it five times a year. However, if that's what you are going to do, at least make sure that you sight it in each year before you take it hunting the first time. 

Hopefully your luck will be better than mine, but there are other things to consider. Have you practiced with your gun with different types of ammunition? Like I alluded to earlier, I didn't think about the effects of going from 160 grain ammo to 180 grain ammo until it was too late. Ultimately, that wasn't why I missed the deer, but the bullet drop from 100 to 300 yards between the two are substantial. While ballistics charts are readily available and great, it isn't for your gun and for your situation. Plus, the experience stored in your mind will be a lot faster than digging out a ballistics chart. Additionally, there are the effects of windage, again, something that you can only understand by shooting your gun in that situation. Do you know the effect on your gun by taking repeated shots? Deer hunters rarely take more than 1 shot at a time, but in the event of taking consecutive shots, do you know how the warming of you gun will effect ballistics? What about problems during firing such as jamming? You may not know until you fire it in a rapid fire setting. Could you figure out how to solve it as we talked about in our Light Handgun Repair post?

So many variables to consider just with shooting. It's better that you have all the other ones crunched before you get into that situation. The fact is, had I not shot this gun and missed 7 shots this year, the mark on the scope wouldn't have shown up. Its perfectly plausible that, had I had shorter shots which would have been possible, I might not have made the connection for years. But, I pushed the gun to limits I hadn't done before and it showed me what needed to be done. I'm just glad it was deer hunting and not a situation with life and death hanging in the balance. Whether it's an AR-15 that you have laying in the closet for TEOTWAWKI or a deer rifle that gets shot once a year, make sure that you bring that gun out and do your due diligence whenever possible. Better to iron out your problems at the range than against a foe or starvation. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

I began looking into purchasing 1,000 fps air rifles after muskrats dug a huge pit in my front yard and a few other places.  As I'm inside the city limits, there is a "no shooting" ordinance (air and BB included), except during duck season, where land owners may hunt ducks as long as they're shooting out over the water, and not causing other problems other than noise.
Around my house, the above ordinance is very loosely adhered to, as there's water on two sides, and plenty of room to shoot air guns.  I always control the starling and grackle populations with pump up airguns, but the birds do relate the pumping up and discharge to danger rather quickly with those guns.  I had tried an improvised silencer, which did reduce the pop of the discharge, and did cut down the spooking of the birds.  However, the long pump up, still spooked them.  I also wanted more power, as many times 700 fps guns would be defeated by flight feathers at 25 yards.
As I was shopping for a new air rifle, I ran across the Gamo Whisper.  A silenced 1,000-1,200 fps .177 cal single pump air rifle!  This is exactly what I had wanted!  The $325 price tag didn't scare me, as I was already looking to spend $300-500.  They have since come down in price, as newer rifles have come out.  The package came with a 3-9 power 1" air rifle scope and 50 PBA pellets.
Out of the box, I was a little disappointed at the sharp sprue lines on the stock and other plastic components.  I received a nice little slice from one of them.  I then scraped them down with a razor blade.  The fixed iron sights are raybar type beads, and work nice even in low light.  And there is good adjustability in the rear sight block.  I'm not too happy with the integral suppressor, as I'd like to be able to remove it for cleaning purposes.  I learned that this was a trade off with the ATF.  The ATF mandated that it must be fixed so that it couldn't be removed and put on a firearm.  The scope for this rifle is excellent, but the mounts can strip easily, so be careful when torquing the screws.  At low power, the scope will pick up the front sight hood and obscure things a little bit.
I was very surprised at the amount of recoil with this gun!  It took a while to get used to an air rifle that kicks harder than my Ruger 10/22.  Once I got the scope sighted in, I was snapping twigs at 25-50 yards with no problem.  The main noise is from the spring, and is quite loud, but is similar to a cheap BB gun.  No loud report is heard from the muzzle.  I put out a 2x4 and found penetration of the Crossman pointed lead pellets to be 3/4ths of the way through.  That is the equivalent to what I had seen CCI .22 CB shorts do!
While the lead pellets are supposed to be sub-sonic at 1,000 fps, they do break the sound barrier every so often due to dieseling of lubricants in the gun.  You can blow smoke out of the barrel after every shot.  At night you will see a muzzle flash every so often with a loud sonic crack that echoes off the neighbor's houses.  With lead pellets doing this, I'd hate to hear what the PBA pellets can do at 1200+ fps!
I have noticed that with this air rifle storage position seems to have an effect on zero.  If I lay the gun on it's side, zero will move to the side that was down.  I think this is a problem with the plastic barrel warping over the steel sleeve.  I now always store the gun in the same position and see no further zero changes.
For taking birds in the yard, they don't know what hits them!  I shoot from a bedroom window which keeps the spring noise to a minimum, and only the barrel protrudes out the window.  I'll shoot 5-6 birds before the flock moves on.  Compare that to a normal air rifle in which the flock bolts on the first shot.
On muskrats, more power would be nice, but this gun has dropped them at 50+ yards.  Muskrats are hard targets in the water, as you have a very reduced target that is in constant motion.  The head is 1/2-3/4" above the water, in motion, and then you have waves adding more motion.  The water and fur together seem to make excellent body armor for the muskrat, and only an exact head shot will kill them.  My favorite method is to wait for low twilight to complete darkness, as they can't see well.  The streetlight bouncing off low clouds or moonlight will work with the scope set to mid power.  You can still see the muskrat in the water enough to make a kill shot.  Beware:  After you "brain" a muskrat, it will sit still for a few seconds before all hell breaks loose!!!  They will then toss and turn violently for a good minute or more before dying.  Let them lay till they're good and dead! (Don't stick your hand in there and get bit!)  

One thing I was surprised at was the lack of ricochet when shooting at the water.  Only very low angles seem to do it.
After every 100 rounds it is a good idea to clean the bore.  These will lead up the same as a rifle or shotgun bore will.  Patches will come out dark from all the carbon from dieseling, and also from the lead pellets.  Cleaning kits are available from Hoppe's for air rifles.  With the silencer, again I wish that it was removable for cleaning as patches can come off the jag into the silencer.  They can be removed by dry firing a few times in which it will work it's way out.  Gamo does have felt pellets for cleaning.
Overall, I like this gun.  It's quiet, and does the job.  I would like to see a .22 cal version at the same velocity, but so far, nothing yet.  I am now stocking a total of 5 of these, and plenty of pellets and cleaning gear for them.  - Captain Nemo

Sunday, January 12, 2014

I’ve been reloading for almost 30 years and have tried many solutions for boxing up all the ammo including bulk in zip lock bags as well as just filling ammo cans and of course hard plastic boxes. If it’s made, I’ve tried it and nothing really worked well nor are they very compact. Until now. I have stumbled on and found their cardstock boxes great. So far I’ve loaded 5.56, 7.62x39, 9mm and .45 ACP. 

What I like is their boxes are made so the quantity will fit most standard magazines…i.e., the 5.56 box holds 30 rounds as does the 7.62x39. The 7.62x51 holds 20...just right to fit your FAL, M1A or PTR91 Their pistol boxes hold 50 rounds.

The only limiting thing is that they only make .223/5.56, 7.62x39, 7.62x51, 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. But when I first started buying them they selection was smaller, so they must be expanding to meet demand.

The best part about these boxes is that they hold the ammo tightly. No loose or sloppy ammo rattling around. And as such they pack tight in the green surplus ammo cans for storage. And these boxes are very sturdy. No cheap materials, so they can be reused many times.

Thanks! - GunrTim

JWR Replies: has been mentioned before in SurvivalBlog. I recommend their products. And BTW, they also sell some handy rubber rifle muzzle covers.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

We live in very uncertain times. For some people, myself included, those times of uncertainty include anything from some financial hardship, to total economic ruin. In knowing this simple truth, I am inspired to share my knowledge and expertise concerning firearms preparedness: in particular, the AR-15 platform and a truly inexpensive option to owning one that is on-par with buying a much less versatile bolt-action rifle.

For many of us struggling to make ends meet, an entry-level AR-15 is priced far beyond anything we can hope to afford. Starting at around $800 before background checks, taxes and licensing fees, the total might as well be a million dollars. Add to that the burdening need to oftentimes add some type of reliable optic or sighting system that many entry-level rifles do not include, and most of us are priced right out of the building.

Of course, the Saiga AK74 clone, chambered in 5.56x45 NATO, starting at around $675 , is the more attractive financial option at first blush. But again, taxes, background checks and licensing fees will still put you well in excess of $800. Further, this entry-level rifle’s supplied magazine is limited to ten rounds, with the inferior thirty round magazines from ProMag costing an average of $10 than Magpul’s thirty round PMag for the AR-15. And believe me, if you have ever compared the two, there really is no comparison! So in the end, you are not saving very much money, if any at all, by opting for an inferior Saiga rifle.

So, where do the desperate and perhaps even destitute turn? We know that the engineered financial collapse is starting to really rear its ugly head and unravel before our very eyes, false flag events are coming in rapid-fire succession, and we are desperate to protect our families and ourselves.

Years ago, I would have been terrified. Today though, I do have the answer...

First, before you start on the path I am going to recommend, please check your state and local laws! I cannot begin stress just how important it is that you do so! It will be very difficult to protect your family if you are behind bars. Research and informed decisions will save you a potential felonious headache. So act accordingly, responsibly and proceed at your own risk.

And though I will recommend companies and products by name, I do so not because I am trying to receive free stuff from them, but because I own and trust their reliability with the lives of myself and the lives of my family. I would not mention them if I felt for even a moment that the following products would fail you or yours! And since survival is key to our way of life, and every human life is precious to me, I would much rather point you directly to products that just flat-out work, as opposed to some generic brand that may fail you at the penultimate moment.


The Gun Control Act of 1968 classified the frame, receiver, or lower receiver of any gun -- be it handgun, rifle or shotgun -- to be the actual “firearm”. It is that portion of any store-bought gun that requires a serial number for registration. The only way around that law, and the BATFE offers clear language on their web site to prove my claim, has been to manufacture your own frames and lower receivers for personal use. Those of us with small machine shops and a machining background have been doing so, legally, for years, but it required extensive knowledge and very expensive equipment.

But now there are 80% complete AR-15 lower receivers...

Traditionally, these lower receivers were 80% complete aluminum castings or forgings that required jigs, a milling machine, a drill press, sometimes a lathe, and perhaps anodizing or painting to complete. If you did not have the aforementioned equipment on hand already, the entire process would have you paying more for a finished entry-level rifle than you would otherwise pay by going through any FFL dealer. The only real benefits were the pride you took in seeing your own creation putting bullets on paper or into game animals, and the anonymity that goes along with not having to register your manufactured firearm.

These days, however, technology has given us the option to go with a jig-less design 80% lower receiver made of polymer over the traditional aluminum, and a set of hand tools that, if you do not have them on hand already, will run you about $75 . That set of tools includes a $10 rotary tool kit that can be purchased from Harbor Freight tools, a $20 3/8” hand drill -- also easily purchased at Harbor Freight -- a small $25 bench vise from Harbor Freight; a few drill bits and the bur bit needed for fire control pocket shaping.

Honestly speaking, I’m a skeptic by nature, so I have to admit that I balked at polymer lower receivers at first. Why on earth should I choose what I had deemed to be an inferior plastic material over an aluminum casting, when I already had a very nice milling machine, lathe, drill press and the ability to anodize my own aluminum at home? With my equipment, completing aluminum AR-15 and AR-10 lower receivers has always been a cinch. And with a new jig and an 80% aluminum lower averaging out to what I considered to be a very reasonable $175 , why would I even consider switching from a time-tested method?

Well, what made me change my opinion toward polymer was not just its jig-less $65 price tag. True, saving $110 is certainly appealing, but if for instance the buffer tube broke off of the lower, I would have nothing but a piece of busted and worthless junk in my hands.

No, what made my thoughts about them radically change was after watching a torture test video featuring a polymer lower receiver versus aluminum. I gotta tell you, I was impressed! Not only did the polymer variant match its aluminum counterpart in tensile strength and rugged durability, it actually outperformed it. And with the cost of that jig-less polymer lower being the $65 I just spoke of, out the door and delivered to your door, not to mention the light-weight design and extreme ease of the machining process, the transition was an easy one for me to make.

Which brings us to the available options of jig-less polymer lower receivers, of which there are currently two that I can personally vouch for, each costing $65 before shipping: the Poly80, available at, and the EP80, available at I have personally completed both designs. The finish on both of them is excellent, and they function flawlessly. There really is not much difference to speak of between them and they are both a superior option to any aluminum design AR receiver on the market.

Moving on to the completion phase...

Completing one of these lower receivers is really as simple as removing the white plastic from the fire control pocket, smoothing the ridges to blend with the walls; drilling a 5/32” hole for the trigger and hammer pins; and drilling a 3/8” hole for the safety selector switch. Lastly, widening the trigger slot by 1/4” toward the front and a 1/4” to the rear of the lower receiver to match the trigger base is all that is needed to have a stripped lower receiver, ready for assembly.

Should you have questions or doubts, many Youtube videos are available that will give the layperson key visual completion instructions and tips to seeing the project successfully through. So if you are inexperienced, watching a few of them will certainly help ensure that your finished lower looks professional and performs flawlessly. If you just remember to take your time, you will not only likely enjoy the project, you will also take pride in seeing its completion through to actual service.

I would be remiss if I failed to add that a drill press will aid in drilling the hammer, trigger and safety selector holes straight, but by using an inexpensive level -- which almost every hand drill of today already has embedded above the trigger grip, saving you a couple of bucks -- a hand drill will more than suffice if you are steady and patient.

(As a side note, I strongly recommend getting a set of number and letter stamps, which can also be purchased from Harbor Freight Tools for an additional $10 , to stamp your own serial number on the completed lower. Though the BATFE does not require a serial number on personally manufactured firearms, some police officers are ignorant to this simple fact. Should such an officer demand to inspect your rifle, you can avoid a whole heap of inconvenience and awkward questions with the simple expedient of adding a serial number. Trust me, I have been there! So this is your chance to learn from my mistakes.)

Now that you have a completed and anonymous lower, the only thing left to do is to select a carbine or rifle kit. Palmetto State Armory (PSA), DPMS, CMMG, J&T Distributing, Del-Ton, and a whole host of other companies have good quality entry-level parts kits available. Naturally, some are more expensive and of marginally better design.

But since we are pinching pennies, every ounce of copper is at a premium, and reliable function is of paramount importance, I strongly recommend going with Del-Ton. I own Del-Tons, and not only would I stack them up against any rifle kit on the market, I would and have stacked them up against much more expensive rigs and handily outperformed a number of them. And since Del-Ton is one of the least expensive and best designed kits of the list of quality options, it is a no-brainer as far as I am concerned.

The fit and finish of Del-Ton’s kits are outstanding, and the form and function is no-nonsense and flawless. The upper receivers are already fully assembled and head-spaced. The lower parts kits include quality components. The buttstock and buffer tube are mil-spec and snug-fitting.

If you are looking for an excellent and very inexpensive option for a rifle that can not only feed your family should the need arise, but surely defend the lives of you and your family, you really need look further than! I do not work for Del-Ton, I just recognize rugged quality when I see it and am not afraid to advocate for it...

(Another side note: Del-Ton currently has a 4-6 week lead time on their rifle and carbine kits, with some of them being currently out of stock. But trust me, their price and quality are definitely worth the wait.)

Now, the only addition we need to make to have a very serviceable rifle or carbine is an AR-15 multi-tool to assemble your chosen rifle or carbine kit -- Tapco features one on for around $10 -- and the addition of a removable rear sight or carry handle.

As far as the rear sight goes, E-Bay has many flip-up and carry handle options for under $20 every day of the week. But be warned: some of the rear sight solutions on eBay are very cheap, flimsy, and will not take a whole lot of abuse, so upgrading to a Magpul M-BUIS rear sight for another $30 is something I think you should strongly consider, if you can find the extra cash in your budget. If you simply cannot spare the extra $30, the [mainland Chinese-made] NCStar flip-up is less expensive and suitable alternative at an average price of $25, compared to the $50 Magpul sight.

(Note: If you are unsure about assembling your rifle, Youtube is again your friend, with a countless array of instructional and how-to videos. It really is a very straightforward process and valuable knowledge can be gained by watching them if you lack AR-15 experience).

So for a quick recap: we have spent about $75 on tools and drill bits, if you did not have any one of them before, $480 on a base-model Del-Ton rifle or carbine kit; $65 on an EP Armory 80% lower receiver; $12 dollars on a Magpul 30 round PMag magazine; $20 for a rear sight and $10 for an AR-15 multi-tool. This brings the grand total to $662.

Keep in mind that your $662 is for a complete rifle that also guarantees your anonymity by avoiding tedious, expensive and unnecessary background checks. In addition, should the illegal violations of our Second Amendment rights through gun registration and confiscation continue to spread from Connecticut, California and New York, you will be completely -- and legally -- under the radar. Remember to thoroughly research your state and local laws!

I know that almost $700 is a heck of a stretch for folks struggling to just put food on the table in these wickedly uncertain economic times, believe me I do. But if you value your lives and the way you and your family live those lives, it is something that everyone should try to fit into their survival budget. You have to ask yourself not if you can afford to take the plunge, but whether or not you can really afford not to...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

There have been some interesting developments in the world of 80% complete AR lowers. The following are some companies that are producing beefed up AR-15 carbon fiber or polymer lowers that can be completed more easily than their older generation aluminum relatives:

Another innovation is a jig that allows a hand router to be used to mill out the control pocket of an AR-15 80% aluminum lower.

As many of your readers already know, the lower receiver is the part with a serial number that the BATF considers a "firearm." However, an 80% lower is not considered a firearm by the BATF. As a result,[in most states] anyone who can legally own a firearm can purchase an 80% lower without going through an FFL, and unencumbered individuals are allowed to manufacture firearms for their personal use without paying any Federal taxes or completing any Federal paperwork. Check your state and local laws to be certain, in your locale.

Also, although I wouldn't recommend it for OPSEC reasons, 80% lowers and parts kits are available through Amazon. Here is an example.

Merry Christmas! - R.L.H. from Ohio

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Dear JWR,
Last spring, with the ammo shortage clearing the shelves everywhere, I found myself in a position to expand my collection.  I decided on a Ruger .44 Magnum Super Blackhawk, with the 7" barrel.  Legal for whitetail in my state, you see.  Having neglected to actually check the retail supply, I assumed that the shortage would be primarily the military calibers (9mm Para, .45 ACP, 5.56mm NATO, .308, and 7.62x39mm) with the civilian calibers being readily available.

Experienced wheelgunners are already laughing.  Took me a month to track down 100 rounds of basic .44 Magnum.  Eventually, diligent checking at Wal-Mart (I work nights, what else is open at 5 AM?) landed me another 200.  Over the rest of the summer.  Usually buying the one remaining box of 50 rounds.

Things started to loosen up a bit here, and I picked up a S&W in .357, as a friend had laid in 500 rounds of reloads a couple years back, and gave me  a box of leftover factory .38 Special.  I find it amusing that a box of 100 .38 Special costs about the same as 50 of .44 Magnum! Also, the local farm supply carries .38 Special and .357 Magnum, but not .44 Magnum or .44 Special.

Through this whole business, I have been impressed by the fact that the much-derided .45 Colt has been readily available at Wal-Mart, including a combination pack of 25 rounds of .45 Colt and 25 of .410.  My congratulations to anyone who had the foresight to buy one of the combination .45/.410 pistols.  That and .40 S&W were the only pistol ammo continuously in stock at Wal-Mart since April 2013, when I started looking.  Many of us originally chose 9mm pistols and 5.56mm or .308 rifles for for long-term ammo availability--ammo in military calibers is supposedly plentiful.  Lately, this has proven false.  Any first-time pistol buyers this year who purchased .45 Colt revolvers showed more foresight than I had. - Ethan A.

[JWR Adds: While .45 Colt (commonly but erroneously called ".45 Long Colt") is a fine cartridge ballistically--with plenty of power for self defense (especially if you handload), I generally recommend .44 Magnum for anyone desiring a large bore handgun. The key problem with .45 Colt is that it has a relatively narrow cartridge rim. So, when shooting swing-out cylinder revolvers with a typical rim extractor "star", you will occasionally get a cartridge rim stuck underneath the extractor, when you make the fired brass ejection stroke. This is a mere annoyance when target shooting, but it could prove deadly if it were to happen in the midst of a serious shooting affray.

The .410 shotshells (with buckshot or slugs) are a poor choice for self defense. So if you own one of the new pistol/shotshell long-cylinder revolvers, my advice is to keep it loaded with .45 Colt jacketed hollow points. Only load it with shotshells when shooting grouse or garden pests.]

Monday, December 16, 2013

Dear Sir,
When stockpiling ammo, should one focus on FMJ and soft nose/hollow points or FMJ only?  FMJ is a better value per bullet, plus it's supposed to be a lot more accurate and reliable than SP/HP, but of course, it sometimes comes at the cost of stopping power.

I'm packing a semi-auto in 308/7.62x51, and to my knowledge, there haven't been many complaints about the stopping power of the 7.62x51 ball cartridge in military circles; many complaints come mainly from the kick and weight.  Add to that the fact that after TEOTWAWKI, shooting through cover and mass fire will become the norm and FMJs look pretty appealing.  Not to mention the fact that most bulk sizes of ammo only come in FMJ.

I've been stocking both so far, but with money getting a bit tight, I'm looking at switching over to just FMJs, so is this a good idea?  Your input is appreciated.

Oh, one more thing: Do you know of any places that offer tracer rounds and which brands are the good ones?  My rifle bolt doesn't lock back when the magazine is empty, so I'm wanting to emulate the fictional Doug Carlton from Patriots.

Sincerely,  - D.S.C.

JWR Replies:

As with all of your other preps, balance is the key. There is no point in buying all premium ammo. Logic dictates that you will need some inexpensive ammo for target practice and some "middling" quality ammo, for barter.

For handguns I current recommend this mix: 80% jacketed hollow points (JHPs), 18% FMJ (aka "ball"), and 2% exotics (tracers, frangible, KTW or Arcane AP, etc.)

For most military caliber rifles I currently recommend this mix: 70% FMJ, 10% spire point soft nose, 10% Match (preferably HPBT), 5% AP, and 5% exotics (such as tracer, incendiary and API.)

For most civilian (hunting) caliber rifles I currently recommend this mix: 90% soft nose, 5% Match (preferably HPBT), and 5% AP handloads, if bullet weights, bullet diameters, and bullet point styles are compatible with pulled military AP bullets. Note, for example, you cannot use pointed bullets in tubular magazine lever action rifles, even if the bore diameter and bullet weight is correct.

Some of my favorite ammo sources are:

Dan's Ammo,
Lucky Gunner,
Sunflower Ammo
Cheaper Than Dirt,
and Keep Shooting.

I also buy some ammo directly from manufacturers, mostly here in the American Redoubt. I recommend:

Black Hills Ammunition
BVAC Ammunition and Components
HSM (aka The Hunting Shack)
Buffalo Bore Ammunition
and Patriot Firearms and Munitions

Oh, and by the way, SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large Michael Z. Williamson recently mentioned that one of his favorite sources is (They currently have a good deal on Federal 5.56 ball.)

The Talon brand tracer ammo is decent, but given the uneven burning of the tracing composition, the accuracy of virtually all tracer ammo accuracy will never be quite comparable to military ball. The Lake City arsenal tracer ammo is excellent, but it is hard to find. The last time I checked, Lucky Gunner had some, as did UNAC.

There is a great on-line reference site now available, for comparison pricing: Be sure to check it out!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I.  Introduction - Possible Scenarios.  

  1. Your automobile becomes inoperable for a period of time while traveling – it is extremely hot or extremely cold and hours to wait.
  2. A natural disaster occurs and you have to evacuate.
  3. Chaos occurs due to financial collapse or other major event causing civil unrest.
  4. An Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) or Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) caused by solar flare(s) renders your vehicle dead miles from home.
  5. Or, an EMP occurs as a result of a nuclear strike (with collateral fall-out to follow).
  6. Use your imagination…in reality, nothing is too far fetched.

While these are listed in order from “Bad” to “Worse”, all of these have great commonalities.  The more obvious should be that (1) they are realistic and possible, (2) they can occur and cause mass panic and civil upheaval in a relatively short time, (3) they can land you in a situation that most likely will find you, your preparation, your knowledge and your determination are all you have to survive, and, without a doubt, (4) a lack of planning, preparation, knowledge, determination and the means to employ all will, with reasonable certainty, lead to your death

I'm glad that I have your attention.  Now let us begin to devise some of the basic means, methods and logistics that you will need to exponentially improve your survivability, and with prayer and guts, successfully reach your destination. 

II.   Equipment.  There are a number of “essentials” that you should plan to pack and keep in your vehicle at all times.  The only time these items should be removed from your vehicle is (1) if you need the room to haul other items to/from a short destination (i.e. across town, from the store, etc.), (2) to update/replenish items and then place back in the vehicle when completed, (3) you are traveling with someone else in their vehicle (your essential items go with you). 
Now let’s discuss what those “essential” items might consist.

1.  Pack.    You should purchase a quality backpack that is large enough to comfortably load the items you will need.  The pack can be of military grade (i.e. surplus such as the A.L.I.C.E. pack), or a quality hiking/camping pack that is supported by two shoulder straps and capable of load bearing for extended hiking.  Your pack should be of muted, natural or earth colors such as green, black, desert tan, or brown.  Bright colors will only amplify to others that YOU HAVE A PACK and YOU HAVE ESSENTIALS THAT THEY DO NOT!  Plus you will need the ability to hide your pack during periods of rest without it being obvious to others who may spot you. 

As stated, the pack must be large enough to accommodate all the essentials we will list below yet not too large that you cannot negotiate its weight for long periods. 
Some packs are equipped with waist belts to help distribute and support the load accordingly.  It is your personal preference.  However, most quality hiking backpacks are designed with this feature for a purpose.  Be smart. 

Other important considerations should be the design for accessing the pack.  Is it easy (relatively speaking) to get in an out of?  Can I get to the needed essentials quickly and easily at night and/or during cold or inclement weather? 

The pack should have ample outer pockets in which to store those items you will use most often (i.e. sanitation, fire starting material, maps, compass, binoculars, food, water, weapon(s), etc.). 

There should be the ability to attach additional bulk items (i.e. sleeping mat, coat, maybe a sleeping bag) on the bottom or top by additional straps or para-cord.

2.  Water.   When it comes to sustaining the human life, one must consider the “Essential Threes.”   The order of importance in need is as follows:

  1. Air – 30 seconds
  2. Water – 3 days
  3. Food – 3 weeks     However, in a survival situation where you have to exert extreme energy to travel and stay alert, the time frames on water and food are greatly shortened.

You must plan to have clean, drinkable water at all times.   The amounts will be covered later.  At this time let’s focus on types of storage and conveyance. 

2 liter, 3 liter, and 100 ounce water bladders are very popular for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, however they may not always be the best choice for the survivor.

Why?  The size alone constitutes added weight that may not be able to be spread loaded especially with a full pack.  Backpacks with separate compartments for such bladders have become very popular but you must consider the ability to frequently access the bladder without having to nearly empty the pack to do so.  Water refills in a survival scenario will often be done on the move when opportunity arises and in the quickest amount of time.  Moreover, a small puncture or tear to such a system will quickly render your main water conveyance inoperable.  

Consider multiple 1-2 quart containers that you can store and attach to various locations on/in your pack.  Give careful consideration as to how you will carry/attach your primary water source. 

For bulk storage of water in addition to your primary containers consider a 750 ml platypus bag that is relatively small, yet flexible and collapsible (like the popular larger water bladders discussed above). 

Nalgene bottles are excellent in that they are tough, lightweight and you can see the contents. 

Likely sources to replenish your water supply will be streams, ponds, lakes, and rivers.  Consider how you will purify water.  A supply of water purification tablets should be carried.  Also, a small plastic vile of chlorine can be carried.  A few drops will sterilize 750 ml of water fairly quickly.  (Research the correct amounts and procedures to purify water by volume and make note of this information to carry in your pack with your purification tools. If using common bleach as your source of chlorine, be sure that it is non-scented with non-additives.)

Small water purification systems do very well and can be purchased for around $80+.   However, they do take up additional space and add ounces to an already loaded pack. 

A very good alternative is the Berkey Sport bottle.  A standard 750 ml water bottle has a smaller Berkey Black filter attached to the drinking straw in the bottle.  You merely have to fill the bottle with water and drink from the straw to get clean and pure water.  Water from your other storage bottles can then be poured into the Berkey Sport bottle as needed.    The Berkey Sport bottle can be purchased off EBay for as little as $15 each, so shop around.

3. Food.    Amounts will be discussed later. For now let’s consider types.

Food is definitely an essential that will become critical in a survival scenario.  It is easy and inexpensive to load up on soups and power bars at Wal-Mart and the local grocery store; however, this may prove to be a very costly mistake. 

In a survival scenario, you will be expending a much greater amount of calories due to

  1. Greater exertion of energy hiking.
  2. Greater exertion of energy due to fear and adrenalin.
  3. Greater exertion of energy due to weather (cold requires as much as twice the calories in order to keep warm.  Hot can have a similar effect.)

As a result, now is not the time to diet.  Caloric intake is key.  Inexpensive soups and quick prepare foods found at the local grocery chain will only yield about 1-2 grams of protein on average.  This is not a good return on your survival investment or on the weight you will be carrying in regards to the nutritional value received.

Consider specialized foods high in protein such as Mountain House usually found in the camping section at Wal-Mart.  Also consider purchasing a bucket of the pre-packaged dehydrated foods from Wise Foods, EFoodsDirect, etc.  While you may pay as much as twice the price of the bargain foods mentioned, the caloric value averages 11-18 grams of protein. 

Also, energy bars high in protein are a good source and easy to pack.  Mix it up. No one likes to consume the same thing over and over again.  A variety of good and satisfying food can do wonders for morale and your ability to keep moving forward another day. 

Candy bars can produce a quick energy boost but should never be your main source of nutrition.  However, looking forward to treating yourself can be a tremendous motivator. 

4.  Clothing.   Pack wise.  Clothing, while an absolute essential, can be a space robber in your pack and add unnecessary weight if not planned well.  Your clothing should be of natural and earth tone colors.  You do not want to stand out. 

a. Clothing with logos representing or making various statements should be avoided.  For example, clothing that depicts or advertises certain messages should not be used.  Examples would be articles that make a political statement, a statement of wealth or your preference for firearms or military should be avoided.  This will only prove to be troublesome on occasions you may have to interact with others you do not know.

Obviously the time of year and season will dictate the type of clothing needed, however be smart about it. 

In moderate to warm weather and in addition to what you may already have on…you should consider packing…

  1. pair long pants
  2. changes of socks (preferably some wool blend for dryness)
  3. changes of underwear
  4. shirts and/or t-shirts
  5. sweatshirt or light fleece

(1) hat

Colder weather…consider packing the same but adding…

  1. pair of thermal or polypropylene (bottoms & top)
  2. changes of wool blend socks (rather than pure cotton)
  3. pair of insulated gloves

(1) fleece or wool watch cap (a fleece balaclava is a good addition)

b. Shoes.   There are areas that you can always cut back and/or take the “bargain route” on… YOUR FOOTWEAR IS NOT ONE OF THEM!

You do not buy a nicely outfitted automobile that you will be traveling long distances in and then put the cheapest tires on it.  This would not make sense.   The same logic holds true for your feet. 
As encountering and negotiating multiple types of terrain while carrying added weight is a given, a pair of quality boots should be your primary footwear.  Only consider sturdy name brands that have a reputation and a proven performance record for the type of activities for which you will be engaging. 

Such boots generally are categorized as “Hiking” or “Military” with a minimum of 8” uppers, aggressive traction and are proven to be good for load bearing (i.e. proven to hold up and support you under the weight of a pack for long periods).    Some boots categorized as “Hunting” boots may be satisfactory but do the research and compare. 

Boot material is really a personal preference.  However, give careful consideration to modern materials.  Modern materials such as Gore-Tex and Cordura offer added warmth in cold weather and greater breathability year round.  Moreover, Gore-Tex is generally waterproof.  Keeping your feet dry and clean is key.

A second pair of shoes is a smart addition.  These are for putting on during rest breaks allowing your boots time to dry and air out, as well as giving your feet a much needed break. 

They also serve as a “back up” to your boots so they should be sturdy. New is not necessary but there should be plenty of life left in them.  A quality pair of running shoes will suffice but also consider sturdier hiking shoes made by companies who specialize in these such as Merrell, Keen, and other proven brands. 

c. Coats.  During cold weather a jacket/parka that is warm, wind resistant and water repellent is a must.  A hood is an added benefit.  Avoid bulky coats made from natural fibers (i.e. cotton, wool, or blend).  Coats made of modern materials are superior in warmth with less bulk and weight. 

During warmer months a light jacket that can repel wind should be packed (or at least a light fleece).  Rain, fatigue, and change of weather can bring on rapid chilling causing lose of body heat and robbing strength. 

d. Packing Clothing.   Most quality packs have some resistance to water.  However, prolonged exposure to rain, setting down on wet ground, or the unexpected “drop” in the creek while crossing can become a nuisance in warm weather and deadly during cold. 

Before packing your clothes, line the pack with a large plastic trash bag and place your articles of clothing within.  Be sure to cinch the bag by twisting, tuck, etc. to seal it from leaking and your clothing will remain dry no matter what occurs. 

5. Other Important Items.    There are numerous other items you will need, some more important than others.  The following list is by no means all-inclusive or absolute.  The order in which items are listed should not be construed as more important than the next.  Some will be obviously critical while others, not so much.  As with anything important, your planning, competency in use and your ability to transport all have to be considered. 

Avoid storage of smaller items loosely in your pack.  Group like items together and place into smaller zip-loc plastic bags. 

  The List:

  1. Direction Finding
    1. Compass.  Does not have to be very expensive, just trustworthy and accurate.
    2. Area Maps.  Laminated maps for your state can be purchased at Wal-Mart. 
  2. Fire Starting.  Redundancy is key here. 
    1. (2) butane lighters
    2. (2) boxes of waterproof matches
    3. (1) fire stick/flint
    4. Fire accelerates (i.e. Trioxane fuel tablets, small camping fire kindling, fire accelerate paste, lint collected from the dryer)

Spread load these so if one is lost, all will not be lost.

Survivor Ideology:  “ Two is one; One is none.”     Think about that.

  1. Sanitation.  
    1. Small bar of soap, small bottle of sanitizer, etc.…
    2. Roll toilet paper
    3. Re-sealable package of wet-wipes
    4. Toothbrush/travel tube of toothpaste and small deodorant
    5. Small vile of petroleum jelly for blisters and chaffed skin
  2. Food Preparation.
    1. Small folding (Esbit) stove with fuel tabs
    2. Excess fuel tabs
    3. Or, a small backpacking type stove such as JetBoil
    4. Fork and spoon
    5. Flavoring – salt, pepper, hot sauce, etc.
    6. Small aluminum pot to heat/boil water.  An excellent choice is

     the standard 1 qt. military canteen with carrier and the “canteen cup.”     
     The canteen cup fits inside the carrier and the canteen fits inside the cup. 
     This saves space and serves multiple purposes.

3. Shelter.  A 1-2 man tent is very useful if you have one already, can pack it accordingly, and it is not a bright color. So a tarp, 6’X8’ in camouflage, dark green of brown, is a very good alternative a tent. It will provide a lot of flexibility on all terrain and can be packed many ways.

100’ of para-cord (thin ¼” nylon rope) in natural colors.

(6) small aluminum tent stakes (able to fit through the grommets of a tarp).

4. Sleep System. 
Sleeping Bag.  One that is light in weight (under 4 lbs.) and is designed for hiking and backpacking.  While “down” filled bags are very warm, extremely light in weight, and easy to compress for packing, a man-made fiber filled bag may be the best choice for the average survivalist.  Down, once wet, is very difficult to dry and loses all warming properties when wet.  The opposite holds true for man-made fillers such as Hollow-fill and other common fibers.  Be selective and do your homework.  A sleeping bag is generally the largest and most bulky item you will carry.  There are quality man-made fiber filled bags under $100 that will pack almost as compactly as the very expensive down filled bags. 

Sleeping Mat.  A very much appreciated item…especially for unknown sleeping surfaces that you will encounter.  Also, great for a barrier to keep your bag dry.  Styles, prices, and quality vary greatly so do your research and be selective

5. Medical/Personal.

First Aid.   Seek a well-stocked kit in a soft carry bag rather than hard.  Soft is much easier to pack and shift around.  Add additional painkillers such as Aleve, Tylenol, etc.  Also, consider adding burn ointment and additional bandages such as an ACE wrap.

    1. Extra pair of glasses/contacts and solution
    2. Medications that you may require
    3. Feminine hygiene products

    4. 6. Lighting.

    1. (2) Small size, quality defensive type flashlight of at least 200 lumens. One to be carried on your person and one packed as a backup.
    2. (1) Head lamp with harness or hat brim clip on light. 
    3. Extra batteries for all lights
    4. (1) Red lens for your primary flashlight. To be used to defuse white light at night when you do not need to be seen.  

      7.  Knife.  At least one quality utility folding knife with a locking blade.  Consider one with a

             partial serrated edge.  Also, a multi-tool such as the high quality Leatherman series with a   
             built in saw is highly suggested. 

8. Money.  Small bills up to about $60.  Consider having a few dollars in silver coinage as well.

             Debit and credit will not be available. 

9.  Small Bible.  Last, but certainly not least, is God’s guidance and comfort.


  III.   Situational Awareness.   You must always remain calm and in control.  You must always be aware of your surroundings and what the general atmosphere is to the best of your ability.   Be observant.  Listen intently.  The little intelligence you obtain from these measures can most assuredly save your life. 

In the event a survival situation occurs, it will be helpful to have an understanding of how human nature most likely will react. 

In large population centers such as cities, riots could break out almost immediately if the cause is fueled by an emotionally charged event.  Think of history and the Rodney King riots of Los Angeles in 1992.   Evacuation from and avoidance of such areas must be done immediately.   For other events the time line of societal decay will go as follows:

Day 1 – people will be in disbelief.  A sense of “what’s happened/happening?” will prevail and folks will generally congregate to get answers.  However, as the day progresses and night sets in, panic may escalate and tempers begin to flare.

Day 2 – Panic is growing.  People become frantic and less tolerate. Fear and uncertainty is fast growing.  The risk of personal danger is rising.

Day 3 – Without clean water and most likely food and a lack of sufficient sleep, destitute people will become aggressive with a large percentage resorting to violence.  They will attempt to take what you have.  Avoid contact.

Day 4+ - People away from the comforts of home will become very dangerous. People in their homes will become very protective and civil unrest (everywhere) is a certainty.  Avoid contact at all cost.  

Day 15 - Studies show that civil people will consider resorting to cannibalism if no other food or possibilities of food exist in their immediate future.  They will surely kill for what you have. 


IV. Protection & Security.  While personal protection is somewhat obvious and should quickly

become a very high priority for anyone who finds himself or herself in a survival situation, it is an area that is often misunderstood, misused and left to chance.  Neither of these will serve the survivor well and will surely leave you, sooner or later, in the category of “Non-Survivor.” 

While movies and books do an insatiable job of glamorizing and even romanticizing the lone survivor who beats all odds to overcome great diversity…like being in combat, one cannot truly understand the experience unless one has experienced it for themselves. 

The truth is a person who finds himself/herself in a survival situation will be consumed with confusion, fear, loneliness, and an immense sense of indecisiveness.  Having the necessary provisions discussed above at your disposal should give comfort that the essentials to survive are in your possession.  This is merely a temporary relief if you have neither the knowledge nor requisite abilities to use your gear properly.  You must continue to sharpen your skills by training and planning for such an event. 

However, no matter how strong your logistics and the know-how to use them are, if you do not have the ability to protect yourself and your life tools from others who are desperate and will, through whatever means necessary, take them from you…you will fail. 

1.  Weapons.  As noted above, you should always have in your possession a knife.  While essential as a utility tool, the knife you choose should also be suitable as a backup defensive weapon.  As a primary means of protection, you should have in your possession a quality and reliable handgun that is familiar and that you have had adequate training and experience in firing. 

While there are numerous types and brands of handguns to choose from, some do stand out as a much better choice for defensive purposes. 

Keep in mind that most attacks are done quickly and in close proximity.  Revolvers, while extremely reliable and easy to use, do have limitations.  Most notably is the number of rounds (bullets) one has available for immediate protection.  This typically amounts to 5-6 before reloading is necessary.  Reloading a revolver requires a series of time-consuming actions that make it less desirable as a primary defensive weapon in the survival mode.  If a revolver is still desired, nothing below a .38 caliber should be considered.  Multiple speed loaders should also be purchased which will aid in reloading quicker. 

The optimum handgun for a survival situation is the semi-automatic pistol in mid to full size configuration.  A mid to full size pistol will generally hold between 10-17 rounds depending on the caliber and make.  The larger bullet capacity definitely provides greater firepower in an attack.  Moreover, mid to full size pistols generally have a longer barrel length over the revolver giving it an exceptional advantage in accuracy and range.  Pistols use magazines to hold/feed bullets to the gun and therefore can be easily stored and quickly accessed for a hasty reload.   

Calibers below 9mm should not be considered.  Calibers above 9mm, such as the .40 S&W and the .45 ACP are excellent defensive weapons but be sure to consider the increased size and weight for carrying additional ammunition and magazines.   

a.  Handgun Carry.  The primary defensive handgun should be carried in a manner that allows easy and fast access in the event it is needed.  It should not be stored in the pack.  A quality holster, that either attaches to one’s belt or to the shoulder straps or waist belt of the pack, should be used.  Note: a backup handgun is an excellent idea and may be carried in the pack, if available.  A backup handgun in the same caliber is even better in that it allows you to consolidate ammunition to one type.

b.  Long Gun.  It is commonly understood in the firearms world that a person with a long gun (typically a rifle) will always defeat a person with a handgun in a straight up gunfight.  The truth of this adage leads many to consider having a long gun, either a shotgun or rifle, as their primary firearm. 

There may not be a right or wrong answer to this: only considerations to be made.
While the long gun of choice has definite and obvious advantages, there are important disadvantages as well.

  1. Added weight and ability to carry in addition to pack, water, etc.
  2. Added weight and bulk of ammunition.
  3. Added visibility or lack of ability to conceal the fact that you are armed in/around others you will eventually come into contact with. 


For example…a person sees you from a distance and may choose to by-pass contact with you.  However, if they see you have a “highly prized article” such as a rifle or shotgun, they may choose to engage you from that distance in an attempt to take it from you or double back for an attempt at a more opportune time.  Again, there may be no right or wrong answers to this question: just serious considerations to make. 

2. Traveling.  It is always best to travel in groups of two or more (like minded/prepared) persons if possible.  This is not always possible so you must develop the skills to protect yourself and provide for your own security.  

       a.  Vehicle.  If able to travel by automobile, never stop or leave your vehicle except when absolutely necessary.  Breaks to relieve one’s self should be done by the vehicle as fast as possible and then continue on.  Do not linger.  Modesty is not an issue at this point. Security and safety are. 

Always maintain a full tank of gasoline.  Try to never drop below a half tank before refilling. 

Other than to relieve one’s self, refuel or the occasional meal preparation (try to eat on the go) you should continue to travel to your destination.  Should you have to stop to rest/sleep, you should take the extra time to drive off the main routes in search of a secure and secluded area that affords protection and the ability to hide the vehicle from passersby.  If you are being observed, travel on until you are not.  If traveling with others, someone must be on watch at all times.  Rotate shifts for sleep and eating. 

NEVER relax your security or let your guard down.  

NEVER build a fire unless absolutely necessary for warmth due to potential hypothermia or frost injury.  Fire is a beacon that will lead undesirables to you. 

Be especially watchful for overpasses, bridges and other various choke points that could make excellent ambush/attack sites.

      b.  On Foot/Hiking.   If you find that you have to travel without the comfort and security of a vehicle, all of the above still apply, but now you have numerous other measures to consider. 

  1. Consider traveling at night when others in the area may be resting and less likely for you to encounter.
  2. Never camp on or near the route you are traveling.  If on a main highway/road you should camp at least 100 yards away hidden from sight in the woods.  Again, make sure you are not being observed when detouring to your campsite. 
  3. Pick a site that provides cover (barrier to shield against firearms) as well as concealment (ability to hide) from others. 
  4. NEVER build a fire.  If a fire is absolutely necessary, do so for the minimal amount of time required (during daylight) then move far away to a different locale to make camp. 
  5. Noise and light discipline is as important as not building a fire (for obvious reasons).  You want to get in and out with as little notice as humanly possible. 
  6. If you sense that you are being followed, you may find it necessary to confront the person(s) rather than continuing on.  Do so with extreme caution and with plenty of daylight left if at all possible.  TRUST NO ONE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES OUTSIDE YOUR GROUP!
  7. Short of someone committing a grievous act against another, avoid contact with others.  You cannot help them if they are unprepared.  They will be desperate.  So are you and even more so should they harm you and/or take what you have. 
  8. Plan your route(s).  You will most definitely have a planned route if traveling by vehicle.  You should also have routes planned in the event you are on foot. 
  9. Avoid bridges, overpasses and choke points.  They will be prime ambush sites for people traveling by foot.  Bridge crossings, etc. must be done with extreme caution.  You will need to spend time observing from a distance in order to determine the safety and opportunity for crossing. 
  10.  As time progresses you will want to avoid towns and/or any population centers.  Take the time to observe and plan alternate routes around. 


V.  Quantities to Consider.   Above we have talked about the types of food to pack and the means to carry water.  Now let us consider the amounts necessary.

  1. Water.  Clean water is an absolute necessity to survive.  You should drink plenty of water even when you feel that you are not thirsty.  While this should be obvious in hot weather, the same holds true for cold weather as well.  Dehydration is a killer and can attack you in heat or cold. 

Water weighs approximately 8 lbs. per gallon.   Other than your pack and firearm, water will be the heaviest item you carry.  You should have at least three of the containers mentioned above on you.  One should be readily accessible and the other two can be stored/affixed to your pack accordingly. 

Take every opportunity to refill that is available to you.  Take the time to filter properly before consuming.  Illness due to contaminated water is a killer in a survival situation. 

2. Food.  Food will be critical to your health, energy and the ability to make good and sound decisions.  The amount you need will depend on the distance to your desired destination.  Let’s look at an example.


Scenario - 30 miles from your destination – while no one really wants to jump at the chance to hike 30 miles, in a survival situation it seems very “doable”, and it is…if prepared.

Without any problems or delays, the average healthy person with the proper motivation should be able to hike 10 miles per day.  For a 30-mile distance we are looking at a minimum of 3 to 3 ½ days on the road.   Add in the degradation of society as outlined above and we see our 3 day hike easily extend into 5-6 days.  Get the idea?  You have to plan your logistics and train your body and mind accordingly – now.

Ammunition.  Certainly have your firearm(s) and additional magazines loaded at all times.  A box of an additional 50 rounds packed away is not out of the question. 


Additional – Nice to Have:

  1. Radio – Provided you have not experienced an EMP/CME rendering most electronics useless, a radio to monitor news and events is very helpful.  Avoid the temptation to listen to music.  You need to be listening to what is happening around you.
  2. Sunglasses
  3. Work Gloves
  4. Binoculars
  5. Vitamins
  6. Bug Spray
  7. Portable ram radio transceiver (1 for your destination party as well)
  8. Other items to keep your spirits up (depending on your ability to carry)


VII.   Conclusion:

With the proper planning, training, and motivation you can survive such a calamity.
It will not be easy – physically, mentally or emotionally.  There is a great chance that you will see and experience many bad things.  There is a great chance you may have to use violent and/or deadly force.  Now is the time to prepare. 

“Practice makes perfect” – We have all heard this before and most will agree to this simple truth.  If that is the case…shouldn’t you practice the things we have discussed above?  After all, getting these important items in hand and these techniques down to a workable level of confidence and ability is a great deal more important than whether or not you will win a sporting event or pull off a successful performance.  How well you perform here means whether or not you will live or die. 

Finally, I have been told that I should create a checklist to include with this guide.  I have given that a lot of thought and realized that this entire guide is, in essence, a checklist.  To prepare properly you will most likely devise numerous checklist and I can guarantee that you will revise them from time to time based on your needs, plans, location, time of year, abilities, and desires.  The main thing is to get started.  Simply check off items in this guide page by page as you acquire them and you will be well on your way. 

Survivor Ideology: “It is much better to be prepared a year in advance than a day
too late.”

God is always with you.  Good luck and God speed. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

In the course of most firearms related articles there is the usual debate over caliber, brand names, action types, magazines, super-duper sights, LED lasers/lights, savvy slings, hot holsters and of course the great rail debate. Very little is written on the after effects of all that lead launching other than the firearms needs cleaned. In reality most shooters should spend as much, if not more, time cleaning and maintaining their firearms then they did actually tripping the trigger. The vast majority of shooters I see at public ranges and gun clubs do not even bring rudimentary cleaning and firearm maintenance gear with them to the range.

Countless times I have been at the range where someone brings their new or “kit” AR and they under lube it and have an extraction failure of a spent case or it bogs down with a dry bolt carrier group. New ARs are usually under-lubed and have a lot of wear in burnishing off coatings and the carbon gas blast that builds up in the BCG. Many new AR owners at the range usually do not have any cleaning kit with them so I dutifully (yes, it’s our duty to help the uninitiated) open my well stocked range tackle box and extract a rod kit and pop out the stuck case show them how to properly lube and get the AR going again. New AR platforms are the standard offenders but I have see a good sampling of other rifles and handguns that are shot dry slow down or jam up.

I once overheard a couple of well-heeled and well-dressed shooters (who arrived at the range in a 500 series Mercedes) debating over how to lube their new custom combat carry pieces. The one guy was actually stating that he was not going to put any lube on it at all since the gun store salesman told him that his new Tactical Tupperware could be shot dry. He exclaimed he did not want his gun “sweating oil” onto his dress shirts and pants. I personally knew the other shooter as a local lawyer and recognized the newbie Tactical Tupperware owner as the new “hotshot” member of the law firm. I commented on the nice Mercedes he drove to the range and asked him how well he would expect his Mercedes to run if he did not put any oil in it. He stated that would be stupid and that it would tie up the engine. I stated that it’s better to lube than bleed.

The other shooter/lawyer I already knew personally started laughing loudly and then he introduced me to the new guy. I further explained to the new guy that I had made a living carrying a handgun everyday as a LEO and firearms instructor and had made it to the half century mark without a gun failure due to lubrication issues. I then asked if the he had a cleaning kit for his new gun. He said it came with a brush and that he had bought a small bottle of gun oil and some patches but they were at home.  I explained I have seen too many shooters with over a thousand dollars in firearms hardware, high dollar holsters and cases of ammo without even a $10 cleaning kit from Wal-Mart. I explained the necessity and benefit of bringing a cleaning kit to the range and it’s a mere inconvenience when a sluggish or jammed up firearm is a problem on the range, but if the firearm jams when your life depends on it, it is a really bad day, or maybe the last day it will happen to you.

We in America, for the most part, take for granted the Petroleum products, textiles, and metals that make up our modern everyday lives. We expend untold billions in dollars and untold lives and limbs of our servicemen and women to secure the foreign well fields in places like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the Middle East and use tanker ships to bring us crude oil. It is then piped and refined by a vast industry to make and deliver our petroleum products to our waiting hands whether at a gas pump nozzle or your favorite bottle of Hoppes #9. The majority of worldwide textile production and mass clothing production has long been outsourced from the USA to the cheaper labor and cheaper source materials of foreign lands. Every try to grow cotton, spin thread or loom some cloth? How about dig out metal ore, smelt it, refine it and work it into usable metal objects? If you step back and look at the intricate web of delivery chain complexity you quickly realize it is daunting to grasp. In a long term grid down event these long supply chains will quickly disappear and the petroleum products, textiles, and specialty metals (steel, lead, copper and brass) will become highly valued commodities after a very short time.

My first firearms cleaning experience came from my father. My father and his twin brother volunteered for military service in 1940 so they could go through basic together. After basic they split into different units and my father started fighting World War II in the Pacific with the 37th Division the (same islands that their father fought over in the Spanish American War). My father was eventually promoted as a training Sergeant and then was transferred to train troops stateside and in England and he then lead them in beach landings at Normandy on D-Day.

Throughout his time in combat his men had to routinely tear down old clothing (mostly enemies) for rags and patches and also use boot laces or cordage as field expedient “bore snakes” to keep weapons running when weapon cleaning supplies did not arrive at the front. Supply chains were often hard pressed enough to get the crucial ammo and food forward. They often used diesel and gasoline fuels mixed with various motor pool fluids to make field expedient weapons lubes. Sometimes too light and volatile of a mix would catch fire or smoke heavily while running the various machine guns and anti aircraft guns and too thick a mix would bind up the weapons when the lighter compounds boiled off. They prized actually getting real firearms rated oils, greases and bore cleaners when they could get them. They routinely would destroy enemy weapons and ammo but they always re-tasked the enemy’s firearms cleaning oils and cleaning supplies.

I was raised in a small town rural community and I started shooting firearms at age of ten. My father first taught me to clean firearms with an old bootlace, old pillow case cloth hand cut patches and some kerosene as a solvent/lubricant. My father said he wanted me to first learn the hard way to clean a firearm so that I would more appreciate the easy methods now available.  After a time he introduced me to an old tooth brush and then eventually a proper cleaning kit with a real bore rod, precut patches, bore brush, gun solvent Hoppes #9, and real firearms oil that made cleaning to his training sergeant  standards a whole lot easier. By the age of eleven I had the responsibility for cleaning all the firearms whenever we went shooting or hunting.  That may seem young by today’s standards but my older brother and I had our father and our other uncles (all WWII combat veterans) raise us properly with respect for firearms and their proper care.

Old threadbare sheets, pillow cases, blankets, shirts, pants, socks and such should be saved and laundered one last time without scented detergents and then prepared for various firearms cleaning duty.  We shooters now enjoy a wide variety of pre cut, sized and specialty cleaning patches and pre oiled rags for our firearm care needs. It is so very easy to simply buy a bag full of patches with a can of gun scrubber, gun oil and maybe a new bore brush at the local gun shop every time we pick up ammo and other gear.

The best gun rags are old lint free sheets and pillow cases, but flannel shirts and socks work well also. The best way to salvage them is to snip and strip them into various sized squares. Resist the urge to pre cut different sizes of cleaning patches for the various gun bore sizes. Patches are usually caliber sized with one inch for .22 caliber and two inch for .30 caliber and so on. If you simply keep the salvaged rags to about sixteen inch squares they then can be stripped off the side of the square into appropriate widths strips and then further torn into caliber sized patches at the actual time of weapon cleaning. If you have ever opened a military cleaning kit that was field carried with bore and chamber brushes rubbing the patches apart into a pile of ratty thread stripped patches you will understand the less raw edges being carried the better.

When you tear down cloth you can make a small cuts perpendicular to the open edge with a scissor or sharp knife and then grasp each half and rip the cloth along the warp long axis or across the weft side weave of the cloth.   As you approach the last 1/8th inch of the tear you should re-grip the two parts with your thumb and forefingers at the last two corner points on each half and give a firm tug pulling the last bit apart. This is to prevent getting a long running string from separating out and running. I routinely use sixteen inch squares. That size folds and rolls up nicely into Military M16 Alice style cleaning pouches that are widespread in the range world.  You can of course custom size to your preferred carry pouch. Tearing apart cloth for gun rags is somewhat therapeutic like popping bubble foam and if timed right around someone bending over it can be downright funny.

If you have a OTIS style cleaning kit you can buy regular round patches of similar diameter and fabric type in bulk (about $10 per thousand).) You can make your own cut patches by taking about a half inch stack of regular round patches and place it on top of a double fold piece of brown cardboard box. Under the stack of patches and cardboard box pieces place a plastic cutting board. Take a real OTIS patch and lightly use a fine tip Sharpie marker to highlight the slits in black. Take an X-acto knife straight chisel blade of the appropriate width and vertically plunge down through the stack at the appropriate highlighted locations. Take care to keep the stack straight and flat to keep slot placement equal during the vertical plunge cuts. You know when you are through by the cut into the cardboard. You can make OTIS style patches for about $10 per thousand material cost this way verses factory OTIS of about $60 per thousand. I made a permanent template out of a thin aluminum disk with a Dremel tool. Remember to sharpen the blades as needed for a clean wiggle plunge cut. You can use a sharp hammer hole gasket cutting punch to make round patches in stacks of used cloth on a pine board also.

We are spoiled by the quick and easy access to gun oils and cleaning solvents. Commercial gun oils are various and proprietary mixes that each has their specific viscosity and lubricating characteristics. There are more viscous oils such as Break Free CLP or FP 10 and thinner Clenzoil and Rem Oil types. Firearms types and seasonal weather require various lubrication plans. In small bottles gun oils run about $1 or $2 an ounce. When you buy it by the gallon the price drops greatly and usually varies from about $40 to $80 dollars a gallon (128 oz) or about 1/3 the price depending on the gun show or gun shop you find it in. Gun Scrubber is priced at about $8 dollars a can and the cheaper “non chlorinated brake cleaner” scrubber by various auto store brands at about $2 dollars a can. These solvents to help quickly cut the nasty carbon build up of our firearms. Remember when using any petrochemical solvents to do it in a well ventilated, non smoking and flame free areas away from any live ammunition. If you are planning on supporting a group sized shooting operation or a training range you can also obtain non chlorinated brake cleaner cheaper by buying it in drums through auto dealers and car shops. You can get small hand held spray bottle from auto parts stores that are charged with an air compressor.

There are a variety of homemade firearm oil recipes on the web and I have tried many and found few to come close to the readily available commercial brands. It may be worth your time to web search and store hard copies of formulas [such as Ed's Red] for the long term emergency. You will probably be more hard pressed to find the varying ingredients called for in the home made recipes in a grid down situation than to just  stock up bulk  firearms grade oils and solvents in multiple locations now. The firearms industry has taken great time and effort in coming up with good compounds. Most times trying to reinvent the wheel is time wasted.

For good firearms cleaning you need to use a proper sized bore brush and chamber brush to really get the build up out of the rifling, chambers, and locking lugs and wear points. It is almost impossible to improvise a proper bore or chamber brush. I have seen various attempts at improvised brushes by twisting fine wires and then snipping them off. IMHO it never works to a reasonably degree and usually ends up breaking off fine wires in the bore which tend to align with the rifling in the oils and are a pain to remove. Short of possessing a bore brush twisting machine, a warehouse full of raw materials and backup power the most reasonable thing to do is to stock up as many as possible in various calibers.  Learn to use them properly by pushing them all the way through and never reverse them in the bore. Also never dip them into the cleaning solvents. Always apply the solvents to the brushes with a dropper or dipped clean patch. I use slightly worn brushes for my initial passes and then switch to better brushes as the bore gets progressively cleaner with solvents and patches. Old dental picks and free tooth brushes from your dentist are handy for the hard to reach nook and crannies. Plain Scotch bright green pads without soap coatings from the laundry isle are a real time saver in scrubbing off dirty bolts. Specialty carbon scraper tools for your rifle bolts are a bit pricey but a time saver also.  A variable speed battery operated drill on your firearm cleaning bench makes quick work of a dirty AR chamber with a chamber brush mounted on a short cleaning rod section. Take care not to bore too deep or too fast to prematurely ream out the chamber neck and bullet throat area.

Take the time to read the users manuals for all your firearms and clean and lubricate them properly. Also take time to learn other firearms types you do not currently possess as you may have to learn a new firearm you come across on the range or in life’s real world adventures.

And as always: Buy cheap and stock deep in multiple locations.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

As a daily reader of your blog, I've read over and over again about how Pre-1899 guns are legal. The Internet is full of such advise dating back a long time. However, I still fail to see how that would add much protection against confiscation. The ATF has seized Airsoft guns and police confiscated muzzleloaders from one home in my area after one resident (who was not the owner of the weapons!) was arrested there. The list goes on from there and contains nothing that shows that law enforcement makes any distinction between antiques and modern guns.

I believe that if we ever face full-blown gun confiscation, the people on the streets sent out to collect guns will simply take everything they can find, no matter if it is pre-1899 or not. They will grab things because they look like a gun, just like the assault weapons ban went after scary looking guns. Considering the price of a pre-1899, quality of manufacturing, age and wear, and often now hard to come by calibers, I'd rather spend my money on two modern rifles. "Use one and stash the other" seems safer than hope that law enforcement will correctly identify an antique.

Am I missing something? - Peter A.

JWR Replies: What you may be missing is going to jail and a felony conviction that could cost you your right to vote and your right to own any modern gun for the rest of your life. When a gun is seized outside of jurisdictional authority, then the owners almost invariably get their guns back, and they are not charged. But if there is ever a confiscatory ban, it will be under color of law, and most likely with a felony penalty attached. At least for the owner of pre-1899s, unless the law changes you will be able to openly possess, use, carry, and hunt without fear of being arrested and convicted of a felony.

I don't guarantee that hedging into pre-1899 guns will be a panacea. But I'm fairly certain that the pre-1899 exemption will remain in place in the U.S. for many more years. The law hasn't changed since 1968. After all, the available pool of pre-1899 antique guns gets smaller with every passing year, so their regulation will probably continue to be a "non-issue" in the eyes of politicians. Granted, there is the small chance that a highly-publicized criminal event might draw attention to pre-1899 antiques and initiate new legislation that would restrict them. (Such as a political assassination using an antique gun.) But that risk shows us the nature of all hedges: They are a form of insurance based on actuarial odds. I still predict that they that pre-1899s will prove to be worth buying. Doing so will hedge our bets on new legislation or executive orders.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

“My grandpa taught me how to live off the land, and his taught him to be a businessman." Remember those words from “A Country Boy Can Survive” by Hank Williams, Jr.?  Those lines are the story of my life.  I was born just outside of San Francisco in 1963.  I was raised overseas and lived in Singapore, a nation where possession of guns by citizens was (and is) illegal.   The extent of my outdoor life was exploring what was left of the jungles around our home, and digging up WW2 relics (casings, helmets, hubcaps etc.)  I returned to the US at 13, and lived in Miami during the cocaine wars of the 1980’s.  My father was an executive for a multi-national corporation.  We were pretty wealthy.  Hunting and fishing were not a part of my father’s past, so he didn’t pass those along to me.  Our idea of roughing it was going to the Marriott instead of the Hilton.  My dad was not a “fix-it” kind of guy.  When something broke, we called the repairman, or simply replaced it.  I learned early the value of a good auto mechanic.  I didn’t think I was totally incompetent.  I could change batteries and a light bulb.  I could mow the grass, and taught myself how to vacuum out the pool.  I played sports in school, which consumed most of my time.  I went to college and majored in political science.  I didn’t take the time to look at the want ads and notice that there were not a lot of jobs for political scientists.  After graduation, it took me a couple of years to figure out that my employment opportunities were limited.  I finally realized that I hadn’t been trained to “do” anything.  I had been trained to think deep thoughts.  What was a 23 year old “deep thinking” guy to do?  I looked around and asked, “Who is making money?”  It became clear that the lawyers were the only ones I saw getting rich.  So in 1987, I headed off to law school.  I graduated three years later, $70,000 in debt and unemployed.  I managed to find jobs to keep myself fed, until I began practicing law with a small property firm.  Eventually, I got married and began a basic middle class life.  By the time our first child was born, I was working full time as a Public Defender.  We spent what we made, and saved very little.  Over time, that changed, and I was able to invest in the market, and slowly began building up an IRA. Two more kids arrived, costs went up, but we have kept our heads above water.  Like everyone, we got hit hard in 2002, but still managed to keep going.  Over the last 10 years or so, we have been doing okay, watching our investments fluctuate and enjoying the “city life”. 

Two recent situations have caused me to take a long hard look at my life, and realistically evaluate my situation.  I had a total knee replacement.  Everything seemed to be going well, until I developed an infection.  My 30 days away from the office turned into 45.  My short term disability did not cover as much as I hoped, and it was tough to make ends meet.  As the infection refused to clear up, the Doctors started talking about 4 additional surgeries, and being out of the office for about a year.  Despite having long term disability insurance, I knew that a prolonged absence from the office would be financially devastating.  I began to seriously ponder how I would take care of my family.  Thoughts of selling possessions, tightening budgets and possibly downsizing our home, all went through my head.  It is important to know that I have no school loans, no car payments, and minimal credit card debt.  I wasn’t worried about paying off debt. I was worried about depleting our savings, buying food, and keeping the house.  While flat on my back with me knee in the air, I had to start planning for my son’s 15th birthday.
He is a World War 2 history buff, and all he wanted for his birthday was an M1 Garand.  I have some limited experience with handguns and target shooting.  Rifles were totally out of my realm of knowledge and experience.  I got on the Internet and started to check out the availability and price of a M1 Garand.  They were pretty tough to find, and I learned that they were cost prohibitive.  He really wanted a piece of WW2 history, so we went with a Mosin Nagant.  The whole family has enjoyed shooting it.  A few weeks ago, my son noticed signs for an upcoming gun show.  We decided to go in the hope that he would have a chance to see and touch some WW2 vintage rifles.  We spent the day with M1s, Kar 98s, carbines of all types, and just about every type of rifle, shotgun and handgun imaginable.  On a whim, I picked up a copy of Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse by James Wesley Rawles.  The premise seemed interesting, and I was in need of a new book. Reading the book has been one of the most beneficial and terrifying experiences of my life.

The latest government shutdown, raising of the debt ceiling, international financial news, international instability and terrorism,  our over dependence on foreign made goods (my underwear is made in Viet Nam),  the general interconnectedness of supply lines and the “global economy” have convinced me that a Crunch, as depicted in the novel, is not only a possibility, but an inevitability.  When it happens, how then does a city boy survive?  How do I care for family?  How do I protect them?  I’m not thinking about giving them the best life has to offer, I am worried about literally keeping us all alive.  I realize that I cannot depend on the government or what passes for infrastructure.  I can trust in God and in his people, but that also requires that I use the brains and abilities that He gave me to be as prepared and ready as possible.  I had to admit that I had neither the supplies nor the skills necessary to keep my family alive and safe.  That is a horrible and terrifying thought for a 50 year old, married, father of three.  I knew that I had no other choice, but to make some changes and prepare myself to be the husband and father that I needed (and wanted) to be.

My first step has been to get my wife on board.  I have shared with her what I have learned, and why I feel a “crunch” is inevitable.  God has blessed me with a wife who is more “handy” than I am, and she danced a jig of joy when I told her that I was going to learn to do more of the “fix it” stuff around the house.   My best friend has agreed to teach me the things I need to know, to do basic home and auto repair.

My next step was to prepare to “bug in”.  In the event of a bad storm, being snowed in for a few days or a prolonged (but temporary) power outage, we would have been in a world of hurt.  I realized that we had one flashlight in the house.  We had no battery powered radios.  Come to think about it, we had no extra batteries.  We had little canned food stockpiled.  We had few matches and no wood.  We had no extra propane.  We had no stored water.  We had few hygiene items on hand (and three women).  We had one fire extinguisher, which is 19 years old.  I have taken steps to remedy this by clearing a section of the basement, and creating a storage area of food, water and supplies.  The things we need are in one place.  If a disaster hits, we won’t be scrambling all over the house looking for stuff.  Our next step will be creating “bug out” packs that are ready to go.

I have also expanded my collection of firearms.  I now have a Taurus .45, Taurus .357 revolver, Glock 17, Mosin Nagant and my newest acquisition, a Mossberg 100 ATR, chambered in .270.  I have just over 1,700 rounds of ammo on hand.  My next purchase will be a self defense shotgun. I am acquiring supplies and firearms as inexpensively as possible, while not sacrificing quality.   I have made a deal with two friends to have them teach me and my son to hunt and fish.  When the crunch happens, we will be able to make sure that we have protein/meat to eat.  We will pass those skills on to the rest of our family as we become more capable.  I am slowly reallocating my investments, and creating a more liquid financial situation.  I am trying to figure out how to survive in a future with little or no cash.  I understand that I cannot rely on or expect to receive Social Security or my pension.  I am blessed that my wife is a natural born trader/barterer.  I am learning how to make homemade soap.  My wife is a seamstress.  As long as she can fine material, a needle and thread, we will have clothes and something to sell, trade or barter.

I realize that all this is “old hat” to many of your readers.  I’m sure some of you want to shake me by the shoulders and ask, “What took you so long”.  Rest assured, I know how much I still have to do to truly be as prepared as possible.  That is where you come in.  Please keep posting your information on the blogs.  Let me learn what you have learned.  Allow me to grow into the type of compatriot that you would want by your side.  In the end, we will all be in this together, and we will need to be able to rely on the person next to us.  I am sure you will notice me or others like me, as you do your own preparations.  Don’t be afraid to say something.  If you see that I am about to buy a lousy piece of equipment, let me know.  If you see me at the range and I’m making mistakes, help me out.  I know we don’t have uniforms, or pins, or secret handshakes by which we can identify ourselves to others.  But we can recognize each other.  We can see that innate part of each other that is prepared and reliable.  We can, hopefully, see that growing in others.  Maybe it is like my Dad said, “You know more about a man’s character by his actions than by his words”.  I know I have a long way to go before I will feel ready or truly prepared.  I need your help, your wisdom and your advice.  Please come along side me, and be the men and women of action, that I know you are.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Mr Rawles,

I'm writing to make a few points about the article Ken in Montana wrote about reloading, as there are some issues I have with it. I've only been reloading since 1999, but . . . .

First, Winchester primers are also brass in color, so anything other than silver doesn't automatically mean they're Remington. Additionally, people who are just getting into reloading should ask around about the reliability of the primers they're going to use, as some primers have harder cups and don't detonate reliably. I generally only use Winchester and CCI.

I'd be interested to know where Ken is getting his "dies." I've never seen a die sold for $2--even at an estate/garage sale. Ken's description sounds more like the Lee loading tools sold for people who do not have reloading presses. Those don't even sell for that price, and are extremely slow tools to use for loading--even slower than using a single stage press.

If you want to clean your range brass and don't have a tumbler, the best way I've found is to soak it in a sink or pail full of water, then run it under a tap or hose in a mesh bag to flush away the debris.

If you use a lubricant for your cases, take care not to get it into the mouth of the case, as it will contaminate the powder and could make it fail or only partially ignite. A best practice for those not using something like Hornady One Shot would be to clean the cases a second time after depriming.

Ken left out one category of primers--match primers. Match primers are generally a bit more sensitive than regular primers, to decrease issues when firing precision rifle and pistol matches. More on this in a bit, but most people will not need match primers for general purpose applications.

For magnum primers, readers should be aware that the reason there is more priming compound is to consistently ignite the generally larger powder charges found in magnum loads. Additionally, some companies, like Winchester, make the same primers for normal and magnum pistol loads.

My main issue with the article is in the primer handling and seating section. Unless you have a great deal of dirt or oil on your fingers, simply touching a primer will not cause it to fail. I've been using my fingers to flip primers for well over a decade with no bad results. Novices should not discard primers simply because they've touched them.

When seating a primer, a primer pocket loose enough to simply press primers into with hand pressure is probably one loose enough to have the primer shake loose under recoil. I would probably discard a case like that.

Additionally, because of the prevalence of surplus brass on ranges and in purchased ammunition, a reloader should NEVER strike a case mouth the seat a primer--this is an inherently dangerous practice, since primers are detonated in firing by impact. Military brass primers are crimped into place, and the crimp makes the primer pocket mouth smaller. Trying to seat a primer into a crimped primer pocket by striking the case could detonate the primer. There are multiple tools designed to remove the crimp from primer pockets. Many surplus cartridges can be identified by a circled cross on the head stamp (the base of the case where the manufacturer, year of manufacture, and caliber are stamped). Additionally, striking the mouth of the case could deform it, requiring resizing the case mouth or discarding the case if it is damaged badly enough.

When selecting a loading manual, novices should really buy one published by a powder or reloading equipment manufacturer, rather than by a bullet manufacturer. Contrary to the writer's claim, all bullet manufacturers do NOT publish load data--this is especially true for regional manufacturers and those who make bullets that are not jacketed. The reason I say this is because powder and reloading equipment manufacturers will publish data for a type of bullet (like a 230 grain full metal jacket), as opposed to a specific model of bullet (like a Hornady 230 grain XTP). While it's generally acceptable to use load data for bullets of the same weight and type by different manufacturers, novices may not know that.

The author's method of seating bullets is a little suspect as well. Tapping it into place with a mallet could lead to placing the bullet off-center, potentially damaging the case mouth. Additionally, if the case mouth is not belled during the loading process, you may shave the jacket or some lead off of the bullet. This could change the bullet's profile and potentially lead to issues with headspacing (especially for pistol bullets) if not the shavings are not cleaned off. Finally, I've noticed the author doesn't cover crimping the case mouth, which is very important. Bullets not crimped into the case can pull under recoil, and not crimping the case mouth can cause failures to feed--especially in cartridges that headspace from the case mouth (like the .45 ACP).

The author's rather cavalier attitude about overall length is slightly less alarming than his attitude about priming. Bullets seated too deeply into the case can also cause excess pressure and damage the gun and injure the shooter. A ruler is not accurate enough, and different bullet styles will not look similar enough to judge proper seating by eye. Get a set of calipers which show the measurement to the thousandth. Sincerely, - Kent from Illinois

Friday, October 4, 2013

With the current shortage of ammunition and the consequent high prices, it makes more sense now than ever before to learn how to reload your own fired brass casings.  I even suspect that in the future, this may well be the only way for the ordinary citizen to obtain ammunition. It's not at all difficult, it only requires a little understanding of the process, and the ability to follow directions. This will become very important later, as each caliber requires its own set of powders, charges, primers, and bullets. No one can learn them all, there are millions of potential combinations. But the data has already been compiled for you in hundreds of tables in loading manuals(more on these later...) and on the Internet.

As a reloader of my own ammunition since 1977, I have come to think that it is not nearly so mysterious as people make it seem. There are many miscommunications, even down to so basic a concept as the “bullet”. Despite what you hear on television and see in the movies, the bullet is the [projectile] part that flies downrange, the actual projectile itself. The complete loaded round consisting of the case, the primer, the powder, and the projectile (or bullet) is actually known as a “cartridge”, or simply a round. This terminology might seem unimportant at first glance, but it is as necessary for the reloader as the words “engine”, and “transmission”, are for a mechanic. The brass case, usually made of brass, is the part ejected out of the gun after the round is fired from a semi auto action, or manually extracted from other firearms. The “primer” is the little silver-colored (or gold-colored if Remington brand) round thing pressed into the center of the rear portion of the brass case, known as the case's “head”. The firing pin strikes the primer in order to fire the round. This is for centerfire cartridges. Rimfires, such as the .22 Long Rifle, are not reloadable and so will not be discussed here.

The open end of the case is called the “mouth”. The gunpowder is measured (or weighed) and poured into the mouth of the case, and then the bullet is seated into the case, on top of the powder. There are a few basic tools required such as a rubber or wooden mallet, a small funnel or piece of paper, and perhaps a punch and a pair of pliers.

There are also a few specialized tools needed, but they are quite cheap at the starter level. A good gunpowder scale that will measure in grains will usually be needed. A lab scale that measures in milligrams will work, but the result will have to be converted to grains, and a math mistake here could have serious consequences later. The powder charge needs to be quite precise. Real powder scales that measures in grains directly can often be found at swap meets and flea markets for $20. They are about $40 to $100 brand new. The one other indispensable tool is the die, specific to each caliber you wish to reload. They are around $2. I recommend buying dies new, at least until you become experienced enough to recognize a damaged or worn out die just by looking inside it.

This die is a round piece of hardened steel, with a hole in the center machined the exact size that the cartridge should be, according to the specs published by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute, or SAAMI (pronounced “sammy” in true acronym fashion). Pushing the case into this die will swage(squash in diameter) the case back down to the proper size, after firing has expanded it. The case is fed into the die, mouth end first, and then tapped into the die with a mallet, or pressed in, if one owns a reloading press. This process is known as “resizing” the case. This die will usually also contain a pin, known as a “decapper” which will push the spent primer out of its recess (known as the “primer pocket”) in the case head.

CAUTION: before this is done, the dirty case should be cleaned in some way, as gritty cases will cause excess wear in your die, and a big enough piece of debris  might even scratch your die, rendering it useless. Well, maybe not quite useless, but it will scratch your brass cases from then on, and sometimes cause them to stick in the die, meaning more time lost as you clear the die with a punch or some similar tool. There is no buffing the scratch out, as that would make the inside of the die oversize, and then it will not do the job of resizing. Even a thousandth of an inch matters here. A rag and some solvent will clean the grit off the cases nicely. There are also special tumbling or vibrating washtubs, similar to rock polishers, that clean many cases at a time, making the job quicker and easier. After the case is cleaned, it should be lubricated so that it won't stick in the die. The reloading component manufacturers make special lubes for this, and they only cost a few dollars for enough to do many thousands of rounds, but any type lubricant will do.

Now, with a sized and decapped case, the next step is to replace the spent primer, as this will ignite the new powder charge. Primers are bought in trays of 100, or cases of 1000, in most any sporting goods store. They come in four basic types: small pistol, large pistol, small rifle, and large rifle. All four types also have a “magnum” primer as a subtype. The small and large refer to the actual size of the primer. Some cases have a small primer pocket, and some a large. Usually, smaller cartridges will use small primers, and so on as one would expect, but not always, so be sure to look up the primer size of the cartridge you are loading before you buy. Or just tell the clerk what caliber you intend to load and if he doesn't know offhand he will certainly have the ability to look it up.

The rifle and pistol refers to the steel cup the priming compound is housed in. Rifles operate at much higher pressures than pistols, so require a more robust primer cup in order to withstand these high pressures without rupturing. But pistols do not hit the primer hard enough to set off the thick, tough rifle primers. They require thinner and softer primer cups, which is fine at the pistols lower pressure levels. This is another of the detail areas. Make sure never to mistake a pistol primer for a rifle primer. A rifle primer in a pistol will only lead to dud rounds, but a pistol primer in a rifle case might well lead to a pierced primer when fired, which would then allow muzzle blast to come out the rear of the chamber. Not a good situation. Many loading mistakes can generate excessive chamber pressures, but modern firearms have a large built-in safety margin, and also mechanisms to divert the hot gases away from the shooter, even if the primer or case head should rupture.

The magnum moniker just means that the primer contains more priming compound, thus giving a bigger flame, to set off the large charges of the very slow burning powders needed by the large capacity magnum rifle rounds. In my experience pistols don't need magnum primers, not even in the large magnums like the .44 Magnum or .454 Casull. It doesn't hurt to use magnum primers in a non magnum case, but they do cost more, which seems a waste, unless it is needed for proper ignition.

When handling primers individually, it is important to use small pliers, tweezers, forceps, or something similar to keep from touching them with your skin. Even chopsticks or toothpicks will work, if you are good enough with them. The slightest amount of any oil, including your skin oils, will deactivate the pressure sensitive material within, leading to dud rounds that won't fire. The primer is placed on the primer pocket, and simply pressed in. If one does not have a reloading press, I found the best way was to place the new primer, open side up, on a semi firm surface, such as a thick piece of solid(not corrugated) cardboard, or a hardcover book. Then place the case, mouth up, on top of it. Then simply tap the mouth of the case down unto the primer until it is flush with the case head. Care must be taken not to strike so hard that the primer will be set off. If you do, it will sound like a large cap from a cap pistol, but unless you happen to be looking down into case at the time, it is unlikely to cause injury. But it will waste the primer and then you must start over again. Besides, loud noises are scary when you are reloading. Dump the whole tray of primers out on a sheet of light weight cardboard, after folding up the edges to make a shallow box (there are plastic "primer flipping trays" for this, $5 or less) so they won't all roll around. Then turn each one open end up--either by swirling a primer flipping tray, or manually with a small tool. Then I use a needlenose pliers to transfer them one at a time to the surface of the book and seat that one, and then so on until I'm finished priming.

Now, it is time for the scale. A measured charge, of a specific amount, of a specific powder,  must now be added to the case, on top of the primer you just pressed in, under the bullet which you will seat in the next step. This article will only deal with smokeless powder, or guncotton. Black powder is that “other gunpowder” (more misconceptions) that is used in flintlocks and such, that throw out the huge cloud of white(the powder is black, the smoke is white) smoke when fired. Make sure never to confuse black and smokeless powders. There are many different grades of smokeless powder, by many different manufacturers. The primary difference between them is the rate at which they burn. A fast burn rate is for small cases and short barrels, such as pistol rounds. The larger the caliber's powder capacity, the slower the powder will need to burn, and also the firearm will need a longer barrel to take advantage of the extra powder to generate the higher velocities. This trade off is why pistol calibers are commonly short and fat, whereas rifle rounds are generally much longer and with much heavier bullets, even though the bore diameter might be the same. For example, the .35 Remington rifle cartridge will take up to a 220 grain bullet, whereas the .357 magnum pistol round, with the exact same .357 inch bore, has a 158 grain bullet as the heaviest available.

One can look up charge weights for different calibers and bullets on the Internet (search for: “loading data .45 ACP”, to get loads for the 45Aauto, for example), but the most convenient way is to have a book known as a “reloading manual”. These run about $25 (new) and each bullet manufacturer produces their own manual for the bullets that they make. They are all full of great general information and loading tips, but the bulk of the manuals are dedicated to tables showing which powders are for which caliber, and exactly how much of which powder for the particular bullet you wish to load. As a rule, the heavier the bullet in a given caliber, the less powder one must use. Heavier bullets will have more momentum because of their extra mass, but they will also push back harder on the expanding gases driving them up the bore. This will generate higher pressures, so the powder charge must be reduced, giving less velocity than a lighter bullet. Thus we note that the bullet and powder charge are co-dependent upon each other, and must be selected together. The easiest way to do this is to select the bullet that you want to use, and then go “shopping” in the manuals(or on the web) for powders that will work for that bullet in your caliber. Then pick the one that generates the most velocity with the powders that you have available. Once a powder, charge weight, and bullet has been decided upon, it is simply a matter of weighing it out and using a small funnel, or a small cone made of paper, to pour it into the case mouth without spilling any(remember, the powder charge should be precise).

Now, all that is left is to seat a new bullet on top of the powder, and you will have a round ready to fire! To do this you place the new bullet, flat side down, into the case mouth that you just filled with powder, and then simply tap it home with the mallet. You need to make sure that the newly loaded round is not too long, but the very scientific process of TLAR (that looks about right) works pretty well. When it looks about right, check the overall length against the SAAMI specs (on the web or from the loading manual), to make sure it is not too long. A ruler works fine for this, as the previous precision is not needed here. Too short is seldom a problem, as around the point of minimum length the cartridge usually begins to look strange. Even if the bullet is seated too deeply, usually the only adverse effect, other than a reduction in accuracy, is potential feeding malfunctions. If a round is too long, it will either fail to go in the magazine, fail to chamber, or worse it could seat the bullet into the rifling, thus creating excess chamber pressures which could even damage your firearm. In any case the overall length specification has a fair bit of leeway in most cartridges. It is fairly easy to get the length between the minimum and the maximum specs, often just by eye. Many bullets will have a “cannelure”, or crimping groove, around their circumference. These bullets should be seated until this ring is lined up with the case mouth.

Once all these steps are complete, the round is ready to fire. However, if it is to be fired in a semi-auto action, it should undergo one final step, the bullet should be taper crimped into the case. This requires yet another die, but this step is optional. The worst that will happen to uncrimped bullets is that the rounds in the bottom of the magazine might become seated deeper into the case by recoil, and get below the minimum overall case length. In manual actions crimping is not usually necessary.

Of course, this has been vastly simplified, as there is a great deal more than these simple basics. An experienced reloader can make his own bullets, and even make his own black powder, but smokeless powder is too dangerous to manufacture outside of laboratory conditions. They can even make cases, and thus load ammunition, for calibers that no longer exist. There are professional reloaders who do just that for a living. Mostly due to the sport of cowboy action shooting, which often uses calibers that have not been manufactured for decades. Also, it is sometimes far cheaper to use another cheap case, as the basis for a more expensive caliber, such as making 300 Blackout brass from the 5.56mm military surplus case.

This, of course, is only the beginning as one can purchase many accessories to make the job easier and quicker including presses, priming tools that hold a whole tray at a time and never require you to touch the primers at all, digital and automatic scales, and "powder measures" that, once set for a particular weight of a particular powder, will continue to measure out that amount at the pull of a handle. So much quicker than weighing each charge! One can even purchase multiple station presses that will do each of these operations, to many separate cases, all at once. These, once set up, will drop a loaded round for you, each time you work the press handle. One can even buy automated presses with no lever, that only need to be monitored and fed reloading components. These will do all processes by themselves, feeding cases, decapping, repriming, adding powder, bullet and crimp, and dropping loaded rounds, one at a time, with no input from the operator, and continue for as long as they have components. These are very expensive though, and still require a highly experienced operator, as all complex machinery does.

One big shortcut that I can heartily recommend is a product called the Lee reloading kit. Lee is a brand and no, I am not, nor have I ever been, affiliated with them. It is just the way I started loading way back in the 1970s, and it always worked well for me. They are for only one caliber, but they are cheap, they last virtually forever (unless you feed enough dirt into the die to scratch its walls, but that is true for any die, from any manufacturer), and they are easy and simple to use. They include the size die for whatever caliber it is, the decapping pin, small plastic powder measure(like tiny measuring cups with long handles) to cover a range of powder charge weights, and instructions with tables telling you what measure to use for which powders and charges, and tables with some loading data to get started with. With this kit you won't even need the powder scale that I listed as an essential. All you really need is in that kit, but you will find many more items that you will want, quickly enough. For example, with only the plastic powder measures you will be extremely limited in the types and weights of powder you must use, but it works fine. In fact, it is the most foolproof way to load, as there is no scale that could be misread, no measuring chamber to set or calibrate, etc. All one needs to do is look up in the tables provided which measure you want for the powder charge desired, select that measure, dip it in powder to fill the measure, and then use a flat object, such as the back side of a knife, to level the measure off, as one would do while measuring flour. Then drop it into the case, seat a bullet, and a loaded cartridge is completed.

From here, the sky is the limit as your experience increases. Soon you will find yourself wanting a scale so you can use any powder and charge, not just the few listed in Lee's tables. With a scale you can still use the Lee measures, you will just need to fill one with the unlisted powder you want to use, and then drop it on your scale and weigh it to know what size charge that size of measure throws with that particular powder. A single station press will probably be wanted next, as the tapping with the mallet method is slow. Don't get me wrong, this method is not difficult, just time consuming. A couple of hours will only produce 20-40 cartridges. Not really practical for shooting 500 rounds from a semi-auto, for example. At the other end of the spectrum are the multi stage progressive presses that can load up to a thousand rounds an hour. There is even a press that is built for working in your lap using both hands, so you can have a portable reloading setup!

All the loading data, ballistic charts, burning rates of various powders, bullet types, and more can all be found in the loading manuals. There is such a wealth of firearms related information in them that I would recommend every shooter have one, even if he never has any intention of reloading. All of the equipment, supplies, and components are sold in most any sporting goods store. You might need to ask the man behind the gun counter, though, because the reloading stuff is often kept in the back, or at least behind the counter. A good gun shop will also be glad to answer any other questions that might arise. They are generally happy to help a beginning reloader, as reloaders usually shoot much more than non-reloaders, meaning more sales. While it is true that reloading your ammo is much cheaper than buying factory, I have found that whatever money is saved, is generally spent on more components. Thus the reloader really gets to shoot lots more for same money, rather than actually saving any. Of course, if you only want the savings they are there, as reloaded ammo generally runs 25-50% of the price of factory ammo with the same bullet. This is 50 to 75% off! Quite a sale! That didn't work for me. I found that whatever I saved, and usually more besides, got spent on ammo anyway. I just ended up shooting a lot more!

Well, that's it, that's all the basics. The rest is up to you. Either way, cash savings or more shooting, it's really your choice. The main point is; there is no real need for all the expensive equipment that most will want to sell you. That equipment is nice to have, but not necessary. Also, the more complex the equipment, the more knowledge is required to use it. Thus I recommend starting with the simple and cheap equipment, and then progressing to more elaborate gear as budget and your level of reloading knowledge dictate.

Reloading is not dangerous when done properly, but it is unforgiving in certain areas. For example, if you misread a scale, or get interrupted while dropping the powder in the case, forget when you return, and then put another charge in the same case, that could easily damage a firearm. Accidentally reading a table incorrectly and using the load for a .30-06 110 grain bullet, when you are actually loading a 220 grain bullet can easily do the same, as the stiffer powder charge for the light bullet will probably be too much with the heavier bullet. Reloading is not difficult, but certain aspects of it, particularly reading the information from the tables, is not forgiving. The writers of the manuals know this and arrange the data to avoid errors. Still, one needs to be methodical and double and triple check the crucial steps of reading the data, and measuring and dispensing the proper type of powder and matching it to the bullet. Nothing will blow up a gun quicker than accidentally using Bullseye or Unique (both fast burning pistol powders) with loading data for something like IMR3031(a slow rifle powder).

Except perhaps for mixing different powders together. Some old timers(older even than me) say that they made good loads that way, but I suspect that was with black powder which only has one real burning rate. Never confuse black and smokeless powders as they are two very different animals. Every time I have seen mixed smokeless powder used it blew the gun up. They were always quite worthless firearms and triggered remotely so no one was hurt, but the way some of them blew, I was certainly glad I was not holding it at the time! But if one can follow the proper data, and do so carefully, then there is nothing to fear. I am not a detail type of person, but I haven't had any loading “accidents”. It is just a matter of knowing that at certain stages, reloading is a detail task, and there is a very large difference between 32 grains of IMR4831 powder and 32 grains of IMR2400 powder!
Good luck, and happy reloading!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Most of us use a cutting edge every single day, be it a chef’s knife, pocket knife, or scissors.  We typically suffer with overly dull cutting surfaces, and that is OK for cutting a zucchini after the daily nine-to-five routine.  However, when faced with a long-term survival situation, the importance of cutting edges will skyrocket, quickly shifting this humdrum facet of daily life to center stage.  Knowing how to restore and maintain blades and edges will take on new importance, as sharp tools will be necessary for survival, and sharpening will be a marketable and barterable skill.

Besides knives and scissors, we will regularly rely on axes, machetes, fingernail clippers, chisels, gouges, wood planes, drill bits, saw blades, animal hide preparatory tools, and shaving razors, just to name a few.  Different edges require different sharpeners and techniques to achieve sharpness, but with a little bit of investment in some simple tools and also time for honing your skills (pun intended), the dividends will pay off for years to come.  Unlike some niche survival skills and tactics, sharpening is extremely useful in every-day non-emergency situations, as you will finally be able to maintain blades that actually slice through tomatoes without clumsily squishing out an eight-inch radius of juice blast!

Some blades and tasks are more sensitive to dullness than others.  For example, a dull chef’s knife will get the job done, however it will take longer, leave jagged edges, and require more force.  These last points are issues of safety, for the greater the force leveraged on a knife, the less control the user typically has.  Also, dull knives have a greater propensity for slipping or bouncing off of surfaces before cutting in, which increases the likelihood of lacerating oneself.  Wounds inflicted by dull knives also tend to be more ragged, potentially necessitating medical attention—the last thing you need in a survival situation.  Other cutting tools, such as straight razors and plane irons are rendered virtually unusable when dull.   Dull machetes and axes are also inefficient and dangerous.

All sharpening methods rely on the same basic principle—abrasive particles that are harder than the blade are used to create a series of scratches on the cutting edge.  Coarse abrasive particles cut quickly and remove relatively large amounts of metal from the edge.  Fine abrasive particles cut more slowly, yet leave a finer scratch pattern.  The finer and more uniform the scratch pattern, the sharper the edge will be.  Eventually, the progression to finer and finer abrasives yields a mirror finish and an exquisitely sharp edge. 

Sharpening typically occurs over a number of abrasive, or “grit” stages.  A coarse or low grit stone first removes deep gouges and scratches.  Fine, or high grit, media are used after coarser abrasives have created a uniform edge.  This can be compared to a wood working analogy, in that a progression of finer tools is used to craft a piece of work.  An axe is used to cut lumber to a coarse shape, saws work coarse lumber to the close-to-finished shape of the desired piece, and then sand paper and scrapers are used during the last finishing stage.  Sandpaper is not used to cut down the tree!  In theory it could be, but you would waste a lot of paper, and it would take more time and effort than you probably wish to spend.  Conversely, you would not use an axe for the final smoothing.   For the same reasons, you would not use a fine abrasive for the initial sharpening of an edge.  The idea is to take rough (coarse) cuts of metal off the edge to get the shape of the blade right and to eliminate deep gouges.  Once all the scratches made by the coarse abrasive are uniform, it is time to progress to a medium abrasive.  Once the medium abrasive has created a uniform series of scratches, it is time to move to a finer abrasive.  One of the biggest hurdles to creating a good edge is impatience.  By switching to the next finer abrasive too soon, coarse scratches persist and a sharp edge will remain elusive.  Each progression of finer scratch pattern must completely remove the coarser scratch pattern from the abrasive that came before.  Going back to the lumber example, even if you used the axe to chop through 95% of the log, switching to sandpaper at this point would still be foolish.  Likewise, even if you remove 95% of the coarse scratches with a medium grit abrasive, moving a fine abrasive will not readily remove the remaining 5% of coarse scratches.

The tools needed to begin sharpening are relatively simple, but the vast array of choices can be dizzying for those new to sharpening.  On one end of the spectrum resides sandpaper that is simply adhered to a flat surface, while the other end of the spectrum hosts multi-thousand-dollar sharpening machines.   This article focuses on the middle ground, which is the domain belonging to sharpening stones.  Sophisticated sharpening machines will be largely ignored, for when the power goes down, so do these machines.  Additionally, replacement parts may be impossible to source.  A brief description of the utility of sandpaper is worth mentioning, however. 

Sand paper is inexpensive and only requires a flat surface such as a mirror, glass pane, or a block of granite as the underlying substrate.  Even MDF (medium density fiberboard) or cast iron tool tops (such as table saw tops) can be used with some success.  Utilizing a series of differing sandpaper grits can be an extremely effective means of sharpening edges.  Vast amounts of information regarding sandpaper-based methods are available on the internet, and they can typically be found by typing the phrase “scary sharp” in a search engine.   In a nutshell, sandpaper is generally adhered to a flat surface with a spray adhesive.  The edge to be sharpened is placed on the sandpaper, and worked to create a uniform scratch pattern.    A low grit (50, 80, 100) paper is used to shape the edge, followed by a progression of finer grits (150, 180, 220, 320, 400, 600, 1000, 1200, 2000, 5000 or even finer).    Stopping at between 600 and 1200 is suitable for everyday use, but finer edges (that are more delicate and more easily dulled and damaged) require higher grits.   To set this system up, it takes very little initial monetary output, as sandpaper and float glass is inexpensive.  The problem is that sandpaper may not be readily available in a long-term survival situation, and high quality wet-dry silicon carbide paper in fine grits is rather expensive and may not be readily available at box stores.  Overall, this methodology is useful to have in one’s bag of tricks, but may not be as practical or cost effective (in the long run) as having some quality sharpening stones.


It should be noted that I have no financial interest in any brands of the sharpening stones mentioned below, and have included reference to brands I have either personally used or that have a reputation for quality.  Like all tools, I would recommend buying the best you can afford, staying far away from cheap imports.

Sharpening stones come in a few basic varieties: Oil stones, water stones, and diamond stones.  Oil stones are the stones that our grandfathers used, and require a coat of oil to work effectively, hence the name.  They were traditionally natural stones (e.g. “Arkansas stones”), but man-made oil stones are readily available today from manufacturers such as Norton.  Natural Arkansas stones vary in coarseness, and are typically available in finer forms than their man-made counterparts.  The types of Arkansas stones are, from coarse to fine; “Washita,” “Soft Arkansas,” “Hard Arkansas,” “Hard Black Arkansas,” and “Hard Translucent Arkansas.”   Oil stones typically cut more slowly than water stones, and are more difficult to clean due to the use of oil.  They are, however, the most economical of the stones available.  Quality oil stones can be had, at the time of this writing, for under $20 each.

Water stones need no oil, but require water as a lubricant, as their names suggest.  They are also available in natural varieties, but are rare and cost prohibitive, so only man-made water stones will be considered.  They cut faster than oil stones since the binders that hold these stones together are relatively soft, which allows worn abrasive particles to slough off the stone during sharpening to reveal fresh and sharp underlying particles.  Of course there is a tradeoff, which is that water stones “dish out” more quickly due to their softer construction, so they must be flattened regularly (with a dedicated flattening plate).   Water stones are also available in much finer grits than oil stones (up to 30,000 grit).  Water stones vary in price, with finer grits costing substantially more.   Norton makes combination stones with differing grits on each side of the stone, and for around $150 dollars, two stones (4 grits: 220/100, 4000/8000) and a flattening stone can be had.  I personally feel this is an excellent approach for a basic “do it all” sharpening setup.  Water stones are easy to use and clean, while not being terribly expensive.  Extremely fine grits, however, can be upward of $300 per stone.  The Naniwa Chosera line of Japanese water stones, though I have not personally used them, are extremely well-regarded, and warrant consideration. I regularly use Shapton glass stones (1000, 4000, 8000) and a DMT Coarse Diasharp stone to keep my glass stones flat, and highly recommend this setup.  The Shapton stones cut fast, don’t dish out quickly, and are super easy to use.  They are, however, fragile as they are manufactured on a glass backing, and relatively expensive (around $300 for such a set).  In a critical situation where “two is one, and one is none,” glass stones may not be my first choice without a backup in place. 

Diamond stones are not stones at all, but rather metal plates impregnated with diamond particles.  They cut extremely fast and their surfaces remain very flat over time.  They use water instead of oil, so are also easy to clean.  Diamond stones are typically more expensive than water stones in average grits, but less expensive than ultra-fine water stones.   Diamond plates are also not readily available in the extremely fine grits found in water stones.  For a long-term survival scenario, these stones are arguably the best choice if you could only have one set of stones, as they are robust and remain flat.  A set of four diamond stones by DMT (x-coarse, coarse, medium, fine) sells for around $200, and represents good value for overall utility.  When choosing diamond stones, look for brands offering monocrystalline construction, as these stones tend to cut faster and last longer than polycrystalline varieties.

Strops should not be left out of the discussion.  A strop is simply a piece of leather (or canvas) used to polish an edge.  Unlike stones, strops do not remove material from a blade, but rather straighten or align the edge.  A strop is essential for achieving a keen edge on a straight razor, and is also used for creating a superior edge on woodworking tools such as chisels or plane irons.   Strops may be impregnated with fine abrasive particles, such as “Jeweler’s Rouge,” or chromium (III) oxide to aid in achieving an even better finish.  For kitchen and utility knives, a honing steel, or simply “steel” is often used for a similar purpose (A “steel” may be made of steel or ceramic).  Learning to use a steel is a requisite for maintaining sharp kitchen knives, as it allows prolonged use of knives between sharpening sessions, since one can periodically “touch up” the edge with just a steel.

What about electric kitchen knife sharpeners?  They are super-fast, easy to use, and require virtually no skill.  As long as you have electricity they will work relatively well.  However, one can’t always count on having electricity.  Also, if a part breaks or wears out, the apparatus will be rendered useless.  Lastly, they can only sharpen thin-bladed knives, but a set of stones can be used to sharpen axes, combat knives, scissors, lawnmower blades, pruners, and dozens of woodworking tools, just to name a few.   High end sharpening stations are more versatile than the kitchen knife sharpeners, but again have dozens of moving parts and rely on electricity.

A number of specialty stones are also offered in the market, and are intended for specific tasks.  For example, round and triangular stones can be used for sharpening serrated blades and gut-hook skinning knives, and even some nail clippers.  Gouge sharpening stones are shaped to accommodate a wide variety of wood working gouges and carving tools.  Smaller stones can be used for sharpening fish hooks, saw blades, small scissors, tweezers, and even carbide router bits and carbide tipped saw blades.  It should be noted that a diamond stone is needed to sharpen carbide.

The last tool worth mentioning is the file.  Files are useful, especially in conjunction with stones, for sharpening axes, hatchets, lawnmower blades, gardening equipment, shovels, and saw blades.  Files could be the subject of their own article, but for the sake of brevity only a brief introduction follows.  Files are also indispensable for general metalworking.  Mill files come in a variety of “cuts” (the pattern of ridges on the tool) and roughness.  Files generally follow the nomenclature of, from roughest to smoothest: “rough”, “middle”, “bastard”, “second cut”, “smooth”, and “dead smooth.”  To make matters more confusing, a 10” long second cut file is typically coarser than a 6” long second cut file, and levels of roughness vary from one manufacturer to another.   Files can be flat, half-round, round, and tapered.  For basic sharpening of garden tools, lawnmower blades, shovels, and axes, an initial shaping with a file is the most practical way to form an edge when exceedingly dull or damaged.  They cut more aggressively than the coarsest of stones, and do so far faster.  No sharpening set would be complete without at least one flat mill file, but a selection of flat, round, and tapered files, in both coarse and fine cuts is ideal.  Small tapered files are used to sharpen hand saw blades, while a small round file is required to properly sharpen a chainsaw blade.

There are also numerous jigs and fixtures on the market to aid the would-be sharpener in his or her quest for that perfect edge.  I would avoid these items in general, and instead focus on the skill of sharpening.  Jigs can break, but once you have acquired the knowledge and sharpened your skills (another pun!) that can never be taken away from you.  Knowledge is power.


Since there are so many options for sharpening implements, it is admittedly confusing at first.  However, in choosing the right tools, some first questions to ask are:1) What are you sharpening?, and 2) Where are you sharpening?  The “what” is simple—buy what you need to sharpen the tools you will need.  The “where” simply refers to whether you are in a stable location or preparing for a bug-out.  Therefore I have put together four hypothetical kit examples: two bug out kits-ultralight and standard, a basic sharpening set for home use, and a comprehensive sharpening set for home use.  Below each set is a description of what task can reasonably be accomplished with the tools at hand.  These are not written in stone, so feel free to adjust based upon your needs.

Bug Out Kit-ultralight
Diamond credit card sharpeners – Coarse, Fine, Extra Fine

This kit is lightweight (under 7 oz.), inexpensive, and suffices for most common tasks.  Each stone is a metallic credit card-sized diamond plate.  They are a bit heavy for my EDC (every day carry) preferences, but not totally impractical.  For a bugout bag, these are a no-brainer.   This set gives you the ability to sharpen chef’s knives, smooth pocket knives, smooth combat knives, machetes, axes, hatchets, adzes, swords, scissors & shears, arrow heads, fish hooks, as well as craft and woodworking tools.  Tools, such as axes or lawnmower blades with major nicks would still likely need the use of a mill file.  Blades will not achieve a keen edge like what is possible from fine grit water stones, but can be made very sharp and very functional. 

Bug Out Kit-standard
Extra Coarse/Coarse diamond folding sharpener
Fine/Extra Fine diamond folding sharpener
Fine diamond folding Serrated Knife Sharpener

This example contains three collapsible sharpeners that unfold like balisongs (butterfly knifes) to reveal a sharpening stone.  Two double-sided sharpeners yield four stone grits, and a fine pointed stone sharpener is used for serrated surfaces.  Again, blades will not achieve as keen an edge like from higher grit water stones, but will be sharp and totally functional.  Another, more compact, option would be to use the credit card sharpeners from the ultralight bug-out kit, coupled with the fine diamond serrated knife sharpener.

Basic Sharpening Set-home use
Diamond Stone Set: X-Coarse, Coarse, Medium, Fine, X-Fine
Chef’s Steel
Flat Mill Files: Coarse and Smooth

This very basic set allows one to sharpen: chef’s knives, pocket knives, combat knives, machetes, axes, hatchets, adzes, swords, scissors & shears, fish hooks, chisels, plane irons, garden equipment, and lawnmower blades, at a minimum.  Since the set is diamond, carbide inserts on router bits and the like are also sharpenable.  The stones are far larger than their folding counterparts, so will last longer (since the surface is greater and wear is more widely distributed) and are easier to use, as they are placed on a table top so both hands can be used for sharpening.  Pocket sharpeners require one hand to hold the sharpener and one hand to hold the tool to be sharpened, which is not optimal for maintaining a consistent angle while sharpening, so stellar results are more difficult to achieve.  Again, augmenting this kit with a folding serrated knife sharpener adds the ability to sharpen serrated edges.

Comprehensive Sharpening Set-home use
Water Stone Set:  220, 500, 1000, 4000, 8000
Flattening Stone for water stones
Backup Diamond Stone Set: Coarse, Medium, Fine, X-Fine
Chef’s Steel
Sharpening Rod – round (ceramic or diamond)
Sharpening Rod- Triangle (ceramic or diamond)
Leather Strops- plain and compound impregnated
Files: Mill file selection, round file selection, tapered file selection.  Large and small, coarse and fine for each.

Having water stones will allow a keener edge than what is possible in the sets above due to the 4000 and 8000 grits, as well as the strops.  It is these additional tools that allow for the sharpening of straight razors, and also to achieve razor sharp edges on most tools.  The sharpening rods open up the possibility of maintaining serrated knives, gut hooks and seat belt cutter hooks.  The diamond stones provide a robust backup for the more fragile water stones, and also allow one to sharpen carbide tipped router bits and saw blades, while the expanded selection of files is used for hand saws and chain saws blades.   Additionally, some general metalworking and gunsmithing tasks are possible with the above stones and files.

But wait!  How exactly do I sharpen X,Y, or Z?  You never told me!!  Smooth knives are sharpened differently than serrated knives, and axes are sharpened differently than chisels.  The focus of this article is not to teach you the techniques needed to sharpen particular types of edges, but rather to convey the importance of possessing sharpening skills in emergency situations and to explain what tools are needed to accomplish the tasks at hand.  It is also vital to understand that learning to sharpen effectively and with efficiency takes practice, and is a perishable skill.  I therefore recommend, at the very least, that one regularly sharpen kitchen knives and pocket knives to achieve and maintain a reasonable skill level.   Your first attempt at sharpening a kitchen knife may yield a blade that is duller than when you started!  This changes with practice.  Another article, far longer than this one, could be written that breaks down the procedures necessary to sharpen all the tools mentioned above, but in this case a picture is really worth a 1,000 words.  I would therefore recommend a book such as The Complete Guide to Sharpening by Leonard Lee, as this text covers the vast majority of sharpening situations one can expect to encounter, is full of photographs, and is a worthy reference for any preparedness library.  Additionally, there are hundreds of YouTube videos that show the procedures and motions used to achieve edge nirvana, but I would caution that some are worth far more than others. 

When faced with TEOTWAWKI, chopping wood, preparing game, cooking, bushwhacking, hunting, self-defense, personal hygiene, and tool maintenance for woodworking, leatherworking, and virtually every other craft will heavily rely on edged tools.  With a little bit of investment and regular practice, you can ensure that your survival tools remain safe and functional while also creating a skill set that has bartering value—both of which may help you through hard times and promote your survival.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I, like so many people across the country, can't walk out of my local sporting goods store without buying the limit of ammunition. Now, before you judge me, realize that most places limit you to small boxes of ammunition, and usually one two per caliber. Is it being prudent or just being obsessed? While the firearm and ammo situation is very much a media-hyped thing,  I have even talked about things you must buy every time you are out, like my article on Things Commonly Overlooked.  But what about those items that you pick up, look at the price tag, but pass on it saying "maybe next time."

In conversations with my other prepping type friends, it would appear that ammunition and firearms are the centerpiece of all of our preparations. While all of us love to shoot and none of us want to cut a good day of shooting short because it will take us weeks to resupply. the truth of the matter is that we are making firearms and ammunition the priority, both in the money and the peace of mind spent to assure our continuation in a world gone bad. But does it really do either of those?

After a few comments from my better half, I got to thinking about how much money I have sunk into my firearms and ammunition in the last year. I have bought at least a half dozen guns. I also make it to my local Academy at least once per pay period and have never walked out without buying the 2 box limit of 9mm or .45, or the limit in .223/.22. Which means the cheapest possible trip in and out is approximately $45. Commonly I buy an additional box of .38 special or .357, which is at least an additional $25. So, let's say I do that once a pay period or twice a month. That's over $1000 a year in ammunition. Again, that's a very conservative estimate. Truth be told, i don't shoot that much and my stock had grown such that I have...well...more than I need.

It was after the crisis in Syria became front page news that I started thinking: What could I have bought instead of all this ammo. More importantly, what things could I possibly need in a split second that guns and ammo couldn't get me. The first thing that I thought of was the one thing that was all over the news. There were scenes of those killed by gas. There were scenes of those luckily to only be maimed by it, usually losing their eyesight. I don't know about you, but that's one sense I'd rather not do without. What did these people not have  that might have saved them? Gas masks.

All of the ammunition in the world couldn't help those people exposed. There was nowhere to run. Once within that poison cloud, you couldn't simply run or hide from it. You certainly couldn't fight out of it or buy/trade your way to safety. But, had those people had access to gas masks, what then? Chances are, they slip them on and escape to live another day. So, while I was on the treadmill at the gym, watching this horror, I got on Amazon to see what gas masks were selling for. In the back of my mind, I assumed that it was just another piece of equipment that I knew I might one day need, would love to buy it for piece of mind, but just couldn't afford to buy it. I'm like everyone else. I am middle class, and while I do believe in being prepared, the pragmatic part of me sets limitations.

What did I find? Amazon has Russian/Israeli/etc military surplus gas the tune of about $40 shipped to your door.

Now, I didn't forget about the kids. After all, life really isn't worth living if I can't get my whole family. So, still on Amazon, I looked for the same thing in kids sizes. To my surprise, they were also extremely affordable. I was able to buy 3 kids size military surplus masks for under $40 shipped. Not bad, eh?

So, that got me thinking....we spend all this time talking about things we may need, but can't "justify" spending the money on...even though we nickel-and-dime ourselves away prepping on other things. And while I did think of some things.

  • At home water cistern/storage. I had been talking about doing this for a long time, specifically to my dad. See, they live on top of a mountain that's actually above the local water tank. So, there is a booster pump at the bottom of the hill to provide water pressure. It goes out constantly. Well, he has chickens. And dogs. And tons of everything. Not to mention the need for water for himself. He elected to buy an off the shelf version that caught rainwater running off of his shop. I believe it's a 450 gallon unit and it filled up with the first rain. You can get pretty ingenuity with yours and do it fairly cheap (under $150) and go as far as you want to make it work for you. For example, putting it on stilts, adding a 2 way valve to your house water supply, and you can now use your house water system. 
  • Tyvek suits are something that are relatively cheap and very useful to have ready. Will they protect you against many nasty chemical weapons? Will it stop radiation? No. But, it will do an admirable job against most chemical weapons and biological ones. They are water proof. They are easy to find, easy to put on, and cheap. 
  • "Noah's Ark" seed assortments. Tons of places sell heirloom seed assortments. They are around $80-to-$100 and will come with a large variety and assortment of herbs and vegetables. If you are like me and my wife, you normally buy your seeds annually from a catalog. What if instead, you bought one of these a year. And the next year, you planted your old one when you received your new one? This would ensure maximum freshness. While I understand that most people don't have that kind of room and couldn't use a whole set, you can at least use some of them. This way you can save yourself a little money on groceries, but most importantly, get into the practice of growing your own and learning all the little pitfalls.
  • Indoor plant growing station. Even if you live in an apartment you can buy one. Sorry, I couldn't think of a better name for it. The stands and the correct lights (you can't just use standard bulbs) do cost a good amount of money, usually around $100. Maybe that's one of the reasons that I never bought one to begin with. Plus, Alabama has such a temperate climate that starting your own seedlings isn't usually necessary. This year, however, we experienced a deluge of rain that kept me from planting. Plus, a friend was moving out of town and was selling his setup. So, I bought it cheap. With a cheap bag of soil, I was able to easily grow 30 tomato plants in a 48" long tray until they were big enough to separate and grow in their own pots. So, it cost about $125 counting the lights and stand, the soil, cups, and seeds. What would 30 half grown tomato cost you at Lowe's? There you go. 
  • A dirt bike. A used dirt bike can be found easily and cheaply around here. Especially an older one that is carbureted and has a non-electronic ignition. Why would you want such a thing? Well, in the case of an EMP, it would be one of the few rides left around town that ran. You couldn't put a price on being able to ride to and fro when the lights went out. Additionally, if you didn't get out ahead of everyone in another catastrophic event.. For example, let's say that you were in gridlock traffic and you just KNEW something really bad was about to happen. You could unload your little dirt bike off the back of your truck and take off. Paved roads, dirt roads, through the trees, doesn't matter. You could ride almost anywhere. Sure, it would cost you $1,000 up front. But, like we were talking about earlier, I spent that in ammo this year. This is a much more useful tool.

Again, these are but a few things that I thought of in a short thinking session. I hope that I will hear from some of you to point out others. The point is, you simply can't let a once time price stop you from buying semi-affordable things. Especially when you are dedicated to spending the money anyway. There are certainly things that I can't afford. But, I find myself spending money on things I can afford while ignoring things I could afford. So, put things in a price-perspective. Do you need another assault rifle? Another case of MREs? Maybe. Maybe not. But think of all the other things you could do with $1,500 that could buy you precious minutes or hours.

In "Letter Re: Advice on Firearms Caching", Mark J. wrote "Should I simply use a Hot Hands hand warmer inside the mylar bag and then another one inside the PVC tube? I should not have to worry about moisture if it is vacuum sealed? right? "

Well, no--regardless of the chemicals in the heater. Putting any temporary heat source in a sealed container may actually cause corrosion or water damage that wouldn't have happened before.

This is why:
Heating air does not remove moisture from a confined environment; it simply increases the air's ability to absorb moisture from other objects in that environment. That sounds exactly like what we want--except, this only lasts as long as the air stays warm. If the warm, moisture-laden air isn't moved out of the environment, when that air cools back down it will no longer be able to hold the extra moisture, and the moisture it was holding will condense back out of the air--probably as droplets on the surfaces within the container. The galvanic action that causes corrosion is especially strong on the edges of formed water droplets, and is often why we see pitting of metal surfaces.

When using heat to remove moisture, either the heat must stay on, or the moisture-laden air should be able to circulate away from the item(s) being protected before the air can cool. Folks often think of the warming dehumidifiers used in gun safes--these work for two reasons: much of the warm, moisture-laden air is circulated out every time the door is opened, and when the door stays closed, the heater keeps the environment constantly warm.

These principles are true for any sealed environment, whether its a PVC tube or a CONEX shipping container.

Thanks, - Britt (A Mechanical Engineer with experience in the HVAC industry)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Did you ever wonder just how waterproof your ammunition is?  Over the years I’ve seen ammo stored in everything from cardboard boxes in the attic to sealed ammo cans in the basement, to fruit jars in the refrigerator.    Case corrosion and propellant degradation can occur as a result of exposure to elements, oxygen, and extreme fluctuations in temperature and humidity.  Think of the times when both you and your ammunition were exposed to the elements…wouldn’t it be nice to add one more layer of reliability to your primary weapon system – by ensuring waterproof reloads?  Okay, I’m not going to go into the basics of reloading…just going to talk about a few of the evolutionary steps I’ve taken to ensure that my reloads work as intended.

Being a re-loader of metallic cartridges for some time, I finally decided to conduct an un-scientific experiment of various ammunitions’ ability to remain viable after being underwater for 48 hours.   From a long-term storage and use perspective the military has some of the best ammunition around.  U.S. Military small arms ammunition is mostly produced today in the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Liberty, Missouri.   M193 55 grain Full Metal Case (FMC) 5.56 ball, M855 62 grain FMC ball, M85 7.62, 9mm ball, etc – all have bullets and primers sealed during manufacture.  Further, the primers are ‘crimped’ to ensure a better seal and avoid any possibility of the primer dislodging during firing and potentially injuring the operator, damaging or ‘jamming’ a weapon.   A spent primer in the lower receiver of the AR-15/M16 family of weapons can find its way under the trigger group, and prevent the full range of trigger travel required to fire the weapon.  In a serious situation – this could be a life-ending malfunction.  

Since most of us can’t afford to purchase the full amount of military grade small arms ammunition we might like to stock for future ‘famines’ or any other reasons,  we’ve turned to reloading.   Or, it could be that you have non-military calibers in your fleet that you re-load and wish to maintain.  All center-fire rifle and pistol ammunition can be reloaded as long as it’s ‘boxer’ (not Berdan) primed.  Boxer primed simply means one priming hole in the center of the cartridge base.  Berdan primed cases have two or more small holes (off center) and standard reloading dies can’t ‘punch’ the spent primers out through the bottom of the case.  Most steel cased ammunition from overseas is Berdan primed.  It varies widely in performance and quality, but generally it’s decent for long term storage, probably water-proofed to some degree by sealer or total case ‘lacquering’.   When you can find it cheap it’s fine for long term storage and ‘shoot it and leave it’ applications.   One of the hazards commonly associated with lacquered cases is build-up of the lacquer material in the weapons chamber.  This usually occurs only when the weapon gets hot through rapid-fire sessions.  The lacquer can melt in the chamber, then cool and harden – potentially causing a fail to chamber, or more likely, a failure to extract.  This is more common in weapons that don’t sport a chrome chamber, but it can occur with any of them.   Accuracy of overseas military surplus ammunition is generally man-of-angle but nothing close to what a determined re-loader with some patience can achieve.   I’ve stored some of the mildly corrosive Wolf and Norinco ammunition for well over 30 years, with no degradation to reliability.  Is it as good as brass-cased, US military grade ammunition?  Absolutely not – but it beats the heck of throwing rocks and falls into the ‘good enough’ and ‘grateful to have it’ and ‘serviceable’ category.  However, the vast majority of military ball is just that – full metal jacket – and if you want to load hollow points, match bullets, etc you can exercise this option and still build reliability into the products.

Moisture and oil are the two biggest killers of smokeless powder and primers.  Avoid any exposure of oil to the inside of the cartridge case, powder and especially the primers.  The more cautious reloader keeps all primers in sealed ammo cans, with desiccant, in a cool and dry environment until loading time.    When I purchase primers and powder, I mark the year and the month of purchase, loading the oldest first.  During reloading I only handle individual primers with tweezers – never my greasy fingers, lest I inadvertently contaminate the primer with traces of oil.  This author has also started sonic cleaning his brass (after tumbling and de-priming) to ensure that no foreign substances are lucking inside the case.  For this I’ve settled on a cheap cleaner from Harbor Freight Tools, and about 3 tablespoons of Citranox per load.   I can usually get two to three baskets of brass cleaned before switching the cleaning solution.  After I pull them from the cleaner, I rinse twice in clean water.  Two successive 5-gallon buckets of clean water do the trick.  Then I dry on 170 degrees on a cookie sheet in mom’s oven until good and dry.

Many of you out there reload military brass, and have encountered the crimp around the primer.  After de-capping, that crimp must be removed in some fashion to ensure that a new primer can be seated without deforming or catching on the remnants of the crimp.  It can be removed through reaming – removing case material in the priming hole at about a 45 degree angle until the little rim left from crimping is removed.  Hand reamers and electric reamers are available from a variety of resources.  However, I’ve over-reamed a few cases in my day with a Black and Decker Drill and large bit.  Due to the lack of precision in my process I learned about primer venting, and sacrificed an AR-15 bolt in the process.  It slowly became obvious to me by looking at my once fired brass.  There were small black holes where gases escaped by the primer.  Shoot an entire 1,000 rounds like I did and you’ll notice a small recessive furrow melted in a perfectly concentric pattern around the firing pin hole on the bolt face.  This was caused by a majority of 1,000 primers venting and melting small pits into the face of the bolt.  I noticed it after the first 30 rounds or so, but decided to just sacrifice one bolt rather than many. It was either shoot them all – or pull all those bullets.

Currently, I prefer the Dillon’s Super Swage 600 for rolling back the crimp on military brass.  It bolts to the bench and simply removes the crimp by pushing it back with a tapered, hardened rod.  It appears more consistent to me and doesn’t weaken the pocket by removing case metal.  Once you’ve done this you now have a slightly tapered pocket just like you find on commercial loads.  However, the lack of a crimped primer makes it easier for moisture to contaminate the primer and powder.  The hotter your loads and the more your load your brass, the looser these primer pockets become.  If you don't want to take the time to prepare all that brass yourself a source I do recommend is  Send an e-mail to Aaron and he'll get back to you with prices on brass preparation.  He's very reasonable, fast and honest. 

After a bit of research on the internet I found Midway was carrying Markron Custom Bullet and Primer Sealer in ½ liquid oz packages.   The product information claims that an application of this “will keep moisture out up to 30 days of complete water submersion.”   In order to test my reloads I took 12 rounds of Lake City 5.56 brass, swaged and reloaded them with 55 grain bullets.  I also took 12 rounds of .45 ACP that I’d reloaded with at least once-fired commercial brass and Montana Gold 185 grain hollow points.   I then applied the Markron sealer to the primer as well the exterior of the case where the bullet meets the case mouth.   I was careful not to apply too much around the bullet, especially with the .45 ACP since these rounds head-space off the case mouth.  Although drying time is specified as 5 minutes, I let them dry overnight.  For the ‘control group’ I used the same batch of 5.56 and .45 reloads but without the primer sealer.  I also included 12 rounds of Lake City M855 ball that have been carried a bit, but were as good as new.   All these rounds went into separate coffee cans full of water. There they stayed for 48 hours.  

The results of this layman’s experiment follow:





.45 ACP Reload 185 JHP

Not Sealed



.45 ACP Reload 185 JHP




5.56 LC Reload 55 FMJ

Not Sealed



5.56 LC Reload 55 FMJ




5.56 LC M855 Factory

Sealed from factory



What was surprising to me was that fully 25% of my small sample of .45 ACP and 8% of the 5.56 that were unsealed failed to fire.  Just to be sure, I went ahead and re-hit all of these primers at least twice.  They were dead as a doornail.  Collectively that’s a 16.6% failure rate for unsealed ammunition.  Placed in a more positive light – that’s a 100% success rate for primers sealed with Markron Primer Sealer.   As expected – the M855 Lake City ball was as tight as ever and never failed to fire.  At this point I decided to test the limits of this primer sealer, as well as search for a ‘local option’ that might be cheaper and still fit the bill.   I settled on Spar Urethane, which seems a bit thick for the application, but dabbed on with a small paint brush and excess removed with a clean rag seemed like a logical choice.  I sealed 15 rounds primer only, and another 15 both primer and bullet. After application I let the rounds dry 48 hours, then submerged in water for 48 hours.  With 30 test rounds of 5.56 reloads, it became apparent that this stuff indeed keeps the water out.    Be advised that all these bullets were also crimped with a Lee Factory Crimp die.  Results were very positive. 





5.56 LC Reload with FMJ

Sealed Primer



5.56 LC Reload with FMJ

Sealed Primer and Bullet



Conclusions:  For water resistance and reliability this author is going to start sealing all reloads, and all factory ammo that isn’t visibly sealed, prior to placing it into storage.  This will help ensure reliability under adverse conditions, less than ideal storage, hunting, or whatever environment you might find yourself in. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Hi James,
After a firearm has been oiled up with RIG grease and vacuum sealed, I want to put it into a rifle length mylar bag as well and then put into a 6" PVC tube.  Should I simply use a Hot Hands hand warmer inside the mylar bag and then another one inside the PVC tube?  I should not have to worry about moisture if it is vacuum sealed? right?  I do have some silica gel packs but did not know if you can mix the two together.

I tried to do a search on your site but could not find the right information.

Thanks Jim for all your research and God Bless all your efforts. - Mark J.

JWR Replies: DO NOT use hand warmers or oxygen absorbers for storing guns, ammunition, or tools!  Use only silica gel.

Here is quote from the Hot Hands web site:

Q.  What’s in a pack? What makes it work?
A.  Our HeatMax® family of air activated warmers all contain a mixture of natural ingredients that when exposed to air react together to produce heat. This is accomplished through an extremely fast oxidation (or rusting) process. Ingredients include: iron powder, water, salt, activated charcoal and vermiculite. HeatMax® has perfected the process so that our warmers, depending on the individual product, produce heat anywhere from 100°F to 180°F for duration of 1 to 20+ hours.

Putting rust, water, and salt in proximity of your stored guns is a potential disaster. Again, use only silica gel. To be sure that the silica gel has the full desired desiccating effect, dry the packets in an oven overnight on low heat (175 degrees.) That will drive out any accumulated moisture.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Hi James,
I was just looking at your FAQ article about antique firearms.

Apparently, there has been some controversy over the dates of manufacture of some Winchester firearms. The discovery of so called Polishing Room Records have dates of "manufacture" which apparently disagree with the previously established "Madis" dates of manufacture.

I was just wondering what your take is on this subject.

Also, I've been trying to find out if there is any logical reason for selecting December 31, 1898 as the Antique firearms cutoff date. Did someone just arbitrarily pick this date? I know that there were cartridge ammunition and smokeless powder before that date.

Thanks, - Jim P.

JWR Replies: The Polishing Room Records are of interest to collectors, but have no legal bearing. The ATF has repeatedly held that the date that a receiver is made legally constitutes "manufacture."   So once a serial number goes on a receiver or frame then that is it's date of manufacture, in the eyes of the law. (Although in recent years, they've clarified that for modern guns as to say when a serial number stamped on a receiver that is more than 80% complete.) So, for example, even though S&W was still assembling large frame .44 top break revolvers up to around 1913, they are all considered antique, because they stopped making frames for them before 1899.

The December 31, 1898 cutoff date was essentially arbitrary.  I suppose that some nameless legislator (or more likely some pimply-faced congressional staffer) might have been thinking about the Spanish-American War, for a frame of reference, since that was the last war where we fielded black powder Trapdoor Springfield cartridge rifles. (Although Krag rifles and Spanish Mausers were both high velocity smokeless powder guns.) But you are right: The 1898 date has little to do with the state of the art in fireams technology. Colt switched to steel frames for their famed Single Action Army(SAA) revolvers in 1893, and smokeless powder Mausers had been made in quantity since 1891.  For that matter, there had been shoulder-fired full-auto battle rifles around since 1887.

The bottom line: American legislators should keep their sticky fingers off of all guns, regardless of their vintage.  The Second Amendment codified a sacrosanct right that predates the Constitution itself.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mr. Rawles,
Could you recommend a style of survival knife? I've read several recommendations by various people -- everything from a K-Bar to a parang. My wife and I are newcomers to the survival game, but as a hunter and outdoorsman I tend to favor a good, short, fixed-blade (drop point) Buck knife, augmented by a decent folding saw. Are these good choices, or should we really look for a versatile (if not "do-it-all"), long-bladed knife with a partially serrated edge? I'm a bit skeptical of hacking / sawing through things such as tree limbs with a knife, and equally skeptical of a tool which does all things "sort-of," instead of one thing well.

Forgive me if I just haven't searched through your archived material enough to find the answer. We read your book (Surviving the End of the World as We Know It), by the way, and consider it one of the best we've encountered -- factual, informational, accessible. Thanks in advance for your kindness. - Michael L.

JWR Replies: Your daily carry knife is one of your most important survival tools.  Not only is it available for daily utility tasks, but it can be useful for hunting, outdoor survival, or self defense when you are in gun-deprived jurisdictions.

Sheath knifes are stronger than folders, but they have a few drawbacks:
1.)   They are more bulky, and therefore tend to get left at home, when you need them most.
2.)   They are more conspicuous.
3.)   They are restricted in some locales.  (In many cities and states, a blade that is perfectly legal in a pocketknife is a misdemeanor to carry in a fixed blade equivalent.  Yes, this flies in the face of logic. But the law is the law, and we can’t do much about it.) 

One other option is what is commonly called a neck knife—a small fixed blade sheath knife that is designed to be carried on a cord around your neck, concealed beneath your shirt. Typically, the cord is attached to the tip end of the sheath, so that the knife hangs with the handle pointing downward. These are normally drawn by reaching under your shirt and tugging the knife down and free from the sheath. Many folks find these uncomfortable, but others love them. (If you tend to wear loose-fitting shirts that are not tucked in, then this might be a good choice for you. Your mileage may vary.)  One neck knife model that is currently popular is he Crawford Triumph N.E.C.K., made by CRKT. This knife was designed by Pat and Wes Crawford. It is a compact recurve tanto. 
Note: Be advised that state and local laws vary widely, so a neck knife might be considered a concealed weapon in some jurisdictions.

Aside for some specialty filleting or skinning knives, I generally prefer half-serrated tanto style blades. I've found those to be the most versatile for everyday carry. But of course choose what suits you and your particular needs.
There is a dizzying array of folding knives available. Again, I generally prefer half-serrated tanto style blades, but choose what suits you. FWIW, I often carry a Cold Steel Voyager XL Tanto model. (Mine are mostly half-serrated ("Combo Edge") tantos, and in the Extra Large (XL) size.) A smaller version (the "Large") might suit some folks better. Regardless, you should first check your state and local knife laws for blade length restrictions.
My general advice is to carry the longest blade knife that you can and will carry every day, without fail. This is the Everyday Carry (EDC) approach. The knife that gets left at home because it is too bulky or heavy is almost worthless.

Without too much more weight and bulk, you can also carry a small combination tool (such as a mini Leatherman or a small Swiss Army knife), and/or a small flashlight in a belt pouch. But I recommend the big folding pocketknife be carried in a front trouser pocket using a belt clip, for very quick access. And pocket carry using a belt clip also leaves the knife partly exposed, an hence will shield you from a "concealed weapons" charge, in some jurisdictions.

Yes, you can buy a great big Ramboesque "survival" knife, but will you have it with you when you really need it? In my estimation the EDC knife and small tools concept is much more workable.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Reader M.D.W. wrote a very informative article, as far as he went.  The newest technology in the air rifle race is the nitrogen piston, replacing the metal spring on the break action guns, both in rifle and pistol format.  The nitrogen piston, or nitro piston as it is known, uses the technology of the auto shock absorber.  When was the last time that anybody heard of one of those failing?  The nitro piston can be purchased as a spare and stored indefinitely on the shelf with no special attention.  The major advantage of the nitro piston is no spring bounce after the piston bottoms.   There will be no further vibration from the piston section, unlike the spring that still moves slightly back and forth after the piston bottoms.  These rifles can hold a Quarter-size group at 25 yards.  The muzzle velocities are up to 1,000 fps.  With a .22 cal pellet weighing 14.3 grains, the power is in the high 20s of foot-pounds of energy.  As anything over 15 is adequate for squirrels and rabbits, these air rifles can help feed a family.  After a break-in period , the manufacturers claim a reduction in noise up to 70% over spring action rifles.  The barrel shroud doubles as a baffle to reduce noise.  Very helpful when stealth is needed.  Benjamin/Crosman/Remington and Gamo are the major producers of this type of air rifle.  - Carl L.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The term Air Gun brings to mind the classic Red Ryder BB gun to many. It is often met with the question “You mean Airsoft and BB guns?" Those are not what are being discussed here. We are talking about weapons that are capable of taking deer, bear, buffalo, and two legged predators. We are talking about weapons that can take squirrels from 50 yards with Hollywood like quite. We are talking about weapons that can make ammo from a tire weights, previously fired bullets, or any other source of lead. We are talking about weapons that you can shoot for 2 cents per shot even at today’s inflated ammo prices. We are talking about weapons that are not dependent on primers or gunpowder (neither of which 99.99% of people can make).

AirGuns, obviously, use air to propel a projectile. There is no fire or explosion involved in moving the projectile. There are several different ways in which airguns create the required air pressure to more the projectile. These different ways of creating the pressure divide airguns into different types and generalized attributes. The major types are single stroke pneumatic, multi stoke pneumatic, spring, precharged pneumatic, and CO2. Rifles and pistols are available in all these types.

Single stoke pneumatic (SSP) airguns use a single stroke of a lever to create air pressure in an internal reservoir. This air is stored until the shot and all the air is released to propel the projectile. This type of power plant is generally limited to target weapons, or very small game. Projectiles leave the barrel at about 500 fps and weight about 7 grains.

Multi stoke pneumatic (MSP) airguns work just like SSP, but they allow for additional strokes to store additional air, and thus more power, in the internal reservoir. Most MSPs release all the air at once when shot, but there are a few that only use some of the air and save more for a second or third shot. These are usually called Air Conserving Pumpers (ACP). This type of power plant is limited by the amount of effort the user is will to put into pumping for each shot. Projectiles leave the barrel at about 700 fps and weight up to 30 grains. These are capable of taking up to rabbit sized game effectively.

Spring guns use a single stroke of a level (or the barrel) to compress a large spring inside a hollow cylinder. At the front of the spring is an air tight seal. The trigger releases the spring and compresses the air in front of the seal. The compressed air what pushes the pellet down and out of the barrel. There is a great amount of heat created during the compression of the air, but it is dissipated quickly as the air expands. There is a dual recoil in these weapons that first recoils forward as the spring finishes expanding and a second smaller rearward recoil as the pellet move down and leaves the barrel. This recoil behavior does require a good scope. Most quality scopes do not have a problem on spring guns, but cheap scope will break quickly because the optics are not supported during the forward recoil. Make sure to get a scope that is airgun rated. This type of power plan can produce a wide variety of power. With pellets leaving the barrel at 1000 fps and weight at 7 grains and different versions causing the pellet to leave at 800 fps and weight 30 grains.

Precharged pneumatic (PCP) use a reservoir of high pressure air from 800 PSI to 4,500 PSI. Each shot uses an amount the stored air. This allows a number of shots before having to refill the reservoir with air. Since the air for several shots is stored follow up shots, there are models that are magazine feed and bolt action as well as magazine feed semi automatic. There are even a few fully automatic (unregulated federally) models. This type of airgun is the most powerful and can range from target use to taking any game in North America. There are airguns that shot a .308 caliber 158 grain projectile at 900 fps. There are others that shot a .357 caliber projectile at 800 f.p.s. There are airguns that shot a .50 caliber 500 grain project at 700 fps. For those familiar with firearms projectiles and speeds, these are slower, but make no mistake they will take down any predator (2 or 4 legged).

PCPs require a method to fill the reservoir. Shop compressors are good to about 200 PSI at the most. This is enough. These weapons usually require a 3,000 PSI fill. There are two methods to do this; a tank (that must be filled) and a hand pump. There are several models of hand pump that will pump 3,200+ PSI of air. This is not a task that kids can do, but any adult in decent shape should be able to pump a gun from empty to full in about 15-20 minutes. There are air compressors you can get for between $600 and $4000 to fill the gun or tank for you without effort, but they need more maintenance than a hand pump. The pumps need only a few small o-rings and a small amount of lubricant to be rebuilt and usually last a long time between rebuilds.

Most airguns come is a relatively small number of calibers; .177, .20, .22, .25, .357/9mm, .308, .458, .50. Each caliber has a purpose.
1. .177 is the most common and used mostly for target and small game (up to rabbit with head shot)
2. .20 is the least common and used mostly for target and small game.
3. .22 used to be the “big” size and is still the most common small game hunting caliber.
4. .25 is the current “big” size for small game, up to fox or small coyote size game.
5. All the other sizes are called big bore and use cast ammo just like some firearms.

Making airgun ammo is just like making firearms bullets, with the exception that soft lead is preferred.
1. Melt the lead (which can be done over an open fire outside).
2. Pour the lead into a mold
3. Open mold and drop out bullet
4. Repeat 1 to 3 until you are out of lead, or have enough bullets.
5. For the most accurate shooting, size the bullets through sizing die.
Tire weights, reclaimed bullets and pellets from targets, lead fishing weights, and any other source of lead can be melted for airguns bullets. The softer the better.

[JWR Adds: Don't expect to be able to buy a bag of "BB" size shot made for shotgun shell handloaders, and have it work in a BB gun. The dimensions are different!]

Below are a few types of airguns and models in each category to start your research.

1. Beeman P17 – cost $40 – pistol – excellent for target practice and plinking
2. There are currently no rifles produced in this category.

1. Crosman 1377 (or 1322) – cost $50 – pistol – good for small game and fun/easy to modify
2. Benjamin 397 and 392 – cost $150 – rifle – good for small game, and should last a lifetime
3. FX Independence – cost $1800 – rifle – excellent self contained MSP/PCP. High quality, but complicated to maintain if it breaks.

1. Gamo (various models) – cost $100 to $300 – rifle – good for small game, moderate quality
2. AirArms TX200 – Cost $700 – rifle – good for small game, excellent lifetime long weapon
3. HW97 – cost $600 – rifle – good for small game, excellent lifetime long weapon.

1. Benjamin Marauder – cost $475 – rifle – good for small game with bolt action repeating
2. Airforce Talon SS – Cost $575 – rifle – lots of power in a take-down package that can go in a backpack.
3. AirArms 410/510 – cost $1,000/$1,200 – rifle – excellent weapon that should last a lifetime.
4. FX Independence – see above.
5. Quackenbush .458 LA Outlaw – Cost $700 – Rifle – Big game capable, low volume production weapon that can be a little hard to get, but worth the effort.
6. Extreme BigBore airguns – Cost $1,200 – rifle – Big game capable, low volume production weapon.
7. Croman Rogue .357 – Cost $1,300 – Rifle – Big game capable, has built in electronics that run on AA batteries, but is readily available from many distributors and shots standard firearms size .357 bullets in hard or soft cast lead.

These are just a few of the models to choose from. The hobby of airguns is vast and there are many models to suit most budgets and requirements. It is a hobby that is mostly unhindered by the ATF and firearms laws.

A long term survival situation that requires hunting (and fighting) can be well served by a collection of airguns to supplement firearms. The gun fighting is best left to firearms, but if you run out of powder or primers, a big bore airgun will do much better than a knife or bat. Small game hunting with an airgun is very stealthy and can be done without anyone knowing you were there. The airgun ammo is easily replenished much longer than firearm components will be available.

As always check local laws ordinances before purchasing or shooting to ensure you do not end up on the wrong side of the law.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

As a new ‘prepper’ on a budget, I would love to get the latest gadget gun in multiples, but have very limited disposable income to invest. Most of us are not independently wealthy or have a six figure salary to support our new found hobby. Emotionally, there is a gun collector inside all of us that likes the latest and greatest gadget to show off to our friends and that we know outperforms everything else on the planet. However, the rational brain must govern over the emotional appeals of these wonderful objects. Therefore, visualizing the likely uses for a firearm is a handy way to narrow your search before making a firearms purchase.

While firearms are an important and necessary part of any prepper’s purchase list, other acquisitions also have priority. If your entire budget is spent on guns, you will have no money left over for such things as food, water sources, shelter options, communications, etc., all of which are just as critical if not more so. Also, under the philosophy ‘two is one, one is none’ a less expensive firearm will allow you to double up on your firearm purchases so that if the first weapon fails, you will have a backup. Since there are basically three types of guns: the rifle, the handgun and the shotgun, doubling up will mean purchasing at least six guns. All of those purchases add up to a lot of money. I also understand that I am not an avid shooter, nor do I have the time, budget or ability to become a master shooter. “A man’s got to know his limitations.” I therefore set my goal as becoming someone who can safely handle and shoot a few selected firearms with moderate proficiency.

With these limitations in mind, I began to think about what the actual threats we may face as a family that would require the firearm tool. By listing these possible situations and thinking critically about what would be the best and least expensive yet reliable firearm to address each scenario, my firearm purchases would be guided by rational thought rather than emotional appeal or marketing strategies of the gun stores and gun manufacturers.

Prioritizing concepts of personal importance.

The first concept that I applied to my purchases was the idea of rule of law, partial rule of law or post collapse, without rule of law (WROL). The idea here is that today, we face a society ordered by the rule of law where police forces are usually minutes away from a 911 call. It is not hard to picture a situation where the rule of law breaks down and police forces are not responsive. This has happened in the aftermath of hurricanes, during riots, and possibly during the aftermath of terrorist type events. In the most extreme situation, all functioning of government is terminated and you are on your own. This could happen in the event of hyperinflationary economic collapse as discussed in the James Wesley, Rawles novels, in an EMP or nuclear war situation such as Pat Frank’s novel Alas, Babylon or in planet changing asteroid strike such as was laid out in Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's great novel Lucifer's Hammer. In such situations, having a reliable firearm will be a matter of life and death.

The second concept is location of use. In the home, the ability to conceal the firearm is not important. However, outside the home, the ability to conceal your firearm is primary. A concealed firearm allows you a tremendous advantage when a confrontation occurs, as well as allowing you to function in public without having to draw unnecessary attention to yourself. The first rule of any gunfight applies here - bring a gun. While having the highest caliber, largest capacity handgun may look great on paper, when applied to everyday use, these handguns are often to bulky to conceal and too heavy to carry comfortably. The reverse is true inside the home. In a true home defense situation, bulkiness will not matter since you will not be carrying the weapon long distances and will not need to conceal the weapon. What will matter is simplicity, power, capacity and reliability. Related to this is weight. Simply put, as an office guy my ability to carry weight is a big issue. If the gun is to be used in static defense of the home, weight is not as big a factor, as long as it can be handled. If you are going to carry it around for any period of time, weight becomes a big consideration. While I love the idea of an M14, the reality is that the gun is too heavy for me to carry around for any distance. So generally, lighter is better.

The third concept was interoperability and cross functionality, or the ability to utilize various ammunition calibers between guns and different guns for different uses. Having more of a particular caliber is probably more important that having the absolute ‘best’ caliber for a particular situation. Low cost ammunition facilitates bulk purchases. Also, go with what is available. If the absolute best caliber for a particular situation is not readily available, then it is not the best caliber. A hole in the target is what is required, and I am willing to compromise some level of specialization for low cost, availability and interoperability. If you are in a desperate survival situation, then any gun is better than none. Good enough is what I aimed for, limiting myself to as few different calibers as possible.

The fourth concept was simplicity. The more complicated the weapon system, the more likely it would fail in a high stress situation. I know that I go to the range probably one every couple of months - not enough to be a highly trained snap shot shooter. Instead, I focus on being comfortable with my weapon so that I know how it works and can get the bullet on the target calmly and quickly. I always think about one situation where a particular person had a quality, high capacity semi-automatic handgun, but was only able to fire off one round because he limp-wristed the gun,  jamming after the first shot. When a firearm is needed, it will be needed immediately. The simpler the system, the less there is to go wrong.

Visualizing firearm tool use scenarios.
The first scenario I visualized was varmint defense in a rule of law situation. In a city or suburban environment, we are talking about dogs. Having been attacked by a very large dog in my neighborhood, you should understand that your reactions will not be sufficient to prevent the dog from biting you. Dogs are very fast and you will instinctively react by protecting your face with your arms. The dog will bite at our extremities and latch on before you will be able to do anything. Thus the question, what do you want to have when the dog is biting on your arm? Of course being a gun guy, you are going to say a handgun. However, I would suggest that this is not the best choice for a person in a rule of law situation. Firing a handgun in public, even in this situation, can subject you to a felony charge. There is the danger of the bullet striking things unknown, including yourself. In the event that you do kill the attacking dog with your handgun, there will be an upset dead dog owner who will be telling you and everyone else how “Toro” is a loveable house pet that would never hurt a fly. They will be perfectly willing to call the police and press charges, and you will at least have a nasty neighbor situation. This kind of run in is easily avoided. Instead, get a re-chargeable touch stun gun. These devices can be had for less than $30. Make it a part of your walking routine to remove the stun gun from its charger and take it along whenever walking on foot, and recharging it in the wall socket when you return. If you do confront a territorial dog, the sound of the electrical discharge is often enough to scare them away. If the dog attacks and you have to stun them, the dog will flee but will be none the worse for wear. Of course, rural varmint defense is very different and should be assessed according to the wild animals that are likely to be encountered. Varmint defense in a without rule of law situation differs only in that you will not have to face the police scrutiny if you happen to kill a dog with your gun. Also, if the power grid fails your stun gun will be useless. Thus, bring your handgun.

Another scenario that I visualized (which is unfortunately far to common) is the need for suburban home defense from criminal intrusion while rule of law is still functioning, even if partially. This scenario involves a person or small group of persons forcibly entering into your home, usually at night. Most of the time, the home invader will attempt to have you open your front door or physically breach your front door by means of a kick. This is surprisingly easy to do, and you should train your mind to immediately react to the invader by making a bee line for your firearm. The home invader can also attack your rear door. Make an assessment of all possible points of entry in your home, and run through in your mind how you would react to different home invasion situations. Place your firearms at locations where you can quickly employ them. Know what condition of safety they are kept. Keep them loaded. If you are having to load to shotgun while the bad guys are busting down the door, you will be nervous and fumbling with ammo as well as behind the curve in reacting to the situation. That being said, the presence of children in your home should always effect your gun storage situation. You must revise your placement plans based on the presence of kids. For example, you may wish to carry your handgun on your person when in your home, if you cannot keep a loaded shotgun stored safely. You may wish to store your firearms in hidden locations throughout your house so that you are never more than a few steps from them. Five long guns locked up in a gun rack will do you no good in the home invasion situation.

Another situation that can be easily visualized is personal defense outside the home during a rule of law or partial rule of law situation. The key to this situation is having your firearm on your person and concealed. This situation contemplates a criminal attacking you or accosting you as you are walking to and from your vehicle. Car jackings commonly occur at gas stations, often near the highway, or near high crime neighborhoods. Having a gun that can be quickly employed is paramount. Because of this, make sure to include as part of your carry package a good holster. The concealed carry holster is a vital and often overlooked part of the system.

Looking forward to the possibility of without rule of law or partial rule of law, things get very dicey. Suburban home defense in a ‘without rule of law’ or in a post collapse situation differs from rule of law situation in that you may have to repel borders for a longer time, or deal with larger, more organized groups of invaders.  Ammunition capacity and supply are more important in this scenario. Extremely long term home defense is rather unlikely, but planning for a week of home defense would not be too much. For example, the six day long L.A. riots in 1992 witnessed an evacuation of police authority from the streets leaving many to fend for themselves.

Personal defense outside of the home in a ‘without rule of law’ situation is probably the riskiest of all of the scenarios. Even in the event of societal breakdown, some normal life will continue, and you will need to travel outside your home to get supplies or for other necessities. Key to this situation is the fact that you and the bad guys are aware that there is no organized police protection afforded the citizenry, therefore the likelihood of being attacked is greatly increased. Further, you may be confronted with armed attackers who will get the drop on you to disarm you. This scenario can also be applied to mass riot situations, which I suspect is closer to the surface in our society than most people realize.

While it is unlikely, in my mind that hunting for food in a post collapse situation would ever be necessary, it is a possibility. Where I live, I suspect that in a desperate survival situation every deer will be quickly wiped out by the local hunter population. What may remain will be birds and squirrels. Both can be taken with bird shot or the .22 round. It would be preferable to draw as little attention to yourself when hunting, therefore, adding a suppressor to the end of your .22 firing subsonic rounds would make the acquisition of these sources of protein quite silent.

Any visualization of offensive operations would by definition be in a ‘without rule of law’ or post collapse situation. Basically, widespread lawlessness and long term societal collapse will lead to civil war. Throughout history, war is the natural state of man. It is moments of peace that are the exception. The Liberty gifted to us by our Founding Fathers has allowed the societal delusion that civilization is without cost. We may be seeing the waning of Pax Americana, and the relative 60 year stability it brought. If the time comes where we are in a true state of nature, the need for force from a rifle will be clear. Personally, I have determined that there is no way that my family can or will in any way take on a professionally equipped military or police unit. Thus, I will opt out of trying to best the military and look at what best fits my abilities.

You are probably saying, okay enough already. What guns did you get? Well, my first purchase was a .357 Magnum stainless steel Model 60 Smith and Wesson revolver. On the down side, it is five shots and not a super quick reload, and moderately pricey (~$500). However, it is super dependable, simple, relatively lightweight and concealable, and relatively maintenance free. The ammo has remained available during the recent ammo runs since .357 Magnums are pretty much revolver only. I love revolvers because after sitting for years, you could pick it up and it will fire. They are also not picky about the rounds you are using – if they fit in the hole they will fire it. If they misfire, you just pull the trigger again and the next round rotates and fires. Offsetting the initial price of the revolver  is the fact that it can eat both .38 Special and .357 Magnum ammunition. Thus, when target shooting, you can use the .38 Special ammunition. For defense loads, you can fill it with high power .357 Magnum rounds. While there are pros and cons to every caliber, there is wide agreement that the .357 Magnum sets the standard for the heavy hitting self defense round. It is also capable of being reloaded, which is also an advantage in a SHTF scenario where resupply is inconsistent.

When purchasing any handgun, make sure that you also buy a good quality holster. The idea of concealment is great, but until you actually put it in a holster and wear it, you will not know what it actually looks like or feels like under your clothes. Personally, I like a leather, pancake type holster in the small of the back or, for larger guns, a crotch holster.
My second purchase was a Ruger 10/22 rifle. This is on the top of the list for most preppers, and is one of the few guns that almost everyone can agree on. This American made gun is relatively cheap (~$250), super dependable, five and a quarter pounds in weight, and very simple to operate. I was lucky enough to get four of the twenty five round BX-25 magazines before ‘firearmageddon’ hit, but even the small ten round magazine works flawlessly and would probably be enough in most situations. This gun can be used for small game hunting such as squirrels, mice, pigeons, etc. if needed. In a situation where the rule of law is non-existent, the rifle can double as a sniper weapon. If you get a 10/22 with a threaded barrel, with a little creativity you can add a suppressor for very little cost. Note that it is a Federal criminal offense to possess or attach a suppressor without the proper $200 tax stamp from ATF. The other .22 rifle that you could consider is the Marlin Model 60, a tube fed rifle that competes with Ruger’s offering at a lower price. An even less expensive option is the Mossberg 702 Plinkster in .22LR. At only four pounds, this gun is extremely light weight so even a child could carry it. It is fed with inexpensive 10 round magazines. The best part is that these rifles can be had for around $150. I have not yet purchased a scope, but that is next on the list.

I like the concept of a handgun / rifle combination firing the same caliber round. As the cowboys noted, they back each other up in the event one should fail, and the common caliber lightens your ammunition load. So to go with my 10/22, I decided to purchase a companion handgun in .22LR. At first, I wanted a revolver for the simplicity. The fact is that semi-autos in .22LR can be temperamental when using the many different sizes of ammunition available for .22LR. The blowback required to cycle a semi-auto is tricky when dealing with a light .22 load.  I therefore looked at some S&W .22LR revolvers, but was turned off by their high cost at around $500, (the same as .357 Magnums). I decided to give the semi-autos a second look. Sticking with Ruger, I initially looked at the Mark III, a ten round capacity semi-auto that you can get for around $350, a good but not awesome price. I was resolved to get the Mark III when I found a used nine shot revolver in .22LR for $125! Hi-Standard Sentinel revolvers are commonly available on the used market. These American-made guns were sold in the 1950s at local hardware stores and are now very inexpensive. As the price was right, I got the Hi-Standard.

Since the .22LR is such an inexpensive and versatile round, it is wise to stock up on ammunition. For suppressed fire, make sure that you purchase a healthy supply of sub-sonic ammunition. You can also purchase bird shot .22 ammo for taking out small critters. Being the most versatile rounds, I made my goal to stockpile 3000 rounds in a variety of configurations. Every week, I would purchase a hundred round box of .22LR paying with cash. Very soon, I had lots and lots of .22 ammunition, stored in military surplus ammo cans.

One interesting diversion I took was when I found a Marlin Model pre-2007 1894CS lever gun in .357 Magnum. My favorite gun store showed me the gun and I fell in love, buying it immediately despite its $550 price tag. The gun has a nine round capacity and weighs around six pounds. A quick firing lever gun can be loaded before having to empty out all the ammo, although reloading is slow. This rifle is fully capable of taking down deer or bad guys up to 150 yards. Thinking about this, I added a Skinner ‘peep’ sight for $85. These sights are high quality, low technology simplicity at its finest. It also has the huge advantage of using the same ammunition as the revolver. As I said earlier, I love the idea of the rifle / handgun combination. The lever gun can also double up as a home defense gun. If you had to use this gun in self defense, there is a hidden advantage to the lever gun. If you happen to get hauled before a jury after an unfortunate shooting incident, the lever action has that ‘All-American’ look to it. If you have to dispatch a bad guy with an AK-47, the gun looks ‘bad’ to the jury and will be paraded before them by the prosecutor. In a rule of law home defense situation when the courts are operating, this jury appeal should not be under estimated.

Over time, I found that I tended not to carry the .357 revolver because even at 24 ounces, it was a little heavy. I became aware of the concealed carry “ultra compact” handguns for personal protection. These guns are often called ‘mouse guns’ and are made with maximum concealment in mind. The old school mouse gun was the derringer, but these are heavy and only fired two shots. Being from Florida, I looked at the Kel-Tec offerings, the 32 ACP P-32(~$230) and the .380 ACP P3AT(~$260). Of course, I went for the cheaper one. I also got four spare seven round magazines. What I failed to consider was the cost of ammunition. .32 ammo seems overpriced compared to other calibers. You should look at the cost of .32 versus .380 in your area and factor that cost into the equation. The fact that this is a concealed carry, self defense only gun means that you need not stockpile thousands of rounds of ammunition for this gun -- 250 rounds should be more than adequate. I know many of you may say that more ammunition should be purchased, but just how many times are you actually going to be using your mouse gun in self defense?

I noticed that at this point that I did not have a shotgun, one of the three types of firearms. A shotgun can be used for short range home defense or for hunting. At short range, such as within a house, bird shot is just as effective as buck shot. Further, a bird shot load will not generally travel through walls within a house, possibly killing friendlies. Often, the sound of the pump racking will be enough to scare away would be intruders without firing a shot. If you do have to fire at an invader, a 12 gauge shotgun fired at close range is probably the deadliest weapon you could have. In a hunting situation, you are much more likely to encounter birds than you are to encounter larger game such as deer or boar and all birds are edible. Thus, for stockpiling purposes, I weighted my ammo purchases towards bird shot. Buckshot is useful for hunting boar, deer, or really any non-bird larger creature that could serve as dinner.

The most common and easy to find shotgun caliber is the 12 gauge, so I limited myself to 12 gauge guns. Many gun folks recommended the Remington 870 12 gauge shotgun. However, I am a price conscious guy, so I kept looking. Ultimately I settled on the less expensive Mossberg 500. This American made gun has all the functionality of the Remington at lower price. You can get the basic version for around $350, but I was happily able to pick one up used for $250.

So I had my most basic needs covered and I started thinking about weaknesses of my firearms battery. A good read on the proper use of the rifle is the late Jeff Cooper’s Art of the Rifle. After reading this book, I became painfully aware that my firearms battery did not include longer range capability. Handguns, that are so highly favored in the United States, are short range weapons only. The rifle is the primary weapon used for longer ranged defense. So I set out what I was looking for in a longer ranged rifle.

Even though the idea of 1000 meter shots was appealing, in reality I could not see myself taking shots out further than 200 meters. For one, my eyesight is not that good. Second, target acquisition would be a problem, and I might shoot somebody I do not want to. Further research into modern rifles revealed that the development of the modern military rifle was influenced by the German’s finding in World War II that most firefights happen within 300 meters. Thinking about it, I could see why this is so. While Jeff Cooper was a firm supporter of the bolt action rifle, I wanted a quicker firing semi-automatic so that if I missed on my first shot, the second could be on its way with a minimum of movement. I wanted a rifle that was simple and reliable, and most of all inexpensive. I wanted a higher powered rifle round that was also less expensive and commonly available.

With those criteria in mind, I started looking around on the internet. The big debate seemed to be between the AK-47 guys and the AR-15 guys. But some other options also peaked my interest, including the M-14 derived M1A, the World War II M1 ‘Garand’ and the various bullpup designs that seemed very light weight and compact like the FN2000. With this in mind, I traveled to my local gun store to see what was what. Sticker shock fell upon me when I looked at the options available. The [semi-auto] M14 was in the $1,500 range and heavier than I had expected. An M1 ‘Garand’ goes for $800. The AR black rifles were all in the $1,000 range. Even the AK-47 was over $800. Forget the FN2000 at $3,000!  I thought I was out of luck when I came across a motley looking semi-automatic rifle in the rack with a $330 price tag - an SKS.

The SKS is an extremely reliable, semi-automatic rifle that fires the same round as the AK-47, the powerful 7.62x39mm round. It also comes with an attached bayonet which could be handy in the right situation. The ammunition is relatively cheap and available. I didn’t have to buy magazines, since it is reloaded using ten round stripper clips. Holding extra ammunition in stripper clips also reduces the weight when carrying spare ammunition. While the gun was a little heavier than I wanted at eight and a half pounds, at that price I was sold. When you start calculating gun multiples, the value of the sub-$350 SKS becomes apparent. Three AK-47s with four spare magazines each will cost you around $3,000. Three AR-15s with four spare magazines each will cost you more than $3,200. Three SKS’s with four stripper clips each will cost you $1,000.

Looking back at my purchases rationally, what would I recommend to the budget conscious prepper?

I. Handgun. Keltec P32 .32 caliber mouse gun with 250 rounds of ammunition and four magazines. $250 for gun, $75 for magazines. Uses: Concealed carry self defense.

II. Rifle. Ruger 10/22 .22 caliber rifle with 3,000 rounds of .22 long rifle and four magazines. $250 for gun, $100 for magazines. Uses: Hunting. WROL home defense. WROL offensive operations.
III. Shotgun. Mossberg 500 12 gauge shotgun with 500 rounds of bird shot shotgun shells. $250 for gun. Uses: Home defense. Hunting.            

So for less than $1,000 (excluding ammunition), you have all of the basic firearm tools you need (as opposed to want.) Once you get these items, you can double up by buying duplicates of the same firearm.

If budget allows, you could get the cheap Hi Standard Sentinel revolver to companion with your .22 Rifle. If you are concerned about long term, without rule of law situations, then go for the SKS with 1000 rounds (or more) of ammunition in stripper clips at $350 for each gun.                        

As a newly-minted gun guy, I love my S&W Model 60 and companion Marlin lever gun, both in .357 Magnum. I feel like a real American cowboy, and this pairing definitely has a place in my collection. But looking at the prices paid and the functionality, you could probably save this money and go with the minimum above. Just how many guns can you carry at one time, anyway?

JWR Replies: I've written several times in the past about the detractors to rifles and handguns chambered in common cartridges. While it might outwardly seem to be a logical approach, in my opinion the drawbacks outweigh the benefits. If I weighed 95 pounds, then I might consider buying an FN PS-90 and carrying an FN FiveSeven pistol as a companion piece. (Both are chambered in 5.7x28mm.)

Monday, June 17, 2013

When I was younger I didn't give much thought to a sling on a rifle or shotgun. When hunting afield, I simply carried my rifle or shotgun at the "ready" position - ready to shoulder it and fire on game. When I went into the military in 1969, I sure appreciated a sling on my M14 in Basic Training. In Infantry School, we were issued M16s, and while quite a bit lighter than the M14, I still appreciated a sling on the gun for long road marches. Over the years, I've tried all manner of sling on long guns, and to this day, I still can't say there is one particular brand or style of sling I prefer over another. I've tried single-point, two-point and three-point slings and they all have the good and bad points.
To be sure, not all slings are made the same - some are made out of leather, some canvas and some Nylon - again, I'm not sure which I prefer. I know for long-distance high-powered rifle competition, I preferred the leather competition sling, it really locked the rifle into my shoulder and with the arm loop, made it all that much more secure.
I recently received the Echo Sling for testing for SurvivalBlog readers. My first impression, upon opening the package was "gee, nothing special here..." What we have with the Echo Sling is a heavy-duty, 1-inch wide Nylon sling - made in the USA - and that always tends to swing my opinion on many things. I still think we can manufacture better products in this country than most other countries can produce. Sure, we pay a bit more, but we get better products. I don't mind paying more for something better made.
The Echo Sling has durable stitching, and an easy to adjust polymer buckles - no worries about them rusting. The sample I received is the Dark Earth color, but they also have Safety Orange, Neon Pink, Hazmat Green, Autumn Orange, Salmon/Princess Pink and Desert Tan. They also claim that the Echo Sling will fit any rifle - guaranteed. I tried it on a variety of different sling swivels and attachments, and it fit them all. I would like to see Echo Sling offer their products in a 1.25-inch width too, in the future - for slinging heavier rifles - that little bit of extra width really helps out if you're carrying a rifle or shotgun at sling arms for any distance.
Okay, I have a box full of slings, some are leather, some Nylon some canvas, and a few made of other synthetics. I did note that the Echo Sling is much better made than many of the nylon slings in my collection - it is heavier stitched and the Nylon is a bit thicker in my humble opinion - hard to measure, I tried. I do like the simply two-point attachment system - some slings take a PhD in engineering to figure out how to attach them to a rifle or shotgun - you all know what I'm talking about, too. And, to make things easier, the Echo Sling comes with printed instructions and photos to show you the proper way to attach it. And, on the reverse side of the instructions, are photos and an explanation, as to how to use the Echo Sling as a belt - don't laugh, a belt can and does break, when you least expect it - this is an outstanding idea and secondary use for the Echo Sling.
One thing I don't much care for with most Nylon slings is that, they tend to slip and slid on the shoulder. The Echo Sling stayed in place, and I believe this is because if is a heavier grade of Nylon, and the tighter stitching that the material has. Okay, so how does one go about testing a sling, other than to put it on a rifle or shotgun and carry the gun at sling arms? Well, I knew there had to be a better method for testing this sling - other than to just carry a long gun around the house - we're in the rainy season in this part of Oregon - and I didn't feel much like hiking the logging roads in the monsoon rains to test the sling - I know it works, but there had to be a better way to test this sling's durability.
It hit me! Or should I say, one of my German Shepherds, "Sarge" showed me a method for testing the sling. Sarge isn't quite a year and a half old, and he loves to chew-up cardboard boxes that FedEx and UPS bring me almost daily - he honestly believes UPS and FedEx come to bring him new toys to destroy - and destroy them he does. While examining the sling, Sarge decided it looked like a new chew toy and grabbed an end, and the tug-o-war was on - he loves playing this game with "Arro" one of my other German Shepherds. (We have four in our house right now, but we've had more than that in the past.)
Sarge and Arro - and even Fanja, our little female, got into a three-way tug-o-war with the Echo Sling - my older main male doesn't much get into this game - he's Schutzhund 1 trained and certified, and he likes to bite - not play tug-o-war. So, over the course of a month, I let Sarge and Arro play with the Echo Sling - and these boys can really pull - they've destroyed a number of pull tug ropes in the past year. Over the course of this "test" the polymer buckles were chewed on pretty well - but still functioned, though they had teeth marks on them. The Echo Sling was looking worse for wear, but the dogs never did break it - and these boys can really pull and pull hard against each other. There was some fraying, on the ends of the sling, where the boys usually grabbed it in their mouths, but the sling didn't fail. Now, if a high-quality Nylon sling can take this kind of abuse, over a month, and still function - I'm impressed. I never let the boys chew on the sling - I know it wouldn't last but a day if they did - but I let them play tug-o-war several times a day with the Echo Sling.
I have lesser-quality Nylon slings and I know, if I had given them to my German Shepherds, they would have made quick work of them - they'd be destroyed inside of a day or two. So, all Nylon slings aren't the same quality, or made out of the same high-quality and thicker material. What started out as a "ho-hum" product to test for SurvivalBlog readers, turned into a lot of fun testing - and I didn't have to do much of the testing - my dogs helped me out quite a bit. A slightly different way of doing an endurance test, but it was a lot of fun - for the dogs - and for me - watching them. The sling held-up to the testing and a close examination of it, shows it is better made than most other nylon slings. A simple product, that works and stands-up to abuse! I like that! The Echo Sling retails for $18.99 each and as mentioned at the beginning of this article, it comes in a variety of colors, too. I've paid this much for lesser quality Nylon slings, so I think the Echo Sling is a good investment, if you are looking for something simple and durable - something that will stand-up a lot of abuse, and still safely carry your rifle or shotgun. Check it out. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Hi James,
   I just want to pass on a "good job" referral.  I was having difficulty with my Optolyth spotting scope's coarse focus ring.  It was almost frozen; very hard to turn.  There are several companies in Britain that work on optics, but I wanted to find someone here in the USA, and eventually located Cory Suddarth's company,  Cory is a Navy-trained optical man with 38 years' experience working with all types of optics.  Located in Henryetta, Oklahoma, he offers very affordable service for practically any make or model binocular or scope.  Families are now finding WWII binoculars in their grandfather's possessions when they pass away. (I just lost my father-in-law, who was a Corpsman on Iwo Jima), and want to keep them functional.  Cory can completely refurbish old optics, including dismantling [and cleaning] the prisms and re-gluing the lenses to like-new condition.  Even the exteriors are renewed.  Truly fine work.  Check his site and contact him for further info and estimates. - D.A., DVM

Friday, May 24, 2013

I’ve always considered myself and my family extremely blessed.  I also am a firm believer that God expects you to make the most out of what you have.  God gave me a wonderful wife and 3 healthy, strong boys.  We are a hard working family who have always had goals and planned well for the future.  We even had a bug-out plan when not many other folks even talked about such things.  Our world took a drastic turn a little over a year ago when my oldest son was injured in a high school wrestling accident.  In the blink of an eye my son became a C4C5 quadriplegic.  After about three months reality began to sit in and we had to start planning for a greatly altered future.  One night I began to think about our bug-out plan and it became obvious for a plethora of reasons that we couldn’t just grab our stuff and head out.  At this point I began to harden our existing home.  Fortunately we live in a very rural neighborhood with like-minded people around us.  There is nothing about us that calls attention to ourselves or screams prepper.  We just go about business as usual and quietly prepare.  Here is what we have done and are in the process of doing to make our house a handicapped assessable fortress.

I must preface this article by saying that we are not a wealthy family with an unlimited budget.  We are just a dual income family that has always saved for the future.  Most of what I will describe came together very quickly because we sold a property that was not handicapped assessable and opted to put that extra money in our now primary and only home.  I hope that what I’m about to share will help others who want to prepare and have a handicapped family member.  We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel.  I do realize that we are doing many things that other individuals have done and are doing, but, I will give you a unique perspective from a handicapped assessable point of view.  The first thing I learned was that you really do need to commit to live where you will hunker down.  Everything that you want or need will be with you all the time and you will never have to decide what to take and what to leave behind in an emergency situation.  I also found it easier from a financial stand point since I was putting money into one place.  So, with that being said, here is our home and retreat.  

Our house is a one level all brick home on a full basement with one step to get in the front door and a nice smooth slope with no steps down to the drive and basement.  Talk about handicapped ready before we even arrived!  Doors will be your first challenge.  They have to be widened to allow wheel chair access.  Use this opportunity to really fortify all those exterior entries.  Nobody will question you at all in this situation so here is your opportunity to go a little crazy.  I do suggest that you limit the amount of glass and beef these doors up to take a slug.  You can justify this by saying that the door may take a beating from the wheel chair and if it is a power chair it will definitely take a few good licks early in the game.  At the very least you need a very heavy wooden door with some kind of cross support.  Install a strike plate which would deflect and distribute the force of a blow along with reinforced hinges.  Go ahead and widen every single doorway inside the house.  You won’t regret it.  It will be easier for everybody to move around, I promise.  Eventually your injured family member will need access to the entire house and it is an opportunity to reinforce the interior a little as well.  Get rid of all carpet.  Wheel chairs don’t like carpet and it’s hard to keep clean.  Hard wood is an excellent choice for all rooms and no lip at any door.  Let’s talk wheelchair for a second.  Make sure you have a high quality manual push chair as a back-up if not your primary chair.  Charging a motorized chair could be an issue when there is no power to count on.  Opt for solid wheels rather than air so that you don’t have to worry about flat tires.  Air will give you a better ride though.

The next modifications made were in my son's living area which is in our finished basement.  These changes in particular are aimed at handicapped individuals but have made maintenance and livability much easier for everyone.  All carpet and tile was torn out so that we had raw concrete.  The concrete was then polished, stained, and sealed.  It’s beautiful and very easy to clean as well as super tough and durable.  Also worth mentioning is his bathroom.  We took out a wall and increased the area from existing closet space and constructed him a huge roll in shower.  The shower is now roughly a 10 foot by 10 foot area.  It’s overkill but, maneuverability is an important issue.

Surveillance was something that we put our money into soon after getting our son home.  We invested in both indoor and outdoor cameras.  We can’t be with our son at every moment, so, we can always check on him and his care person at any time and any place.  All of our cameras are tied into our alarm system and we can monitor with our phone 24/7 by video monitor at home.  These cameras will help as our son begins to gain some independence and in crunch time they may save your life by giving you a view of exactly what is going on outside without placing someone in a potentially dangerous situation.  We did opt for infrared cameras outside which give you an incredible view in the dark.

An all metal roof is nice but, you may have to put a few other changes first.  If you don’t have gutters, get them!  Rain water is your friend.  If possible, install underground tanks to catch all the rain off your roof.  I learned this trick from a Cajun that I duck hunt with.  He has a camp built on a barge that catches rain water in 2 tanks that each holds a thousand gallons.  If you treat your water with swimming pool chlorine and use your water wisely, you should have plenty of usable water at all times.  I have been shocked at how well this works at his camp.  I’m going to us a 1,000 gallon holding tank.  Putting it in will spur a few questions but, explaining that you have drainage issues and you also intend to irrigate with it should explain it all away.  It has also come to my attention that in some cities you must have a permit to catch rain water off your roof.  This is crazy, but some regulations in a few places say you are not allowed to change the natural flow of water, even if that is off your roof.  In my opinion this is government over reaching its bounds again.  If you’re worried about this it is easy to check.  We did, and all is fine.   We will pump the water with electric pumps that can also work with our back-up power system which I will discuss later in this article.  We use about 6,000 gallons of water each month and in crunch time this could be greatly reduced.  We get plenty of rain throughout the year here in the South, so we should be able to keep our tank rather full.  For now, we are picking out the most practical placement for this tank and with a little luck it will be catching water by June of this year.  Initially we will just use our tanks for watering and car washing.  This water will be perfect to use for washing and bathing as is.  It should be run through a filter system before drinking and cooking.   Another great thing about the underground tank method is that people will never realize that you have plenty of water.  We also store water in many other various containers. 

My next suggestion concerning water will be a little complicated, but this fix will hopefully make your septic system more trouble free.  An inspector will not allow you to do this but, route your black water (toilet) to the septic tank.  Re-route your waste water (gray) out to a run off to catch it for reuse.  If you plan ahead for this, when the mess hits the fan, all you will need to do is twist a few levers and you are on a black/gray system.  If you think about it, your home just became similar to a giant camper with a fresh water holding tank, black tank, and a gray tank.

Let’s talk about energy independence and some practical modifications that I have made and will be making very soon.  Solar energy is a strong and lasting option.  You will need a good supply of sunshine though.  Our house is situated so that we get full sunlight on our house from sunrise until sunset.  Did God know that we would need this place or what!!  The system that we are planning to install produces enough energy that we can meet all our needs and feed back into the power grid for credit should we so choose.  We will have a battery system for night time power and use the grid if necessary.  Batteries are not great power sources like the sun but, they can keep you a fair supply of emergency power.  Should the grid go down, we hope it won’t faze us too bad.  This does come with a strong price tag!  Depending on your choice of set-up and needs, the price can range from $15,000-$30,000.  This will be our most expensive prep.  The good news is that you can take advantage of some tax credits by going solar.  I know that is a lot of money, but, over the span of a few years the system will help pay for itself through energy savings and increasing the value and marketability of your home.  It will be worth every penny the first time you lose power for any extended period of time and when the mess hits the fan, this system will be priceless.  Don’t forget, we have a quadriplegic that has more needs to meet than for the average person.  Thank goodness he is not respirator dependent, but, that need could be met if it were ever necessary.  We are working out the logistics for a 10KW system to be installed before summer.   We also keep a 7,500 watt generator on hand with 60 gallons of stabilized gas close by. (Yes, I know that this is not enough fuel. We are making arrangements for a larger and better storage system.)   Other electrical needs are met with an abundance of rechargeable batteries and the small backpack solar chargers.  The most important modification that we made to our house was done well before we started preparing for a hunkering down situation.  We installed lightning rods on our home.  We have been hit twice over the past few years and lost television s and other electrical items.  In crunch time, this would be a devastating blow.  Get your house grounded by a professional.  Take every step to make your shelter safe and energy independent.  We are quickly moving toward energy independence.  You should be too!

Windows are a weak link in all homes.  Ours are tied into an alarm system.  In crunch time my suggestion here is to have diamond plate sheets on hand to place over certain select windows (I’m not talking about aluminum).  You can find them in many different gauges to meet your personal needs.  I do suggest that you get them in a flat black or brown color.  They can easily be bolted on in times of emergency and to be honest, in severe weather outbreaks, they are rather handy.  Can they stop a bullet?  Yes.  A heavy gauge will offer sufficient protection from almost any projectile that you will encounter.  If a tank rolls into your neighborhood, it’s not going to matter what you have up.  Is this perfect?  No.  But I guarantee you that a looter won’t crawl in a window or shoot you from the street.  This leads me right to my next change.  We will be adding a wood burning stove in our basement kitchen for heating and cooking purposes.  It will be vented out an existing window which will now be closed and sealed off.  That’s one less window to worry about.  Also, consider adding a kitchen in your basement.  We added a small kitchen to our basement when we made modifications to our home for our son.  His area is the basement and the kitchen actually makes him feel like the basement is his own place.  You never know when you may have to stay in your basement for extended periods of time due to a Biological/Chemical hazard or some other fallout.  A good underground basement offers nice protection and can be sealed fairly tight.  Also, our basement has a fully furnished and well equipped wine cellar.  Homemade wine will be an excellent trade/barter item when some stability is returned to society.  A simple hobby now could turn into a nice profession one day.  Also, the temperature of the cellar makes it easy to store other items should it ever become necessary.

Now, let’s discuss a few personal needs.  These next few comments are especially for those hunkering down with someone who has a spinal cord injury but, can be helpful to the able bodied individual as well.  You must have a rock solid plan for bowel and bladder needs.  I won’t elaborate.  You are familiar with your loved one’s needs better than anyone else.  This is priority number one.  Next is skin care, which must become second nature.  A pressure sore could easily be fatal.  Remember, there won’t be deliveries and replacements for medical supplies for a long time (if ever).You must learn to conserve and reuse as well as clean and sterilize material.  It’s defiantly tough to consider, but, you better learn how to put an indwelling foley catheter in your family member just in case something happens and intermittent catheterization is not practical.  I suggest you obtain a large amount of cranberry supplements for your injured family member.  It will help a little in the prevention of a urinary tract infection.  Many spinal cord injury patients die from urinary tract infections long after their injury, so be careful.  I should also mention that individuals with high spinal cord injuries have trouble with blood pressure and lose the ability to regulate their body temperature.  Blood pressure medicine may be hard to get or even impossible.  You should stock up with many extra pair of ted hose and abdominal binders.  These will help push the blood back toward the heart.  Familiarize yourself with the signs of dysreflexia and be prepared to treat it immediately.  This is a sudden and huge increase in blood pressure usually caused by some type of irritation or something that would be painful to the able bodied person.  You must locate this problem and correct it immediately.  Your family member can die from this if not corrected quickly.  Your doctor should have prepared you for this.  Our family is lucky.  My wife is a family nurse practitioner so she is highly qualified to care for our family.  Here are some things that we feel you must have stocked up:  Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Aspirin, Antibiotics, Vitamins, Potassium Iodide tablets, Masks, Bandages, Tape, Eye drops, Suture kit, Surgical and other instruments.  Have a very high quality blood pressure cuff on hand that you know how to use.  Keep a very large supply of Clorox, rubbing alcohol, iodine, and peroxide on hand.   KY jelly and Vaseline should also be stocked heavily.  I would also have several aloe plants on hand and keep them in good health.  Rubber gloves, paper products, and plastic bags are vital and like other medical supplies are finite in number.  The list can go on and on.  The bottom line is to stock up so that you can meet your medical needs as best possible. 

You must eat to stay healthy.  Stocking up on food is a given.  You must learn to grow, gather seed, can, and preserve your food.  When my son was still inpatient, he took an interest in gardening and landscape.  As a result of his new found interest, we constructed several raised beds in our back yard for him to plant in and help tend his garden.  We have a large, fenced in back yard where these raised beds are located.   And much to our surprise, our neighbors have done the same.  After some discussion and planning, we have decided to team up in the food production (and defense) business should the need ever arise.  You will be shocked at the quantity and quality of food that is produced in raised beds.  Our garden produces enough that we had to give away a large amount of food.  You will find that you will be able to keep something growing almost year around.  The raised beds and fence help keep the critters out.  The fact that the beds are raised will allow our son to help cultivate the crops from his wheelchair.  It is extremely important for the mental well being of your injured family member that they be able to work and contribute to the success of your home. We also have several blackberry and blueberry bushes planted with several fruit trees.  Our newest project has been establishing grape vines.  At some point, I would like to learn how to keep bees.  Do you have any idea how popular you would be in crunch time if you had honey to barter or trade with?  Bees are vital around your garden anyway!  I should probably move this up on my list especially since we live in a perfect climate for bee keeping. 

Birds are a different story.  A BB gun or nice air rifle will handle that problem and I guess that we all might need to learn to eat a little crow.  It goes without saying that you need a dehydrator and lots of salt.  You need to learn how to make jerky.  Now, how do I put meat on the table?  Of course we have plenty on hand to last several months but, sooner or later you will need to begin harvesting again.  This won’t be easy but we have a plan.  Around here everybody and their brother will head for any wooded area and try to kill anything that moves during the first few weeks of a meltdown.  I don’t think they will have much success as there are very few real hunters.  After a couple of weeks when people figure out that they can’t just go out and kill what they want, most will stop trying and resort to other methods (looting/stealing).  In a situation where everything has fallen apart, normal rules have to be thrown out so that food can be harvested.   When the time is right, I will harvest game, if we need it, in the middle of the night with the aid of a FLIR.  That is thermal imaging.  Everything alive gives off a heat signature and I plan to take full advantage of this fact.  I was completely amazed the first time I drove through our hunting club in our Ranger and took a look through my FLIR.  Wow!  There were many pairs of eyes on me!  If you have a chance, try one out and you will be very impressed.  You can purchase a nice FLIR for about $2,000 and it will be a valuable asset when it comes to food gathering and defense of your home.  The one that I use runs on rechargeable batteries and is very trouble free.  I have not had very good luck with regular night vision goggles.  Lenses tend to break easy and they have caused us more trouble than they are worth.  Camouflage won’t hide a heat signature either.    Nobody will sneak up on you.  If you can afford it, get an extra one.  Now, back to food harvesting for a second.  Given the circumstances, I doubt the game warden will be out looking for poachers.  I’m sure I can bring plenty of game right to our door with a nice salt block or a little corn. 

It is my opinion that the defense of your home is the most important part of preparing for a crisis like the one we are discussing.  I’ve already mentioned what my plans are for entry ways and windows.  After much research and study, I believe that the reinforced heavy doors and diamond plate sheets are perfect for most situations like ours.  Our back yard and garden are already fenced in with chain link and as luck would have it, our property looks out over hundreds of acres and there is a huge drop to the property below.  We are on extremely high ground and it would be difficult for someone to approach us from behind.  Therefore, in a time of civil unrest, I would probably only add barbed wire to the top of our fence and apply a layer of electric wire.  Another huge advantage that we have is how isolated our small neighborhood is and there is only one dead end road which enters and forest around that.  However, until we can agree as a neighborhood group to barricade the road, my neighbors and I will take steps to keep a crazy looter from driving through our front door.  My two neighbors on each side and I plan to erect pilings through our yards spaced so that a vehicle cannot pass between them.  Railroad ties along with existing trees are what we plan to use and we have been collecting the ties for a couple of months now.  They are easy to get here and it doesn’t hurt to have a friend who works with the railroad.  We realize that this is going to be very tough and time consuming work but, if everything falls apart you will have plenty of time on your hands and you never know what a desperate individual might try.  Each post will be placed at least 3 feet in the ground.  This should be an excellent barrier from almost any vehicle.  Speaking as someone who has operated heavy machinery in the past, I can definitely vouch that the machine could not just drive straight through.  It would require a little work which would give us time to take appropriate action to stop it. 

Thank God for the Second Amendment!   We do try to keep things simple.  Everybody has a 12 gauge shotgun.  In a rural neighborhood like ours this gun may very well be our most valuable weapon.  We’ll use number 2 or 4 shot in most cases.  We do have buckshot and some goose loads if necessary.  Everybody has a. 22 rifle with thousands of rounds and extra magazines.  Everyone has a handgun with the exception of our injured son.   These include a .44 Magnum, .45 ACP, .38 revolvers, .22s, and some extras parts.  The long guns in addition to our .22s include a .44 Mag lever action rifle ,a .22-250, a .17 HMR, .270 and an AR-15.   

All these weapons are very effective in our particular situation and everyone is very comfortable with these weapons.  I do believe our shotguns will be our most useful tool.  Now, our handicapped son will be able to take part in the defense of the home as well.  He has a very nice .270 with a first class Leupold scope.  How does he shoot it?  Thanks to Buckmasters, he has a mounting system for his chair that enables him to shoot as well as an able bodied person if not better.  He has a LCD display with joystick controls and a sip and puff trigger control.  He can really reach out and touch someone.  The whole set-up runs off a 12 volt battery.  Many thanks go out to the people at Buckmasters for giving this to my son which has enabled him to hunt again.  We even figured out how to use the LCD with the FLIR.  Of course we do keep a few other surprises locked away in our vault and our neighbors each have a very nice selection of weapons.  Our area will be very well defended! 

With that being said, let me take a moment and talk especially to those who have an injured or disabled family member.  Your family member is an easy target for criminals.  In our situation, (our son) is a target when he is in public because he can’t help or defend himself.  A thief will target a quad and take anything they want with very little problem.  Independence is important and must be approached carefully.  Due to the level of our son’s injury he still has an attendant or close friend with him if he is in public.  One step that we took to help our son become more independent was to get a service dog.  He chose a large German shepherd.  The security around our house just doubled.  That dog loves my son and would give her life protecting his and the family.  She opens and closes doors, picks up items off the floor, helps pull him when he is in his manual chair, and is a constant companion.  She has also been exposed to the sport of schutzhund.  I know that there have been other articles about the value of dogs in crunch time so I won’t spend time discussing them.  But, you should strongly consider a service animal!  Once a dog like a German shepherd bonds with you and the family they will become extremely protective of their pack.  You are now part of the pack! You should see the wide space people give my son when he is in public with his German shepherd.  Also, these animals can go any place in public that you go.  That equals independence and peace of mind.     

Another factor that I believe will play a vital role in the survival of our family is the fact that we are all very outdoor oriented people.  We’re all avid campers and know how to ruff it when necessary.  Everyone knows how to read a map and use a compass.  These are skills that are very valuable and few people understand anymore.  We all have good knives and know how to use them.  We have good radios to communicate with and listen for local news.  We also obtained a good short wave radio.  Monitoring the radios and cameras will be our injured son’s primary job.  We have a large supply of what I call my everyday useful tools.  Examples of these are rakes, shovels, hoes, picks, axes, wedges, hammers of all sizes and weights, sling blades, hatchets, machetes, saws including an old fashioned 2 man saw, various sizes of nails, bolts, screws, nuts, and washers.  You will also need a good supply of common hand tools for mechanical, plumbing, and carpenter needs.  Consider keeping a supply of various tape, caulk, glue, and oils.  Keep a good supply of replacement parts on hand and learn how to maintain what you have, especially your solar power supply and water pumps.  Don’t forget that you are now the repair man.  There is also a little pocket reference book that is written by Thomas J. Glover which I think everybody should own.  It has over 500 pages of tables/facts/formulas and other information that you will need sooner or later.  I think that it is a great tool that everyone must have.

Also, keep in mind that with a spinal cord injury you are going to have large amounts of medical waste that will need to be disposed of to avoid disease and other problems.  My suggestion is to invest in one or two 50 gallon metal drums to burn trash in.  You might be surprised how often you use it now.  Keep your old new papers.  Try to have a nice selection of books and magazines which should include plenty of how to information.  The fox fire book series is nice to have.  Cards and board games will also help pass the time.  And I guess most important would be to learn how to reload your ammunition and have plenty of supplies in that area! 

We’re lucky we don’t live in a big city, but we are a little too close for comfort.  Should something happen, we feel that the first 24 to 48 hours will be vital in the preparation and initial fortification of our home.  While everybody else is staggering around in shock, we will get everybody home and move into action.  Close up, seal up, lock up, and drop off of the radar.  Let the crazy’s kill and steal from each other and don’t do anything to catch their attention.  No smoke during the day and keep it dark at night.  With any luck all this will pass and civility will return rather soon.  If not, we and our neighbors are ready to hunker down together where are and keep each other safe for the long haul.  Hunkering down where you are may be your best plan for now.  For us, at this time in our life, we really must make the best out of what we have.  Working with your close neighbors makes this process much easier.  For those of you who can’t relocate at this time like us, don’t stress, just work to make what you have the best possible.  It can be done.  We’re living proof.  So, until such a time that we are able to relocate to the great American redoubt, we’ll be holding the line here in the South.   God Bless and good luck.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Some time ago, I did a review on SurvivalBlog about the Ruger 10/22 Takedown (TD) .22 LR rifle. I fell in love with my sample. I liked the idea of a .22 LR rifle, that could easily be taken apart, and put back together in a few seconds. I also liked the case that Ruger ships the rifle in - very nice, and you can carry the 10/22 Takedown rifle, with a brick or two of .22 LR ammo, half a dozen magazines, a scope and some clothes for the weekend. Not a bad combination, and whenever I travel more than 25-miles from home, I toss the 10/22 Takedown in my rig - just in case something happens and I have to hoof it home in an emergency.
However, I don't always need the heavy-duty case that the 10/22 Takedown comes in. And, I looked around, but there really wasn't anything available, other than a full-sized long gun case - which defeats the purpose of having a rifle that you can take apart, making it into a smaller package. SurvivalBlog reader Wayne W. e-mailed me and told me about the Skinner Sights TD Case that Andy Larsson, the owner of Skinner Sights, is producing for the 10/22 Takedown. And the Skinner gun case is much thinner, trimmer and doesn't take-up much room at all, yet it still protects the 10/22 Takedown rifle. Wayne W. told me that I'd better not get my sample, before he got the one he ordered - not to worry, Wayne W. got his order before I got mine.
The Skinner Sights 10/22 TD case is flat and compact. However, when I got my sample, I saw that it opened from both ends, with a secure clasp. I was more than a bit concerned that, when I took the 10/22 down into two-pieces, that they would rub against one another, causing scratches on my sample. Not to fear, Andy Larsson, very cleverly designed a method wherein, when you place the barrel assembly in one end of the bag, and the receiver in the other end of the bag, they do not touch - they are in separate compartments - although it appeared to me, that they were one in the same compartments. Neat idea, Andy - job well-done!
I used to own a standard cab pickup truck and found if I filled-up an overnight bag, and tried to stuff it behind the seat in my pick-up, it wouldn't fit - too fat. Such is the case with the factory bag that the 10/22 comes in - you can't fit it behind the seat of your pick-up truck - too fat! With the Skinner Sights 10/22 TD Case, you can easily store your 10/22 Take Down rifle behind the front seat of your pick-up truck - out of sight, so no one sees it. You can also toss a brick or two of .22 LR ammo - assuming you can find any these days, because of this ammo drought - in your glove box, or under the front seat of your pick-up, along with some extra 25-magazines - again, assuming you can find any - Ruger 10/22 25-round magazines are hard to come by these days.
Also, in a previous article, I reported on the Skinner Sights front and rear sight combination that Andy Larsson sells, as a replacement to the factory provided sights on a 10/22. While there is nothing "wrong" with the sights that come on a 10/22, there is always room for improvement, and with my aged eyes, I want every advantage I can get, and by replacing the factory sights on my 10/22 Takedown rifle, with the sights that Skinner Sights has, I greatly improved my hit ratio with the 10/22.
What Skinner Sights came up with is a shortened version of their standard rear hooded sight, that works nicely on the 10/22 Takedown rifle - it doesn't hang over the joint where the barrel and receiver join together - like the original Skinner Sight would do. I want to mention, too, that - all Skinner Sights are hand-made, you are not getting a cheap, mass-produced sight set-up. Andy Larsson takes great pride in designing and manufacturing his sights here in the USA.
Skinner Sights came out with the barrel mount sight that clears the take down mechanism, and does not contact the stock during assembly. The hooded rear sights is slick and provides an amazing sight picture - one that is much easier for me to see. And, others how shot my 10/22 Takedown rifle agreed with my findings. Additionally, the 10/22 Barrel Mount rear sight, ships with a .125-inch aperture installed - 5 different aperture sizes are available - and given the uniformity of common ammunition and barrel dimension, this aperture works great. A front comes bundled in the package, too.
By having both the front and rear sights mounted on the barrel, instead of one on the barrel and one on the receiver, insures repeatability when disassembling and re-assembling the 10/22 Takedown rifle. While I never had any problems with my factory sights staying zeroed on the 10/22 Takedown, things might loosen-up, if you took the rifle apart and put it back together hundreds of times, and you might have to make some sight adjustments. With the Skinner Sights Ruger 10/22 TD Sights, you have no worries about your zero changing, no matter how many times you might take your 10/22 Takedown apart and put it back together - the zero isn't going to change on you.
The Skinner Sights 10/22 sights are $62 in blue, $63 in brass and $65 in stainless steel. Not bad at all, considering these sights are hand-made and not mass-produced. The Skinner Sights 10/22 TD case is only $49 and comes in either black or dark green - your choice of colors. I want to thank SurvivalBlog reader, Wayne W. for alerting me to these products. As if often the case, I get alerted to a lot of new products by SurvivalBlog readers. You are a very intelligent bunch of folks. And, I appreciate all the help you give me in my quest for new products, or products I might have overlooked or not been aware of. I can't be all over the Internet and through factory catalogs each day, trying to find products to write about - not enough hours in the day.
So, if you're looking for a slimmer carrying case for your Ruger 10/22 Takedown rifle, and you want some better sights to go on that gun, check out the Skinner Sights web site for more information. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Saturday, May 18, 2013

To follow up on a recent letter: Yes, stock up on shotgun shells! The availability of shotgun shells here locally (northern Gulf Coast) seems to have improved in some stores-but by no means all retail outlets- in recent weeks. For a while there wasn't much to be found. Shells that were available generally had a high price or were of a variety that fell outside the range of everyday use (i.e. high-priced shells loaded with tungsten or steel shot.) If a person needs shotshells and you can find a good product that meets your needs, then I suggest you buy them by the case. If you don't, then your only regret will be not buying them when you had the opportunity. - J.B. and Co.

Friday, May 17, 2013

 I am struck by the continued availability of a variety of 12 gauge during this severe ammo shortage.  As we all know, the 12 gauge is probably one of the most versatile and powerful firearms we can have in a survival battery, or even just to have around during normal times.  I live in Houston, Texas and can't vouch for the rest of the country but I see plenty of 12 Gauge ammo everywhere I go.  The Bass Pro Shops flyer I just got even has Federal target loads in it for $6.49 per box of 25, that's 26 cents per round!  With 9mm, .223, and the like hovering around an average of $1 per round, this seems like a steal, by comparison.  Anyway, all the sporting good stores used to have plenty of sales on a variety of ammo, but now the only thing anyone seems to have enough of to even bother advertising is the 12 Gauge.  Yes, maybe some 20 gauge and .410 as well.  My point is: like-minded individuals should take this opportunity to make sure they are fully stocked with all flavors of shotshells.  Just six months ago it seemed absurd to think that we would now have a hard time finding .22 Long Rifle ammo.  Most would say we have not entered TEOTWAWKI as of yet, but the bare ammo shelves at the store make me wonder.  Even my 12 year old son is taken aback by the continued sight of these bare shelves.  Could the shotgun shells be gone in the next six months?  What a scary sight that would be. - David O.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

In response to the letter about swapping out devices that use button batteries, I would point out that some EOTech holographic sights use standard AA batteries, that are easily recharged. The EOTech 512 is an example. These sights are robust, easy to use and stay calibrated through heavy use. 

Combined with the Sanyo Eneloop AA batteries the EOTech sight would be useful for many years to anyone with a solar battery charger. The Eneloop batteries can be recharged over 1,500 times and unlike other rechargeables, they maintain 75% of their charge after three years of storage. While the EOTech doesn't have the ambient light intake or tritium sights of the mentioned Trijicon, it is an option that folks should explore as they compare options. Just my humble opinion. - Ohio Shawn

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, May 6, 2013

Traditions Training Cartridges are weighted and built like real cartridges.  They include a rubber insert to function as snap caps. Unlike most aluminum snap caps, however, they are heavy and strong enough to properly cycle, without becoming damaged. I recently tested these in 12 gauge, .223 rifle and .45 ACP. 

The .45 ACP pack contained 5 cartridges with 6 rubber inserts.  They were "loaded" with 230 grain ball projectiles, and apart from their black coating, were almost indistinguishable from live ammo.  I cycled these through an Auto Ordnance 1911 clone, through a dozen different magazines with no problems with the cartridges. In fact, they helped me identify two problematic magazines.  They fed flawlessly.  The hammer drop felt noticeably different due to the rubber primer insert, but there were no issues with the action.  They ejected very positively, just like real cartridges.
I tested the pair of 12 gauge cartridges (two in the pack, inserts already in place) in both a side by side ERA coach gun and a Remington 870 riot gun.  They held up well to the mechanical ejection, and loaded perfectly.

The two-pack of .223 were tested in an M4 clone. Again, they cycled just like real ammo.  I randomly loaded both into a magazine of live ammo to practice stoppage drills.  There was no detectable difference in the load part of the cycle, and upon the hammer dropping, they extracted exactly as a dud round should.
These are a professionally made and tough test and training tool I recommend acquiring. 

They are available in gauges/calibers of 10 semiauto pistol, 7 revolver, 5 shotgun and an incredible 42 rifle calibers, including most common hunting calibers and several military surplus calibers. 
Manufacturer's suggested retail prices range from $9.98 for a dozen .22 long rifle caliber, to $15.98 for a single .50 BMG (which I very strongly recommend as part of your kit, given the power involved in these rifles).

These feel so realistic, I also strongly recommend paying extra attention to safety.  Do not keep them near your live ammo when performing function tests, and inspect carefully before loading. Always have the weapon pointed in a safe direction, and at a safe backstop. NOTE: I was furnished a pack each of .223, 12 gauge and .45 ACP free for evaluation.

Michael Z. Williamson (SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large)

Monday, April 29, 2013

I've always been a big fan of Ruger firearms - all of them! There's many reasons for my liking Ruger firearms, first of all, I find their firearms robust, strong and well-designed. Ruger doesn't simply copy some other designs for the most part - instead, they are innovators in many ways. I still remember when the first Ruger P-85 9mm handguns came out, and everyone thought they wouldn't last because they were made from "investment casting" aluminum frames- Ruger proved everyone wrong.
A few years ago, I tested the Ruger SR556 piston-driven AR-style rifle, and loved it. Everyone was jumping on the piston-driven AR bandwagon, and Ruger was no different, they than they didn't copy anyone else's piston-driven design - they came up with their own, after a lot of research and development. The SR556 comes with all the bells and whistles you can ask for, and then some - including a nice padded carrying case, several MagPul PMags - which I personally believe are the best AR mags on the market, and top-of-the-line pop-up front and rear sights and many other accessories, that don't come on many AR-style rifles.
However, not everyone wanted or needed all that the SR556 came with as standard equipment, nor was everyone willing to pay the almost $2,000 price tag. Now comes the Ruger SR556E. Many people mistakenly believe that the "E" stands for an "Economy" model, but that is NOT the case. For the past several months, I have been testing the SR556E sample, and I have found nothing economical about this neat little rifle. What we have is a 5.56mm carbine, that can also fire .223 Remington ammo. The gun only weighs-in at a mere 7.36-pounds, a bit lighter and it balances better than the SR556 does in my humble opinion.  The SR556E also comes with a 16-inch cold hammer forged mil-spec 41V45 barrel with a flash suppressor on the end of the barrel. There is also a 6-position telescoping stock - closed the gun is 32.75-inches long and fully-open the gun is 36-inches in length. The flat top upper also has a forearm that has a Picatinny rail for mounting accessories at the 12:00 O'clock position and you can add other rails to the 3, 6 and 9 positions and these are sold separately. There is also a dust cover over the ejection port, and a forward assist - that I never recommend anyone use - it only leads to more problems, but it's there just the same.The SR556E also comes with a soft padded carrying case.
I like the MagPul (I believe that's the make) pop-up rapid deployment front and rear sights - they are outstanding. The front sight is adjustable for elevation and the rear sight is adjustable for windage. Where one would normally find the gas block for a direct impingement operating system, we have the patent-pending 4-position gas regulator. That's right, this is NOT a direct gas impingement gun, it has a two-stage piston system that is chrome plated for easier maintenance, and the hot gases vent out of the bottom on this two-stage piston, causing the gun to run cleaner and cooler, and that is a very good thing in my book. The direct gas impingement system vents dirty, hot gases directly into the bolt and bolt carrier - causing guns to run dirty and very hot - not a good thing in many instances - it can lead to malfunctions if the gun isn't properly cleaned and lubed on a regular basis - as in combat!
The 4-position gas regulator can also be completely closed off so the action doesn't cycle for using a suppressor, where you don't want any noise from the bolt cycling back and forth [or any sound of gasses escaping a gas port]. The other three positions are for running various types of ammo, and if your gun starts to run a bit dirty, you can adjust the gas regulator to a different position. Ruger ships the SR556E with the gas regulator set at the #2 position and suggests you do most of your shooting from this position. There is a complete tutorial video on the Ruger web site, that demonstrates the various settings. I left my sample on the #2 setting, and never looked back - although, I did play around with the different settings for just a bit - just to see how they function and how the gun ran - it ran fine in all but the closed position. However, for all my actual function testing and accuracy testing, the gun was left in the #2 position.
One thing you will readily notice with a piston-driven AR-style of rifle is the different recoil impulse. Hard to explain, but the gun runs a bit "differently" than a direct impingement operating system - it runs smoother, and it seems to run a tad quieter, too. Again, hard to explain, however if you shoot the SR556E next to a direct gas impingement rifle, you will hear and notice the difference in very short order. Now, some piston-driven AR-style rifles have had problems with "carrier tilt" - in that, the bolt carrier tends to tilt downward into the buffer tube, causing unnecessary wear and tear. Ruger overcame this problem by redesigning part of the bolt - removing some material here and there, and there isn't any problem with carrier tilt. You might notice a little bit or wear from the anodized coating inside the buffer tube, but no actual wear on the material. Ruger did their homework - as they always do!
During my initial testing of the SR556E, I ran 5, thirty round magazines through the gun as fast as I could pull the trigger. When I was done, there were zero malfunctions, and I broke the action open and pulled the bolt carrier out - it was cool to the touch. Try that with a direct impingement AR and you'll burn your fingers after just running one 30-rd mag through the gun. Additionally, the bolt carrier and bolt were still very clean - one mag through a direct impingement AR and the upper receiver and bolt carrier and bolt are dirty, very dirty - especially if you run some Russian-made .223 ammo through an AR.
I ran well over 500 rounds of various .223 Rem and 5.56mm ammo through the SR556E - however, in future testing, I won't burn-up that much ammo - not with the big ammo drought we are facing, and my inside sources tell me that, they expect ammo to be in short supply for about two more years - or even longer, depending on the political climate in DC and in some states. Be advised and act accordingly. In future firearms tests, I'm only going to run about 200 rounds through gun samples. Even with my several sources of ammo for use in my articles, ammo is still hard to come by these days. My sources want to give me more, but they don't have it - every round they make goes out the door each day - they don't have a warehouse full of ammo any longer.
From Buffalo Bore Ammunition I had their Sniper .223 ammo - a 55 grain Ballistic Tip bullet, a 69 grain JHP and their heavy 77 grain JHP - which is recommended for barrel twist of 1:8 or 1:7 - the SR556E comes with a 1:9 barrel twist - the most popular for civilian AR style rifles. From the good folks at Black Hills Ammunition, I had a wide assortment of .223 - a 52 grain Match HP, 55 grain FMJ - new and reloaded, 55 grain SP, 68 grain Heavy Match HP and their newly released to the public, 5.56mm 77 grain OTM ammo - this is almost the exact same ammo that Black Hills Ammunition - and Black Hills Ammunition alone - provides to all the US Special Forces - no other maker produces this ammo. I also had a couple boxes of Winchester 55 grain FMJ USA brand .223 on-hand, and I use a lot of this for simple function testing - its a great round and less expensive than burning-up some more expensive ammo for function testing.
Once I had the SR566E zeroed, I did all my shooting at the 100-yard mark for accuracy testing - although the gun was zeroed for 300-yards - just my zero mark with all my AR-style of rifles. The Buffalo Bore, Black Hills and even the Winchester 55 grain FMJ loads were all giving me 3-inch groups if I did my part, with open sights, at 100-yards. This is about average for many AR-style rifles - nothing to write home about in the accuracy department. The Black Hills new and reloaded 55 grain FMJ ammo gave me the same accuracy results, so don't go thinking you are getting slighted by using reloaded ammo instead of brand-new ammo all the time. The Black Hills 52 grain Match HP load gave me groups a little under 3-inches - better, but I knew the SR556E could do better - a lot better. I should note that the Black Hills 55 grain SP gave me 3-inch groups as well - and this would make a dandy load for varmints - even smaller dear, at close-in ranges. Although, I suggest using a larger caliber rifle round for deer - the .223 can still do the job if you place your shots where they need to go.
The Buffalo Bore 69 grain JHP was giving me groups right at the 2-inch mark, and I was starting to get impressed with the Ruger. The Black Hills Ammunition, 68 grain Heavy Match HP load was giving me groups around an inch and a half if I did my part - I've found this to be a very accurate load in all AR-style rifles I've tried it in. I ran out of the Buffalo Bore 69 grain JHP load, just as I was getting a good feel for it - and I believe it can match the Black Hills 68 grain Heavy Match HP load in the accuracy department.
Last up were the two heaviest loads, and you should be advised that, some rifles with a 1:9 barrel twist will only accurately shoot bullet weights up to about 68 or 69 grains - some will even shoot 75-grain bullets - but not all. Each gun's barrel is a little different, and as I've said before in my articles, experiment with your gun and various types, brand and weights of bullets, to see which one will shoot most accurately in your gun. The Buffalo Bore 77 grain JHP and the Black Hills 77 grain OTM 5.56mm loads were both giving me groups in the 3 to 3 1/2 inch range. I honestly didn't expect either one of those rounds to actually give me accuracy this good - considering the SR556 has the 1:9 inch barrel twist. I will admit though, that there were some groups that opened-up quite a bit more - however, I was advised by both Tim Sundles at Buffalo Bore and Jeff Hoffman at Black Hills, that it might be a waste of good ammo, shooting these heavier loads in the 1:9 barrel twist. Well, not a waste of money, but it proved to me, that in a pinch, you can shoot these heavier bullets in the 1:9 inch barrels, just don't expect the accuracy you think you'll get. I have fired both of these loads in another AR-style rifle with a 1:7 inch barrel twist, and had outstanding accuracy in the one inch to an inch and half range if I did my part. So, I know both of these heavier loads can shoot a lot more accurately in the right barrels, than they did in the SR556E.
During all my testing, I had no malfunctions of any sort. When I tested the original SR556 when it first came out, I did have a couple failures to extract in the first magazine, but after that, the gun ran fine. So, I was very pleased with the performance of the SR556E over the course of more than 3-months of testing. I never cleaned the gun during all this time, nor did I give it any further lubrication, other than the day I got the gun and inspected and lubed it. The gun was extremely clean at the end of my testing - and I believe I could have easily shot several thousand more rounds without any problems or further cleaning or lube. The SR556E with the two-stage piston-driven system really proved it's worth and ran cleaner and cooler than direct impingement ARs do. There is no comparison between the two systems in my humble opinion. If you want a gun that runs smoother, cleaner and cooler, you need to take a close look at the SR556E, as opposed to a direct impingement operating system. Now, with that said, I'm not about to take my other ARs that are direct impingement and sell them or toss them in the trash - they all work just fine - I don't keep guns around that don't work - simple as that. I either make them run properly, or I get rid of them if I can't fix the problems.
Now for the good news and the bad news. The good news is, the Ruger SR556E has a full-retail of only $1,375 and that's a bargain in my book - for all that you get - there are other piston-driven ARs on the market that retail for a whole lot more, but they don't give you more. Now for the bad news, with the big drought on all AR-style guns these days, if you can find an SR556E, they are going for about $2,000 these days. No, Ruger did not raise their prices, it's just supply and demand, and all SR556 rifles are in great demand, ever since they came out, people have wanted them. If you're in the market for a gas-piston AR, then take a very close look at the SR556E from Ruger - I think you'll like what you see - just don't pay too much - shop around and spend your money carefully. Now, after my wife shot my sample SR556E, she wants one of her own - she owns a different brand of AR-style rifle - a direct impingement version and while she shoots it very accurately, and hasn't had any problems with it - other than a few hang-ups with some Russian-made .223 ammo - she just likes the way the SR556E handles, and she doesn't hear that "twang" inside the buffer tube, like you hear with many direct impingement ARs - I personally don't hear it - after so many years of shooting, I have some hearing loss. But now I have to find a way to not only pay for my own SR556E sample, I have to see if Ruger can ship me another one for the wife. I should have learned long ago, to not let my wife shoot any of my gun samples, she has fallen in love with more than one and ended up in her growing collection.  - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

On March 10, 2013, the Governor of Colorado signed into law three new statutes that pertain to gun and magazine owners throughout the state. In this post, I will address the addition of C.R.S. 18-12-112, having to do with “Private Firearms Transfer”. No reader should consider this post to be legal advice for themselves or anyone else. My intent is to educate you on the law and for you to make your own decisions. 
On and after July 1, 2013, a person who is not a licensed gun dealer, before they transfer or attempt to transfer possession of a firearm to a transferee, they must:
1. Require that a background check be conducted of the prospective transferee;
2. Obtain approval of a transfer from CBI after a background check has been requested by a licensed gun dealer.
In order to understand the law you must start with the definitions. A “Transferee” means a person who desires to receive or acquire a firearm from the “Transferor”. A “Transferor” is the person who either owns or has possession of the firearm for a number of reasons.

If you are not a licensed gun dealer and you want to transfer possession of a firearm to a transferee, you will have to utilize the services of a licensed gun dealer for the purpose of having them provide you a background check of the transferee. The licensed gun dealer will provide the same background check and fill out the same paperwork as if they were selling the transferee the firearm themselves. For this service, the licensed gun dealer may not charge more than ten dollars.
Once the licensed gun dealer completes the background check of the transferee, they shall provide the transferor a copy of the results of the background check, including CBI’s approval or disapproval of the transfer. The approval will be valid for 30 days and valid only for the transferor and transferee.
The licensed gun dealer will be required to record the transfer and retain the records as they would on any retail gun purchase.

A person who violates this statute shall be guilty of a Class 1 Misdemeanor. This is the highest level of Misdemeanor and is punishable by six months to eighteen months imprisonment and/or a Five hundred dollars and up to a Five thousand dollar fine or both. There is an additional punishment associated with a violation of this statute. The violator shall also be prohibited from possessing a firearm for two years, beginning on the date of his or her conviction. If convicted, the State Court Administrator will report the conviction to National Instant Criminal Background Check System. You will not be able to legally possess a firearm in Colorado during the prohibition time. What is not clear is how other states will view this restriction. Will they too also determine that you are not to carry in their state?
Remember prohibition time period starts at the time of your conviction. That means if you go to trial on the matter, it could be anywhere from six months to a year before your conviction actually occurs.
Additionally, if you violate this statute you MAY be jointly and severally liable for any civil damages proximately caused by the transferee’s subsequent use of the firearm. I will expound on this below.

There are numerous exceptions within this statute. The background requirement does not apply to the following:
1. The transfer of an antique firearm; [JWR Adds: See my FAQ page on antique guns. I predict that pre-1899 antiques will become increasingly important, as gun laws expand in some states in coming years.]
2. A bona fide gift or loan between immediate family members;
3. A transfer that occurs by operation of law or because of the death of a person for whom the transferor is an executor of a will or trust;
4. A transfer that is temporary and occurs while in the home of the unlicensed transferee if, the transferee is not prohibited from possessing firearms and the unlicensed transferee reasonably believes that the possession of the firearm is necessary to prevent imminent death or serious bodily injury to the unlicensed transferee;
5. A temporary transfer of possession without transfer of ownership or a title to ownership occurs at:
a. At a shooting range;
b. At a target firearm shooting competition;
c. While hunting, fishing, target shooting or trapping if:
1. All hunting, fishing, target shooting or trapping is legal in all places where the unlicensed transferee is possessing the firearm; and
2. The unlicensed transferee holds any license or permit that is required
d. Any temporary transfer occurs while in the continuous presence of the owner of the firearm;
e. A temporary transfer cannot be for more than 72 hours. Should the transferee use your firearm unlawfully, you may be jointly and severally liable for damages proximately caused by the transferee’s use.
f. A transfer that is made to facilitate the repair or maintenance of the firearm.
g. A transfer from a person who is serving in the Armed Forces of the US who will be deploying within 30 days and the transfer go to an immediate family member.

All I have heard over and over from the politicians in Colorado is that this is not a gun registry. Yet, now all private guns sales will be recorded in the books of licensed gun dealers. These records are required to be kept for twenty (20) years after the transfer occurs and the records are open for inspection at any time by the ATF. Additionally, should the licensed gun dealer go out of business or decides to retire, he/she is required to forward all of their gun records to the ATF. Knowing this, please tell me how this is not a gun registry.

The punishment for the violation of this statute is severe. A Class 1 misdemeanor can include jail time if the Judge chooses to sentence you with such and the monetary fine can range from five hundred to five thousand dollars. But the addition of the loss of possession of ANY firearm for two years is well beyond what I would consider to be fair punishment.

As with the Large Capacity Magazine law, it appears that the goal of these laws are to disarm and remove guns from citizens as opposed to punishing them for not completing paperwork. I would like to see the true statistics relating to how many criminals are buying guns from private citizens before committing their crimes. Using common sense, we know that is not how they are arming themselves. The criminals are acting as criminals by stealing the guns and then using them in the commission of crimes. This law does nothing more than regulate (control) law abiding citizens when selling their own private property.

Another punishment for violation of this statute is the attachment of joint and several liability for any civil damages proximately caused by the transferee’s subsequent use of the firearm. Joint and several liability means that if three people were involved in the matter and all three were found to be liable, the damaged party could pursue all three people or just one to recover the whole amount. Given this, the person with the deepest pocket looses.

Read alongside the Large Capacity Magazine law, this law will allow firearms that utilize Large Capacity Magazines to be transferred but just without the Large Capacity Magazines. Again, just a coincidence or the grand plan all along?

Currently, 40 out of 62 Sheriffs in Colorado will be filing suit against the state of Colorado to determine whether this law and the large capacity magazine law are constitutional. While this is good, it will be a long and expensive route to take in order to get a resolution.

I will continue to update my blog as more information about this statute becomes available. Visit and leave me your questions.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Building up a skill set can easily be argued the most critical survival ability available. One skill set often overlooked is bartering. Trading a good or service for another. Looking at tangible items, one recent item everyone has noticed is the new price for ammo and certain rifles. The adage “buy low sell high” still applies if you can do so and still maintain your own needed stock.

About four and a half years ago AR-15s were roughly the same inflated cost as today (after BHO was elected), there was a massive panic and parts were scarce. It took four months to get a muzzle brake that I ordered two month prior to the election! At the time I had what I wanted, but no extras. I stayed out of the buying panic and saved. Fast forward six months later, and AR lowers and uppers had dropped to $60 per piece. I bought two of each at that price. Barrels with gas tubes and blocks were around $125, stocks and Lower parts kits around $60. Two complete bolt carrier groups were bought at a local gun show for $110 each. Gradually I built two complete AR-15s as I could afford to. Over the next three year, 5.56mm ammo could be found for $4-$5 per 20 round box at Cabela's and other stores. Again I bought when I had a few extra dollars, not going into debt but taking a bargain when I find it. I filled up my ammo locker plus ammo cans over those plentiful years. Not hoarding, no one else was buying at that time I was just stocking up when it was inexpensive.

Spent on building each AR:

$60 lower
$50 upper
$125 barrel, gas block, handguard and accessories.
$60 Lower Parts Kit
$50 stock
$110 bolt carrier
$10 charging handle

Today history repeats and those two AR-15s I built for $500-$600 dollars sold for $1,100-$1,300. People were glad to find them at that price and I had many potential buyers. Ammo sold for $20 a box and again I had to turn people away. This allowed me to buy a .50 BMG rifle and 100 rounds of ammo plus solar panels and equipment. I do not view this as taking advantage of anyone, they may find that the rifles are worth double in a year or less. Personally I use a gun forum for selling firearms. If you plan to as well please post that you will follow all applicable  laws on your classified ad and if you want to reduce questionable or shady buyers mention transfer at an FFL. I had many cash offers who backed out when I mentioned meeting at a FFL. For the sale met there but we used a local electronic form with checked Licenses/background checks.

The "no background check" media slant is a total fallacy in my state. We pay the $100 license, classes and background checks prior to even getting a license much less a purchase. At the time of purchase the Electronic form is also checked immediately (when it works). Yet the media still proclaims we have no background checks for private sales.

Another interesting point building and selling these AR-15s. I had three for sale, two low-end  ARs built from generic parts and one higher end with better manufactures, better parts, more bells and whistles. The lower end ARs sold, the better built AR has still not sold. It cost $1,000 to build but for not sell for $400 more. The $500-600 ar sold for over twice what I paid. Lesson learned, buy decent quantity cheap and have multiples rather than one or two higher end rifles. One buyer of the cheaper AR-15s stated he was going to replace all the hardware with Magpul items. They would not pay more for parts they were going to replace anyway. They wanted a basic AR now.

Scopes can cost as much or more then the rifles in many cases. It is hard to justify $400-$1,500 on a quality trusted brand scope without personally testing each option. Should I buy a holographic unmagnified or magnified? Backup sights? Carry handle? Fixed sights? What magnification? Too many options not enough money. Just to test out options I pick up various clones on eBay for 1/10th the price. Some are well made, some are junk. But I can then find out what I like and the pros and cons of each prior to investing in a good scope. Plus when I sell a rifle I will throw a cheap scope in clearly advertised as a clone.

If the gun market crashes again in the near future I will again take part in a group buy on my gun forum for AR parts and restock. For ammo I will also refill my cabinet, again these are tangibles which reduce the effects on everyone of panic buying. Both have done much better then my 401(k) and my property value. If it was a true emergency or SHTF event I can only imagine what they would be worth. Another buy low option in my toolbox has been group buys. I ran one for my gun forum, I saved 10% on my upper and helped out many like minded individuals. Karma was returned as another member helped me buy bulk ammo. To repeat, I have never hoarded during a panic I had my larder of ammo and sold off some to reduce to panic not increase it.

Also on a buy low, sell high note: Craigslist has many free listings in the fall for summer items. Pools, lawn tractors, gardening equipment, summer items. Same for winter items such as a snowblower, snow shovel in the spring. Take these items if you get a chance and have space. you have 3-6 months to repair these and then resell in when they are in season. Buy low (better yet obtain free) and sell high. Plus you gain repair skills, worst case you scrap it for money to buy.... tangibles!

I have used Craigslist three ways each with its benefits and drawbacks.

  1. Search Free stuff listings. Free stuff has a list for multiple items and it displays everything even if it is misspelled (e.g. snow blower versus nsow blower) Disadvantage: You have to catch it quick and be nearby. Many people list at and put it out or give it to the first person to respond. If it is a distance away there is a decent chance it is not worth the time or gas to respond.
  2. Search for what you want. Advantage: You find only what you are looking for and narrow the list down easily. Disadvantage: Many items are long gone and if anything in someone’s listing does not match your search it will not hit. This can be a misspelling or different description. Think fuel can vs gas can vs fuel storage container vs... an infinite number. If you do see what you want ask about it, sometimes people are looking to make space and not have to pay for disposal.
  3. Post an add (preferably multiple ads) for what you are looking for. Advantage: Better chance of finding exactly what you want. Disadvantage: Dealing with many emails from every person with computer access. People will flag your listing for no reason other then they want the same thing.  You can work around this with multiple ads using different wording, get creative. The person flagging your ad will likely not find all your other ads. You will receive many,many emails from people who do not read all the details in your add or are tire kickers.


On a related "buy low" note: BUY SOLAR PANELS NOW! China flooded the market and undercut the prices driving everyone else out of the business. Then China bought all the US and European equipment in the past three years. China did this with the rare earths and then raised the prices from $4-5 per pound to $150-200 per pound. If history repeats (which is always does) with PV solar as it has with many other areas we are due for a massive price increase soon. The former solar manufacturers are protesting but we have already been “informed” by the MSM that the proposed import taxes only hurt the solar installation companies in those countries. Which is a two faced truth, it does now that China has shut down local production.

“Local production” in Germany and the US were factories in massive aircraft hangers with high volume setups, state of the art setups and robotics very efficient and well planned out. These were not a local machine shop or Mom and Pop shop getting squeezed out.

I visited one such factory in Germany during training for a  machine transfer to the US for use outside of solar. I went out to lunch with one of the scientists and and engineers who were about to be laid off. Sad to say they saw no reason for anyone to own a gun even with their own country’s history. I almost mentioned my 85 year old German Aunt, who is Jewish, her family fled the Nazis when they came for her dad. Her dad was a German Judge at the time, fortunately her mom told the young officer to come back at a respectable hour and he left. They fled that night, if her mother had not talked the officer out of the arrest they would have had no way to stop them. What kept me from going that route was their talk of the greatness of BHO and how we was fixing all our problems. This while talking to educated individuals who were being laid off en masse because of the same politics and spending. I knew a lost cause when I saw one. Sad it is a beautiful country with excellent beer, wine and very nice people. Too much Kool aid drinking though.

The USA can only survive for so long as a retailer, not manufacturing much of anything even food is imported from China. Many lathes, tools and mills can be found cheaply now with factories still shutting down. Get the tools and develop the skills, they will be needed. Most AR/AK/FAL gun replacement parts can be made and heat-treated with basic machine shop knowledge. Do your homework for what is legal to make and what is not prior to any projects. Getting these machines is rarely free, if you have extra from selling an AR and or ammo it helps.If you can barter now for a used machine and learn on it. You gain multiple skills and tangible goods for trade. The clock is ticking... Make it count.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Connecticut is known as a progenitor of American Liberty. There were some small War of Independence battles fought at Stonington (1775), Danbury (1777), New Haven (1779), and New London (1781.) But sadly, legislators in Connecticut just dutifully lined up for their Kool-Aid cups and voted for a ban so-called "assault" weapons, a ban on private party sales of used guns, creates a new "ammunition eligibility certificate," and mandates a ban on the manufacture or sale and a registry for high capacity magazines. Do these buffoons have any concept of how many millions of magazines larger that 10 round capacity exist, or that virtually none of them carry a serial number? How do they expect to register a commodity? And what happens if someone miscounts their magazines, or misses a few of them in some forgotten box in the back of a closet? Does that make them a felon? And how, pray tell, is someone supposed to register each link in a disintegrating belt? (The last time I bought .223 and .308 links, they came to me in boxes of roughly 1,000 or 2,000 links per box. They are difficult to count, so they are sold by the pound. You can buy 1,000 of them for as little as $17, and of course they can be assembled ("manufactured") into belts of any length desired. So exactly how will that part of the registry work? Would someone have to ask to have a belt de-registered, once it is fired and hence no longer of 11+ round length? And how could a belt be linked together longer than 9 rounds, after the effective date of the new law? Talk about "Unintended Consequences"!

Oh, and let's not forget the new Connecticut law's New York style "honor system" provision, which dictates that owners of full capacity magazines can load their magazines up to 30 cartridges, but only at home, but just 10 rounds if they are carried outside of their homes unless they're at an approved shooting range. Miscounting cartridges and loading just one too many would be a punishable offense. Stopping short of enacting an outright ban on full capacity magazines and this idiotic honor system provision were characterized as "gracious compromises." As one commenter at the Northeast Shooters Forum aptly put it: "... how generous our Overlords are." Do any Connecticut legislators believe that mass murderers will abide by any of this arbitrary nonsense?

It is noteworthy that the vote on this legislation came on Monday, April 1, 2013. (April Fools Days.) What fools (and tools) they are!

I urge Connecticut residents to do your best to fight this legislatively in the courts, but if all else fails, then vote with your feet. Speaking of which... I just heard that in light of this new legislation Todd Savage of has announced that he has added Connecticut to his list of states that qualify for a 20% discount for "gun law refugee" clients. He is now extending the 20% discount to residents of California, Connecticut, Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York who identify themselves as gun law refugees. - J.W.R.

Monday, April 1, 2013

In more than 45 years of shooting, I've tried just about every kind of lube and gun cleaner on the market. Some work a little better than others, and some don't work very well at all. Anyone who is serious about taking care of their firearms, for self-defense, combat, military missions or survival, had better take very good care of their firearms. If you don't properly care for your weapons, they will fail you, just when you need them the most. I couldn't tell you the number of students who have trained under me, who have had their firearms fail them during one of my courses. One of the biggest causes for weapon failure, was either poor quality aftermarket magazines, or poorly maintained firearms - meaning, they didn't lube their firearms at all. Inside of 50 rounds of firing, their firearms would start malfunctioning because of the heat and friction involved. Now, while this may be acceptable under range conditions - it is not acceptable under life and death conditions.
Many malfunctions were easily corrected by simply applying some lube on handguns in my classes. I always have a range box with me, as well as a first-aid kit. I've yet to use the first-aid, but I've used the range box with a variety of tools and cleaning equipment, to get guns up and running once again. It's almost like I've performed some type of "magic" on a student's firearms, when a little lube is applied, the guns start working again. I've had quite a few students tells me that they don't use any lube at all, because they don't want their firearms to attract dirt or lint, of they fear the lube will get on their clothes. Excuse me? You're worried about a little lube getting on your clothes - instead of worrying about your firearm failing you, when you need it most? Stupidity never ceases to amaze me in some people.
The days of using plain old "gun oil" have long passed, in my humble opinion. Sure, plain old gun oil is still on the market, and I guess it's ok to use on a hunting firearm, prior to going out to a hunt. However, in harsh conditions, plain old gun oil will still fail you, when you don't want it to. And, it still amazes me that people use WD-40 as a lube - you are only inviting trouble if you use WD-40 as a lube - it is not a "lube" per se - it is a penetrating oil. WD-40 does not provide very good lubrication on anything, especially firearms - it will wear-off in very short order.
There are a good many different types of CLP (Cleaner, Lube and Preservative) compounds on the market these days. One of my most often used is Break-Free, and while I use it more than any other type of CLP, it isn't perfect in my book. A new family of products have been introduced by Italian Gun Grease - a company that I had heard of, nor their products. A box of various sample Italian Gun Grease products showed in my post office box one day, and when I opened it, I thought to myself "Oh great, another CLP, just like so many other similar products...." I was wrong!
One of the biggest threats to your firearms is heat build-up, followed by deposits of carbon and unburned powder. And, I'm not sure which is the biggest threat to causing a malfunction, however with no scientific study under my belt, I'm going to say that friction is the bigger problem. Metal-on-metal, with high-heat, will cause your firearms to malfunction. I've taken a few firearms courses over the years myself, and I've seen what happens when firearms are not properly cleaned and lubed - in the course of shooting maybe 500 - 1,000 rounds in a day, firearms stop working. I have never had that problem, because I've always cleaned and maintained my firearms properly, but I've seen other students who had repeated failures, because their guns were dirty and not properly lubed.
I think many in the firearms industry have solved the problem of producing a good all 'round lube, with some of the CLP products on the market. However, they haven't solved the problem of the accumulation of carbon and particulate matter, that can also cause firearms to malfunction under extreme conditions - until now! Italian Gun Grease set out to solve the problem. I believe IGG has solved the problem not only by producing a great lube, but also came away with a game changer, that helps prevent the build-up of carbon and burnt powder on firearms.
IGG lubes are very different, they are not true lubes, they contain a proprietary metal conditioner that are actually heat-activated. Their so-called "Heat-Seeking Molecule" formula penetrates into and fills the microscopic gaps where points of friction exist.  IGG doesn't burn-up in high heat, something that can't be said for other lubes on the market. What this does is, it actually produces a very hard, high, heat, high pressure resistant polished surface that can cut friction by as much as 85%. This isn't just a little better than the competition, it's a whole lot better than ordinary CLP products. IGG products may appear dry, but they are producing the protection you need from friction, and it doesn't allow carbon and other crud to build-up in the critical friction areas of firearms.
According to the IGG web site, their lube has an operating temperature range of between -45 degrees, all the way up to 430-degrees. Now, we couldn't last but a moment in 430 degree temps, but the inside and and high friction areas of firearms can reach 300-degrees in rapid or automatic fire. We can operate in -45 degree temps in some areas of the world, and this is where a lot of other lubes fail - they congeal, and don't provide proper lubrication, 'causing firearms to fail, just the same as if they had no lube at all. More information is posted on the IGG web site, and it is worth the time to read it.
I do a lot of shooting for my firearms articles. In some instances, I'll burn through 500 rounds of ammo in an AR-15 or AK-47 style rifle in an hour or less, when I'm doing function rather than accuracy testing. In handguns, I might burn through a couple hundred rounds of ammo in an hour. Then I'll continue testing over several days for accuracy, and testing different types of ammo. The thing is, during most of my firearms test, I don't routinely stop and clean and lube the firearms, unless there is a problem. I usually clean and lube a firearm prior to testing, and then after the testing give the firearms another good cleaning and lube. I know when testing semiauto rifles like ARs or AKs, the guns get very hot, and at the end of my testing, much of the lube is burned-off, and there is a lot of carbon and other crud built-up, that can cause problems and malfunctions.
Over a two month period, I only used IGG products in various firearms, and I will say, I was very impressed with the results. While there didn't appear to be any sort of lube or protection in high-friction areas, like slide rails or locking lugs, the protection was there, you could actually feel how much smoother a slide or bolt was moving both while firing the firearms and while working a slide or bolt.
Italian Gun Grease has several different products on the market, and I highly recommend their Tactical Formula 2 - which is designed for combat use. They also have Advanced Formula 2 for hunter applications, however, for my money, I'd just stick with the Tactical Formula 2 for all my needs, especially in a combat or survival situation - just seems like it would give better protection all the way around. They also have True Grease, and I recommend this for the locking lugs on semi-auto pistols, especially 1911-type pistols. You'd be surprised how many people don't bother to lube the locking lugs at all on a 1911 - and this is a very important area where friction can build-up. IGG also has cleaning kits, that can cover most of your handgun and rifle needs, all in one handy pouch. This is a great little kit to place in your BOB or range bag - just perfect for survival or combat scenarios, with a good supply of Tactical Formula 2 - their combat lube.
I gave some sample IGG grease to other shooters, and asked for their feedback, and each one came away with the impression that IGG lubes worked better than whatever other products they were using - they all said that their firearms seemed to operate smoother and there was less buildup of crud and carbon.  Okay, IGG products made a believer out of me, and I highly recommend all their products to anyone who is serious about survival or who might be in a combat zone, where failure of your weapon is not an option you can afford. You'll find IGG products are competitively priced compared to some of the other CLP products on the market, so it's a small investment, that can return great dividends if you want some of the best lubes you can get for your weapons.   - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Captain Rawles,
People may already know this one, but if not, then here is a trick for anyone with a Mossberg 500/590 shotgun who wants to know how to remove shells from the tube magazine without cycling the action"

Inside the loading port located on the left is a small piece of metal [called a shell stop] which holds the shells in the magazine (it's easy to see with a shell in the magazine).  Pushing this in allows shells to be removed from the magazine one-by-one swiftly and silently.  Push the piece in until a shell pops out of the magazine, release the metal piece, repeat.  I use this trick during hunting season to unload my shotgun for transportation purposes.  It takes some practice, but it works well on low/high brass shells.  It sure beats having to pointlessly manipulate the action and damage the rims of shotshells by doing so. 
Respectfully Yours, - D. from Michigan 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Awhile back, I tested some automatic folding knives from Bear Ops, which is a division of Bear & Son Cutlery and was favorably impressed with the little tactical folders. Now, while I sincerely enjoy all the new types of stainless steel blade materials used on knives these days, I've always been fascinated with Damascus steel. Bear & Son is one of the few commercial knife manufacturers offering knives with Damascus blades. What we have in Damascus steel is a combination of different steels with different properties, that is hammer forged and folded back onto itself, to give you blades with extraordinary toughness and edge-holding ability.
Living in the Pacific Northwest, we get a lot of rain. We have two seasons in my part of Oregon, we have four months of beautiful summer weather - not too hot and not too cold as a rule. But then we have eight months of wintry weather - which means liquid sunshine - RAIN! We get a lot of rain, not much snow as a rule, but a lot of rain. So, whenever possible, I try to get gear that can stand-up to the elements, and I enjoy stainless steel knives and guns - when I can get what I'm looking for, to fill a particular need. Even so, with stainless steel, it can still rust - it just rusts less - "stains-less", and it still must be maintained, just not as much maintenance goes into keeping a knife or gun from rusting in my climate. Most of the knives I own, are manufactured out of some type of stainless steel, and only a few are tool steel. And, no matter how hard I try to maintain the tool steel knife blades, they still develop some patina rust and pitting, if I don't pay close enough attention to them. For all my guns and tool steel knives, I use a product called Birchwood Casey Barricade. It's a simple spray it on, and let it dry a bit and wipe it off, and it gives metal a nice coating that protects it from the elements. Still, regular maintenance is required to prevent a gun or knife blade from rusting.
So, why my fascination with a knife blade manufactured out of Damascus steel - and in this case, tool steels, that can easily rust in my climate? Well, first of all, I love the different patterns on Damascus steel blade knives, no two are ever the same. Damascus steel was first produced in Damascus, Syria, more than 2,000 years ago, so it has stood the test of time, when it comes to toughness and edge-retention. Also, when viewed under a microscope or high magnification, you can the tiny saw-tooth carbides what are formed in the blade's edge by the forging and coal fire. What you will discover with many Damascus blades is that, they may not feel as sharp as other tool or stainless steel blades, but they are - very sharp! Even when you feel the blade's edge, it may not feel as sharp as you'd like, but the sharpness is there, and it holds an edge a very, very long time. Also, when ground on an angle, as in grinding a knife's blade, the blade displays a pattern that is stunning, to say the least. To my eyes, a real thing of beauty and art.
Bear & Son Cutlery produce 416-layer Damascus steel blades. Now, I've seen some custom knife makers offering Damascus steel blades with 2,000 layers of steel, and I'm not sure how much stronger those blades are compared to Damascus steel blades with a lesser number of layers. I'm sure there might be some advantage to more layers, but just how much that matters to me, is a moot point. To get more layers, the steel is folded over onto itself and forged again and again, each time getting more and more layers. A very time-consuming process if you are doing the forging by hand, as opposed to having a power forge. In any event, Bear & Son Cutlery still has very limited supplies of their Damascus blades on-hand at any given time. They are in great demand. Knowing this, when I placed an order for a sample Damascus blade for this article, I placed several alternate choices - just in case. Good thing, because my first choice wasn't available. (Like I said, they are in great demand.)
I obtained the Model 549D  which is a no frills Drop Point Hunting style fixed blade knife. It has an overall length of 7-7/8 inches with genuine India stage bone handle scales and a nickel silver bolster. I've always loved the look of genuine India stag bone handle scales on a knife, and Bear & Son did a fantastic job on this sample, the golden honey hue with the roasted grooves, really caught my attention. A nicely done leather sheath also comes with the 549D and the blade was heavily oiled - as is necessary with any Damascus tool steel knife, to prevent it from rusting. The handle scales are attached by two stainless steel pins, and the workmanship is second to none on this sample. You would believe it was a custom knife because of the attention to detail. The handle is nicely configured to fit my hand perfectly, and everyone I showed it to liked the way the knife felt in their hand, too.
Now, before using a Damascus tool steel knife, you really need to wipe off the oil coating, especially if you are dressing out game, you don't want oil contaminating the meat. There was a lot of oil on my sample, and you don't need that much in my humble opinion. Still, Bear & Son are being cautious and putting a heavy coat on the Damascus blades, you don't know how long they might sit on a shelf in a warehouse, or at a dealer's store, before being purchased. Better safe than sorry. I cleaned all the oil off my sample, and gave it a coat of the Barricade, let it dry for a bit and wiped off the excess, and I was confident the blade had a good protection against the elements.
The sharpness of the blade, as mentioned earlier, didn't feel "that" sharp to my way of thinking, however, it was much sharper than any stainless steel blade knife I've laid my hands on, it would easily slice through meat, rope, poly rope (and that is difficult to cut) blue jeans canvas material, cardboard boxes and paper could easily be sliced by the edge into slivers. At the conclusion of my testing, I took the 549D sample and gave it a quick touch-up on some Crock sticks, and it was even sharper than when I got it. You can, if you're careful, actually feel the microscopic teeth on the edge of the blade with your finger - do this carefully, as the blade will cut you. No, I didn't get cut!
The 549D is just the perfect sized fixed blade knife for wearing on your belt when you're out hunting or camping, and the size is not too big and not too small, for just about any reasonable task you can use this knife for. Of course, it's not big enough for chopping wood, nor was it intended for that, you can find bigger knives or an axe for that task. However, most tasks around a camp or in a survival situation, can be handled by the 549D. Now, we're not talking hard-core combat, or taking out an enemy sentry - if you are into a Rambo mentality, then this knife isn't for you, nor will you survive out in a hard-core combat role very long with that mentality - sorry! Being realistic here! I honestly don't believe most SurvivalBlog readers have a Rambo mentality, and I hear from a lot of readers regularly. I've found you are a very intelligent bunch of folks, and I enjoy hearing from you.
In the past, if you purchased a Damascus steel knife from a custom knife maker, on average, it would cost you about $100 per inch for the knife - if you wanted a 10-inch knife, it would set you back an easy $1,000 or more, depending on the handle scales, sheath and other variables. The Bear & Son 549D is priced at only $209.99 and that, is a fantastic deal to my way of thinking. So, if you are in the market for something a little bit different than what everyone else is carrying, take a look at the 549D, and if it's not to your liking, check out some of the other models they offer, I'm betting you'll find something that will fit the bill, and at prices that are very affordable for what you are getting.
As a side note, during all my testing, I did touch-up the coating of Barricade protectant I put on the 549D, I didn't want to have to fight the beginnings of rust. It only takes a minute to put another coat of Barricade on a knife, and its an inexpensive product. Everyone should have a can of Barricade in their survival gear, it can make a difference in keeping your metal gear in tip-top condition, or allowing it rust. A can of Barricade will last you years. I t doesn't take very much to give you a protective coating, that lasts a long time.
Take a close look at the Bear & Son web site, and you'll see several types of fixed blade as well as folding knives, manufactured out of Damascus tool steel. I know you'll find something that catches your eye. And their prices won't break the bank, either. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, March 4, 2013

An additional point or two on the viability of the 300BLK. While I agree that the primary concern should be to have your standard calibers covered, the 300BLK has the additional advantages. Because it is made from 223/5.56 brass, and uses any 30 caliber bullet, it will be easily reloaded in a SHTF situation. Another advantage is the ability to use the round suppressed (using subsonic rounds)with as close to "Hollywood" results as you will get. Although the advantages of using silenced weapons in a SHTF situation has been touched on in this forum I believe the subject could use more emphasis. Thank You James, - Rick .S

Regarding the .300 AAC Blackout (“300blk”) cartridge for the AR-15 rifles, I would like to add some favorable comments about the new caliber. But first, I really don’t like new calibers (for AR-15/M4 variants) at all. I never jumped on any bandwagon for a new AR-15 caliber (6.8, 6.5, 5.45, etc) over the last 15 years and have and still do preach the “common caliber” mantra… but now I have jumped into the “new  caliber” crowd with the .300 AAC blackout. Here is why:

I want the best of many worlds. I have for years wanted an AR-15 that will put down the threat effectively, punch through medium barriers, but also be super sneaky quiet like an MP5SD. In fact I have often lamented the fact that I can’t cross the MP5SD (quiet) with an AR-15 (ergonomics, low recoil, accuracy) that punches through barriers like an AK-47. Laugh if you will but I want all in one! With good ammo the 5.56x45 does just fine or even fantastic at putting down threats, but definitely lacks in barrier penetration and really can’t be considered to be anything but loud, even with a suppressor. This all changes with the 300blk.

The 300blk cartridge is gaining significant steam down south (among other places and including some special units) where hog hunters need decisive effects on target like Paul S. said. It basically gives you a 7.62x39 ballistic effect (.30 caliber, heavier projectile for barriers, etc) but in a package that allows you to have both the MP5SD and 7.62 advantages. With the swap of a magazine (lighter grain supersonic loads in one, heavier subsonic loads in the other) and rack of the charging handle, you do indeed go from a 7.62x39 equivalent “full power” carbine/assault rife round to a super quiet round comparable to the long standing standard in suppression, the MP5SD, presuming of course you do have the suppressor attached. The advantages to having both options at your fingertips within seconds without carrying a secondary long-gun should be obvious.

Another great feature of the 300 AAC Blackout cartridge is that it was optimized in both supersonic and subsonic loadings to get maximum velocity out of only a 9” barrel! With the ever-increasing popularity of SBRs (short-barreled rifles, requiring a $200 NFA tax stamp through the BATF), and the handiness and lighter weight of short rifles, this is in my opinion, a very significant breakthrough, as the biggest disadvantage of SBRs is usually the significant drop in velocity (and associated drop off in terminal effects on target), which is NOT the case with with the 300blk. It has its full potential out of just the 9” barrel! Quality supersonic cartridges are capable of sub-moa, while subsonic cartridges are hovering consistently around 2 moa, but custom subsonic loads are doing sub moa. With ammo standardized by Remington and nearly everyone making ammo for it now, it seems to be catching on with far deeper roots than the other recent “fad” calibers for AR-15s. Another great thing about the caliber is the ability to use the AAC 762SDN6 (or similar .30 caliber suppressor) suppressor on many calibers. I tried mine on my 5.56 SBR and it sounded the same or slightly quieter than my dedicated 5.56 suppressor did while only being about 3/4” longer and about two ounces heavier than my AAC M42000 (5.56 suppressor).

Keeping in mind that the 300blk is very rare in comparison to “common calibers” it would likely be a good idea to keep at a minimum a 5.56 barrel (and gas block and gas tube for the 5.56 barrel) on hand in case your supply of 300blk dries up in a TEOTWAWKI situation. Of course a complete 5.56 upper would be easier to swap but would cost more. I would like to add to Paul S.’s comments that the 300blk uses the same bolt, carrier, upper, and magazines, like he said, but unlike some other AR-15 variant calibers, the 300blk does not just use AR-15 magazines such as the Magpul PMAG in a tolerable manner, but in a perfectly reliability manner, just as good as the 5.56 cartridges due to the same cartridge base, width, taper and OAL.

Downsides? I’ve already disclaimed that you should have your “common calibers” at hand. That aside, I could see someone claim that 30 rounds of 125 grain ammo weighs more than 30 rounds of 55-77 grain ammo. True, but for the advantages I think it well worth it. Also, the 300blk does have more of a “lob” ballistically than the 5.56 which somewhat limits its practical range to around 400 meters (compared with the generally accepted practical range of the M4 at 500-600 meters -- though of course Travis Haley was ringing steel at 600 meters with ease with his) before you really really have to know the range and hold-overs perfectly. But in my opinion a carbine isn’t really very useful past that in most cases anyhow.

All in all, as long as you already have stocked your “common calibers” the .300 AAC blackout AR-15 uppers have just about every advantage and no noticeable disadvantages and when mated with a quality suppressor, provide an operational flexibility and force multiplier that should not be ignored. - PPPP

Dear Editor:
Just one potential problem must be noted for those who wish to swap uppers back and forth between 5.56/.223 to .300 Blackout: If you forget, or get distracted, it is possible to put a magazine full of .300 AAC Blackout ammo into your AR with the 5.56/.223 upper installed. When you hit the bolt catch, the first round of Blackout will be completely chambered in the 5.56 upper. This can happen because the bullet will be forced deeper into the Blackout brass. If you pull the trigger, the chambered .300 Blackout round will ignite, and the bolt will explode, and most likely split the carrier and the upper receiver as well. I have seen this happen. You have been warned! - CTBill

Friday, March 1, 2013

Mr. Rawles,
I would like to add to the shotgun portion of this posting. While we all like to have the latest high tech looter stopper, a trip to the used section of your local gun shop will yield some hidden treasures. You can have your 18.5 inch pump riot gun for a fractional price of a new one. Perusing my local large chain yielded a pile of old, but still serviceable pieces. Many are old department store guns wearing hideous looking chokes, but the guns were made by Remington, Winchester, Ithaca etc. Price ranged from $100 to $249, this included some autos as well. I have added to my home defense a few of these. With just an accurate measurement and a saw [or tubing cutter], you too now have a reliable riot gun. Many of these were lightly used, stored well and remain a gem in the overpriced gun market going on today. My local gunsmith recommends at least 18.5 inches for a barrel length. He attributes this to short government rulers or more controversial, shortcomings of certain government officials. - Jeff in Wisconsin

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Before his untimely demise, survivalist author Mel Tappan wrote his book Survival Guns some four decades ago, yet it still remains the authoritative source on the topic.  Mel also wrote columns for various magazines, expanding upon his previous writings and clarifying some concepts.  It is those columns and articles which formed the basis of not only this essay, but also leaving what is now an indelible impression upon my thought process for the same subject.  Mel Tappan had a rifle as his first acquisition and a shotgun as his third acquisition; I flip flopped it for this piece due to the fact he lived in the wilderness – where I live in the jungle; an asphalt jungle.  That being the case, here goes:

First and foremost, a decisive firearm capable of ending any fight should be your initial purchase.  It is here the shotgun excels.  The shotgun is the most versatile firearm there is.  Based upon the hundreds of loadings, it can take small, medium, and large game as well as zombies in all shapes and sizes.  There is no more devastating impact upon an evil doer in and around your home.  The 12 gauge pump action shotgun with a short, 18 inch barrel fits this bill nicely.  Get a model with “ghost ring sights” and an attached flashlight and you can identify close in targets from contact distances out to engage long range targets with slugs over 100 yards away.  At close encounters of the worst kind, “#4” buckshot serves up a multiple pellet rat wound.  In law enforcement circles, this round is referred to sarcastically as a ‘crowd pleaser’.  As the range extends, fewer yet larger pellets may be the answer, all the way up the high end of the scale at “OOO” buckshot.  “OO” buckshot is the law enforcement and military standard loading for anti-personnel use.  The exact middle of the scale size is “#1” buckshot, probably the best round to utilize when usage is not defined as to target types and distances.  I keep “#4” buckshot in warm months and “OOO” buckshot in cold months in my home protection shotgun – it is a matter of penetrating coats and jackets and vests and whatever else a bad guy may be wearing in the winter versus a likely t-shirt in the summer.  The shotgun slug is an awesome round.  You should practice head shots on a full size silhouette target at 50 yards with only a bead front sight – then you can rest assuredly hit effectively out to 150 yards and sometimes more with slugs and a “ghost ring sights” setup.  Have a spare 28” barrel for hunting birds and fowl with birdshot loads and you’ll expand the utility of the shotgun exponentially.  There are also numerous special loadings available in shotshells including: flares, flechettes, gas (riot control agents such as CS or CN or OC), incendiary, etc.  Another special loading is the door breaching round, and it is phenomenal when employed correctly to forcibly enter through a secured door.  The 12 gauge is the most common caliber for law enforcement and military applications, as well as a majority of hunting uses.  However, a 20 gauge shotgun might be better for use by smaller statured adults and younger shooters.  The pump or slide action is better because you can use the most diverse types of ammunition without a hiccup, plus there are less moving parts to break.  With the shotshell tube attached under the barrel, one has about half a dozen rounds readily available and no fear of losing any detachable magazines.  If you can’t end the fight with half a dozen well placed 12 gauge rounds, you probably need some help.  Regardless of caliber (gauge) selected, get the 3” chamber so both 3” and 2 & ¾” shotshells can be used.

Second, you need a handgun.  Many firearms aficionados state a true defensive pistol must be at least .40 caliber or larger to effectively end a gunfight.  The handgun is usually worn holstered on your belt (but can easily be adapted to ankle or shoulder holsters as well) and it is thus there, on your person, when you need it.  The handgun gives you the ability to shoot your way back to your shotgun at those most inopportune times when you put it down and don’t have it with you at the moment in need as well as being a last ditch effort to stave off that close encounter of the worst kind.  In keeping with the survival mindset, I recommend a revolver of large caliber/capability.  Prior to the autoloading pistol revolution, the .357 magnum revolver was king of the hill for everyday use and adaptability.  Sure, you could go much more powerful with a .41 magnum or even a .44 magnum – but utility is the key here.  A 4 or 6 inch barreled revolver with the 125 grain semi-jacketed hollow point round was the #1 cartridge for one shot stops against human aggressors.  Perhaps it isn’t so anymore, I’m not really sure, but probably only because law enforcement has almost entirely has transitioned to the semi-automatic pistol in the last two decades into other calibers.  Nevertheless, it is an awesome round when properly employed.  In the late 1980s and early 1990s when the Navy’s SEAL (SEa, Air, and Land commandos) Team 6 was formed for counter terrorism employment, their duty handgun of choice for hostage rescue use was a 4 inch barreled .357 magnum revolver.  One should never feel ‘out gunned’ when having a .357 magnum revolver.  There are 7 and 8 shot models available as well, but even the 6 round standard models should suffice to get you back to your primary long arm.  Remember, it is shot placement that counts for hits, not spraying and praying with a semi-automatic pistol.  An 8 inch barrel would be best for strictly hunting purposes, a 4 inch barrel for daily belt carriage, a 2 inch barrel for concealment – perhaps a 5 shot model offering even more concealment.  I would venture to state the 6 inch barrel is probably best all around performer.  It can be used for hunting and is not unnecessarily bulky for daily wear with proper holsters, and this sidearm is not being used as a backup gun so being small and concealable is not an issue here.  Get yourself half a dozen speed loaders for whatever model you choose, and the pouches to carry them and you’ll be set.  Also, the .357 magnum chambering allows for a .38 special sub loading to be fired for practice and small game.  (The .38 special cartridge is actually the same .357 diameter bullet and about a quarter inch shorter case length than the .357 magnum round).  The .38 special is a very accurate round and has had very considerable handloading variations and commercially produced variations throughout its history.  This all equals great availability as well as versatility.

Third is a rifle.  The shotgun can do the job reliably out to about 50 yards with shotshells and approximately 150 yards with slugs.  Anything more distant than that and you will need a rifle for routine or repetitive interdiction.  The rifle should be bolt action, have a capacity for follow up shots – whether a detachable box magazine or integral type is up to your personal preference.  It would be an excellent idea for a fixed power telescope or rifle scope to ride on top.  And a good sling is a must.  You should select a caliber both common and having capability to take any game in the country side.  The .308 Winchester/7.62x51mm NATO round would be my choice (with the .30-06 Springfield round a very close second place here).  It is common to the military and law enforcement communities.  It is prevalent in hunting.  With well placed shots, it can take any game in North America.  I can hear the cries out there already.  I know, I know, there are much better calibers for hunting polar bears and elk and elephants and – probably anything conceivable to your imagination.  But, commonality and capability is what we are talking here.  The military and police don’t stock .30-06 or .270 or .243 or 7mm or 8mm or whatever other caliber tickles your fancy.  If you are that concerned about caliber rather than shot placement, why not go all the way up to the .50 caliber Browning cartridge?  But, I digress.  The 7.62x51mm NATO / .308 Winchester will and does do the job nicely regardless of other counter claims.  And, it can be had in ‘short’ action rifles which are lighter and more compact thus handier for our envisioned use.  I like a ‘full sized’ short action bolt rifle with an integral magazine and 10x scope.  But, the Jeff Cooper “Scout” rifle concept is intriguing and definitely fills the bill as well.  A forward mounted 2x scope, detachable box magazine, Chino sling, short barrel, and .308 caliber would carry very nicely, be quick to operate in the field, and capable of both close in snap shooting and longer range deliberate engagements.  Either rifle at the ends of that spectrum can fill this requirement nicely, it will come down to personal preference.  Remember that it is better to engage threats farther away from you so you don’t need the shotgun to be used at close quarters.

Fourth is a rimfire.  The .22 long rifle cartridge is very versatile, fun to shoot, accurate, and can also be had in numerous loadings (target, hunting, plinking, even in small shotshells).  The .22 rimfire rifle could be used against vermin and small game.  It can be used for training.  It is an extremely accurate round out to 100 yards with target model click adjustable “iron” or “metallic” sights (as opposed to ‘scopes’ or ‘optical’ sights) able to move the impact of the bullet 1/8” at a time at that distance!  The uses of the .22 rimfire are endless.  Alligator/crocodile hunters use the .22 rimfire for ‘fishing’ these reptiles.  One shot to the brain accurately placed behind the eyes to the rear of the head instantly kills even the largest (greater than 12 feet weighing more than 700 pounds) crocodile or alligator.  Besides .22 rimfire ammunition becoming ballistic wampum in an “The End Of The World As We Know It” or “TEOTWAWKI” situation, you can carry or store a case of 5,000 rounds in about the area approximate to the size of two .50 caliber ammo cans.  In a pinch, the .22 rimfire could be used defensively against humans – just remember it is shot placement that is critical and with such a small statured round it will be absolutely critical here.  An eye, ear, or nose shot will take a bad guy out of the game; as would a good neck shot, or under the armpits, etc.  It wouldn’t be my first choice going to a fight, but sometimes you have to use what you have.  The .22 rimfire has taken ‘game’ as large as a whale.  Some 20 plus years ago a whale was found dead in a New England harbor – the cause of death was six (6) .22 rimfire rounds to the spine which ultimately caused its death through central nervous system shutdown.  So never let anyone kid you about the ‘small’ little round not being effective against anything but small game.  Additionally, the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan was with a .22 rimfire handgun and look at all the problems it caused him with one mid torso shot (which was a glance off the door frame by the way – not even a direct hit).

I’ll summarize for you to make a quick reference list:
            1. Shotgun: Pump Action, 18” interchangeable ‘riot’ barrel, ghost ring sights if available, flashlight forend if available, 28” interchangeable hunting barrel, 4 to 6 round tubular magazine, synthetic speedfeed stock usually holds an additional four (4) shotshells in the buttstock, sidesaddle shotshell carrier typically holds 3 to 6 additional shotshells on the side of the receiver, and sling for carrying.  I would keep a minimum of 100 shotshells available (they come in 25 round boxes).  I would store 25 shotshells in “#4” buckshot, 25 shotshells in “OOO” buckshot, 25 shotshells in one ounce rifled slugs, and 25 shotshells in birdshot – probably #7½ or “BB” size (.177 diameter) being good choices.  12 gauge with 3” chambering for men or 20 gauge with 3” chambering for women and children.
            2. Handgun: 6” barrel revolver, .357 magnum caliber, 5 to 8 round rotary magazine, 3 dot sighting system, half a dozen speed loaders, duty type belt holster and at least one dual speed loader pouch.  I would keep 100 rounds minimum available.  (They come in 50 round boxes for the most part.)  50 rounds of 125 grain semi-jacketed hollow points in .357 magnum for medium game and 50 rounds in 148 grain lead semi-wadcutter for target shooting or small game.
            3. Rifle: .308 Winchester / 7.62x51mm NATO caliber, bolt action, 10x fixed rifle scope for a full sized rifle or 2½X fixed forward mounted rifle scope for a ‘Scout’ rifle, 3 to 5 round magazine (integral preferred over a detachable box type), synthetic stock for durability, and a sling.  I would have 100 rounds minimum for use.  150 grain hollow points or pointed soft points in .308 Winchester would be my selection for ammunition.  (These typically come in 20 round boxes).  Barrels for a Scout size range from 16 to 20 inches.  Barrels for a standard size range from 18 to 24 inches.
            4. Rimfire: If you want a handgun, choose a revolver.  I’d make it a 6” or 8” barrel with holster and speed loaders.  If you’d rather a rifle, make it bolt action with a 16” or 18” barrel and a fixed power scope – probably a 2 to 6 power being fine, and a sling.  A magazine of some sort would be nice (tubular, integral, detachable, etc.) but not necessary.  Regardless of handgun or rifle, I would keep a minimum of a 500 round “brick” available.  These come in 50 round boxes and ten boxes are the size of a brick – hence the name.  Chose the high or hyper velocity 40 grain hollow point ammunition and any vermin and small game can easily be bagged.

Those four firearms should form the basis for each individual’s personal battery.  Then you can expand upon it for whatever specific or unique threat or purpose you may face.

For my own immediate family’s use, I have taken the liberty to somewhat bastardize Mel Tappan’s above concepts to be more aligned to the reality in my suburban neighborhood setting today; which unfortunately is way too close to other urban jungles from my viewpoint.  Every member of my nuclear family has either a civilian legalized  version Main Battle Rifle in 7.62x51mm NATO / .308 Winchester caliber or a civilian legalized version ‘Assault’ Rifle in 5.56x45mm NATO / .223 Remington caliber.  Both types have up to 15 round detachable box magazines, but 10 round magazines are most prevalent, and slings.  Every member of my nuclear family has a Defensive auto loading pistol in .45 ACP or 9mm Parabellum calibers with between 7 and 15 round magazines and a duty type belt holster.  Every member of my nuclear family has a pump action Riot Shotgun in 12 gauge with a 3” chambering with 5 to 8 round tubular magazines.  Every member of my nuclear family has a rimfire of some sort (pistol or rifle adapter or a rifle or pistol itself) in .22 Long Rifle caliber with up to 10 round magazines.

In accordance with Mel Tappan’s original concept, I have also to add one more firearm type to each person’s battery.  Every member of my nuclear family also has what is known as a Backup or Hideout Pistol and an ankle holster.  They are of the same caliber as their Defensive Pistol, and in most cases with same magazine capability, having magazine capacities of 5 to 15 rounds.

While perhaps on first glance this may appear somewhat of an overkill in concept, when one takes into consideration that Mel Tappan was concerned with surviving in a rural farm region far from even a suburban town with good hunting and like minded indigenous personnel around him; when the manure hits the fan we will have to deal with severe security issues in a populous nanny state and probably would have to literally shoot our way out or remain buttoned up while turning our home into a small built up fighting position.

Either way it more than likely will be a target rich environment with lots of zombies!  Better to be properly prepared and not need all this hardware then to need the hardware and not have it available.

I would never want this “Get Out Of Dodge” (G.O.O.D.) scenario to ever develop, but if it there is a catastrophic event I feel confident my immediate family could (if necessary) shoot our way out to safety at our bug out location and restart our lives from there.  However it is such an extreme situation, I don’t see anything ‘GOOD’ coming out of it other than perhaps we would be able to survive the initial scrape.

Firearms are only one part of the overall survival equation.  Water harvesting is important.  Food storage is important.  Power generation is important.  Overall security is important.  Safety is important; especially firearms safety.  Health and physical fitness is important.  Tactics and outdoor living are important.  There are many, many pieces to the puzzle which are all equally important in their own ways.

I follow a very simple supposition based upon the ‘rules of three in death’.  Death is only 3 seconds away in a security situation in which someone is trying to kill you and you cannot adequately protect yourself (hence the need for firearms).  Death is only 3 minutes away in a situation where you cannot breath (drowning, fire/smoke condition, structural collapse, etc.).  Death is only 3 hours away in a situation where you are exposed to the elements of mother nature without adequate protection (need for clothing and shelter).  Death is only 3 days away without potable water (dehydration).  Death is only 3 weeks away without an adequate food supply (malnourishment).  Death is only 3 months away without a support network of family, friends, and like minded neighbors.  Death is only 3 years away without order and common defenses involving the community or a government of the people.

This is a very, very serious matter which will require thorough planning on your part, dedication to acquire the tools and equipment and skills and developing the necessary mindset you deem appropriate for your planned actions.  The will to not only follow through with you preparedness planning – but to implement and execute your plan when your set trip wire activation points occur and the thin veneer of society is rolled back in a catastrophic event or natural disaster or failure of government.  Whatever the cause, will you be ready?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

When compiling a list of our survival necessities, we end up with a few basic categories: food, fuel, shelter, water, and protection. Stranded in the wilds, or a deserted island, water is the most important. Shelter comes in a close second, followed by fuel for water purification, food preparation, and sanitation, and ending with food for sustenance. If you add a sharpened stick, perhaps topped with a sharp rock, bone, or metal point, you can protect yourself from wild animals, kill or spear game and fish, and most importantly, fend off adversaries intent on taking your necessities for themselves, or harming or killing you.

In the modern context, our firearms provide the ability to protect our homes and persons from those criminals, or as recent national events have revealed, a movement by government officials, to strip that right of self protection from us to further an agenda of repression and abuse disguised as the philosophy of distribution of equal necessity and eventual misery to all of us. The push to limit, or remove from us, the most efficient firearms available, has been promoted alongside the limiting of magazine capacity, and even the quantity of rounds of ammunition at time of purchase, or acquired through the mail in bulk. We may retain the right to possess a semi-automatic self-loading rifle, and even make do with limited capacity magazines, but if the ability to fill those magazines with ammunition is curtailed, or out-right denied, then we are in serious trouble. You may have a gun safe loaded up with several rifles, and a few magazines, but if you run out of ammunition, you’ll end up with an expensive, un-wieldy club.
My wife and I have enjoyed ten years of participation in the shooting sports, namely Cowboy Action Shooting (CAS). This discipline has allowed us to travel across the United States and make many friends and hone our rifle, shotgun, and pistol shooting abilities. One of the first things we became aware of, was the fact that if we competed more than once a month, we would incur a significant cost of purchasing commercially manufactured ammunition. When I started shooting CAS back in 2003, I could buy a box of 50 rounds of Winchester .45 colt “cowboy” loads for $17.99, and a box of shotgun shells for $ 2.99. That added up to about $40 per match.

Now, a box of both rifle/pistol, and a box of shotgun cowboy rounds is about double that, approaching $80. Most CAS shooters shoot more than one match a month, and the average is 3 matches or so locally. That adds up to quite a bit of money. We were fortunate to have close friends gift us a Dillon 550B and dies as a wedding gift, (we met through mutual friends while CAS shooting) and I found I could drop the $17.99 cost of  box of .45’s down to $3!. My monthly ammunition coast plummeted from 80 per match, down to $6, and then I found a used Lee Load-all 12 gauge shotgun loader, and further dropped my shotgun shell per box cost down to 1/3 of the coast of a commercially loaded box, while adjusting the shot and powder load down to a comfortable “feather-light” type shell. I helped a friend sell bullets he started casting after he bought a lead bullet casting machine, and was making and selling cowboy-type lead bullets at quite a savings. Now all I had to do was buy powder and primers, and re-use my brass, to further drop my cost down to about $2 a box for both rifle/pistol AND shotgun shells.

Back a few years ago, post-election, and fear-driven, ammo sales and availability cleaned out most shelves of stock. Not for us, we had always have components on hand, as we shoot 3-4 matches per month, and travel to larger state and regional shoots requiring double the normal amount of ammunition. Fortunately as well, we are constantly running into folks who have bulk amounts of primers and other components, which we buy at a savings over sporting goods, or box stores. The shortage never impacted us, as we always used the “off” time between competition seasons to load enough rounds to compete in the next season, mostly several thousand in each caliber. My wife shoots .38 Special cartridges in her rifle and pistol, and I shoot .45 Colts in mine. I spent any time after getting our handgun cartridges loaded, to loading as many 12 gauge shotgun shells as I could, just for that “rainy day.”

For the prepper, or even average gun owner, who see’s the hand-writing on the wall, and is concerned about the availability of rifle, pistol, or shotgun ammunition, or for those who just want to invest a small amount to save on future is ammo costs, or even to add a universally needed survival commodity to their barter stock, or home mini-store, ammunition reloading equipment is a great choice.

Getting started in reloading ammunition is very easy. You can start out with a single-stage or multiple-die turret-style press, and move up as you wish to a the next stage, which is a manually indexed press, all the way up to a fully-automatic self-indexing commercial ammunition reloading press. Most all major manufacturers of reloading presses, have a life-time warranty on the units, covering replacement of parts and even some add-on accessories damaged or broken during normal usage.

Single-stage presses, such as those from RCBS and Lee Precision are extremely well-made, and can last several generations. RCBS makes  several single-stage presses you can find used for under $100 such as the RCBS Rock Chucker from Midway which when new comes as a kit with everything you need to start loading. If you buy just the press, you simply purchases a set of 3-4 stage dies in the favorite caliber, and a 50 or 100 round loading plate, in order to process the cartridges 50-100 at a time. First you would  de-cap and size the cleaned cases, re-prime either with the priming die, or by sizing, and then hand-priming with a hand-held primer tool. Then the powder charges are measured out with either a pre-measured powder dipper, (Lee Precision makes the universal set of graduated dippers in a set) and dropped into the primed cases, then the seating and crimp die is screwed into the press and the primed and charged cases and topped with a bullet, and rammed up into the die to produce a finished cartridge.

The Dillon 550B is a very popular press, used by 80% of the cowboy action shooters, and it’s set-up with a set of separately purchased dies, which consist of the case forming/de-priming die, the case belling / powder charging die, which has a automatic pre-set powder measure atop it, actuated by the up-thrust of the sized and primed case into the die, the operator then manually indexes the entire case plate to the next die where he places a bullet atop the charged, and primed case which seats the bullet to the proper depth, and then indexes it around to the final crimp die which crimps the bullet firmly into the case, producing a finished bullet. The Dillon press has an automatic primer feed device, which one pre-loads with 100 or so primers in a tube which places, and seats, a primer automatically into the case after the de-priming action has completed its action. The Dillon is sturdy, easy to adjust, and it’s easy to remove a case midway through the loading sequence to check powder charge, etc., by removing station holding pins at any point. The operator is required to only perform two manual moves, to place an empty case in the first station, the de-prime/sizing die station, and then place a bullet atop the charged/primed case at the third station, all the while rotating, or indexing the base-plate with finger movement, which positions the cases under each appropriate progressive die in the sequence.
Dillon makes a basic single-stage-type hybrid press, the 550 both a bit less expensive, but upgrade called the Square Deal B without some of the 550B’s features, and also an XL 650 with an auto-indexing feature, an auto-case feeding feature etc.  Dillon makes a commercial grade automatic-type press as well if you want to get into mass production and cartridge sales, the SL 900.

A Lee Turret-style press is a take-off on the moving base-plate type press, and the 3-4 dies are positioned atop a rotating top plate mount, while the cases remain stationary below them. Priming and charging the cases with powder are done manually be the operator, although a auto-prime attachment can also be purchased and affixed to take care of this function. This type of press is most often used in reloading at a slower rate, in reloading rifle cartridges, especially shouldered rifle caliber cases.

Lee Precision makes an automatic pistol caliber press called the Lee Pro 1000.  Lee also makes an upgrade as well, the Lee Load Master. It functions very similarly to the Dillon 550B, with the exception of the unit costing much less, and it is auto-indexing, however the down-side is that the priming mechanism is gravity fed, and if the mechanisms are not kept stringently clean, and full of primers, the occasional un-primed case will make its way through to the end. It’s harder to remove a case mid-way through the process to double-check for powder or other component, unlike the Dillon, which is fairly easy to do so. The operator is only required to perform one hand function, aside from operating the press operating handle, which is to place a bullet onto the charged /primed case. This is because the Lee is equipped with a case-feeder, which collates, and sorts, rim-down, cases, after a handful is dropped into the top of the case feeder device funnel.

Having been a prepper for many years, harkening back to the late-1970s “survivalist” movement when the Oregon Rogue River was the destination of many like-minded individualists, I easily saw how accumulating the proper reloading equipment would come in handy. 

The first reloading press I bought, was on the internet at one of the CAS sites where shooting-related merchandise was sold. It was an RCBS single-stage press, for $50 shipping included. I picked up the loading block, and components at my local gun shop, and stared reading up on my new hobby. The first few years shooting under the rules of the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) in cowboy action shooting, I reloaded black powder, and black powder substitutes for rifle/pistol, and 12 gauge. The substitute black powder was easier to clean up, and more forgiving with loading data. I sold the press for $75, after loading many thousands of rounds on it. The Dillon 550B is a great machine, and setting one up is fairly easy. I acquired a video-tape of the set-up, which answered many questions for a beginner such as me, and any time I had a broken part, I could call toll-free, and would get replacements at no cost. Many of the larger shoots we attended have prize drawings included with the shoot registration, and many time Dillon 550B, and even auto-indexing XL 650’s would be given away as prizes to a lucky few. One that note, you can buy a 550B and add on case feeding devices and other upgrades.

I found a used Lee Pro 1000 for $75 at a cowboy shoot swap table, and apparently the owner had a few “mechanical” issues with it, as he had broken a few parts, and rather than call and get free replacements, he had rigged the thing up with fishing snap-swivels and discarded the case feeder tubes when they got bent. I called Lee and bought a collator for it, and they sent me replacement plastic case feeder tubes and the proper linkage for free along with it. It is not as forgiving a the Dillon, but is quite a bit faster once you get it all dialed in. It’s a love-hate thing.

Once the last two elections solidified in my mind the almost inevitability of the political atmosphere's left-leaning swing towards firearms, magazines and gun ownership, I decided to accumulate as many common caliber die sets and components as possible, 9mm, .30-30, .380, .38, .45 ACP, 7.62x39, .308, and 30-06. That way I could re-load for anyone that happened to need ammunition post-TEOTWAWKI. I can use this set-up as barter fodder, and have stock-piled primers, brass, bullets, and shot. For this enterprise. Speaking of the later, one can find lots of re-claimed shot at most gun ranges now days, since the anti-lead environmental extremists have made enough noise to force gun ranges to either contract to have the lead removed, or they do it themselves, and re-bag it for resale.

I can buy a bag of pre-sorted and cleaned recycled shot for $24 per 25 pound bag, as opposed to paying $46 currently at a local sporting goods chain.

A company called Corbin makes bullet-bases disks to swage onto the base of lead bullets, so his one can load them into rifle cartridges without the lead bullets leading the barrels. This is essential when loading battle-rifle cartridges in 7.62, and .223/5.56 calibers. Since I have several rifles in pistol caliber, both .38 and .45 Colt, plus several sets of single-action pistols in the same calibers, I plan on using them post-TEOTWAWKI around the homestead, and saving my 7.62 ,.223, and like caliber loaded commercially for heavy engagements. As long as I have powder, lead, primers, re-usable brass cases in .38,. .45 Colt, and ..45 ACP, I’m calling it good for the long haul.

I would encourage anyone who has firearms to look into reloading as a way to provide an almost un-ending supply of ammunition if TSHTF. Ammunition to use to protect your own household, and to use to barter for goods and services.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Mr. Rawles
I would like to share with you an automated ("Bot") web site, that is currently in beta test, which hounds the Internet for current, in stock ammo.  It lists various calibers (5.56, 762x39, 7.62, 9mm,), brand, etc.  I discovered this when reading the Western Rifle Shooters Association blog.

Best Regards, - G.H.

Monday, February 11, 2013

This afternoon I went to the 3 day gun show (Friday 3-8 and all day Sat, Sun) which began on Friday at 3PM.  Being retired it was easy for me to go but clearly a very large number of people left work early to get ahead of the Saturday morning crowds.

So we all got the Friday afternoon crowd instead!

Parking in a disabled slot, a gentleman in security noted that I was a 100 percent disabled Veteran and allowed me to walk straight in rather than wait in either of the two lines which went at least 500 meters in either direction.  The line was far bigger than I've ever seen.  It was astonishing!

Once in the door the line went straight to the back where the ammo dealers were.  The dealers were advising people to not even shop for themselves but to simply line up for the cash register and tell their staff what ammo they wanted and it would be handed to them as they waited for their turn to pay.  No mention of brands, just calibers and quantities.  

It reminded e of the old Soviet Union and people lining up to buy shoes.  "I'll take a case of .223, five boxes of .45 ACP and three boxes of 9mm and a box of .38 Special if you have it.  They would move along the line and await their ration and turn to pay.

Everyone bitched about the prices and the profiteering but few left the line.  They just adjusted what they were willing to buy or what they were willing to spend to match the new reality.  

Shooter grade ammo in .223 and.308 was a buck a round!  AK ammo was only slightly less.  And that was the price by the case!  A 1,000 round case was $1,000.  No negotiation.  No discount.

I bought two ammo cans of Lake City GI issue M2 ball .30-06 in en bloc clips to feed my M1 Garand rifles for a comparative bargain price as most people were in a feeding frenzy for the modern stuff.  Luckily I had stocked up before the election so I just shook my head and figured I'd wait for the furor to die down in a year or so.

Magpul PMAGs were averaging $50 to $60 each. As low as $45 if you bought in quantity or were a regular customer of the dealer.  [JWR Adds: These magazines were selling for as little as $11 wholesale and $16 retail, just before the frenzy.]

Genuine AK mags were $60 bucks each.  Perhaps somebody had them at a better price but I never saw them except for the cheap plastic junk.  

Cruddy old metric FN FAL mags that had sold for $4 each were $20 each.

I brought along a marginal quality Vulcan flat top AR and it was quickly snatched up for $1,600 within minutes of my walking in the door.  Most people were asking $2,000 for ARs but mine was an off-brand and a plain Jane version which I didn't really like.  Besides, I have a half dozen better ones at home so I was happy to unload it for a hefty profit.

Oh, just so you understand, people were BUYING.   Why?  

Because they knew that on Saturday most dealers would be sold out and there would be nothing at any price.  It reminded me of the panic before a blizzard hits when people strip the stores.

Most buyers said they believed there would be a ban and or confiscation.  Some said they were expecting an economic and society collapse.  A few said they believed we were about to have all of the above and it would cause a civil war between the Constitutionalists and the Federalists.

Best Regards, - Gunwriter

JWR Replies: Reader K.A.F. recently sent me the link to article that dovetails with comments, nicely: SITREP.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Dear JWR:
I currently live in the People's Republic of Illinois and have seen the mad dash for ammo and firearms make it very difficult to acquire even the standard .22 Long Rifle rimfire ammo that until a few months ago could be purchased by the case at nearly any Wal-Mart, gun shop, or sporting goods store. Recently when browsing the aisles of both Bass Pro Shop and Wal-Mart I noticed something rather peculiar: that .22 Magnum ammunition was aplenty. This struck me as really odd that .22 Magnum was even being sold in bulk packs (CCI brand) at Bass Pro with no purchase limits. It appeared as though one could easily (even now) buy 5,000 rounds of .22 Magnum without so much as a single person to compete with for it. My thoughts are now leaning towards acquiring a Kel-Tec PMR-30 [30-round .22 Magnum pistol] as well as a decent bolt-action (also in .22 Magnum) so as to provide myself the flexibility to buy this ammo even in times when other calibers may be hard to come by.

Your thoughts and opinion would be appreciated. Thanks, - K.

JWR Replies: That might be a good mitigation plan for our current circumstances. But keep in mind that even after the current shortages end that the cost per round for .22 Magnum will always be substantially higher--which makes target shooting more expensive. Hearing protection is also crucial with this cartridge. Our friends at Chuckhawks provide some background info and here are some ballistics comparisons. Yes, the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (WMR) has substantially more energy than .22 LR, but it is quite expensive.

You should also consider that WTSHTF, the current supply situation may be reversed to the longer term norm, for barter. (Since .22 LR is ubiquitous, while .22 Magnum will always be the much more expensive oddball.) So stock up heavily if you opt for .22 Magnum rimfires.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

As Seen on TV – My Humble Beginnings
I admit I've watched just about every episode out there from all of the popular survival shows – Survivorman, Beyond Survival, Man vs. Wild, Dual Survival, Man Woman Wild, and yes, even Worst Case Scenario with Bear Gryllis . I ate it all up. Those shows got me hooked on wilderness survival. My Christmas and birthday lists went from a focus on video games and computer upgrades to things like paracord, solar blankets, magnesium fire starters, etc. I also got a few great books that gave me vast amounts of knowledge. Everything I stocked up on I saw as something to use should the power go out, the car break down, etc. This is all before the term prepper went mainstream. I didn't consider myself a 'prepper' at this point – just someone who prepared for a few emergency scenarios. Then I saw the first season of The Colony. That got me thinking about home security and stocking food. There was nothing romantic about The Colony like there was with the other shows. I quickly realized my problem – I didn't live in or near the wilderness. I have always been, and will most likely always be, a suburbanite. I had my wife watch the episodes with me so we could talk about what we would do. How would we fare in that situation? Unfortunately, that's all it was at that point – just talk, no action.

My Reality Check – Survival School

For my birthday, my wife registered me and my brother for a wilderness survival school in Florida ( I had an absolute blast there and realized something very important. Seeing how to do things on television is no comparison to doing it in real life! I know – common sense right? Before the class, I was completely confident that I could make a friction fire or snare some dinner if I had to. Not only did I learn many important basics in the school, but I also got a lot of hands-on experience on making a knee-high fire in no time, building a proper debris shelter, as well as a plethora of other life-saving skills. I would highly suggest all of you out there to get registered for a course. Get your hands dirty. Better yet, bring your spouse or your friends along. You don't want to be in a life-or-death situation to try something for the first time, especially something as important as making shelter or fire. Practice, practice, practice! If you look at some survival school schedules, you'll see that there are discounts many times or even free classes posted (!

Podcasts – Free Information on Just About Anything

Next to YouTube, you can find a podcast for just about anything – from investing, to gaming, to travel – even Prepping. If there was any podcast that got me into the whole 'prepper' movement, it was In The Rabbit Hole ( I did try out some others, but for the most part, the hosts always seemed a little odd or too political for my tastes. These guys (Aaron and Jonathan) were my gateway to prepping – I quickly found many other sites (,, etc) and people to follow, like Lisa Bedford (, who often has free webinars. I give a lot of credit to these guys in getting me up to speed. This is about the time I started considering myself a 'prepper'. Some of their episodes that were eye-opening to me included being 'gray', home schooling, survival skills vs survival gear, situational awareness, bug out bags and every day carries…I could keep listing more and more. Every episode was filled with so much useful knowledge. They also have a great forum and unbiased gear reviews. If you're new to, or just plain interested in, prepping, I would start with these guys. You can download their episodes and listen to them whenever you like.

Don't let your quest for knowledge stop there. The Internet is full of free resources and advice. Get out there and search for other forums. Get involved. Ask questions. Find a group of preppers with the similar mindset you can share ideas with.

Food Storage & Gadgets on the Cheap

There's a very simple method called "copy canning" ( for food storage that anyone can put in the practice right away. I believe I first heard about this on In The Rabbit Hole.It doesn't involve going overboard buying $5,000 worth of freeze dried food. Well, if you can afford to do that, more power to you! For the rest of us, this is a great, affordable method. The article has a lot of information, but here's the most simplistic way to look at it: Every time you go to the store and buy a can or box of food, buy an extra one (or more if you can afford it). That way you know you're buying what you already eat. When you get home, always put the newer items in the back. Then, eat the older stuff. A lot of people who stock up on food mistakenly stock up on foods they have never tried before. There's no point in buying 3-months of food that no one in the family will go near. With copy canning and the information in the article above, you can stock up on plenty of the things you already use. Even if you're not 'prepping' per-say, think of it as a hedge on inflation (as Aaron and Jonathan say). This method can be used for all of your consumables (toothpaste, feminine napkins, toilet paper, soap, etc).

Canned food? Check. I also knew I wanted to get a dehydrator so I could preserve foods and make things like jerky and fruit leathers. Just like anything, you'll always find the best deals online. I watched craigslist for a food dehydrator a month before I spotted a great deal. I paid $80 for an Excalibur 2900. It has 9 trays and comes with waxy paper for making things that would otherwise spill through (like fruit leathers, chilli, etc). It helped that I watched many, many videos from Dehydrate 2 Store ( She has the most helpful and comprehensive videos out there when it comes to dehydrating food. Quick Tip: You don't need to buy more wax paper inserts – I bought a pack of five silicone cutting board sheets and cut them to fit on the dehydration trays. They work like a charm and only cost about $6. So you don't have to pay full price – just be patient and watch the classifieds or Craigslist or eBay. That reminds me, I also found a guy on Craigslist that sells food-grade 55-gallon barrels for $10 each! I now have water storage taken care of as a result. It's all out there, you just have to look!

I recently bought a Foodsaver 3880 kit using a coupon and saved a ton of money on that as well. That in conjunction with my Excalibur makes an unstoppable food storage combination. Did you know the Foodsaver is also good for keeping important documents and electronics protected as well?

It was the food dehydrator that got my wife excited about storing food. It was such an awesome feeling when she came home from shopping and said she bought an extra crate of fruit for us to dehydrate for later. I never thought I would've seen the day. This came from someone who would roll her eyes when I talked about anything prepper-related. Now she regularly buys extra food and consumables from the store to stock up.

Keep in mind this is over a period of about a year and a half. I didn't just go out there and start buying things up right away. Don't prep yourself into debt!

Another quick tip – I have five 1-gallon and ten 5-gallon food grade storage buckets, all of which I got for free. All I do is call my local Wal-Mart and ask to be transferred to the bakery department. I ask if they have any buckets they'd like to get rid of. These usually had icing in them for all the cakes. They cleaned them up and gave them to me for free. Your results may vary, but I've heard this working just about everywhere.

When It's Time to Have The Talk

No, we're not talking about the birds and the bees. We're talking about firearms. Some people are from families that are very open to guns, and some people aren't. Growing up, my family never had a gun in the house. My wife's parents absolutely object to the very thought of guns (thank you media). I always knew I wanted my own firearms. If you don't want anything to do with firearms, I respect your decision as well. You can skip this section.
I turned to people for advice asking how to convince the wife to let me buy some guns. Unfortunately, the most common response was "Just buy them, and she'll learn to live with it. Then you can just keep buying them." Yes, that does work surprisingly well for many people. That's not how I wanted to approach it.

My wife and I are members of a couple different ranges here and have been for a few years now. We'd rent the guns and just shoot for an hour or two. That's about it. Over a period of about three months or so, I would pick times to talk to my wife about the possibility of gun ownership, what it meant to us, and what the pros and cons were. She talked about what scared her most and I would tell her my thoughts. If I didn't have an answer to any of her questions, I would do some research and then tell her what I thought. It was quite a process, but I gained a lot of knowledge (and mutual respect) as a result.
It just so happens I got a gift card to Bass Pro Shop from the survival school I attended. When I asked her if I could use it to buy a Ruger 10/22, she simply said "yes." Had I asked the same question three months prior, I already know what the answer would've been. It would've been a flat out "No Way! No guns in the house!"

I've since gotten my concealed carry permit (again, a gift from my wife) as well as a concealed carry pistol. We still aren't exactly where I want to be yet, but we've taken great leaps forward. I know in the future, if I'm thinking about anything, firearm or anything else, I can talk to her about it. If we decide to purchase something or not, it'll be a mutual decision.
Note: By all means, if you have kids in the house, be sure to take them to an Eddie Eagle class if possible. Our gun range offers them free of charge every few weeks or so. If those aren't offered in your area, teach your kids the proper actions to take should they find a gun.

If any of you are in a situation where your spouse is unwilling to let you purchase a firearm, I urge you to talk things out. Don't Argue. Talk. Respect your spouse. Don't go behind his or her back – while it may be easier, it's not right.
A quick few tips:

  • If you purchase a firearm for defense, get one that you can hit the target with. You don't need the highest caliber known to man. You're no good to yourself or your family if you can't hit someone trying to do you harm.
  • Practice, practice, practice! Again, if you decide to have a firearm, you have a responsibility to know how to use it properly.
  • Get a gun safe (or two) and keep it locked. Too many people are too lazy to lock their safes. Robbers count on this. Especially if you have kids, be sure to lock things up.

The Journey Continues
I've only been actually 'prepping' for about a year and a half now. I think I have food storage down for the most part. I have a way to hunt for food and protect my family. I even have some wilderness survival gear and training. My journey is far from complete, however. I still have things I want to work on, and ideas to talk through with the wife.

Monday, January 28, 2013

If you're serious about survival, you have to have some type of .22 Long Rifle (LR) firearm in your battery. Some will argue against the effectiveness of a .22 LR but I'm not one of them. You can take all manner of small game and fowl, with a well-placed shot from a .22 LR handgun or rifle. And, in a pinch, it will serve as a self-defense weapon as well. No, I'm not advocating the .22 LR as your one and only self-defense firearm, but it will sure do in a pinch, and make the bad guys wish they were some place else.
I've been a fan of Ruger firearms for many, many years - they never cease to amaze me with the new products they come out with every year - they don't sit back on past accomplishments! And, if there is one thing that you can count on with Ruger firearms, its that their products are well-made, strong and reliable. The new Ruger SR22 semiauto handgun was recently released. What we have is a 10 round magazine - and you get two of them with each pistol, as well as two magazine floor plates - one flat and the other with an extension for catching your pinky if you have large hands. I don't know why more gun companies does provide a second magazine with their handguns - it's a must if you ask me!
The SR22 weighs in a 17.5 ounces, with the black polymer frame, and this pistol just feels perfect in the hand, everyone who tried this little pistol loved the way it felt in their hands. Plus, the grip sleeve can be slid off and a different one slides on there for a thicker feel. Everyone preferred the thicker and more curved grip to the slimmer one that was installed on the SR22. The polymer frame has an ambidextrous magazine release, as well as decocker/safety both are easy to manipulate. There is also a Picatinny rail on the front of the frame, for mounting a light or a laser.
The slide has an adjustable rear sight and fixed front sight - 3-dot variety, and you can actually reverse the rear sight blade so that it is completely black if you so desire. The barrel is 3.50-inches, housed in the all black slide, the barrel is fixed in place. Take-down is extremely easy - pull down on the take-down tab inside the trigger guard (on the top of the trigger guard) and you pull back on the slide and lift it up and remove it. Make sure the gun is unloaded first! The SR22 requires very little in the way of lubrication, too!
I fired more than 1,000 rounds of various .22 LR ammo through my SR22 sample, and there was never a single malfunction of any sort - and some of the ammo I used in my testing was very old - some even corroded, but the SR22 just never missed a beat. I was totally impressed to say the least. The two supplied magazines were easy to load, thanks to the tab on the side of the magazine, that you can pull down with your thumb as you load each round into the mag. My SR22 was sighted in for 25 yards and was dead on at that adjustments were required. On average, I was getting 3-inch groups at 25 yards, and that is from a standing, free-hand position. I didn't bench rest the SR22 to see if I could wring more accuracy out of it!
I had more than half a dozen people test-fire my SR22 sample, and each one loved the way it felt, handled and the accuracy. I was so impressed with the SR22, that I bought one for my wife and for one of my daughters for Christmas presents - so they would stop borrowing my sample. On more than one occasion, my wife has "confiscated" one of my firearms samples - never to return it. She likes to say she'll "share" with me - yes, my gun! My daughter took her SR22 out with some friends, and they had no problems with her gun - ditto for my wife's SR22 sample.
Quite frankly, I wasn't going to bother with the SR22, until my friend fellow gun writer John Taffin told me that I just had to get one - he was impressed with his sample, that he did an article on, that I took his word for it, and got my own. I'm glad I did. If you do any camping, backpacking or hiking in the boonies, it's always a good idea to have some kind of firearm on-hand - laws permitting. You never know what you might encounter out on the trail - or just have a day of fun shooting and plinking - a brick of .22 LR ammo doesn't weigh that much, and 500 rounds will give you a fun filled day of shooting. Of course, right now, all caliber of ammo is hard to come by - thanks to the recent anti-gun legislation and Executive Orders that came down the pike. People are buying ammo like there's no tomorrow, and in my area, there isn't a round of .22 LR ammo to be found.
I honestly couldn't find a single thing I didn't like on the SR22 sample - it even comes with a black carrying case, that is included in the box the gun comes in - as well as the massive lock for securing the gun against unauthorized use. One other reason I like Ruger firearms is because they are simple in design - and that equates to less things to break, and more reliability. The SR22 has a retail price of $399 however, as with all Ruger firearms, you can usually find them discounted quite a bit. The SR22 is an absolute best-buy in my book, and it will give you many years of fun and the reliability factor is there - something that can't be said about many .22 LR pistols - many are very picky about what ammo they will 100% work with - not so with the SR22. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A little about me: I am 27 years old, I have been married to my wife for 7 years. We have two boys, ages six and 22 months. Both my wife and I are school teachers; I also coach football and power lifting. So, we are the epitome of the American middle class. I have always enjoyed hunting, camping and the outdoors. So I have developed some basic “outdoorsman” skills throughout my youth and early adult hood.
As a young child and early teen, I was very interested in survival, homesteading, and living off the land. I remember reading Foxfire books with my grandfather and dreaming of becoming a true mountain man. I wanted to be a real Jeremiah Johnson. My grandfather passed away when I was thirteen and I subsequently lost interest because it was something we talked about together. It was just too upsetting to think about without him. Shortly after his passing, I began high school and eventually college and “got caught up in life”.
In the last several months, I have become very interested in emergency preparedness for my family. I was truly overwhelmed with the amount of information I discovered; some of it very good, some so-so, and some just plain off-the-wall. I am writing this in hopes that it will save others in the same situation I was in some time. Just like in any other survival or preparedness situation, time is of the essence.
This article is meant as an introduction for someone who has little to no background information on the subject. This article could also be useful to the serious prepper who never thought about how they would get back to their shelter if a disaster struck while they were “out and about.” This is a “primer” to get people thinking about survival situations. Are there some better choices out there? Possibly. Did I say my suggestions were the cold, hard, fast rules?  No. Take this article as it was meant.
I have run across several three tier survival models in my searching. I have also discovered several good sources for emergency preparedness for bugging out and sheltering in place. I have combined the information in what I am calling 4-Tier Survival. The tiers are as follows:

  • TIER ONE: This is your everyday carry (EDC) on person. You should have this with you 24/7 or as close to 24/7 seven as possible. Basically, if you have pants on, you should have these items with you.
  • TIER TWO: This is your EDC bag. You should have this with you or within reach 24/7. Take it with you to work, the grocery store, running to the gas station, etc. If you walk out the door of your house, it should be with you.
  • TIER THREE: This is your 72 hour kit, bug out bag, SHTF bag, or any of those other catchy names for them. At a minimum you need one. If you only have the funds for one, so be it. But, eventually I would suggest having one for the house, the vehicle and possibly at work if you have the space to store one.
  • TIER FOUR: This is for long term preparedness. This is long-term food and water storage and procurement methods. Always prepare your home to shelter-in-place first. Then, if you have a secondary bug out location, prepare it. Depending on the disaster or emergency you may or may not be able to bug out. On the other hand, you may be forced to evacuate or bug out.

Before I go any farther in this article I want to give you a great piece of advice: Develop and hone your knowledge, ability and skills over the knives, tools and kits. A vast amount of knowledge and skills with a minimum amount of tools will keep you and your family alive a lot longer than a vast amount of tools and minimum amount knowledge and skills will. This may seem contradictory to what this article is about. But, do not lose sight of this advice. Everyone knows someone who has the newest, best whatever it is but no clue how to use it. This makes them look like a fool. Don’t be a fool.
When creating the tiers, I kept in mind the basic needs of a survival situation, shelter, water, fire, food and I am going to add protection. In a the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI) situation, protecting yourself, your family, home, supplies and gear could be a paramount priority. The first three tiers will enable you to get to your fourth tier. We all find ourselves away from
Now, let’s discuss the tools and supplies I feel are needed for each tier. This is by no means the end all, be all list of what is needed. This is what I have come up with for my kits. Feel free to add or take away as you feel necessary. This is based off of my skill set and my family needs. I wanted to condense a lot of information into a single article and basically get you thinking about what you will need. I want you to come up with your own kits. I also wanted to show you that all of the tiers are possible. They will take some time, energy and money, but anyone can do this.
Note: I will not get very technical in the types/brands of items to carry. Use your own judgment; remember, most times you get what you pay for. Also, I go by the mantra, “Two is one, one is none.”
TIER ONE: On-person EDC

  • Blades/Tools
    • Quality folding knife of your choice. Make sure it is sharp. You are more likely to injure yourself trying to cut something with a dull knife than you are using a sharp knife.
    • Quality multi-tool. There are many options available. Look at the type of environment you spend the majority of time in, consider your skills, and use this to decide the brand/style of tool you want to carry.
    • Lock picks/Bogota – I choose NOT to carry these as of now. Remember what I said about skills earlier. I know I don’t have the skills needed to use these. Now, once I develop the skills, they will be added to my EDC.
    • Small compass. Just to get a general direction if needed.
    • Pen and small notepad. I personally like the waterproof kind. Nothing like getting caught in the rain and losing everything you have made notes of.
    • Small survival whistle.
    • Cotton bandana.
    • P-38 can opener. I carry one on my key ring. I forget it is even there, until I need it.
  • Cell Phone
    • Pretty self-explanatory. Pretty much everyone has a cell phone that they carry anyway. [JWR Adds: It is important to also keep a 12 VDC cell phone "car charger" handy.]
  • Cordage
    • 550 Cord. There are lots of different, creative ways to carry. There are bracelets, key fobs, zipper pulls, belts, even lacing your boots/shoes with it. Learn how to braid your own items.
  • Fire
    • Small brand name lighter. Cheap and easy to carry way to start a fire.
    • Small firesteel. Another cheap, easy to carry way to start a fire.
    • Tinder. Could be a magnesium rod, dryer lint, or any brand of quick tinder that is out on the market now, you should know what works. I prefer magnesium rods; they take up less room and are light.
  • Firearm
    • I am not going to start the never-ending conversation of discussing brands and calibers.
    • Find a gun that you can comfortably carry and shoot.
    • Shoot, a lot.
    • Shoot from behind cover, kneeling, sitting, lying down, standing, off hand, from one yard to 25 yards.
    • Shoot some more.
    • Practice reloading, practice reloading behind cover, practice reloading standing, kneeling, lying down, off hand.
    • Practice some more.
  • Light
    • Small flashlight. I personally look for an LED version that runs off of AA or AAA batteries. Look for one that is waterproof or at the very least water resistant.
    • Keychain LED light. Look for one that has a locking on/off switch. These are easier to use in the fact that they do not have to have constant pressure on the switch to illuminate.
  • USB Drive
    • I use my USB drive to store all types of important documents and other information I run across and want to save. I have encrypted my USB drive in case it falls into the wrong hands. (I strongly suggest doing this.) Also, save the information under nondescript names. In other words, don’t save the file as: “Insurance Papers” or “Social Security Cards”, etc.
    • Birth/Marriage Certificates
    • Social Security Cards
    • Driver’s License
    • Insurance Policies/Cards
    • Vehicle Registrations/Insurance
    • Medical/Shot Record
    • Recent Check Stubs/Bank Statements
    • Stocks/Bonds
    • Property Description
    • Another option/addition to this is online file storage. There are many places available on the internet to store files on a remote server and be able to access from any computer or cell phone with internet access.

Some people I have seen carry as much as possible on their keychain. The only thing with that is if you lose your keys, you have lost a lot of your gear. I carry some stuff on my belt, some in pockets and some on a keychain. I have even seen and thought about carrying some items around my neck. Whatever you feel comfortable with and what works for you is best.

Tier two is going to contain pretty much everything from tier one except bigger and better.

  • Blades/Tools
    • Quality fixed blade knife of your choice. Again make sure it is sharp.
    • Sharpening stone.
    • Quality multi-tool. I would look at one to complement the one from tier one. A little larger and possibly features that the other does not have. I personally wouldn’t want the exact same model from tier one. Look at the ones that have the screwdriver possibilities.
    • Small entry bar or pry bar.
    • Larger more reliable compass. Possibly a GPS system if you are so inclined. If you are in a large urban environment, I would have a city map in my EDC bag.
    • Pens and notepad again. Plenty of pens and permanent markers.
    • P-51 can opener.(A scaled-up version of the P-38.)
  • Cell Phone/Communications
    • This is where I would keep a wall charger for my cell phone.
    • I would also think about one of the emergency chargers that run off of batteries at this point.
    • I also carry a pay-as-you go phone in my EDC bag. On some occasions when one service is down, others are still up and running. It’s a cheap insurance policy.
    • Radio of some sort. Depends on your location and abilities.
  • Cordage
    • I would carry no less than 25 feet of 550 cord in my EDC bag. The more the better. Again, options here, braid it to take up less space, key fobs, I’ve seen some braided water bottle carriers. Use your imagination
    • I have run across Kevlar cord, no personal experience with it. But, something I will check out.
    • I would toss in some duct tape and electrical tape here. You can take it off of the cardboard roll and roll it onto itself and it takes up very little room.
    • Possibly some wire, picture hanging wire works well.
    • Possibly some zip ties. Various sizes as you see fit.
    • I also have a couple of carabiners clipped to my bag.
  • Fire
    • Another cheap lighter.
    • Larger firesteel.
    • More tinder. Personally I prefer the magnesium, but whatever you are comfortable with.
  • Firearm
    • I personally don’t see the need to carry a second firearm.
    • I would however warrant the carrying of at least two spare magazines for the handgun in tier one.
  • First-Aid
    • Basic first aid kit.
    • Package of quick slotting agent.
    • Basic EMT shears.
    • Basic pain relievers, fever reducers, upset stomach tablets etc.
    • Small bottle of hand sanitizer.
    • Baby wipes.
  • Food
    • I always carry a couple of energy or meal replacement bars in my bag. If nothing else, I may have to work through lunch and need a snack.
    • Some people will toss a freeze-dried meal or MRE if they have room. Personally, I don’t.
    • A small pack of hard candy.
  • Light
    • I personally prefer a headlamp at this stage. You can use a headlamp as a flashlight; you can’t use a flashlight as a headlamp.
    • If you don’t go the headlamp route, choose a higher quality flashlight than tier one.
    • Extra batteries. On the subject of batteries, do your best to acquire electronic items that use the same size of battery.
    • Another keychain light. I have one attached to the inside of my bag to aid in finding items inside in low-light situations.
    • Some people carry chemical light sticks in their EDC bag. I have found battery operated light sticks that also have a small flashlight in one end I prefer to carry.
  • Shelter
    • I keep a packable rain jacket at all times and depending on the weather a packable pair of rain pants. Remember, your clothing is your first form of shelter.
    • I also keep a couple of “survival” blankets in my bag.
    • I keep a couple of contractor style garbage bags as well.
  • Water
    • I have a stainless steel water bottle that stays in my pack at all times. If I am traveling longer than my normal commute, I will toss in a small collapsible water container.
    • Ziploc bags.
    • Two-part chemical water purifier.
    • Filtering drinking straw.
    • Toss in a couple of standard coffee filters to filter sediment if needed.

Now, bear in mind, my EDC bag is not for long-term survival. I feel like I could sustain myself for several days if I needed to with the contents of my pack. However, that is not its intended use. All of the tiers are designed to sustain you until you can “make it” to the next tier.

My EDC bag is the same bag I use for school every day. Granted I cannot carry a weapon or ammunition into the school building. My point is you don’t want all of your Tier Two items to be so big and bulky that you can’t comfortably carry them. All of this stuff is in addition to my school books and papers and tablet. For those of you that are curious, I prefer a messenger style bag. But, again, whatever works for you and is the most comfortable.

TIER THREE: Larger rucksack or backpack

A lot of people would call this the 72 hour kit. I feel that this is a bit of a misnomer. Granted, 72 hours is a good figure for most people to shoot for. However, I feel that in this stage of the game, you should be able to carry enough to survive indefinitely. 

  • Blades/Tools
    • Quality fixed blade knife. If you want you can double up from tier two. Depends on your requirements. Remember, two is one, one is none.
    • Small quality folding shovel.
    • Quality hatchet.
    • Small machete. If you feel that your knife is up to the task of clearing brush, no need for one. Also, if you are in a true bug out situation where people could be looking for you, you don’t want to clear a highway through the brush.
    • Some type of saw or saw blades. There are some nice pocket chain saws on the market now. Or you could carry blades and fashion your own handle or frame.
    • Tools for forced entry if warranted. Pry bars, bolt cutters, etc.
    • Tool kit. Depends on your location and environment. At the bare minimum carry enough tools to repair anything that you are depending on in a survival situation.
  • Cell Phone/Communications
    • Depending on the level of the disaster cell phones may or may or may not be working.
    • Again, depending on your location and abilities, depends on the type of communications you should carry.
    • One thing I have not seen widely talked about is two way radios. Obviously this would be if more than one person is in your party. However, now you start talking about batteries and chargers.
  • Cordage
    • At least 100 feet of 550 cord.
    • Depending on your environment, climbing rope, harness and gear may be warranted.
    • Tape, electrical and duct.
    • Zip ties, various sizes
    • Wire, picture wire.
    • Carabiners, various sizes.
  • Fire
    • Cheap lighter.
    • Firesteel.
    • Tinder.
    • Camp stove. Small, lightweight, portable. A lot of good information about this out there. Pay special attention to the type of fuel that the stove you select uses.
  • Firearm

This depends on the type of situation you are in. I will list the types of firearms I would have, not necessarily carry, and reasons why. If this is a true bug out situation obviously the adults in your party could carry at least one, more than likely two, long guns.

    • We have already discussed a handgun.
    • “Modern Sporting Rifle”. Be it an AR based platform, an AK-47, Mini-14 etc. I personally like the AR platform. However, A’s can be a bit finicky if not properly cleaned and maintained. Something you may not be able to do well in a TEOTWAWKI situation. So, I would grab an AK-47. Whatever your budget and preference lead you to.
    • .22 caliber rifle. There are many options, I personally recommend the Ruger 10-22. There are several collapsible stocks available. This is for hunting small game.
    • Home defense shotgun. I would suggest a 12 gauge. The options and setups are endless. You can go as mild or as wild as your budget and imagination allow. This is not something I would necessarily always grab. However, this is something I feel that no home should be without. The sound of a shell racking into the chamber of a pump shotgun is a sound that will deter most people without even firing a shot.
    • Extra magazines and ammunition.
  • First-Aid
    • More advanced first aid kit. There are pre-made ones on the market or come up with your own.
    • Quick clotting agent.
    • EMT Shears.
    • Pain relievers, fever reducers, upset stomach pills, etc.
    • A week’s supply of any prescription medications.
    • Any supply of antibiotics or narcotics that you can procure.
    • Knowledge of natural/herbal remedies. Here is a great area where knowledge can help you a lot longer than supplies can.
  • Food
    • If you want to put in a three day supply of freeze-dried meals or MRE’s. Go for it. But here is where procuring your own food will come in handy.
    • I would suggest some type of mess style kit for cooking. Again, your choice.
    • Fishing kit. Fishing line, assortment of hooks, sinkers and artificial bait if desired.
    • Fishing “yo-yo” traps. Can be set and left alone to catch fish while you are doing some other task. I feel these are a necessity. They are light and take up little room.
    • Snare kit. I would suggest several pre-made snares and supplies to create more.
    • Traps. Connibear style traps, an assortment of sizes. 4-6 is all you should need.
    • Frog gigs. Could also be used for spearing fish, depending on your location.
    • You also have a firearm for taking small or large game.
    • Knowledge of wild edibles in your area or bug out location.
  • Light
    • Again, I would suggest a headlamp and extra batteries.
    • Use your discretion for what else you may want/need.
  • Shelter
    • Two changes of clothes. One for warm weather and one for cool/cold weather. Again depending on your environment.
    • I would suggest at least 3 pair of underwear and 6 pair of socks.
    • Packable rain gear.
    • Quality bivy style shelter or tarp.
    • Quality sleeping bag. Again, do some research. See what fits your needs and budget.
    • Sleeping pad if wanted.
    • Possibly a pocket style hammock.
  • Water
    • Stainless steel water bottle.
    • Chemical water treatment.
    • Water filter/purifier. Again, look at your budget and needs. There are several nice options out there.
    • Coffee filters for straining out sediment.
    • Collapsible water storage.


TIER FOUR: Long term preparedness.
Even though this is the largest of all the tiers, I will probably go into the least amount of detail. There are many great sources of information concerning long term preparedness, being one of the best, if not the best, in my opinion.

  • Blades/Tools
    • Obviously any blade or tool previously discussed. Except full size versions.
    • An ax, saws, shovels, garden hoes, rakes, etc.
    • Possibly a plow, seeder, etc, for planting a garden.
    • Variety of hand tools.
    • Automotive tools, carpentry tools, etc.
    • Sewing machine, needles, thread, clothing patterns, etc.
    • Begin thinking of ways you can use your tools and knowledge to develop a skill that can be used for trade or barter.
  • Communication
    • Short wave radios, ham radios, etc.
    • Two way radios.
  • Cordage
    • Large amounts of any cordage or supplies under cordage already discussed.
  • Fire
    • Cast iron stove.
    • Fireplace.
    • Begin thinking now about how you will be heating your home in the winter. Think about how you will be cooking your meals. Also, think about how you will get fuel for your fire.
  • Firearms
    • We discussed in tier three the types of firearms I felt were needed.
    • Begin thinking about amount of ammo you can and are willing to stockpile.
    • Begin thinking about reloading your own ammunition. Begin thinking about stockpiling supplies. This can be turned into great bartering items.
  • First Aid
    • Begin developing a large first aid supply. Think about what you will need to do without a doctor present. Suture kits, surgical kit, trauma kit, etc. There will be no running to the emergency room.
    • Begin thinking about dental supplies. Again, there will possibly be no dentists to go to.
    • Again, knowledge is key in this situation. There are some good books about this type of thing. Take a first aid class, learn CPR. Learn as much as you possibly can.
    • Study about and begin stockpiling medications.
  • Food
    • There are many more articles to be written and read on this subject alone.
    • Start developing a small reserve of foods that you eat on a regular basis that have a long shelf life. Start with a week; go to a month, then three months, then a year, then longer.
    • Begin thinking now about storage. A year’s supply of food for your family will take up a considerable amount of space.
    • Expand on the amount of items you have from tier three. Increase the number of traps and snares you have.
    • Think about obtaining a variety of seeds to plant in your garden.
    • Again, there is a vast amount of information to be found on this subject alone. The main thing I want you to understand is this is doable, on any income. Start small and work your way up to larger quantities.
    • Do not get yourself into a financial burden by going out and buying a year’s supply of food at one time.
  • Light
    • Begin obtaining lanterns, fuel, mantles, etc.
    • Begin thinking about candles and candle making.
    • If you are so inclined, begin thinking about solar panels for your home or shelter location.
  • Shelter
    • Begin making those small repairs to your home. Things that may be fairly quickly and easily fixed now may not be so easily fixed later. I’m not talking kitchen remodeling; I’m talking leaky faucets, broken windows, drafty doors, etc.
    • Think about having a metal roof installed if you don’t have one already.
    • This is the time to think about a secondary survival location. A remote, rural location. Think of this as an investment. It could be used now as a vacation spot. Use it later as a retirement home.
  • Water
    • Begin storing water. Think not only about drinking, but also cooking and cleaning.
    • Again, start small. Begin with a few days worth; then weeks and months.
    • Start thinking about long-term procurement and storage. Gutters that empty into water storage, etc. Think also about purification on a large scale.
  • Miscellaneous Things to Thing About
    • Sit down and make a list of normal, everyday things that you do around your house, cleaning, washing, “personal” business, entertainment, etc.
    • These are activities that require items that you will not be able to run down to the store to get.
    • Toiletries. Soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper, razors, shaving cream, feminine hygiene, etc.
    • Cleaning. Bleach, disinfectant, dish soap, laundry detergent, etc.
    • Entertainment. Cards, board games, puzzles, books, etc.
    • Think about large quantity storage of fuel; for cooking, heating, anything with an internal combustion engine, etc.


Again, I have very briefly touched on long term preparedness. There are numerous articles and books on long term preparedness. Read them. This is meant merely as a primer to get you thinking about long term survival.

I hope you use this article as it was meant; to give you some basic information on survival and get you thinking about survival situations. Remember to develop your skills, knowledge and abilities over the amount of tools and supplies you have. I cannot stress this enough. Read, listen to others, take classes, and always be open to new ideas and opinions. You will find things that will work for you; and just as importantly, you will find things that will not work for you.

Take the time to use the skills and tools you acquire. Go camping, use primitive methods to start a fire, gather food and water, cook over an open flame. Once you think you are ready to test your preparedness, turn the breaker off to your house, and turn off the gas main and water main. Do this for a weekend. You will quickly find your shortcomings and deficiencies. You will also find the things that you have done well on.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Brother Rawles,
Thank you to you and Ulysses in Montana for the detailed article on .308 battle rifles.  The current political environment kicked me into high gear, buying one.  Ulysses information helped me out tremendously.  It will help me save time and money on getting familiar with a new caliber and rifle.  In the beginning hours of the Gun Grab I picked up an Armalite AR-10 lower receiver and mags. I've got a number of 5.56 AR's but have been putting off getting my "dream" rifle for a couple of years.  Depending on what happens in Washington DC, I might trade it toward a FAL or build the .308 Armalite. 
There's a lot of people who argue with their spouse's upset over their firearm purchases.  I've had to explain to my wife that I'm expending a large part of my lifetime's firearm budget in a short period of time...and not by choice.  It's either now or never.  We had a heart to heart discussion about it and have had to make some sacrifice's in some other area's for a short period of time.  She's been supportive but I regret not explaining things to her better at the beginning.  One silver lining of this situation is learning to be a better husband and mate. 
Thank you for years of telling us to stock up on magazines and all the information you share. God bless you and yours, - K. in Richland, Washington 

JWR Replies: I've mentioned this before, but given the exigencies of the politics of the day, it bears repetition: Stock up on magazines before a ban. Magazines should be your highest purchasing priority.

In the worst case there will be a Federal production ban on battle rifles and magazines with no grandfather clause. But failing that, I expect to read of a "bi-partisan compromise" for "...only a magazine ban." And this compromise will be labeled by the mass media as a huge disappointment for the Democrat party. (Isn't incrementalism devious?)

But even if a magazine ban fails in Congress, then we can expect an import ban via Executive Order! I've been warning you since 2007. It is time to get serious about buying full capacity magazines, even if it means running up a balance on your credit card for a couple of months. (And this is coming from someone who is adverse to consumer credit!) In three or four year, when a 19-round Glock magazine is selling for $200, you'll be glad that you did!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Like a lot of guys I did some shooting and hunting while growing up, only to set it aside in early adulthood as the frantic task of making it in life overcame interest in such ‘boyish’ pursuits.  When I returned to shooting later on it was with an emphasis on self-defense, particularly pistol shooting, which provided a fresh and stimulating way to ease back into it, as I had previously never fired a pistol.  I quickly settled on the Glock models in .45 ACP, keeping it simple and relatively inexpensive, and have kept at it steadily ever since, wanting above all to maintain proficiency and competence should I ever need to defend myself, my family, or other innocents.

This along with a shotgun or two kept me busy and satisfied for a while, until I decided I should get a rifle to work with, and the AR-15 seemed the logical choice.  It was then I started to learn more about our rights and freedoms, our direct link to the American Revolution, and the threats we face by those hostile to the whole idea of citizens as ‘people of arms,’ and my responsibility and role in exercising, preserving, and defending those freedoms.  It was an eye opener.  In retrospect it’s easy to see I was naive, one of the ‘sheeple’ we often allude to, but having always hated and successfully avoided fighting situations in my adult life, like many modern people the idea of needing to fight with a gun seemed remote and distant, and years of martial arts training filled what would otherwise have been a void in my defense needs.  But suddenly I recognized that ‘gun rights’ are really human rights, rights that are always at risk by forces that never quit.

And so I got the bug and started reading a lot as well as shooting regularly, enjoying my new hobby and the educational experience, always with an eye towards what is practical, limiting my interest to common types of firearms in common calibers.  When I first picked up Boston’s Gun Bible by Boston T. Party, I figured I’d read only parts of it, treating it as a reference, as it is a large book and covers a wide range of subjects.  But I must have read the whole thing several times.  I was especially fascinated by the main body of the text, having to do with .308 (7.62x51mm) semi auto Battle Rifles.  He goes into it in exhaustive (and exhausting) detail, comparing the three main versions, and while some parts of it are more interesting than others, he explains his reasoning and motivations, and he’s a good writer.  Many of you, perhaps most, are already quite familiar with it, and I won’t rehash any of it here.  If you haven’t seen it, and are interested in Battle Rifles, it can serve as a good reference, particularly if you’ve yet to choose a particular rifle type (or ‘platform’) or make a first purchase.

As lengthy as Boston’s book is on the subject, it is not the final word nor does it provide a complete picture as to the options presently available to us.  New models and manufacturers have come on the scene since the book was written, and all of these have an evolving track record potential buyers should be aware of.  I actually own at least one version of each of the three types, as well as a couple of other types, all acquired in recent years.  And while I do have preferences I enjoy shooting them all.  I like getting to know them, understanding the different mechanisms, keeping them running, troubleshooting problems as they invariably arise, and learning their strengths and weaknesses.  They can all do the same job almost equally well.  It is the magnificent capability and proven track record I admire and appreciate; shooting comfort and enjoyment is secondary – choosing a good, solid weapon comes first, and then I learn to get comfortable with it.  So I won’t be praising one type of rifle and disparaging the others, as you often see on various forums.  I’ll do my best to give them each a fair shake.

Briefly, let’s look at some of the reasons why a citizen would consider a .308 Battle Rifle worthwhile or even essential to have at their disposal.  The rifle, in general, has been called ‘liberty’s teeth,’ and with good reason.  Just as we all have rights to life and liberty, we all have a responsibility to safeguard and defend our lives and our liberty: rights and responsibilities go together.  And while a pistol or shotgun may suffice for personal or home defense, any broader mission, whether it’s defending our immediate community or something larger, requires a group or populace armed with rifles.  So part of having a rifle – as a weapon – is just a matter of good citizenship.  And among the capabilities of rifles of all sorts, there is little that a semi auto .308 Battle Rifle cannot do.  Ballistically similar to the .30-06, the .308 can punch through cover that the 223 (5.56x45mm) cannot, and a Battle Rifle, with its 20-round magazine, can be used to hit man-sized targets in excess of 500 yards as fast as you can aim and fire.  Nothing else can hit that hard, that fast, and with such a reach.  In my opinion it is the ultimate hand-held weapon, the most powerful weapon a citizen can wield.

So the goal of this article is to provide a useful review of the rifles and my experiences with them, to help you navigate your options in order to find the right fit for you or your group, and in general hope to give you an interesting read, regardless of your level of shooting experience.  And while any prepping subject can seem overwhelming at times, with firearms and shooting it’s possible to keep it simple and fun as we acquire our expertise and our gear.  It’s the fun and thrill of a great discipline, a treasured freedom and legacy of our Revolution.  And even if you are working in isolation, as we often are in our prepping efforts, without a lot of helpful or sympathetic people around, you can make progress in your shooting.

Knowing how to shoot a rifle accurately is of course more important than what kind of rifle to get, so we’ll start here.  The road I took was instigated by a chapter in Boston’s book, where he recommends Fred’s Guide to Becoming a Rifleman, available at  In Fred’s Guide you will find instruction on how to successfully complete the Army Qualification Test (AQT) with a score ranking of Expert, making you a ‘Rifleman’ (and until then you’re just a ‘Cook’), along with a lot of other interesting information, articles, and some rudimentary targets.  (Shooting instructions are also available on the site for free: Shooting Tips and Errors.)  You can also order AQT targets which include reduced sizes allowing the course of fire to be conducted at 25m (or 25yd, as the difference is very slight), a service sling for the support arm, and a simple shooting jacket with padding for the elbows and shoulder.  You can find pictures and videos showing how to loop up with the service sling on the net.  This is the type of training taught in the excellent Appleseed Project shooting clinics that appear all over the country.  Due to restrictions of time and mobility I have not had the opportunity to attend one of these events, but I trained using the method with the materials and information available.  (There is also an online weekly Rifleman radio show.)  It can all be done with a semi auto 22lr at a range of 25yd; a timer is helpful for scoring.  You can do it too.  In fact, if you get a chance to go to an Appleseed, it would greatly improve your chances of making Rifleman if you do some work beforehand.

Marksmanship fundamentals for rifle shooting are well described in Fred’s Guide.  They include: physical posture to relax and achieve natural point of aim (NPOA), sight alignment, sight picture, respiratory pause, eye focus on the front sight (if using irons) while keeping the sight on the target, squeezing the trigger straight back (trigger control) to get a surprise break, keeping the eyes open so you can ‘call the shot’ when the hammer falls (taking a ‘mental snapshot’), and holding the trigger back (follow-through).  Fred tells you exactly what you can expect to achieve with a Battle Rifle and, by following the steps, exactly how to do it.  Equally important, he insists that you can do it and that it’s not that hard.  What more can we ask from a guide?
I got a shooting mat and set up for dry practice in the basement.  On the other side of the room I set a target, shrunk in size to correspond to a 1in square at 25yd, and learned to hold the sights steady inside it while prone, which is the rifleman standard.  One inch at 25yd is about 4MOA (minutes-of-angle), which would be about 4in at 100yd, 8in at 200yd, etc.  Other positions include sitting, kneeling, and standing, but the prone is probably the most challenging one to get into and get comfortable with.  It’s also the most satisfying since it is the steadiest and allows you to shoot the most accurately.  It just takes a little time to get used to.  I’ve had lots of trouble with neck and upper back pain, and was surprised I could stand it at all, let alone get reasonably comfortable with it.  I can’t do it for very long without getting fatigued, but I can do it long enough to make hits, as I’ve demonstrated at the range.

For most of my training I use a semi auto 22lr, what the Appleseed Project calls the ‘Liberty Training Rifle’ (LTR) at 25yd.  The 22lr ammo is of course much cheaper than .308, allowing us to put lots of rounds downrange economically, and also it has the benefit of letting us avoid sensitivity to recoil and flinching.  At 25yd we can develop most of our basic shooting skills.  Important factors left out are range estimation and wind drift.  To some extent range estimation can be simulated on reduced size targets, while windage effects cannot.  The classic example of an LTR is the Ruger 10/22, though just about any good semi auto 22lr rifle will do fine.  The 10/22 dovetails nicely with the Army tradition and feel of the M1 Garand and M14/M1A, and can easily be modified with aftermarket parts to operate almost identically to the M1A.  I have a 10/22 Compact Rifle with a Hogue OverMolded stock, which works okay but is a bit lightweight for precision work.  I think a better choice would be something like the full length Sporter, or maybe a Target.  The other 10/22 models have a band attaching the barrel to the stock (including the new Takedown), and if you put a rubber stock like the Hogue on it you might pull the barrel off zero when shooting using the tight service sling; it’s something to consider.  I always like to eliminate sources of shooting error where possible, and the rifle I have lets the barrel free float.

I wanted to train with a pistol grip rifle, so I got a dedicated 22lr upper for the AR-15.  A simple conversion kit for the 223/5.56x45 is cheaper than a dedicated upper, but not as accurate, and not accurate enough for our purposes.  So I got an upper, and put a free float tube on it so I could use a tight sling or bipod.  I bought it from a well-regarded manufacturer, and yet I had trouble – rounds wouldn’t go where I aimed them.  Part of my problem was just that I was naive about ammo; I thought the popular CCI Mini-Mags should give acceptable accuracy.  It just did not occur to me that ammo could be inaccurate enough not to hit a squirrel in the head at 25yd!  Silly me.  I went to the manufacturer’s forum and looked up the ammo threads, and found over half a dozen pages, virtually all of it dedicated to cycling, not accuracy.  But someone pointed out to me that the ammo was high velocity plinking ammo, and suggested alternatives for greater accuracy.  I tried CCI’s Target ammo, which helped some, but I needed better, and the manufacturer (Spike’s Tactical) kindly offered to replace the barrel, so I took the opportunity to upgrade to a more accurate barrel.  That did the trick.  Suddenly I was in the black, putting all my rounds in a 1in dot at 25yd.  I only recount this story here because you might find yourself in a similar boat, wondering why your rounds aren’t going where you think they should.  There are a lot of reasons why that can happen, and shooter error is usually considered the default culprit, but it’s not always you that’s at fault, and we want to zero in on the culprit and solve the problem and move on.

One piece of gear that has proven quite valuable for me is the 3-9x Leupold EFR Scope.  The Extended Focus Range feature lets you set the parallax anywhere from a range of 10m to infinity.  This eliminates any parallax error at the short range of 25m.  This can be important: I have a good quality 1.1-4x CQB (Close Quarters Battle) scope, and when I tested it by eye, looking through it at the target and moving my side to side to move the line of sight off the center axis, I could see the reticle move enough to affect accuracy on the 1in target.  This explained why my zero seemed to change when I’d take a break and come back to the firing line.  A little change in cheek weld position and parallax moved the reticle.  The EFR scope eliminates this source of error.  And although it is marketed as a rimfire scope, it is built to the same toughness as other Leupolds, and can be mounted on an AR-15 or a .308 Battle Rifle as well.  I use scope rings with quick-release levers, and a couple of quick-release riser rails, and this allows me to use the same scope on all my rifles.  I keep a data book so I can zero it quickly when I make a switch.  (The one thing I don’t like is the adjustments have to be made with a coin or screwdriver, rather than just turning the turrets by hand, but this is a minor quibble.)  The risers are a little pricey, but it beats buying a scope for each rifle, and getting the right scope height helps keep my neck and back from screaming at me.
With the scope I can not only call the shot, but I can see where the bullet went.  Calling the shot means you know where the sights/crosshairs were when the shot broke.  Provided your trigger pull and follow-through are good, the bullet should go pretty close to the point of aim if your rifle is zeroed.  Just how close depends on the accuracy of the weapon.  This is how I was able to diagnose ammo and equipment contributions to the error.  With the scope at 9x and the target at 25yd (the limit of my local indoor range) I could see exactly how steady my hold was, which is within about 1/4in, or 1MOA.  So now, for example, if my group size is 3/4in (3MOA), then I know the accuracy of the weapon (rifle & ammo combination) is 2MOA, since the group size is the sum of shooter wobble and weapon spread.

It’s important to be able to distinguish these two contributions to group size: weapon (i.e., rifle & ammo combination), and shooter.  It took me a while to shake the notion of blaming the shooter first.  This notion seems to be somewhat ingrained in our thinking, and my being a beginning shooter and lacking in confidence didn’t help matters.  But with the scope I had the feedback I needed, and I learned to believe what my eyes were showing me.  I should emphasize that ‘iron sight discipline’ and proficiency is always an important skill to maintain.  We should know how to use and adjust the irons for windage and range, out to the effective limits of our weapons.  But clearly the scope, besides being a force multiplier on the battlefield, can also be a very useful training tool.

A final word on use of the shooting sling.  There are other methods of training with a rifle, not all of which include a sling.  And in tactical prone shooting a bipod or rest of some kind is the normal type of support.  The few WWII and Korean War veterans I know, who carried the M1 in combat, trained with the sling but never used it in combat and never saw it used by others.  However, it is a good method of training, and the marksmanship fundamentals learned will carry over into any type of shooting.  The sling joins you ergonomically to the rifle in a way that a bipod or other rest does not.  There is less bounce of the rifle from shot to shot.  It can also be used in positions other than prone such as sitting or kneeling, which are often necessary when prone is not feasible due to terrain or other conditions.  In the field, a bipod is fragile and a rest is not always available, but a sling can be fashioned from belts, paracord, or even rags.  Moreover, there are ‘hasty’ methods of slinging up that are very quick and don’t require a tight cinch.  For example, one method I found makes use of the ‘Ching Sling,’ a sling that attaches to the rifle’s studs, but consists of a long loop extending from the front back to about the midpoint.  The shooting support is effected by simply slipping the loop up behind the upper part of the support arm; it’s very fast, and while not as tight or as steady as the service sling method, it does aid in accuracy.  I found a simple way to improve on this.  Rather than just slipping the loop up, I stick my left arm through it and then out to the left (I’m right handed), and up and over the top of the sling, and place my palm up under the rifle’s foreend.  Again, not as tight and steady as the service sling, but better than before, and more accurate than no sling at all.  It’s a good feeling, slinging up and steadying your aim, so if you haven’t tried it yet give it a shot, as it were.  It’s a good skill to have in our toolbox.  It’s also widely used in shooting competitions, such as NRA High Power Rifle.

The focus here will be on the three types of .308 Battle Rifles that were initially fielded by the Western powers.  (The powers have since replaced Battle Rifles with assault rifles such as the M4, and many of their Battle Rifles were subsequently sold off to third world countries.)  These were select fire (capable of full auto) weapons, but the ones chiefly available to us today are semi auto, and include: HK91/PTR91, FAL, and M14/M1A.  The major commercial manufacturers in the U.S. are PTR91, DS Arms FAL, and Springfield Armory M1A.  These are the ones I have and will discuss here, except that instead of Springfield’s M1A I have the LRB Arms M14SA (M14 Semi Auto).  I will also discuss the AR-10 types and the Saiga .308.  And although there are a number of other, more ‘modern’ semi auto .308s now available (FNAR, FN SCAR, SASS, etc.), we are mainly concerned with the three ‘traditional’ Battle Rifles, for several reasons.

First and foremost, they have been around a long time and are well proven in terms of ruggedness and reliability, and while like all rifles they have their weaknesses, we at least know what they are and how to compensate for them.  Parts and magazines are widely available and inexpensive relative to their more modern counterparts.  The rifles themselves are generally less expensive as well.  These are the considerations that are important to us as preppers and survivalists.  We can stock parts and magazines for weapons that are well understood, and keep them running even in times of stress, when outside support is not available.

It is particularly important to stock up on magazines, so price is definitely a factor.  The magazine is the weak link in any semi auto rifle; they can break, wear out, get damaged or bent, or discarded in the heat of battle.  How many is enough?  Well, the more the merrier.  You just never want to run out of them, ever.  At least a couple dozen per rifle is ideal, but you can get by with less.  As with everything else having to do with prepping, consider your mission requirements, and likely scenarios, to determine your needs.
A survival group can adopt a particular Battle Rifle type that all members use, ensuring uniformity of parts, mags, and expertise required to keep everyone armed and ready.  Using a common rifle platform among members has the same benefit as it would for an army in the field.  They can form rifle teams that can coordinate fire in a multiplying effect: the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts.  In fact, this is one of the best ways to employ the Battle Rifle.  A three person team can send 60 rounds of .308 aimed fire downrange in 60 seconds at distances out to 500yd+  before the first mag change.  This is some pretty decent firepower.  Multiple teams firing from different directions multiply the effect even further.  Having a common rifle platform has obvious benefits.

Barrel Length.
  While a 16in barreled carbine in .308 makes a great, hard hitting CQB weapon out to 300yd+, and they are quite popular these days, I do not recommend one as your primary Battle Rifle.  The reason is that too much velocity is sacrificed in going to such a short length.  It certainly has enough velocity to be effective at the ranges we are interested in (though you’re subject to greater drift from windage, and this effect is more pronounced the longer the range), but the trouble is that estimating the range and compensating for it becomes more difficult in the range window of 300-500yd, which Fred calls the ‘Rifleman’s Quarter Mile,’ and he figures this is the ideal distance at which to engage targets.  Keeping such a distance from the enemy exploits your rifleman’s skill – something the rank and file shooters among the enemy may be unlikely to have, making their return fire less effective – while taking advantage of the full reach and effectiveness of the .308 Battle Rifle.  According to Fred, the three components involved in making hits on targets may be arranged in decreasing order of difficulty as: target detection, range estimation, and making the shot.  That is, range estimation is more difficult than making the shot, so it behooves us to reduce the margin for error as much as possible.  One way to work on range estimation is to carry a laser range finder: guess the range to an object, then see what the rangefinder says.  Trust me, your estimates will improve quickly!

On the other hand, an 18 in model gives up roughly only about 7% of velocity relative to a full length version of 21or 22in.  We can expect a comparable increase in bullet drop to go with the velocity loss, so the effect on range estimation is slight.  Moreover, all things being equal, the shorter barrel is sometimes more accurate than full length as there is less barrel whip.  While I wouldn’t count on better accuracy with the 18in, it makes sense for us to trade a little bit of velocity for a little bit more accuracy.  The .308 round is combat effective well beyond 500yd, but a rack grade Battle Rifle does not have the accuracy to exploit the .308’s full potential of 800yd+.  So if we can squeeze a bit more accuracy at the cost of a 7% loss in velocity I think it’s worth it.  And of course we also have a shorter overall rifle for ease of a handling, and we’re only talking about 2in longer than the 16in carbine.  Many people feel that 18in is the sweet spot.  What we have available is 17.7in for the HK91/PTR91, 18in for DSA FAL, and 18.5in for the M14/M1A.

If you already have a .308 carbine, and/or consider ranges beyond 300yd unlikely for your needs, you’ll still be well served with your weapon.  Also, mapping out ranges at your retreat in advance is a good idea in any case.  If you’re sure of your ranges then barrel length is less of a concern.  Bear in mind, though, that the carbine is quite loud, and if you have muzzle brake on it (instead of a flash hider) the muzzle blast will be downright brutal, especially for anyone who happens to be alongside you.  While the muzzle brake makes it easier to shoot (less muzzle climb), it does not help conceal your position the way a flash hider does, so a flash hider is much preferred in a combat weapon.  If you don’t have a Battle Rifle yet, consider getting one with at least an 18in barrel.

  The typical Battle Rifle is over 9lb unloaded, and a good scope will likely put it over 10lb.  Some commercial versions have heavier weight barrels (medium contour, bull barrel, etc.) for increased accuracy and steadiness.  The tradeoff is that the extra weight is a hindrance for carrying in the field, and for movement between positions during shooting engagements.  Most Battle Rifles should give acceptable accuracy without a heavier barrel.  Under rapid or sustained fire the barrel heats up, and the groups will tend to string slightly and/or expand more with the lighter barrels.  But whether this would really make a difference in a fast moving combat situation is debatable.

I have found I need to resist the temptation to go for the heavier, more accurate rifles.  In these pre-SHTF times we can go to the range and shoot at our leisure, we drive there and back, not needing to carry the rifle very far, and when we shoot we like to see tight groups on the target.  Tight groups are satisfying.  But I think of the Battle Rifle as a field weapon, something that can and may need to be carried all day, and can be handled effectively in combat even when the shooter is tired, weak, and scared, at times moving rapidly from one position to another, trying to stay out of harm’s way, trying to catch his or her breath.  And while a heavier rifle is easier to shoot accurately and more controllable, I don’t think it’s worth the drawbacks the extra weight imposes.  The rifle should be a friend to the shooter, not a burden.

So we are not just interested in range accuracy, but combat accuracy, which depends on a number of variables.  The shooting sports can provide a good testing ground for our combat capabilities, such as the 3-gun Heavy Metal competitions, where the rifle used is a .308 Battle Rifle.  This can help give you an idea what kind of rifle handles well for you in terms of weight, etc.  But be aware that competition rules don’t always conform to sound combat tactics.  If you use the competition to conscientiously train for combat your scores may suffer for it.  “Those motivated by a desire to improve their gun fighting skills, as opposed to a quest for trophies, must be willing to bleed ego on the match results to avoid shedding real blood in combat.”  – Andy Stanford, in Surgical Speed Shooting

  As mentioned, a good scope will likely put your rifle over 10lb.  You can keep the weight down using a CQB scope like an ACOG or a red dot sight with bullet drop compensator (BDC), but you want to consider the target detection advantage scope magnification gives you.  Remember that according to Fred, target detection is the most difficult task: more difficult than estimating the range or making the shot itself.  Once the shooting starts, people will want to show as little of themselves to their adversaries as possible, and some decent magnification and field of view can go a long way toward helping you see what you need to see.  Considering the effective range and our combat needs, something like 3-9x40mm seems about right, not too much magnification, not too little; not too big a scope, not too small.  But as always, consider your mission requirements to determine what’s best for you.

Accuracy & Ammo.
  Despite some of the wild claims you might see on the internet, any good Battle Rifle should give you 4MOA or better with military surplus or military grade ammo (147gr ‘M80’ ball rounds); that’s the basic standard.  While accuracy depends on a number of factors, a reasonable expectation is about 2-3MOA.  The ammo I use most often is Prvi Partizan.  (I have no financial stake in it.)  It is commercial production, almost always available, and fairly consistent from lot to lot.  Prvi also makes relatively inexpensive Match ammo in 168 and 175gr.  I get the best results with the 168gr; all my Battle Rifles do 1-2MOA with it.  You can experiment with different types of ammo to see what your particular rifle likes.  Visiting the forums can also give you some idea what to expect.  Much of the military surplus you see out there was produced years ago, probably being brought out now to be sold at a profit, and whether your rifle likes it or not is hit or miss.  And when the supply dries up you have to find something else.  That’s why I like something like Prvi, where there’s a steady supply.  Buying in case lots of 1,000 is by far the most economical, but the up-front cost is high, so try some before you buy, if possible.

Part of the enjoyment of Battle Rifle shooting is being able to put a lot of hard-hitting rounds downrange without breaking the bank, and the ability to sustain a rapid rate of fire against multiple targets is a vital part of our skill set.  The M80 ammo is the Battle Rifle’s meat & potatoes diet, accurate enough to hit a man sized target out to 500yd+, and among the least expensive choices available.  However, the effective range can be extended with match ammo or handloads. Excellent match ammo is more than twice as expensive as M80.  (Prvi match is not as good but costs only about 50% more.)  It’s a good idea to have at least a small supply of ammo of this type, either for extended range or increased accuracy, in case you need it.
Many people use steel cased ammo which, though often not as accurate as brass cased, is less expensive.  I’ve only used it in my Saiga .308, as the rifle was designed for this kind of ammo.  The only manufacturer’s warning I’m aware of is from DS Arms, which says not to use it in their FAL rifles, period.  People use it in the HK91/PTR91 and  M14/M1A apparently with no problems.  Steel is harder than brass (although the steel used is said to be ‘soft’), so it may put a little more wear on the extractor, but otherwise there seems to be little or no risk involved in using it.  Still, I’m only comfortable using it in the Saiga.  I suggest you do your own research on it before using it in your rifle.

.308 vs. 7.62x51mm.
  For the most part we can consider these two to be equivalent, both safe to use in our rifles.  The only exception I’m aware of is some types of commercial .308 which use higher pressures than normal, hunting ammo for bolt action rifles, that would not be safe to use in our semi autos.  The military rifles were chambered for 7.62x51mm, which has looser tolerances and harder brass, as the rifles were designed to operate in full auto and with tracer rounds, and the ammo has been produced by a number of different countries, which varies in consistency with respect to the tolerances and general quality.  If you see a good deal out there for a case of this stuff, do a search on the forums before you buy – make sure it will cycle in your rifle, have decent accuracy, and not gum it up with tar, lacquer, or powdery filth (unless you think it’s worth it).

Most modern, commercially produced Battle Rifles are chambered in .308 Winchester, or just stamped ‘7.62.’  Similarly, much of the current production commercial ammo, such as Prvi, is in .308.  This corresponds to tighter tolerances than the military surplus, for generally better accuracy and consistency and, with few exceptions, no loss of reliability in cycling.  But there is still surplus ammo out there that could be quite accurate in your rifle.  For example, Santa Barbara works well in the M14/M1A.  So look around, know what you’re buying and know your rifle.

Ammo vs. Gear.
  Most people I know are not preppers and do not stock up on cases of ammo.  But we recognize the importance of doing so – .308 ammo as well as 223/5.56x45, shotgun, and pistol ammo, etc. – any weapon we might trust our lives to must never be allowed to run dry.  You never want to run out of ammo or magazines; there is no such thing as too much of either.  And yet, dropping $500 for 1,000 rounds of .308 here and there hurts.  Perhaps the biggest impediment is thinking what else we might buy with the money.  There are always more guns we’d like to buy, scopes to put on them, all kinds of cool gear, items or ventures that give us pleasure.  Crates of ammo sitting around just isn’t very sexy.

But I find it satisfying.  Once acquired, it cannot be taken away easily, so there is some sense of security in that.  We could experience significant inflation in the near future; I do not have to worry about the price of ammo getting beyond my reach.  I have plenty for my practice, plenty for the future, whatever the future may hold.  And if the future turns out to be benign, and the ammo is not needed for fighting, it can be passed on to future generations of preppers and patriots.  It’ll still be good long after I’m gone.  Or it could be used for barter.  It’s like gold or silver, only I think it’s even better.  It has a function, it will do a job for you, and the price of ammo has not been bid up nearly so much as precious metals.  A home invader may be willing to smash my skull for a gold bar he can grab and carry off.  But half a ton of ammo?  Good luck with that.  Ammo may eventually achieve such precious status, but that will only mean my investment was sound in more ways than one.  Lead.  The other precious metal.
So I would say, don’t skimp on ammo.  Take the pain now and you will find lasting comfort knowing it’s there for you, just like your rifle, standing by, lending potency to your vigilance.

We will be concerned here with the modern commercial versions: PTR91, DSA FAL, and LRB M14SA (or Springfield Armory M1A).  Their pros and cons have been debated elsewhere.  But our focus will be through the eye of the prepper and survivalist.  Reliability, cost, ease and speed of operation during a firefight, are of first importance.  And while there is no perfect Battle Rifle, if you look carefully, you will likely find one that is close to ideal for you.

When it comes to Battle Rifle selection, most people seem to prefer the FAL or M14/M1A, with the PTR91 a close third.  The M14/M1A has the most accuracy potential; the PTR91, to the extent it reproduces the HK91’s quality, would be the most reliable; the FAL is often regarded as the sweet spot between the other two, with its ergonomic friendliness among its chief attractions.  However, the PTR91 has become popular with the prepper community, as it is a good value and can be counted on to keep working under tough conditions.
From a strictly utilitarian point of view all three rifles do pretty much the same thing and do it well.  And it is a matter of ‘respect and gratitude’ for what they do that guides this article.  You can find plenty of forums where people will praise one and bash the other two, but this is not the place for that.  I like them all because I deeply appreciate the job they can do for us.  These are survival tools, not weekend joy sticks.  If one feels awkward I just try to adapt to it and make it comfortable to handle and shoot.

At the risk of oversimplifying I would like to borrow a slogan from the real estate business, in which the value of a property depends on three things: location, location, location.  And that is that a Battle Rifle’s reliability depends on three things: parts, parts, parts.  We already know that the designs of these rifles are sound.  Usually they are assembled properly.  That leaves tolerances and quality of parts.  The manufacturers are all good and they all offer good warranties, but from a survivalist point of view this just means they can afford to replace defective parts and still make a profit.  Sometimes military parts dry up and new ones have to be made, some parts get outsourced, or production errors happen.  So it’s a good idea to keep up with any news on the user forums and the manufacturer’s web site.  (I found a recall notice for one of my FAL lower receivers just by chance on DSA’s site; even though I am the original owner I was not notified of the recall.)  If you’re buying used, review the history for the serial number range of the rifle before you buy.  Some details on PTR91 changes are discussed below.

I first bought one of these because it was such a spanking good deal.  It was not my first choice in a Battle Rifle, but it shares the ruggedness, durability, and reliability of the HK91, and magazines are inexpensive (sometimes only $1 each).  Its poor ergonomics are well known, but it does its job and doesn’t complain, and I’ve wound up liking it more than I thought I would.
Like the FAL it was initially designed to be used with a bipod, and the charging handle is on the left side.  And like the DSA FAL, the barrel is not chrome lined.  I got one with the Bull Barrel, which seems more like a medium than a heavy weight barrel, and metal handguard which is drilled and tapped for rails.  This allows mounting a bipod, vertical grip, sling stud for use with a service sling, or other accessories.  Tension applied to the handguard through the grip or sling does not affect the point of aim since the barrel is free-floating,  an attribute that contributes to the excellent accuracy of the HK91/PTR91.

[There is some confusion in the web-sphere over the free-float nature of this rifle, but this can be explained fairly simply.  First of all, there is no gas system so there is no need to attach anything (such as a piston tube) to the barrel (‘delayed blowback’ mechanism).  The only thing that is attached is the ‘tri-ring:’ the bottom ring is on the barrel, the top ring encloses the front sight post, and the middle ring encircles the end of the cocking tube –  but is not fastened to it.  You can see this by removing the end cap from the middle ring, exposing the hollow end of the cocking tube, to verify this.  Now, the handguard is attached to the cocking tube, not the barrel, and while tension on the handguard will cause the cocking tube to flex slightly, it is not enough to bring it into contact with the tri-ring and affect the point of aim, at least not on any of the rifles I looked at – PTR91F, PTR G.I., PTR32KF.  (However, a laser mounted to the handguard could be pulled off zero by the tension.)]

Now on to the shooting.  The forward sling loop is attached to the barrel, so to avoid putting tension on the barrel I attached a rail to the underside of the handguard, and a sling stud (from Yankee Hill Machine) to the rail.  When I first started shooting it, slung up and using iron sights, the feeling I had can best be described as claustrophobic.  The way I tend to shoot, with my nose down and cheek well forward on the comb, I was treated with a good stiff punch to the cheekbone by the hump on the buttstock.  The first time I just kept firing anyway, since the range was about to close and I didn’t want to take the time to find a new groove.  I got a decent bruise out of it, but my groups showed I did not flinch, even though I knew it was going to hurt me – a challenge for my ego I couldn’t resist.

So obviously I have to keep my chin up and head back away from the hump, which feels claustrophobic and awkward.  Even with that I still got a slap on the cheek, rather than a punch to the cheekbone.  It was an improvement, but I was still in an abusive relationship with my rifle.  However, when I put on a Brügger & Thomet scope mount, and a canvas cheek riser pad, presto!  No more pain.  In fact, it’s quite a comfortable shooter in this configuration.  The felt recoil may be stiffer than for the other Battle Rifles, but shooting a few mags at a time is not bothersome, nor is there any noticeable pain afterwards.  (I weigh 175lb so I don’t have much natural padding.  The only padding I have is on an inexpensive shooting ‘jacket’ from Fred’s.)
This rifle is plenty accurate with good ammo (sub 2MOA groups with Prvi Match 168gr), and the setup I described is solid, comfortable, and versatile.  I thought I would just buy this rifle and then forget it, save it for when I might need to be humping a rifle through the swamp for months on end.  And here it turns out to be the cat’s meow!  I guess you just don’t know until you give something a fair shake.

The ‘PTR’ in PTR91 stands for ‘Precision Target Rifle.’  I always thought this was odd, as the HK91 was designed to be a Battle Rifle, not a semi auto sniper rifle.  Then again, I’m not in charge of marketing the thing, and I suppose ‘Pretty Darned Accurate Battle Rifle’ doesn’t have quite the same ring.  The rifle differs from the HK91 in one important respect: the barrel.  It’s a heavier profile for one thing, and although it’s called a ‘bull barrel’ it seems closer to a medium weight.  But more important, it has shallower chamber flutes than the original design.  This may have been to reduce felt recoil, and/or to tighten tolerances for better accuracy.  (The flutes are grooves cut into the chamber to aid extraction; it’s a necessary part of the blowback mechanism.)  But from our perspective the important question is whether this makes it less reliable than the original.  The answer is apparently no, unless you’re using lacquer coated, or particularly tar-sealed ammo.  Many of us may not care to use this type of ammo in our rifles, as it produces a gummy residue that’s hard to remove, but a ‘true’ HK91 can handle it and we expect a PTR91 to do so as well.  In response to this PTR91 recently came out with the GI version.

Aside from the furniture it appears virtually identical to the HK91.  They were offered on CDNN for $900 new (compare this to a used HK91 for around $2300).  It’s easy to see the difference in the chamber flutes between the different PTRs: the GI’s are much deeper and more distinct.  This is a welcome development, as many people regard the HK91 as the ultimate TEOTWAWKI weapon: no matter the ammo, the environment, or the duration of the crisis, it won’t quit on you.  So, for good reason, the PTR91 GI is getting a lot of attention among survivalists and preppers these days.

I thought all PTR91 models were now being made with the deep chamber flutes, not just the GI version, but I have been unable to confirm this.  (Note, chamber flutes are not to be confused with barrel flutes, which are on the outside of the barrel, for aesthetics and heat dissipation.)  I know for a fact the new PTR32 (in 7.62x39) has them.  The issue is important, because some folks might want the heavier barrel for better accuracy and heat dissipation, but only if they can get it with the deep flutes.  [Can JWR or someone else chime in here with a reference and settle this question?]  Also, some PTR91 models come with a scope rail welded to the receiver, which is better than the bolt on type, but I haven’t seen it on the GI version.
I haven’t scoped the GI rifle yet, but the groups I get are similar to what I get with the other PTR91 using iron sights, and in any case the GI should give whatever accuracy we can expect from the HK91.  The GI is lighter and felt recoil is naturally stiffer but I didn’t find it uncomfortable (with padded jacket); it just needs a little padding on the shoulder or buttstock.  I like the challenge of using it just the way it is brutal, tough, simple – with iron sights, even though I’m a little nearsighted.

Reloading the PTR91 can be a bit slow, at least in comparison to the other Battle Rifles.  A paddle mag release can be installed, but this is a gunsmithing job.  There are good quality 50 round drums available which look great, but they’re expensive.  Are they worth it?  It depends.  If you’re light on riflemen (or working solo) and you think the drum would help sustain fire in the fight, then maybe.  It’s a heckuva capability.  As always, balance your mission requirements with the resources you have.

Okay, some of the cons.  Bore is not chrome lined, but this is in the interest of greater accuracy.  It’s the stiffest recoiling of the Battle Rifles, due to the blowback mechanism.  However, this can be tamed in a number of ways, chiefly with a little padding and optimal positioning on the shoulder.  As a general matter I don’t think recoil should be a game changer when it comes to selecting a Battle Rifle, unless you have some special need (shoulder problems, etc.).  There’s a huge industry out there serving the needs of shooters, and they’re always trying to dream up new types of gear to make our lives better, and it’s probably just a matter of time before someone makes a new buttstock or other gizmo that helps with the recoil.  Remember, the actual momentum transferred to your shoulder is the same no matter what rifle you use (the momentum is the bullet mass times muzzle velocity).  What we want is to smear out the force transferred to us during the recoil impulse, making it more like a shove than a kick.

I had a couple of minor problems with my rifles.  The first one suddenly started failing to extract.  This was due to a bent extractor spring, which was probably bent during factory installation (which is pretty easy to do).  I straightened it out and put it back in and it worked fine until I got some new springs.  They are inexpensive, and a necessary item in your spare parts kit.  Another thing that happened was both rifles had the flash hiders come loose, easily remedied with blue loctite.  Though minor, these are pretty stupid problems to have.  PTR91 really ought to do better.

There are more serious issues to be aware of.  A limited number of rifles were manufactured using wrong sized pins which could result in cracked trunnions.  Check the serial number of your rifle against the serial number range posted on PTR91’s web site, and if yours matches, check your trunnion for hairline cracks.  If you’re buying used, avoid those in the affected range.  I’ve also seen one or two reports (with photos) of cracked bolt heads, and while it appears to be rare it’s a very serious failure.  There is some question as to whether the metal being used is hard enough.  There may have been a change in manufacturing, or a shift from surplus to domestic made bolt heads (my GI’s bolt head has ‘PTR91’ stamped on it, while the one from the older rifle has no markings).  Some people like to swap out parts for original German ones (bolt head, carrier, trigger parts, etc.), but this can be expensive.  It’s a good idea to keep an eye on the ‘bolt gap,’ which is related to the head space, and it’s easily checked using a feeler gauge set like we use to check spark plug gaps.  If it’s shrinking rapidly, and goes under spec, that would indicate a problem.  On the good news front: in 2012 PTR91 announced a lifetime warranty on these and all other internal parts.

Before leaving the subject of PTRs entirely I want to mention the PTR32.  This is a new model rifle chambered in 7.62x39mm, with a 16in ‘bull barrel,’ aluminum handguard, and deep chamber flutes.  While it does take AK47 mags, most of the common steel ones do not work well – polymer mags are recommended.  Though I like AKs well enough, I like the PTR32 because of the better sights, the handguard is all ready to go for rail attachments, and the barrel is free-floating as with the PTR91.  It’s heavier than an AK (a GI profile barrel might have been better) but feels well balanced.  Shooting it is a dream, as the recoil is more like a spongy push than a kick.  It comes with a fixed stock, but can be fitted with one of those retractable stocks which, while quite a punisher when used on a .308, would work nicely on this one and make it more portable.  If you like the PTR platform and you’re looking for something to throw in the truck, it’s something to consider.

This was my top choice, at least initially.  It was a bit of a toss-up between a DS Arms FAL or an M14/M1A.  My preference was tilted toward the FAL for several reasons.  (1) I was impressed with the quality of DSA, which offers FAL models as good or better than the original.  (2) Scoping the FAL is simple: just order it with a railed top cover (I like the extended scope rail version).  (3) The ergonomics is similar to the other rifles I have, such as pistol grip and safety position.  (4) It can be cleaned from the breech end (I’m spoiled).
Before I really got into Battle Rifles I got a DS Arms SA58 16in carbine with the medium contour barrel.  Those of you who have had the chance to shoot one of these know what a sweet, handy little piece it is.  And although it’s only a 16in and therefore not technically a Battle Rifle as defined here, it’s a good hard hitting CQB weapon.

My first DSA FAL Battle Rifle had an 18in medium contour barrel, fixed stock, and Robar NP3 coating on the bolt & carrier, which has a silky, teflon-like feel, requiring little or no lube, something which could be important in a SHTF situation.  The heavier barrel adds a little bit of weight, which I thought I would not mind for the sake of greater accuracy, but as we’ll see I eventually settled on a different model.  I still like this one but it is better suited for shooting from a fixed position with a bipod.

To further enhance accuracy and to allow the use of a tight service sling, I installed an aluminum “free float” foreend.  While not strictly free float, since it clamps to the thick base of the barrel instead of the receiver, it does the job required of it, which is to isolate the barrel from sling tension and contact with the bipod.  However, the foreend as provided by DSA suffers from several drawbacks, the most serious being the open top design, which exposes the piston and spring.  The tube is open on top so it can clear the front sight block on installation.  But instead of an uninterrupted piston tube, DSA’s has a long gap which, while good for ventilating fouling gas, exposes the piston and spring.  With the foreend attached this is actually visible, not only exposing this part of the action to the elements but also allowing gas and barrel heat to rise into the line of sight and in front of the scope.  This is absurd – DSA really needs to get its act together on this.  I would have preferred a (ported) solid piston tube instead of the open design, but all that’s actually needed for the foreend is a top cover, and so I made one from a galvanized steel cable organizer.  Bending it into a suitable shape took some doing (a vice and set of aluminum barrel blocks came in handy), but it came out nicely.  Another drawback of the foreend is the lack of any drilling and tapping and supplied rails, but this is easily remedied.  I put a small (Yankee Hill) rail segment on the bottom front for a quick detach (QD) bipod, a sling stud farther aft, and a pair of screws securing the tube to the lower barrel clamp to prevent the tube from rotating.

The result is a bit heavier than I would like – what’s really needed is a lighter free float foreend – and while it would be hard to find a more accurate FAL, like many accurate semi auto rifles it’s too heavy to be considered a ‘carry friendly’ field weapon, which is our main focus in this article.  Still, I love the damn thing and I’m keeping it.

I’ve since picked up a DSA PARA FAL rifle – folding skeleton stock, Robar NP3 coating on internals, sand cuts on bolt carrier (now standard on all new DSA FALs), extended scope rail.  The barrel is 18in, but unlike the other rifle it’s standard weight.  I’m considering putting my free float tube on this one but for now I think it’s heavy enough and fine the way it is.  The primary advantage of the folding stock is enhanced covertness and ease of portability – you can put it in a suitcase instead of a gun case, for example – and yet, unlike a partially disassembled rifle, the stock can be unfolded and the rifle brought into action quickly.  If you think that feature would be important for you it’s worth considering the PARA.  Also, in the event of a jam the PARA action can be opened up immediately, but this may not be the case if you have a fixed stock, which has the ‘rat tail’ (a thin rod attached to the back of the carrier) extending into the buttstock during cycling.

However, folding stock is an additional expense over the fixed version, and while it looks ‘cool’ it is not as comfortable to shoot.  For one thing, the recoil spring mechanism is different (note that it is not easy, nor is it inexpensive, to interchange folding and fixed stocks on a rifle), and for another, the folding stock butt is all aluminum and thus hard as a rock – definitely could use some rubber back there.  In fact, the difference between shooting the PARA and shooting my Saiga .308, which has the ACE folder that includes a hollow rubber pad on it, is substantial; the Saiga is much milder.  If you do put on a thick rubber pad, the PARA stock can be cut shorter by the user, in order to maintain the same length of pull.  Something like this will probably be necessary, at least for me.  It’s a superb weapon, don’t get me wrong, and I really like it.  But if someone asked my advice about getting a FAL, I would  say DSA’s 18in, standard weight barrel, fixed stock, with or without Robar, would be a good bet.

Besides the extended scope rail option, I like the Hampton lower, which has a rear sight just like that on the AR-15.  All my FALs have Hampton lowers, as well as the Speed Trigger upgrade.  I haven’t had a chance to fire a rifle with a stock trigger, but I can tell you I would not want anything less than the Speed Trigger, which gives a lighter, shorter, crisper pull for enhanced practical accuracy.  I consider the trigger upgrade and scope rail to be the most important upgrades you can get for the FAL.

And finally, some pros and cons.  The FAL is unique in that it has an adjustable gas system, allowing you to tune it to your particular ammo, and this is generally regarded as a good thing.  It helps reduce wear and tear on your gun as well as your shoulder.  But you wouldn’t want to go into battle with it on the wrong setting, which could render it a single shot rifle. [JWR Adds: Ditto for assembling the rifle with the gas plug installed upside down.]

Like the HK91/PTR91, it has the charging handle on the left side (which is what most right handed shooters seem to prefer), as it was designed to be used with an integral bipod.  It is a ‘non-reciprocating’ handle, meaning that it does not move during cycling (unlike the M14/M1A), and consequently does not allow for a forward assist should it be needed (which could happen if the rifle gets dirty enough).  Last time I talked with DSA in mid-2012 I was told a forward assist option (similar to that on the Israeli heavy barrel FAL) might be offered in the future, as a number of people had been asking about it.  You might be able to make this mod yourself (or you might consider getting an M14/M1A).  Most people don’t seem to think it’s necessary, but like a lot of things, having it and not needing it is better than needing it and not having it.

The charging handle knob itself is made of hollow aluminum, and it can break (don’t ask me how I know).  Just don’t drop it on a rock.  Barrel is not chrome lined, but this is in the interest of better accuracy.  DSA ordered a recall on a range of lowers a few years ago.  I was not notified (I noticed it on their web site), even though I’m the original owner and they have my email address.

Having decided in favor of the FAL I figured I had no need to get one of these.  Besides the expense of the rifle itself, I like to stock mags and parts for the rifles I have, and the cost for this system is unfortunately high.  But it was the one thing missing in my collection, and in many ways it can be considered the best of the bunch.  So about every six months I would get a real hankering for one, even start having dreams about it.  Finally I could take it no longer.  I bought an M14SA, LRB Arms hammer-forged receiver, the rest of it is USGI M14 parts except bolt (TRW) and barrel (Criterion, chrome lined).  This is not a match rifle, but it’s about the best plain Jane semi auto M14 you can find, and at the risk of comparing apple to oranges, I consider the quality on a par with DSA’s FAL.

It came with a beautifully restored USGI walnut stock, which I immediately replaced with a fiberglass one.  Being able to swap stocks is one of the advantages here, and the USGI fiberglass can be repainted in any number of camo patterns.  Because I like the extra rigidity and strength of the old ‘big red’ birch stocks I bought one of these too, and refinished it.  I had to get several new tools for cleaning and working on the rifle.  I will accumulate more mags and parts as opportunities arise.

Because I’m a little nearsighted I installed a National Match (NM) rear sight, and dropped in a corrective lens from B Jones Sights.  This allows me to see the target well enough while still keeping the front sight in focus.  I also put in a front globe sight, which shrouds the front sight in a small cylinder, reducing eye fatigue and minimizing the effects of lighting.  (As a side note: the rear sight with lens is legal in NRA Service Rifle competition, but the front globe sight is not.)  This allows me to shoot almost to the rifle’s potential (less than 1.5MOA with Prvi 168gr).  If you like shooting with iron sights this is a great setup.  Being able to shoot this rifle very accurately using iron sights is one of the most fun things about it.
I was not planning to scope this rifle, due to the high cost of the better mounts, and the reported problematic nature of doing so.  But then I heard about the Bassett Machine mount ($150).  The High model allows use of the iron sights.  It goes on and off easily with a hand tool, with minimal torque needed – only the weight of the rifle is used to tighten it – and boasts a return to zero within 1MOA.  It sounded too good to be true, but I read enough endorsements from users to take the plunge.  Though my experience with it is not very broad thus far, it does perform as advertised, so if you’re shopping for a mount check this one out.  Naturally, whatever mount you may choose, if you are using a scope you’ll probably want a cheek riser to help raise your line of sight.  I use a removable soft pad on my birch stock so I can switch back to using iron sights easily.

This rifle is a very comfortable shooter, the softest recoiling among the three traditional Battle Rifles, and with the familiar feel of the hunting rifle and shotgun.  Probably the biggest drawback is the lack of a pistol grip.  Particularly in prone, where the elbow of the trigger arm is down, the angle the trigger finger makes with the trigger is not ideal.  Also, the wrist is bent back – not good for relaxing.  However, it doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would, and the rifle delivers exceptional accuracy.  Many a good sniper, after all, has made do with this type of traditional stock on a scoped bolt action, so it should be no obstacle to most of us on our Battle Rifles.  There are of course after market stocks that feature a pistol grip, but good ones are expensive, often require bedding, such as the McMillan (and occasional rebedding, depending on how much you shoot), and may add substantial weight, such as the J Allen Enterprises stock.

For a “field grade” stock I like the USGI fiberglass.  (Some shooters reinforce the foreend to make it more rigid, but I haven’t yet found this necessary, even when using a tight sling).  The only mod I made was to install a Sadlak heavy duty bipod rail in front of the sling loop.  With this setup using a bipod, scope, and cheek riser, you’d essentially be equipped just as many of our troops are fighting overseas with the M14.

As far as available ‘upgrades’ for this weapon – stocks, parts, accurizing, etc. – the sky’s the limit, but then so is the price.  I plan to do some basic accurizing, but that’s about it.  It already does what it needs to do, and what I need to do is spend time shooting it.
It’s easy to see why people’s objectivity breaks down when it comes to this rifle.  It has the look and feel of a traditional rifle; it’s designed for use with the service sling, with controls on the right hand side; iron sights are superb; recoil is gentle; and it has the home team advantage, as it is the only American Battle Rifle, and a direct descendant of the revered M1.  Very much a rifleman’s rifle, user friendly in all important respects.

More recently I got a tanker version, built on an LRB M25 receiver which has the scope rail built in, with a number of upgrades.  This was to be my go-to Battle Rifle, my pride and joy.  But it doesn’t work – numerous cycling problems, and I have to send it back.  It’s an excellent builder that made it so I have no doubt they’ll make it right.  But it just goes to show that you can run into problems no matter what you buy, even in the high end market.

AR-10 & Variants
This platform has a lot going for it – the same excellent ergonomics of the AR-15, outstanding accuracy, modularity, ease of customization.  The rifle has gotten better, as more manufacturers have come out with more choices, and magazines aren’t as wildly expensive as they once were.  It is unfortunate that, unlike with the AR-15 parts, particularly mags, are not standardized, but this is a fairly minor concern.

It may be argued that it also shows some of the weaknesses of the AR-15.  But as long as we know what they are, we can make an informed choice as to whether the AR-10 is appropriate for our mission.  Certainly we would want to make sure we have plenty of lube since, while fouling may be an issue with the direct impingement mechanism, it can get pretty dirty and not quit, provided you can keep it wet.  Keep plenty of spare parts on hand, and know how to rebuild a bolt.
But I think where the AR-10 really shines is as a semi auto sniper rifle.  You can easily build one with sub MOA accuracy, and if you have a need for such a capability this would be an excellent option.

SAIGA .308
This is a good, robust budget Battle Rifle, but with certain drawbacks.  It’s available only in 16 in and 21in barreled models; many say the 21in is markedly less accurate due to barrel whip.  It is not threaded for a flash hider, and with the front sight positioned all the way out at the muzzle, no easy way to thread it (see instructions at Dinzag Arms), though some sort of bolt on device may be possible.  No pistol grip, crummy trigger.  Mags – both factory and hi-cap – are expensive.  But factory mags are 8-rounds, so you could think of this as roughly equivalent to a .308 M1 with detachable mag, which ain’t bad, unless of course you lose the mag.  And though it can be upgraded (see below), for the cost involved I would suggest you take a hard look at a PTR91 instead.  If you like the Saiga the way it is you’re in good shape, though I consider a trigger upgrade a must.  It has a side mount for a scope rail which is inexpensive, so scoping it is simple.  The iron sights are the usual lousy AK type, so for excellent aftermarket peep sights check out Tech-Sights.

Like the AK47, the Saiga .308 has relatively mild recoil.  However, there is one difference in the action that bears mentioning.  There is an extra lug on the bolt to handle the higher pressures of the .308.  It’s on the bottom, and it rides directly over the case of the top cartridge in the magazine, and depending on how sharp the lug is, it puts a good dent in the case shoulder on the return stroke, particularly when the top round is on the left side.  This could be an issue in performance, especially if you’re using brass cased ammo (steel cased won’t dent nearly so much), as the case could be punctured before firing.  There is only one way to see this effect.  Firing the round irons out the case and removes the dent.  Therefore, start with a full 20-round mag (for maximum upward pressure), making sure the top round is on the right.  Load, and fire the first round.  Then remove the mag, extract the chambered round, and inspect.  My rifle made such a severe dent I sent the bolt back to the distributor to have it filed down.  When it still made a big dent I sent the whole rifle back and they worked on the bolt some more.  They did it free of charge, although with a note saying it shouldn’t have been sent in since it had been converted to the pistol grip configuration – voiding the warranty.  As if the pistol grip has anything to do with the bolt!  Anyhow, it helped, enough so that I’m no longer worried it might actually punch a hole in the brass.  I’m still not too crazy about the design, with the lug riding over the case and bumping the shoulder.

As for the pistol grip conversion, there are a few differences from the Saiga 7.62x39.  The mag well is farther aft due to the longer round, and the trigger guard I got for it needed to be squeezed and shaped a bit, and a new hole in the receiver for the front screw.  If you’re putting in a fixed stock there’s not much too it.  But for a folding stock, where you cut off the rear tang, you’ll need to drill and tap holes in the receiver to secure the receiver block, as the two holes on each side used for this purpose when converting the 7.62x39 or Saiga 12 are absent on the .308.  I used the block that comes without these holes already in it; that way I could just drill the receiver and block together so things line up easily.  I also needed to cut the cross bar off the bottom of the block, and do some grinding on top edges to provide clearance.  Lastly, there was a hole in the bottom of the receiver near the back where I put another screw into the block.  I used an ACE folding stock.  The result is very solid and looks great.

One other thing I should mention about this rifle is that I had to grind the receiver rails a little bit in order to get the bolt and carrier group in and out smoothly.  It works smooth as grease now, but when I first got it I couldn’t see why it didn’t behave just like all the AKs I was used to handling.  So if you have trouble with yours, take a careful look at the receiver rail clearance, and if you must take a dremel to your receiver, go slow, taking off only a little bit at a time, trying the bolt & carrier insertion and removal as you go.
Overall I like this baby (I have a 16in).  It shares the good traits of an AK-47 – simplicity, reliability, light weight, mild recoil – in a semi auto .308.  With the folding stock, it’s hard to see how you could get more firepower in such a small, light weight package.  So if you like the AK platform, and don’t mind doing a little work and tweaking to get it the way you like, give it a look.

No Battle Rifle is perfect, but it’s possible to find something that is ideal or suitable for you, your group, your family.  All of those discussed here will do the job and will serve you well.  Selecting a Battle Rifle is like becoming part of a club or community.  You can avail yourself of the tremendous amount of information and help online from others using the same platform.  There is so much experience and expertise on these weapons out there, and it’s constantly being updated on the forums.  Being a part of it is one of the most satisfying benefits of Battle Rifle shooting.  But the best of all, of course, it the shooting itself.

One final note.  As preppers, we have long been concerned with the state of our world, its fragility, and the various means and trends that threaten it.  Now suddenly we have a new threat to our freedom and culture, to our right to life and liberty, the specter of infringements to our right to keep and bear arms.  We have already seen a lot of panic in the marketplace.  But as preppers we do not panic, we take heart.  Despair is not an option for us.  While we may have to adapt to new circumstances, we are secure in our faith and our mission, and remain active in the face of change and adversity.  We all know this won’t be the last crisis we’ll have to deal with.  But we are here now, in this time and place, for a reason.  We are the beginning of a new America and a new freedom, remembering and recapturing the old, but with an eye to building a new future, a vision to be admired and remembered to the end of days.  The way is tough, but that is always the way of the pioneer.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

"Only accurate rifles are interesting." - Col. Townsend Whelen

We all know when we are shooting a super accurate rifle; when everything just "clicks" and the shooter, cartridge, and rifle come together to make great groups. But what are the variables involved in making a rifle accurate? And more importantly, how can we control some of those variables ourselves?

One of the keys to accuracy, perhaps the most important one, is consistency. We know that, as shooters, we need to be very consistent to become good marksmen. We mount the gun the same way every time, control our breathing and even our pulse to release the shot at the same interval within our "wobble area." We press the trigger the same way, and use the same place on our trigger finger to release it. We adjust the parallax out of our scope and adjust optics for best focus of reticle and target. All these things help make our shots more consistent.

Well, the combination of rifle and the cartridge it fires are very dependent on consistency as well. Let's consider just a few of the important items.

Stock bedding
If your rifle action moves around in the stock, it will never shoot consistently. Each time you shoot, the rifle will recoil, and potentially land in a different place in the stock. The most accurate rifles typically are glass bedded within a CNC-machined aluminum bedding block, in a synthetic stock. Synthetics are great, because they aren't affected by temperature or humidity. Classic wood stocks are beautiful, but they can swell or warp. Laminates work well, because they are relatively immune to environmental factors.  There are synthetic or laminated stocks now available for nearly any semi-automatic or bolt action rifle suitable for survival situations. Many of these are available in semi-finished form at a very reasonable price; these require mostly work with a few simple hand tools and the application of a durable finish to make an excellent finished product. Instructions and supplies for glass bedding these stocks are available from suppliers like Midway and Brownell’s.

You might have heard of "pillar bedding." Basically, this involves embedding a couple of aluminum or steel spacers in the stock, through which your action bolts run to bolt the action to the floorplate (aka "bottom metal"). In the olden days, people would cinch down these action bolts tightly enough to start crushing the wood of the stock. Do this long enough and often enough, and the stock starts getting loose on the gun and accuracy suffers. Pillars prevent this crushing. For best accuracy, you can even use a torque wrench to always tighten your action bolts to exactly the same torque (about 65 inch-lbs is often used). Pillar bedding is also a project that is well within the capabilities of a moderately skilled woodworker. You can buy the aluminum pillars pre-made, or if you’re handy with a lathe or drill press, can easily make your own from round aluminum bar stock. Again, instruction is available through gunsmithing suppliers, or you can find detailed instructions by a simple internet search.

Free Floating the Barrel
"Free floating" the barrel is also an accuracy enhancer for most rifles. The action is bedded behind the locking lug to provide a full-contact fit between the action and stock. There is also a small area of the action and barrel glassed in just ahead of the receiver, but most of the barrel is not in contact with the stock. With a properly-floated barrel you can slide a couple sheets of notebook paper between the barrel and stock almost all the way to the receiver.

Now why do this? When you fire a shot, the barrel basically rings like a bell, doing a complex set of oscillations before, during, and after the bullet's departure. If you free float the barrel, nothing will interfere with these oscillations, and they will occur consistently. If a portion of the stock touches, the harmonics may or may not occur consistently. And remember, we're striving for consistency here. Some barrels actually do a better job with a carefully engineered bearing surface near the muzzle, but for most barrels, free float is where it's at.

Barrel Attachment
Most barrels screw into the receiver on bolt action rifles and many centerfire semi-autos. There are some exceptions - AKs (not legendary in the accuracy department), HKs, and a few other battle rifles have pinned barrels. But for the average guy wanting the most accurate rifle at a reasonable price, a bolt action with screwed in barrel is what you'll end up acquiring. It stands to reason that you'd want all the surfaces of the barrel and action to mesh up perfectly when you screw them together at the proper torque. But in fact, that doesn't always happen. If the barrel and action are not in perfect alignment, the barrel might be slightly cocked in the action, and the bore axis won't align with the action. Or, even if they are aligned, if the bearing surfaces don't mate exactly, when a shot is fired (remember that "ringing like a bell"?) the barrel might move minutely with respect to the action.

How do you fix this? By truing all the mating surfaces, much like "blueprinting" a big block Chevy engine. This can be done on a lathe, and/or by using specially made lapping tools to make sure all the surfaces line up, that the threads are true, and that the axes of action and barrel are properly aligned. This work requires a bit more expertise in machining – if you use a lathe.

However, if you use truing tools available for use by hand, the tools basically self-align with the part being worked on and the surfaces are almost guaranteed to be true. These tools are available through outfits like Midway, and though relatively expensive, can be purchased by a group and used to accurize many rifles of the same action type.

Bolt to action fit
Now we have a barrel that fits precisely to the action and the barreled action is securely bedded into a stable stock. The action screws are tightened snuggly and consistently, and the barrel is free-floated. What else can we do?

The bolt is the next thing to consider. If the bolt face isn't aligned to the bore properly, it will hold the cartridge at a slight angle to the bore when the shot breaks. The bullet will actually leave the case at a slight angle to the bore axis, it will engrave the rifling unevenly into its jacket, and it'll never really recover from this indignity. The result will be yet another inconsistency and poor groups. The answer to this problem is to lap the bolt face so that it is exactly perpendicular to the bore axis, and each cartridge will be held precisely in the same place. You can buy a tool for this operation as well, using your power drill and lapping compound (the barrel has to be removed from the action to do it, though). With a lathe, it's a pretty straightforward task to build your own bolt face lapping tool.

Now, the bolt also won't stay properly aligned if it doesn't lock up consistently. This is the result of the engagement of the bolt locking lugs with the matching recesses in the receiver. Take a look at the rear of the lugs on the bolt in your favorite rifle. If all of the lugs show the bluing is evenly worn off, and each lug shows about 80% engagement, you're golden. More likely, none of the lugs show this much engagement, and in a worst case, one lug is taking all the load of firing, with the other lug just hanging free in space. As you might guess, this will allow the bolt to cock with respect to the bore, your poor bullet gets abused again, and inconsistency is the result.

This condition can also be rectified by lapping. You don't even have to have a tool to do it, but a spring loaded tool that presses the lugs against the bolt does make the job easier. Smear some lapping compound on the rear of the lugs (strip the bolt first), insert the bolt, pull back on it to maintain good contact between the bearing surfaces, and just work the bolt multiple times until the surfaces are well matched up.
Where are we now? Let's see - bolt is square to the receiver, holding the cartridge in perfect alignment with a bore that is also aligned to the receiver. The barrel is seated against a trued action; it isn't going to move upon firing. The action is securely held in a stable stock. The barrel is free to vibrate at its harmonic frequency.

Barrel Crown

The very last influence your rifle will have on that speeding bullet is as it exits the muzzle. That's why the muzzle crown is of primary importance. If the crown is dinged or uneven, as the bullet exits, expanding gas behind the bullet will leave the bore unevenly. This can move the bullet out of  alignment, imparting a lopsided spiral motion to it. You want the bullet to leave the bore in perfect symmetry. Why are there so many crown shapes? Mostly to protect that crown by recessing it away from potential dings. A perfectly straight crown, perpendicular to the bore axis, will do just fine, and can be accomplished with a high quality square and a file. But it's easier to do it with lapping tools or a lathe. A freshly cut crown will often do astounding things to improve the accuracy of an old rifle.

Lock time
Military rifles, like the Mausers that are well-suited for accurizing, were designed for reliability under battle conditions. They have a striker that hits the primer with ferocious intensity, driven by a heavy duty spring. Unfortunately, that mechanism is really heavy. Weight equates to inertia - when you press the trigger, it take a while for all that mass to get up to speed. This is called lock time. Ideally, you'd press the trigger and the bullet would exit the bore immediately, with no lock time at all. A long lock time (like in a Mauser action) gives you more time to wiggle around between the time that you press the trigger and the primer ignites the powder. More contemporary commercial actions (Remington, Sako, etc.) have greatly reduced lock time. Remington even invented an electronic trigger and electrically fired primer (Etronix) to virtually eliminate lock time, but it never really caught on. For the Mauser, you can buy a "speedlock" inner bolt assembly that's made of aluminum and titanium to significantly reduce lock time. They are available for other rifles as well, and you can even buy a titanium firing pin for your AR-15 that will cut down its lock time as well. There's a balancing act though - if the firing pin is too light, it might not reliably detonate your primers, so beware.

Optics mounts
This is an easy one. If the optics (scope or iron sights) are loose, they will bounce around from shot to shot. This is more common than you might think. It's pretty common to see a hunter at "sight in days" shooting up an entire box of ammo trying to zero his rifle. He'll be fine for elevation, but a shot will hit to the left. He dials in some right. The next shot is far to the right. He dials in left to correct. Now the shot is far to the left. He scratches his head, shoots again. Next shot is to the right! What? What is probably happening is that he has a loose scope mount, that's just bouncing to the limits of its travel with each shot. Or it could be a scope with loose internal parts. Or it might be that the hunter should hit the range more frequently than once a year. You can't blame the equipment for everything!

The solution here is easy. Buy good quality bases and mounts, install them correctly to the proper torque, and check them periodically!

What else?

That about covers the rifle components and interfaces that contribute to accuracy. Of course, an expensive Shilen or Lilja match barrel will be more accurate than a shot out WWII barrel. The most accurate benchrest rifles have special actions that are super stiff, to remove any hint of flex that might cause inconsistent performance. But, you might be surprised at how a bit of tuning can up the performance of even a modest barrel.

The benefit of this basic tuning is that it improves the accuracy of the rifle without harming the reliability for situations where the rifle simply must function properly, all the time. A survival rifle is no place to try out fancy gimmicks that may fail when the chips are down – simple, reliable, and tested techniques like the ones described here will often turn a reliable clunker into a tack driver. Just refreshing the barrel crown might take a rifle that can't shoot less than a 6 inch group at 100 yards and reduce that group to 2 inches.

Monday, January 7, 2013

I often have SurvivalBlog readers forward me alarmist e-mails, warning of "total disarmament" of the civilian populace. While there indeed may be plans or schemes to disarm Americans, I don't consider these threats credible. Let me explain why: I would conservatively estimate that there are about 316 million firearms in private hands in the United States. Of these, less than 10% are logged in any formal registry. Perhaps another 30% have Form 4473s filed with the FFL dealers where they were first purchased, but that is a fractured mishmash of records with a quite perishable life span. It is notable that we live in a very mobile society, where most families move every three or four years. And in most states, there are no record keeping requirements for secondary sales of firearms. So to call the accumulation of 4473 forms a de facto registration system is laughable.

A Congressional Research Service report provides these details:

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) reported in a national survey that in 1994, 44 million people, approximately 35% of households, owned 192 million firearms, 65 million of which were handguns. Seventy-four percent of those individuals were reported to own more than one firearm. According to the ATF, by the end of 1996 approximately 242 million firearms were available for sale to or were possessed by civilians in the United States. That total includes roughly 72 million handguns (mostly pistols, revolvers, and derringers), 76 million rifles, and 64 million shotguns. By 2000, the number of firearms had increased to approximately 259 million: 92 million handguns, 92 million rifles, and 75 million shotguns. By 2007, the number of firearms had increased to approximately 294 million: 106 million handguns, 105 million rifles, and 83 million shotguns.

In the past, most guns available for sale were produced domestically. In recent years, 1 million to 2 million handguns were manufactured each year, along with 1 million to 1.5 million rifles and fewer than 1 million shotguns. From 2001 through 2007, however, handgun imports nearly doubled, from 711,000 to nearly 1.4 million. By 2009, nearly 2.2 million handguns were imported into the United States. From 2001 through 2007, rifle imports increased from 228,000 to 632,000, and shotgun imports increased from 428,000 to 726,000. By 2009, rifle imports had increased to 864,000, but shotguns had decreased 559,000. By the same year, 2009, the estimated total number of firearms available to civilians in the United States had increased to approximately 310 million: 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, and 86 million shotguns.

The sheer number of guns that have little or no paper trail would make it virtually impossible to for any Papa Fidel or Chairman Mao Wannabes to implement a national registration scheme. Americans are quite independent by nature and are unlikely to comply with any universal registration edict. Consider the recent experience in Germany, where a new national registry logged in only 5.5 million guns, while 17 million guns remain un-papered in the hands of refuseniks. Now, if this happened in Germany--where the populace is famous for being sticklers to most laws (except on the autobahnen)--can you imagine the result if this were attempted in the United States? To call it massive noncompliance would be putting it mildly.

The bottom line: Be vigilant and vocal with our elected officials about any proposed legislation, but don't worry too much about the police ever going door to door, looking for unregistered guns. If this were attempted, they wouldn't get very far. I can predict that if Eric Holder ever wants to turn his fantasies of disarming the American people into reality, then he'll have to enlist the aid of every sworn law enforcement officer, every soldier, every prison guard, every park ranger, every dog catcher and every meter maid in the country. But I doubt many of those folks will be enthusiastic, in carrying out unconstitutional orders. So then he'd undoubtedly also need the help of a hundred divisions of foreign troops. My advice to Mr. Holder: Order up plenty of body bags. You'll need them.

Veteran blogger and Appleseed program shooting instructor Bob Owens recently summarized the mathematics of rebellion, quite succinctly: "A nation with just 800,000 law enforcement officers and 3 million active and reserve military personal cannot easily defeat and enslave a free people armed with 300 million firearms, even if large numbers of the police and military didn’t walk away or switch sides to follow their oath to the Constitution instead of any given leader, as many assuredly will."

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Dater JWR:
I am a retired police officer, SWAT team member, firearms instructor, armorer, First Aid CPR/AED instructor, and consider myself and my wife into prepping at a moderate level. While we do not have everything that I would like to have in my arms and accessories I know I am so far ahead of many of my friends that my confidence is high on that point.

I must tell you I was shocked when we visited a Southwestern Ohio gun store  about a week ago. My friend, an employee and also retired law enforcement officer, looked at us like a rookie department store clerk and said "I do not have words to describe this!"  "The last AR went out the door an hour before you got here, and we have no magazines left". They were limiting 5.56 ammo sales to half cases so naturally we bought half a case each as well as another of .45ACP.

The gist of my observation was while looking at a familiar gun store, and having a visceral reaction to shelves that looked like a grocery store pre blizzard or hurricane. I have been to homicides, fatal car crashes, and any number of scenes that would shock many of your readers who are not military or law enforcement. Nothing prepared me for this sight!

I told my wife: "All it will take is some small financial crisis and we could see a run on the banks." My story is not unique, I am sure you are hearing this again and again. Are we approaching a Rubicon?

Respectfully, - Brian T.

Hello, James.
I was wondering about something. If it is possible to build an entire lower assembly for an AR-15 (though a bit more fragile than what most people are aware of) using a 3D printer, wouldn't it also be possible to program that same printer to make composite construction 30 magazines (or larger) for AR series rifles. All that you would need to do then is buy the springs. Everything else can be produced using the printer. Sincerely, - Gerald H.
JWR Replies:
Unfortunately, with current technology I don't think that the plastics used have the requisite tensile strength, especially in the feed lips.  A  fully-loaded magazine exerts a lot of force on both the feed lips and the floorplate retainer. But in a few years, I expect 3D printing technology to mature substantially. So it could then become a viable option for fabricating magazines.

Monday, November 26, 2012

I've been shooting Buffalo Bore brand ammunition for about two years. The owner, Tim Sundles, never ceases to amaze me with all the new loads he comes out with - not just for self-defense, but great loads for hunting as well. What I also like about Buffalo Bore is that Sundles doesn't use special pressure barrels to test his velocities, he uses his own guns, from his own collection, so you are getting real-world velocities. Additionally, Sundles lists the various firearms he tested his ammo in - I'm not aware of any other ammo maker that does this.

First up is the new .38 Super +P load, with the Barnes Lead Free 124-grain all copper hollow point. Now, I hate to admit this, but I had never fired a .38 Super before I got this load. Over the years, I had plenty of opportunity to buy a few 1911s chambered in .38 Super, but always passed - ammo wasn't available in a lot of gun shops, and most of what was available were FMJ loads - not ideal for self-defense. I know many years ago, the .38 Super was really popular south of our border in Mexico - but those days are long gone, as legal private gun ownership is all but a thing of the past in Mexico. I understand that the .38 Super is still very popular down in Texas, though. So, I had to borrow a .38 Super 1911 from a friend to test this new Buffalo Bore load. Make no mistake, you can't and shouldn't attempt to fire the .38 Super in a .38 Auto chambered pistol - and especially a +P loaded 38 Super - you're inviting trouble if you do.

Many folks believe that the .38 Super is nothing more than a slightly hotter 9mm round - well, not exactly. And when we are talking a .38 Super +P load - we're talking a pretty hot-stepping load - it is in the same ballpark as the .357 SIG loads, in my opinion.  What we have in this newest loading from Buffalo Bore, is the very popular Barnes TAC-XP bullet, which is proving itself to be an excellent manstopper - this bullet stays together - there is no lead core - the bullet is a solid copper hollow point, that penetrates deeply and really expands.  Sundles also uses a flash retarding powder, to help prevent loss of your night vision when you fire this round. No one else is doing this to my knowledge. My chronograph gave-up the ghost sometime ago, and I never replaced it, so I'll just give you the velocities Sundles gets from his handguns he used in his testing. In a Colt 1911 Government Model, he was getting 1,409 feet per second - that's moving. In a Taurus PT 1911 - he was getting 1,288- feet per second, and in an EAA witness, with a 4.25-inch barrel, he was getting 1,228-feet per second. I fired this ammo into some water-filled milk jugs - I lined-up three just in a row, and the Barnes bullet easily penetrated all three milk jugs - so I had to add a fourth milk jug - and the Barnes bullet was caught in the fourth milk jug -and it expanded perfectly and retained 100% of it's weight. What more can you ask for in a self-defense round? If you own a .38 Super chambered pistol, this is s round you need for self-defense - bar none!

Next up is the .454 Casull round, with a 250-grain XPB Barnes bullet - and the difference between the TAC-XP and the XPB is that, the XPB is designed for hunting purposes, it will penetrate a little deeper and not expand quite as much - and when hunting big game, you want deep penetration to reach the vital organs of big game. In Sundles testing, he found that this load will penetrate roughly 24-inches, depending on the impact velocity and the particular bones that may be struck in the game animal. Again, I had to borrow a .454 Casull chambered revolver to test this round. I placed 6 milk jugs in a row, and they didn't stop this round - all I can say is, this one really penetrates. It would be ideal for large deer and black bear, and even bigger critters like elk if you stick to broad-side shots.

The XPB bullet is long-for-weight, and it crowds the case capacity, so Buffalo Bore wasn't able to use their flash suppressed powder in this load. I don't have a problem with this at all - I don't hunt in the dark - it's against the law, so I'm not worried about getting blinded by the flash. I barely noticed the flash in my own testing in daylight.  Sundles is getting close to 1,700-feet per second in a Freedom Arms 6-inch revolver, and that is really moving along a 250-grain bullet. If you own a .454 Casull chambered handgun, you need to check this round out for your next big game hunt.

Okay, I was never all that interested in the .45 Colt round, until my friend--and fellow gun writer--Sheriff Jim Wilson turned me onto this load in a Ruger revolver many years ago. You can load the .45 Colt to power levels above a .44 Mag if you handload, and you can do it safely, too. Buffalo Bore came out with a 255-grain soft cast hollow point, gas check load, which was designed for self-defense. Yes, this load is hotter than other factory loads, which are a bit sedate if you ask me, but it is perfectly safe to shoot in any .45 Colt chambered handgun according to Sundles.

This new .45 Colt self-defense load with this particular bullet, was designed to mushroom at speeds as low as 750-feet per second, but it will still penetrate about 18-inches, depending on the angle of the shot and whether or not bone is hit. Many .45 Colt factory loads have a round nose bullet, and they just slip right through tissue and bone without really imparting the energy needed to put an end to a dangerous self-defense situation. Additionally, this bullet was designed with a special crimp groove and the case mouth is heavily crimped so the bullet will not jump the crimp and tie-up your revolver. Also, a flash suppressant powder was used in this load.

I tried this load through a S&W Mountain Gun, and it wasn't bad in the recoil department at all. I note that Tim Sundles was getting 983-feet per second from the same gun. This round is much more pleasant to fire than any .357 Magnum load - and it will penetrate deeper that a .357 Mag JHP load and probably be a better manstopper. While many folks don't carry single-action revolvers for self-defense these days, this would be a great load to stoke in any single-action revolver or a S&W Mountain Gun. Many folks in the Southwest still carry single-action revolvers when they are out backpacking or on horseback, and this is the round they should have if they expect to face two-legged critters - and it wouldn't be a half bad round for medium sized game, which brings us to the next Buffalo Bore load.

The .45 Colt HEAVY +P "Deer Grenade" round is a massive hollow nosed 260-grain cast bullet with a gas check, traveling a velocities from 1,449-feet per second up to almost 1,900-feet per second, depending on the handgun or rifle you are firing it through. What's nice with this bullet is that it won't lead your barrel because it is gas checked - and if you fire a lot of cast bullets, you know how quickly a barrel can lead and what a pain it is to clean your barrel. Buffalo Bore designed this .45 Colt load to be the world's premier deer load - and I'm sure not going to pick a fight with Sundles over this - I believe him!

At an impact velocity of 1,100-feet this bullet will mushroom to about .80 caliber and should punch right through any deer with a broadside shot - that's great in the mushrooming area - that is serious expansion. At the 1,500-feet per second velocity, the bullet will still mushroom and some of the mushroom will fragment and send those pieces flying through the deer. At the 1,900-feet per second velocity, the entire mushroomed bullet will turn to shrapnel and send bullet particles throughout the deer doing horrific damage and probably push right through the deer. This load wasn't designed just for deer hunting, it can also be used on black beer or wild hogs and if you've ever hunting hogs, you know how hard they are to put down.

Now, a word of warning, and be take this advice to heart: This load is not designed for use in all .45 Colt chambered firearms. Use this round ONLY in the following firearms:

All Ruger large frame revolvers chambered in .45 Colt or .454 Casull, but don't use it in a smaller framed New Model Vaquero.
All 1892 Winchesters and all copies of such made after 1920.
All Winchester and Marlin 1894 models.
Any break-open action like a T/C or Handi-rifle.
Any falling block action such as the Sharps or Winchester 1895.
Any Freedom Army Model 83 or 97.

So, take this to heart, and do NOT use this round in any other firearms!!!!

No one else is making a round that can compare to this one from Buffalo Bore, if you have one of the aforementioned firearms, do yourself a favor and get some of this ammo and give it a try. This isn't plinking ammo. This is serious, +P hunting ammo.

Next up is the new .460 S&W lead free, 275-gr Barnes XPB load - and again, I don't have a revolver chambered in this caliber - but I'd sure love to have one - maybe one of these days, when funds permit, so I had to borrow this S&W revolver to test this load. As mentioned above, this is the XPB bullet from Barnes, an all-copper hollow point, but it was designed to penetrate deeper and expand a little bit less - great for reaching the vitals on big game animals. S&W advertises this round as the flattest shooting handgun round in the world, and I have no reason to doubt this claim.

This load at 275-grains, doesn't recoil nearly as much as some of the heavier loads in this caliber, and that's a nice thing. However, there is a lot of muzzle blast coming out of the sides of this revolver, so don't fire it with someone standing next to you. Tim Sundles has this round at 1,946-feet per second from his S&W Performance Center 10.5-inch revolver, and that is really moving. This round would be great for elk, moose or some of the bigger bears. And, when hunting those types of big game, you really want a load that penetrates. Again, I lined-up 8 water-filled milk jugs and fired this round into them - never did find the bullet - it's buried in a mountainside. So, we're looking at some deep penetration. 

Last up, for this article (and there are more new loadings from Buffalo Bore, but I'll save them for another article) is the .45-70 +P 350-grain Barnes TSX FN. This is really a hot-stepping .45-70 load. Pay attention that this is a +P load , and it is NOT safe to shoot in just any old firearm chambered in this caliber. So, here's a list of the guns it is safe to shoot in:

All Marlin 1895 made since 1972.
All Browning 1885 and 1886 copies,
Rossi Rio Grande.
New England Arms Handi-Rifle.
T/C Encore.
All falling block actions made of modern steel such as the Ruger #1 and #3, Shiloh, Christian and Pedersoli Sharps
All Winchester 1886 iterations made since 1915 and all Siamese Mauser bolt actions.

Now, if in doubt, go over this list again, before firing this +P .45-70 load in your firearms...and if you have any questions, contact Buffalo Bore Ammunition before ordering this ammo. This load is identical in exterior dimensions - but it is rated as +P - so be advised.

This Barnes all-copper, expanding 350-grain TSX-FN (flat nose) bullet will penetrate about as deeply as a typical 400-grain load core partition expanding bullet, yet gives the benefit of a lighter bullet, which means less recoil. Plus, it will shooter flatter. Out of Sundles' 1985 Marlin 22-inch lever-action rifle, he was getting 1,931-feet per second. I tested this load, and although I couldn't chronograph it, I have no reason to doubt the velocity Sundles was getting. I fired this round into a dirt mound, and I dug and dug - and never could find the round - it must be on the way to China because it penetrated so deeply.

With this +P .45-70 round from Buffalo Bore, you can have a "one-gun, one round" that will be capable of taking any and all big-game in the USA - including bison and brown bears. I have no doubt about this.

There are plenty of other newly developed loadings from Buffalo Bore that I'll cover in another article. Tim Sundles does not sit on his past accomplishments - he is constantly developing new loads and he actually tests his loads in the field when he goes hunting. As of late, he's been hard to catch in the office because he's been out hunting and testing his newest loads on game.

I've had some SurvivalBlog readers e-mail me and ask, how is it that I can test all these different loads in one day? Well, let's be realistic here, I don't test these loads in one day, this is over three months or longer - Buffalo Bore doesn't develop all these loads and send them to me at one time - it's a process that takes a lot of time. I have to actually get out in the field and fire these loads - and in some cases, I have to borrow firearms in some of these calibers so I can test the loads - it is a time-consuming process. I also have to take notes on all the calibers I test, and refer to my notes for articles like this.

If you aren't satisfied with standard factory loadings, and you want a little more velocity, penetration and knock-down power, then you owe it to yourself to check out the Buffalo Bore web site to see what they have to offer. They truly do have a huge offering on some of the most popular calibers around. And Tim Sundles tells me that SurvivalBlog readers are some of his best customers, as well as some of his most loyal repeat customers. Similarly, I've found that SurvivalBlog readers are a very intelligent bunch of folks who know what they like and don't like. Be sure to check out the Buffalo Bore web site, I'm betting you'll find something there for your self-defense, hunting and survival needs. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Friday, November 23, 2012

Many people have learned much of what they "know" about firearms from the movies. This includes the devices commonly known as "silencers." Even the name is misleading. A sound suppressor does not silence a firearm completely in most cases. What it does do is reduce the noise level while greatly reducing the muzzle blast and flash. Sound suppressors have been in use for over 100 years. Until the National Firearms Act of 1934, people in the United States could buy sound suppressors in gun stores or even hardware stores. Sound suppressors are now heavily regulated in the U.S. and in many countries. Curiously, however, some nations place few restrictions on sound suppressors or even require their use, in order to reduce the "noise pollution" associated with target shooting and hunting.

Legal purchase of a sound suppressor in the United States is administered by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE). Before the purchase can be made, the person must undergo the application process, which includes paying a $200 tax and undergoing a criminal background check. Some purchasers are surprised to find that sound suppressors in the US are often very expensive -- in many cases exceeding the cost of the firearm they are to be used with. In some states -- including California, Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and some others -- sound suppressors are completely banned for ordinary citizens. In states that allow suppressors, there may be purchase requirements in addition to those required by the federal government.

Purchasing a sound suppressor will be seen by some preppers as a violation of OPSEC. Suppressors are also likely to draw unwanted attention if used at a public range. Additionally, they are bulky and add weight to a firearm, and their width can block the view through the sights of some firearms. Adding a sound suppressor to my favorite squirrel rifle would make it much less fun to carry in the woods, even if it didn't block the sights.


On the other hand, the ability to shoot with less noise has several advantages. In addition to allowing early-morning shooting at urban or suburban ranges without disturbing nearby neighbors, a quiet firearm is a wonderful tool for training. New shooters are often intimidated by the loud noises associated with firearms, and this can contribute to flinching.

If the suppression reduces the sound sufficiently, hearing protection may be deemed unnecessary. This means greater comfort, especially for those who complain of discomfort caused by ear plugs or other hearing protection. A quieter range can also be a safer range, as range master commands are more easily heard by shooters and spectators. Eye protection, however, must always be worn whenever firearms are in use. I have been struck by a ricocheting .22LR bullet that struck a hard object and bounced straight back at me. It caused no injury, but it drove home the need to always wear eye protection.

In the hunting camp, a quiet firearm may give the hunter the ability to take small game near camp without alarming his or her partners or spooking larger game animals that may be grazing in the vicinity. When hunting small game, such as squirrels, being able to shoot with less noise may allow more animals to be taken in one location, without a loud report to scare the animals from the vicinity.

For the survivalist, the prepper, or even the rural homesteader, there are huge advantages to being able to shoot with less noise. On a working farm, more shots are probably fired at pests or predators than are ever fired at game animals. At my sister's ranch near Ukiah, California, I learned as a child just how many animals are fond of free range chickens! Several years later, while working as the range master at a Boy Scout camp outside Boonville, California, I used a quiet rifle for early morning rodent elimination near the range. The low report didn't disturb sleeping campers on the other side of the hill.

Operational security is another very important reason to look for ways to reduce gunshot noise. Anyone who has been outdoors during hunting season knows that rifle fire can be heard for a considerable distance. A low profile is vital, especially in the weeks or months after a calamity, when elements of the Golden Horde may be on the move nearby.

Surprisingly, the ability to shoot quietly may be even more important to preppers who are near suburban or urban areas. As we have seen in the wake of disasters, sometimes people are left to fend for themselves -- without power, phone, or other means of calling for help -- for weeks at a time. Flood waters and lack of proper sanitation may bring rats, mice and other potential disease vectors closer to homes. With no one to call, it would be helpful to have a way to deal with such a threat. At the same time, the days after a disaster are not a good time to be shatter the now-quiet neighborhood with gunshots. Even if it is a genuine emergency, such as a rabid animal threatening your household, caution is warranted. And changing technologies have made discretion even more important than before.


"One's a backfire. Three is gunplay." - James Caan in The Way of the Gun

It's a great movie line, but it's no longer the case. A single gunshot used to be a transitory event: a loud noise that could be mistaken for fireworks, a board being dropped, or something else. People would tend to perk up, and if the noise wasn't repeated, they would forget about it. In many urban areas, a single gunshot didn't even warrant a call to the police, and there was little chance of pinpointing its origin if they were called. In my neighborhood in Oakland, California in the 1980s, gunfire at night was a common sound, and we rarely saw a police car coming to investigate unless someone was hit and 9-1-1 was called. Now, however, cities like Oakland are using new technologies, such as microphones on cell phone towers, utility poles, or rooftops to record, identify and quickly triangulate the location of a gunshot ("Shot Spotter" - WIRED Magazine, March 2007). With the relaxation of restrictions, drones may soon join the ranks of urban listeners.

Once a gunshot is identified and located, police are alerted by the system and can be given an exact street address and the time of the gunshot. During a grid-up emergency, one could imagine that authorities would continue to rely on gunshot location networks. It could make for an ugly situation if you dispatch a rabid skunk while cleaning up after a hurricane, only to have the National Guard show up, looking for a possible sniper.


Over the years, I've had a number of people ask me about alternatives to firearms for pest elimination and small game hunting. The tools asked about have included airguns, bows and arrows, crossbows, blowguns, slingshots, slings, and even darts and thrown knives. Some of these -- particularly airguns -- can be quite effective, but all have their own limitations. Some stray into the realm of fantasy (slings and throwing weapons).

Modern airguns can be powerful, insanely accurate, and are sized for adults. Unfortunately, some of them are also loud enough to cause troubles of their own. None of the high-quality airguns are inexpensive, and they are somewhat specialized tools. One of the quieter air rifles, however, could serve for quiet pest elimination and for practice. Once the initial investment is made, further costs are not prohibitive. Pellets can be bought by the thousands, and quality airguns last a long time and are not maintenance-intensive.

Blowguns can be very accurate within their limits, but they are a short-range proposition and lack stopping power. They are also banned in California -- and probably in some other jurisdictions. Bows and crossbows seem rather clumsy for dealing with an animal in the yard or garden, and short-range shots in that environment will be destructive to arrows and bolts. Additionally, most people lack the skill level to make this a viable choice: a limitation which also applies to slingshots. Of course, a skilled shooter with a slingshot can be very impressive. I've seen small game animals dropped with a .38 round ball from a slingshot as though they'd been hit between the eyes with a hammer. Of all the non-gun weapons, a quality slingshot is probably the most practical, provided the shooter takes the time to acquire the necessary skill.


The ideal solution for many of us would be using a firearm that we are already proficient with, but to somehow make the gun quiet on demand. Special rimfire ammunition renders a long-barreled .22 rifle nearly silent without any muzzle device, special permit or other trouble. The handling qualities of the rifle are unaffected, and there is no suppressor tube to intrude into the sight picture. I have found this special ammo useful for pests and for training without the need for hearing protection.

The ideal rifle for quiet rimfire shooting has a barrel length of 24 inches or longer. I have experimented with other barrel lengths. It came as a surprise to find that a 22-inch barrel with quiet rimfire ammo was significantly louder than the same ammunition out of the longer barrel. Generally, the shorter the barrel, the louder the report will be, but the sound of the shot will still be quieter than standard .22LR high velocity ammunition.

Semiauto rifles may not cycle with quiet ammunition, as it generates less energy than regular ammo. In this case, of course, the action can be manually cycled between shots. Some quiet ammo, due to the overall length of the rounds, may also have issues in feeding from a magazine.

I have experimented with two types of quiet rimfire ammunition in particular. There are other choices available, but the two types looked at here would be a good starting point. Every rimfire rifle is a law unto itself: what shoots accurately in my rifle may not do so in yours, and vice versa. You should be ready to try different types of ammunition until you find one that shoots accurately in your rifle. Fortunately, rimfire ammo is inexpensive and is not particularly hard to find. I've even seen Quiet-22 ammo (described below) in Wal-Mart recently, alongside some .22 Short loads that I plan to try out soon.


The CCI .22 CB Long round was designed to overcome shortcomings of the various .22 BB Cap (Bulleted Breech Cap), .22 CB Cap (Conical Ball Cap) and .22 Short loadings. These rounds offered low noise and reduced velocity, but their short lengths affected feeding, in addition to possible chamber fouling issues (discussed below). CCI combined the .22 Long case (which is the same length as the Long Rifle case) with a light, 29-grain solid-point bullet (which was a normal weight for the Long, back when the round was popular).

The CCI .22 CB Long round contains a small powder charge, to produce a lower muzzle velocity than standard .22 ammunition. With the light bullet, its loaded length is a little shorter than regular .22LR rounds. It feeds reliably in some actions, but may have issues with others. You need to try it in your own firearm to see if it feeds consistently. Its light powder charge is not strong enough to work the action in most semiauto firearms.

The advantage of the CB Long becomes evident when you fire it. From a barrel of 24 inches or longer, the report is quieter than the sound of the bullet hitting the target. Even indoors or at a range with a roof and dividers between firing stations, the noise is so low that hearing protection is not needed (although eye protection is always necessary). It is quieter than many high-powered air rifles, and the report does not sound like a gunshot.

From shorter barrels, the noise level increases. It is still much quieter than .22LR high-velocity ammunition, but it is loud enough to carry over short distances. As barrel length decreases, the noise level increases. My suspicion is that all of the powder is burned, even when the round is fired in shorter barrels. The longer barrel likely provides room for the gases to expand, so that the residual pressure is reduced, with a corresponding reduction in report when the gas is released by the exit of the bullet. In shorter barrels, the higher gas pressures increase the noise level. Even in short-barreled youth carbines, however, the .22 CB Longs offer a gentler report than one finds with regular .22 ammunition. A pair of foam ear plugs is adequate ear protection, and people a short distance from the shooter will not experience discomfort.

I have experienced very good accuracy out to 25 yards with the CCI .22 CB Longs, and the bullets hit harder than you might think. I have killed a number of very large rats with this ammo -- with head shots -- and have no complaints about its killing power on rodents. The 29-grain bullet is much heavier than the airgun pellets that many shooters use on rodents and similar-sized small game, although the muzzle velocity will likely be lower than that of an airgun meant for hunting.


A newer round from CCI is the Quiet-22, which uses a 40-grain bullet and looks like a regular .22LR cartridge. The Quiet-22 round seems to feed very well in repeating actions, although it will probably not have enough pressure to operate a semiauto. Like the CB Long round, CCI decided to use a round-nose, solid-point bullet. This looks like a good choice, in that the velocity advertised on the box is 710 feet per second -- probably not enough for expansion with a hollow-point bullet.

The Quiet-22 quickly became one of my favorite ammunition choices for use in my Stevens 86C. This bolt action has a long barrel and is very quiet with the CCI Quiet-22 ammo. Quiet-22 feeds reliably from the tubular magazine and is only slightly louder -- to my ears -- than the CB Long cartridge. The bullet strike is still the loudest sound. I can shoot in the early morning at a suburban range without complaints from anyone in nearby houses. Even someone in the parking lot of the range would not likely hear the shots!

Buy some of this ammunition, and I believe you will like it as much as I do. I liked it so much, that after trying it, I bought two cases (2,000 rounds) of the stuff! The CCI Quiet-22 load does most of the things that I use a .22 rifle for. It just does them with less noise.


There are other types of ammunition intended for quiet shooting, such as the Aguila Colibri and SSS (Super Subsonic Sniper) rounds. I would encourage anyone looking for a way to shoot quietly and accurately to buy a few boxes and give them a try. As most of us know, every .22 is unique, and it's impossible to predict with any certainty which type of ammo will be best in a particular gun. Variables such as barrel length, twist rate, bore diameter, chamber dimensions and other variables can greatly affect how ammunition performs in that firearm. The Aguila SSS, for example, has a very heavy (60 grain), long bullet that may perform best with a fast rifling twist for greater stability. I have heard a wide variety of reactions to it, in terms of accuracy. Some love it, and some hate it, but you should decide for yourself with your rifle.

Don't forget the traditional "low-noise" rounds: the .22 BB Cap, .22 CB Cap, and the .22 Short. The first two may be hard to find nowadays, and the truly tiny case length of the BB and CB Cap cartridges probably won't permit them to feed in repeating actions. They can be single-loaded directly into the chamber of the rifle, however, and they generally have little or no powder charge, making them very quiet for practice, training and plinking. The .22 Short can still be found on gun store shelves and even in Wal-Mart. It will probably be quieter than regular .22LR ammo, especially in long-barreled rifles.

You may hear that short-cased ammunition will cause problems in rifles chambered for the .22LR cartridge. Most of this is probably due to rifles that were fired extensively with short-cased ammo and not cleaned properly. Most of us are not likely to use huge quantities of .22 Short ammunition, but if we make a point of scrubbing the chamber afterwards, it should not be an issue.

One point about the .22 Short: like all the cartridges discussed here, it should be treated like a full-power .22 high-velocity round in terms of safety practices. Don't forget that the .22 Short was originally a defensive round (loaded with black powder) and that it was carried for that purpose by soldiers in the 1860s in the Civil War. None of the rounds in this article can be treated casually. All of them could be be lethal if mishandled. All normal safety rules must apply.


For any who are wondering whether they should bother with quiet rimfire shooting, I ask: Why not? If you're like me, much of your rimfire shooting with rifles falls under training, teaching, and plinking, and these tasks might be done just as well with quiet ammo as with full-power stuff, only with less noise.

Quiet rimfire ammo truly shines in use with young or novice shooters. Although there is almost no recoil with standard bulk pack .22LR HVHP ammo, the noise level is high enough to induce flinching, especially if the shooter is too small for the ear muffs to fit properly.

For hunting or discrete pest elimination, these rounds will do the job on rodents with good bullet placement. I would hesitate to go after anything larger than a rabbit, however, unless there was a pressing need for both meat and keeping a low noise profile. For a suspected rabid animal that was much larger, like a dog, I would much prefer a centerfire carbine round to the body, to stop the animal as quickly as possible while preserving the animal's head for later testing.

I recommend Quiet-22 as a starting point for your explorations into quiet rimfire shooting. With its 40-grain bullet and Long Rifle case, it should feed in most actions, and the standard-weight bullet should be compatible with the rifling in most firearms. It should also provide more killing power against small animals than .22 Short or .22 Long cartridges. Quiet-22 seems to be fairly easy to find, and it cost me about five cents a round from Midway USA -- not much more than "bulk pack" .22 LR ammunition from Wal-Mart.

Be careful with all of these loads! Treat them as you would any firearm ammunition and follow all safety rules.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Washington D.C. is presently all abuzz with talk of the BHO Administration looking for an opportunity to enact the UN's stalled Small Arms and Light Weapons Treaty. Meanwhile, Senator-For-Life Dianne Feinstein is "consensus building" to reenact the so-called Assault Weapons and "high capacity" magazine ban. (Note that the term "high capacity" is a specious political creation, to wit: A 30 round magazine is standard capacity for an AR or an AK, and anything less than that is a reduced capacity magazine. Get your terminology straight and don't fall for semantics traps!) Rumor has it that this new incarnation of the ban would have no sunset clause and worse yet, no mechanism for transferring guns within a family. (When you die, your family would have to turn your guns in for destruction.) Please contact your senators and congressmen and urge them stop all civilian disarmament schemes in their tracks.

Here are a few of my observations about firearms, their use, and hoplophobes:

Guns rarely go down in value, so they are some of the very best investments. Consider: The used Macintosh II computer that I bought for $875 in 1990 is now worth perhaps $5 in scrap metal value, but the used stainless steel Colt Gold Cup .45 pistol that I bought for $400 in 1990 is now worth around $1,100.

Guns are often tussled over by heirs whenever an estate gets settled, for good reason: They are a compact, portable, and desirable form of wealth.

A gun is almost unique in that it is it's own insurance policy, should anyone ever attempt to deprive you of it, by force. I say almost unique, because a trained pet bear carries the same policy.

Firearms are a popular target of elected officials in part because it is plentiful privately-owned firearms that keep bush league politicians from becoming major league dictators.

If politicians used the same logic that they apply to guns in attempting ban cars (which can squash people) or laptop computers (which can be used to commit libel) then they'd all be hauled off to insane asylums.

Without ammunition and magazines, rifles are just useless ornaments or very expensive clubs. So buy plenty of ammunition and magazines.

It is difficult for miscreants to argue you with you when they are looking at the muzzle of a loaded rifle, and it is even harder for them to argue with a loaded rifle that has sprouted a bayonet. If your rifle has bayonet lug, then buy a bayonet for it. A bayonet can also be a useful knife, but a knife is not also a bayonet.

History has taught us repeatedly that firearms registration is a stepping stone to confiscation. Common sense dictates that you keep your firearms purchases as private as possible. Sign up for bridal registries, not gun registries.

Don't expect just one gun to fit all potential circumstances and every imaginable task. There is no such thing as a concealable elk rifle.

The term "Gun Buy Back" is bald-faced lie. The gun grabbers never owned them, so they certainly aren't buy them back. They merely want to buy them up, for pennies on the dollar. There are just a few pitiable dupes who fall for this ploy and agree to part with their birthright in exchange for cash, sporting event tickets, or gift cards.

I can think of no better barter items than guns, ammunition, and magazines. There may come a day when times are so truly bad that silver or gold may be refused, in a barter transaction. Not so for guns, ammunition, and magazines. They will always be desirable, and they will almost always leave you on the stronger side of negotiating a swap.

Don't be too concerned about the exterior cosmetics when shopping for a used gun. Dings and scratches just show that a gun was used and enjoyed. Spend more time examining the bore and the gun's mechanics. If looks could kill, the streets would be littered with corpses.

When I see seized guns being melted down on the orders of bureaucrats, it makes me want to weep. They are eating the seed corn of our liberty.

When I'm asked about whether I'd consider moving offshore, it always forces the obvious question: Where on Earth could I move where I would have the same level of firearms liberties that I now enjoy in these United States? There are precious few countries. So, for now, I'll make my stand here.

Guns are like parachutes: if you don't have one when you need it, then chances are that you won't ever be in need of one again.

- J.W.R.

I was more than a little anxious to get to the new Bear OPS "Bold Action" automatic folder for SurvivalBlog. For those who may not be aware of who Bear & Son Cutlery are, they have been around since 1991 and have a very extensive line of knives and tools for everyday tasks, as well as for survival, hunting and for collectors. Be sure to log onto their site to see their complete line-up. However, for this article, we're only looking at their new division of Bear OPS. The stated goal of Bear OPS is to produce the "best knives made in the USA." Only USA manufactured parts, material, and a dedicated workforce work in this division. They only use premium 154 CM or CPM-S30V steel for these blades and they do their own heat-treat, water-jet and CNC grinding to finish their blades. You also get a Limited Lifetime Warranty on all Bear OPS knives and tools.

My long-time friend, Tom Ables, is handling the outside public relations and marketing for Bear & Son Cutlery. When he told me about the new Bold Action tactical folders from the Bear OPS division, I was more than a little excited to get my hands on a sample or two. Tom Ables spent about 30 years doing the marketing for another major cutlery player, and he knows cutlery inside and out. Now, the new Bold Action automatic folders are only available for those who live in enlightened states that allow automatic folders, or those in the military or law enforcement. However, don't despair, Bear OPS has a good number of other folders that will take care of your needs if you can't legally own an automatic folder.

I received two Bold Action folders for this article, one is the AC-110-B4-T - that has a Tanto-style blade, and the other is the AC-1-B4-T that has a modified drop-style point - probably one of the most useful blade styles ever. Either blade style comes in a 3-inch length, and is made from premium CPM-S30V stainless steel, and is .115-inches thick. The blades are heat-treated to a Rockwell hardness of Rc58-60 - not too hard and not too soft - they will hold an edge a good long time, and will be easier to re-sharpen compared to blades having a higher Rockwell hardness. You can also get either Bold Action with a bead-blasted blade or a black Ti coating .Mine came with the latter. The handle material is G-10, which is super-tough, with grip edges for a secure hold. You can also opt to have good-looking Cocobolo wood. Closed length is 4-1/8" and it weighs 6 ounces. There is a pocket/clothing clip for tip-down carry.

Now, as for the button for the automatic opening on the Bold Action. The button is slightly recessed into the handle - the button is of a good size, too. Several automatic folders I've tested over the years, that have opened in my pocket because the button got bumped and it usually resulted in the open blade "stabbing" me in the leg, or a cut to my hand when I reached in my pocket. Some automatic folders now have an additional safety that locks the button so the blade can't accidentally deploy while in your pocket. The Bold Action does away with any added safety by simply recessing the open button a little bit into the handle scales - nice job, Bear!

I couldn't find any flaws in the blade or the handle scales on either sample, they were done up right in my opinion. I prefer a slightly longer blade on a folder for self-defense purposes, however the 3-inch blade on the Bold Action is plenty long enough for Every Day Carry (EDC) purposes. To be sure, a pocket knife will probably be used 99% of the time for everyday cutting chores, so the 3-inch blade isn't any sort of a handicap in my book. The blades opened with authority and locked in place solidly - I can't say that for all the auto opening knives I've tested of the years - so had way too much side-to-side play when opened. This is not the case with the Bear OPS Bold Action folders.

There is also a nice lanyard hole in the butt on the Bold Action folders, and the liners appear to be stainless steel. To open the Bold Action, simple depress the button and the blade flies open and locks in place. To close the blade, use the same button - press in on it, and you can then close the blade, and it honestly does lock in place solidly! What can be simpler? Both the Tanto and Drop Point blades felt good in my hand - not too big and not too small. I like enough handle to hold onto in a folder or fixed blade knife, and even though the blades on these knives are only 3-inches long, there was more than enough handle to hold onto.

I used the Tanto blade more in my testing than the drop point blade - I'm just partial to Tanto-style blades for some reason - nothing I can put my hand on, but I like Tanto blades a bit more than drop point - even though it has been proven that drop point blades are more useful for more tasks. Go figure. Almost daily, UPS or FedEx brings me a package or two, and I reach for whatever folding knife I have in my pockets to cut the boxes open. I also used the Bold Action folders for chores around the kitchen, and I honestly do a lot of cooking in our house, and the Bold Action handled all my kitchen chores from slicing tomatoes to cutting cucumbers and meat. I also spent some time cutting poly rope - now if you've ever tried cutting poly rope, you know that a lot of knife blades will simply slip right off this slick rope - no problem for the CPM-S30V blades on the Bold Action. I also tested some wet hemp rope - again, wet rope is very difficult to cut - ask any sailor - and I had no problems with the Bold Action samples.

The Bold Action AC-110-B4-T retails for $230, a good chunk of change. But this is one rugged little automatic folder, that would make a welcome addition as an EDC folder. And, I like the idea of Made In The USA and the Limited Lifetime Warranty. I was pretty impressed with the Bold Action samples. And, I'm going to request some more knives from Bear & Son Cutlery to test for SurvivalBlog readers. They really do have quite an extensive line-up of knives and tools, including Damascus blades, filleting knives, double-edge fighting knives, Bowie hunters, multi-type tools, and multi-blade knives. They also make butterfly knives and a host of other tools - too many to list here. Be sure to check out the   Bear & Son Cutlery web site and the Bear OPS web page for a look at all they have to offer. I'm betting good money you'll find quite a few knives and tools you'll want to add to your survival needs or just for collecting. I'm looking forward to testing more of their products. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Saturday, November 10, 2012

It is well-reported that America is a land of 312 million people and somewhere between 310 million and 320 million guns. (There is no firm figure, because thankfully only a small fraction of Americans live in locales with gun registration.) Of those, there are about 80 million handguns in circulation. And of that 80 million, I would venture an educated guess that there are less than 50 million holsters, to match. This is because most handgun owners are not regular handgun carriers. The most lopsided "gun-to-holster" ratios are with .22 rimfire handguns, and large-frame, long-barreled revolvers. I suspect that perhaps only 25% of those handguns have an accompanying holster. There are also more rifles and far more shotguns out there than there are carrying slings for them. (I'd roughly estimate that less than 10% of shotguns have slings.)

These disparities represent a huge opportunity for a post-collapse cottage industry.
In a post-collapse world, suddenly almost everyone will want to be armed at all times, and they will be eager to barter to fill those needs.

Get some practice at holster and sling making. Then stock up heavily on leatherworking tools and supplies, tanned cow hides, sheets of brown or olive green Kydex, rolls of brown or olive green nylon webbing (for slings and straps) sewing awls, waxed nylon thread, rivets, snaps, sling swivels, and buckles of various sizes.

Also keep in mind that because of its length and padding, the venerable U.S. military M60 sling is one of the most versatile slings for re-purposing. They can be used with a huge variety of rifles and shotguns. So if you don't have craft skills, then you can at least buy a pile of those slings to keep on hand for barter. (They are quickly and easily shortened, with a snip of scissors.)

I should also mention that nearly any handgun with a positive external safety lever can be safely carried in a Nalgene water bottle pouch. (Warning: Glocks and other "safety in the trigger"-type pistols can only be carried safely in specifically-made holsters that fully enclose the triggerguard!) Yes, these pouches are bulky and slow to access as a makeshift holster, but they will fit about 80% of handguns. But their bulk also camouflages a pistol--since they don't look like a holster. That can have advantages in some situations. If it the pouch is too deep, then just add some balled-up pairs of spare socks, or some Israeli battle dressings, or a couple of folded bandanas. And by the way, the same pouches also work reasonably well for carrying shotgun shells and many types of magazines.

Someday, you may be very glad that you stocked up. - J.W.R.

Monday, October 15, 2012

I've received numerous requests from SurvivalBlog readers to review the new Ruger 10/22 Takedown .22 LR rifle. I literally lost count of the number of e-mails I got from SurvivalBlog readers, but it was probably close to a hundred requests. Now, I hate to admit this, but I never (personally) owned a standard Ruger 10/22 rifle of my own - my wife and youngest daughter owned them, and I shot them, but never owned one myself. So, this was a good time to lay claim to a sample for this article. I've recommended the Ruger 10/22 rifle to untold numbers of folks, based on the reliability and accuracy of this rifle.
Now, we can agree to disagree on this point, and I honestly don't need hundreds of e-mails agreeing or disagreeing with me on this. A lot of folks don't believe that the .22 LR cartridge makes a good survival or self-defense round - fine! We are all entitled to our opinions. However, my research shows, at least from many years ago, that back in Chicago, according to their crime lab stats (now it's called CSI) that more people were killed with the lowly .22 LR than other, much bigger and powerful calibers. When it comes down to it, I'll take a .22 LR firearm over throwing sticks or stones when it comes to survival. Besides, I'm not advocating that anyone arm themselves with just a .22 caliber firearm for their self-defense or survival needs. However, every survival firearms battery should have some kind of .22 caliber gun for taking small game for the pot. Additionally, I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to be within 150 yards on the receiving end of someone armed with a .22 caliber rifle, who knows how to use it. It may not kill someone at that distance with a single shot, but it would sure make that person wish they were some place else.
One of the great things about any .22 caliber firearm is the readily availability of ammo, the low cost (all things considered today) and the amount of ammo a person can pack with them. You can easily carry several thousand rounds of .22 LR ammo in a backpack, along with several spare magazines for your .22 rifle or pistol. I don't know about you, but that's a lot of lead a person can throw downrange at an attacker. Try carrying several thousand rounds of .223 Rem., 7.62x39 or .308 Winchester ammo in your pack. That simply isn't going to happen!
The new Ruger Takedown 10/22 rifle that comes in a backpack carrying case. Just a quick over view of the 10/22 Takedown is in order. First of all, it is in .22 LR caliber. It has a stainless steel barrel, with a black synthetic stock and fore end. Adjustable rear sight, with a gold bead front sight. There is an extended magazine release (nice), and a 10-shot rotary magazine - but it also takes all after-market 25-30 round mags, as well as the new Ruger 25 round mag. There is a scope base on the receiver, too. Plus, the backpack carrying case deserves some mention. The backpack carrying case is made out of ballistic Nylon, and when you takedown the rifle, into the two sections, they fit nicely inside two of the three large inside pockets. The third pocket inside the case is for either a scope or extra magazines. On the outside we have a carrying strap and handle, plus two more pockets for carrying spare ammo or magazines, or whatever else you might want to haul. There is the big Ruger logo on the case, and this is my only source of contention. While we take pride in our firearms, and want folks to know what we are hauling, from a OPSEC point of view, I'd rather not have this logo on the backpack. A person could toss the Ruger 10/22 Takedown in the back of their rig, and anyone looking into the rig would just think it's any other backpack and wouldn't bother with it. However, anyone with any firearms knowledge would know that logo means there is possibly a firearm in that backpack. So, I'd like to see Ruger offer the option of not having a backpack with the red Ruger logo on it - just my druthers! [JWR Adds: It is easy to find a 2" diameter round embroidered patch on eBay or at a craft store that can be sewn over the top of the big red Ruger logo. I'd suggest selecting something innocuous like an environmentalist logo patch. Perhaps a recycling theme. After all, most of us shooters save our empty brass and reload our centerfire cartridges. So we're environmentally friendly. ;-) Or, humorously, perhaps a Buckaroo Banzai patch might be sufficiently obtuse and yet still deliver a double entendre. But seriously: The dimensions of the Ruger 10/22 backpack are very close to a soft trumpet case. So a trumpet patch or other music logo patch would be the best camouflage.]
I don't know how many of the various Ruger 10/22 rifles models have been sold over the years, but I'm sure it has been well over a million. It is the most popular .22 rifle in this country to my knowledge. The 10/22 has an unmatched record for reliability, too - no other standard factory-made .22 LR rifle that I know of, is as reliable as the 10/22 is, period! As to accuracy - there's plenty there. In my testing, with a huge variety of .22 LR ammo - I was able to get 1-1/2" to 2" groups all day long without trying that hard. And I didn't have any malfunctions or misfires in more than a 1,000 rounds of shooting. It is noteworthy that some of my stored .22 LR ammo is 15 years old, but stored in US military ammo cans. The 10/22 rotary magazine is famous for reliability and it didn't let me down, easy to load, too. I'd really like to see Ruger include one of their own 25 round magazines along with the standard 10 round mag - where allowed by law. Anyone into serious preparedness will immediately purchase a good quantity of 25 or 30 round mags for their 10/22. They are presently inexpensive and plentiful these days - get them while you can. I even tried some Eagle brand cheap all-plastic mags and they worked fine - I bought some of these many years ago for $6.99 each. Butler Creek brand 10/22 mags also worked without a hitch. [JWR Adds: My favorite full capacity (25 round) magazines for Ruger 10/22s are made by Tactical Innovations in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. Their top of the line magazines are machined out of aluminum stock! They also make some less expensive polymer magazines. They all work flawlessly. We've put many thousands of rounds though ours, without a hiccup.]
The 10/22 Takedown rifle is, as the name implies, you can take it down - into two pieces, the receiver and butt stock and the barrel and forearm. And, taking the 10/22 Takedown apart takes all of about three seconds, simply lock the bolt open, push the locking lever forward to unlock it, rotate the barrel assembly and pull forward - it takes longer to explain it, than it does to actually perform this action. To put the two pieces back together, you simply insert the barrel assembly into the receiver, twist 90 degrees and it locks together. The gun comes adjusted from the factory, however should you find the two pieces starting to loosen over time, there is an adjustment ring on the receiver, and it only takes less than a minute to make any needed adjustments so the two pieces are tightly locked together - I had no problems at all with my sample becoming too loose - after at least a hundred times of taking the gun apart and putting it back together. [JWR Adds: It bears mentioning that the takedown mechanism is so simple that it can be done blindfolded. The crucial thing to remember is that the bolt must be locked to the rear when both disassembling and re-assembling the rifle.]
I really like the gold bead front sight - it is fast to pick-up, and it stands out, makes for fast shots. The extended magazine release is also a nice touch, makes mag changes fast and easy. The entire gun only weighs 4.67 pounds -- light as can be. If you are out hiking in the boonies, the 10/22 Takedown would be a great addition to your kit - you have a handy .22 caliber rifle on-hand, should you need it, in a nice backpack. You can also pack a lunch and put it in one of the outside pockets of the backpack, along with water and a good supply of .22 LR ammo for a day's shooting on the trail, or in a worse case scenario, for self-defense against two-legged predators.
Again, we can all agree to disagree about the .22 LR round as a viable self-defense cartridge. However, as I pointed out at the start of this articles, it sure beats having to throw stones at an attacker, or fighting them off with a sharpened stick. Nope, I'll gladly take a .22 caliber firearm over no firearm at all. Plus, there is always the "fun factor" associated with shooting a .22 caliber firearm - and it is cheap to shoot, even though the price of .22 LR ammo has doubled in the past 10 years , and I don't expect it will get any cheaper. You should stock-up on all the .22 LR ammo you can afford to get. In my neck of the woods, at the local membership store, you can usually find some kind of .22 LR ammo for $13.99 for a brick of 500 rounds - that's a day of fun shooting, or put it away for survival purposes. A box of 9mm FMJ ammo cost $12.99 these days--and that's only 50 rounds of ammo. Just make sure to store your ammo in quality US military ammo cans for the best storage life of all your ammo.
The new Ruger 10/22 Takedown retails for $389 and you can usually find them discounted a bit in the big box stores, and many gun shops. They are a super-hot seller right now, and they might be a little bit hard to find, but keep looking, they are worth it. Yeah, you can find a less expensive .22 LR rifle, but you aren't getting a Ruger 10/22 Takedown, with unsurpassed reliability, and the option of taking the gun apart and carrying it in a backpack. Yes, I know, there are some other "survival" rifles out there, that you can take apart, but they aren't a Ruger. And they don't have the Ruger legendary reliability or accuracy, either. Make you choices wisely...your life may depend on it!

Monday, September 24, 2012

I try not to bore my readers with the minutiae of our day-to-day life here at the Rawles Ranch. It is largely a fairly mundane annual rhythm of planting, harvesting, calving and lambing, wood cutting, huckleberry picking, hay hauling, and so forth. But I recently had driving mishap that was noteworthy: I was driving our SUV and hit a mountain lion, in broad daylight. I must first mention that deer collisions are all too common here in The Unnamed Western State (TUWS), and that elk or big horn sheep collisions are quite a bit less frequent. Even more rare are moose collisions, and those never end well. (Moose are so tall that they often go over the hood of a pickup truck and through the windshield.) But to hit a mountain lion is about as common an occurrence as getting struck by lightning or winning the mega lotto. I did a web search and found that the popular press tends to spill a lot of ink over these rare occurrences.

Here is what happened: I was driving down the highway minding my own business with the cruise control set at the speed limit and listening to an MP3 of Taj Mahal singing "Queen Bee" (part of my collection of favorite air checks from KFAT.) Suddenly I saw a full-grown cougar bounding out of the tree line, at speed. It ran into the highway in front of me. I didn't have any time to react. I heard it hit our deer bumper and then felt it go under the two driver's side tires. So now the large predator population of TUWS has been reduced by one. In doing so, I probably saved the lives of hundreds of deer. It was a little sad to see a pretty kitty get squashed, but so be it.

By the way, I should mention that extra heavy duty "deer guard" bumpers are de rigeur, in this region. These are available commercially and are also often custom fabricated, locally. To give you a sense of their size, these make typical Ford or Chevy pickup factory "brush guards" look flimsy, by comparison. Typically, real deer guard bumpers weigh 300 to 900 pounds. In TUWS, we even see these mounted on a few passenger sedans. That is indicative of how many deer collisions take place here.

I'm sure that some readers were disgusted by the foregoing while others will be ready to send hearty congratulations. (As with other large predators, I've noticed that perspectives on the Puma Concolor tend to vary widely, depending on whether or not someone has personally lost pets or livestock to these land sharks.) I'd characterize my own reaction as muted. I felt fortunate that my vehicle wasn't damaged (and with our bumper, it would probably take an elk to do any damage.) I also felt good knowing that I'd eliminated a predator that is presently a bit over-populated. But in a way I felt cheated. I'd much rather take a mountain lion in season after a long still hunt, from 300 yards, at 9X magnification. Or, better yet at spitting distance from beneath a snarling treed cat that has taken me and the dogs all day to chase down and tree. Somehow, just a heart-stopping glimpse and "whump-whump-whump" was just too easy.

I doubt that you'll be reading about any other animal collisions from me in the future, unless I have another rare one. (I don't even bother mentioning deer collisions, which we have every year or two.) By the way I did once almost hit a bald eagle, but thankfully a tragedy was avoided by the margin of just an arm-span.

So now I'm praying that some evening soon I encounter a horribly confused pack of wolves that stands transfixed in my headlights. But somehow I don't think that is very likely. Bummer.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

During my two tours to the Sand Box with the U.S.M.C., we encountered some of the worst conditions weapons can endure. The sand in the Middle east is fine "moon dust" similar to talcum powder. The problem is that when mixed with water or oil commonly used in cleaning weapons systems it turns to a mud like paste. We discovered that the regular issue Cleaner, Lubricant, Protectant (CLP) [which is a Mil-Spec lubricant, sold commercially under the trade name "Break Free CLP".] CLP was contributing to the problem more than fixing it. It is true that we cleaned our weapons daily sometimes two or three times depending on conditions and enemy activity. Our M16/ M4s would function properly as long as they were cleaned routinely. Problems would occur when troops were engaged for prolonged times and couldn't risk breaking down their weapons to clean out all the dirt. We would simply pour in more CLP. An AR-15 type rifle will fire and function dirty as long as it is liberally lubricated. The problem is the more oil you pore down the bolt and into the chamber the more dirt it collects. What we discovered is that using Mobil1 synthetic motor oil usually in a 0w30 or 5w30 works much better than the CLP.  At $10 per quart it is on the expensive side as motor oils go.  But when compared to CLP or Rem Oil that are usually sold in 6 ounce containers at $5 to $6 it is much more cost effective. We also experimented with it on out crew served weapon systems. We found it to out perform the (Lubricant, Small Arms (LSA) used on the M2 (.50 Cal Browning machinegun) and MK-19 (40mm grenade launcher).
We had a one M2 so close to the courtyard where our LZ was that it literally had to be cleaned, to function properly, after every bird touched down and took off. This presented a huge problem as the frequency of the flights in and out ,crucial to resupply our Battalion, would render the weapon inoperable. We solved this problem with the Mobil1 in a 20w50 weight as LSA is more similar to axle grease that gun oil. Also we began to cover the weapon with a poncho every time we heard a bird in the air or saw the smoke canisters in the LZ. Due to the high security risk and vulnerability of helicopters during landing and take off, OPSEC was in place. This meant we never knew when the next bird was coming in. One of my Marines actually had the weapon system mounted on his turret malfunction and jam during a fire fight. They had just left the wire and the cleaned weapons as was SOP before every patrol. I shared the secret and traded him a bottle of Mobil 1 for a few energy drinks he had received in a care package. He never had a problem again.
  I heard a rumor that the Marine Corps had experimented with synthetic motor oils as potential weapons cleaning lubricants. They determined them to be too effective and decided it would bring complacency as Marines might assume that they now had to clean their weapons less. This is not the case. I still recommend cleaning your weapon as frequently as possible. In the Corps we would hold random weapons inspections and any NCO could demand to see the bolt on any junior Marine's weapon at anytime. I also want to mention that we never tested traditional (non-synthetic) motor oil on our weapons but the use of motor oil for cleaning and lubrication of weapons systems has been recognized by the US Military as early as WWII and can be found in numerous field manuals.
Thought your readers might like to know this. Semper Fi, - Sgt. K.A. U.S.M.C.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I hope that what I have to say will help someone that is just getting started with their survival preparedness situation, SurvivalBlog has helped me in streamlining our preparations, and I believe in giving back some of what I have received.  I have read many different blogs and forums, and come away with the impression that most of the blogs are for the arm chair survivalist that do not try anything for themselves, but only go on what they have read or heard. is one of the few that have individuals that seem to have tried what they say they have done and shared their experiences.

My experience with a survival mind set started almost a decade ago, but only limited for a few weeks or month at most.  That all changed several years ago when I started really looking at the way our country was headed.   I will admit that I still have a long ways to go, but with God’s help, and if the world will hold together long enough, I will get to where I desire to be.  If not, then my family and I will survive with what we have on hand for a long time.


We do have enough for me and my family for at least a year, longer if we just go to two meals a day.  My youngest daughter is almost 17, and I have 4 boys that range in ages from 19 to 33, then two older daughters and their families.  You can imagine the appetite of young men so I have taken that into account.  Only one son is married and has two small children.  I have endeavored to teach my children to always be prepared for as much as possible, if only for a short time.  Again, that has changed over the last couple of years.  We live in a hurricane prone area, so it is imperative that we always have plenty of food on hand that can be eaten with little or no cooking.  I am not talking about MRE’s.  I do have two cases of MRE’s that I obtained during the last hurricane that was not eaten, but I like to store what we usually eat daily, and eat what we store. I read that on a blog and it made sense to me.

It was very difficult to get my wife onboard, but during the last hurricane a few years ago, she and my daughter went to my sister’s house because it was further away from the coast than our old house (built in 1925).  My sister and her husband had nothing to eat but a few bags of chips and some crackers, and two bottles of soda.  They did not even have matches to light the one decorative candle that was in their house.  My brother-in-law had unplugged the refrigerator before the hurricane hit so it would not be damaged from power surges.  Hence, all the food that was in the refrigerator and their freezer was ruined before it was truly needed.  When communications was restored about two days later, my wife called and talked to one of our sons.  He told her that we still had cold milk, and were eating fine.  At the time, we only kept about two months’ worth of food on hand.  It was two days later before she and my daughter were able to come home, and a month before we had electricity restored.

It was at that point that my wife fully came on board with storing extra food.  There are times that she will say “I think we have enough”, but we are still building our “lauder” as she sometimes calls it.

There have been times that we were only able to add one or two cans or a bag of rice and beans every two weeks or so, but every little bit helps.  There have even been a few times that we could not add anything, but had to use what we had stored just to make it for the week or two before we could buy something.  In those cases, we were very glad we had something to fall back on.

It doesn’t matter if you have very little at this point.  The time to start is now.  Even if you have to do as we did during our lean times with just a few cans of something or a bag of rice and/or beans.  You need to get something to hold you over during a natural disaster or the eventual TEOTWAWKI.


I have been an avid hunter all my life until the last decade or so.  Hunting leases just became too expensive for my budget.  I did try hunting the National Forest for a few years, but they are a dangerous place.  You think you are alone, and then a bullet hits a tree just above your head.  I decided that was enough of the National Forest for me.  My sons’ still hunt the National Forest on occasion, but they too are not having very good success.

Because of where we live, I had built a range in my pasture years ago.  I have taught all my children how to shoot firearms from the time they were about 4 years old.  At that age, they do not have the concept of how to aim, but they enjoyed shooting with their dad.  In my opinion, you can never be too young to learn gun safety.  As they grew, their marksmanship also improved, and the enjoyment of just shooting.  I still have the Chipmunk and the youth .22lr rifles that they learned with.  My granddaughter that is now 3 years old has been shooting with her mom, dad, and papa using that same Chipmunk.  That is the first thing she wants to do when they come to visit.

All my children now have their own .45 ACP Glock or XD .45 handguns, a 12ga. Mossberg pump shotgun, a .22 lever action rifle, and a main larger caliber rifle (MBR).  My wife can handle the .45 ACP, but prefers her 9mm Glock, and a 20 gauge youth 870 pump shotgun.  She is not into rifles yet, but I am still hoping that one day she will ask me for one.  I do have a few extra rifles that have been in the family for a long time that she might be able to handle, but I would like to get her something she will enjoy and not be afraid to shoot.  We also have several .22 LR handguns that we use for just plinking on occasion.  We try to train with the handguns and rifles at least once a month depending on the funds available for ammunition.  Ammunition can get expensive with that many shooters at one time.  I do reload all our handgun ammunition only, and replace all that we use during our practices. 

I was striving for everyone to shoot the same make/caliber/ga. to cut down on the different types of ammunition that I would have to have on hand.  I would interject here that it doesn’t matter what you decide for your family.  It is what you and your family are comfortable with.  My daughter, who is almost 17 likes the Glock, but the XD45 fits her hands better.  It is all in your size, training, desire, finances, and ability.  Do not buy cheap, since cheap will get you hurt, or killed, or will break down when you need it the most.  If you do not have the funds to get everyone their own firearm, buy quality, and each learn to use that quality firearm until you are able to purchase another.

At this point, I would like to say that you cannot go wrong by storing factory ammo for all your firearms.  I trust my reloads but do not count it as part of my stored ammunition.  I have not had a malfunction with any of the reloads that I have made, but that is not to say it will never happen.  I am only human, and could make a mistake.  I have read about various amounts of ammunition that should be stored for each firearm, but your comfort level may be different from mine.  Personally, I am trying to store at least a thousand rounds of factory ammo for each firearm that we have.  I am not quite there yet, but getting closer.  At this time I have switched my priorities again.  I am trying to build our food supply to a much larger level.  That is my number one priority so the ammunition storing will be a little less for now.  I am comfortable with what I have on hand, but not so much with our food supply.  I believe that it could be over a year to years before everything settles down again, if ever.  We also have lots of seeds for the garden.


My family has been truly blessed in that none of us have to take any type of medications.  Therefore, it has been relative easy to stock what we think we might need.  We have stocked Band-Aids and bandages of various sizes.  Antibiotic creams and anti-itch creams, and large quantities of various types of aspirin are in our stores.  I just recently purchased a blood pressure kit and a stethoscope.  You just never know when you might need this.  Along with the various salves and creams, we have items for stomach problems and for dry eyes.  We are not as far along in this area as I would like, but we need so little (right now) in this area.  We have lots of tooth brushes and tooth paste, dental floss, oral jell, emergency dental repair kits, and some mouth wash.  Not to be left out, a lot of TP, and personal things for my wife, daughter, and daughter-in-law.  Also we have some preventives.  That is all I will say about that.  Soap and shampoo will be at a premium, so we have quite a bit of that along with alcohol, peroxide, and disinfectant washes.  We have also saved any prescription antibiotics and pain killers from the past.  Most of these were for tooth ailments, and from my daughter-in-law.  Babies are always taking medications for something, so she has saved them for me.

All my family’s teeth have been taken care of, and kept up with regular cleanings and any minor dental decays have been fixed.

We also have some medications and things for small children, including dozens of cloth diapers.  The cloth diapers can be used for almost anything. 

Needless to say, we do have other things for medical and personal hygiene, but this is just to give you a rough estimate to what we have on hand for a healthy large family.  We didn’t collect all of these preparations overnight.  Everything takes time.  Just remember that you can only take one step at a time.

There are other areas that we could talk about having on hand, such as alternate power sources, heat sources, clothing, tools, retreats, children’s games, bug or ant solutions, or etc., but you may be able to only concentrate on one specific area at this time.  Start there.  Start where you are now, and do not get frustrated that it is going so slow, and you feel that you may only have a short time.  Something now for your family is better than nothing while waiting for a government that doesn’t have the resources to take care of the millions that depend on it now as proven by the Hurricane Katrina.   Your family is depending on you.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Dear Mr. Rawles:
As an addendum to the Friday piece on "Camouflage Painting Firearms" by Kyrottimus, I recommend this piece: Weapons Painting 101, a bulletin from the US Army TACOM detailing the officially-approved techniques for painting small arms.
Cordially, - John N.

Dear Editor:
Regarding "Camouflage Painting Firearms", you may want to point folks to this rather well-illustrated tutorial on painting your AR in the Multicam pattern, found over at How to Multicam your rifle...on the cheap!
Regards, - T.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Most combat-style firearms come in one color: black. For "style" this is a safe bet, as black goes well with everything. However, in life-or-death survival situations, one must make their weapon just as concealable as themselves.

Black is bad. Of all colors, black stands out the most and draws the human-eye to it before anything else. This is true for normal-spectrum vision, starlight/night-vision, IR/Near-IR/Thermal vision, etc. Anything appearing as black or reflective will stick out like a proverbial sore thumb. If you plan on wearing some type of camouflage clothing during any situation, you should consider camouflaging your weapon as well.

There are various means of camouflaging weapons to blend in with both the person wielding it and the surrounding environment. The most common method is painting. The cheapest and easiest way is via spray-painting. A single can of flat enamel spray-paint is around $5-$6 and depending on how much of that color is used in any type of pattern can be used on 3-7 long arms.

The following list of items I recommend for a spray-paint camo project:

A few rolls of paper towels
Paint s tripper of some kind; I prefer Naphthalene as it doesn't deteriorate plastics (Acetone will work fine).
Latex, Nitrile or Dish-washing gloves
Masking tape (I prefer the 3M blue masking tape)
Cardboard or Card-stock or local foliage (branches, leaves, etc.)
X-Acto or Razor-blade
Permanent Marker
Primer (I prefer Rustoleum heavily-rusted primer as it's dark red-brown and bonds best to Phosphated/Parkerized finishes)
Rustoleum or Krylon Camouflage Flat Enamel Spray-Paints (or regular Flat Enamel spray-paints) in the following colors (for woodland or multi-cam type camo):
Foliage Green
Flat Dark Earth (Tan or Khaki are fine)
Olive Drab
Egg-Shell or Sandstone (optional)
Flat acrylic or flat enamel clear-coat (optional)
Bailing wire or Wire-hangers to be cut into hanging hooks

If you're not using local foliage, start by taking 3-5 pieces of cardboard or card-stock and draw random blobs on them with the permanent marker. Start with several small blobs roughly the size of pennies up to the size of silver dollars but make the patterns as abstract as possible (as least circular as possible). Increase the same design features (but different designs) in size on the next sheet around the size of a baseball. On the third design, make it the size of a coconut. On the fourth/fifth design(s), make them positive stencils with the bottom ¼ of the sheet untouched so the stencil can be held at a standoff distance from the holding hand. Local foliage can be used to substitute the creation of positive stencils.

Once all of your stencil designs have been drawn, cut out the first (negative stencils) and cut around the outside of the positive stencils (leaving part of the stencil to be held). Set the stencils aside.

Now, fashion some “S”-shaped hanging-hooks out of bailing wire or use wire-cutters to cut 5”-7” lengths from clothes hangers and bend them to shape. Make an “S”-hook for each weapon you intend on painting.

Next, get the gloves, masking tape, stripper and paper towels together and find a spot to sit outside. Make sure the day you plan on stripping/painting your weapon it is warm, sunny and relatively dry. Humidity is the enemy.

Before handling your weapon, clear it. While you'll want to probably paint the weapon with a magazine in place, be sure to remove all ammunition from the weapon (both chamber and magazine, if any). Also make sure to use safe firearm handling practices when handling your weapon.

Grab the masking tape and tape off any surface you don't want painted (sights, scope knobs, lenses, magazine windows, fiber-optic light gathering modules, etc.). Feel free to cut the tape with scissors or a razor to be a more precise fit. If you don't want paint to get inside the muzzle-end of the bore, you can use a foam earplug to fill that in. For large-bore shotguns, a few cotton balls can suffice.

With your long-arm in your lap, don your gloves. Begin stripping all the dirt, oils and residue from it by dabbing a generous amount of stripper onto a thrice-folded paper-towel sheet and rubbing it over every exterior surface of the weapon to be painted. If the weapon has optics, make sure to close the caps or cover them somehow. If your weapon has any kind of dust-cover, make sure that is closed too.

Once the entire paintable surface of your weapon has been stripped, hook an “S”-hook through the muzzle-brake, flash-hider or front-sight block so that the weapon is hanging muzzle up. If your weapon has none of these, you can hang the weapon by the trigger-guard, being careful to not hang the weapon by the trigger itself. While this latter method will work fine, the weapon will sway a lot more in the wind and when you hold a stencil to it, so keep that in mind.

If you prefer to lay the weapon down to paint it, you can lay it on some newspaper outside and do it one side at a time. I, however, prefer to hang it as this provides a much easier method by which evenly coating the weapon. Hang the weapon on a clothes-line, a tree branch or any over-lying hard-point which can handle the weight of the weapon.

Once hung, begin shaking your primer until the ball-bearing inside begins rattling. Shake for 30 seconds to a minute before priming. Give the entire weapon a nice, light, even coat, priming it just enough to cover all of its natural color. Avoid over-priming or over-painting, as we don't want globs of uneven primer/paint on the weapon (In some cases it can impede the movement of things like selector-switches, safeties, dust-covers, etc.).

At this time, depending on temperature and humidity, you should wait 5-15 minutes before top coating. Remember to shake your spray-paint vigorously 30 seconds before using and shake it again for a few seconds intermittently while using each can.

If you plan on using natural local foliage for stencils, follow these simple steps. Top-coat the entire-weapon foliage-green and let dry for 10-30 minutes. Then, lay out enough newspaper for the weapon to lay on and carefully lay it down on the newspaper. Randomly lay grass, sticks and leaves on the weapon that covers roughly 25% to a third the visible side. Now, spray some Flat Dark Earth (or Tan/Khaki) over the current stencils. Without removing the first natural stencils, add more random foliage until roughly a half to 75% of the weapon is covered and spray some brown over the weapon. Now, add some more natural foliage until roughly 80-90% of the weapon is covered and use Olive Drab. Finally, if you have any Eggshell or off-white enamel paint, spray some onto a paintbrush, cotton swab or other soft object and either dab or drag the paint in very small sections, 5-10 times per side (a little goes a long way when dealing in such a light color). Let dry 10-30 minutes and carefully flip the weapon over on the other side and repeat the steps above.

If you are using hand-cut stencils, allow the weapon to remain hanging and paint half the weapon Foliage Green and the other half Flat Dark Earth (or Tan or Khaki), allowing two to four large stripes or sections of each color visible on the weapon. Since it is hanging and you won't be handling it for awhile, you can begin coating within a few minutes of applying your first topcoat (Foliage Green/FDE). Start with the biggest positive stencil you have (with the edges of the cardboard cut out, not the middle) and briefly blast around it in 2-3 locations on each side with brown paint (and 1-2 times on each the top/bottom). With brown, a little goes a long way. Don't get too carried away with the darker colors. Next, switch to the medium-sized negative stencil (with the middle cut out) and in 3-4 places on each side use Olive Drab (and 1-2 times on each the top/bottom). Finally, with the smallest negative stencil you have, use eggshell or sandstone in 5-7 locations (and 2-4 times on each the top/bottom). If you don't have eggshell or sandstone, you can substitute with Flat Dark Earth, Tan, Khaki and/or Foliage-Green. Feel free to touch up areas with too much darkness or too much of one color with stencils as you see fit. Also, keep a piece of camouflage clothing nearby as a reference if you're trying to replicate it.

Do not use black paint. I say again, DO NOT USE BLACK! It does not appear in nature except in obsidian [or burned wood] and I very much doubt you'll be trying to blend in with ancient lava-flow deposits. If you want a dark color for contrasting, I suggest something along the lines of dark brown or dark green, though Olive Drab in some paints is already quite dark.

Once you're happy with your overall pattern, you can opt to clear-coat it. It's not needed though it can help increase the lifespan of your paint job. I'd wait 30 minutes to an hour before clear-coating. A single light coat is all that is needed. [JWR Adds: I have used one or two coats of Krylon Matte for top coating, with great success. This both protects the paint beneath from chipping and it flattens any residual gloss.]

At this point, let dry outside until dusk (don't leave outside overnight, as dew can form on your new paint job), then carefully remove the masking tape and while holding onto the sling-studs, the sling or the “S”-hook carry it to a spot indoors where you can hang it. I suggest on a clear space in your closet on the closet rack, or on a large nail driven into a stud or door-frame also can suffice.

Now this is the hardest part; do not handle or even touch your painted weapon for a full 30 days. While most spray-paint manufacturers claim that their paint dries within 24 hours, it doesn't fully cure for weeks. Make sure it's kept in a temperature-controlled room of about 70-75 degrees F, and since the paint will continually cure, put it in a room where you don't spend too much time, or one you can air out frequently so any vapors won't build up.

If you let it cure fully for 30 days, you'll find a super-rugged paint job that should last you at least 3 to 5 years of regular use.

If you want to take the temporary, easy route, many camo-patterns can be found in rolls of ace-bandage type material. They shouldn't cover working action areas or areas which vent excess gases. For winter, simple white cotton sheets can easily be wrapped around the weapon and tied off. Again, make sure these camo coverings do not cover working actions, moving parts (safeties, ejection ports or pump handles) or areas which vent off excess gas.

I hope this helps those interested, and remember, practice makes perfect! As always, keep an ear to the ground, an eye to the sky, keep your bayonet sharp and keep your powder dry.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Although my body is growing older, my mind is still stuck at age 27 - and at times, my mind is even younger than that. I hope this never changes, once the mind grows old, then the body will grow even older - faster! While I can't do the things I used to do (physically) when I was much younger, there's still a lot of "fun" left in me.
I grew up in Chicago, and like most kids at that time, and in my neighborhood, we were pretty poor, except back then, we didn't know we were poor. We entertained ourselves in a lot of different ways. Back then, the television only had four stations, so there really wasn't much to watch compared to today, where people have hundreds of different television channels to watch, and complain that "there's nothing on..." As a kid, my friends and I often played marbles - we could play for hours on end. We also fashioned home made slingshots from tree branches. Most of the time, those slingshots didn't even last a day. And, for ammo, we used rocks - we never ran short of ammo in those days. Yeah, and like most kids my age back then, we got into a little trouble with our slingshots by shooting out windows of abandoned buildings. I guess that wasn't so bad, compared to the trouble kids get into these days - like taking guns to school and killing their classmates. Nope, back then, we didn't get into nearly the trouble kids get into today.
When I grew older, I purchased a store-bought slingshot - made out of some kind of hardwood, and it lasted a good long time. The only thing that needed replacing from time-to-time, was the rubber band used for propelling the ammo, more often than not, the rubber band was made out of an old tire inner tube (remember those days, when we had tubes in our tires?). I've also had some other better made slingshots pass through my hands over the years, and they were really a lot of fun, and very well-made, too.
Montie Gear has a new slingshot called the "Y-Shot" and I'm here to tell you, hands down, this is the best-made slingshot I've ever run across - PERIOD! The all-aluminum frame is made out of 1/2" thick aluminum plate, cut with a water jet at 50,000 PSI for unrivaled strength and low weight. Then, Montie Gear either powder coats the Y-Shot in different colors, or leaves the aluminum bare - with a grayish oxidized color to the finish.
I'm gonna give you the run down on the specs, right from the Montie Gear web site: "The slingshot features a tapered flat band and leather pouch assembly. The tapered flat band has a 16-pound pull weight at approximately a 28" draw. The band has a tapered shape and is made from Thera-Band material for a fast shot and long life. The leather pouch and tapered band assembly come from A+ Slingshot in California. The handle is wrapped with 550 test weight paracord for comfort. The paracord also provides a source of very strong cord, should you need it in the field."
This slingshot is ready for hunting (small game) or target practice. Don't hesitate to use ammo up to a 1/2" ball bearing or .44 cal lead ball ammo with this baby. My Y-Shot only came with 30, 1/2 steel ball bearings - which I shot up in only a few minutes, shooting at empty soda cans and empty milk jugs. Darn!I had to run to town, to the local big box store, and purchase a couple hundred more ball bearings - and in no time at all (again) I was out of ammo. Next day, I went to town again, and purchased a good supply of ball bearing ammo from the local big box store, so I'd have enough ammo to last me through several days of target shooting.
I'm here to tell you, that with only a little bit of practice, I found myself hitting empty cans at 25-yards without any trouble at all. I even placed some cans out to 50-yards, and about a third of time, I'd hit one, and they were hit with authority enough to make 'em go flying too. I didn't do any small game hunting because I haven't picked-up my hunting license for this year. However, I believe that the Montie Gear Y-Shot slingshot is capable of taking small game like squirrels and rabbits, as well as larger birds like turkeys, too...and we have a lot of wild turkeys are my rural country road. The slingshot would also discourage someone from coming very close to your property, with a well-aimed shot to the body or leg. Now, I'm not saying that you should purchase a mere slingshot for personal defense. However, if someone were trying to sneak on your property, and they took a hit from a steel ball bearing, they'd sure know that they weren't welcomed. It would also keep pests out of your yard, too - stray cats or dogs.
I honestly believe, that there is a place in a Prepper's arsenal for a good slingshot. It would be great for taking birds and other small critters for the stew pot - and you can do it silently, too. What's not to like about this? And, ammo is plentiful, if you only use rocks as ammo. However, rocks are not nearly as accurate as ball bearings or round lead ball ammo - be advised! I personally wouldn't want to take a hit from a steel ball bearing launched from the Montie Gear Y-Shot slingshot. I saw what it did to aluminum cans and milks jugs - they were easily penetrated out to 25-yards.
Now, while you can go to the local big box store, and buy a pretty decent slingshot, you won't find one as nearly well-made as the Y-Shot is, or one that will hold up for a lifetime. Were there any negatives about the Y-Shot? Yeah, It only came with 30 ball bearings - I'd like to see at least a hundred included in the package. I'd also like to see at least one spare rubber band and pouch included - because sooner or later, the rubber band is gonna break on you. Full retail price on the Y-Shot is $99.95 - a bit spendy, to be sure. But if you compare this slingshot to ALL the others, you're gonna see the difference, and it's a big difference, too. The Y-Shot is outstanding and will give you a lifetime of pleasure - so long as you don't run out of ammo. And, you will run out of ammo very fast - it is very addictive shooting the Y-Shot - trust me, the little kid in me is telling you the truth.
So, if you're in the market for the world's best slingshot, look no farther that the Y-Shot. Is it worth almost a hundred bucks? Yeah, to me it is, and I think you'll also agree, if you get one, that it's worth the money. Just make sure when you order your Y-Shot from Montie Gear, that you get some more ball bearings and a couple extra rubber bands with the leather pouch.
I've tested a lot of firearms and knives over the years, and to be sure, they were all a lot of fun. But I don't recall when I had more fun testing a product, than the fun I had with the Y-Shot slingshot. It's fun to shoot, silent and accurate...and it's capable of taking small game and birds for the stew pot when the SHTF if need be. If it sounds like I'm more than a little excited about this product, I am. It brought out even more of the little kid in me. And, if I had this slingshot when I was a kid, I would have been king of the block, and would have been known as an "Ace" with it. Check this slingshot out on the Montie Gear web site and you'll probably get one.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Well I must say after prayer and a heart to heart with the Almighty and many undisputable news about our economy I have felt the need to start prepping.  Oh and where to start? Wow was I ever overwhelmed at the prospect of starting prepping for an economic collapse or other unfortunate event.

First, telling the hubby. I got laughed at. Yes, I was down. But I found, where I got started with baby steps. So off to the grocery store I went. I started a little bit at a time, buying rice and canned items on sale.  Then the adventure begins!

- Now in Texas most of us do not have basements or root cellars. The weather is ever changing. The hot humid weather just doesn’t allow for good conditions. Basements flood out, have seepage or root cement cellars crack due to the ground that shifts constantly in our area especially. We suffer from heat, extreme humidity and we mildew and mold a lot. If you do decide to purchase a pre-made one, you must have a dehumidifier. Your best bet would be to have a good, dark cool closet in your house.  Some people have put there root veggies under the house wrapped in newspaper with chicken wire to keep varmints away. It will keep the potatoes fresher longer (unless your house is on a slab, then find a good cool, dark spot in the house away from everything, do not store on carpet--use cardboard, or cardboard boxes,etc). So I have designated space in a closet or two.  I also purchased some extra shelving, etc.

You must practice your canning before TSHTF. Believe me, don’t wait till it happens to decide to get the pressure cooker out and learn how. Get it out now. Practice, just like anything else, you have got to learn it. It is not easy at first. Enlist help in the older generation, a grandma, aunt, etc. Make sure your stove can use the pressure cooker. Mine was a smooth top. Not all smooth top ranges can use all pressure cookers.  You can also purchase a separate burner or use the Coleman Stove. Make sure you check the cans after a couple of months and see if they show signs of mold or anything. Make sure you did them correctly. Taste test some.  Practice making meals with some of the food you have stored.

Storing grains won’t be hard if done correctly. Remember Texas is humid, all year long, even in winter.  Make sure area is cool.  Use those O2 absorbers, they will be very helpful. If you don’t you prepare well you will have rancid grain and weevils (nasty pests). Make sure you plan for possible rats or mice too (sticky traps or regular traps). From my experience flour doesn’t store well. Wheat stores much better. Best get a good grinder. Storing rolled oats for oatmeal is also excellent.

There are many lakes and tanks (ponds) to fish or gather water on, but these are usually on someone’s land. So be careful or you could have the barrel of a gun pointed at you if you trespass. Most Texans band together in a crisis. If you have something to trade or barter and are friendly, most likely you will find a friend. Also, if you are storing water, be careful of the containers. The cheap plastic milk like containers don’t last long if not stored properly. They leak and make a mess! Buy water storage barrels or water storage tanks if possible.

So far, we have bought a wind up flashlight that will charge our cell phones. It also has an AM/FM radio. We are also installing solar panels for energy. In Texas, we get plenty of sunlight so that will not be a problem.

- Guns and Ammo.  In, Texas of course Guns. But with that knowing how to use them properly. So we are all taking a gun safety course. [JWR Adds: For those in humid climates I recommend buying as many stainless steel guns as possible, and frequently cleaning and inspecting your guns for any signs of rust. (Mark your calendar if you are the forgetful sort.) Your gun vault or hidden firearms wall cache should be equipped with a Golden Rod dehumidifier. That small investment will save you much grief, later!]

- in Texas, you need to be prepared for all types of weather.  Sometimes in December you get 80 degree days and in April you may get snow. The old saying “Yup, if you don't like the weather in Texas, wait five minutes -- it'll change!” Our weather is definitely one of a kind. In the summer it is very hot. The difference in our heat as compared to other I think is the humidity. You could get a heat stroke very easily. So without air conditioning to which we are all accustomed, it would be quite a change. In the summer, in Texas it gets very hot. Do not cook indoors.  Consider installing heat reflective film on your windows or get them tinted before TSHTF. This will cut down on your electric bill and save money right now! We did it and it really does help.  Use shelters like overhangs, patio overheads and awnings to prevent the stream of sunlight through the windows on the sides of your home that face south and west.  Ice down or soak a bandana in cold water and wear around your neck. Keep hydrated. Avoid tea, caffeine and alcohol. You don’t want to end up with a heat stroke. Okay, winter time. Good thing is we don’t have too many really cold days but we do have some. The best thing would be to have a wood stove in the winter to heat the house.  Our roads are not made for ice. Have extra chains for your truck or SUV in case of those rare icy/snowy days. Be able to cover plants and/or bring them in.

- Gardening in Texas can be a challenge, but can be done all year because of our mild winter.     We have never been able to grow potatoes in our area due to fire ants. But now with the new container gardening, potato gardening is so much easier! Texas A&M has terrific information on container gardening for Texans. Another good site for Texas container gardening and hot climates is:

I have also been doing the square foot garden method using cider blocks as I have a bad back and this method has proven to be easier to maintain. I use the holes in the cinder blocks to plant herbs.  An excellent site is There are also tons of YouTube videos that show different ways people have done their cinder block gardens.  I had difficulty getting seeds going at first. So I consulted with some masters of gardening, and they told me to use seed starting system, which is no more than a little divided tray. You use a soilless growing mixture, pre-made you can buy. I bought a tray at Wal-Mart with directions on it, also has directions. It gets your seedlings up and going then you can transplant.  You see ours kept getting eaten up by grasshoppers or bunnies. So really watch them after transplanting.  July-September grasshoppers are bad in Texas. They strip everything. You may even want to purchase something to drape over them.  Trees are also a good investment.  Peach, plum, and apricot trees grow really good around here. You will need several to cross pollinate with each other.  Grasshoppers love these too. The best thing to do is to stock up on Demon pesticide. If you would see how these little pests strip everything, you would be wise to do so, it is worth gold. 

Mosquitoes -   Bug bites bleh…mosquitoes.  They are bad here.  We all have our jokes about our mosquitoes as big as birds.  If you have Off or bug repellant, use it. If you have failed to and are eaten up by the little bloodsuckers, then take cotton balls dipped in witch hazel and rub over affected area. Calamine lotion will help some too. Try not to scratch! (Texas-raised kids like me heard that a lot!) a good plant for repelling those nasty buggers is lemon grass.  This grass is rich in a substance called citral, the active ingredient in lemon peel. This substance is said to aid in digestion as well as relieve spasms, muscle cramps, rheumatism and headaches. Lemon grass is also used commercially as the lemon scent in many products including soaps, perfumes and candles. A related plant, (Cymbopogon nardus) is the ingredient in citronella candles sold to ward off mosquitoes and other insects

Also people put up Purple Martin bird houses to attract Purple Martins. They love some mosquitoes and it’s a Texas tradition of sorts for people to put up Purple Martin houses to get rid of the little buggers.

Remember to always to do lists. Check and recheck that you got everything on it. Talk to family members that are not prepping, but don’t get the Bible out and preach, yet. Just tell them everything that is going on. Let them know it’s better to be prepared and if nothing happens will at least you are ready for when something does. Pray for them. Ask the Lord to put it on your heart what to say.

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

Monday, June 25, 2012

Amid the huge selection of autopistols these days, it's nice to see there are still some basic, reliable revolvers for those who prefer them.

The Taurus 445 is not a deep concealment gun, but is a good carry gun that fits easily in a pocket or hides well on a belt.  It's light weight (at 22 ounces), has a 2" barrel, and a 5-round cylinder.  It's comfortable to handle in adult hands, and pleasant to shoot, recoil being heavy but well-dispersed and not sharp, despite the gun's low weight.  It has Taurus' proprietary "Ribber" grips that offer great purchase and retention, and help damp the recoil.  .44 Special is an easy to find, reliable stopper, that doesn't sacrifice controllability.

The trigger broke cleanly at 11 pounds double action, 4 pounds single, and was quite crisp.  Release and ejection were positive and easy.

Accuracy is respectable.  Weather was about 60F, humidity about 45%, altitude 300 feet, no wind.  I found it easy to shoot 2" groups at 10 yards standing.  The sights picture was easy to get, and the gun shot right to point of aim laterally, a little low vertically.  Since this is a snub revolver for close defense, I didn't test longer ranges.   

It shot reliably and easily, and I burned through a box of 50 rounds in very short order.  A gun that's fun and easy to practice with is always a benefit.

The stainless alloy is very weather-resistant.  Even after a wet range trip with no cleaning for two days, the gun was untarnished and cleaned easily.

Speedloaders are available. 

The manufacturer's suggested retail price is $539, but is available from about $450 at many retailers.  Taurus offers a free one year NRA membership with purchase.

Disclaimer Note From JWR (per FTC File No. P034520): Michael Z. Williamson received a test gun for 90 day trial, which was returned at the end of the test period. SurvivalBlog accepts cash-paid advertising. To the best of my knowledge, as of the date of this posting, none of my advertisers that sell the products mentioned in this article have solicited me or paid me to write any reviews or endorsements, nor have they provided me any free or reduced-price gear in exchange for any reviews or endorsements. I am not a stock holder in any company. I do, however, benefit from sales through the SurvivalBlog Amazon Store. If you click on one of our Amazon links and then "click through" to order ANY product from (not just the ones listed in our catalog), then we will earn a modest sales commission.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A note on finding Lanolin, for making Ed's Red bore cleaner:
Lanolin is readily available in the breast feeding supply section at most big box department stores, or baby specialty stores. A full tube the (last I checked) is $8-9 but it lasts a very very long time. (And I once scored an unopened, factory sealed tube at a garage sale for 25 cents.) - Alyssa

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dear Mr. Rawles,

I heartily agree with the "Weapons Maintenance -- A Missing Element, by Odd Questioner".  I would add that having lots of good bore cleaner handy makes maintenance a lot easier.  There are MUCH better and cheaper bore cleaners around than the classic Hoppes No. 9.

Ed's Red bore cleaner has been around for over 20 years now and has been mentioned before in your blog.  Even so its a good thing to repeat once in a while.

"Ed's Red" bore cleaner is credited to C.E. Harris.  Its an excellent, easy-to-make and inexpensive bore cleaner and lube.  It stores indefinitely in an airtight container.  It cuts powder fouling like nothing else I've found. The formula and instructions for making Ed's Red has been detailed before in SurvivalBlog, so I won't repeat it here.

I've been making up a couple gallons every few years for over a decade.  I give it away to new friends a few ounces at a time.  Makes a great birthday/Christmas/whatever present for new preppers or shooters. Everyone I've given a sample to has ended up making a gallon of their own.  It is that good!

Ed's Red works for corrosive ammo as well as noncorrosive.  Its an efficient short-term rust-preventative as well.  Adding an emulsifiable oil + water to the mix makes "Ed's Pink" which is specifically for black powder. Do a web search on "Ed's Pink" and you'll find the details for it.

Two words of advice from experience:
(1) the Lanolin may be harder to find than the other components, but its VERY worth it.  Try craft stores that sell soap making supplies.
(2) Lots of folks have ideas for "improvements" to Ed's Red, but these really aren't needful.  The original formula works great and "If it ain't broke . . ."  Just stick with a classic.

Also, I think Ed's Red will be an excellent barter item, come to that. Every prepper should keep a hard copy of the the recipe for Ed's Red in their reference binder.

Cordially, - John

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dear Mr. Rawles,

Here is the definitive test to determine whether ammunition is corrosive or not.  The procedure is credited to Small Arms Review publisher Dan Shea. This test is simple, quick, cheap and conclusive.


1. Take a suspect round, pull the bullet and dump out the powder. I like to also take a known corrosive round as well for a benchmark.

2. Take a few brand new "brite" (i.e. non-galvanized) steel nails with a head size just large enough to fit into the case mouth. Degrease the nails in acetone or other and roughen them slightly with sandpaper. Drive the nails into a block of wood.

3. Slip the empty cartridge cases over the nail heads, and taking appropriate safely precautions (shielding, eye protection, gloves, etc) pop the primers with a punch and hammer.

[Dan Shea recommends the following additional safety precaution: Take a piece of wood and drill a hole large enough diameter to accept the case head, about 1/2" deep and not all the way through the wood. Then drill a small hole (to accept a small nail or punch) in the center of the larger hole, all the way through the piece of wood.  Place the larger hole over the case head and insert the punch or nail through the smaller hole.  Use this assembly to pop the primers.]

4. Leave the cases undisturbed on the nails for 24 hours in a warm place (I usually leave them on top of the water heater) and then examine the nails.

If the nail looks black and smoky, then the ammo is noncorrosive. If the nail has red flecks, then the ammo is corrosive. It will be obvious - but doing a known corrosive ammo as a control is helpful.

Cordially, - John N.

JWR Replies: Thanks for sending that. For some important priming data on U.S. military arsenal loadings, see this SurvivalBlog reference page. (It provides the lot numbers and cut-off dates to determine if military ammo has corrosive (mercuric) or non-corrosive (styphnate) primers. If in doubt, then use the brite nail test.

Monday, June 11, 2012

For the past several months, Tim Sundles, who runs Buffalo Bore Ammunition has buried me in some of his newest ammunition offerings. Somehow, I think he doesn't like me. He just keeps coming up with more and more new loads for hunters and for self-defense use, for me to test. Seriously, I don't know of any ammunition company, that is as innovative as Buffalo Bore is. Some of the big name ammo companies might come up with a couple new loads each year - if that. Most are content to sit back on their past accomplishments - not Tim Sundles!
If any ammo company is coming out with more newly developed loads than Buffalo Bore is, I'd sure like to know who it is. I like that a small, American-owned ammo company is taking the initiative, and taking the time and effort to come out with so many new caliber loadings. And Buffalo Bore doesn't produce "plinking" ammo - all that they produce is top-of-the-line premium hunting and self-defense loads. On top of that, Sundles adds a flash suppressant to his self-defense loads to help maintain your night vision, if you are forced to shoot at an attacker in low-light. (Which of course is when many self-defense shootings take place.) Are there many other ammo companies doing this yet?
One of the newest loadings I tested from Buffalo Bore is their .380 ACP +P 80 grain Barnes TAC-XP load - for those not familiar with the Barnes bullets, they are an all-copper hollow point design. These Barnes bullets retain 100% of their weight, as well as penetrating deeper than other conventional JHP bullets do. This is my carry load in my Ruger LCP .380 ACP back-up pistol. Tim Sundles tests all his loads in actual firearms - he doesn't use test barrels to hype the velocities. I'm getting about 1,050 FPS from my little LCP with this load. It's a bit stout in this little Ruger, but it can handle it. I believe the .380 ACP caliber is best reserved for use in a back-up gun capacity. However, with this load, I think it really boost your power factor quite a bit. So, with that said, it might be acceptable to use this round by Buffalo Bore if this is going to be your main concealed carry gun.
Next up are the new 9mm loadings, and these are both +P+ rounds, one is a 95 grain Barnes TAC-XP load at around 1,550 FPS and the other is a 115 grain Barnes TAX-XP load, at 1,400 FPS. Screaming? You bet! Once again, the Barnes all-copper bullets will get the job done, in either caliber. As a rule, I don't like going below a 115 grain bullet in a 9mm round. However , the 95 grain Barnes bullet will get the job done because it will penetrate a bit deeper than a conventional bullet of this weight will do, and stay together. What I really like about this load is that even though it's a +P+ load, it doesn't feel much different than a conventional standard velocity load does. For me, this is a no-brainer, this is the load to put in your "house gun" that you have in your nightstand - it's easy to control and will take care of the bad guys - and the recoil isn't what you'd expect from a +P+ 9mm loading - it's very controllable. The 115 grain Barnes loading is great for your carry gun - it will penetrate, hold together and get the job done. There is a bit more recoil with this +P+ loading, but nothing you can't control in the least. My new Ruger P95 loves this load for some reason. Make sure you test any +P or +P+ loads in your guns to make sure they will function 100% of the time with 'em - in this case, I tested both of these loads in numerous 9mm handguns, and had no problems at all. Great loads!
Back when I lived in Chicago, and worked as a private investigator, I usually carried either a S&W .38 Special snubby or a Colt .38 Special snubby of some sort, as a back-up gun - one of these guns was usually carried in an ankle holster. There were times, when I (only) carried a .38 Special snubby of some sort. One time, when working for an alarm company - I installed alarms on the day-shift, and answered alarms at night - I carried a .38 Special snubby. While this wasn't a big problem working the day shift - it wasn't the smartest thing to do when answering alarms at night - all alone. This became a reality to me one night, when I answered an alarm and was confronted with searching a huge warehouse by myself. I realized if someone was too far away and started shooting at me, that little .38 Special snubby wasn't gonna be of much use - I went out the next day and purchased a 4" barrel .357 Magnum Colt Trooper Mk III revolver. Okay, back to the snubbies in .38 Special:
Most people don't understand how much velocity (thus "power") you lose when loading a 2" .38 Special snubby revolver compared to the power you get from a 4" barrel or 6" barrel .38 Special revolver. It is very significant - so much so, that more often than not, a JHP round won't expand when it hits an attacker - which then makes that bullet nothing more than a solid - passing through the body and not doing as much damage as you'd expect. Enter the Buffalo Bore "Standard Pressure" short-barrel, low-flash 110 grain Barnes TAC-XP round - and this baby will give you about 1,000 FPS velocity from your snubby .38 Special revolver - enough velocity to make that bullet expand. Best of all, this round is very controllable. This is "the" round you want if you carry a .38 Special snubby revolver for self defense. And, I believe, the .38 Special needs all the help it can get.
Also, in the .38 Special line-up from Buffalo Bore is their .38 Outdoorsman +P round. If you carry any kind of .38 Special out in the boonies for self-defense against critters - this is the round you want. The 158 grain Hard Cast Keith bullet, at 1,250 FPS from a 6" barrel or 1,150 FPS from a 4" barrel revolver will give you plenty of penetration - which is what you want and need when facing critters in the wild. If you look at those velocities, you'll note that they are right on the heels of many other makers .357 Mag rounds - what's not to like here? While I would personally look at carrying a .357 Mag revolver if I were in dangerous country, if all I had was a .38 Special of some sort, this is the round to carry.
Not to be left out, if you carry a snubby .357 Mag revolver, and you're out in the boonies, take a close look at the Buffalo Bore .357 Mag Barnes 140 grain XPB round - this is a different bullet than the TAC-XP - the XPB bullet is designed for control expansion, and it will penetrate deeper than the TAC-XP round will against wild animals. This is the round you want in your .357 Mag snubby if you are carrying it for self-defense against critters out in the wild. Once again, a very controllable round, at around 1,150 FPS. I really liked this one.
Are you a big bore fan? Yes, me too! I really love shooting the .44 Magnum revolvers - and I can sometimes be "caught" using a .44 Mag when I'm out deer or black bear hunting. The .44 Mag is really quite a caliber - you can load it up, to super-charge it, or load it down to .44 Special velocities for plinking fun or self-defense. If forced to own one revolver, this would be the caliber I'd choose over all others. Tim Sundles does a lot of handgun hunting - he does this for several reasons, one is because he loves to hunt, and secondly, he gets to test his new round that he comes up with against real critters in the wild. How many big name ammo companies get out there and actually tests their ammo? Not many.
A new .44 Mag loading that Buffalo just came out with - and I've only limited testing with - is their 200 grain Barnes XPB load, which should be an excellent load to use against deer and  most black bear. I usually prefer a heavier load to use against black bear, but this load will get the job done with the XPB bullet because it penetrates a bit deeper and stays together. Coming out a 4" barrel revolver, you can expect over 1,500 FPS from this round. And, best of all, even though this is a .44 Mag round, it is more controllable than you think - this is because of the 200 grain bullet. Most folks stick with 240 grain bullets for much of their .44 Mag shooting - and they "kick" a lot more than this 200 grain Barnes bullet does. From an 18" barrel rifle, you can expect over 1,800 FPS - that's screaming! If you look down at this Barnes XPB bullet, you'll get lost in it because it looks sooooo deep. If you are hunting bigger game, check out some of the heavy .44 Mag from Buffalo Bore - they have something there you're gonna love!
These next two calibers that Sundles sent me - I didn't have firearms for - so I had to borrow a couple of guns. The new buffalo Bore  .357 SIG, 125 grain Barnes TAC-XP low-flash round will be, in my humble opinion, "the" round to carry if you depend on a .357 SIG for self-defense.  If you want a .357 SIG load, that uses an expanding bullet, that penetrates very deeply, this is the round for you. I admit, I've only had limited experience with the .357 SIG round, and I've never actually personally owned a gun in this caliber. There's several good reasons for this, first of all, for some reason, this round just hasn't caught on - at least, not in my neck of the woods. Secondly, .357 SIG ammo is hard to find - once again, in my neck of the woods. Lastly, .357 SIG ammo is more expensive than other calibers - like the .40S&W is. This is slowly changing, as I've noted that prices are coming down a bit - especially for FMJ practice ammo.
What we are looking at, with the .357 SIG round is a .40 caliber case, that is necked-down to take a 9mm bullet. One thing I like about these types of rounds is that, they are very reliable when it comes to feeding from the magazine to the chamber.  Tim Sundles tells me that, his .357 SIG round, will roughly penetrate 20+ inches of flesh and bone, and expand to about .55 caliber! Yes! During testing, this round is coming out of a SIG Sauer P229 at about 1,300 FPS - screaming! What I've found, is that, the .357 SIG is just about the same as a +P+ 9mm round in power and velocity, but without the excessive recoil that you expect from a +P+ loading - and it's easier on the gun - it doesn't get battered as much, as a 9mm +P+ round would do to a pistol.
What I'd like to see Buffalo Bore come up with, is a super-deep penetrator round (FMJ) in .357 SIG - this would be an outstanding round to carry out in the boonies - it would give you all the deep(er) penetration you'd need against critters. And, knowing Sundles, I'm sure he'll be coming out with this type of round - he's done it with the 9mm, with his "Penetrator" round, and he'll do it with the .357 SIG round - watch and see. I'm really impressed with the .357 SIG - from my limited shooting of this caliber over the past year or two, and one of these days, I'm gonna lay-down some hard-earned cash and actually purchase a handgun in this caliber.
I almost "hate" Tim Sundles, for coming up with this next round for me to test. I've been a fan of the .41 Magnum round for about 25 years. My late friend, Tim Caruso, from Colorado Springs, Colorado actually turned me onto this caliber. While not quite the power of a .44 Mag, the 41 Mag round will take care of many of the same tasks that a .44 Mag will, and with less punishing recoil. On top of that, I've always thought the .41 Mag would make an excellent self-defense round with the 175 grain bullets instead of the 210 grain bullets. Well, Tim Sundles just came out with a 180 grain .41 Mag Barnes all-copper hollow point load, and this bullet is coming out of a revolver at around 1,500 FPS - depending on barrel length.
I had to borrow a .41 Mag revolver from a friend to test this load, and it makes me "hate" Tim Sundles all that much more - I haven't owned a .41 Mag revolver in several years. Why? I have no idea! I love the S&W Model 57 .41 Mag revolver - and I guess I'm now gonna have to get another one - one of these days. Of course, Tim Sundles is on my wife's "I'm gonna kill him list..." since he is "forcing" me to go out and find a new .41 Mag S&W Model 57 or 657 revolver one of these days. I keep telling my wife "I only need one more gun..." and she keeps reminding me: "You said that last time...." to which I reply "it's still true...I only need one more gun."
This Buffalo Bore 180 grain Barnes bullet is the XPB style - great for hunting medium to medium-large game - it will penetrate deeply and has controlled expansion as well. It would prove a great deer round, if you ask me. If you've never fired a .41 Mag handgun, you owe it to yourself to at least try it - you'll find just as I did, that the round is a lot more controllable than the .44 Mag is, and it can do "most" of what a .44 Mag round can do. The .41 Mag has always been a bit of a red-headed step-child if you ask me - never getting the credit it deserves. If you have a .41 Mag of some type, you really need to lay claim to a box or two of this new Buffalo Bore .41 Mag ammo.
As I mentioned at the start of this article, Tim Sundles, has been burying me in new ammo to test. Yes, shooting new rounds is always fun and challenging, and quite often, I'm one of the first to get these new loadings - I appreciate this. And, SurvivalBlog readers are often the first to get real-life, first-hand test results on new Buffalo Bore Ammunition. I've heard from several SurvivalBlog readers, asking me if any of the ammo or gun companies pay me to promote their products. Never happened - never will! If anything, I should be billing Tim Sundles for my time and effort in shooting all the ammo he sends me! LOL!!
Seriously, if you are into handgun hunting and take your self-defense needs to heart, you want the best-of-the-best, when it comes to ammo. You're not gonna find any cheap plinking ammo from Buffalo Bore - they only make hi-quality, self-defense and hunting loads. Sure, Buffalo Bore ammo is a bit more expensive than ammo from the big name ammo companies. However, what Tim Sundles is offering - you can't find from any of the big name ammo companies, period. Sundles puts in a lot of time and effort to come up with these new loadings, and he also tests all these new loadings himself, too.
Like I said, Buffalo Bore is an American-owned company (in Montana), and it's a small company, that is rapidly carving itself a real niche in the self-defense and hunting calibers scheme of things. You won't find another ammo company, of this size that is producing and developing a more vast line-up than Tim Sundles is doing. There are lots of "good guys" in the firearms and ammo fields - I've been doing business with them for more than 20 years as a writer. However, Tim Sundles is, without a doubt, one of the really good guys and he's working hard to give us something no one else is giving us. He deserves your business, checkout his web site - and I'll be reporting on even more new rounds he's working on for us all.
Now, I'm waiting for the spring monsoon rains to stop in my area, so I can get out there and test the new Buffalo Bore, .40 S&W, 140 grain Barnes TAC-XP "standard pressure" rounds in my Glock 27 That .should make a great combo - with this round coming out at approximately 1,300 FPS in a slightly longer barreled gun. But I'm thinking, this will be a controllable round in this pocket rocket pistol from Glock. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Over the years, as I've been perusing the pages of SurvivalBlog and various other sites, one thing had been missing the whole time, and to my own mind, I completely missed it too.

It wasn't until this weekend that the point was driven home quite clearly. You see, I was out shooting with friends, and taking in a glorious day. In the course of plinking cans and putting various sheets of paper out of their misery, my favorite M1911 light-framed .45 ACP jammed. The slide was nearly locked solid, and after finally clearing out the cartridge and the magazine, I realized that the pistol was in horrible need of cleaning. And yes, I was neglectful of that, as, I suspect, are most folks who use guns a lot are – bad habits do creep in, after all. Sometimes it just never gets done, no matter how many mental notes are made to do it.

Okay, so it's time to clean the little beastie. I get out the tools, the kit, set it all down on the table, and... the solvent bottle was empty. No solvent. Anywhere. No idea why, but there was no solvent to be found anywhere in the house. Not in the gun closet, nor the safe. Not in the preps, and basically nowhere at all. Well, okay, I know full well why, and I bet a lot of you out there have the same problem – just that I found out this weekend, but you don't know it yet. I'll explain...

You have a huge cache of firearms. You have mountains of ammunition. You may even have enough reloading equipment and materials to be your own local arsenal. However, take a quick peek: How much do you have in the way of cleaning equipment? How many spare brushes, swabs, patches, and spare rods do you have? How much spare oil, tools, and solvent are on hand at home right now? Do you have enough to handle every firearm you own, including the stuff you've recently bought? My particular little problem was solved with a quick trip to the nearest sporting goods store (and I made sure to buy four large bottles of the stuff this time – just to be sure). Now how easily could I have solved this little problem if civilization happened to have collapsed before I found out I didn't have any solvent? I can answer that – not at all without improvising, and improvisation is never as good as having the very thing you need.

My little tale (yes, a true story), highlighted two big problems that I bet most preppers don't even bother with: regular weapons maintenance, and having enough stuff to actually perform it for months to years after that stuff can no longer be obtained at a store.

Let's tackle the fact that hey – keep your weapons clean! I was completely blasé about doing it (a bad habit gained from years of playing around in local shooting events, where I routinely ran 600+ rounds through the barrel in any given event, without bothering to clean until every other event, or it saw 1,200 rounds). However, thinking further, imagine if that pistol jammed at a moment where my life really, really relied on having my weapon work perfectly. It's one thing to endure a couple of friendly insults and jibes from friends at a gravel bank, but another thing entirely if I'm facing an intruder, my first shot didn't do the job, and now I'm standing there with a half-open slide while the now-wounded (and now rather angry!) intruder raises his own weapon. The thought is enough to scare the crap out of any sane prepper, and once I realized it, it scared me rather straight as well. I spent three hours cleaning every last nook and cranny this morning, and a quick drive back out into the countryside with 100 rounds confirmed that everything worked flawlessly again. Once home, I cleaned everything again, just to be sure.

I even learned again how a perfectly clean gun operates a whole lot smoother (yes, you tend to forget), and that over time I just stupidly got used to the slowly degrading performance. It is far easier, and safer, to get into the habit of never considering your shooting day done until after you clean every weapon you used. It's easy to think that you're good to go with waiting until x number of rounds have been shot, but it's a very bad habit, and one I'm glad that I caught and learned from - before that lesson came the hard way. Very simply put, always clean your weapon after you're done using it. In a post-collapse world, clean it every chance you get, because you may not get the time to do it when you think you will.

Second item on the agenda – check your stores. No, not your guns, not your cartridges, and not your neat-o accessories. As a prepper, you should check into, and stock up on, the following items:

  • Cleaning solvent (the good stuff. Don't go cheap here.)
  • Light gun oil (again, don't even think of skimping.)
  • Spare wire bore brushes (because they wear down quickly when you actually use them.)
  • Spare small wire brushes (because using a bore brush to clean out the inside of a slide assembly is foolish.)
  • Spare bore and magazine swabs (because they get dirty in a hurry, and you can only clean them so many times before they become useless).
  • Spare patches (as many as you can lay hands on), and spare patch-holders.
  • Spare rods of sufficient length (those things are notoriously fragile when you don't want them to be.)
  • A big pile of clean/unused rags, set aside especially for cleaning your guns. Make completely sure that they're lint-free.
  • Spare tools specific to assemble/disassemble your firearms (the funny-looking wrench you use to take apart the muzzle of an M1911 .45 ACP, for example, because pliers will work but really, not right.)
  • Spare consumables for your firearm (examples? No problem: My .45, over time, will eat slide-return spring bushings, slide springs, an extra grip, spare screws for the grip, magazine springs and followers, an extra barrel or two, etc.)

So what if you only have a few firearms and have to do it on the cheap? Well, you can still get by with buying up and storing at least a half-dozen of those small rifle and pistol cleaning kits you normally find in the average department store's sporting goods section. Each is usually self-contained with everything needed to clean your rifle or pistol, are sold by caliber, and each is enough to last about 5 cleanings (10 if you're careful with it). They're also cheap – averaging $10-15 per kit. I figure that by the time you crack open that last kit, you'll likely be almost out of ammunition in your stores anyway. Just stick with a reputable brand, and avoid the absolute cheapest stuff.

But let's get back to keeping these things clean in a post-collapse situation. Hopefully you now have everything you need to do that with. But hey, not everything is perfect in this world, so...

Let's say you're out of supplies to keep your favorite firearm clean, or you found a good weapon with a ton of ammo (Hypothetically, let's say you've been a good little prepper, survived the collapse of civilization, and as a reward the SHTF-fairy drops off a pristine M16A1 and a can of ammo? Oh, but she didn't think to include a cleaning kit. Go figure.) Or, let's say you had to bug out in a hurry, and a pistol cleaning kit doesn't make much sense in that bag of yours. So, now what? The need to keep that gun clean hasn't gone away.  You'll want to make sure it does what you want it to do, especially when you need it to do so. Well, good news! You can improvise. At the low-end, if the firearm is truly Mil-Spec, you can get away with as little as using soap and near-boiling water to literally scrub and rinse the thing (the heat insures that things dry off quickly afterward), only needing a light coat of oil when you're done. If you can find/scrounge up some brake-cleaner (or even clean brake fluid, come to think of it), you can use that in place of typical gun solvent. For oil, you can use a rag and (very little!) clean machine oil, hydraulic fluid, or automatic transmission fluid (but use it sparingly! Too much oil attracts dirt and dust.) There are lots of options in a pinch, but use them intelligently, and don't use it as an excuse to skip cleaning your firearms.

By the way, when it comes to cleaning your weapons, get to know the things deeply. Know to always make sure not only that the weapon is unloaded, but that no bullets are anywhere near the table you're working on, period. I always make it a habit to move all the bullets to a bag on the floor, and double-check everything to make sure no bullets can be found in, on, or around the weapon. Know how to field-strip your weapons, clean them and put them back together in perfect working order. Know where all those nooks and crannies are, and how to get the goop, burn-marks, lead/copper build-up, and all that other crud out of them. Get into the habit of giving every square millimeter a close eye, looking for signs of a failing part: minute cracks, worn edges or lips, curling metal, odd discolorations, pitting, and any bulges or warping where there shouldn't be. Replace those parts ASAP (you remembered to store spare parts, right?) Be aggressive about even the slightest sign of surface rust, scrubbing it completely off with solvent and a rag, wiping off the solvent, then scrubbing it again with a lightly-oiled rag.

Even if you don't use it very often (or at all), get into the habit of taking out each weapon you own at least once every year (once every six months in a wetter climate), and cleaning it anyway, searching carefully for rust, cleaning out any dust, and working everything on it until it feels perfectly smooth and natural.

Yes we've been talking about firearms all this time, but let's take a few moments to get into your knives, swords, bows, arrows, crossbows, or maybe the spare trebuchet you may have stashed in the garage. Just because it doesn't spit fire doesn't mean that you can leave it dirty.

Compound bow cams can clog up and the bearings filled with grit. Knives and edged weapons can pit and rust in a surprisingly short amount of time. That crossbow trigger needs to be kept clean and perfectly functional, because you'll never know when your life will depend on it functioning perfectly. You would be amazed at how quickly that something as simple as a recurve bow can get dirty, causing grit to become sandpaper in the string notches, slowly weakening the bow overall.

If you've ever field dressed an animal with a knife, you already know how quickly it (and your hands) can get greasy, hairy, and smeared with gore. Now think about gripping that greasy, gory handle and defending yourself with it. Anything with an edge that gets used at all will get nicks in the blade, and any blade will dull after even the most careful use. To that end, learn how to truly sharpen a knife. Have the right oils, stones, files, and stropping tools on hand – lots of them. Contrary to popular belief, it takes a lot of practice and skill to learn how to do it right, but once you do, you can not only keep your edged weapons sharp, but can actually create an edged weapon out of almost any sufficiently-shaped piece of metal.

So let's sum it all up here, and hopefully, you get the idea by now – you have two things to help make your prepping complete: One, get in the habit of cleaning your weapons every time you use them, and periodically if you don't use them. No exceptions, no excuses. Two, make sure you have enough bits, bobs, and supplies in your stores to help keep those weapons clean (and maintained) for at least 2-to-3 years (or more!) beyond the point where civilization goes splat.

Do this, do it faithfully, and you will find yourself leagues ahead of the prepper crowd. You will be better able to survive. You will be able to hold out long after the wannabe commando types got killed off due to their own jammed, dull, dirty, and broken weapons. That is, long-neglected weapons which failed them at the wrong time: precisely when they were needed the most.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Having just read the letters regarding reloading economics, I noticed the following caveats and had two important points about them:
1.  “do not shoot lead bullets in a Glock” because of the polygonal rifling.  Polygonal rifling essentially creates rifling engagement angles that are less than 90 degrees, therefore whatever bullet material you use seals the bore better (because it’s easier to deform lead/copper into a rifling groove that has a more obtuse (open) angle) than a sharp 90 degree angle.    A standard cartridge fired out of a conventionally rifled barrel will travel faster out of a polygonal rifled barrel because of the superior seal that the polygonal rifling creates and that is why Glock uses those kinds of barrels, bullets perform better out of their barrels. Better seal = higher pressures,  higher pressures = higher velocities.   It needs to be noted that the HK USP series of pistols also has polygonal rifling as well as the Baby Eagle line and problem some others that I haven’t listed here.  Lead is perfectly safe to shoot out of Glocks or HKs, as long as you decrease your powder charge.  Polygonally rifled barrels do lead up any more readily than conventionally rifled barrels, in fact, because polygonal rifling seals the bore better the number one cause of leading  is reduced, “gas cutting” the increased pressure does not melt lead bases to any appreciable extent – gas cutting does.  This was all figured out decades ago by better men than me, like Elmer Keith.  Since higher pressures also yield higher temperatures (simple physics) even a conventionally rifled barrel can build up lead quickly if you use hot loads, or try to reproduce +p type ratings using lead or copper plated bullets.  It isn’t lead build up that leads to a “kaboom”, it’s nearly always a compressed load which is far more dangerous in any barrel.  Gas checks (copper jackets that go on the bottom of a lead bullet) are effective not because the leading lip of the gas check hits the rifling and splits to seal the angle of the rifling in addition to shielding the base of the lead bullet.  Don’t believe me?  Check the effective velocities of a gas checked bullet, it’s higher than just lead – less pressure leakage.
2.  Copper plated bullets should be treated as if they were lead when calculating your powder charge.  Because the plating is not a “jacket” but a very very thin microscopic coating of copper the hardness of the bullet is still essentially whatever the hardness of the lead that was used in casting it before plating.  The plating process does not harden the lead bullet, it seals the bore better than a copper jacketed bullet – and should be loaded accordingly otherwise you can create higher pressures and you may damage your pistol or yourself.  Always load copper plated bullets as if you were loading lead.  You get less lead fouling with copper plated bullets, but I’ve pulled lead deposits out of a pistol bore that was only shooting copper plated bullets, although it had a couple thousand rounds through it prior to the cleaning.
3.  Remember that the higher pressure rounds will have more problems with overpressure than low pressure rounds, typically autopistols shoot 9mm, .45 ACP, .40 S&W – I’ll ignore the other more uncommon rounds, so look them them if you’re going to reload for them., as an example only (look up your specific combination of powder, bullet, primer and casing) the following number can give you an idea of the pressures involved:
9mm Luger (9x19) is around 34,000 psi
45acp (45 auto) is around 20,000
40sw (40 short and wimpy) is around 32,000 psi
ammo manufactures spend a seriously paranoid amount of time calculating not only pressure, but the pressure curve (burn characteristics inside barrel) and they minutely examine the components after firing before determining a load is safe, they do this for each and every “lot” of ammunition they produce, if they change one component then there is a different “lot number” assigned to it and the workup is repeated for it.  Since their powders and components are custom blended and manufactured, they tend to repeat this process a lot.  A typical handloader will not have access to the testing equipment that a manufacturer has and has to be at least as meticulous.  Pressure is king and over-pressure will injure you and destroy your weapon.  In a grid-down survival situation the nominal savings that reloading will yield are offset by the very serious chance a non-expert reloader will inadvertently take.  If and when THSTF I do not plan on shooting any reloaded ammunition out of my autopistols or autoloading rifles.
As a side note, a few more thoughts on reloading practices:
The typical reloader who uses “junk brass” that is harvested from a shooting range is taking some serious chances.  Without realizing it, a handloader can work up a load that is perfectly safe in a Lake City 5.56 case, and start producing with a large range of brass cases from various manufacturers – without realizing that the internal dimensions of each manufacturers casing are different, in fact the typical Lake City nato 5.56 casing has a thicker web and thicker walls than a commercial Winchester .223 Remington case – so a perfectly safe load in a different case will yield MUCH different results and since we’re worried about pressure (as we should be) we inadvertently are producing loaded cartridges that are quite different while believing we are making a consistent product because we’re using only one type of bullet/powder/primer.  Whenever possible, use ONE head stamp AND be sure they’re of the same year of manufacture.
I have reloaded now for 20 years, from .50 BMG to .380 and the one thing I keep as my watch-word is that I’m loading for target ammo only and I am not trying to reproduce factory maximum pressures.  I’ve had to toss out a serious amount of ammo from time to time because I wasn’t as careful as I should have been, and in case you’re wondering – no I never considered breaking apart the casings to reclaim components – why?  Because it’s just not worth the time and potential hazards to re-use bullets that have already been crimped, and powder that may be contaminated by whatever was in the case when I reloaded it or handled it during disassembly.  Sure a lot of old codgers will say that you can avoid problems, but I have a healthy enough paranoia to toss a couple of bucks in the trash (actually I take them to a public range to put in their “red bucket”  I’ve see these same guys pull ammo out of a red range bucket – such disregard for Murphy will surely clean the shallow end of the gene pool at some point
It comes down to pressure and amassing as much possible knowledge about interior ballistics as is humanly possible.   Most of the “kaboom” problems that Glocks and other autopistols have had occur when a reloader tries to reproduce a hot cartridge – or as the old competitors used to call it “make major” because before a typical competition each competitors load would be chronographed to insure they weren’t using a “wimpy” load to reduce recoil and thus increase accuracy.
I’ve had two kabooms, both were from compressed loads in reloaded ammo (one mine and one a factory reload) I’ve met other people that have had compressed loads from factory ammo, which is a major cause of “kaboom” in police departments across the country as they use duty ammo on a rotational basis during qualifications (use up the duty ammo to issue fresh duty ammo).   I’ve shot a lot of lead out of Glocks, never had a problem – the one I reload for most often is my Glock 20 and 29 – the ultra-hot 10mm.  And in case you’re wondering, reloading for revolvers has a slightly different set of problems that can be just as dangerous as those faced by autopistol reloaders.
Remember that no firearms manufacturer will warranty your firearm if you shoot reloads of any kind avoiding lead in Glocks while shooting jacketed reloads is just as much a warrantee problem as the other.    Seek knowledge and understanding, understand why polygonal rifling creates higher pressures and you can anticipate and compensate for it, understand why shorter barrels are less efficient at launching light and fast loads, and a host of other knowledge that is useful.
For me the greatest value that I get from reloading is that I’m much better educated than a typical shooter about the products I shoot and it’s a relaxing hobby that helps keep my mind sharp.  When I first started reloading I did save a significant amount of money on ammo, but component prices have skyrocketed since then and the savings are now pretty much non-existent. - Jim H. in Colorado


Dear Mr. Rawles,
This was an excellent article. I have a few comments for consideration. There are several aftermarket barrels available for Glocks to allow shooting lead bullets. Search for "Glock replacement barrels".  Many of the competition shooters I know use them quite successfully.

Reloading ammo or buying factory ammo are definitely not mutually exclusive activities. I do both. My goal it to increase opportunities to keep shooting. Where I seem to save the most is in reloading my own match ammo. Not only do I save money but my groups are significantly tighter with my reloads. The downside I see with reloading is for those of us who can be distracted into endless pursuit of the "perfect" load.

For folks who have a short memory, reloading is a good thing when ammo is either not available or is so expensive it is unaffordable.

Get out and vote. - Jim Z.

Just a few observations about R.S.O.'s article.

I had a few issues with R.S.O.'s article on reloading and wanted to share them.

First, if you order powder or primers by mail, there will be a $25 hazardous materials fee for each package (not item, but boxes in which they're shipped) you receive. Also, I have yet to find a business which mixes primers and powder in the same package. If you're going to mail order either, get some friends who also reload to place orders for their needs to defray the costs (Besides, if you don't already reload, you're going to want some help with set up and some instruction, right?).

If you use range brass (and there's nothing wrong with that), beware that some (mainly polymer) pistols, like the Glock, generally have issues with bulged brass at the base. Over time, this brass will not feed reliably. There are a number of methods to deal with this, like roll-sizers ($$$$$) or some specialty dies. Proceed at your peril. You can generally feel this bulge, and many dies do not size the base low enough to completely get rid of the bulge.

If you decide to buy brass (and there's nothing wrong with that), you can lower the cost of purchase by reusing that brass. So, while $.18/round is somewhat expensive for brass, you'll reuse most of it multiple times, spreading out the cost. If you want another way to get bulk brass, just buy loaded ammo, run it thru your favorite unloader (mine's a M1911), keep track of the brass you shoot and pick it up after you're done. Lots of people like once-fired brass better than pristine. (Note--If you shoot bolt-action rifles, you'll get better results from fire-formed brass than from pristine or fully-sized brass. Use a neck sizer only after you fire form your brass, and it'll be custom to your rifle's chamber.)

Your mileage may vary here, but I've had no issues shooting unjacketed lead (moly coated and uncoated) thru my Glock. Granted, I'm more diligent about cleaning the barrel when I shoot lead thru my Glock (which isn't often, I'm not a Glock fan), but have had no ill effects. If you want, Lone Wolf Distributors makes a great aftermarket barrel, and one of the marketing points for it is you can use unjacketed lead in it. The biggest issue with Glock is the fact that shooting reloaded ammo (yours or anyone else's) voids your warranty, tread at your peril.

I recommend specifically against buying any Lee Precision progressive press, which is unfortunate, because most of their other equipment is outstanding an affordable. The reason I recommend against their progressives is the large number of important parts made of plastic--especially the primer feed system. I owned a Lee Loadmaster for several years, and spent a lot of money on spare parts to replace broken ones.

The Dillon 550B is NOT a true progressive press, as it requires a manual index of the shell plate. True progressive presses index the shell plate by using the lever--every time you pull the lever, the ram goes up and down, does all the operations, and the shell plate rotates. The 550B requires you to turn the shell plate by hand after each stroke.

R.S.O.'s point about buying dies made by he same manufacturer as the press is a good one, but not entirely accurate. Almost all dies are threaded the same, so they're theoretically interchangeable. However, the depth of the place where you screw them into the press can vary. If your die bodies are too short, they won't adjust or work properly. I currently use Lee dies on an RCBS single stage press with no issues. Lee dies have the advantage of coming with a shell holder, no other die sets do (at least as far as I can tell).

I wholeheartedly agree with R.S.O.'s point on the manuals. If you use a recipe someone else gives you, you're risking losing vital body parts. Don't be that guy/gal.

R.S.O.'s point about Boxer and Berdan priming is a good one, but many foreign manufacturers of handgun ammo use Berdan primers. Look into the case, and if you see two small holes instead of one relatively large one, it's not reloadable.

When cleaning your brass, a tumbler is not strictly necessary, it's just the most efficient and easiest method. You can clean brass with water and let it dry. When you go thru the sorting operation, make sure you check the cases for dings, dents, Berdan priming, and cracks. Dings and dents may not be a problem, discard Berdan and cracked cases. Also discard any steel and aluminum cases, as they're generally poor candidates for reloading.

R.S.O. is mostly correct that you don't need to lubricate most handgun brass if you use carbide dies. However, having reloaded a bunch of .500 S&W Magnum, I recommend lubing long cases, even if you're using carbide dies--I snapped a Lee Loader trying to resize .500 brass without lube. Additionally, most bottleneck cartridges (like many popular rifle calibers) require some lube to make the operation effective, even when you use carbide dies. I can't say this is strictly true for calibers like .400 Corbon or .357 SIG, but I refuse to own pistols chambered for these cartridges--they are answers to unasked questions, and if you're going to go to the bother of chambering a pistol to mostly .40 S&W or .45 ACP, why not just go with the straight wall version and use heavier bullets?

R.S.O. omitted a step--you have to prime the cases. Make sure you use the appropriate primers. One thing to note, some popular calibers (like .45 ACP) have manufacturers who have switched from large to small primers, so pay attention--especially if you're using range brass. It is generally not smart to interchange rifle primers for pistol primers--there's a reason why they make primers specifically for rifles and pistols. Also, be aware that using a magnum primer in a non-magnum cartridge will give you inconsistent velocity.

Three additional sources for reloading supplies: (based in Columbia, Missouri) (based in Montezuma, Iowa; they recently acquired Sinclair International) (based in Mexico, Missouri)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

While we are all preparing for something most of us are not financially secure there for we must stretch our Dollars as long as we have them as a form of currency. 

Here in falls the concept of reloading your own ammunition.  Because face it we need to practice and we need to store for when the supply runs out.  Let’s start by doing a little math, Ammo 9mm Luger Winchester USA 115 Grain FMJ 1190 fps 100 Round Box $21.11 x 10 = $211.10 bought online.  Now let’s order the individual component parts online and see how much we save Winchester Bulk Bullets 9mm 115 grain FMJRN = $105.10, Winchester Small Pistol Primers 1,000 = $29.95, Powder 1 pound about $20.00, Winchester Bulk Brass 9mm = $176.30.  Ok total to load your own 1000 rounds of 115 Grain FMJ = $331.35 now you’re saying to yourself that’s $120.25 more than if I just bought it already loaded there’s no savings to heck with this idea right?  Wrong!  Take a look around next time you go to the range or your favorite outdoor shooting spot how much 9mm brass is just laying around.  LOTS and LOTS all you have to do is pick it up, and as for the powder on average you can load 1200 to 1400 rounds of ammo with just 1 pound.  Hmmm, so let’s take just the price of brass $176.30 out of the equation that will leave us with a grand total of $155.05 for 1,000 rounds of loaded ammo that is a savings of $56.05 or roughly 27%.  Greater savings can be had by buying plated and lead bullets. (If you shoot a handgun with a Polygonal rifling such as a Glock DO NOT USE unjacketed lead bullets!)

I think if you have made it this far into the article you are now saying to yourself but the equipment is expensive.  This statement is true for the most part however there are many different manufactures to choose from thus making it a matter of figuring out how fast you want to load your 1000 rounds.  You can get a RCBS ROCK CHUCKER SUPREME PRESS you will need to buy Dies (single stage) for MSRP $ 202.95, or a Lee Breech Lock Challenger Press you will need to buy Dies (single stage) for MSRP $94.00 or a Lee PRO 1000 9MM LUGER (progressive press includes Dies) for MSRP $254.00. Another option is the Dillon Square Deal 'B' (progressive press includes Dies will not load Rifle ammo) for MSRP $379.95 or the Dillon RL550B you will need to buy Dies (progressive press loads Rifle ammo) for MSRP $439.95.  I can go on and find all the presses that are available and put prices in here but then I might as well just open a store and sell the stuff too. (Note to self, find investor open store)  Ok do some more research on your own talk to friends other people at the range find out what they like and WHY.  Before we get too much further I am not employed by nor do I receive any kickbacks from any of the above mentioned Manufactures, however I was at one time employed by Dillon Precision.  Yes I do like there products I have used them for over 10 years and the Lifetime "No-B.S." Warranty is great!  Links to some key manufacturers mentioned are listed at the bottom of this article.

You will need to buy Reloading Dies for most of the machines listed.  The Dies range in price from about $29.95 to $63.95 depending on which company you go with.  If you by a Lee reloader and Dillon Dies you may need to buy 1 more Die for the system to work correctly and yet if you buy a Dillon machine and Lee Dies you may not use 1 of the Dies. My strong recommendation is to use Dies made by the same company that made your Reloader.

Most of the companies also have some sort of case prep Deals (i.e. Starter Kits) these kits should include a Scale that weighs in Grains (the industry standard unit of measure), a case tumbler (the thing that cleans the brass), media (the actual cleaning material), a bottle of polish (so the brass is shiny again), a set of dial calipers (used to measure the dimensions throughout the loading process), and a Reloading manual (this is where we find all the data needed to make SAFE ammo).  On a side note your-cousins-sisters-boyfriend once used X amount of powder Y on a ### grain bullet will cause you to BLOW UP your GUN, HAND, FACE, and other things you DO NOT want to BLOW UP!!!  If someone gives you a recipe for a load look it up in a RELOADING manual before ever trying.  Your Best friend in reloading is your RELOADING Manuel get lots of them cross reference them with each other if it’s not in a book DO NOT TRY IT!!  Most powder manufactures put out FREE manuals every year or so. BUY multiple Manuals from different manufactures they are worth it, lots of research has gone into them so you will not hurt yourself.

Your initial investment will be around $1,000 for one caliber this is a lot of money.  However if money is no longer good for anything other than fire starter then having it will do you no good. Invest in Heavy Metals (lead) keep a comfortable amount on hand.  Set a minimum and maximum number of loaded rounds that you want to keep on hand then set a minimum number of projectiles, primers, and pounds of powder that you want as your supply.  Remember that powder and primers are the only parts of the ammo that may go bad if not stored properly or for too long.  Powder should be bought and rotated often if you buy 2 pounds every time you stock up use 1 from your old supply and put the 2 new ones into your reserve.  Then the next time you buy powder use the ones on the shelf to load and put the new ones in their place on the shelf.  This practice is much like rotating your stored food. 

Loading rifle ammo is a little more complex than handgun ammo but the primary principles are the same with a few added steps.  Rifle brass has to be identified as boxer or Berdan primed, brass cased or steal case.  The Berdan cases have two off-center flash holes and are difficult to de-prime because of this without special Berdan tools and very time consuming.  I have heard of steel cases being reloaded however I strongly recommend against it due to the case being more rigid than brass and possibly having unseen cracks that would cause a catastrophic failure.

The principal steps of reloading handgun ammo.  You will start by acquiring your brass, and then separate it by caliber.  The next step in the process is to clean and polish it this is accomplished by using a tumbler and a medium such as crushed corn cob or crushed walnut shells and adding in a polishing compound.  The polishing compound is not necessary but it does make the brass look almost new again.  Step number three is to separate the media from the brass.  In step four you will start the transformation from fired case to loaded ammo by sizing the brass using hopefully a carbide re-sizer for the appropriate caliber being loaded.  If not you will have to lubricate the brass before sizing.  In step five you will be flaring the case mouth, this makes it easier to insert and seat the projectile.  Step six is adding the proper amount of gun powder for the chosen load.  Be very careful to not over or under charge the load this too can cause a catastrophic failure.  In step seven you will be placing the projectile in to the top of the case so that the properly adjusted bullet seating Die will press the projectile into the case.  Step eight is to crimp the brass and remove the bell from the case mouth, so that the bullet will be held securely.  This will keep the projectile from being pushed back into the case in a semi-automatic handgun or shaken loose in a revolver.  Step nine in this process is to use your micrometer to check the overall dimensions of the loaded round.  The best part of this process is finally here you’ve made several small batches with different powder weights.  You’ve placed them in separate containers and labeled them accordingly, you now need your reloading log book (this is just a notebook that you keep) with the load data entered onto different pages the only thing missing is in the results section.  Now it’s time to go to the range and find out which batch works best in your gun or guns. Don’t forget to enter your results!

The difference between rifle and handgun ammo reloading comes at the beginning of the case preparation.  Rifle brass will need to be measured prior to loading if it is too long you will need to trim it to within the specifications listed in your loading manual.

The reason to reload is so you will be able to resupply yourself and your group with quality low cost ammunition for training and during a SHTF scenario the ability to stay in the fight.

I hope this article has given something to think about and give you another option for procuring one of the three primary supply that are needed in TEOTWAWKI: Beans, Bullets, and Band-Aids you can never have enough.  As always stay alert and Prepare for the Worst and Pray for the Best.

Online Vendor Resources:

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dear JWR:
The writer about traditional projectile weapons seems to have missed the most used feather for fletching arrows.  The best ever used that I am aware of is the turkey feather.
They are known to stop 12Ga. birdshot pretty successfully.  That is why turkey loads are more powerful, and contain larger shot sizes. Lesser pellets flatten out and fall off the bird.
Good fletching.  The American Indians then used a fiber (perhaps of hemp?)  to wind them to the shaft of the arrow, after splitting and shaping, of course. Not sure if there was any other kind of adhesive used at that point...wouldn't be surprised.  The American Indians (at least in my area)  used fairly low-power bows.  They used shafts of reeds for arrows, and this was made up for by using obsidian or flint arrowheads. We still can't make a blade sharper than a properly knapped piece of flint. Another skill to learn!  

Thanks for keeping all this going! - Sid C.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

I decided to begin approaching the problem of surviving a possible collapse from the perspective of after it happened rather than before. And unless there is some extraordinary and unlikely event that sweeps this nation, one commodity that will certainly be depleted is firearm ammunition. There will be no running up to Wal-Mart or you local gunsmith shop to purchase more. Exotic and uncommon calibers will virtually disappear; whereas the more common will be in high demand. Trade and barter will eventually ensue to replenish to some extent expended rounds; but, that will come from an ever-diminishing original supply. With time, some remanufacturing may take place. Reloading from also lessening stocks of powder, primer, cases and slugs will occur.

So my K.I.S.S. mind-set led me to investigate the more original launched projectile weapon. The good old bow and arrow. After dusting off several old recurve bows I had buried in closet depths and locating some usable bowstrings for them, I turned my attention to a small cache of equally dated arrows I'd found stored with those bows. The shafts were still straight, even on the wooden ones. The nocks fine; albeit, the inexpensive target plastic ones were a bit brittle from having just dried out as the compounds used had lost their plasticizers due to slow evaporation. Worse, the plastic fletching had felt that same effect turning the feathers into crumbling stripes of color glued to the side of the shafts. Even some equally old aluminum shafted arrows with more flexible rubber fletching had fallen prey to the same issue. "When had I last used these?" was my question. Time passes - it had been over 25 years by my recollection.

Forgetting that I was thinking survival post-event, I ran up to my local sporting goods store and was amazed at the current prices for new arrows. I was even more surprised when I visited three of my local infamous Wal-Marts and found only one arrow in stock between them. Inquiring from a sales clerk what was up with that, I learned that "for some reason, we can't keep arrows in stock, they are sold out by the end of the day that they are put on the shelf". I guess I wasn't the only person who'd made the mental leap towards an alternative projectile in my area. Looking about the Internet, I found that the best volume price for a quick cheap wooden target arrow restock was through AllCourtSports.  At $138 delivered, not a bad deal. Almost immediate gratification, and the arrows arrived in good shape, were fairly true and shoot well.

But what about those old arrows laying about? In days to come, my new arrows were surely going to suffer the same fate as those. Add in breakage, loss and deformation, I quickly realized I'd better check out the old skills of making them; or at least, remaking them. So, along with some 17,000 other folks, I watched some videos on YouTube seeing the 'from scratch' art of manufacturing primitive arrows. Some 30 or so videos burned into my eyes later, I'd gleaned the basics. You need a shaft that is straight (or you are able to straighten it), you need a nock cut or fastened onto one end, a point or arrowhead on the other, if you're feeling especially aesthetic you can add your own distinctive 'cresting' - bands of color or paint in general and last, you need to fletch it.

Virtually all arrows I know of only have 3 feathers or vanes. The one perpendicularly mounted to the nock cut/slot called the cock feather and the other two called the shaft feathers mounted around the shaft at 120 degree intervals of the circle. What could be simpler? Just slice and sand off the old fletching and re-glue some new feathers! And after watching the videos, I'd seen just how 'simple' it was to take a feather found or acquired in some manner, slice it along the main vein, trim, glue and tie it onto the shaft. Did I hear, "yeah, right"? Well whoever you are, you've been to this point and know that those fellows are adepts and quite good at what they are doing. The small matter of practical experience and an intimate knowledge with feathers, hoof glues and the patience of Job.

Needless to say, my initial experiments went a bit to the S portion of SHTF. I quickly learned that all feathers are not created equal. Some feathers slice fairly well along the quill/calamus - some don't, some feathers have a disturbing tendency to lose their barbs and vanes just falling apart, and all natural feathers have this real exasperating quality of attracting any glue within 20' and turning that neatly cut and sized portion of a feather into a glob of plumaceous mess. Did I mention patience? And let's not even go into the need for having three exactly shaped and weighted feathers. Just suffice it to say, that is a 'must'.

Quickly deciding that hoof glue was not for me, I upgraded my technique to using modern adhesives. I found the best one to be Loctite Stik' n Seal Outdoor/Exteriores for Metal, Ceramic, Wood, Glass, Rubber, Leather, Manmade & Plastics.  pn.@ upc - o 79340 23782 7, component IDH# 1415813. It has exactly the qualities I'd found I wanted. A fairly quick 5 minutes provided a good gripping tack set to where the new feather/vane will not fall off. Yet, you can still reposition it for over an hour. That same repositioning is crucial to get the 120 degree angle as close to correct as can be between the the three feathers. It, the sealant allows you to bend the bond, yet hold the feather without coming off the shaft to achieve a feather true perpendicular to the axis of the shaft installation. It can be easily applied in the exact stream/extruded size you need to follow the glue side of the feather along the quill and doesn't flow hardly at all once the vane/feather is stuck to the shaft. Finally, the adhesive works equally well with wood, plastic, aluminum and yes - real feathers.

After trying over a dozen caulks, glues, epoxies - all I can say is a 'Thanks' to Mr. Loctite. One small tube is enough for over 50 complete re-fletches. And the biggest benefit I hate to admit, is that if you forget to recap the tube between feathers - the tube doesn't harden. Only a tiny bit at the opening skins over with extremely little loss of adhesive.

The material for the feathers, once I'd made the mental shift from solely 'found in nature' materials in my mind, was the next big decision. After trying feathers found from my local bird population ranging from crows (not too bad actually those), to doves, blue-jays (I really like the color, but splitting them is almost impossible), woodpeckers, cranes, herons, vultures (probably the best natural feather I tried - but those fellows aren't real sociable and their feathers if found are pretty ragged), blackbirds, orioles and even some ducks that have given up on the concept of migration that live around my home year-round; finally I had to come to the realization that feathers are just inferior to manmade materials in terms of uniformity, workability and durability. So I started seeking the best material that I could find that was common and either free or inexpensive.

After carefully removing a couple of remaining still intact plastic/rubber feathers from a couple of my surviving arrows cache I created a template onto a bit of poster board for tracing to any material I decided on. The uniformity issue was now solved. But what material? I needed something thin, weatherproof, easy to shape, flat, pliable enough to bend slightly in an instant as the arrow passed by the bow's arrow rest and recover/return to its needed shape for straight flight. Obviously any paper product wouldn't suffice. Nor would splints of wood, metal or any other hard material. I was beginning to see why feathers had been used for millennia, only to be supplanted by modern plastics once invented. Having already had my share of fun and games with the local avian population offerings, I looked to plastic.

Plastic seems to come in the thickness required by me in either too stiff or too soft of qualities. I tried many. From packaging materials such as vacuum box/wrap used for electronics to containers such as detergent bottles and jugs. None were quite right. Too heavy, too rigid, a tendency to deform or take on a bend that wouldn't be convinced to uncurl. About to give up and while preparing some carrots at dinner time one evening during this experimental period, I looked down at the plastic cutting mat/counter protector I was using at the time. You've undoubtedly at least seen one of these. Approximately 12" x 18" plastic sheets that do not let a knife cut through them easily and perfect for a quick cutting surface on top of you kitchen counter. They are sold in packages of 2 to 10. Not a one-use disposable item; rather, a longer term usage item that usually lasts around 2-3 months or so before you finally score through the plastic during use. Cheap, available anywhere - and best, I had some. They are just the right thickness; however, the issue with as the feathers brush by the bow' arrow rest still remained. A small, minor deflection that was unpredictable and unoffsetable kept happening when I tried the material. New material, that is. About a week later, once again chopping up some onions on an older plastic cutting sheet, I noticed it was time at last to replace the 6 month plus old mat I was using (my apologies Julia Child, but I hate to cook and don't wear out my utensils very fast). I saw a small slice hole had gone through. As I went to the cupboard to get a new mat out of a package there and about to toss out the old mat into the recycle bin - the thought 'recycle' just set off the bells of innovation.

I don't know if anyone has ever really noticed that as a one of those cutting mats get used, etched, marred and worn, they get softer, more pliable, more bendable. So much so that they can easily break along the scored lines. Just like the vanes on a bird's feather do. The only real difference is that nature provides the microscopic barbs that allow the feather to reassemble/rehook-up to a usable flying mechanism. But, the etches and scratches in the plastic mat after being well-used create the closest material I've found that mimics the natural feather. It is just the right 'softness', has the ability to bend in a small wave/curve and recover its original flatness.

The pass-by the arrow rest issue was solved when I tested this worn plastic on an arrow shaft. I found that by selecting material from the area of the mat that had been most used, I'd discovered a free, previously thrown out material that makes for a perfect fletching substitute for natural feathers. All that remained was to cut out some 39 feathers for the 13 shafts I had saved, glue them on and carefully position them, mark/color the cock feather red with a permanent marker and find that I now had the means and method to easily replace the fletching on my old wood and aluminum arrow shafts. It takes about 5 minutes per feather - apply glue to the quill, place the cock feather, wait 5, apply the first shaft feather, wait 5, apply the final shaft feather - rotating the shaft so that each feather is upright at the time of its installation.

I'd say that the one question some friends of mine have asked most was just how did I get the 120 angle right? And without using some elaborate geometric protractor method or something like that?

Whether you remove the old remaining fletching or are starting fresh with a new shaft, the first step is to either re-nock or observe the nock on the shaft. We all know that the nock slips over the bowstring. The cock feather is always the first feather to be repositioned on the shaft. Exactly perpendicular to the nock cut-out. Okay, now how to know where to place the shaft feathers? Especially if the original line of the cleaned-off feathers is missing or on a new shaft has never there at all? The answer is in the nock. Literally. The nock bisects the diameter of the shaft. But it is not a perfect diameter line. It has a width. That width is just slightly more at the bottom of the cut - the bottom of the 'U'. That 'U', the side of that 'U' (there is a reason I keep writing the capital letter) on the side away from the cock feather, due to the diameter of the shaft, the size and proportion of the needed bowstring cut-out size is almost exactly 120 degrees 'around the circle. All a person has to do is draw a pencil line using the 'U' side mentioned to the arrow shaft and that is the point where the nock-most rear of the vane/feather line starts. Keeping the shaft feathers parallel to the first applied cock feather will ensure that the you form the perfect 3 vane triangular arrangement you need. No math, no drafting tools - nothing more that a tiny pencil line or knife score/nick. And as I mentioned above when discussing the adhesive, any minor resetting or nudging can come after the initial first tack.

I found that it is best to create some jig to hold the arrow shaft in place, to keep it from rolling while allowing for the feathers to not touch the work surface below. All feathers/vanes are mounted/glued so that they are standing straight up along the glue line. Glue is best applied to the feather quill, not the arrow shaft. The scratches and etches in the plastic also allow for minor bending and adjustment to the feather during adhesion to the shaft.

All in all, once I figured out the process and the materials, the actual job of re-fletching the arrows worked out to about 30 minutes apiece start to a finished product. A good way to spend some time just rediscovering that our ancestors were far more patient and noticed a lot more than I did at first.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mr. Rawles,
Kent C.’s article about handloading is a very informative piece.  However, I’d like to provide a little supplemental information.  First off is the matter of cost.  Kent makes the point, with good mathematical support, that reloading doesn’t really save much money when reloading common calibers (your primary guns are in common caliber, aren’t they?), but there are a couple elements he did not mention.  I have a friend who, in conjunction with a couple other guys, put in a large freight order of reloading components for several different common calibers.  We’re talking five-digit bullet counts here, with equal numbers of primers and pounds upon pounds of powder.  After all the math was done, the cost per round was dropped substantially.  While this is a prohibitively expensive approach for all but the independently wealthy, organizing such a group buy could be a good move for members of a group to consider.

Another aspect of the cost factor is the effect on odd calibers.  Common caliber ammo may be cheap enough to offset financial gains of handloading, but the more obscure the caliber, the fewer sources there are for ammo.  Against my advice, another friend (read: spotter) got himself a .308 Norma Magnum.  Its long range potential is excellent, but most of his casings are resized .300 Win Mag casings due to the rarity of proper .308 Norma brass.  When we do find factory ammo or brass for it, he grabs it, but it’s pricey.

The time factor he mentions is also valid, but a lot of us younger folks have more time than money, making it a worthwhile tradeoff, not even counting the skills and knowledge developed by experimenting with handloads.
Another factor to consider is the ability to make customized ammo.  For the group sniper, reloading is almost a must.  A rifle does not develop its best possible accuracy unless the ammo is tuned to the barrel.  Without getting too technical, gun barrels vibrate when the gun is shot.  The frequency depends on many factors, including type and amount of powder.  When a cartridge is loaded in such a way as to make the barrel vibrate at its characteristic frequency, the muzzle remains effectively stationary and a tighter group results.  This can be accomplished either by a barrel tuner, which is an extra attachment that most barrels cannot accommodate, or by tuning the ammo to the rifle.  I have a Savage Model 10 in .308 Winchester that a gunsmith friend built up for me.  With various factory loads, it was at or slightly below 1 MOA.  After fiddling with some handloads, I consistently put up sub-1/2 MOA groups.  This kind of accuracy is hard to buy factory.  You might get lucky, and find a particular factory round that optimizes your rifle’s accuracy.  However, factory match ammo tends to be a lot more expensive than basic range ammo.  If you really want the most accurate ammo you can get, you’ll want to handload it. - John in Spokane

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

In reading Don's response to my first article, I'm going to write about a subject I was saving for next month, but I think is germane now. And I'll probably forget it by then. Let's talk about reloading, which also gets short shrift in a lot of books.

Note--I'm not going to go into a great deal of technique here. There are books on that. If you like, I can provide my e-mail address and would be willing to answer questions that way. I'm also not going to tell you what brand of press or dies I use. If you want to know, or want my opinions, let JWR know, and I'll get you a private message.

First off, let me dispel the notion that reloading will save you money. I can almost guarantee you it will not. You will wind up spending more initially (on equipment and your first batch of components), then probably the same amount on components as you previously spent on ammo. Here's an example:

A box of generic factory-loaded 230 grain FMJ ball .45 ACP generally costs $25 at a big box store. If you use plated bullets (more on that later), you'll probably spend about $140 per thousand, or $.14 each. A pound of generic pistol powder is about $23. There are 7,000 grains of powder per pound. If you use five grains per round, you get 1,400 rounds out of a pound of powder for a per-round cost of $.0164, which we'll round up to $.02. A sleeve of 1,000 primers is about $32, or $.03 each. If you're cheap like I am and salvage brass from the range, you wind up spending about $.18 per round, or $9 per box of 50. Without averaging out the cost of equipment, you can make just over 100 rounds for what you'd pay a factory to load 50. So, why not just double your shooting for the same cash? Note this doesn't take into account what your time is worth. That's up to you, so I can't put a price on it. That's a really roundabout way of saying you'll be doing the ballistic equivalent of dollar-cost averaging.

There are items I didn't discuss, like buying jacketed bullets (more expensive), moly-coated lead (about the same as plated or just a bit cheaper), or casting your own (time-intensive, but potentially cheaper in the long run--like after you pay for the casting equipment). I also didn't discuss buying brass, which can be really cheap ($.05 per round or even less) or really expensive (brand name brass can cost as much as $.25 per round).

Now we need to discuss setting up to reload. There's need-to-have equipment and nice-to-have equipment. Then there's equipment that depends on your intended volume of reloading.

At the most basic level, you need a press, dies, a powder measure, scale, and a priming system. (Yes, I realize there are volume systems which allegedly obviate the need for a scale. I don't trust them. Tread at your own peril.).

Dies have four basic functions. They make the case round again and eject the spent primer. They "bell," or expand, the case mouth to allow you to put a bullet into it. They seat the bullet to the required depth (more on that later). And they crimp the case into the bullet. There are many quality dies out there at a variety of prices. I personally recommend against Forster or Redding, unless you're loading match-grade (read: sniper-grade) ammo. I have a mix of Lee, Hornady, and Dillon. RCBS also makes quality dies. Any of these four companies are quality makers. Note: Lee dies come with a shell holder for a single-stage press, the others do not. All of them come in handy storage cases.

One of the things you'll have to have is a set of calipers, to measure the overall length of the finished round. Bullets seated too long won't chamber. Bullets seated too short might cause excessive pressures in your chamber. You don't need to buy a set from a reloading supplier (Harbor Freight Tools, Lowe's, and Home Depot also carry them), but make sure you have a set.

The press is what the dies and shell holder screw into and provide the leverage to do the functions mentioned above. There are four basic types of presses. Hand presses are portable and are intended for low volume loading in the field, like for hunting ammo or doing load development.

Single-stage presses are what most people use to start. You perform a single function on the press with one die, then switch dies to change functions. Most people do all of their sizing and decapping first, then move to expanding the case mouth, etc. I have one of these for my low-volume operations, like magnum pistol and all of my rifle loading. Many single stage presses are sold in kits with all of the must-have pieces of equipment.

Turret presses allow you to mount all of your dies on the press at the same time, and switch dies by turning the turret. You could perform all four functions on a single case until you've produced a round of ammunition. I've never had one, so I can't say whether it's worth it.

Progressive presses are the opposite of the turret press, in that you mount all of the dies simultaneously, then the case moves from station to station to complete each step. This is for high-volume reloading and requires a somewhat large dedicated area to do it. Most progressive presses have on-board priming systems and powder measures, which takes care of a bunch of other steps and minimizes equipment requirements. Many people switch to a progressive press to increase their loading rates. I started out on a progressive press, because I was getting into USPSA shooting when I started reloading. Some progressive presses are sold in kits with the most-needed extras.

A powder measure puts the requisite charge of gunpowder into the case. Progressive presses have powder measures on the press itself. For single-stage reloaders, you'll have to mount it separately on your bench. Lee Precision dies come with a dipper to measure powder (I've never used one, because these types of "one size fits no one" solutions don't appeal to me--your mileage may vary).

ALL powder measures work on volume. That's how you can use multiple powders in the same measure. This brings us to the need for a scale. You can use digital or a fulcrum scale, but you need something to measure to a tenth of a grain. I use a digital scale, but you might want a spare in a Faraday cage or a spare fulcrum scale if you're sweating an EMP.

The final basic piece of equipment is the priming system. If you're using a single-stage press, there is a variety of priming systems to use on a press, or you can buy a separate hand primer. I tend to use a hand primer, but that lets me sit on the couch and prime brass while watching a movie or TV (Note: for all of my single-stage reloading, I'm a "coffee can" reloader, more on that in a bit.). Progressive presses have priming on board the press and prime on either the up or down stroke (relative to the movement of the ram or shell plate assembly. I prefer priming on the down stroke, because it gives me more feel for the primer seating. Your mileage may vary.

One thing I didn't mention is a reloading manual. Some are printed by powder manufacturers, others by bullet companies. Lee Precision includes a set of recipes in their die sets (Note: the recipes are pretty conservative, so you won't get maximum performance, but you'll be safe). I prefer the powder manuals, because you get an idea of how the powder performs against a wider variety of bullet types than those made by the bullet companies (who publish against the types of bullets they manufacture, rather than a generic bullet). Some have a variety of manuals and cross-reference them. I tend to use one brand of powder, so I don't have to do that. (Note: Hodgdon Powder is a Christian-owned company, and that's the main reason I use them. That's my only stated preference in this article.)

A couple of other notes. If you buy carbide dies, you won't have to lubricate most handgun brass. If you are reloading long handgun brass (like .500 Smith and Wesson Magnum), handgun brass with a bottlenecked case (like .357 SIG or 5.7x28), or are reloading rifle ammunition, you'll have to lubricate the brass, regardless of the type of dies you buy. Some lubricants will compromise your powder and primers, so I generally relegate those to my single-stage operations. Aerosol lubricants are easier to use than those in a bottle, which you normally lubricate by rolling across a pad.

I also referenced "coffee can" reloading earlier. When I use a single-stage press, I do each operation separately and move the brass between coffee cans during each operation. So, I clean my brass, then put it into a container. Then I size and de-prime, moving from one container to another. If I had to lubricate the brass, I clean it again and put it into a container. Then I prime it, taking from one container, priming the brass, then putting it into another. Then I charge with powder, seat and crimp a bullet, then put it into a container for transport the range.

Now for the nice-to-have equipment. I like to have a bullet puller to correct my mistakes and salvage bullets and brass. I also have a tumbler to clean my brass and save wear and tear on my dies, but you can get the same result by putting your brass in a mesh bag (like the kind ladies buy to wash their delicates) and running them in the dishwasher. Some people have bullet and case feeders for their progressive presses, but I find them too expensive to buy at this time (maybe if I ever win a lottery). The last thing you probably want to have is a case block. At its simplest, this is a block of wood with a series of holes drilled into it to keep them together and keep you from knocking them over and spilling your powder all over the place. You'll only have to do this once to understand.

There are other considerations, but this pretty much covers the basics. If you can, have a friend walk you thru the process and give you suggestions, or check out a book at the library.

To address Don's basic question, I still buy some loaded ammo, even though I reload. Rimfire isn't reloadable, so I buy that, obviously. I don't reload shotgun shells (although I'm considering starting to, so I can generate my own supply). I buy some rifle and pistol ammo to ensure I always have a ready supply, in case I don't have time to reload ammo before I need it. So, the simple answer is, if you're reloading, keep a supply on hand to supplement your reloading. Figure out what you have on hand for components, then buy about half that much in loaded ammo. Use only reloads for proficiency shooting.

For my purposes, I have components for about 500 rounds of ammo to reload at all times. Some, like 9mm or 5.56, I have at least a thousand (I have 3/4 of a five-gallon bucket of 9mm brass, for example). I also have a growing supply of factory-loaded ammo.

I also try to limit my purchases of odd-caliber weapons. 9mm, .40 S&W, .357 Magnum, and .45 ACP are the most common calibers of handgun ammunition in America. .223, .308, .30-06, and 7.62x39 are the most common rifle calibers. Your survival weapons should be in those calibers for defense against humans or taking game larger than rabbits (use .22 Long Rifle for that). If you have hunting weapons not in those calibers, I'd recommend keeping at least 200 rounds for each weapon you intend to employ.

Aside--I recently purchased a self-defense rifle in .300 AAC Blackout, mostly for close to midrange work and the wide variety of bullet weights it can employ. I have 200 rounds for it and plan to get that up to at least 1000.

One thing to remember is that .308 Winchester and .223 Remington are not the same as 5.56 and 7.62x51 NATO, respectively.

A final set of notes-much of the supply of foreign-manufactured ammo is Berdan primed, and is not reloadable (because of how the primer pocket is formed). If you want your factory-loaded supply to be reloadable, look for Boxer primed ammo. Also, steel-cased or aluminum-cased ammunition should never be reloaded. Steel-cased ammo will gall your dies. Aluminum-cased ammo will be compromised after the first firing. Neither will work for you, regardless of primer type.

Good luck, and I wish you happy reloading!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Mr. Rawles,
I am writing in reference to Frog's post about the Mosin-Nagant rifle. I have owned several Mosin-Nagant rifles myself. They were designed to kill enemies of the Soviet Union. They were not designed to necessarily be the safest rifle around. If you're not very careful while using a Mosin-Nagant rifle, it can blow up and injure you. I learned that lesson the hard way in 1998. I also learned about the importance of eye and ear protection while shooting as well. No one should ever fire a Mosin (or any firearm) without eye and ear protection. When my Mosin blew up, I suffered severe burns and shrapnel penetrations of my face. Fortunately, a skilled eye surgeon was able to remove the larger pieces from my eye (there were over 200 pieces in all) and my sight was undamaged. I had an eye hemorrhage and a partially detached retina. I lost 25% of the hearing in my left ear and have lived with tinnitus since. I would only recommend this rifle to someone who had no other options. - Joseph E.

Regarding the article A Second Look at the Mosin-Nagant Rifle, a few months ago we put the Mosin-Nagant Low Profile Side Combo rail for $39.97 on a 91/30. This was an earlier model of the mount currently for sale, and although they said a straight bolt would still work, that would probably only be with a skinny military scope. It would be better to say that it's for bent bolt and make it a half inch lower, but it's still pretty good.

The mount has a groove that hugs the side of the receiver, so getting it on straight was not an issue. We used the the first and third of the three screw holes, and drilled all the way through the receiver. This made tapping a bit easier, The stock was inlet a half inch with hand tools.

We sawed off the bolt and the knob and drilled a 1/4" hole straight down the nub of the bolt handle, all the way through the bolt body. The new bolt handle was a 1/4" stainless steel rod bent in a vise. We filed off the bottom edge of the bolt handle nub to accommodate the inside radius of the new bent bolt handle. The ball was also drilled and re-used. It was all soldered together with silver solder and a small acetylene torch with a tiny blue flame. As a finishing touch, we also drilled a small hole through the bolt handle nub at a right angle to the new handle, drove in a finishing nail as a pin, and soldered that in. The handle will never come off. The feel of the action is greatly improved, and it's like a new rifle. I would say that a lot of the "stickiness" of the Mosin-Nagant is because of the
short straight bolt handle which is much shorter than the Mauser bolt handle.

All this was done for free by a retired machinist with a good drill press and experience using taps, so it worked the first try.

For the iron sight, I put on a Mojo aperture rear sight only. And to improve the stock length I added a size small Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad.

I won't brag that the gun was a bargain - I paid about $120 at a gun shop where I got to pick the best of about eight guns. Some were really beat, some had terrible triggers. This one seemed good. The bore is very good, although the crown shows some wear. A little polish and a shim job on the trigger (as seen on Youtube) got the trigger pull down to about 3.5 pounds and is fairly crisp.

At this point I called it quits because costs were approaching $300 (even with free labor) for the mount, scope, pad, sight, and rifle. But if I had a pile of Mosins, I'd want one with a scope. And the bent bolt will probably outlive the rifle, if I don't care about matching numbers. Be sure to check the headspace before firing.

Sincerely, - Hardy Citrus


Mr. Rawles,
Frog’s article on the merits of the Mosin Nagant was a well written piece, and effectively drove home the main point of having one or two: they’re inexpensive.  At the same time though, there are a couple points he makes which seem a bit optimistic.  He mentions that with a good quality optic, 1 MOA accuracy is not uncommon.  This is true.  I have friends who have achieved such accuracy, but only when using high-quality, modern manufacture ammunition, a good optic, and a good bench to shoot from.  Achieving the same results under field conditions would be quite the feat indeed.  Bearing in mind that the whole point of the Mosin is cost effectiveness, I would argue that an optic of high enough quality to achieve such accuracy will probably run 2 to 3 times the cost of the rifle.  He also asserts that a Mosin is a great budget sniper rifle.  This may be only a difference in definition of terms, but in American sniper doctrine, a sniper rifle is made to be employed beyond 600 meters.  Russian sniper doctrine focuses more on shorter range urban precision shooting, like in the siege of Stalingrad portrayed in the film Enemy at the Gates.  This makes the Russian sniper more comparable to the western Squad Designated Marksman, a role which focuses on targets 300-600 meters out.  Beyond this distance, Russian sniper rifles simply are not built to maintain practical accuracy, nor is the ammo made for them made to such tight tolerances as their western counterparts.  To truly turn a Mosin into a sniper rifle that is up to western standards, one would have to invest much time, effort, and a bit of money into working up hand loads to maximize the available accuracy of the rifle, or buy much more expensive factory ammo.  As Major John Plaster would say, consistency equals accuracy.  Accuracy is everything to a sniper, and in the area of consistency, the Mosin requires so much improvement to raise it to true sniper grade as to negate the initial cost effectiveness.  To be fair, the Mosin really is a fine budget hunting rifle, and a passable mid-range battle rifle.  To the survivalist with extremely tight budget constraints, it would make a decent general purpose long gun.  But to those of us who would take on the role of group sniper, there are far better offerings to be had from Remington, Winchester, Savage, and others.  Surely not as inexpensive, but much better. - John in Spokane

JWR Replies: I must concur. The real bargain tack-driver in today's market has to be the Savage Model 10 series. Used ones can often be found for around $275 to $325 at gun shows (sans glass.) We have a Savage Model 10 Tactical .308 here at the ranch, and love it. The only change we made to it was having a Holland's of Oregon muzzle brake installed.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I got myself into prepping and survivalism after the turn of the century, so my main resource was the Internet. That in and of itself was a whole learning process, as well -- but the scope of this article will focus on what appeared to be an amazing find in that great, infinite Google. $80 for an accurate, reliable, rugged bolt-action repeater that was on-par with a .30-06, ballistically... and had dirt-cheap ammo, to boot? There had to be a catch, and oh, how the forum-goers toting $5,000 AR setups assured me (and plenty of people in similar metaphorical boats) that it couldn't hit the broad side of a barn (from the inside), it blew up, all the bolts stuck, the triggers were horrible and couldn't be fixed, and the corrosive ammo wasn't worth the trouble.

Boy, how I learned how wrong they were. Though I've had a fascination with the rifles for quite some time, I ended up acquiring other weapons first, as fate would have it. However, I've since gotten my own example, and no longer have to bother friends or roommates to get a chance to toy around with one (although an acquaintance at gunsmithing school had a beautiful 91/30 he'd refinished the wood on, himself).

My rifle is a round receiver Tula, 91/30. I was lucky enough to get one with an excellent bore, bolt, and all the accessories (oiler, tools in cloth wrap, sling, bayonet and two ammo pouches), while paying only $90 in-person. $80 online is still a perfectly fair price, even after transfer and shipping -- though I would advise anyone purchasing multiple specimens, or other qualifying weapons, to consider a Curio and Relic license, if that is in your interest.

The rifle's main detriment that I've determined thus far? The sights. They're not bad -- though I'm biased, and apparently an abnormality when it comes to American shooters raised with traditional American guns, for the most part. However, the majority of my open-sight shooting since adulthood has been with an AK variant, which has very similar sights, anyway. That doesn't change what they are, though; crude, dark, and on some guns, not even adjustable to make your point-of-aim the same as point-of-impact. A $5 part fixes this, and I suspect that the better quality sample you acquire, the less likely the phenomenon is. If you're new to Russian sights, try to remember that it's something you get used to. There's nothing directly 'wrong' with them; they're not always as precise, and they're just different.

In the course of my life to date, I've fired three Mosins, including my own. They have all been 91/30s, and I have never seen any of them malfunction, not that bolt actions are particularly susceptible. A common story I found online, initially, had me worried about 'sticky bolt.' Don't believe everything you read, though; degreasing the gun (with one of a variety of methods, or multiple, ideally) will eliminate this problem nine out of ten times. My rifle's action is as smooth as my Mauser. Sticky bolt happens when cosmoline is not completely removed from the gun, and subsequently heats up and turns to a very sticky, unfavorable substance. Removing it is slightly harder after that happens, but still easy, in any case. Make sure you remove all cosmoline before shooting your rifle at all. While it won't wreck the gun, it's just not a good idea to let it build up.

Another problem mentioned for the guns is the relative difficulty of mounting a scope. A traditional job can be done to flop the bolt handle and fandagle a mount like the sniper Mosin variants had, and while those are fine, they are not my recommendation. The Brass Stacker mount goes over the rear sight, solidly locks, and allows a scout-style scope to be mounted -- my choice being a Simmons Prohunter in fixed 4x power. The mount is superior to similar ones not only in quality, but in that it allows the rifle's iron sights to stay on the rifle, unchanged. Any weapon you have for real-world use should have iron sights, even if it also has an optic. Right now, that translates to being able to keep hunting if your scope malfunctions; post-SHTF, that could mean still making accurate hits instead of area-effect fire after an optic goes down. Regardless, a scope is not necessary with these weapons; [the Finnish army marksman] Simo Hayha demonstrated that well enough. My strategy thus far is going to be to scope two rifles (for me and my lady-friend), and keep the rest with iron sights, mainly as backup and hand-out weapons.

If you've never shot a Mosin, and you get an opportunity to, accuracy test it and you'll be surprised. Obviously, surplus ammo is less accurate than current-manufacture, but a scoped 91/30 will absolutely keep up with other surplus rifles. I wouldn't feel under-gunned shooting it against a Mauser, assuming it wasn't sporterized. If you picked a good rifle and use good ammunition, 1 MOA isn't uncommon with quality optics. Iron sights, expect whatever your proficiency level is; my rifle outshoots me, and I'm not a terrible shot, by any means.

One unfortunate thing that is true of Mosins is that the stripper clips suck. No bones to pick about this one; rimmed casings make them awkward. Some are completely unusable, others just difficult, but they're nothing I'd ever trust my life to. Furthermore, they're expensive! While SKS stripper clips are cents a piece, Mosin ones can be as much as $3-5 per clip! For an $80 rifle, that's not worth it, to me -- but they're unreliable, either way, and I thusly recommend sticking to hand-loading [the internal magazine on] these [with individual cartridges]. For what they are, if you're doing everything correctly, an absolute speed-reload shouldn't be as necessary as with other weapons. Make your shots count and learn to load by hand as quickly as possible.

Getting a Mosin quickly teaches you about corrosive ammo. I'm still learning, on that account, but the method I've been using is to disassemble the gun, spray the metal parts down with Windex to soak, and then let more Windex flow through the bore. Apparently, the ammonia is thought to be good for removing corrosive salts, but I can't attest to that. Some people use hot water to the same effect, and I wouldn't feel uncomfortable doing so. In any case, after your corrosion-cleaner of choice, clean the rifle as normal -- though, thoroughly, especially if you don't shoot often or are going to store the rifle for any length of time. Better safe than sorry. Surplus ammo has acceptable, although certainly not outstanding accuracy. Don't be afraid of corrosive ammunition if it's your first experience with it. Again, it's just different; take care of the gun and it'll take care of you.

While the rifles aren't light, they're very well-balanced. A fiberglass stock would help, but again, I don't recommend getting that simply because of the price. Recoil is stiff, but not overly so. If you've fired a .30-06 in a similar configuration, a 91/30 is nothing new. Carbine variants will blow your hat off and singe your hair, though. While they're very cool, I find the longer rifle makes more sense because of the role I'll be describing for it to fill -- and again, because it's much less expensive than its smaller cousins.

With all of this being said, what is a Mosin, to a prepper? I have to preface by making it clear that I understand there are better alternatives, but it needs to be said that there is not a better value in a centerfire survival weapon, especially to a newcomer into survivalism. A Mosin is a budget marksman's rifle, or sniper rifle if outfitted properly. For under a hundred dollars, you have a full-power centerfire rifle with inexpensive ammunition that can take down game animals, and easily incapacitate any threats -- and better yet, at range. While a 12 gauge shotgun can be similarly inexpensive if a good deal is found (and I recommend a Remington 870 per person in your group's arsenal), a Mosin allows you to effectively neutralize threats at a greater distance, with greater accuracy, and significantly less expensive ammo.

Ambush is the prepper's friend. Guns-blazing shootouts are not what you want, whether it's a roving band of outlaws, or coalition forces you're having to deal with. In most situations, distance is preferable, and this also allows greater use of stealth and camouflage, and potentially using the landscape to your team's advantage, as well. Ground forces fear snipers, and deploying snipers effectively makes for an insane force multiplier. An $80 rifle and a little training will take you a lot farther than a spendy AR and no experience.

While I have to encourage everyone to find the autoloading carbine of your choice (I recommend the AK most of all, though I prefer the FAL, excepting its price tag), remember that the longest-serving rifle in history isn't obsolete just yet. They make great gifts and backup weapons, and are easy to encourage new preppers to invest in. Inexpensive, reliable, accurate, and fun as Heck to shoot. If you're new to shooting, get one and practice on the cheap. If you're seasoned, get a few and hide them away -- along with a few spam cans of ammo, of course.

Mr. Rawles,
I am writing with regards to M.B.'s piece. I have had the 12" Ontario machete (economy version) with the the "D" handle for the past two years. I would completely agree that this is an uncomfortable handle which can be difficult to obtain a proper grip on.

However, I solved this problem cheaply with a little bit if DIY, by folding some tough tissue paper and wrapping it around the handle two or three times. I then wrapped the handle and tissue in electric insulation tape, using about two layers of tape.

Since doing this, the machete is much easier to handle and I can get a much firmer grip on it. It has received regular use on the trail, mainly for chopping large kindling or clearing brush, and the new grip has even survived being submerged in water (after I slipped at the side of a river and fell in) without any damage or ill effects to the new grip.

Thank you For the great blog! Regards, - Stephen C.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The purchase of good-quality knives for long-term use can be a huge challenge for preppers. Buying a knife is a lot like hiring a lawyer: when you ask how much a good one will cost, the answer you get is often, "How much would you like to spend?"

A good knife for general usage often starts at $80 to $100, and prices can quickly escalate into the hundreds of dollars. Knife aficionados on the online forums often speak of spending several hundred dollars for the "perfect" survival/tactical/combat knife from a famous custom maker. To collectors and to some users, this is a reasonable price, but many of us on a tight budget can see better uses for such a sum of money. For one thing, we want every adult in our family or survival group to have one or more good, dependable knives. Additionally, anyone who has used knives in the outdoors knows that no single knife can do everything -- we often need a few knives to properly address the large and small jobs that require a knife or other cutting tool. Most of the knives discussed in this article have a maximum price of $25. Many knives in this price range are simply junk, but there are exceptions, some of which are described here. I have personal experience with all of these knives, unless otherwise stated. I've owned them, used them and learned some of their strengths and weaknesses. They come from a variety of places, but none are made in China.

Let's start by looking at what many of us consider to be the essentials, in terms of knives. Rather than looking for a single, "perfect" knife, some of us try to select a knife "kit" for each adult, to better handle a variety of tasks.


My approach to the knife kit is to obtain one large, fixed blade knife for general use and big tasks, one medium-sized fixed blade or strong folder for general utility, and a multitool or multiple blade pocket knife for small jobs and for tasks requiring special tools, such as scissors, a screwdriver, a can opener, etc. My personal kit consists of three tools: (1) a 12-inch Tramontina machete, (2) either a custom knife I made from a Frosts of Sweden "Mora" knife or a Svord Peasant folder, and (3) either a Leatherman Tool or a Swiss Army "Recruit" pocket knife. I find that these knives allow me to tackle any of the tasks that are appropriate for a knife. My entire kit (with the Swiss Army knife and the Svord Peasant Knife) can be purchased for well under $75.


There is some truth in the old adage: "You get what you pay for." The companies selling high-quality knives for low prices have to make compromises to do so. Generally, this means that most of the money and effort goes into the blade. That's good, because the blade governs much of the knife's capabilities. It is possible for a budget-minded user to address shortcomings in handles and/or sheaths with a few basic tools and a little bit of time. Don't expect Kydex sheaths or exotic handle materials in the low price range. In some cases (most machetes), no sheath will be included, and you may need to make your own or to have one made. Other sheaths may be suitable for carry in a pack, but not on a belt, again requiring the user to make or buy their own sheath if that is not acceptable. Handles may require some sanding or other finish work for best comfort and performance.

Most knives in this price range have thin blades. This is not necessarily a huge disadvantage. Many of the knives carried by mountain men and those who followed to settle the western United States had thin blades. In general, thin blades take a fierce edge with less effort than a thicker blade, and they slice well. A thin-bladed knife is often a good choice for dressing wild game or for preparing food.

Thin does not always mean weak. Machetes are usually thin, yet they are tough and springy. Some small, thin knives can be tougher than you may expect. Some thin-bladed sheath knives can be "batonned" -- pounded on the spine with a heavy stick -- to cut down small trees or to cut larger pieces of wood in a pinch. This is abuse, but some knives -- especially many of the Mora fixed blade knives -- seem to tolerate it without damage. Thin-bladed knives are usually lighter and easier to carry than thicker knives. This is a big factor in a knife chosen to go in a G.O.O.D. bag. Conversely, some thick knives are poor slicers and are heavy enough to feel clumsy for almost any task other than chopping.

Sheaths for smaller knives can be made by the prepper, with either leather or Kydex plastic. Kydex has the advantage of being weatherproof. It is also possible to heat it and form it to make a sheath that holds the knife in place without any straps or keepers. For a very inexpensive sheath -- especially for larger blades, such as machetes -- the plastic in trash cans for home use is very good. It can be cut, drilled and riveted, much like leather, but it's very weather resistant and long-lasting. Trash can plastic is less expensive than either leather or Kydex, yet it can be made into an excellent sheath.


Low-cost "Mora" knives from Sweden are very popular with outdoor people, especially in recent years. These fixed blade knives come in a wide variety of styles, in both stainless and carbon steel. Handles can be wood or plastic, and sheaths are almost always made of plastic. The blades tend to be somewhat thin, and the blade grinds are different from what most knife users are accustomed to. Most knives have a primary bevel and a small secondary bevel that forms the sharpened edge. With Scandinavian knives, there is no secondary bevel. The primary bevel -- which may be about 1/4-inch (about 11mm) wide -- is laid directly on the sharpening stone. The resulting edge can be surprising sharp. Many people who are not fans of knives have trouble correctly sharpening a knife with a traditional secondary bevel. When they buy a Mora and learn the simple sharpening method, it may be the first time that they've owned a really sharp knife.

Mora knives are very low in price: often in the $10-20 range. The traditional Moras, with a simple hardwood handle and carbon steel blade, are among my favorites. Others may prefer a stainless blade and plastic handle for a low-maintenance knife. In any case, the area at the base of the blade should be looked at carefully. Some Moras have a small gap here, where bacteria and/or moisture can get in, under the handle. In these cases, I simply clean the area with alcohol and apply a small amount of a good grade of epoxy, such as JB Weld, to seal off the opening. If the opening extends down into the handle, I use enough epoxy to completely fill it, with the intention of strengthening the knife as well as sealing the handle/blade junction.

Some Moras come with simple but functional sheaths, while others may not be suitable for daily carry. I generally make a simple leather or Kydex sheath (usually Kydex) as a replacement. By the way, Kydex does not require a suite of expensive tools. My "presses" are made from scrap wood and mouse pads, and I assemble the sheaths with regular rivets made for leather, or with pieces of narrow-diameter, soft copper tubing (from the plumbing section of big hardware stores) flared to make eyelets. I've even used pliers to turn large paper clips into heavy-duty "staples" for sheaths.

A good source for Swedish Mora knives is Ragweed Forge. "Ragnar," the owner, offers the best selection of Mora knives I've seen so far, along with information about sharpening. His customer service is very good, and the prices are fair.

The Ahti "Finman" is a Finnish fixed blade knife, It is very similar in design, and in price, to the Mora knives. Ragweed Forge offers one version, with a stainless blade and a green handle and sheath. It needs to have a handle gap -- at the base of the blade -- filled with epoxy, but it is a very practical and useful medium-sized fixed blade knife. The stainless blade and rubberized handle make it a good all-weather tool. I frequently carry mine as a pocket knife -- in casual pants with generous front pockets.

Another Scandinavian brand to consider seriously is Marttiini, from Finland. Many of us are familiar with their "Rapala" line of fillet knives for fishing. My Rapala is very light in weight and the long, narrow, flexible stainless blade takes and holds a very good edge. It came with a traditional wood handle and a superbly practical plastic-lined "dangle" sheath of good leather. A sharp, thin blade is extremely useful for more than fish, and mine has been our only kitchen knife on some of our trips. It served very well in that role. All it needed to make it ready for use was a tiny amount of JB Weld epoxy around the base of the blade, to seal the handle. It cost me under $15: a bargain. I found it in a large sporting goods store.


Opinel folding knives are wonderfully useful. Consisting of little more than a hardwood handle, a blade, a pivot pin, and a rotating collar that locks the blade open, they lock open with authority and are one of the simplest, strongest designs available. The Opinel's blade has a nail nick and the knife requires two hands to open it, like a traditional pocket knife. Because the lock does not engage when the blade opens -- but must be engaged manually -- Opinels may be legal for carry in jurisdictions that ban some "tactical" folders. The blades are flat-ground and are very thin at the edge. As a result, Opinels can be made scary sharp in very little time and are wonderful slicers that hold their edges well. They can be found in a variety of sizes, with either carbon steel or with stainless blades. Although the blades are thin, they are stronger than you might expect and made an excellent choice for a daily-carry pocket knife. Opinels are very inexpensive, as well. Smoky Mountain Knife Works carries several Opinel folders, most of which are in our price range.

Cold Steel used to make their own version of the Opinel: the Twistmaster. With a Zytel handle and a "Carbon V" blade, the Cold Steel version was stronger than the French original, although it tended to be a bit thick at the edge and didn't slice quite as well as the Opinel. The Twistmaster corrected the one shortcoming of the Opinel: in wet conditions, the hardwood handle could swell, making the knife very difficult to open. The Zytel handle of the Cold Steel was unaffected by moisture. Both the Opinels and the Twistmasters (if you can find a used one) are recommended as pocket-sized cutting tools, just as long as you don't try to use them as a chopping tool or a pry bar.


Svord Knives in New Zealand makes the Peasant Knife: a folder that has become one of my all-time favorite knives. It's one of the simplest folders available. The knife consists of two post screws, a blade, two handle scales, and one pin. It can be completely dismantled in a few moments for a complete cleaning. The carbon steel blade has a flat grind, similar to that of the Opinel, and its cutting abilities are similar.

There are no springs in a Peasant Knife. It uses a long tang that sticks out of the closed knife and lays along the back of the handle when the knife is open. The user's hand holds the tang in place and keeps the knife from closing. The tang makes the closed knife somewhat longer than most knives in its size class, but I use it to draw the knife out of my pocket. The Svord Peasant Knife is available with wood, plastic or aluminum handle scales. I purchased mine with the plastic handles, and I believe that the plastic handles are the best choice for preppers. They are strong and light and are textured for a good grip. A wide variety of Svord Peasant Knives can be found at Knife Center. All are in our price range.


For a large knife, I chose a Tramontina machete with a hardwood handle and a 12-inch, carbon steel blade. The hardwood handle allowed me to customize the machete to fit my hand better, using a pocket knife and some sandpaper. I use the Tramontina machete more as a large knife than as a small machete. Although the blade is long, it is light and thin enough for the Tramontina to be used in the camp kitchen, and it will slice tomatoes or onions with ease. I sharpen machetes with a small file, and the slightly rough edge from the file seems to stay sharp longer than one would expect from a machete blade with a "spring" temper. Machete Specialists offers the 12-inch Tramontina, with the item number TR26620012.

The Tramontina is too light for a dedicated chopping tool. It could be used to cut poles for a shelter or for a stretcher, but if I expected to use it for chopping, I would choose a 12-inch Ontario machete. Avoid the "economy" version of the Ontario that is sold in some places. The original has a 1/8-inch thick blade and is a much better chopping tool. I was also unhappy with the "D" handle models and strongly prefer the original handle type. The exact Ontario machete that I recommend is sold under item number ONCT1 at Knife Center.

I prefer to use machetes as large knives that can be used to chop, rather than as dedicated choppers. Chopping makes noise that can disturb other campers today; after a crunch, it could attract two-legged predators. A small folding saw is my wood cutter of choice, although a sharp machete can be used to split damp kindling in wet conditions, or to make fuzz sticks. I tend to keep my fires small, and I generally do not need an axe or large chopping tool to prepare and maintain a fire.

A short machete is a fearsome weapon, if needed. The 12-inch Tramontina machete is not a heavy chopper, but it's very quick in the hands and could deliver a much more serious slash than most folding knives or small fixed blades. The edge bevel at the point of the blade needs some work with a file to sharpen it properly. Someone seeking an edged weapon should probably look at the 12-inch Ontario machete. It also needs some attention to the bevel at the point. The Ontario's blade is stiffer and heavier than the Tramontina's blade, and it could be a very effective self-defense weapon at close quarters. Longer machetes, on the other hand, handle more like a sword than a big knife and require more skill and hand/wrist strength to be efficient defensive weapons.


No discussion of bargain knives would be complete without mentioning Swiss Army Knives. Both Victorinox and Wenger offer some basic knives in our price range. One of my favorites is the Victorinox Recruit. It is a Swiss version of the classic Boy Scout pocket knife. It is inexpensive and tremendously useful as a light-duty, multipurpose tool. Another Victorinox knife has a big following: the Farmer. Although it's a little above our price range, it has metal scales instead of red plastic, and it features the wood saw: one of the most useful of Swiss Army tools. Victorinox and Wenger Swiss Army Knives are available from a wide variety of sources.


I find myself keeping one large "chopper" around and using it frequently: the Cold Steel Special Forces Shovel. Many who have served in the military know the value of a small shovel as a general-purpose digging/cutting/hacking tool. I sharpen the edges with a file to make it a more efficient digging tool, capable of chopping through roots or breaking up hard soil. It could also be used to cut wood, in a pinch. The blade would need regular attention to keep it sharp, however. Heavy chopping can also put terrific stress on a shovel handle. If I planned to do a lot of chopping, I would wrap the area where the blade attaches to the handle with some wire, or with epoxy-saturated cord or twine, to reinforce it. This is the weakest part of any shovel. The Special Forces Shovel can be purchased direct from Cold Steel.

My Special Forces Shovel is kept sharp and has a blade cover made from trash can plastic, with two pieces of nylon webbing and snaps to hold the shovel in place. A few holes drilled near the edges of the blade cover allow my Cold Steel shovel to be lashed to the side of my pack for carry.

The Cold Steel SF Shovel can also be a low-profile weapon. A sharpened shovel, spade, or entrenching tool has been used countless times in infantry close-quarters combat. It can slice like a knife or chop like an axe. If used for a while as a shovel, it will show the marks of a tool and will be less suspicious than a brand-new, razor sharp shovel. Mine travels under the radar and has never been questioned. Its scarred handle and well-used blade make it look like what it is: a small, useful shovel.


Choose your tools carefully, and they should serve you well. Don't forget to invest in files, ceramic sticks, sharpening stones, oil, and other accessories needed to keep your cutting tools sharp and in good condition. Carbon steel knives that are used frequently with food can be kept rust-free by drying after use and wiping with any type of cooking oil. Take care of them, and buy a few extras as spares, or as trade goods. Good knives may be hard to come by after a Crunch.

Monday, April 23, 2012

I know a little something about being a first responder to an accident scene. In another life, I was a paramedic, and later in life, I was a police officer. So, I've been to more than my share of accidents, and one thing that was usually needed in many traffic accidents, was a good sharp knife, that could cut a person out of their seat belt, or cut some of their clothes off for urgent medical care. So, I appreciate a good sharp knife, more so than most folks do.
Buck Knives ( has been around since 1902. No matter how you look at it, that's a long, long time for any company to stay in business. I can't remember exactly when I saw my first Buck knife, but I remember it was one of their fixed blade hunting knives in the 1960s, and later on the famous Buck 110 folding knife, which is widely copied by many. It says a lot when other companies copy your products - it also cuts into the profits of the company that originated with a knife design, too. Imitated, but never duplicated!
Some months ago, I received the Buck Knives Responder CSAR-T folder. This is a collaboration between Buck Knives and TOPS Knives - two very well-known knife companies, to be sure. I was immediately impressed with how stout the CSAR-T folder was. It struck me as being US Marine-proof. A lot of folks say, if you want to see how well a product is made, give it to a US Marine - if there is a way to destroy it - they'll figure it out. If a US Marine can destroy the CSAR-T folder, in the course of their duties, I'd be surprised!
This rugged folder has a heavy duty blade that is 0.120" thick - it's a modified tanto shaped blade, too - one of my favorite designs for a number of reasons. The stainless steel blade is made out of Buck's time-tested 420HC, with a soft satin finish, that Buck calls a Zirblast finish. The knife is 5-1/4" closed and weighs in at 7.0 oz (9.3 oz carry weight in the  included heavy-duty Nylon MOLLE-compatible sheath). There is also a pocket/clothing clip on the handle for carrying in a pants pocket, too. There is also a reversible tip-up carry option for carrying in the right or left front pocket of your pants. The handle scales are textured black G10 - some of the toughest stuff around for a handle material - it's nearly indestructible! The lock on the folder is a liner-type lock, pretty strong, too!
In Buck's press release, it says the CSAR-T is "tough enough to use for prying..." Okay, almost every knife company that I'm aware of, says to not use a folding knife (or even a fixed blade knife) for prying purposes. On a folder, the blade can easily separate for the handle - and it could cause serious injury to the user - on fixed blade knives, the blade can break. So, I've always been of the opinion that knives should be used for cutting purposes, and not as pry bars. Stupid me! Well, I here to tell you, I did some prying with the CSAR-T sample, and it worked, too. No, I didn't attempt to lift my SUV with it, but I did do some pretty heavy prying and twisting into wood and while doing other chores, and the CSAR-T wasn't damaged. I showed the sample around to a lot of folks, including a police officer, and they all commented on how stout the knife was, and that it would probably never break - I concur!
Of course, like all Buck Knives, my sample was very sharp right out of the box - I would have been surprised if it wasn't. So, the knife is capable of cutting just about anything you run across. Now, that's a good thing - however, I'd hesitate to use a knife this sharp for cutting away clothing on an injured person or cutting a seat belt - I wouldn't want to lose control of the blade and cause more injury to the person. Well, Buck and TOPS thought about this. At the butt end of the handle there is an integrated glass breaker for tempered glass, and a very efficient seat belt/clothing cutter - that you don't have to worry about losing control of the knife and cutting yourself or the person you're trying to aid. You can't get your finger into the seat belt cutter, either - its practically fool-proof. What's nice about the glass breaker tip on the butt of the knife, and the seat belt cutter is that, you don't have to deploy the main blade to use either of their extra tools - kool!
Buck and TOPS wasn't content with all of the above, and wanted to add a little something more to the CSAR-T, so they added a bit-compatible handle cut-out, and you can use various hex tools - Buck offers this tool set as an option to match it all. So, you can do something other than just cut or break tempered glass with this folder.
I wasn't about to attempt to break the tempered glass on any of my vehicles, and I couldn't get anyone to volunteer their rig's glass either. So, I found an old broken window in my carport - don't know why I still had it there, but it was there. I took the CSAR-T sample by the handle and only lightly tapped on the glass, and it shattered into several pieces. So, I have zero doubts the glass breaker feature will break a tempered windshield on a vehicle. As to the seat belt cutter - I wasn't about to cut any seat belts, either. But I did have some Nylon material laying around, that is almost identical to seat belt material. I'm here to tell you, this seat belt cutter simply zoomed right through this material like a hot knife through butter. So, this would be a great tool to have at an accident scene, where a person is trapped by their seat belt - and I've seen this happen numerous times, too. For some reason, the seat belt release won't release - and you have no choice but to cut it to free the person.
I know, a folding knife isn't meant or designed to be a throwing knife, but I just had to try my hand at it. The CSAR-T failed as a throwing knife...well, I just had to do "something" to prove this folder couldn't do it all.  The knife is handle-heavy, and no matter how many times I threw the knife, I couldn't make it stick - the handle always hit first. Ok, ok, it wasn't a fair test as the knife wasn't designed for this chore - but I still had fun and there was no damage to the knife either - that's a good thing.
As a self-defense tool, the CSAR-T would really shine, too. There is enough blade length there to do some serious damage in slashing or stabbing techniques and the blade is super sharp. And, should you choose to not use the blade against someone, you can still use the knife as an impact weapon - striking first with the front of the handle - and if that doesn't discourage an attacker, then strike with the butt end of the handle, where the glass breaker is - that will make a person wish they had chosen another person to attack.
Like many Buck Knives, the CSAR-T folder is a bit hard to find. Buck sells them as fast as they make them. And, to top it all off, there are a couple other CSAR models you can choose from, too. They even have some fixed blade models. Full-retail on the CSAR-T (Model 091) is $147 and you get a lot of knife for that money, and it has the Buck/TOPS name on it, too. Check one out, you'll like it! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Friday, April 20, 2012

Mr. Rawles:
A few years ago, my wife and I left our Texas ranch for a three month long hunting safari that took us from Africa to Scotland. We traveled with three rifles, a double in a large African caliber, a .458 Lott bolt, and .300 Winchester Magnum bolt light rifle. As we would transit Schiphol in the Netherlands both ways, I had to apply for two transit permits for the firearms and ammunition as well as for firearm permits in both Tanzania (a former British colony) and in Scotland. Even though I was a setting judge at the time, I had to obtain obligatory character references from the ‘high sheriff’ of the county where I resided. Of these, the transit permit was probably the most difficult as it was literally ‘Dutch’ and for some arcane bureaucratic reason, the office in Holland only turned on the facsimile machine during their operating hours. Stories are legend about expensive firearms being confiscated during transit of Holland and safaris ruined, so given the time delay between application and license, several communications were needed to ensure receipt of the application.

Upon arrival in Houston, we learned the outbound flight to Holland was delayed by one day.  With three month’s baggage and three rifles, we were stranded in Houston Hobby Airport.  Tiredly, we loaded everything on the tram and set off for the airport hotel. At the hotel, the manager advised we wouldn’t be allowed to keep the rifles in the room with us. I made quite a scene and demanded detailed receipts for the rifles that I valued in total at more than $80,000. The manager decided he didn’t want to be responsible for anything of that value so the rules were relaxed and we kept the rifles with us.  So much for the "hotel rules." Due to the delay, our transit permit through Schiphol was out of date and there was no way to determine if the Dutch would seize the rifles.

We arrived in Africa exhausted following a 24 hour flight but happy to see our firearms. Tanzanian officials examined each rifle, checked barrel lengths and serial numbers against permits, and after a small gratuity, issued the firearm licenses. We had a great time in Africa successful shooting many species including several cape buffalo and a wonderful roan antelope on the last day. Of course that last shot delayed our departure from camp and everything was a mad rush again. We boarded KLM in our safari clothes, transited Schiphol to Edinburgh arriving in a snowstorm. Scottish authorities at the airport showed no interest whatsoever in the rifles or ammunition. Baggage and rifles were loaded into a Range Rover rental and off we went in search for our hotel where we would stay for a few days before driving up into the highlands for a stag hunt.

Dressed for equatorial Africa, we received more than a few curious stares in the hotel lobby. The proprietor wanted to see our rifle permits and again lock up the weapons. As he had what the British call a ‘proper’ storage facility and was willing to issue appropriate receipts, I readily released the rifles into his custody.  I overheard comments about 'those crazy Texans' as we walked away.

We enjoyed Edinburgh for a few days before departing to the highlands. Upon arrival at the hunting manor, a wonderful eighteenth century edifice, the rifles were unpacked and serial numbers again carefully checked against permits. I re-cleaned the rifles (always a good practice because of the possibility of temperature differential induced condensation during travel and need to check for travel related damage).

The barrels were separated from the receiver of the double rifle and each stored separately in two safes as were bolts from the other rifles and ammunition. The next day, a constable arrived to verify proper storage of the rifles. He counted the ammunition for the two heavy African rifles and commented those rifles were ‘too big to shoot here’ and further that the associated ammunition would be recounted upon leaving Scotland.

The next day we set out early in pursuit of highland stag. The professional hunter would not allow me to carry the .300 Win Mag (it would not be ‘proper’). Only when the game was sighted and animal selected, did he hand me the rifle. Quite a difference from Africa where we never went anywhere without our rifles or for that manner, anywhere else I have hunted.

Our Second Amendment freedom should be cherished. It is unique among the world’s nations. Sincerely, - Panhandle Rancher

Monday, April 16, 2012

I have received many requests to test and evaluate the Cold Steel "Bushman" line of knives that Cold Steel is producing. I've been a big fan of Cold Steel products since the very beginning - I'm sold on their products. However, for some strange reason, I never requested anything from the Bushman series of knives.
My friend, Lynn Thompson, who owns and operates Cold Steel, isn't afraid to back up his products, and does so, in a series of videos on his company web site. On the web site, you will see all manner of Cold Steel products being put through a variety of torture tests, that would make other knife makers shudder. Thompson isn't afraid to show you how his knives are tested - sharpness is only one of the tests - and to be sure, Cold Steel set the standard in my humble opinion for super-sharp knives many years ago. Lynn puts all his cutlery through things that you and I wouldn't even think of - to prove to his customers just how strong and well-built his cutlery is. You really need to watch the various videos on the web site to appreciate the torture Cold Steel knives go through - no one else in the cutlery field are doing this. Just be prepared to spend a lot of time on the computer watching all the videos - its worth it.
First up for test and evaluation is the Pocket Bushman - and right up front, I'll tell you, this is a spartan-looking folder - it's not going to win any beauty contests. Nor was it designed to. The 4116 German stainless steel blade, is razor-sharp out of the box, so be aware of that. Also, be sure to read the warning that comes with this knife before opening it. The blade length is 4-1/2", so there's plenty of blade to get most jobs done from survival to self-defense. Now, the handle is manufactured out of one piece of 420 stainless steel and it's bead blasted to cut down on reflectivity. You have to closely examine the one piece handle to sincerely appreciate how it's made - it's one flat piece of stainless steel, that is cut to the right dimensions and then folded over onto itself, to form the handle. We are talking super strong. I tried bending it with my bare hands - didn't happen.
The weight of the Pocket Bushman is 6.1 ounces, so it's not exactly light - nor is it too heavy, either. overall length of the knife, in the open position is 10-1/4" - it's a handful, no doubt about it. The blade is of the clip point design, and hollow ground from top to bottom, with just enough belly to be useful for all sorts of tasks, too. A dual thumb stud is there for opening the knife one-handed - more on this in a moment. There is also a pocket/clothing clip, which can be moved from one side to the other for ambi pocket carry for right or left handed carry, too. There is a 550 Paracord lanyard in the butt of the handle as well.
The overall appearance of the Pocket Bushman is very sleek and smooth as well. Now, for the thumb studs for one-handed opening. Yeah, you can open the Pocket Bushman with one hand, but you can't really open it "fast" - there is a lot of resistance from the locking mechanism. So, don't think you are gonna whip the Pocket Bushman out of your pocket and flick it open fast with one hand. Now, that's not a bad thing, either. The patented internal Ram-Safe locking mechanism is the strongest I've ever run across - this knife is a virtual fixed blade when fully opened and locked. On the Cold Steel video of the testing of this knife, they place 250 pounds of dead weight on the lock and it doesn't fail - and I believe the lock can take even more weight before failing. That is very impressive.
Now comes the "trick" to closing the blade, once you open it. I showed the Pocket Bushman to several people, and they couldn't figure it out - until I showed them. You must pull on the lanyard cord, which then releases the lock and you can close the blade. It takes quite a bit of effort to pull on the lanyard to get the lock to release, too. If you're a petite woman, this folder probably isn't for you - and I'm not a sexist, either - just being realistic about the strength and effort required to unlock the blade.
As a rule, I don't recommend any folding knife for chopping chores. However, with the 4-1/2" blade and long handle, you can actually do some light chopping chores with the Pocket Bushman. I chopped some fairly large branches off a dead apple tree in my front yard without a lot of effort. I was impressed, to say the least. The blade never loosened, nor did the lock show signs of giving way, either.
The Pocket Bushman isn't gonna win any beauty contests, but it wasn't designed to. This knife is designed to save your butt when the chips are down - using it for survival, or self-defense - this hummer won't let you down. You would think that a folding knife that is this strong, and super-sharp, that can take anything you can throw at it, would cost a lot - it doesn't! I was more than a little surprised to see that full-retail is only $42.99, and you can find it for less than that on the 'net if you shop around. To be sure, if this knife were a hundred bucks, it would be worth the asking price. This may just be the last folding knife you'll ever need - this baby isn't gonna fail you, under the harshest of conditions. With that said, "beauty" is in the eye of the beholder, and I find the Pocket Bushman a real "beauty" in my book. There's no reason this knife shouldn't be high on your list of cutlery for survival purposes.
Next up are the Bushman and Bowie Bushman, fixed blade knives. The original Bushman has been around for a decade now - and that says a lot about the design and strengths of the knife. To underscore this: I was once told by the owner of a major knifemaking company that a really good knife design typically has about a three year market life. After that, the design doesn't sell well any longer. Think about it...
Okay, we once again come to a knife that won't win any beauty contests, and once again, it wasn't designed to. It was mean to be a very affordable and nearly indestructible fixed blade do-it-all knife. There are a few differences between the two fixed blade Bushman knives, and needless to say, one has a Bowie-style blade and the other is more conventional. The original Bushman weighs in at 9.8-oz, and the Bowie 10.1-oz. both have a 7" blade made out of SK-5 High Carbon steel, that has a protective black coating the help retard rust - and Carbon Steel knives will rust if you don't take care of them. The overall length of both knives is 12 1/4" from tip to butt.
Unlike conventional hollow handle knives - which the Bushman is - the hollow handle isn't a separate part of the knife - the hollow handle and blade are all once piece. The blade and handle are expertly forged out of one piece of SK-5 Carbon Steel - as you will readily see once you handle a Bushman. There isn't any screw-in cap on the hollow handle of the Bushman, instead you can pack whatever survival supplies you want in the handle and then close it off with some duct tape, or whatever you have on-hand - even stuffing it with clothing or mud would work.
Both fixed blade Bushman knives come complete with a Cor-Ex sheath as well, and there's a pocket on the front of the sheath for carrying other things, like a multi-tool, sharpening stone or whatever you might feel you need - even fishing line and tackle. I was honestly surprised, that the Bushman came with a sheath, especially considering the full-retail price of only $37.99 for your choice of blade styles.
The Bushman have been torture-tested by Cold Steel. Be sure to watch their video. You'll be amazed, by what these knives can do. One test included putting over two tons of weight at the handle/blade junction and it didn't fail. Wow!
While not designed as a throwing knife, the fixed blade Bushman can be used for throwing. I don't recommend you use the knife as a throwing knife in a self-defense situation, but you can have a lot of fun in your backyard just throwing the Bushman and watching 'em stick in the target. It doesn't take a lot of practice to get the blades to stick in a target, either. And, like all Cold Steel cutlery, the Bushman were shaving sharp right out of the box, and held an edge a good long time - even after doing some serious chopping on some dead trees on my small homestead.
You can also attach a pole/shaft to the hollow handle, and use the knives for self-defense that way, or even use 'em for hunting small game by taking careful aim and launching the Bushman at your game. To be honest, it didn't take a lot of practice to consistently hit a makeshift target I set up in my yard - but the old broomhandle I was using broke - it was already broke from the broom head - but it broke again after several throwing sessions. You can find a good wood shaft to attach to the Bushman, making it into a virtual spear - and it's lots of fun, too.
So, once again, we have a couple Bushman knives that won't win any beauty contests, and they weren't designed for that. Lynn Thompson, designs his knives for hard use. That's not to say Cold Steel doesn't have some beautiful knives in their catalog - about 95% of their knives are a thing of beauty in my eye. But the Bushman series of fixed blade and the folder, weren't designed as beauty queens, they were designed for the worst conditions you can submit any blade to, and they will hold-up to all you throw at 'em. What's not to like here?
As already mentioned, either of the fixed blade Bushman knives retail for $37.99 each - and there is no reason you can't get one or two of these babies and toss 'em in your e-box in your car, or your bug out bag. I can't think of any other knives, in this price range, that can stand-up to the same torture - it's just that simple in my book.
As I stated at the beginning of this article, I've received more requests for me to test and evaluate the Cold Steel Bushman series of knives, than any other products. I've got to admit, I'm sorry I didn't request a Bushman many years ago. I kind of put it off, since the Bushman series are  inexpensive knives, assuming that they were more of a gimmick than anything. I hate admitting I'm wrong - but I was. The Bushman series are knives that won't let you down, and you can certainly afford them on just about any budget. Get one or two, or all three - and you'll thank me. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Just a note about current firearms inventories at the major distributors from a 25 year industry veteran.  A majority of the medium to large size firearms wholesalers are experiencing significant stock shortages and inventories are at a “historic low”.   AR and AK inventories (regardless of manufacture or builder) are drying up very fast.  Most wholesalers are not taking back-orders from dealers on these items until the smoke clears.  Even handgun inventories are starting to get very thin, especially center-fire semi-autos.  The situation on ammo is better, but many industry retail purchasing agents coming out of this year’s SHOT Show where warned by several major ammunition manufactures about this year’s third and fourth quarter demand will likely outstrip availability and most manufactures are at, or near full capacity. 

But I have some good news for reloaders:   Most major brands of powder, primers, and bullets are back in stock to pre-2008 levels and primer prices have come down considerably in the last 12 months (at least at the wholesale level).  Group buys from major inter-net component providers can give you the lowest delivered cost, especially with rising shipping and hazmat fees.  Take the time to talk to your dealer about your local situation and act accordingly. - Rick S.

JWR Replies: I have noticed that guns shows have become noticeably more crowded in recent months. Even a tiny little 25 table show at a nearby Elks Lodge was so packed that I could scarcely walk from table to table. There is definitely some well-justified angst in the country about the upcoming presidential election. The general consensus seems to be that President Bolt Hold Open (BHO) will take the gloves off, if he gets re-elected. We can expect a flurry of executive orders that as a minimum would ban the importation of most semi-auto firearms, 11+ round magazines, and all military gun parts sets. Stock up, folks!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

James Wesley:
For use as an unobtrusive and inexpensive alternative to purpose-built weapons safes, I recommend finding an old, non-functional soda vending machine. Remove the guts (we call it the 'stack') and refrigeration system, but leave the lights in the door. (Be careful, the light ballast wiring will bite: 5,000 volts).
Tap into the 110 Volt AC wiring on the vending machine to power your Goldenrod Dehumidifier.
Store your valuables inside where the guts used to be.  Lock the door and keep the key.  [If it will be at your private business but in a location that might ever be in view of the public,] you can leave the machine plugged in, with the lights on, and an 'Out Of Order' sign taped on the front. Consider this instant stealth storage. - Tom K.

Friday, April 6, 2012

After being raised on my grandfather’s farm, spending time in the military and being a first responder for the last 15 years, it is strange to find myself being a Newbie in the daunting task of creating an emergency preparedness cache for my family.  I now find myself living in a suburban/rural area of a major metropolitan city and a long way from where I grew up and started learning about some of the skills needed to survive.  I've always considered myself to be a prepared, self-sufficient individual.  I've hunted small and large game, I've backpacked in the backcountry for weeks at a time and I'm trained in emergency medical skills.  But when I started to delve into the world prepping, it became immediately clear how unprepared I am.

For the last five years I have been consumed by the post-apocalyptic genre.  I've read The Road, the Dies the Fire series, One Second After, and Patriots.  Recently I've read The Jakarta Pandemic and Lights Out and Survivors.   I've watched movies like The Road Warrior series, I Am Legend, The Book of Eli and Contagion.  All of these allow you to insert yourself into survival situations both in the science fiction sense and in the all too real possibilities.  I've also attended briefings and taught classes on surge capacity events and pandemic flu scenarios.  But for some reason, I awoke one day to realize that I do not have the resources to provide for my family during a natural disaster or when the grid goes down much less the three days that the federal government recommends.

So where to start?  That is the million dollar question.  Actually for my family of four it is probably the $10,000 dollar question.  But for someone who is going through the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University program, that expense really isn't in the budget.  So again I ask the question, where do I start to prepare my family to be self-sufficient on a budget yet obtain all the necessary items?

Well, I have turned to books like, How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It, "Patriots and The Jakarta Pandemic.  Although some of these books are works of fiction they are filled with great examples of what a prepared family looks like.  I have scoured the Internet and quickly become sucked into great web sites, messaging boards and YouTube channels like; sootch00, SurvivalBlog, and The Survivalist Blog.  The information shared by these experts and those contributing with their first hand experiences provide invaluable experience.  I also get sidetracked by clicking on the advertisements on the sides of the pages and quickly get sticker shock on some the items that I decide I "must have."

The first area that I have been making slow progress at over the last year is my selection of firearms.  I had some of the basics from growing up hunting like, a 12 gauge shotgun and a .30-30 Winchester.  I also acquired some more from my father’s estate which added a nice little .22 LR Marlin.  There were some others that I have used to trade and start to finalize my collection.  I have added a bolt action .308 and a 1911 .45ACP.  The final rifle I will add to my collection will be a semi-automatic rifle.  I will be able to buy this rifle by selling two remaining pistols and then using the money to purchase the parts to build a reliable AR-15.  This weapon system has come a long way with all of its customization and accessories from when I used to hump around with a M16A2 in the early 1990s.  By purchasing the different parts and assembling it on my own, I keep the costs down and take pride and ownership in my rifle.

The food preparation has been my biggest hurdle so far.  I have become bottlenecked at this point.  There are a lot of great companies and products out there that allow you to customize for each individual member of your family right down to their age and caloric intake.  Do you want regular canned goods, dehydrated or freeze dried products?  If you buy bulk do you want to bag it yourself in mylar bags, with oxygen absorbers and five gallon buckets with Gamma Seal lids?  Do you buy new food grade buckets or do you stop at all the grocery store bakeries and ask for theirs. Or do you just buy a whole package from one of the discount membership stores and have it all delivered to you in neat boxes and #10 cans?  Did I mention cost?  This is where I have friends say that since the end of the world is coming anyway, just put it on a credit card and forget it.  These are also the same people who would tell me that tithing at church is ridiculous when we are living on a tight budget to pay off the expenses we already have.  Is there a balance?  I believe I have found one for our family.  It involves using the "extra" money that comes in occasionally with overtime and starting a food cache with regular canned foods and other staples with a long shelf life that we typically use throughout the week.  This method will allow us take advantage of the 10 for $10 sales and other specials at the local grocery store.  I believe this will allow us to get into the habit of rotating foods and at the same time begin to get a sense of security in knowing my family would not have to go to the local food distribution center during a time of shortage.

There are many other areas that I feel that I have a decent start on.  I've had a water storage supply for the last few years.  I have both the 6 gallon containers and the smaller 2 liter bottles.  I also know where the closest supply of fresh water is, outside of the water main supplying my house.  These containers get rotated out at day light savings time, along with my smoke detector batteries.  Since my family enjoys camping we have those supplies such as tents, sleeping bags, large and small stoves and warm rugged clothing and shoes.  One of my weaknesses is flashlights, meaning I can't pass the latest and greatest version at the checkout counter at the hardware store.  We also have candles with matches and lighters.  We have recently begun to grow a garden in a raised box.  Granted, this does not provide enough food for long term storage like canning but it has given me the confidence that I can recall those skills shown to me by my grandfather and the 4-H club.  I have multiple first aid kits around the house and in the vehicles.  They are smaller versions of what I use at work.  Although I am not trained in advanced life support, my basic life support skills will help stabilize most injuries.  The other training that I have received in the hazardous materials spectrum gives me the ability to isolate and deny entry into my home from others on the outside to protect my family from whatever bug maybe going around.

I also need to create a plan for long term sustainability.  As mentioned, we are gardening on a small scale.  There needs to be forethought to where a large, diverse and sustainable garden would be planted.  We are fortunate enough to have large lots in our suburban neighborhood that would provide ample growing space.  This leads me into my next thought of neighborhood cooperation.  Since those open spaces don't belong to me, and my family alone cannot begin to plant, grow and harvest it all by ourselves, especially if it needs to be done by hand, we need to gather support from our neighbors.  This support would not only be for growing but for equipment, supplies, transportation and security.  Now this is a big list of ideas to suddenly spring on your neighbors but it can be done overtime.  If you don't even know them, the best place to start is to invite them over for dinner.  You can get a good impression on most people by sitting down and breaking bread with them.  You may be surprised to find out that they have their own emergency cache set up!  If not, then there is no time like the present to start.  It could really create a sense of community within your neighborhood by getting to know them and call them friends, instead of someone who you sometimes wave at from cross the street.

So is this a complete plan?  Far from it!  It feels like I've just opened the box of a 1,000 piece puzzle.  I can see what the finished product should look like on the front of the box and I've found most of the border pieces and I've even put a few of the easy parts of the picture together but it's far from done.  I'm still finding the best web sites to gather information from, the best products to provide food, water and security for my family and I've just begun to find others in my circle of friends, neighborhood and community who share the desire to be prepared.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

First of all thank you for running SurvivalBlog as it is has been a valuable source of information. Years ago, you mentioned Zanotti Armor as a high quality gun safe company, I'm glad you did, as I am now a very happy customer! I ordered the ZA-3 6-foot--the largest safe available from the company--and it fits my needs perfectly. It only took two of us to move all the [modular] pieces to the basement and assemble the walls. It required two extra pair of hands to assemble the top and door. I ordered the safe in June and received it in March. The customer service was excellent throughout the whole process and even after the safe arrived. At the beginning when I asked for a quote they steered me in the right direction and even when asked for certain features, such as lighting, they let me know that I could get what I wanted locally and for less money.

After installing the safe I contacted the company to ask what paint I should use on a couple of scratches in the front due to our hurried assembly they sent me a small bottle of touch up paint at no charge. Great safe and a great company. I only have one issue with the safe - it makes my gun collection look small! I guess I'll just have to start filling it up soon! Thanks, - John in Wisconsin

Monday, April 2, 2012

I don't recall when I first started carrying a pocket knife, but I'm pretty sure it was back in the 3rd or 4th grade. And, yes, back in those days, a kid could carry a pocket knife to school - and the police weren't called, nor were you suspended. Almost everyone carried a pocket knife back then - my how the times have changed. These days, most schools have a zero tolerance for any sort of "weapon" on school grounds - heck, some kids have been suspended or expelled from school for simply drawing a picture of a knife or a gun. What insanity!
Then we have many states that limit you to the size of a folding knife you can carry. Some states won't allow you to carry a knife with a blade more than 3" long these days. Some states have shorter limitations on the blade length - some longer. Many states won't allow you to carry a "switch blade" knife - which is technically an "automatic" opening knife. And many jurisdictions won't allow you to carry an assisted-opening folder, that they are now claiming are "switch blades" - ignorance is bliss. Even in my home state of Oregon, many police officers are ignorant of the law when it comes to someone carrying an automatic knife. Many police officers believe automatic knives are illegal in Oregon, even though there are several makers in Oregon, producing automatic folders. A note to any Oregon police officers reading this: Automatic folders are legal to carry in Oregon - so long as they are not concealed. Yes, even pocket carry is legal, so long as part of the knife is exposed - as in a pocket/clothing clip, or in a belt sheath. If you don't believe me, then check the laws for yourself, and don't assume that just because someone else told you that an automatic knife is illegal to carry that it is - they are wrong!
I enjoy reporting on knife companies that I have visited, especially those in Oregon. I've done several factory tours of Kershaw Knives over the years, and I visited their new factory some years ago, and had free-reign of the place, and could take any photos I wanted, and talk to anyone who worked there. To be sure, Kershaw turns out a lot of knives these days - maybe more than any other US knife company. And, Kershaw has expanded several times since my last visit, and they usually manage to keep up with demand.
I'm writing about two different knives in this article: one is an Every Day Carry (EDC) folder, from the standard Kershaw line, and the other is from their Zero Tolerance line - their rough and tough, military/law enforcement cutlery. First up is the Kershaw RJI Model #1985ST this is an excellent EDC folder for all manner of daily chores. And, yes, this knife is from the international line - it's made in China. I have learned that knife makers can get as good as they knife as you want from overseas, too. In essence, if you want a $1 knife, you can have those made, if you want a $500 knife, you can also get those made to your specifications.

The RJI was designed by custom knife maker, RJ Martin, and it comes with a 3-1/2" blade, with a Tanto-style point on it. The Tanto point is fairly thick on this one - thicker than on many other knives, so you can take on some tough piercing jobs, and there is plenty of belly to slicing and dicing, too. The blade is made out of 8CR13MOV stainless steel - and I have no idea what it is, other than it works and performs like a really good medium stainless - it comes with a razor-sharp edge and it held the edge a good long time, and was really easy to re-sharpen, too.
The handle scales on the RJI are made out of 3-D machine G-10, some super-tough stuff, to be sure, one of my favorite handle materials. There are also stainless steel liners, and the knife is a liner lock. Best of all, the RJI is an assisted-opening folder. There is a "kicker" on the back of the blade, as well as dual thumb studs to get the blade started, and after about 20-degrees, of opening, the assisted mechanism takes over and opens the blade the rest of the way - it's very quick, and I found the "kicker" worked easier and faster for me. And, we also have a pocket/clothing clip on the handle scales as well. The blade is also partially serrated, too.
The clothing/pocket clip can be moved around, for right-hand carry, the knife can be carried tip up or tip down, and for left hand carry, the knife can be carried tip up. So, you have a few options on this folder that you won't find on other knives in this price range. the knife only weighs in at 4.4-oz, so it is a light-weight for the most part. This is the knife you'll reach for, when you have all manner of cutting projects, be it opening packages from UPS or slicing and dicing in the kitchen, to whatever you might throw at it. And, the best part is, full retail is only $44.95 - and I checked around on the Internet and found these knives as low as $24.95 - and that, my friends, in a steal-of-a-deal for a knife that is "this" good, and has top-notch features - without a doubt, this is an absolute best buy in my book.
The second folder I tested is from the Zero Tolerance line, and the ZT line is made in the same plant as Kershaw's other US-made knives - they don't have a separate plant, as many believe. Kershaw came up with the idea for super-tough fixed blade and folders, designed for harsh military and law enforcement use - these knives aren't your every day carry blades, although some can be used that way. However, given the design and material used in the ZT knives, you are gonna want to save these for the tasks they were designed for: combat and self defense. I usually have at least two knives with me at all times - one in my left front pocket for EDC chores, and one in my right front pocket - and this one is reserved for those "just in case" situations - where a life might depend on the use of a strong, sharp and properly designed knife for saving lives. And, I might also have a little folder in a pocket for opening packages and the like, too.
I tested the Zero Tolerance Model 0200, and that model really caught my attention for a number of reasons. First of all, I like big knives, be there folders or fixed blade knives - and the 0200 comes with a 4" 154CM stainless steel blade - this steel used to be used almost exclusively by custom knife makers because it is spendy, to say the least - factory knife makers just didn't want to use this steel for a long time, thinking consumers wouldn't buy knives that cost more money than knives with less expensive stainless steels. However, educated consumers are willing to put out for top-notch knives, with really good stainless steel blades.
The ZT 0200 was designed by custom knife maker, Ken Onion, and he is one of the best around. I once interviewed Ken, on the phone, from his home base in Hawaii, and he is a hoot to talk to - just a lot of fun - down-to-earth, too. Onion has designed a number of knives for Kershaw and the ZT line, too. The 0220 is a professional-grade folding combat knife, designed to survive harsh real world situations. The 4" blade is of the recurve design - which means it has some "belly" to it. If you were to measure the blade length on a recurve knife, and then measure the actual cutting surface, you'll find the cutting surface is actually longer than the length of the blade. If you are involved in any knife of self defense situation, you'll quickly realize that you'll be using slashing movements, and the recurve style blade gives you a little more cutting surface, as well as "grabbing" and pulling into the blade, whatever it comes into contact with - it cuts deeper and cuts longer than other blades.
The precisely centered point on the 0200 is perfect for piercing tasks as well. the 154 CM blade is also (black) Tungsten DLC (Diamond Like Carbon) coated, it helps protect the blade. Now, my sample 0200 was in my pocket, I didn't get the pocket/clothing clip attached to my pants pocket for some reason, and the knife slipped down into my pocket, where there is a lot of loose change. I didn't catch that this happened for a couple days, and when I pulled the knife out of my pocket, there were scratches on the blade from the loose change. A minute with some oil and extra-fine steel wool, and the scratches were taken completely off the DLC coating - I was amazed, to say the least.
The thick handle scales are 3-D machined G-10, and like I said, I like this stuff - super tough, and the designed pattern machined into the handle scales grip you back, under all manner of harsh conditions. The 0200 comes with dual thumb studs, and a "kicker" on the back of the blade--also for rapid opening. Once again, I preferred using the kicker to open the blade - it is not an assisted-opening folder, but it opens sooooo smoothly, you will think it's assisted. I'm talking super smooth opening. The blade locks-up with a thick stainless steel liner lock--quite a strong, positive lock.
There is also a nice sized lanyard hole in the butt of the 0200, and if you work over water, you'll want to attach a lanyard to your knife - nothing worst than losing your knife over water. (Kiss it good-bye once it falls into a lake, stream, or river.) The pocket/clothing clip can be mounted in any one of the quad positions on the handle for tip up or tip down carry - for right or left handed carry. What's not to like here? The knife weighs in at 7.8-oz, so it's not a light-weight folder, then again, once you see and handle the 0200, and understand how it is over-built, you'll appreciate the weight and the materials used in making this knife. Also, the pivot pin for the blade - it's stout, too - not some little skinny pin, it's big and you can adjust the blade tension with a wrench - there is a nut on the end of the pivot pin. This knife is so over-built, it's not even funny.
I tested the 0200 into some stacked cardboard boxes, and I could easily penetrate the full-length of the blade to the handle when I stabbed into the cardboard. Also, the slashed at the stacked cardboard boxes, and the 0200 really ripped into this material - it grabs it. So, I can only imagine what it would do to clothing or flesh if a person were to slash into it. The top, back of the blade is also "raised" just a little bit, and there are friction grooves machined into this area, for a positive thumb placement in the fencing grip, which is the grip most used in knife fighting.
The design of the handle - it flows with the design of the blade - hard to explain, but the handle just feels perfect in my hand, as well as other people I showed the knife to. Every one that tried it said how good the knife felt in their hand. And, if a knife feels good - that's a big part of the battle when choosing a knife - any knife. The handle of the knife is of the open design, it allows dirt, lint and other crud to escape, instead of building up inside of the handle.
I honestly wish I could report something negative about the ZT 0200, but I can't. The knife is just a fantastic design, and executed with some of the best materials around. It should last you a lifetime, and it won't let you down, if you give it just a little bit of care every now and then. If this knife were made by a custom maker, I would expect to pay $600 or more for it - and if it were hand made by Ken Onion - we're talking thousands of dollars. Yes, his knives demand that kind of money. However, the ZT 0200 only retails for $200, and I've found it on the Internet for around $140. Granted, it's a little spendy, but once you pick one up, you won't want to put it down. And when you see how well-made this knife is, and you can appreciate the best materials used, you'll think like I did: "This is another steal-of-a-deal" - even if it is a little bit spendy! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Sunday, April 1, 2012

its time for like minded  people  to take off the blinders and use logic and intelligence in their planning. Firearms will play a major  part in survival of our people and nation.
This role will be larger than anyone cares to  admit. Because of this reliance, our weapons will need to be the most dependable guns we can acquire.
My experience goes through 30+ years of gunsmithing, military service during the Reagan years, and contractor with a notorious private security firm in Iraq and Afghanistan.
During these years, I have learned a lot about the serviceability of weapons in the field.
The most distressing news I have to share  with your readers is the AR/M4 type weapons are too maintenance reliant compared to other available weapons. Yes they are accurate,easy to carry and easy to use.  But they are weak. If the stock tube(receiver extension) is damaged in any way, the weapon is rendered useless.
The following list of weapons are ones that I have seen time and again stand up to excess abuse and still perform  under battlefield condition.  (Please keep in mind only some of these weapons are available to civilians.):
Remington 870
Remington 24
Glock 17 and 19
M240 series
SIG 500 series
AK type weapons
Croatian made sidearms (Springfield XD series)
Browning Hi-Power
G36 series rifles
SIG pistols - P226,228,229
M2 .50 caliber
The following list are weapons which I have seen fail numerous time under battlefield conditions:

M16A1, M16A2, M4
SR25 (Stoner AR-10)
MK19 Automatic Grenade Launcher
M9 Beretta
With all of this in mind, its time for people to realize that unless they are a trained gunsmith and have excess parts available, then they will be out of luck when stuff hits the fan.
For those civilians who can accept advice, buy either a Glock or an XD, a Remington 870, a Remington 700,and a good quality AK. And of course buy plenty of magazines and ammunition for them. You won't be disappointed.  Learn how to use them and take care of them. Not enough can be said for the need for proper maintenance.  Take care of them and they will work when you need them. - Casey B.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Some people say you can’t prepare for every situation.  I say, you can because every situation has one common element that can and will hurt you outside of the event itself: other people.  Lets face it, if you die in a storm, a nuclear/biological/chemical event, or terror attack, then you are dead.  There is nothing from stopping God’s will. 

You don’t prepare for those events, you prepare for surviving those events.  There are many events, (and not far-fetched crazy extreme events) which people should be prepared to deal with to protect themselves and their families when it’s over and you are alive. Some include:

  1. Storms (Hurricanes/tornados/floods/earthquakes, droughts, Tsunami)
  2. Financial collapse
  3. Biological emergencies (natural or weaponized)
  4. Chemical emergencies (Living near DuPont?)
  5. Nuclear emergencies (Attack/Power grid failure resulting in leak)
  6. Civil unrest (Riots/Revolution/Civil War/Race war/Looting)
  7. Power Grid failure (EMPs/Solar flares/ attack on grid)

The interesting fact is that just one event on the above list, can and will cause another on the list.  If you don’t believe me, look at Hurricane Katrina. Not only did this storm devastate a region, but what else happened? Civil Unrest, chemical emergencies from refineries, Biological emergencies with contaminated water and disease from bodies, and financial collapse of the region and lets not forget the looting and power grid failures. Look at the recent tsunami in Japan.  No one ever dreamed the nuclear reactors would so easily fail, melt down, leak, or kill (wait for it). The Japanese can probably site all the above listed events as a result of an earthquake. There is a common denominator shared by each item on the list that represents the biggest threat to survivors, outside of the event itself: People.

People will react in the most amazing ways after a horrible event.  Events like these bring out the best and worse in people.  This was seen in New Orleans. I was there in the aftermath. I saw the best and worst in mankind – Mostly the worst.  Normal, law-abiding people (well, it is New Orleans), when put in a survival situation, will kill you, if the stress of the event makes them believe they need your stuff to stay alive.

The dichotomy is that people are the biggest threat, but you can’t survive without the cooperation of other people.  You can’t make it through the listed events alone; you have to rely on other people to pool all your resources to survive. Every event on that list will cause people to lose their minds and cause chaos. Give it a couple of days, then the looting, crime and civil unrest explode like a powder keg.  Sure, you can crawl in your bunker, but for how long? You can buy 20 guns, but you can only shoot one at a time. You need to get organized, with a group of trusted friends/family, to provide, protect and plan your hopefully short term situation.  The well-organized, well armed groups will get passed by the marauders for easy pickings down the road.

Just in the last 10 years or so, we have seen some horrible events that touch every item on the list above….9/11, Hurricanes in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi,, Haiti, Japan's Tsunami, Worldwide Earthquakes, Eastern Seaboard Power failure shutting down New York, Euro collapsing, Japans Nuclear reactor failures, Iran’s Nuclear prowess, Missing former Soviet nuclear devices, Los Angeles riots, Tornados Midwest rampage, Ohio/MS River flooding, Texas droughts, and I could list a whole page .
Preparing doesn’t sound so crazy now does it? It’s not some right-wing doomsday fantasy, but if it makes you concerned, perhaps it should – No one is saying we should build an underground bunker (although I would love to).  All I am saying is having a plan, with people you trust while pooling resources just may save your life.

So now you realize you aren’t crazy- lets take a look at the basics:

What are the basic needs we will need as human beings?

  1. Water
  2. Food
  3. Shelter
  4. Security

WATER – Take stock if you are staying put or bugging out. You have what is available to you, but I would recommend having 3 sources of water either in my home or bug out location.

  1. Natural water sources (Creeks, rivers, springs that flow year round)
  2. Well water (How is it powered? Electricity/ manual pump/ solar?)
  3. Water storage (Ponds, stock tanks, water catch systems, barrel storage, bathtubs)
  4. City/County (Keep in mind this source is dependent on upkeep by people who will not be showing up to work in our scenarios)

FOOD - I know a lot of people have their 3-day bug out bag with survival food bars handy, but I believe you need to take stock, not only of your pantry, but other potential sources in your locations.

  1. Stored and saved canned goods with shelf life and extended life usage.
  2. Staples (oil, flour, beans, wheat, salt, sugar- Think food grade barrels)
  3. Natural Resources (Fish, wildlife in area for meat, Feeders/traps/snares)
  4. Seed (growing, farming, reproducing your own food – heirloom seeds)
  5. Livestock animals
  6. Food as a trading commodity (honey, spices,  alcohol, Etc)

SHELTER –We have our homes we currently live in whether its an apartment, house etc. Think about if you leave or bug out, it’s important to have shelter not only where you end up, but keep in mind it may take a few days to get there. Do you know anyone between you and your bug out location? Is there someplace safe you can leave a cache?
Some things to think about shelter:

  1. Size, capacity (how many are in your trusted circle? Will everyone fit?)
  2. Power options (propane, electric/generator, wood for warmth)
  3. Portable/semi permanent (shipping container, RV, tents, Trailer)
  4. Underground (storm shelter, root cellar, buried shipping container)
  5. Ability to create lean-to and basic shelters
  6. Alternate locations (when things get too tough, you may need to relocate)
  7. At your bug out location, is there a secure place, if there is a bio event, that someone can be put into quarantine until incubation period is satisfied before joining the rest of the group?

SECURITY – This means a lot of things to a lot of people.  Lets list out a few things that are important keeping in mind safety in numbers- however a smaller group of well prepared and well trained people can be the most important asset of security.

  1. Personnel (large enough to make the average band of marauders move on to easier targets)
  2. Weapons  (pistols, mid range, long range firearms.) One important need for quiet registered suppressed smaller caliber weapons for stealth and hunting.  This will be very important- Texas is mostly flat and sound carries for miles.) It is good to have .22, .223, .40/9mm, 12ga, 30.06/.308, 7.62x39. These are most plentiful and easily found.  Stealth and being quiet is something that not many presently talk about, but will be important.  If someone is looking for food/water etc, man-made noises are a beacon for people to come and find you. At some point, you will want to put your big bang stick away and opt for suppressed/small caliber or conventional bows.
  3. Ammunition: Having similar calibers among your group members makes ammo go further and able to work with more than one weapon. This coordination could be extremely important in long-term situations.
  4. Night Vision (or Thermal but expensive) There are many Gen 1 NV scopes out there that are priced so reasonably that they make it a must.  Those who own the night, control the day.
  5. Dogs (trained ones, not purse dogs)
  6. Fuel (including storage- This will make you mobile while gas is scarce)
  7. Alternate Transportation (ATV, Bicycle, UATV, mopeds) Don’t laugh – You can ride 10-to-20 miles on a bike without being in Olympic shape.  How long does it take to walk 10 miles?  Not so silly now is it?  Do some research on the Japanese in WWII being able to move mass amounts of troops in a short timeframe catching their enemies by surprise.  And bike is quiet…….

Now that we have some of the basics identified, there are other things that could have been listed above that many of us have lying around or have access to its usefulness.  I like to refer to these items as assets.  You should put a checklist together of your assets, keeping in mind, some assets are intangible.  Here is a quick list of both:


Communication. This is number one for a reason- ham radios, CB radios, Walkie-talkies, field phone with wires, and radios. Information equals knowledge, and knowledge is power.

  1. Boats (rafts, canoes, jon-boat, fishing and pontoon, inner tubes/pool toys- sometimes you need to get across a river/creek and need to keep stuff dry and they take up no space at all – deflate and use again later)
  2. Vehicles (some of us have multiple vehicles…or toys, that carbureted vehicle can be more valuable than you know if there is a solar flare or EMP)
  3. Trailers (we have a lot of stuff and people to bug out)
  4. Generators (these need extra fuel so prep accordingly, and don’t forget the oil)
  5. Tools (welder, chain saws, wire cutters, bolt cutters, etc)
  6. Bikes (these don’t need fuel and can get you miles in minutes)
  7. Land/property (even if it is not ideal bug out territory, it could be used as a cache to store items in alternate locale, or a safe place to stop and resupply to your ultimate destination)
  8. Reloader (The ability to load and reload your own ammo is a huge asset)
  9. Medical equip (all inclusive down to the band aids – don’t forget toothaches and tools for extraction if necessary) People never think about dental as part of their first aid kit…until they have a cracked tooth or toothache.
  10. Silent weapons (crossbows, bows, arrows/bolts, snares/traps)
  11. Fishing Poles (self explanatory)
  12. GPS/Maps (You need both because at some point tech will fail, oh yes, learn how to use a compass with that map) You don’t need static electricity with a needle on a pool of water- Bear Grylls is cool to watch, but go buy a handful of cheap compasses and put them in everyone’s bag and teach some online land navigation basics.
  13. Force multipliers (trip wire alerts, motion sensors, noise making material for areas you cant always see) An easy fix, battery operated motion lights.  If you need eyes in a location you can’t see at night – Set these up in those hard to see areas – It’s like having an extra person to alert you. Fishing lines and cans with rocks will make noise when tripped.
  14. Battery charging devices (Commercial, solar,  also think non conventional like a stationary bike with a belt to an alternator to battery to inverter to outlet) Hook it up to a wheat grinder and make some flour.
  15. Alternative energy (like my bike idea above, there are available sources on the market like solar, wind, hydro- research hydro – It only takes 10 foot of head to turn a turbine – I would love to explore this idea with my creek)
  16. Wood (Gotta have heat in winter, and have to cook)
  17. Clothing for all seasons (doesn’t hurt to have chest waders, mosquito netting, and sewing kits for repairs.  Not everything needs to be military or camo )
  18. Hammocks – I’m getting everyone in my family hammocks with a cheap tarp to go over the top.  There is a whole group of campers out there using only hammocks – Very cool, light weight and fit into the 3 day bug out bag nicely.

Now lets look at a list of what I call Intangible Assets.  What knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) do we bring to the group that can be passed along or taught?

  1. Training  (Firearms, tactics, military, safety/chemical, survival)
  2. Certifications (CPR/First Aid, EMT, MD, paramedic, dentistry)
  3. Skills (Farming, hydroponics, carpentry, mechanics, cooking, fishing, welding)
  4. Knowledge (Can you fix things? Make things, butcher, chemical knowledge, canning, pickling, reloading, armorer, water purification)
  5. Abilities (climb trees, make candles, negotiate, bow hunt, make a zip line, fish with a net. Think outside the box)

These are just a few things to think about when starting to prep.  Take your own inventory, and then take the next step. This step is just as important as your safety.  Unless you are going to live by yourself in a bunker (Okay, perhaps I have bunker envy)- you need to incorporate your trusted inner circle to share your ideas and make a plan. Choose wisely- I have seen a lot of people utilize their family- Most of the time, that works. But some folks don’t live near their family, or if they do, they don’t always get along with an in-law or each other.  Don’t be that guy that chooses his best friend that doesn’t believe in prepping, and if by chance they do, won’t prepare, wont bring anything to the table and will end up mooching off of your hard work and the others in your group.  Here are some things to keep in mind when you find your bug out group.  Ask the hard questions with your group now.

If you plan on leaving your home to your bug out location, you may be faced with some tough decisions, table these with your group and ask:

  1. How many people are invited to the location?
  2. What is the group going to do when some other “friends” not in the trusted circle show up?
  3. Uninvited family vs. uninvited friends – Is there a difference? Oh yes!
  4. When others show up looking for a handout or help- what are we prepared to do?
  5. In a bio situation (bird flu) how long should you quarantine others before letting them into your location- What if they are sick – What is the group prepared to do? What if they are family?
  6. Leadership roles vs. democracy vs. clans (family leaders)
  7. What are group pooled items vs. individual (mine) items.  What is shared vs. kept?

Meeting with your trusted inner circle (bug out crew) of people now and discussing these items will be crucial down the line.  Lets face it, it’s hard to find couples that all like each other much less entire families. Face the fact and embrace the fact there will be disagreements in advance, No one will ever completely agree on everything- That is reality.  These disagreements may become amplified in a stressful environment, but come to grips with it together and talk about it now. Talk about that family or group that finds you and wants to join your group to bolster their security (who, what when where, why and how- will be the name of that game). I can create an endless number of scenarios for and against accepting – But the group needs to come to an agreement.  What style of leadership are we going to use? Talk about it now.

Have a plan and several routes that everyone knows to get to your bug out location.  This is where communication devices are essential – Know what routes are inaccessible, have your back-up routes from each alternate points of entry (back up routes to your back up routes) Timing will dictate your routes.  Depending on situation and spread of the event, smaller towns that you would normally drive through could be barricaded and controlled by organized militias/groups like you, limiting access. This goes for any area.  Think of your bug out location, you may want to limit the access too, out of fear of travelers/hordes looking to pillage.  Depending on the situation be prepared to negotiate, barter, trade and or shoot your way to your bug out shelter. You may end up using all those methods along the way.

Bug out to a secondary location comes with its own set of pros and cons.  To me, the hardest question is: When is it time to bug out? No one can predict the best time, but I will say before all of the gas is used up. In our area of South Texas, you can hear a V-8 engine a couple miles away.  Remembering that a panicked society wants to take your stuff because they did not prepare and believe they will die without your stuff-What I am trying to say is err on the early side of bugging out.   The Bottom line is that if you wait too long, you will have herds of “zombies” trying to catch, shoot and kill the caravan of people who still have gas and a way out of town. 

At this point, being quiet is the name of the game. Noise attracts attention- Hunting is a good example; an AR-15 is deafening and can be heard 5 miles and more away. If you use it, use it only once. You will have everyone’s attention waiting to vector the second shot and move in that direction. Get skilled with a bow/crossbow or get a suppressed weapon. .22s are relatively quiet and are good small game calibers. Generators are loud and will attract attention. What are some fixes? Underground, ventilated areas/ mufflers? This opens the door to learning to trap, lay snares, or take serious advantage of the hog trap.  Stock up on rat traps and keep them at your bug out base (the snapping closed kind).  Not for rats, but for small game and birds.  These force multipliers will help you catch your needed protein.

As your group comes together, start training together.  You can start out with a  “survivor man” weekend where you can try your wares. Sight in all your weapons, start fires utilizing various methods, cook using only a fire-pit.  Walk your perimeter, know your weak spots, where are you vulnerable?  Where are the best vantage points on the property, escape routes, choke points, fallback areas, and cache spots.  Bring the families out.  Make sure everyone of responsible age knows how to load, fire, unload each weapon system each family owns. Make training weekends fun, but cover the basics and have everyone hone a skill. If they don’t have one, have them choose one, learn it well, and teach the rest of the group. Empower everyone in the group because we all need to not only feel we contribute to the whole, but we actually all really do need to contribute.  Make weekends to learn how to:

  1. Fish
  2. Shoot
  3. Plant/Harvest
  4. Gather
  5. Hunt/trap
  6. Security patrol/force multiplier utilization
  7. Communications
  8. Prepping vehicles/Trailers/ bags with supplies (what should be in them)
  9. Survivor man trips using your 3-day bug out bag. Know what works and what doesn’t.
  10. Make flour from wheat and bread from flour.
  11. Make alcohol – Uses are many, from drinking, fire starting, trading, sanitizing, cleaning wounds, sterilizing….and did I say drinking?
  12. Bee keeping many uses from pollinating, honey, candles, trading. Edible honey was found in Pyramids buried for centuries.

Each aforementioned training topic could be a whole chapter in a book.  Remember there are no wrong ideas, some may be misguided or implemented incorrectly, but most of us have not gone through this before. Getting ideas together is the first step to getting prepared which leads to taking action and responsibility for you and your loved ones which just may save your life one day. Good luck to us all – we might just need it.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Many, many years ago, when I started wearing reading glasses, I found that I wasn't seeing the sights on some of my handguns and rifles as clearly as I would have liked. With age, comes reading glasses for many of us - just a fact of life! Now, while I could see the sights on my rifles - without reading glasses - the sights were a bit fuzzy! With my reading glasses on, the sights were sharp, but the target was blurred. Grrrr!
I did find though, that rifles with peep sights were much easier to get a good sight picture without resorting to reading glasses. I talked to my then optometrist at the about this - and he was also a member of our shooting club, and an avid shooter himself. He told me that there was just "something" about looking through a (rear) peep sight that caused us to get a better sight picture with open sights. I got to thinking about that, and started doing a little unscientific experimenting myself, with military rifles that had peep sights. Well, I'll be, sure enough the rifles with peep sights gave me a better sight picture than other open-type sights, especially the old buckhorn style of open sights.
Skinner Sights are hand crafted in Andy Larsson's small shop in St. Ignatius, Montana, machined from sold steel, stainless steel or brass bar stock. All the parts are hand-fitted to close tolerances. Andy says he works hard to design sights which are not only extremely functional and rugged, but to also complement the firearms they go on. He makes a limited number of high-quality sights, at a reasonable cost to the customer. The sights are inexpensive, but they are not cheaply made, and his customer service is second to none, too. If something goes wrong with your Skinner Sight, at any time, and need to be repaired, return them to Andy and he will make it right - at no charge.
Now, I like shooting a lever-action rifles, like Marlin, Winchester, Rossi and many other brands of lever-action long guns. While not my first choice in a SHTF situation, they would serve to fend-off some bad guys, as well as filling the stew pot, too. But all these guns have Buckhorn-style open rear sight - they are okay, but I can't do my best shooting with these types of sights. Sure, you can scope most of these lever-action rifles, but it detracts from the overall appearance of these guns, in my humble opinion.
I was first told about Skinner Sights by Tim Sundles, who operates Buffalo Bore Ammunition some months ago. Andy Larsson and I had a bit of a time connecting for a while - mostly due to something going wrong with my e-mails to some folks. For some strange reason, a lot of e-mails didn't get delivered since last December. Matter of fact, I'm still getting returned e-mails after more than three months - just didn't get delivered for some reason. Computers and the Internet - they are wonderful inventions, when they work as planned. In any event, Andy Larsson and I finally connected, and he sent me several of his sights for test and evaluation.
I received the Skinner Sights "Tactical" rear sight for a Marlin Model 336 - and Andy also sent along a fiber optic front sight to go with the rear sight. I also laid claim to Skinner Sights, rear sight for the Marlin Model 39 - and Andy also sent me a brass front sight to accompany the new rear sight. Now, the Marlin Model 336 rear "Tactical" sight is a peep sight affair, but it has "wings" on either sight of it - to help protect the peep sight from knock around damage. The sight is fully adjustable for windage and elevation, too. The no-snag profile and protective shape of the sight assures quick-handling and performance in the most demanding situations.
Many military battle rifles and many dangerous game guns, have been fitted with peep sights for the last 70 years. There is a good reason for this. They are the fastest and most accurate iron sights you can put on a rifle. Not all peep sights are equal, either. The Skinner Sights will not shoot loose and afford a great sight picture, too. Skinner sights are easy to install, they fit the current screw holes on the guns they were designed for - and screws are included with all sights.
A very close examination of the "Tactical" rear peep sight for the Marlin Model 336 shows the attention to detail, and how well-made the sights are that Andy Larsson is making. We're talking super-tough sights. No fears of these failing you, period! The front red fiber optic sight that came with the rear sight, gives you an outstanding sight picture - very fast to pick-up, too. What's not to like here?
The Marlin Model 39 sights I received were every bit the equal in high-quality construction as the Marlin Model 336 sights were, with the exception that this rear sight didn't come with protective "wings" - it's just a simple peep sight - well, "simple" isn't being fair - they are very strong and well-made, to be sure. I elected for the blue steel rear sight instead of the brass one - just thought it would give my eyes a better sight picture. Most of the time, Larsson says that this rear sight will work with the factory front sight height. However, if you have problems, consult the Skinner Sights web site, it's a wealth of information that you can use. The removable .096" sight aperture allows marksman to use a fine aperture or a much larger ghost ring. Other size apertures are available from Skinner Sights.
Skinner Sights are designed to give you the same sight picture as the M-16/AR-15 line of military and civilian rifles - as well as many other military rifles. No wonder these sights seem like an old friend to my eyes! When you look through (not "at") a peep sight,  you automatically focus on the front sight - which is what you are supposed to do. It simply makes one a better shooter, and isn't that what we all want to be? Better shots?
What the consumer is getting in a Skinner Sight, is an American-made product, produced in a small shop, by a fellow who really cares about the shooter, and is mighty proud of the products he is turning out. He's also offering an outstanding product, at decent prices. The Marlin Model 336 blued rear peep sight sample I received sells for $75 and the front fiber optic sight is $20 - those are bargains in my book. The Marlin 39 blued rear peep sight sample sells for $59 and the brass front sight is only $16. Again, a bargain if you ask me, for the quality you are getting.
Andy Larsson has a lot of different sights for various rifles, and is developing newer and more exciting models. He's not sitting on his rump - he's busy experimenting with new sights. He's proud of his company, and proud of the quality of sights he's producing. Tim Sundles at Buffalo Bore Ammunition told me I'd really like the Skinner Sights - and I do. I plan on reviewing more models for different long guns in the future, and I'll keep SurvivalBlog readers updated.
If you want a superior sight for your lever-action (and other) rifles, then take a close look at Skinner Sights - they have a web site just loaded with all the information you could possibly want - one of the better web sites to offer the consumer information they want and need if you ask me. Remember, Skinner Sights are American-made.  - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, February 27, 2012

Hello James,
Just a short article for the financially stressed who want a battle rifle. Not all of us can shell out $1,500 to $2,500 for the latest battle rifle with $800 to $3,000 worth of optics on it. But there is hope for us. Here in the south, you can usually pick up a good used Norinco (read Chinese) SKS for $150. (But I've heard that they cost more, elsewhere.) I have one that I found that was in excellent condition. These are very reliable weapons with chromed chamber and bore. One with some surface rust may go for $100 if the guy is desperate for cash. A friend bought one like this last month, for$ 100. It was a little rusty and scratched up, but functional. The guy needed beer money, sad. If worst comes to worst, go to a gun show with $200 in your pocket. You should secure an SKS and have money left over for a USA steel 30 rd. or TAPCO 20 round detachable magazine, or two. You can find, at the same show, a black plastic sporter stock, used for about $35, or so. I did, and so can you.

Note: The sporter-stocked SKS doesn't freak out most policeman. But one a folding job with pistol grip, and Picatinny rails all over it probably will. Trust me!

Now, you need better sights. My SKS did not shoot good groups (8-9 inch @ 100 yards.) like my AR-15 does (1.5 inch @ 100 yards.) I'm 68, so did not like the open sights. I replaced them with a $26 Williams peep for some improvement, but the eye is still too far from the peep for a moving target. Went to Tech sights web site and found two styles of rear-mounted peeps for the SKS. I took a chance and risked $45 for the TS-100 model plus $6.00 shipping. The improvement was astounding! I now have over 50% plus more sight radius, from front to rear. Group diameters are cut in half, and this with El-Cheapo Russian ammo. Most aftermarket stocks for the SKS will accept the detachable magazines. If not, then you can carefully file them out so as to accept them. The best for me, was the American made 30 round steel magazine. It feeds flawlessly with any type of ammo. In my experience the Tapco 20 rounders re good too, but will not feed reliably with Brown Bear ammo. I called Tapco, and the man said this was becoming a common complaint. The coating on the Brown Bear sticks to the sides of the plastic mag body if you load it to full capacity. With only 10 or 11, it will do fine. With the cheap stuff, the Tapco magazine works well, but not as perfectly as the steel magazine. YMMV! I also avoid using the TAPCO magazine for the  hollow point ammo. I'm shooting FMJ pointed from now on.

Okay, we've got your SKS, say $150, plus the sporter stock for $35 (at a gun show), two steel 30 round USA mags at $40 (gun show), and the tech sight @ $51 Priority mail from Tech Sight.   Comes to $276. The sights are new, all else may be used, but in nice condition. Well done. One of the best features of the SKS is the cheap ammo. I just ordered another 500 rounds of Tula pointed 7.62x39 from a distributor for $104 plus $22 shipping. I can live with this!

Don't just buy this and throw it in a closet. Work with it, shoot it, clean it, learn to field strip it, and care for it like a newborn child. Use real gun oil on it, never WD-40. BTW, The bolt has to be withdrawn to insert these magazines. If you shoot it dry, the carrier catch should hold the bolt back so you can easily remove the mag. If sill loaded, you must pull the bolt back and hold it back while removing the mag. Takes 3 hands at first, but you will soon learn the easy way to do it. You ARE going to practice doing this, I'm sure. Right? Any rust on it? Get #0000 Stainless Steel wool (the finest), and make a one inch diameter ball of it. Soak this with gun oil and RUB. This will remove most light rust, but will not affect any remaining finish. Rubbing with a copper penny (pre-82) held in small Vice Grips pliers will remove more stubborn rust. Copper won't scratch steel! These served me well in my 10 year stint in gun repair. My apologies for so much of this being out of sequence, but I hope you can acquire your own Battle rifle. Not the best, but acceptable, until you can do better. Remember the old military saying "take care of your rifle, and someday it will take care of you. As we approach the precipice of TEOTWAWKI I wish each of you my best. Make sure Jesus Christ is your Savior, so you won't have to go you know where. God Bless you. ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ. - Mack, in Lower Slobovia

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Much has been written about what particular guns are best for home defense and SHTF, but I haven’t seen much about taking care of these weapons when gunsmiths are not around.  Let’s look at what typically causes firearms to fail. 

As a gunsmith, the main cause of firing malfunctions I see is dirt.  This can be crud built up from dust collecting in oil forming a grease-like substance, or rust, or build-up from burned powder (carbon), or residue from the casings or shells.

The second most encountered problems stem from magazines, or broken or weak springs.  Lost pins or screws, and broken extractors or firing pins tend to be the next [most common] group of failures.

So how do you prepare for these problems?  First, if you don’t have an owner’s manual for your gun, go to the manufacturer’s web site and download one.  It will give you information on proper operation, how to field strip the gun for cleaning, and lubrication instructions.  If it is an older gun, you may be able to find a manual at  The next document you should have is an exploded parts list and instructions on disassembly and assembly of the firearm.  Many of these are also available at 

The next thing you will need is a good cleaning kit.  Be sure you have lots of patches, and extra bore brushes for your particular caliber.  A chamber brush is also helpful.  There are all types of bore cleaner solvents.  Pick your flavor.  Here is a recipe for a great bore cleaner that you can make up yourself.  It was invented by C.E. ''Ed'' Harris. You can always bottle some of it for barter later.  It is the widely-used “Ed’s Red” (ER).   This cleaner has an action very similar to standard military issue rifle bore cleaner, such as Mil-C-372B. Users report it is more effective than Hoppe's for removing plastic fouling in shotgun bores, or caked carbon fouling in semi-automatic rifles or pistols, or in removing leading in revolvers. It is not as effective as Sweets 7.62, Hoppe's Bench Rest Nine or Shooter's Choice for fast removal of heavy copper fouling in rifle bores. However, because "ER" is more effective in removing caked carbon and abrasive primer residues than other cleaners, metal fouling is greatly reduced when "ER" is used on a continuing basis.  It is inexpensive, effective, provides good corrosion protection and adequate residual lubrication so that routine "oiling" after cleaning is rarely necessary, except for long-term storage of over 1 year, or harsh service environments, such as salt water exposure.

CONTENTS: Ed's Red Bore Cleaner
1 part Dexron II, IIe or III Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF), GM Spec. D-20265 or later.
1 part Kerosene - deodorized, K1
1 part Aliphatic Mineral Spirits, Fed. Spec. TT-T-2981F, CAS #64741-49-9, or may substitute "Stoddard Solvent", CAS #8052-41-3, or equivalent, (aka "Varsol")
1 part Acetone, CAS #67-64-1.
(Optional up to 1 lb. of Lanolin, Anhydrous, USP per gallon. It is okay to substitute Lanolin, Modified, Topical Lubricant, from the drug store)


[JWR Adds This Warning: All of the usual precautions for handling caustic and flammable solvent fluids must be taken, such as wearing goggles and rubber gloves.]

Mix outdoors, in good ventilation. Use a clean 1 gallon metal, chemical resistant, heavy gauge PET or PVC plastic container. NFPA approved plastic gasoline storage containers are also okay. Do NOT use a HDPE container, which is permeable, because the acetone will eventually evaporate. The acetone in ER will also attack HDPE, causing the container to collapse, making a big mess!

Add the ATF first. Use the empty ATF container to measure the other components, so that it is thoroughly mixed. If you incorporate the lanolin into the mixture, melt this carefully in a double boiler, taking precautions against fire. Pour the melted lanolin it into a larger container, rinsing the lanolin container with the bore cleaner mix, and stirring until it is all dissolved. Divert a small quantity, up to 4 ounces per quart of the 50-50 ATF/kerosene mix for optional use as an "ER-compatible" gun oil. This can be done without impairing the effectiveness of the remaining mix.

Label with necessary SAFETY WARNINGS: RIFLE BORE CLEANER, CAUTION: FLAMMABLE MIXTURE, HARMFUL OR FATAL IF SWALLOWED. KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN.  Flammable mixture! Keep away from heat, sparks or flame. FIRST AID, If swallowed DO NOT induce vomiting, call physician immediately. In case of eye contact immediately flush thoroughly with water and call a physician. For skin contact wash thoroughly.

The lanolin can be found at better pharmacies like CVS or Walgreens.  Ask the pharmacist, they usually have it in the back, not out on the shelves.

Ed’s Red will not dissolve copper fouling, so have some copper remover solution on hand.  Be aware that the ammonia in the copper remover can damage stock finishes, and will dissolve brass bore brushes.  Have some extra brushes on hand, or use a stainless steel brush.

The next item to have on hand is a quality gun oil.  They are all pretty good.  Note above that you can make your own from ATF/kerosene mix.  If you want to improve on this, add a little lanolin.  The lanolin provides longer term protection, since some of the other ingredients will eventually evaporate.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR USING "Ed's Red (ER)" Bore Cleaner:
Open the firearm action and ensure the bore is clear. Cleaning is most effective when done while the barrel is still warm to the touch from firing. Saturate a cotton patch with bore cleaner, wrap or impale on jag and push it through the bore from breech to muzzle. The patch should be a snug fit. Let the first patch fall off and do not pull it back into the bore.
Wet a second patch, and similarly start it into the bore from the breech, this time scrubbing from the throat area forward in 4-5" strokes and gradually advancing until the patch emerges out the muzzle. Waiting approximately 1 minute to let the bore cleaner soak will improve its action.

For pitted, heavily carbon-fouled guns, leaded revolvers or neglected bores a bronze brush wet with bore cleaner may be used to remove stubborn deposits. This is unnecessary for smooth, target-grade barrels in routine use.

Use a final wet patch pushed straight through the bore to flush out loosened residue dissolved by Ed's Red. Let the patch fall off the jag without pulling it back into the bore. If you are finished firing, leaving the bore wet will protect it from rust for 1 year under average conditions.

If the lanolin is incorporated into the mixture, it will protect the firearm from rust for up to two years. For longer term use Lee Liquid Alox as a Cosmoline substitute. "ER" will readily remove hardened Alox or Cosmoline.
Wipe spilled Ed's Red from exterior surfaces before storing the gun. While Ed's Red is harmless to blue and nickel finishes, the acetone it contains is harmful to most wood finishes.
Before firing again, push two dry patches through the bore and dry the chamber, using a patch wrapped around a suitably sized brush or jag. First shot point of impact usually will not be disturbed by Ed's Red if the bore is cleaned as described. It is always good practice to clean your guns twice, two days a apart whenever using corrosively-primed ammunition, just to make sure you get all the corrosive residue out. [JWR Adds: If in doubt about the priming used in any batch of military surplus ammunition or any ammunition of any description that is made in Eastern Europe or China, clean your guns repeatedly!]

Remember, after cleaning, you can apply a thin layer of oil to protect from rust.  Blued or parkerized finishes will still rust.  But notice, I say “thin”.  Excess oil will attract dirt, and can freeze an action in very cold weather.

Now, for spare parts.  Replacement spring sets are available for most guns, usually for about $10 to $20.  They are inexpensive, and can be purchased from  or   The other items I would recommend are replacement pin kits, a spare firing pin, and a spare extractor.  If you have an odd or old gun, you may be able to find parts from Numrich at  Some guns like an AR-15 have critical spare parts kits available for around $35.  Even if you don’t feel comfortable replacing some of these parts, gunsmiths will be around, and if you have the parts, and diagrams, they can fix it for you.

Recommended tools would include a basic gunsmithing screwdriver set, some pin punches, a plastic faced or rawhide hammer, needle nose pliers, and some sort of vise, with padding for the jaws.  Specialty tools might be a broken shell extractor for your caliber rifle.

Battery powered optical sights are great, but be sure to have spare batteries, and some sort of iron back-up sights in the event they break.  Extra magazines are also essential.

I don’t want to get into specific guns to buy, but I would recommend a “reliable” one.  Cheap or worn-out guns should be replaced now.  You can keep old ones for barter, but don’t rely on them for yourself.  Also, some guns can cycle reliably on any ammo you feed it, while others are very sensitive to different loads and brands.  You may not be able to have the luxury of buying the exact brand that you like in a SHTF situation, so maybe it is time to trade for one that is happy with anything.  Most new guns need at least 500 rounds run through to properly break them in.  Another good reason to practice!

Another good source of information on particular firearms are the gun forums online.  For instance,,,, or You will learn pretty much all that you need to learn from them.  Just remember, as with this and any info you find on the internet, use common sense applying it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I'm writing to follow up on the recent SurvivalBlog article ".22 Handguns and Other Options For Self Defense". Another consideration to keep in mind when discussing the .22 rimfire: In a TEOTWAWKI situation the need for stealth will be paramount. The .22 LR cartridge lends itself to silencing better than any other caliber. [JWR Adds: Most of the "Target"-designated .22 LR loads are subsonic.] I think the legal purchase of a suppressor in the U.S. ("All NFA rules apply") should be very high on the “to do” list of every “prepper”. The ability to silently eliminate pests, and to take game (in extremis) could go a long way in keeping you under the radar.
I’ve heard the old argument about being put on a Government “list” by buying a $200 transfer tax NFA item (suppressor, full auto weapon, short barreled rifle or shotgun) but the truth is that if you have bought any type of firearm, been on Internet sites such as this, or bought any number of items with a credit card or over the Internet you are already on one or more likely many “lists”. - Regards, - R.A.S.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

R.F.D. is spot on with the write-up, on .22 LR and to take this a step further,  everyone should do their own "field tests". Most people (My estimation) can not or will not spend enough range time to be proactive in having the hands on experience to get not only the right weapon but equally important the right caliber for them and/also the first hand knowledge of what they can do to both living tissue or objects.  I have over my learning period of 50 plus years and hundreds of thousands of rounds shot, understood that I wanted several calibers and types of guns for my use. For distances under 50 yards, maybe a hyper-velocity .22,  under a 100 a .223, up to 200 yards a .30-06, over 200 yards  my caliber of choice is a .375 H&H magnum.  Again my choices. 
I differ in my opinion about the .22 rimfire round, be it a Short, Long, Long Rifle, or the hyper-velocity Long Rifle hollow point.   In first hand experience at a shooting range in Kansas City, Kansas years ago I saw first hand an accidental shooting where one shot to the chest with a standard 22 LR bullet that entered and exited a man's chest killing him on the spot.  My years of outdoor shooting and hunting with most calibers and types of firearms allowed me to to make my own choices on what I determined worked for me.   As everybody has an opinion, the old adage "Do not believe anything you hear and half of what you see"  has worked for me.  As an example take a unopened Number 10 can of any type of food that has gone bad and use it for a target, lets say 20 to 30 yards,  using a .22 pistol or rifle (several barrel lengths in the same caliber would give you a hands on demo of velocity loss in short barrels)  and using a .22 LR CCI Stingers (which is considered to be a hyper-velocity hollow point)  watch what happens to the can when hit.  Its going to enter the front of the can with a pencil size hole but on the backside it will either split the can by exploding the contents or at the very least exit with a slightly larger hole (due to expansion of the hollow point bullet) with a bulging of the can due to energy transfer and a not so nice effect on the contents of the can.  Also try one-gallon plastic jugs filled with water, etc and you will get a  impressive result also.
In tests I have used .25 caliber, thru 9mm and .38, on junk yard autos in comparison to hyper-velocity 22LR ammo. Most automobiles are like tanks on the first round hits sometimes it will penetrate sometimes it will not.  I have been amazed that a standard 9mm and .38 Special round may not even penetrate the glass on the first round, though subsequent rounds may.  On metal and even plastic they can be even more limited.  But taking the same vehicle, and given it a hose down with CCI Stingers will be impressive.  I used to ask people if you had a situation where two combatants where only armed with pistols or were at a 100 yard distance shooting at each other one shooting a .22LR with Stingers versus the other armed with a 9mm or .38 Special, then who do you think is going to come out the winner?  My vote is for the person with the .22 LR every time. 
I have in my past poached deer at night for food, using a .22 LR hyper-velocity hollow point ammo. A double tap to the head at no more than 20 yards and I never had a deer that survived.  A body shot to the torso, might take one down, but as a hunter the only method is to humanely harvest the animal [with head shots].  In a worst case situation, I am not worried about being humane, just putting the threat down or out of action.   So my advice is make your determination through actual field testing in order to get it right for you. Bottom line, any gun that shoots is better than no gun. Furthermore, shot placement is also a big factor, with several rounds to ensure the outcome is on your side. 
Happy Trails, - John in Arizona

Sunday, February 12, 2012

J.S. did a pretty good review of multi caliber weapons ("Introduction to Multi-Caliber Guns by J.S.") but he forgot the time honored Thompson-Center (T-C) Encore and Contender, now owned by Smith and Wesson single-shot firearms.  
The Encore and Contender firearm lines not only allow changing barrels but to convert from pistol to rifle and back again by not only switching barrels but stocks, forearms and grips.  Encores are the larger frame and can handle almost any cartridge that you can.  You can buy barrels from 12 gauge to sub-caliber Hornet based wildcats and with either an offset barrel or a modified firing pin assembly even .22 LR, Long or Short.  There are also muzzleloading barrels in several calibers made for them.  
The Contender now being sold in the G2 version is a smaller frame than the Encore that switches between rim and centerfire cartridges with the flip of a lever on the hammer.  Earlier Contenders are not as strong as the G2 version and need to be checked for stretched frames if bought used.  The contender is a 20 gauge and smaller firearm with many common rifle and pistol rounds chambered in the many barrels that have been made for it.  Barrels are interchangeable between Contender and G2 Contender frames but not between the Contender and the Encore frames.   
T-C has just introduced a new multi cartridge rifle that is a magazine-fed bolt action repeater with a three-round magazine called the Dimension that has interchangeable barrels, magazines and bolts from .204 Ruger to .300 Winchester Magnum.  It is an interesting firearm that fills some needs. - Lowell K.

Captain Rawles,
I just wanted to add to the very well thought out and well-written article, Introduction to Multi-Caliber Guns by J.S. 

He mentions that the .454 Casull can also handle .45 Colt, the new Smith and Wesson .460 S&W Magnum revolver will fire .460 S&W Magnum as well as the .454 Casull and .45 Colt cartridges.   That gives you three options if you were considering a large bore revolver.
Keep up the good fight. Thank you - Brad M.

Friday, February 10, 2012

There have been dozens of articles on survival firearms on SurvivalBlog, and many of them focus on the “bare minimum” and/or doing the most with the fewest firearms.  None of us wants to fall into the trap of over-emphasizing firearms at the expense of food, water, arable land, and other supplies for balanced preparation.  We all know of “that guy” with 100 guns and a case of MREs who considers himself prepared for anything.  This is especially important when you’re looking to bug out WTSHTF; it’s very difficult to reconcile leaving firearms behind and, say, 50 long guns + 50 handguns + ammo & accessories can easily fill a truck all by themselves.

I wanted to focus on firearms that can either fire multiple calibers without modification or with fairly minor modification --- no unscrewing of barrels with special spanner wrenches, etc.  There are two purposes behind multi-caliber guns (or MCGs) for the prepper:  to increase the flexibility of the firearm to use found or bartered ammo, and to increase the utility of the firearm (reduced recoil, hunting a larger variety of animals, etc).  The big reason behind most of these for the non-prepper is cost of shooting, which is related to the prepper concern of cost of stockpiling.

I am splitting MCGs into two categories, those that require no modification and those that do.  Some of these are basic knowledge to old hat gun nuts, but talk to any gun store employee and they will tell you there is no such thing as “common knowledge” when it comes to guns.

If I get anything wrong please let me know!  I’ve shot plenty of these but far from all, a lot of this is research.  If in doubt, read the manual that comes with the gun, manufacturers are getting quite savvy at covering their butts with warnings against cartridges that will chamber but aren’t meant for the gun.

MCGs not requiring modification:

Most MCGs that don’t require modification to shoot multiple calibers typically just fire cartridges of the same bore diameter but differing power.  Less powerful cartridges are often cheaper and put far less stress on the weapon (increased longevity).  I list the longest cartridge first.

.22 Long Rifle (LR) / .22 Long / .22 Short:  Nearly all revolvers and tube-fed, non semi-auto (bolt, level, pump) rifles that fire .22 Long Rifle will fire their older, weaker .22 Long and .22 Short cartridges just fine.  Semi autos designed for the .22 LR won’t cycle these weaker cartridges but can be used as a single shot.  The utility is questionable as .22 Long and .22 Short are much, much less common than .22 LR.  .22 Short is fine for pest control in built-up areas but in a true grid-down SHTF scenario I think subsonic .22 LR will be much, much more useful.  Also, the shorter cased .22 Long and .22 Short can build up lead in the chamber (making shooting .22 LR difficult until cleaned) and worse, with continued use can fire-cut the chamber directly in front of the case and ruin it for .22 LR shooting.

***I am not aware of a single firearm that can safely and accurately shoot .22 LR and .22 Magnum (also called .22 WMR) without modification due to the wider case of the .22 Magnum.  .22 Magnum won’t chamber in a .22 LR gun, and while .22 LR will slip just fine into a .22 Magnum chamber, it will cause split cases, jammed cylinders, and other problems.  There are a number of revolvers that can shoot both with a cylinder change that I’ll dig into later in the article.

.357 Magnum / .38 Special:  Probably the most common MCG combination.  Any .357 Magnum revolver and lever / pump action rifle will fire .38 Special.  Both are extremely common.  From a prepper standpoint, I believe one should always get a .357 Magnum versus a .38 Special gun, it’s going to be built much stronger, fires both rounds, and will be just a fraction heavier / larger.  Most .357 Magnum semi autos will not cycle with .38 Specials.  The newer Coonan Arms .357 Magnum pistols are built to use .38 Specials with a special weaker recoil spring.

The most unique variant of the .357 Magnum MCG is definitely the Phillips & Rodgers Model 47 Medusa revolver.  These were low-production in the late 1990s and are exceedingly hard to find and expensive when you do run across one.  They were designed to fire just about any non-bottlenecked pistol bullet (rimmed or not) in the .355-.357 bullet diameter range.  This is 25+ cartridges and includes the .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .380, 9x19mm, .38 Super, etc.  They are still in use by the Navy SEALs as they can be fired underwater.  I consider this the ultimate long-term SHTF centerfire handgun, although parts are hard to stock up and a single gun might run you $1500 or more.

.44 Magnum / .44 Special:  Pretty much the same dynamic as the .357 Magnum / .38 Special, although .44 Special isn’t very common and not a discount from “Wal-Mart” .44 Magnum for the shooter/stockpiler.  .44 Special is much more tolerable and easy to shoot than full-bore .44 Magnum loads if you’re considering how to arm your less gun-savvy or smaller-statured friends WTSHTF.  The only .44 Magnum semi-auto pistol I’m aware of, the Desert Eagle, won’t cycle .44 Special.

.327 Magnum / .32 H&R Magnum / .32 S&W Long revolvers:  The new .327 Magnum will fire all three while the .32 H&R Magnum can also fire the .32 S&W Long.  None are very common, the main selling point of the .327 Magnum is that the guns typically hold 6 cartridges versus a snub nose .38 Special or .357 Magnum that holds 5.  Not much SHTF utility here.

.410 bore / .454 Casull / .45 Colt:  There has been a recent crop of .45 Colt revolvers that can also fire .410 bore shotgun shells (Taurus / Rossi Judge series, S&W Governor, etc).  I’ve had the pleasure of shooting an early Judge and think it’s a great pest control gun but fail to see the utility in it WTSHTF.  Perhaps more useful are .454 Casull / .45 Colt revolvers as the .454 can be used on medium to large game along with predator protection while the .45 Colt is a better fit for self defense against two legged varmints.  If you’re convinced you need a shotgun revolver, get a S&W Governor as it will fire .45 ACP as well, kind of a poor man’s Medusa in .45.  The Taurus Raging Judge will fire .410, .454, and .45 Colt but is a big handgun and weighs more than 4 pounds, empty!

While any .454 Casull will fire .45 Colt, don’t try .454 Casull or .45 Colt in any .410 bore shotgun unless it explicitly calls for it.  A good rule is any smoothbore .410 shotgun is only designed for .410 shotgun shells; you’re not going to hit anything smaller than a bus with a .45 Colt out of a smoothbore, and a .454 Casull round just might blow your gun/face up. (It has five times the maximum pressure of a .410 shotgun shell).

MCGs requiring modification:

The sky is the limit with MCGs that require some modification to shoot additional calibers.  New cylinders, barrels, upper receivers, etc turn one firearm into two or more.

.22 Long Rifle conversion kits for semi-auto pistols and rifles:  This is such a great concept that nearly every popular centerfire pistol and rifle has a conversion kit.  Originally popular with military forces for cheap target practice, this has bled over into the civilian shooting community that likes cheap practice too.  For the prepper, this allows one to use one gun for defense / big game hunting and quickly convert to hunt small game.  Also, one can easily and inexpensively stockpile tens of thousands of .22 LR, in a long term SHTF scenario you can keep your guns running longer.  I’d sure rather have a Model 1911 in .22LR versus a butcher knife spear for example.  Below I have listed some common guns that have kits available.

ARs chambered for 5.56x45mm / .223
Mini-14s chambered for 5.56x45mm / .223
AKs chambered for 7.62x39mm
FAL and clones
G3/HK91 and clones
HK93/33 and clones
Beretta/Taurus 92-style pistols
Browning Hi-Power
SIG-Sauer P series
CZ-75 series

.22 Long Rifle / .22 Magnum switch-cylinder revolvers:  These are revolvers that will shoot both calibers with a simple spare cylinder.  The most common is the well-made Ruger Single Six Convertible.  Harrington & Richardson makes a cheaper knockoff that lacks the transfer bar safety and polish of the Ruger.  Great utility to use two very common cartridges.

.357 Magnum or .38 Special / 9x19mm switch-cylinder revolvers:  Perhaps less well known are the switch cylinder .357 Magnums to fire 9x19mm (although more common in Europe).  Ruger makes a convertible Blackhawk single action.

.45 Colt / .45 ACP switch-cylinder revolvers:  Ruger also makes a Blackhawk convertible for these two calibers.

Rossi Wizard Series:  A couple of years ago Rossi came out with a line of single shot long guns that, with a barrel change, could convert to a large selection of rimfire, centerfire, muzzleloader, and shotgun cartridges.  Now one rifle could be an inexpensive .22 LR, a deer-slaying .30-06, a muzzleloader for that hunting season, and a 12g shotgun for birds --- or anything in between.  Of course, the drawback is it’s a single shot, but the utility is hard to ignore, especially the youth models.  Find out what the most popular calibers are in your area and get a Wizard with those barrels just in case.

7.62x25mm Tokarev / 9x19mm switch-barrel conversions:  Although they can be tough to find, most pistols in 7.62x25mm like the CZ-52 and Tokarev clones have had 9x19mm barrels made for them.  Great way to make these handguns more useful in a SHTF scenario as 7.62x25mm isn’t all that common.

.40 S&W / .357 SIG switch-barrel conversions:  Most popular pistols in either caliber have a barrel available for the other.  If you have one, get the barrel for the other caliber.

I am aware of switch barrels to convert Glocks and SIGs in .40 S&W or .357 SIG to 9x19mm, not sure if there is another pistol this conversion is available for.

10mm / 9x25mm Dillon switch-barrel conversions:  There are 9x25mmD barrels available for 1911s and Glock 20 pistols (perhaps others but I’m not aware of them).  9x25mmD was designed for competition shooting and produces enormous flash and noise.  It does not have much SHTF utility, in my view.

In addition to 9x25mm Dillon, there are switch barrels for the 10mm Glock 20 for .40 S&W, .357 SIG, and even special order .38 Super (these are NOT the same as the stock Glock barrels for their respective models but are special fit for the Glock 20).  The Glock 20 is a pretty amazing gun that can fire 5 calibers with a barrel change and has a .22 LR conversion kit too.  And, since it shares the same frame as the .45 ACP Glock 21, you could get a complete .45 ACP slide & barrel for your Glock 20 to make it a Glock 21 (and then, naturally, get a .400 Cor-Bon barrel for it, see below).  Or go the other way and start with a Glock 21 and get all the Glock 20 stuff.  Great pistols, not a huge surprise they are so popular.  Apologize if anyone went cross-eyed trying to follow this explanation!

.45 ACP / .400 Cor-Bon switch-barrel conversions:  Many pistols chambered for .45 ACP have .400 Cor-Bon barrels available.  Most of the time these don’t require a new recoil spring.  The .400 Cor-Bon is a poor man’s 10mm and is simply a .45 ACP necked down to a .400/10mm bullet.  .400 Cor-Bon never gained much popularity, but there are some that convert their .45 ACP to a 6” barrel .400 Cor-Bon for hunting and predator defense.  For preppers, not sure it’s truly worth the money unless you want one handgun for human and predator defense.

SIG P250 Pistols:  The P250 is a pistol from SIG that can change calibers (.22 LR, 9x19mm, .357 SIG, .40 S&W, .45 ACP) by changing the slide and barrel assembly (and magazines) much like an AR upper.  More expensive than, say, a Glock 22 with a .40 S&W, .357 SIG, and 9x19 barrels but throw in the .45 ACP which a .40 S&W Glock can’t do.  With all of the kits you have a handgun that covers almost every common pistol caliber.  I’d still rather have a Glock 20/21 will all the accessories as described above.

The less common EAA Witness full sized pistols can switch between .22 LR, 9x19mm, .38 Super, .40 S&W, .357 SIG, 10mm, and .45 ACP by changing the slide assembly and magazine.  Each kit is about $200.

AR Upper Receivers:  I saved the best for last, this is where most of the MCG action has been in the last 10+ years.  An entire new family of cartridges has been created around the constraint of the AR-15 magazine well width and AR-10 cartridges like the .243 Winchester have gained popularity as well.  Buying an upper is almost always going to be less expensive than a complete rifle, and if you put a lot of money into a lower with an aftermarket trigger, high-end stock, and grip why not stretch that out to several platforms?  Of course, the big drawback is one lower, one shooter --- bad if you need to defend your retreat and none of your buddies bring a rifle.  Some may come to the conclusion that 2-3 complete ARs are better than one lower and 5 uppers.  If you’re going to make the leap, I am of the opinion that a 5.56x45mm base rifle + pistol caliber matching your sidearm + 6.5 Grendel long barrel with scope + .22 LR conversion kit would be the most effective and efficient setup.  Note that, even pinching pennies with lower end upper assemblies, this will be almost $3,000 before optics.  For $2,500 you could buy a basic AR, an inexpensive pistol carbine like a Hi-Point or Kel-Tec SUB2000, a budget long range .308 bolt action rifle, and a .22 LR kit for your AR (or basic Ruger 10/22 rifle) and have 3-4 complete guns.  It’s not for everyone and your mileage may vary.  I honestly don’t see much utility in multiple uppers for AR-10s as, beyond .308 and .243, the cartridges are just not all that common. 

Now, the newly announced Colt CM-901, with its lower receiver that can adapt to both AR-15 and AR-10 size uppers, will be a great SHTF platform if it works as advertised.  You could have a CQB 5.56mm carbine and a long range .308 in one platform.

Upper calibers for AR-15 type guns (available non-custom):
5.56x45mm / .223 (of course)
.22 Long Rifle (although the conversion kits are going to be cheaper by a long shot)
5.45x39mm (super cheap surplus ammo but filthy and often corrosively primed!)
6.5 Grendel (great long range cartridge)
6.8x43mm SPC
.300 AAC Blackout (great for suppressed rifles)
9x19mm (also great for suppressed rifles)
.45 ACP
.40 S&W
.50 Beowulf
.450 Bushmaster
.458 SOCOM
.30 Remington AR
.243 WSSM (Olympic Arms)
.25 WSSM (Olympic Arms)
.300 OSSM (Olympic Arms)
.204 Ruger
.50 BMG single shot (not sure how great these are, but they’re available)
And more…

Upper calibers for AR-10 type guns (not all are current production):
7.62x51mm / .308 Winchester (of course)
.243 Winchester
.260 Remington
6.5 Creedmoor
.338 Federal
.284 Winchester
.450 Marlin
.358 Winchester
.257 Roberts
Entire WSM family
Entire SAUM family

I hope this detailed look into multi-caliber guns gives good food for thought, especially if you’re looking to build a small battery of flexible SHTF firearms that’s highly portable versus a huge, difficult to move stockpile at your permanent live-in retreat.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The art of making usable material out of the skin of animals has been in practice since the beginning of mankind. Hide tanning is one of the oldest skills known to man that is still in practice today. I'm sure that with the economy the way it is anyone who isn't rich and in their right mind won't want to pay the going price for quality leather, much less traditionally tanned leather. 

Not only is the making of leather an old practice but it was used all over the world and to a certain extent, still is today. Leather can be used for anything that needs to be durable under hard conditions such as shoes, saddles, and armor. However, the American Indians tanned a more supple, softer leather than the stiff, rugged tacking leather that we know of and are used to often known as buckskin. While being almost as durable as the shoe leather of the English settlers, it was also just as soft and porous as a cotton T-shirt. It has been told that George Washington actually ordered white buckskin pants made for his soldiers to reduce resources spent on fabric and sewing. However, with the introduction of the industrial revolution, the former art of tanning using bark and brains was replaced with chrome tanning and other chemical tanning agents. Buckskin was then replaced with denim and other strongly woven fabrics. The convenience of this “new” material out sold the small cottage business and the art of brain tanning all but disappeared. Bark tanning on the other hand is still used today and encouraged in the US to protect the environment rather than the use of toxic chemicals.

I became interested in tanning after my dad shot his first deer. While always having been raised under the classic motto of  “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”, I wanted to try to tan the hide. Being only about 14years old at the time I didn't really have a lot of money to spend on chemicals and professional tanning equipment. Instead started researching the original methods that could be done with nothing more than what was found in the woods or that I could make myself. So I gathered the materials I needed based on what information I had read. Even though I read a book on brain tanning and several online articles, it still took a lot trial and error for me to figure it out. I completely destroyed about 5 or 6 deer hides before I got 1 deer hide decently tanned.

Now, if we look at the practical aspects of tanning in the light of a preparedness lifestyle; we see many more uses to leather than what meets the eye. For example, If the grid was to go down and society as we know it goes back to a hunter gatherer environment, then being able to make and provide your own clothing could be critical to your survival. Needless to say leather would outlast anything that could be woven or spun and in turn also be twice as warm without sacrificing physical comfort or ease of use. Leather can also be a great bartering tool. Even now, the going price for brain, egg, oil ,   buckskin is anywhere from $15 to $25 a sq ft and bark tanned leather for about $10 to 15 a sq ft. In a post apocalyptic scenario, that could equate to canned goods or ammo.  Did I mention that leather tanned using the traditional methods is can even be eaten? If you boil buckskin, the preserved fibers in the hide basically disintegrate into moist, soft, spaghetti like texture. No, I've not eaten buckskin so I can't really say how it tastes, But I know people who were daring enough to try it and they liked it. If you've ever eaten brains, tongue, liver, you lunch meat from the local grocery store I think it can be done.

Judging from my personal experience, learning to tan is not something anyone will likely learn in any one article or book. For me it took trial and error, for others it took someone showing them or giving hands on experience in a class or personally. That is why it is important to research and learn this fabulous skill. For me, perseverance was key. Even though I had completely ruined at least 5 different deer hides before I ever got the 1 tanned it made the difference between me knowing how to keep my family clothed; during a sustained collapse or not. I believe tanning is and important skill to learn, and in hopes of inspiring someone to begin learning on their own I will outline the three basic steps in tanning. Since I've only tanned deer hides so far, I will explain as though it were with a deer hide. I do plan on tanning different kinds of hides and furs, but for now, I stay busy with deer hides.     

First, you'll need to gather the tools.  You'll need the following tools:    a scraper, five gallon bucket or two, some cord (optional), either 1 pound of pork or cattle brains (that is, if your not using the brains that came with the animal.), or about 6 eggs, or one bar of you favorite smelling bars of soap with about 2 cups of any kind of non petroleum based oil, a basic understanding of the tanning process, and a lot of willingness to work. I use an old scythe blade as a scraper because it is just sharp enough to scrape off the hair, flesh, and membrane and not so sharp that it will cut up the hide. Whatever tool usually works fine as long as its not too sharp.

Three basics step are required to successfully tan deer hides, scraping, dressing, and tanning. There are quite a few variables as far as how to complete each step, different tools for each step, and so on. Do remember that even if you were to try and tan really traditionally using one method of a certain American Indian tribe for instance, you would have to pick which tribe because they all had different methods. Every tanner has a special formula or secret ingredient that supposedly makes the hide greater in some way. The best thing for any interested beginner is to just try a few different ways of tanning on some hides for themselves and find out what works best for them.

Scraping- the first thing you need to do is get your hide ready to scrape. If it was in the freezer, thaw it using some hot water just so that it gets back to being flexible and loose just like it did when I came off the animal. If you got it from a friend or a butcher who salted it, than you'll want to scrape all of the salt off, or just proceed to fleshing.

The first part of the scraping process is to flesh the hide. The goal of this part is to get all of the big chucks of meat, fat, and membrane off of the hide so that all you can see is the white part of the hide. Its up to you if you save the hide junk or not. I don't because I don't need it, but I know people who use it as dog treats. I know that the Inuit Indians up north save all of that stuff for tallow and to eat in stews and such. Who knows, if we ever come to TEOTWAWKI, than I might just be eating some hide meat.

Next you de-hair the hide. There are many ways to go about this step; I soak the hide in a wood ash/water solution known as the buck. This is to raise the pH of the hide toward the alkaline side of things so that the emulsified oils can penetrate later when you dress the hide. The other purpose of the buck is to swell the hide so that the hair will slip and kind of fall out on its own. This is a good step, but isn't necessary. Some people just soak it in water until the hair slips. I've done both and always prefer to buck the hide. It make everything much easier!

Now that the hide has been fleshed and de-haired, the flesh side of the hide has to be scraped again to get all of the membrane off. Even though that side has already been scraped, there is still an underlying layer of membrane called the Hypo-Dermis. that should be removed. If the hide was bucked, then it has to be done because the membrane has been stained by the ashes which might cause skin issues if it's left. If you just soak it in water really good instead of bucking the hide, you don't have to worry about that as much. In fact, some people leave the membrane because it gives a nice fuzzy feel to it. I don't like the fuzzy feel, so I don't keep the membrane.

Now that the hide has been successfully scraped, it should be rinsed thoroughly to get all of the hair and junk off of it. If the hide was bucked than it would be a good idea to either give it a vinegar bath, or soak it in a creek. The reason being that the alkalinity needs to be rinsed out either by balancing the pH levels with acidic vinegar, or by a constant current to whisk the alkalinity out of the hide. I use vinegar because we always have it in our house and it's easily at my disposal. But if we needed that vinegar for preps because the grocery store is being looted you can bet that I'll go down by the creek to rinse my hides! Just remember that if you use vinegar to only use about 1/4 cup per 3 gallon. A little goes a long way.

Dressing- This is the easy step. A lot of people really freak out about this step, but since I'm crazy enough to mess with dead animal skin, I guess I'm crazy enough to mess with dead animal brains! In truth, however, I seldom tan a hide with just brains. Since not every one who gives me deer hides also gives me the head and I simply refuse to spend money on tanning, I have to conserve my brains (thus the title). But, since we also try to save soap for washing, oil for cooking, and eggs for eating, I somehow have figured out how to mix them all together into one happy family. I also never mentioned that you can also use the liver and eyes. A little too grotesque? Well then there's also corn, jojoba berries, yucca root,  and even aloe juice. The goal is to coat the inner fibers of the hide with emulsified oils so that when you soften the hide it doesn't stiffen up. The hide becomes stiff because of the individual fibers in the hide locking together

There is a couple of things that needs to be done to get the hide ready for the dressing. Once the hide is rinsed, all of the moisture needs to be wrung out really good. And when I say really good, I mean REALLY good! The idea is to have it as dry as possible without getting it too dry. What I usually do is I get a strong stick, like an axe handle, and throw the top of the hide over the clothes line pole. Once the hide is over the pole so that there's more hide hanging off of one side of the pole than the other. Then put the other end of the hide over the end that's already on the pole so that there's a hide loop. Roll the two sides of the hide together and put the stick in the middle of the hide loop. Twist it until you can't twist any more then hold it until the water leaving the hide becomes just a drip and untwist then twist the other way and repeat. Once the hide is wrung as wrung gets, (trust me, you'll know) you'll need to stretch it back open so that the hide is all white again. Remember that the hide will still be wet in some spots and this is fine. Nobody is going to get every last drop of water out of the hide. Besides, you'll have to wring it after it is dressed and re-dress it a few times before the hide is ready to soften anyway.

Dressing the hides goes as follows: get about 2 cups of whatever emulsified pudding you plan to dress the hide in, mix it with 3 to 5 gallons of hot water, and work the hide into the dressing. A good dressing to start with would be about a half dozen eggs of any kind , or about 1 pound of brains. Once the hide is worked into the dressing thoroughly, leave it for a while and wring it again. I usually wring my hides at least 3 times to make sure that the dressing penetrated all of the pores good enough. Should the dressing not penetrate good enough than stiff spots will occur resulting in a hide that is not uniformly soft.

Tanning - First, the hide needs to be softened.  This is done by working the hide continuously until it is completely dry. If the hide is not dry by the time you quit working it, than it will get stiff.

There are 2 different ways to soften hides, 1) hand softening, 2) frame softening. The first hide I ever tanned was hand softened and I vowed to myself that I would never do it again. There is nothing wrong with the method itself, it's just that I couldn't figure it out and when I tried, I failed. I feel lucky that I  eventually tanned 1 hide using that method.

The general idea behind hand softening is simply to keep stretching the hide in multiple directions constantly. Some people use a steel cable pull the hide against the cable using a back and forth motion. On the other hand, some simply stretch the hide between their knees. The benefit of this method is that at any moment that you might need a break, you can put the hide in an airtight bag so that is doesn't dry out and get back to it when you have time. One way or the other, it is important to keep stretching and working hide until it is dry.

I on the other hand prefer to frame soften. Using this method requires some wood to build a frame with, some cord to lace it into the frame with, and a stick to soften it with. The benefit of this method is that the hide stretches wider and thinner rather than in whatever shape that it happened to be in when it finished drying. Yeah, you can't put a bag on it when your ready to quit, but the hide also dries faster because more of it is exposed to air at once. However, the key still is to work the hide until it is completely and uniformly dry and soft. If the hide should try to dry up, take it out of the frame and throw it back in the dressing before it dries too much. Otherwise you'll have a dried up, stiff mess that won't take the dressing as easily.

Once the hide is softened, jump up and down in celebration, because the hide is tanned! Now, you have the option to either smoke the hide, or leave it white. Wood smoke has a natural chemical in it known as formaldehyde that will create tiny little “bridges” between the fibers that you worked to hard to preserve so that should the hide ever get wet it would retain it's softness. A lot of people actually machine wash their hides to knock the smoky smell off of them. Also, smoking the hides gives them some color. What color depends on what kind of wood is used, the moisture level of the wood, how old the wood is, etc. I've gotten shades everywhere from light tan to dark brown.

There are a few different ways to smoke hides. Some people make a tepee and drape the hide over the fire. I've tried this method before and didn't like it because it took too long to completely smoke the hide. Instead, I glue the hide together lengthwise leaving one end open so that it resembles a case or a pouch. I then tie cord to the two top corners of the “hide case” and hang the hide from a branch, pole, or anything of the appropriate height. Once the hide is hung as described, I get a old coffee can, build a fire in it,  let the fire die so that its only coals, then put my smoking material on the coals so it produces smoke. When I get my smoke, I put the hide over the coffee can and tie it on so that the smoke goes into the hide and create almost a balloon with the smoke in the hide. Using this method requires that the holes be sewn shut so the smoke doesn't leave the hide. Once the hide is smoked it will last a very long time. I suggest washing it a few times, hanging it on the clothes line overnight, soaking it in water or something to knock the smoke smell off of it.

As I mentioned before, learning to tan from a single article on the internet is not likely. It took me hours and hours of research, talking to people on online discussion forums, experimenting with different methods, and a lot of trial and error. This article is really nothing more than a teaser and a crash course on some tanning basics. I encourage anyone truly interested in preparing or survival skills in general  to educate themselves in this incredibly rewarding and useful art.   

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I am a novice enthusiast. I will no doubt get concepts, practices or terminology wrong, in spite of a fair amount of research.  Forgive this please…..

I blithely lived out 51 years of life with a gun phobia. I have no idea why they scared me so, but scare me they did, and so I spent the bulk of my life with a generalized “guns must be bad because I’m afraid of them; they hurt and kill people” mindset.  My darling husband wasn’t really into shooting, when we married and since. He had an old .22 rifle that  he traded for in 1976 that was used maybe once every 2-3 years to shoot at a “varmint“, and I remember 2 or 3 occasions of going out plinking with someone’s handgun, that I wouldn‘t (couldn’t!) participate in: that was as far as our household ever got with firearms. And of course with my phobia I was always insistent that the .22 stay in the garage, or the shed, or the barn. No dangerous guns in my house, no sir.

Then came March of 2008. My “awakening“, my “becoming aware”. It started with Chris Martenson’s Crash Course, wandered into SurvivalBlog, and soon I was on my way toward becoming a full fledged prepper. So with my reading, and my believing of what was is coming down the pike in terms of our sustainability and survivability, firearms became a subject I was going to have to address. The simplistic liberal teachings I had always believed, that “guns kill people”, therefore “less guns means less killing“, were teachings that I soon realized I needed to really think through. Was it just my phobia? Was I being rational with my gun bias? What did statistics say? Why do people keep guns in their households? What is this 2nd Amendment stuff I keep reading about, and why might it be important? How does one’s personal morality fit with gun ownership? So I started reading and I started thinking. It seems silly and redundant for me to go into all of what I learned/came to realize (preaching to the choir here, I know!), and would take too long; suffice it to say that I came to see that the use of firearms in defending oneself and one’s family against thieves and killers, or unconstitutional governments or gangs, is not an immoral choice. I came to see the truth in the saying (paraphrasing here) “when guns are illegal, only criminals will own guns”, and I came to see that guns can save a life in more-than-equal measure to taking one. Ultimately, embracing preparedness finally did what nothing else could do for me: I saw the need for not only having guns in the house, but for learning how to use and care for them myself.

How did I start? was deathly afraid of the things.  My first step was having my husband bring the .22 into the house. I looked at it and I lived with it, every day. It was never shot, but just having it in the house was a necessary first step for my phobic self. After a few weeks I felt ready (gingerly, very very gingerly) to handle the rifle, to have my husband explain to me how it worked, what it ate for fuel, what safe handling of the thing meant. I kept telling/reminding myself that I was committed to learning about firearms, committed to getting over this phobia. This would be a recurring thought-process throughout my entire journey: “mind over matter”. It became easier as time went by, as I discovered that shooting can actually be fun. But early on it was a struggle. I had to work through safe use of firearms = handling = familiarity = beginning acceptance. Handling and learning about the gun helped immensely.

After a few months I felt ready for some back-pasture plinking. Not so scary anymore, actually kind of fun. Familiarity with the gun was working. Feeling safer and more competent with what I was doing was working. But it was time to take things to the next level, a level I couldn’t achieve with my husband. So sorry, but husbands as a rule are not good gun-trainers with gun-newbie wives. They are not as concerned with safe practices as we are, and they have the “I’ve always done it this way so this is the way you do it” -  mentality. (Gotta love ‘em, but don’t always have to learn to shoot with ‘em.) And of course in my case, I have a husband who hans’t done a whole lot of shooting himself. It was a classic case of the blind leading the blind.

How to start some gun-education for me? I thought about seeking out area gun ranges or clubs to find professional training, but found none closer than 25 miles away, my work schedule was problematic, and really I still felt too intimidated with my lack of gun knowledge to try them for starter training. I don’t even know what gun(s) I should learn to shoot! What now? Hallelujah - Women On Target (WOT) days to the rescue! I don’t remember how we found out about them…  (My journey towards firearms has been in conjunction with a woman friend), but we did indeed find out about this wonderful resource. WOT days, sponsored by the NRA, are an absolutely excellent resource for women wanting to learn about firearms. A full day of shooting, with caring and patient instructors, in all manner of firearms, with a fine lunch and an affordable price - this is a day not to be missed. The workshops are short and low-key, suitable for novices and more experienced shooters alike. They are set up to just allow women the experience of shooting a variety of guns with no performance pressure under safe and comfortable conditions.  Newbies are welcomed and coddled, and the instructors at all of the workshops I attended just wanted you to be successful at some manner of shooting. They went out of their way to make us feel comfortable and safe and competent. And the women-only camaraderie makes the day way fun, everyone supports and cheers achievements, and there’s great swag at the end of the day too!

We shot all manner of guns: different high-powered rifles, various sizes/calibers of handguns, shotguns, black-powder rifles, and archery was included too. It is an opportunity to figure out just what kind of gun you/a woman is most comfortable with. I initially thought that while I had my bit of background with a .22 rifle, I needed to learn to shoot a handgun, as a handgun is obviously the best choice for women. I wanted to learn what was the best handgun for me. Well, surprise. After my first two WOT days (I have since attended a third), I realized that I am a shotgun woman. Can’t explain it, there is no reason for it, but out of all the shooting I did, the shotgun was the gun for me. It was the fun factor. Both workshops used both semi-autos and pumps, and I immediately gravitated to a pump action shotgun as a firearm I could actually have fun with. It was a defining moment. (A confession: pumping that action is downright sexy.) I had found a firearm that “spoke to me”, and therefore one that I was interested in learning about and becoming competent with. This, it seems to me, is where a newbie interest starts, with finding a firearm that has the fun factor.  My friend who has attended all the workshops with me is starting to become a high-powered rifle aficionado, against all odds. She, like me, had started this learning process thinking that a handgun was what she wanted to focus on, but her exposure to target rifles convinced her otherwise (and I see venison in my future as a result of her unexpected affinity for the hunting rifles. The woman is uncannily accurate for a newbie!) . Bottom line: a WOT day can start the process toward learning what firearm is the one a woman naturally gravitates to. The one she can have an interest in and wants to earn competence in. The one that has some fun factor. And that is the gun that the newbie woman should focus on, whatever it may be.

Because let’s face it, a modern life is a busy life. Full-time jobs, children and grandchildren, homemaking and caretaking: adding a new hobby/learning-experience can be a hard thing to fit into the day. So even though learning a firearm is serious business, finding one that she finds fun to shoot means that she will find/make the time to practice and learn. I think this is such an important point that it cannot be overstated: you have got to find a firearm that your woman can have fun with, before she can or will commit to learning and training.

As for me, deciding that I wanted to learn to shoot a shotgun ended up being the way around the last vestiges of my phobia, with it becoming something I so enjoyed doing. Yes, I should become familiar and proficient with handguns, and rifles, and other tools of self defense. But I have to start somewhere, and since I realized that I am never going to be a true gun freak, it made sense for me to focus my energies on the one gun I truly enjoy shooting. I must have my own shotgun. I want to learn about and become familiar with and practice with and become competent with my very own one gun. I looked around for recommendations. After extensive internet research and lots of  local “good ol boy” questioning,  I decided that the Remington 870 Youth Express 20 gauge pump action was the gun for me. Ease of use, affordability and reliability were all criteria that the Remington seemed to offer. And my research told me that a 20 gauge shotgun makes a decent home defense weapon.

And they were right. Oh, she’s a honey! I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying shooting this gun. I’m not yet terribly proficient in target-shooting (though I ain‘t half-bad, either) but I am at this point quite competent in proper shouldering and follow through (no bruises!), quick loading and safe carrying. My accuracy will improve as I practice more out in the pasture with the cheap manual clay-thrower we got for me, We are able to get out for practice about twice a month. I’m so far sticking to 2 ¾” field loads in it; later I want to branch out to practice with buckshot, which load I understand is more suitable for home defense - I will have to learn to switch out the choke tube. And we last month installed a sling on my shotgun, so that I could/can now tote my gun cross country or in the field easily, if a situation would require it. Perhaps later I could even be responsible for putting some meat on the table!

My gun phobia is all but gone. (I am, however, left with a very healthy respect for safe practices. I joke to my husband that there are none so safe with a gun as the formerly gun phobic. We know that all guns are always loaded, and always know exactly where that barrel is pointed.) And my beginner training continues. My friend and I this fall attended a three-day Becoming an Outdoor Woman (BOW) weekend that my state holds - another remarkable learning opportunity for women.  Three days of  3 and 4-hour workshops in all sorts of outdoor skills, with lodging and meals - it’s a kind of “summer camp for women“. I of course signed up for all of the beginner shotgun workshops, and learned so much more about my shooting stance, and sighting, and the classroom instruction on how a shotgun actually works was fascinating (go figure: that I could come to enjoy a classroom lecture on how a shotgun works!) I came away with a new appreciation, and new tools, for learning how to use my shotgun.  My goals for the coming year are to attend an Appleseed Weekend and a Hunter’s Safety Course.  Both seem basic and must-do in my newbie quest toward firearm learning, safety and competence. I have also now found a “mentor”, a friend of my husband who will help me learn disassembly, cleaning, and choke tube switching of my shotgun. And I am looking again at the gun clubs within driving distance, that I dream of perhaps setting up some more-professional one-on-one training for me. I'm learning all of this slowly but surely.

So, there is my little story. I understand that I am nowhere near ready to repel a home invasion, or to be asked to join the 673rd Shotgun Infantry Fighting Rebels (Hey, I can see it happening). Still, I am starting to feel empowered, and competent, and oh so much more self-sufficient. (And I’m having a lot of fun too!) It is a wonderful thing, this feeling of knowing that whatever may come in the months and years ahead that I am better prepared to defend myself, my family, my homestead. And my feelings of empowerment are something that I think any gun shy or gun phobic woman can come to embrace, with proper and patient exposure and instruction.

(An aside: At this point in time [December 2011], I really hope to be given the time to get more proficient with my gun, before I have a true need for it. I worry more and more that such time is running out. I wish that I had started earlier.)

In summary:

(1) Try to get her involved! Think of ways to get your newbie woman to see the wisdom of having shooting skills. Think of ways to expose her to firearms. Exposure can grow into acceptance. Acceptance can grow into enthusiasm.
(2) Consider WOT and BOW. See above, and Google for information on programs in your state.  Women-only workshops can help take the fear, the mystique, and the performance pressure out of shooting, and allow her to find the “fun factor”.
(3) Find the firearm she considers fun. It doesn’t matter which one or type, if she can find the fun in shooting it she will be more likely to want to learn. Any start is a good start toward learning shooting skills.

God bless, happy shooting, and may we never need to raise our guns in fear or anger.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I like companies (and people) who think outside the box. I think this comes from my days as a Private Investigator, or when I was in law enforcement. In order to solve "mysteries" I had to think outside the box many times. So it is with firearms and ammo companies - if they want to stay in business, they have to keep coming up with different ideas, in order to pique their customers' interest.
Some months ago, I review some of the ammo that Buffalo Bore Ammunition ( produces. Tim Sundles, who owns Buffalo Bore, told me he was swamped with orders from SB readers as a result of that article. That's a good thing, I like to see smaller, American-owned companies rise in this day and age. Sundles isn't one to sit back and rest on his past accomplishments. Nope, this guy is always thinking outside the box, and coming up with new and better loads in some of the old standby calibers.
The grand ol' .38 Special has never been what it should be. Most ammo companies produce some pretty sedate loads for this old round, and I've always thought (knew) it could do better. Buffalo Bore has come up with a new hard cast "Outdoorsman" load for the .38 Special. This new Buffalo Bore load was designed for those who need a deep penetrating load to be fired from lightweight alloy .357s and .38 Special revolvers. Sundles discovered that alloy .357s developed multiple problems firing their heavy 180 grain .357 Magnum hard cast turbo charged ammo, or for that matter, any make of full-power .357 Magnum loads.
Many folks wanted a deep penetrating load for outdoor use, when carrying their lightweight pocket .357 Magnum revolvers. This new .38 Special +P 158 grain hard cast load is safe to shoot in all .38 Special and .357 Magnum firearms of modern design, in normal operating condition. I think there is only maker who says to not use +P loads in one of their particular super lightweight revolvers - that's Taurus - and it's only one of their revolvers.
Buffalo Bore never uses extra long test lab barrels to produce their advertised velocities, they use real firearms for all their readings. Sundles used a Ruger GP 100 with a 6" barrel in .357 Magnum and was getting velocities around 1,250 FPS - that's screaming for a .38 Special +P load. Sundles also used a S&W Model 642 1-7/8" barrel snub by revolver and was still getting velocities above 1,000 FPS. I tested this load in a couple guns, shooting into water-filled milk jugs, and it easily penetrated completely through 3 jugs. This is a great round to carry when you're in the boonies, with a little .38 Special snubbie in your pocket or on your belt.
Okay, do you want to turbo charge your .357 Magnum revolver, with a lead-free heavy .357 load? Here it is! Buffalo Bore developed a load using the 140 grain Barnes all-copper hollow point load using the Barnes 140 grain bullet. I've been doing a lot of experimenting with various all-copper hollow bullets from Barnes, and I'm very impressed with them . They open-up nicely and penetrate deeply.
Sundles recommends that you ONLY use this load in an all-steel .357 Magnum revolver. It should NOT be fired in the lightweight alloy framed revolvers. You can also use this load in any of the .357 Magnum chambered rifles. If you are looking for a real man-stopper of a round, this is just the ticket.
Tim fired this round through a S&W Model 66 2.5" barrel revolver - a snub by - and was getting almost 1,400 FPS out of the gun. Moving up to a 4" barrel revolver, we are looking at better than 1,500 FPS. In a Marlin Model 1894, with an 18" barrel, Sundles was getting almost 1,950 FPS. We're talking serious velocity from this round. I fired this round through one of my .357 Magnum rifles, and found it to be very accurate, and the recoil was mild in my humble opinion.
I previously tested the Buffalo Bore 190 grain JFN 30-30 heavy load in a Rossi rifle, and it would make a great round for just about all game on the Nor