Weapons Category

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Regarding the "Odds 'n Sods" column from March 22: This is an "old husband's" tale. Tumbling loaded ammo will not make it prone to detonation. Geoff Beneze, formerly of Dillon Precision, tumbled loaded rifle rounds (ball, flake, and extruded powders) in a vibratory tumbler for six months continuously and had zero issues with any of it. His emails are archived on the Yahoo handloading group. Unfortunately, you have to be a member of the group to read the archives, but here are a couple of the relevant emails I've saved:

“First off, I would strongly urge that are so inclined NOT to accept my experiments and run with your own ignorance and prejudices. It just makes life a lot easier.

“There's no need to send it to MythBusters; the work has already been done, several years ago and then repeated again this last fall. Boy, I've been busting such shooting myths YEARS before anyone thought to do a TV show.

“You'll not get email or public acknowledgement that the factories do so. In fact, if you talk to "head office", PR, or any of the corporate attorneys, you'll be blasted off your seat for so suggesting. This is either a deliberate case of front office denial, or simple ignorance of the process by the "higher ups."

“When you take the time to filter down and talk to the engineers, EVERY ONE of them admits that they do so. Moreover, this was confirmed for me by a family member who worked (now deceased) for Olin.

“My procedure was (two times now) to tumble representative samples of each type of powder, ball, flake, and extruded. I used different powders in each experiment, IIRC.

“These samples were tumbled in a Dillon vibratory tumbler for six months 24/7. (The tumbler did this twice.) Microscope photos were taken before and after.

“In the initial experiment, a strain gauge peak pressure meter was used. In the second, a more advanced, full pressure curve (also stress sensor) unit was employed. I haven't yet completed writing up the second experiment, but the results were fundamentally identical to the first set. No statistical variance from the control powders.

“As to rounds going off in your tumbler, you need to read Hatcher's Notebook about the forces needed to detonate primers. Then you need to do some calculations as to how much force a round could (falling) generate in a standard sized tumbler, let alone the cement mixer sizes that the factories use.

“Go ahead and do the math; I've already done it several dozen times.

“HOWEVER, when you have one blow, as you seem so certain will occur, save the setup and let me know. I'll want to get photos of that historic event.” - S.B.

HJL Replies: Which begs the question: “Why are commercially-produced rounds going Ka-Boom then?”

Thursday, March 6, 2014

I am 74 years old and have always been a little bit of a prepper. I was not into firearms and especially not hand guns, which I had never owned. I had rifles and shotguns from my youth, but never used them much after I got married. I had barely purchased a box of ammo for each. I even give them all away to my son a number of years ago. Then in the middle of 2009, I felt that everything was starting to fall apart and I needed to balance out my preparations by getting some firearms for protection in the home and on the street. I took the NRA handgun safety class, got my license to carry (LTC) and picked up a couple of handguns for carry. I was done, except for picking up a long gun.

The first problem was that I didn't want to pay a lot of money for stuff.

Searching the Internet, I found the rifle I felt I could afford– the Hi-Point 9mm 995 carbine. I found a used one at a gun show for $200.00 and decided to buy it. I hoped the wife wouldn't give me a lot of grief.

The Hi-Point 995 is a semiautomatic (hand gun caliber) carbine that comes with a 10-round magazine that fits in the hand grip. It basically is a handgun with a long barrel and a butt stock. The 995 was designed as a result of Bill Clinton's Assault Weapon ban.

It seems all used guns have never been cleaned. So, after detail stripping and cleaning the rifle, I took it to the range. I was pleased with the results. I decided to place a reflex sight on it. Now I can hit anything that I can put the red dot on. As the 995 is chambered in 9mm, it is best when shooting less than 50 yards. Another thing that is ideal with this firearm is I already had a 9mm handgun, and therefore did not need to get a new supply of ammo.

I got my rifle. Life was sweet, but, as many of you know, once bitten you are infected.

As a young man in my early teenage years, I hunted with a 22lr pump gun. I thought if I could find something like my childhood rifle, I could cure this infection. Plus, 22lr ammo was cheap and available at the time.

I found a nice old pump 22lr at my local gun shop for around $120. I was a little concerned with the bore, but the dealer said if it didn't work correctly I could bring it back. Well the bore was not the problem. The receiver was eroded. So, when I shot the rifle I had to use my pocket knife to remove the spent casing. I was disappointed and returned the rifle.

It's funny when you return a rifle and have $120 returned to you in a gun shop. You figure that just by adding a couple more bucks you might be able to buy another gun. Well I found a used Ruger 10/22 with the original wood stock for $150. I had not researched the 10/22, but it seemed like a good deal.

As many of you know (I didn't) the 10/22 has more accessories available for it than most any other rifle on the market. A great thing about this 10/22 was it was manufactured in the 1980's and therefore was pre-ban in my state. I put a sling, a folding stock, and a scope on it. Now it is a perfect SHTF rifle. Rifles chambered in 22lr seem to be able to hit everything you shoot at.

Life was sweet again, but the 10/22 really didn't feel like the rifle of my childhood.

Every Saturday morning I take the trash to the dump, stop to get my mail at the post office, and then visit the local gun shop. On one of my Saturday visits to the gun shop, I ran across a couple of old J. C. Higgins Mod 29 22lr rifles. Sears Roebuck used to sell these rifles many years ago. The Mod 29 is a 14 round tube-fed semiautomatic and has (for me) a wonderful wooden stock. I lusted after one of these rifles. After a little haggling with the owner, I picked one up for $95.

I got the J. C. Higgins home for cleaning and found the rifle's action must have been stored in mud. Thus, began my journey in becoming an amateur gunsmith. After detail stripping the action and cleaning the gunk out, I discovered that a feed spring was brokem. I needed to find a replacement. I am thankful for the Internet, as I soon found that the Numrich Gun Parts Company had bought out most of the spare parts from the manufacturer of J. C. Higgins firearms. I ordered the spring and a new butt plate. Now the J. C. Higgins Mod 29 is one of my favorite firearms.

I must say the J. C. Higgins Mod 29, even though a semiautomatic, feels like the old rifle of my childhood.

Well, I wasn't done now. I started reading blogs and looking at YOUTUBE videos. Then, I came across the Russian Mosin Nagant 91/30– a bolt action surplus rifle. I was intrigued as it was only $125, had lots of history, the ammo was cheap, and I thought I could sneak this by the wife. I bought a 1938 Mosin Nagant 91/30 manufactured at the Tula Armory from my local gun shop. That was the start of my love with Russian designed firearms.

When you purchase a Mosin Nagant, it comes coated in a bunch of cosmoline and needs lots of cleaning before you should try firing it or for that matter even touching it. These rifles need to be completely detail stripped. This gave me a little more confidence that I could work on guns. The final results were great with this rifle, having refinished the stock and also adding a scout scope to it. The rifle, without the scope, shoots a little high and to the right at a 100 yards. With the scout scope, I have it zeroed in at 100 and 200 yards. It's a great gun.

When researching the Mosin Nagant, I discovered that there were two types of receivers on this rifle. There was the Hex receiver, which I didn't have, and the Round receiver, which I did have. Of course the Hex receiver is more desirable. I picked up a 1928 91/30 Hex Receiver Mosin Nagant made at the Izhevsk armory for $135 at another local gun shop. The stock on this rifle is pre-World War II and in wonderful shape. The rifle was dead on with the iron sights at 100 yards. I just keep this rifle in the gun safe.

I would like to make one point about the Mosin Nagant 91/30. It shoots 7.62x54r ammo. The round is the same size as a 308, actually .312. The ammo is available in surplus tins and is quite cheap. The rifle itself kicks like a horse. I had to buy a good shoulder pad to shoot this rifle without causing myself shoulder pain and injury.

Another Mosin that is out there, which I did pick up, is the Chinese M53 carbine. It is a copy of the Russian Mosin M44. The Chinese M53 can be picked up for between $99 and $120, but usually comes in real rough shape. After I cleaned mine up, I took it to the range and was less than satisfied with it. I couldn't tell where the thing was shooting. I need to take it back to the range, but right now it is sitting in the gun safe.

I only use surplus ammo with Mosin Nagants and that ammo is corrosive. The reason I use surplus is the cost of non-corrosive ammo is too high for me. After shooting at the range, I just swab down the bore and bolt with Windex, run a patch through the bore, and I'm done.

This brings me up to the 2012 elections. I didn't have a semiautomatic rifle in a larger caliber. I used the re-election of Obama as an excuse to buy a Romanian AK-47 WASR 10/63 in 7.62x39 caliber. I picked it up the day after the election for $575 just before the price went to $775. (As you can see I have become less inhibited about price.) If you don't know, the 7.62x39 ammo is cheap and has been available all through the ammo shortage the last couple of years.

Now the AK47 is another Russian-designed rifle that just shoots in any condition. It is a simple design with large tolerances, and even I seem to understand how it works. I replaced the butt stock with a Dragunov style MAK-90 Maddi Fiberforce Stock and a new hand guard. I then attached a good muzzle break to reduce the muzzle rise when shooting. This helped, but it still has a little more recoil rise than I like.

Again, as I was studying the AK-47 on the Internet, I noticed that many people had built their own No-FFL rifle from part kits. Thinking that I might be able to build one on my own, I started shopping the Internet. As it turned out AK-74 part kits were more available than AK-47 part kits. Notice I said AK-74, it is the same rifle, except it is chambered with the 5.45x39 round. This round is just a little smaller than the AR-15 ammo, which is 5.65x39. So I proceeded by picking up a Bulgarian AK-74 parts kit, a U.S.-made chromed barrel, 80% receiver blank and rails, screw kit, Tapco trigger, and quite a few tools.

I would not recommend this to anyone unless you like to build stuff, want a No-FFL rifle, and are not concerned with the final cost.

This project was a lot more work than I thought, but I got an AK-74 out of it and learned the following:

  • How to MIG weld,
  • Precise hand drilling and reaming,
  • How to use a hydraulic press,
  • The fine points of needle file use,
  • How to press a barrel into an AK front trunnion,
  • How to head space a rifle,
  • What an angle grinder is used for,
  • How to heat treat a receiver, and
  • How to assemble and disassemble an AK, what seemed like hundreds of times.

I also became a constant customer of Harbor Freight. I like to refer to the rifle as my Bubba Build, because of my lack of skills going into this project.

I have a few points to share about building an AK anything. The first rifle is not cheap, and you need to come up with lots of tools. Also, the only way this is legal is that only you take the 80% receiver to a 100% receiver. There is a little Federal law 922R, which you need to comply with (look it up).

As it turns out the AK-74, when shooting 5.45x39 caliber ammo, is a dream to shoot. The rifle with a 30 round magazine is much lighter than the AK-47. The AK-74 comes with a big fat muzzle break, so recoil is less and I am able to hold it on target much easier. So, if you would like a sweet AK try the AK-74.

Another thing I would like to point out, most of the ammo for these rifles is relatively inexpensive and available. The only exception to availability is the 5.45x39 ammo, which is not available locally. I have been able to pick it up on the Internet in 1000 round boxes for around 28 cents a round, including shipping.

What Do I Use These Guns For?

The Hi-Point 995 chambered in 9mm is serving as a home defense weapon. The 9mm bullet is less likely to pass through the outside wall and hit a neighbor. I have it setup with a reflex sight, so centering on a target is not difficult. My wife has shot this rifle a few times, and our intent is for her to use this weapon.

The Ruger 10/22 has been reconfigured with a folding stock, sling, extended magazine release lever, Alangator TriMag magazine coupler, and a scope. The rifle is a good small game rifle that can be carried easily on your back and in the truck. The way the rifle is configured it becomes a good SHTF small game rifle.

The J.C. Higgins Mod 29 has only been cleaned up and used for fun plinking at the range. It is an easy rifle to shoot and is quite accurate with the iron sights. Working anywhere from 10 to 100 yards, it is fun. I use it as a rifle to get my son-in-law and grandson comfortable with firearms.

The 1938 Mosin Nagant 91/30 has been refinished with a Brass Stacker mount placed over the original rear iron sight. I placed a long eye relief scout scope on the mount. The rifle is “dead on” at 100 and 200 yards. This is a rifle when you want to reach out and touch something with a big slug. We live in a hilly and forested area, and a 300 yard view is about as good as it gets.. This rifle fits in well.

The AK-47 had the wooden stock replaced with a MAK-90 Maddi Fiberforce Stock. I also replaced the original hand guard with a quad rail hand guard. I put a light that has a pressure switch on the rail and have sighted it in for close range shooting. The rifle came with the standard side plate. I placed a side rail mount on it. The great thing about these side rail mounts is that they can be removed when traveling. When reattached, the scope still holds sight. I attached a reflex sight on the rifle sighted in at 100 yards.

I use the AK-47 as a home defense weapon. I realize that the 7.62x39 round will go through walls, but that is one of reasons I want it for home defense. Our bedroom is on the 2nd floor and I would need to shoot through walls if, God forbid, we have an intruder.

The Bubba Build AK-74 also has a side rail mount with a 1 power scope attached. With the old eyes I find it easier looking at cross hairs in a scope than working with the iron sights for long range.

I replaced the original hand grip with a Hogue Rubber Grip with finger grooves. This is one of the better replacement parts on the rifle. The grip makes it very easy to handle and shoot the rifle.

I've used the AK-74 in three gun shoots at the local gun club. I've found it is a great battle rifle because of it's size and weight. This right now is my favorite long gun.

The long gun infection seems to have abated for the time being, and as you can tell the infection did not prove to be cheap.

One can argue that I have too many different types of ammo. I can agree with them. I had that in mind when I first started out on this journey. However, when I got hooked on Russian firearms, that thought left my mind completely.

My ammo types are:

  • 22 long rifle, which has tight availability. (Fortunately, I had a good supply before the shortages.)
  • 9mm (Again, I have a 9mm handgun and a very adequate supply.)
  • 7.62x54r (It is easily available as surplus and is corrosive. It also costs less than 25 cents a round.)
  • 7.62x39 (This is available and costs about 26 cents a round, any day of the week at Walmart.)
  • 5.45x39 (This one, for me, is only available at gun shows and the Internet. It runs less than 30 cents a round.)

I also have reloading supplies for 9mm, 7.62x54r, and 7.62x39 rounds. I only have this for when the SHTF, and I can't get any more retail ammo.

My rifles and the costs, not including attachments and the ammo to feed them:

  • Hi-Point 995- $200
  • Ruger 10/22- $150
  • J. C. Higgins Mod 29- $95
  • Mosin Nagant 91/30 Tula armory- $125
  • Mosin Nagant 91/30 Izhevsk armory- $135
  • Chinese Mosin M53 carbine- $119
  • Romanian AK-47- $575
  • Bulgarian AK-74- $600 for kit and parts.

I have run out of money for the time being and probably couldn't get anything more by the wife anyways.

I joke a lot about my wife, but she picked up her LTC a couple of years ago and goes with me to the range once a month to shoot her hand gun. She has become very good with it and leaves me alone to fire my rifles.

A few afterthoughts:

J&G Sales is selling AK74's built from part kits and unchromed-lined barrels for $569.95, which is just a little more than you can build one.

After I wrote most of this article I happened to read the Survivalblog article titled “Building Your Own No-FFL AR from a 80% Complete Receiver”, by Nomad.

I ordered the EP80 receiver for $50 and quickly turned it into a 100% receiver with a $25 rotary tool from Harbor Freight and a couple rotary bits. I bought a lower parts kit for around $70 and assembled the lower with only a few problems. Right now I'm not in a position to finish the rifle, but the project would certainly be interesting and much easier than building an AK. A complete 7.62x39 AR upper can be had for around $500, which would help me by not having to get a different caliber of ammo.

So, the addiction may be dormant, but I can easily fall off the wagon.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The article on ammunition, shortages, and government purchases was very informative and well written. Here is a very simple way to look at the shortages that occur from a mathematical perspective.

Assume that 20 million rounds of .22 are available every single day. That would be 40,000 boxes of 500 rounds each. Fifty states get 800 boxes each. Fifty retailers per state get 16 boxes each. I cannot tell you how much ammo the U.S. can manufacture or import, but I do not think it is anywhere near the level of demand created by our current government's stance on the 2nd Amendment.

Thanks, BamaMan

o o o


I am assuming that the article about bulk government purchases was written by Hugh. Since these stories have been hitting the web we have seen all sorts of explanations given for the requests. Responses have ranged from the uber-conspiratorial to the brain-dead parroting of official government propaganda.

We are all aware that buying in bulk saves money. We also are comfortable with the idea that large contracts allow our agencies to retain these bulk price rates. This is common sense.

The real question then IMHO is, are these purchases in line with previous purchases, or do they stand out as extraordinary? We shouldn't be asking how many or what type of bullets could or should our agents be using, but what is the norm?

My webfu is pretty strong and my googling technique superior to most, yet I cannot find any data from past years to compare, nor has anyone apparently gone out of their way to examine this issue.

I'm a cigarette smoker. My wife knows it and knows my purchase habits. If I go from buying three packs a week to 30 packs a week and try and explain it away as saving money in bulk purchase, I'm going to be in the doghouse.

Let's see some hard data on purchase habits.

o o o

Just as a matter of interest, here in Austria we have started to experience a shortage of ammunition as well. There seem to be reasonable quantities of the normal hunting rifle calibers floating around (and after all, you don't really need a lot of ammunition for hunting). I have seen boxes of 0.22 on offer, so it really seems to be only 9 mm Parabellum that is affected.

I generally buy the boxes of 250 from S&B, but there have been none available to the dealers for the past two or three months. One dealer that I regularly go to has a stock of them still, but that is a result of buying a huge amount last year.

Our local dealer was telling me that they had been bought out by an American company that was now shipping all the product to the U.S., but I can see no record of that. In fact, they are owned by CBC, which is a Brazilian company, better known to you, probably, as Magtech. I can see no sign of American ownership there.

So, maybe they are shipping everything to the U.S., but it is not due to North American ownership.

Still, he sold me 1000 rounds of Geco pistol food for the same price as the bigger boxes from S&B, so I am not complaining too much.


o o o

HJL Adds: This link was sent in to SurvivalBlog by a reader: Making Money From the American Ammo Shortage. This quote shows just what kind of demand we as consumers are putting on the system.

"I had a report yesterday of a fistfight in a sporting goods store, people trying to get rimfire ammunition off the shelf," said Alliant Chief Executive Mark DeYoung on an analysts' call after the company reported forecast-beating third quarter profits on Thursday. "So there is still demand and customers are still very anxious to get product."

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Dear Editor,

This email is in response to the R.I.P. bullet paragraph seen on your blog. It is, as you suspected, limited in performance due to the nature of its design. I imagine the developers of the RIP theorized they could take the principles of bullet fragmentation (effectively demonstrated from 5.56mm ball ammo within certain distances) and apply them to a pistol caliber. The lethal effectiveness of bullet fragmentation relies heavily on its velocity upon impact. Since pistol rounds don't travel nearly as fast as a rifle round, they depend on the summation of bullet mass, rather than speed, to deliver terminal energy.

In short, you want all 124gns of 9mm to terminally dump its energy within a target without over penetration, hence the FBI 12" rule. The RIP bullet, however novel, is essentially a 50gn slug after the initial impact. It's shards would be traveling too slow to cause any real damage, unless by chance it severed an artery or a critical nerve. - D.R.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Dear Mister Rawles,

To your knowledge, does 308 soft point ammunition function in a PTR-91?

JWR Replies: Just like the HK91 from which it is cloned, the PTR91 is not specifically designed to shoot .308 Winchester softnose hunting ammo. The SAAMI specifications for commercially-loaded (Remington, Winchester, Federal, et cetera) .308 Winchester are different from the military specifications for 7.62mm NATO. Although the two cartridges have quite similar exterior dimensions, the military brass is thicker (this creating slightly smaller interior dimensions) and the pressure specification is lower. (Yet, I still hear people talk about "hot military ammo." The reality is just the opposite; the commercial loads have considerably higher pressure than the military loads.)

Now, as for the HK91/PTR91 design: It has been reported that these rifles will shoot .308 Winchester without damaging the action. However, keep in mind that this action uses a fluted chamber, and that it is notorious for violently ejecting brass. (It is not unusual to have an HK eject fired brass 20 feet, or farther!) With the thinner .308 commercial brass, it is therefore inevitable that you will someday see a case failure, resulting in a jam. Here are a couple of ways this can happen:

Typically, a case failure will leave the front half of the brass while the back half is ejected. Then when a new round is chambered, the bolt will not fly close. Clearing that stoppage does not usually solve the problem, since there is still half a cartridge case in the chamber. It can only be cured by either waiting for the gun to cool down and cycling the action repeatedly and/or banging the rifle's butt, or by using a ruptured case extraction tool.

The other likely failure is a rim failure, where 95% of the case is left lodged in the chamber. One small portion of the rim shears off, and then the extractor can no long "catch" the empty case. This also can result in a broken extractor.

Bottom line: Yes, you can use .308 softnose in an HK or clone, but DO NOT do so in life threatening situations because jams can take a long time to clear.

Lastly, be sure to buy a spare extractor and a few extractor spring cotter pins for your rifle. These parts are available from RTG Gun Parts, and several other online HK parts dealers. Buy a spare firing pin and a couple of spare takedown pins, while you are at it. (In fact, RTG's $116.95 \ is worth buying.)

Another must is buying a .308/7.62 NATO ruptured case extractor tool. These are available from KeepShooting.com

I should also mention that there is also an issue of the shallow depth of the chamber flutes used in early-production PTR91 barrels. This makes their early rifles more finicky on the ammo that they will feed. With those, I have found that military surplus South African, German, and Lithuanian ammo all feeds and ejects reliably. And as Pat Cascio pointed out in his review of the PTR91, Winchester (“USA”) white box 7.62mm ball ammo does not function reliably in early PTR-91s.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


In regards to the shotgun safety letter, I would like to suggest the use of a shot shell “dummy” to keep loaded in the action of the shotgun. A dummy serves both to add another level of safety, in lieu of keeping a round chambered, and also allows the weapon to be quickly cycled without having to find and push the small button or release located at the rear of the receiver on most shotguns. These can be found at most gun stores. (I bought mine from Midway USA.) Thanks for all you do. Keep up the good work, and keep on rockin' in the free world. - E.

HJL Replies: While the sound of working the action of a shotgun is indeed intimidating (especially in the movies), remember that you also give up time (one or two seconds) to the working of the action and lose some advantage. Also, some people use Automatic shotguns rather than pumps.



One thing you need to keep in mind is that not all children can be taught about gun safety. I have a 14 year old boy who started having seizures at age four. Because of that, he is substantially mentally delayed. I do take him shooting, but in my case, it would be totally irresponsible to have a loaded gun just laying around.

Because of this, I chose the GunVault Biometric safe. It takes half a second to open it, and my loaded handgun is stored within, ready to go. Perhaps you can leave a loaded handgun on the nightstand. I cannot. However, I do, in my opinion, have the next best thing.

To your reader who asked about gunvaults with a code, don't even bother. Go right to the biometric version. I have had one for three years, and I open it all the time. It has worked flawlessly and is programmed to the fingerprints of everyone in my family, who is capable of holding a firearm. Sadly, there is one set of fingerprints it will never contain-- that of my youngest son. - A.

HJL Replies: I do understand that concern, but I also know that the more complicated an item is, the greater the chance of failure. I spent time with a major defense contractor in which I worked testing electronics. We found that electronics have a higher chance of failure than mechanics. So, whether you're in outter space without extra parts or in a time-sensitive situation with an intruder breaching your bedroom door or window, you can't just fix failed electronic devices. I also have a family member who has Alzheimer's. When that family member is in my home, the only working weapon accessible is on my person and under my full control. So, I do understand your concerns. However, I still stand by my statement that a locked weapon is not a working weapon and any such measures only complicate matters when they need to be simple. I want all of my attention on the threat assessment, not on remembering a combination, and not on trying to open a lock with failed electronics. There are no easy shortcuts in a security-minded lifestyle.



My solution for balancing safety with quick accessibility (especially at night, in the dark, for my home-defense shotgun for the past 30+ years), has been a Rossi Overland exposed-hammer, double-barreled 12-gauge with 20-inch barrels in my bedside closet. I keep it leaned up in the closet with the chambers empty with a box of birdshot and a box of number four buckshot on a high shelf above. Were an inquisitive child (and we have no resident children in the house) to manage to find the gun in the closet, he or she would also have to locate and be able to reach the ammo on the high shelf above, figure out how to break open the action, load the gun, and cock the hammers in order to pose a danger. I, on the other hand, can quickly load the gun completely by feel in the dark and, by virtue of the exposed hammers, I can tell that the gun is uncocked and in a safe condition until the moment I am ready to cock and fire it. The birdshot and buckshot boxes are different sizes so they are distinguishable by feel in the dark. I can load either or one in one barrel and one in the other, depending on the situation, and can instantly select either barrel, again by feel in the dark, by cocking the appropriate hammer. The short-barreled gun is handy and easily maneuvered in close quarters. I have loaded the gun in the dark on numerous occasions over the years, using it to dispatch a fair number of nocturnal coons and skunks. I don't think the Rossi is currently available new, which is a shame, because it is a solid, high-quality firearm. I believe that there are many, other short-barreled, exposed-hammer, double-barreled shotguns currently available. Their popularity has increased in recent years with the burgeoning interest in cowboy action shooting. I don't know, but would assume that, like the Rossi, all modern, exposed-hammer doubles are designed so that the hammer, even if accidentally bumped over a loaded chamber, cannot engage the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled. I would want to be sure that an exposed-hammer gun had such a feature before I would be comfortable using it for a home-defense gun, especially in the dark. Best regards, - D.F.


Hi Hugh

I have experience with the ShotLock and recommend the product. It's natural to have concerns about having a firearm ready to use in a home that has little ones or in a place that could be accessible to others. The ShotLock enables an owner to have easy access to a shotgun that is loaded, save for a round in the chamber. It has a vertical punch pad consisting of five numbers and requires a sequence of four (easily programmable to a personalized sequence) to open the door that secures the shotgun. The combination buttons are well-placed, and the lock can be opened quite quickly in the dark with a little practice. The shotgun's open ejection port is captured by the ShotLock, and a solid door closes over the receiver. (There are other configurations that the ShotLock can be configured to in order to accommodate other types of shotguns.) The shotgun is securely held and any attempt to remove it by force will more than likely make the weapon unusable. As far as not having a round in the chamber, nothing says 'Stop!' quite as well as a round being chambered into a shotgun. We have two-- one on my side of the bed for a 12 gauge and another for my wife's 410, on her side of the bed. It's a convenient place for our robes to hang and no one knows what they cover. - J.T.



For once someone is willing to stand up and tell the truth. If we are expected to treat all firearms as if they are loaded at all times, then LOAD them. Firearms are tools; a tool you don't have access to is a tool you can't use. Period. Teach your children, and they will be safe. Several generations of Americans are living proof. - D.F.



I understand your thoughts about young children and firearms. I have seven kids and have trained each one of them from the age of four or five. They each have understood what a firearm would do and have become proficient with all our firearms. My granddaughter started shooting when she was 2 1/2 with the Chipmunk .22 rifle and Mark II that I had bought my kids. She doesn't have the concept of aiming, but she always keeps the rifle or pistol pointed down range. She knows the rules and how to load, cock, and shoot. I believe that in a few years, she will have the aiming down too.

A short story. My daughter went to a sleep over when she was about six or seven years old. The little girl that had the sleep over had gone in to get her dad's pistol, and was showing it around. My daughter, according to the little girl's mother, asked to see the pistol, dropped the magazine, and ejected the round from the chamber. She then gave it the mother, who had just come into the room to check on them, and told the mother that she didn't think they should be playing with it. The mother asked her how she knew how to unload it because she didn't even know how to do that. My daughter simply said that her daddy had taught her. She, my youngest, is now 18. On her 15th birthday she got her first pistol-- an XD45, which is what she wanted. On her 16th birthday, she got her Mossberg 500, and so on. All of my kids are well armed and very proficient.

Around my house, there are several handguns and shotguns-- all loaded and ready to go. My kids know where they are and how to use them. I was never afraid that they might take one out and show it around. They know the rules and followed them, even when they were alone in the house, at least to the best of my knowledge. Of all my friends that come over with their kids, I have only had to worry about one little boy that was into everything. I was a little rude and blunt, but they no longer come to my house.

If you start training your kids (and/or wife) early, they will be an asset when they get older and come to love the sport. - B.L.



I agree with your commentary. A solution the author may look into is the V-Line shotgun case. It has mechanical buttons and opens fairly quickly. - Squirrel

Friday, January 31, 2014


Regarding Two Letters Re: Gock 27 .40 S&W Pistol, dropping a 9mm conversion barrel into a 40 caliber Glock pistol does NOT make it the same as a factory 9mm Glock. The extractors and ejectors are not the same (anyone can verify this by looking at the Glock parts list), and that makes it a FrankenGlock. This is fine, if you just want to save money shooting 9mm for practice out of your 40. However, if you're going to stake your life on the gun, please be aware of the differences and make the decision that's right for you. Glocks are wonderful (and I'm definitely a Glockaholic), but they are not infallible, and I would never want to trust one that is not configured according to factory spec or better. Best Wishes - Ulysses

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dear Sir;

Regarding the news article linked in the January 23rd blog relating to the massive non-compliance with Connecticut's "Assault Weapon" and "Large Capacity Magazine" registration mandate, I know from first hand experience that many of the firearms are being removed from the state in lieu of registration. They are being removed to friends homes, BOL's, and other places of refuge. I expect that when the thaw comes even more will be buried (the merits of such action notwithstanding). The primary reason that I was given by people resorting to such action was for their families safety- they feel that when the government raids their homes that their wives and children will be targeted.

The type of people I know who are personally affected by this law are typical gun owners- hard working, law abiding, family centered men of above average moral character and patriotic feelings. I only hope that non-compliance does not destroy their lives and families, and that their resistance is not futile. - Willard

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Dear Sir,
I just wanted to point out something that many folks may not be aware of regarding the Glock pistols. I own several and they usually are my "go to" pistol. I carry a Glock 27 regularly. I recommend to my friends and family, if the Glock is their choice of pistols, to only buy the .40 caliber models. When you buy a Glock .40 (22, 23, or 27) you now have the option of purchasing a drop in barrel in 9mm or .357 Sig and having the flexibility to use the ammo that you are able to find in any of these three designations. One gun, three calibers! Believe it or not, the magazines are even interchangeable! I realize that for the ultimate in reliability, one should purchase 9mm magazines when shooting 9mm ammunition, but I have never had a failure using the .40 magazines loaded with 9mm. The .357 Sig uses .40 caliber magazines as they are identical. Of course all of the appropriate warnings regarding using the correct ammunition should be mentioned. It is my understanding that if one were to purchase any of the 9mm Glocks, (17, 19, or 26) they are NOT able to simply change barrels and shoot .40 or .357 Sig. This being the case, I cannot think of a good reason NOT to start with the .40 caliber Glocks in order to obtain such flexibility in a time when ammuinition availability becomes troubling. Blessings to you and yours! - C.P


Nice review of a great gun. Something else to add: If someone is torn between the 9mm G26 versus the G27, I highly recommend buying the 27 and then purchasing a Storm Lake or Lone Wolf 9mm conversion barrel. Now you have two guns for the price of a barrel and 9mm magazines, which are the same size as the 40 caliber magazines. Extreme versatility; you can carry the G27 40 caliber and come home, swap out the .40 barrel for a 9mm barrel, push in the Glock factory 33 round mag with a magazine sleeve and have a 34 round 9mm home defense gun! - M.K.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Your Bug Out bag, Go Bag, SHTF Bag, or whatever you call it contains similar items for each one of us. Some are kept at the door ready at a moment’s notice, some in the trunk of each vehicle all with the same purpose; Mitigation of Risk. As a project manager, Risk Management is a key component to successful project delivery, and one tool of risk mitigation is contingency resources. Understanding the risk and developing contingency to avoid, eliminate, adapt to or reduce the impact upon a project’s outcome. I say all this to share with you my recent experience of experimenting and adapting to build a Air Travelers Contingency Bag.
Over the last year my role as a project manager has changed with a promotion to a position that now directs and leads other project manager for our company throughout the most population concentration in the country, the East Coast. My primary responsibility is an area from North Carolina to Maine, but frequent travel to Atlanta and Denver. This is in stark contrast to my previous role which confined my travel to 180-200 miles of home or our retreat location. In an event situation, though difficult but not impossible, it was always possible to get to one of those locations. Since my main travel method was by vehicle packing and carrying a contingency bag with a full pack with significant supplies was always readily available in my truck. Since I have always traveled with my “security contingency bag” that included a means of self defense, but as of February 3rdmy world changed. The promotion was a mixed blessing, a promotion and larger salary but increased risk.
I have been working to build an Air Travel Contingency bag since that time and I thought I can’t be the only one that needs this information. I know I am not the only awake person that realizes the world in which we live that travels. So from a project manager’s mind set my thoughts and methodology I personally went through to arrive where I am today.
For all non-project managers, risk management included contingencies to overcome or adapt to a variable that may create a critical project failure, thus the name sake of my bag is a Contingency Bag. My first struggle was what can logistically be packed, not just from a space or load perspective but also legally to avoid TSA/Homeland Security scrutiny.
All projects with a begin with a mission in mind, and mine project mission is to travel in-complete the work-get home as quickly as possible to reduce my exposure to the risks associated with traveling in the I-95 Corridor (DC, Philadelphia, New York and Boston). I eliminated planning for an EMP risk while airborne, since well let’s just say the landing will be a little rough. So I eliminate the thought of any carry-on bags and thus increase the size of luggage I can travel with. This allows has allowed me to enter and exit the aircraft quicker, though I still have to wait on other carry on passengers, but I also move quicker through busy airports such as JFK, Atlanta or Denver.
With the determination of checking my bag it allows consideration of risks that can be mitigated. I would suggest performing a risk matrix analysis, it helped me to determine how many contingencies I should plan for a event that has a low probability but high impact to those that are high probability but low impact. Some of the contingency planning included the distance from home or retreat and method of return or even if the return would even have a remote possibility of success. This reminded me of all the travelers on I-40 in One Second After. Each contingency should present valid solutions, whether that is walking from Boston to North Carolina, time of year, etc. or surviving in location long term. Not all contingencies will necessary have a high long term success rate, it may only present a solution that reduces the impact of the variable.
To avoid getting any deeper into risk management, I only presented it to you to show my methodology used to construct a contingency bag for traveling by air. I then decomposed my bag into categories, I will avoid long lists of specific items, they are numerous lists available and you will want to weigh and build your own bags according to your own risk matrix.
As you go through your categories be mindful of the size bag you have chosen. This is important since I assume you, like me would need room for business attire and a change(s) of clothes for your trip. I don’t pack trips in a full military duffle bag, nor do I want the attention. I use a standard suitcase, slightly bigger than a carry-on and I found a bag that when packed takes no more than 50% of the checked suitcase. Make sure it is neutral or black, no HI-VIS colors for the obvious reasons to remain inconspicuous. Also, be mindful you can’t take everything you would if the bag was packed for a bug-out from home scenario or one in which you can travel by car, this is for Air-travel. The categories give you some minimal resources, adjust for your personal situation.
Category 1-Water
        I include two bottles of 8oz water in my bag, one the weight is low, and it provides additional containers for future use. Since packing air is a waste of space either take filled bottles or fill them with something useful but dry. I use filled bottles. Purification tablets and a LifeStrawGo
        Matches dipped in paraffin, cotton balls soaked in Vaseline, magnesium starter, small pieces of fatwood stored in an empty Altoids can
Category 3-Food
        Three days MREs, instant oatmeal, power energy bars, chocolate bars, instant coffee.
Category 4-Medical
        Standard first aid kit, moleskin, k-Tabs, Fish Antibiotics, Pain relief, Combat Bleed Stop, tourniquet, syringe and a scalpel. Yes, the scalpel makes its way the checked bag security unlike knives. I also, carry two epi-pens and Benadryl since I am allergic to bee stings. I suggest packing these in a Med Kit since it seems that they get through inspections without much scrutiny. Items you pack may be specific again to your personal situation.
Category 5-Clothing
        In addition to your travel clothes which should include a sturdy pair of jeans, I pack extra socks, underwear, thermals, rain jacket, tactical pants and a shirt. As for boots, they are bulky and difficult to pack so when I can I wear them on the plane both way and store them in my rental car upon arrival. Those of you that don’t have that option realize some sacrifices may need to be made if you are traveling with footwear that will last if you need to evacuate by foot.
Category 6-Defense
        This was the most abrupt change. I the past I was able to travel freely in North Carolina and Virginia with a firearm for defense. This all ended leaving me feeling completely unable to defend myself. I first decided to include a knife in my bag thinking it would be overlooked since it was in a checked bag. Wrong! On three consecutive trips three knives were stolen or confiscated. So I quickly decided not to include a knife. Of course the paper work and logistics of declaring a firearm etc was not logistically possible, plus the States and Cities I work are not gun friendly to even their citizens. There are some products I have yet to try that may pass as innocent products but I am not going to list them here for numerous reasons. So for now I have decided that upon arriving at my destination the first stop is a Wal-Mart or Sporting Goods store and purchase a knife. I have padded self addressed envelopes for at the end of the trip I mail myself the knife home or return it to Wal-Mart unopened. Those that I have mailed home now total over 30, thought they will make a great barter item in the future. Bottom Line you will have to think creatively to provide your inherent right to self defense when traveling by air.
Category 7-Shelter
        Flat unwrapped 6x8 tarp, 100’ of Para-cord
Category 8- Cash/Gold and Silver
        Never, ever, pack cash or precious metals in a checked bag unless its Christmas time and you are giving the TSA agents a Christmas bonus! I carry these items on my person, be cautious however since gold and silver bullion shows as a distinctive black circle on TSA X-Ray scanners. I experimented and was pulled and ask about them. My computer bag physically checked. Use discretion when travel with PMs (precious metals not project managers).
Category 9- Communications
        I assumed the communication grid will be limited or down, cell connectivity will be limited similarly to 9-11. I have approached this category as if I was going on a hiking trip alone. I leave all destinations, arrival times, departures, hotel accommodations and phone numbers with my family and a friend at our retreat locations. I also let them know in case of an “event” my intended course of action. I include in my bag maps and a compass of the area I am traveling to mitigate the chance that GPS is down. Included in this category is a flashlight and extra batteries. I additionally discovered that “a friend” has a number a safe houses available to me that I now have access to in an event.
Category 10-Free Space
        Usually by this time there is none so I move into what is available at my hotel destination. Shelter for one, but towels and personal hygiene items are available in your room, as are blankets and some type of food stuff such as fruits, instant oatmeal and grits, etc, but if you do have free space after packing your Contingency Bag add things like a additional food, clothing etc. or personalize it if traveling with children, chances are you won’t have any room.
Is this the perfect solution to an Air Travel Contingency Bag, by no means, and your bag will become personalize to your unique Air Travel project as mine has over the last year.  But it is only meant to mitigate a risk just like any other Bug Out, SHTF Bag etc. Good luck in your travels.
 JWR Adds:
Be sure to check current airline regulations. These seem to change regularly, and they restrict some items which seem quite innocuous.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

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 mi-brass.com.  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.

Monday, September 9, 2013

I'll reach social security age later this year - time has flown by in my life. However, my mind is still sharp, and I can remember so much of my childhood, it amazes me at times. If you were a guy, and grew-up in the 1950s and 1960s, you'll appreciate this memory. I don't know of any kid on my block, back in Chicago, who didn't make a "spear" of some sort - usually, we got in big trouble, because we took the kitchen broom and broke the handle off and sharpened (using that term loosely) into a point, and we all had spears to toss at targets. Even back then, as kids, we knew better than to throw the spears at each other - but usually found cardboard boxes to use as targets. And, when it was discovered that we "requisitioned" the kitchen broom - and we all did it - for our spears....well, let's just say we paid for our evil deeds.
Cold Steel's owner, Lynn Thompson, has a fascination, with all manner of sharp objects, not just knives. He also has developed many useful self-defense products, that are used daily. When I was running three martial arts schools, at one time - in different locations - I made a large purchase of Irish Blackthorn Walking Sticks, from Cold Steel - and my students snapped them in up short order. These were the genuine Irish Blackthorn Walking Sticks, not the synthetic ones, which Cold Steel is now offering. I can't think of any place in the world, were a walking stick is illegal to own. You can even carry one onto a plane - just "limp" a little bit while walking with your "cane."  So, it came as no surprise to me, that Lynn Thompson developed the Assegai Long shaft  and Assegai Short Shaft spears. Thompson never ceases to amaze me, the way he searches history, to come out with improved and modern renditions of ancient weapons.
The Assegai Spears were first on the scene in the early 1800s and were the result of Zulu King Shaka, and if you've ever watched some old movies, in which some tribes in Africa were depicted, you usually saw the warriors carrying some type of spear, with the most common one being some sort of long shaft Assegai Spear. Thompson is a real student of ancient and modern weaponry, and don't kind yourself, he isn't just into things that cut or can smash a skull, he's also into firearms and big game hunting as well. And, he can shoot, and shoot very well, too.
The Assegai Long Shaft spear is 6-foot 9 1/2 inches long - it is definitely on the long side. The short shaft model is 38 inches in length - quite a bit shorter than the longer version. The SK-5 mild carbon steel heads are 13 1/3 inches long on both models. And the shafts are made out of American Ash wood - with the shorter shaft being dyed a darker color - for some reason. I waited a year for my samples to arrive, these spears are always in great demand, and more often than not, you'll find them on back-order on the Cold Steel web site. However, if you search around on the Internet, you can usually find them for sale some place...and they are well worth the wait or the search, trust me.
Now, the Long Shaft Assegai Spear is meant to be thrown in target practice, the mild carbon steel heads will bend if you hit something hard, though - like a large tree - been there, done that - on my own homestead. However, you can set-up a bale of straw, or hay. or an archery target, or very thickly-stacked cardboard and practice your throwing skills that way - just be close enough to the target, so the spear doesn't smash into the ground. And, without a doubt, the long shaft Assegai is much better suited for throwing purposes, while the short shaft model is better suited for close-in combat against an attacker. [JWR Adds: Shaka, King of the Zulus was right: Except for a few circumstances, stabbing with a spear is the best way to use them in combat. That is why he ordered that all spear shafts be shortened.)] And the spears aren't designed for slicing and dicing, they are designed to penetrate an attacker, and with the 13-1/3 inch head, it can do the job. However, in a pinch, if you can get close enough to a game animal, and have practiced your throwing skills, I can see you taking game in a survival situation, I really can!
Now, I'm not advocating that anyone head out to the wilderness, with only an Assegai Spear, and live off the land and hunt with it - that is not what this spear is designed for, and you'll die in short order if you believe you can live off the land with a spear and a loin clothe as your only clothing.  Nor am I'm saying that the Assegai spears are the perfect weapon for self-defense, either. What I'm saying is that, these spears are a lot of fun to own, and they would look great hanging on the office wall at home or at work, and they are a great conversation piece as well, not to mention the history behind them.
We are simply looking at, a couple of very well made spears, that can, in a pinch, save your butt, let's say, if someone was breaking into your home - "yes" you can defend yourself with a spear - but let's not be foolish here - I'm sure you've all heard to never bring a knife to a gun fight - well, the same holds true here, don't bring a spear to a gun fight, either. Believe me, if someone had one of these spears flailing it around in front of me and I had nothing but empty hands, I believe I would remember an appointment I had on the other side of town and get to it.
Survival comes in many guises, and unfortunately, many armchair survivalist, believe that survival means heading out to the wilderness and playing Rambo with a knife, or in this case, just a spear. Yes, you can, in a pinch, take game with a spear, if you've practiced and have a quality product to start with. However, a spear wouldn't be my first choice in a hunting weapon, but it also wouldn't be my last choice, either - I believe I'd take a spear over a David and Goliath sling shot. And, I'd sure take a spear over throwing stones, or being empty-handed, too. So, there is a place for a spear, especially if you are into more than just guns and knives, as a collector, Survivalist or Prepper.
Both the Long and Short Assegai Spears come with a polymer sheath to cover the spear's head when not in use, too. And, the spears come in two parts, the head and the shaft, that you have to put together - just a couple screws, takes a few minutes. The Long Assegai retails for $76.99 and the Short Assegai retails for $65.99 - and in my humble opinion, you'll want both models - if for no other reason than to hang them on the wall in your office or den. When I worked for the late Col. Rex Applegate, he had several spears and other weapons from Africa in his Annex building - that was next to his house - where he kept all his guns, knives, books, and other weapons, and we had many conversations about the spears, that once belonged to a relative of his, who was a professional big game hunter in Africa.
So, if you want to add a little something a little bit different to your weapons battery, or just have one of these Assegai Spears as a conversation piece, or have some fun, throwing them into a hay bale, or as a last ditch weapon, place your order for one or both - and I'm betting you'll want both of them - they are a lot of fun, and they do start conversations when someone comes to your home or office. Lynn Thompson never ceases to amaze me, with the variety and different types of weapons he comes out with at Cold Steel. And, one comment I have heard over and over again, by folks when they saw my Assegai Spears was "awesome!"  - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Friday, August 30, 2013

Greetings Sir,
I read your post concerning magazine pouches for some of the more obscure weapons systems favored by many in our community. I'm not sure if the demand is there to justify a full production run of the pouches you mention, but we do produce very limited custom articles from time to time for clients with specific needs. If you would like a truly custom, American made product to fit the systems you mentioned, we would be glad to provide that service for you. Your input will completely drive the design, including, the products style, color, material, mode of function, attachment system, etc. I would be happy to send sample articles for test and evaluation before settling on a final design as well. The only obvious problem is laying hands on all the magazines you described in the post. In the past, we have just gone out and purchased the magazine in question, but with the mania of recent events still raging, that is clearly a problem. This can easily be overcome by you sending us a single magazine in each of the configurations for which you need a pouch. The magazines will be returned in good condition with the completed project if you choose to go forward with the order. Our company is DynamicDesignsUSA. We are located in Utah, so we are not subject to any of the ridiculous restrictions on magazine capacity, etc. prevalent in the more blue areas of the country.
If you're interested, please take a look at our web site for a small sampling of our capabilities. Only about 20% of the gear we manufacture is actually on the site because the products were developed for clients with very specific requirements. If you can describe it, we can most likely make it for you.
Best Regards,
Tyler Donaldson
Dynamic Designs LLC.
Phone: 435-313-4513
E-mail: admin@dynamicdesignsusa.com

JWR Replies: I've posted this e-mail for the entire readership, since I'm confident that I'm not alone in needing pouches for unusual magazines.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Your reader who wrote regarding "relocating & transport of firearms and ammo" from New Hampshire to South Carolina is trapped. There's no way out of New Hampshire without going through New York, Massachusetts, or New Jersey.

I'm sure readers in those states will have more info, but I'd suggest avoiding New Jersey at all costs. Massachusetts, despite its strong restrictions, may be the least onerous of the three; New York has a state law stipulating possession of five or more handguns is prima facie evidence of felony gun trafficking, New Jersey prohibits possession of hollow point ammunition (in any caliber) outside the home or business.

He, and you, are correct in not entrusting such goods to household move transporters, regardless of their rules. My suggestion would be to "bury" the New York/New Jersey/Massachusetts contraband at the very front of the truck under an absolutely packed and completely full load of innocuous household goods, make sure anything visible in the truck and in the first couple of layers inside the door is completely generic, totally non-suspicious "everywhere legal" household goods. Anything that could attract official attention should not be in the truck and especially not visible - plants, fruit (real or artificial), "weapons" - such as axes - or anything flammable. I wouldn't put even an empty fuel container of any type in the truck.

I'd suggest planning the trip to get to Pennsylvania by the shortest and safest route, traverse the non-American states in full daylight, arrange fuel/food/bathroom/motel stops to eliminate all stops for any reason in any of the non-American states, even if that means paying higher prices for fuel. Have maps available so alternate routes, if needed, can be easily determined, and observe each and every traffic law very strictly. Make sure the truck you rent is absolutely reliable, even if that means paying more to rent from a company that has newer trucks. An additional few hundred dollars in moving expense is vastly preferable to thousands in legal fees and confiscation of your property.

Once in Pennsylvania, while there may be some two lane travel (I-81 is 4 lane from northeastern Pennsylvania to the Philadelphia area and I-84 and I-80 connect to it from the east), he can get on Route 95 near Philadelphia and it's America from there to South Carolina. - Nosmo

JWR Replies: I generally concur. The Federal law does provide some protection, but some states like New Jersey are notorious for selective enforcement of their own laws. To be safe from prosecution from state authorities, one alternative is shipping your guns (or just their frames or receivers, for some models) to your new address, via a common carrier. By law and by the policies of the major shipping companies , you do not need to hire an FFL to do this. you simply ship them "from yourself to yourself." This often done by folks who are moving to or from Alaska and others who are visiting Alaska for big game hunts, to avoid entanglement with Canada's gun laws. Of course this approach must be timed carefully and there is the risk of theft. But it might be the best bet for folks with a lot of handguns or battle rifles.

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.

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.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Jessica B wrote a good article entitled "Self Defense and Stress" and to add to what she wrote about the lack of articles on "...that moment that you find yourself in a stressful, self-defense situation and how to overcome it," Col. Cooper's "Four Conditions" immediately came to mind. That great man not only gave use the "Four Rules" for firearms, but the "Four Conditions" for mental preparedness for self-defense, both of which are as perfect as simplifying the complex can be. I assume they have been discussed before, but are worth repeating. From Father Frog's web site, a good place for all thing Jeff Cooper, The Color Code:

White - Relaxed, unaware, and unprepared.  If attacked in this state the only thing that may save you is the inadequacy and ineptitude of your attacker.  When confronted by something nasty your reaction will probably be, "Oh my God!  This can't be happening to me."

Yellow - Relaxed alertness.  No specific threat situation.  Your mindset is that "today could be the day I may have to defend myself."  There is no specific threat but you are aware that the world is an unfriendly place and that you are prepared to do something if necessary.  You use your eyes and ears, and your carriage says "I am alert."   You don't have to be armed in this state but if you are armed you must be in yellow.  When confronted by something nasty your reaction will probably be, "I thought this might happen some day."  You can live in this state indefinitely.

Orange - Specific alert.  Something not quite right has gotten your attention and you shift your primary focus to that thing.  Something is "wrong" with a person or object.  Something may happen.  Your mindset is that "I may have to shoot that person."  Your pistol is usually holstered in this state.  You can maintain this state for several hours with ease, or a day or so with effort.

Red - Fight trigger.  This is your mental trigger.  "If that person does "x" I will shoot them."  Your pistol may, but not necessarily, be in your hand.

Col. Cooper described himself as always in Condition Yellow - plus- as long as he was awake. I need to zone out, i.e. Condition White every day if possible so I can "smell the roses," so fences, hardened barriers, dogs, lights, alarms, a loaded gun within reach,etc, all help in this regard.
God Bless and thanks for all your hard work in this worthy cause. - John M.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hey James,
I just read your comments on the Springfield Armory M1A and found it super interesting, I've been an avid hunter and shooter all my life and am very used to shooting rifles both long and short range/ scoped and unscoped. I've primarily owned and heavily customized both bolt action and AR platform guns and have been super happy with their accuracy and performance, however I've always wanted an M14 or M1A. Seeing the specifications on the "Loaded" model, match grade 22 inch - 1-11" twist barrel, I suspect it will be quite accurate. I am a young guy with not a ton of money to throw around so I want to make a good purchase. Will the Springfield let me down if I want to shoot it scoped at sub-MOA to accurately hit man-sized targets out to 1,000 yards? I'm planning on shooting my custom hand loads through it, 178 Hornady A-Max HPBT. Thanks for your time I'm a big fan of your blog, BTW. - Jason L.

I've owned a half dozen M1As over the years, but I eventually sold all of them, during the 1994-2004 ban. I replaced them with several L1A1s, later supplemented by some HK91 clones.

The "Loaded" M1A is a decent choice, but you must consider that it is an expensive rifle ($2,022, retail) and spare U.S.G.I. M14 magazines and spare parts are very expensive!  And you probably won't get sub-MOA accuracy unless you fiberglas bed the rifle. I recommend only buying original USGI magazines. many of the aftermarket magazines cannot be trusted to function reliably. (See my M14 / M1A Magazine FAQ, for details.)

For the same money as a "Loaded" M1A with one magazine and no scope, you could buy a PTR91-GI rifle (a HK91 clone), AND 100 spare alloy G3 magazines (under $3 each!), AND a Savage Model 10 .308 bolt action that is sub-MOA, right out the box.

For comparison, 100 spare original M14 magazines would cost you around $2,600. And just a spare USGI M14 operating rod ("op rod") now costs around $250. You should dispassionately consider not just the initial cost of the rifle, but rather the full lifetime cost, including magazines and and a supply of repair parts.

If you buy a PTR91, make sure that it is the PTR91-GI variant that has chamber flutes that allow you to shoot the widest variety of ammo.

And if you feel that you must buy an M1A, then see this recent article: The Rise, Fall and Rise of the M14.

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.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Most of the citizenry in the United States has seen at least one of the movie theater box office hits “Armageddon,” “Deep Impact,” or “The Day After Tomorrow.”  Those are just movies, but the human brain not in touch with reality doesn’t entertain the thought of these scenarios actually happening in this day and age.  But one day, one or several of the things displayed in those movies will. Experts say that so many apocalyptic events we preppers expect have a very low chance of happening; but nothing is a 100% certain, anything could happen at any moment.  Experts set out percentages about the possibilities of nuclear war, massive solar flares supervolcanoes, super-earthquakes, EMPs, failure of our nation’s infrastructure, pandemics, asteroids hitting us, etc. and we are always led to believe they are unlikely to occur.  But we know for certain that all of the naturally caused ones are 100% certain to occur at some time in the future, we just don’t know when; because they’ve all occurred at many points in the past and the forces that made them happen are just as in motion now as they were then.  We must prepare for our friends and family.  Most Americans believe that since we survived the “Ice Age” that we can learn from the survivors’ mistakes and the ‘do’s and don’ts’ they made. But do we really have that inner strength to adapt to such harsh conditions for years to come?  Modern technology has spoiled us with cell phones, internet giving us access to news and information, and also through television and radio. Not to mention air conditioning and heat to keep us comfortable; as James Wesley, Rawles mentions in his book “How to Survive the End of the World as we Know it”,”  the concept of" "The Big Machine" meaning the everyday things we all take for granted in life.  Grocery Stores, Law Enforcement, Distribution Centers, Hospitals, and Electricity, he asked the one simple question that fuels the whole idea of ‘prepping:’ “What will happen if the big machine is missing pieces?”  Pure chaos of people running down the streets killing others in cold blood for the little food they might have on them.

One thing many government officials and even experts are always reluctant to face is the idea of just how quickly things might happen.  Assume that a disaster occurs that leaves “The Big Machine” broken.  Most people probably will flock to the supermarkets to get the same things they do right before a known big storm is about to hit any city, and clear the shelves just as fast (typically hours).  For those individuals that have waited until that moment to think about their survival through the chaos; they, if they’re lucky, might have expanded the typical one to two week supply of food they may already have in their homes to three weeks.  With water however, most people rely on municipal water or well-water which both require electricity to operate and would be non-existent if “The Big Machine” stalled.  Whatever water they could get from a store or might otherwise have on hand if they typically drink bottled water might give a family of four a couple of weeks at best.  Look at Hurricane Katrina and how quickly society and survival rates devolved over just a few days.  The average person will die after three days of water.  What you can readily see is that having prepared enough to be able to stay in your homes with the doors bolted and making it appear as though no one is home for three weeks would put any family at a major advantage.  They would at least be able to ride-out the initial chaos.  After those initial three weeks raiding of other homes by the few that have survived would increase and people would be salvaging for supplies.  If we consider the possibility that an un-prepared individual is able to use what they already had in their kitchen and got in their rush to the grocery store and then to raid surrounding houses effectively and steal from others to the point of being able to replenish their stock-pile, they might be able to extend their survival to six weeks.  So imagine, if you can simply be able to stock-pile enough water and food, and the ability to defend those supplies, to last you six weeks you will likely out-live the vast majority of the population.  By two months, you will likely find yourself looking for other people that are still alive.  We like to believe that our government would eventually get enough resources together to help rebuild, but if a disaster is widespread enough (it took over a week for FEMA or the National Guard to get to some areas affected by Hurricane Katrina), the government will be so depleted in its own personnel and had to deal with its own basic survival that a truly widespread Hurricane Katrina level or higher disaster would leave us on our own for at least two months.  Just think, 6-8 weeks of survival supplies and skills can get you through the initial chaos and into the phases where communities might be able to have consolidated enough supplies for the survivors so that true re-building and putting society back together can begin.  Just be realistic with yourself about how quickly you would run out of supplies and others would as well, how quickly others would start invading other homes looking for supplies, and how long it would take society to recover from something as simple as a loss of electricity.  Two months is optimistic, but every week past that you can prepare increases your family’s chances of survival many-times over.

 As humans who have had way more expansion and growing of new technologies more than any other decade, we’re too comfortable with our heated blankets and express cappuccino machines during a cold winter’s night.  Its small luxuries like that this country and much of the world knows, things being so easy and so carefree with life.  People believe that they ‘need’ luxuries like these, they have become so dependent on them.  What they need is food, water, and shelter.  People in this country don’t have to go out and hunt their own food, process and cook from start to finish; most wouldn’t know where to start when it comes to field dressing an animal you just killed to feed your family for the week.  It’s the vulnerability like this that makes this country so unprepared for the tragic scenarios that could face us in the future.  When a Global Financial Crisis, EMP, or Pandemic comes into play, average everyday civilians will have no clue what to do or where to start to further provide for their families. When the thought of your children going hungry starts to sink in, that’s when preppers like us become endangered.   For those of us who know the survival tricks and tactics from dedicating our time and passion into preparing, we will be the first targets for attacks.  As prepper’s, in order to save our own lives, we have to help save others before a global crisis happens.
There are 2 steps to getting your friends and family who may be skeptical of the whole idea of “Prepping”.  Getting informed and then getting prepared.

 A highly recommended resource to get friends and families thinking about the “What If’s?” is the fantastic book I mentioned earlier by James Wesley, Rawles.  “How to Survive the End of the World As We Know It”.  This book is a great resource for not only information about any crises that may come to our cities, but it also includes very helpful tips about water filtration, food storage, and medical advice. This book could very well save your and your family and friends lives. It is very important your friends and family have a hard copy of this book, because of course if something were to happen; chances are we won’t have electricity to plug in our Kindles or Ipads to look up survival tips. Calling community meetings and talking to friends and family about the possible situations is one step in the right direction to get a larger group of people informed.  The more our people are exposed to this information mentioned in Rawles book, the more they’re minds will start to wonder about the real possibility of these catastrophes happening.  They will do one of two things, decide they don’t care and not want to be around for the chaos to happen, or two, they will decided to protect their families and do whatever it takes to get ready.  The more information they know about prepping, the better.  Not just for them, but for you as well.  One more neighboring family that knows how to take care of itself is one less family that you have to fear (and one more potential ally) in a survival situation.

Getting prepared the right and successful way is easier said than done. We want to encourage people, not intimidate them with a thousand dollar stock room of dry goods.  Encourage a small “Emergency food” kit, just as most American’s have an Emergency First Aid kit hidden somewhere in their home or car. Something is better than nothing.  20 dollars here, 10 dollars there is a good place to start, slowly building little by little so they can feel comfortable and confident being on their own for a week or two after their pantry runs low. If your budget won’t allow hundreds of dollars for #10 cans of dehydrated food, you’re not doomed for starvation. An easy much less expensive way is to dehydrate your own food and store them in ‘Mylar bags’ since they will help keep your dehydrated food stay fresh for up to 25 years, if done properly.  It is a pretty good investment that isn’t very expensive at all! After getting your dehydrator, which they are readily available for around $40 on Amazon.com (no need to spend $1,000 if you can’t afford it) plan a trip to the grocery store and plan to spend 20 dollars. On your shopping list should be boxed dinners like ‘mac-and-cheese’, ‘Pasta Roni ,’ and canned fruits and veggies. $20 dollars spent on 58 cent ‘mac-and-cheese’ and $1.48 pasta packets should get you quite a few dinners to make ahead. This way when you get home, you can pre-make these easy inexpensive meals and dehydrate them, this way they are already sauced and mixed! Not only will it be faster and easier to reconstitute when it comes time to break open the package, but it will cut down on your cooking time because your meal is already sauced and mixed, so you will save on your fuel that needs to be conserved as much as possible.

One thing people do not want to do is get too ambitious in a short amount of time. Don’t start off by having a goal of a years’ worth of food, that is a great goal but it can also get very overwhelming very fast. Start with a small goal.  Tell yourself you would like to have a weeks’ worth of food, then when you have conquered that goal, do it again. Water is the most important item to have in your prep kit since you can only survive three days without water, the meals you have are no good if you have no water to drink or to reconstitute and heat them. When it’s convenient with your finances buy an extra pack or two of water and store it away. If you work little by little, you’re prep stockpile will grow before your eyes in just a matter of a few weeks.  Along with a stockpile of bottled and jug water, a purification system as a back-up can very well save your life if you happen to run out of water.  With a water filtration system you can drink water anywhere there is a supply that you can get to.

Weapons are a very ideal thing to have (and you need to be sure you know how to use them); if you put all this time, money, and work into building your disaster preparation kit for your family, the last thing you want is to be attacked and taken over by a riot or gang desperate for food.  You have to be able to protect your family and your chance of survival: your water and food.  If you can’t afford to buy a gun, a less expensive alternative is an electric Taser; but, compared to firearms, these are not ideal because of the close proximity needed to do damage.  Also, if someone is attacking your house and you tase them (assuming they're alone, if they’re not then a Taser will leave you defenseless in a hurry), even if you manage to drag the spasming body miles away the person will recover with the knowledge of where you live and that you have something to protect and he can just come back with some of his survival-mates.  The price of an electric stun gun can range from $15 to $80 (and a Taser can cost $400 to $550), so it is a good alternative along with knives if you have nothing else but hand combat.  Remember though, having a knife or firearm that can actually threaten someone else’s life is useless if you do not physically prepare yourself with the knowledge and mettle to use them.

If you’re a new prepper, these trips should help you get on track on the things you need to do, and if you’re a veteran to prepping maybe a few alternatives and ideas were helpful and more cost effective if you’re on a tight budget.  Of course we’re all hoping these unfortunate events won’t happen, but we have to be prepared to survive, and rebuild society when the time is right. My hope for the future is that together, we can inform more people so they can prepare and be safe. If you get one person to start prepping, you may have just saved lives. Let that drive you to inform and save as many as you can. Every person saved is a stronger community when the tough times start. Good luck and God bless.

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!

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, 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.

Friday, February 3, 2012

As an avid competitor in IPSC and local pistol competitions, a number of years ago I decided to reload ammunition on my own.  I felt this would pay for itself over the long haul as well as allow me to work up loads that would have the correct power factor, accuracy, and excellent feeding for competitions, not to mention self-defense.  In addition, after the passing of the Brady Bill, I took on another task of casting my own bullets with the possible specter of either the government removal of ammunition from store shelves or some other legislative means of taking away guns via restrictions with powder, USEPA restrictions with lead and so on.  I wanted to be relatively self-sufficient and have an asset that might be marketable in light of a possible economic, social, or political meltdown.

T his discussion will specifically address bullet casting 185 grain semi-wadcutter bullets and 200 grain semi-wadcutter bullets for the .45 ACP or “melting lead for the meltdown.”

It helps to have a good source of lead and other metals for the “melt.”  The “melt” is what you have in your melting pot to pour bullets.  This comes from your source and supply of metal.  My brother initially supplied two 5 gallon buckets of discarded used wheel weights from the garage he worked at.  In addition, I have purchased on eBay “linotype” which makes a very good melt for cast bullets.   Wheel weights generally have an appropriate mix of lead, tin, and other metals that give a reasonable hardness with cast as bullets.  The ratio noted in the Lyman manual indicates the following alloy and the hardness factor for their own recipe called Lyman #2 alloy: 90% lead, 5% tin, and 5% antimony giving you a hardness factor of 15 (Brinell Hardness Number or BHN).  The linotype mentioned (which comes from the printer’s shop and generally available via eBay) has a hardness factor of 22 due to having more antimony and a bit less lead.  The wheel weights had to be sorted and melted into ingots and put aside until there was enough to start the casting process.  I also had to weed out any weights that smacked of zinc as this will be a negative factor in casting.

My bullet casting started with primal tools and has worked to a little bit more efficient tools.  I started with a cast iron pot, ladle, kitchen stove (really makes the wife happy) and a Lyman #2670460  200 grain semi-wad cutter mold with a four bullet capacity.  The handles are RCBS which work with the Lyman mold.  My second mold is from Magma Engineering which can be checked out at their web site, a 185 grain semi-wad cutter bullet with a two bullet cavity.  Again, I went with RCBS handles.  

Other tools of the trade include: a hickory handle to break what is known as the sprue, a stainless steel spoon for stirring into the melt either Brownells Flux or a pea size chunk of paraffin wax, a heavy duty kitchen glove or mitt, a heavy duty box to plop newly cast bullets into, and a small pan to place excess sprue into.     

Later, after learning some of the basics and wanting to speed up the casting process I graduated to a Lee Pro 20 Series melter.  There are numerous other melting pots on the market that you might check out at Midway USA or other outlets.  I also picked up Lyman melt thermometer to keep track of the temperature of the melt. But, wait, there’s more!  So, to get started with your melting, you need the following:

1. A 2 cavity or 4 cavity bullet mold (mine are the Lyman #2670460 4 cavity 200 gr. Semi-wad cutter and the Magma Engineering 2 cavity 185 grain semi wad cutter).
2. A pair of RCBS mold handles.
3. Lee Pro 20 Series Melter

4. Safety Equipment: Face shield, apron, long sleeve shirt, gloves, and leather boots
5. Miscellaneous: hickory handle, stainless steel spoon, flux/paraffin wax, kitchen glove, and container for bullets.

Those bullets have to be sized and lubed before they can be reloaded.  This is what I wanted to be able to do.  So, the additional tools you’ll need for the sizing and lubing from your manufacturer of choice, I picked a:

1.  Lyman 450 Bullet Sizer/Lubricator

2.  A Midway Lube Heater (which is mounted under the Sizer/Lubricator)

3.  Lube (Alox or Blue Angel -- the latter needs the lube heater)

4.  Lyman top punch sizing die.  The sizing die and top punch size the bullet (in my case to .452 diameter) to the right diameter for the .45 ACP.

I might add it would be helpful to have a manual handy for the whole process such as the Lyman Reloading Handbook.  A handbook for bullet casting should also come with the bullet sizer/lubricator.  There may be something on YouTube as well; however, I have not checked it out.  In addition, I believe there are videos available to assist you.  I have never used or purchased a video but I think it would be helpful.

So, in a well-ventilated workspace, let’s fire up the Lee Pro 20 melter.  I take the ingots that I have made from the wheel weights and/or the linotype and place them in the melter.  There is a gauge on the melter for the approximate temperature and as you become better experienced you will likely be able to drop the melt thermometer.  You want at least 650 degrees and you want a small fan or a vent hood to dispel any lead fumes.  As the ingots slowly melt, add a teaspoon of flux or the pea size piece of paraffin wax to draw the dross to the top of the melt.  Skim off the dross with your stainless steel spoon (and duct tape the handle end to prevent burns) and discard in something non-flammable. While the ingots are in the pot melting, you will want to heat your bullet mold.  I just set mine on the edge of the melter and rotate it to try to heat it with some uniformity.  When the melt has reached temperature, place your mold under the valve or spigot where the melter will allow the melt to flow out and lift the handle to allow the flow of the melt.  As you fill each cavity let an additional amount pour to have a good break when the sprue plate is popped open.  At the top of the bullet cavity is the sprue plate which has to be hit to shear off the excess melt providing a nice flat base on the bullet.  Once the sprue plate is knocked back with your hickory handle, break the mold open, gently tap if needed, and drop the bullets into a non-flammable container. 

Use your spoon to scoop up one of the bullets to see if it is well formed.  Generally, it takes me maybe 4-to-5 pourings to get nicely formed bullets.  This is due largely to the molds having to get up to temperature. When the bullets are coming out well formed then continue the process of pouring, breaking the sprue plate open, dropping the newly molded bullets, and so on.  If you notice your bullets coming out looking “frosty” then you will need to back off on your temperature or let your mold cool off a few minutes. When a bullet “frosts” it becomes brittle and that isn’t good while moving down your gun barrel at 850 fps.  Keep constant check for that.  50 pourings with a four cavity mold will give you 200 bullets.  You can get this in maybe an hour or more depending on your skills and experience.  As you  consume the melt, you will have to put in more ingots.  This will take a few minutes to melt and come to temperature.  I like to size and lube during these breaks  while my ingots are initially starting to melt.  I try to finish up my bullet casting when the depth of the melt in the melter is about an inch deep (measured by my spoon) and after I have gone thru enough melt to cast 400-500 bullets.  Time to unplug the melter and let the remainder cool down. 

With free wheel weights a good bit of money has been saved.  The equipment will pay for itself.  The time is well used and for me a bit therapeutic.  I like seeing things come out right that I actually had a part in.  A box of 500 bullets is now close to $50.  When I was competing regularly I was going thru 300 bullets per week which isn’t a lot.  I still was knocking at the door of A class in IPSC with the 300 rounds per week in practice.  So, for me, buying 300 rounds a week at Wal-Mart was not going to work.  Casting and reloading my own ammo has worked out well.

Now, we’re not quite finished yet since the cooled bullets have to be sized and lubed.  Generally speaking, you would want to “slug” your barrel to confirm the size you need to get your bullets to.  I didn’t do that and never have had a problem.  I just made sure I had the .452" top punch/sizer.  I am assuming you have your sizer/lubricator and heater mounted at this time so I am dispensing with further instructions.  If you use Lyman Alox or other lubes that don’t need heating then don’t plug the lube heater in.  If you go with “Blue Angel” hard lube then you will need to crank up the heater, place your lube in the lubricator and run a bullet thru.  You will likely have to adjust the sizer/lubricator to ensure the bullet is being completely sized and that the bullet lube fills the lube groove on the bullet fully.  You can crank out the sized and lubed bullets and place them into whatever container you’d like.  I have used Betty Crocker icing containers, small boxes suitable for holding 300-500 bullets, and a large plastic canister that held psyllium husks from NOW foods.  These bullets are ready for reloading, storage,  packaging to sell or barter. 
In conclusion, this has been a basic how to to melt for the meltdown.  You will have to experiment as you go along.  Talk with others who cast bullets as well and you will get tips and pointers that will be helpful.  I can’t leave without leaving a couple thoughts as to a spiritual side of bullet casting.  One is that when the lead ingots melt, there is a tremendous heat and I actually ponder a place called ‘hell.’  I cannot imagine being there and as a child asked Jesus Christ to forgive me of my sin and trusted Him as my Savior.  Thankfully, I will never have to face an eternity as hot or hotter than the melted lead in my melter.  Second, as a believer, Proverbs talks about the “fining pot and the furnace.”  It can apply to the lives of Christians who are going thru the “heat” of trials in this life.  After you skim off the dross from the melt, the melt is mirror-like when you look down into it.  You can actually see your reflection.  It makes me think that when the “heat” is on in my life, the Lord wants to skim off the dross and see a reflection of Himself as He looks on.  And, He wants the world to see His reflection as well.  God bless you and keep you safe.  May he give us all the wisdom we need in the event of a “meltdown.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dear Jim,
To add to Pat Cascio's comments on AR rifle construction, I thought I'd share the following:

This document explains the criteria.

This chart puts them all together

One of the very critical components is the buffer tube on carbines.  The aftermarket tubes are of 6061 aluminum, versus 7075, and are milled, rather than being hammer-extruded.  They are about half as strong as mil-spec, and have less gripping surface on the threads.  This is probably one of the most critical areas of failure on the rifle.

Please note that Knight's Armament is not mentioned on this chart, but they will happily detail the internal redesign they've made that from all tests and reports is superior to the standard design and materials. However, it is also much more expensive.

The AR bolt carrier group is easily replaceable, but it's worth the extra money for the stronger components of tougher alloys to increase operating life. In addition, I differ from most and always recommend the hard chrome finish on the bolt carrier group.  While on active duty in the 1980s, I got to handle both parkerized and chromed groups side by side, and there was no comparison.  The Army went away from the chrome for several reasons, one of which was cost, but I believe this was a huge error on their part.  The chrome finish is tougher, more durable, has greater natural lubricity.  Heat treated and parkerized steel has a static coefficient of friction of about .8 (1.0 is the baseline).  Hard chrome has a coefficient of .05.  It actually performs better with minimal lube, as the surface tension of the liquid increases drag.

I will disagree with Pat on one point:  It is certainly possible to get a very accurate and functionally reliable AR in the $600 range, but it cannot be as durable in the long term as one built with better materials, which will always raise the price.  I would advocate an inexpensive rifle over none, but when opportunity presents, it should be assigned practice, range and backup duties, with better rifles taking the SHTF role. - SurvivalBlog Editor At Large Michael Z. Williamson

Monday, November 21, 2011

SurvivalBlog readers may recall that I've previously tested the Triple Eight Professional SOL Knife.  The 888 SurvivIt Tool is more versatile, and a bit more robust. The blade is AUS8 steel, and the handle is epoxy-painted steel.  It's assembled with machine screws and good quality pivot and fittings, so maintenance and repair is easy, though I don't expect it will need much.

The edge was not quite as sharp as I like, and I had some trouble cutting leather thong with the hook.  The serrated section, however, as short as it is, zips through heavy nylon, leather and plastic easily.

The handle is tiny, but comfortable enough even in my largish hands, and is well-designed.  I tested it in a hammer grip to chisel, in a standard grip to shave and whittle, and in a side grip for both drawing cuts and scraping. 

The edge geometry is excellent, and I was able to jab the blade well into various woods, both in the woodpile and on treated lumber in the shop.  It sliced into wood corners easily, sawed twigs, and scraped tape, bark and leather.

The mechanism is strong and sound and remains in place while the knife is held.  Keep in mind that there is no guard.  This is a compact tool, and its diminutive size means there are some compromises necessary.  Once you have a good grip, it remains easily in hand and is safe to use.  Just don't get careless.

In addition to the belt clip, there's a convenient thong hole for either neck carry, or just for a retention cord.

The suggested retail price is $34.95, but is usually available for less at most retailers.- SurvivalBlog Editor At Large, Michael Z. Williamson

Editor's Disclaimer (per FTC File No. P034520): SurvivalBlog accepts accept 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. Mike Williamson was furnished one 888 SurvivIt Tool for test and evaluation, which he intends to keep for his personal use. He has received no compensation or inducements from Triple Eight.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

There is a great reference for barrel cleaning and break-in procedures that is available free on web, courtesy of Krieger--a well known barrel maker. It is a reference worth printing out. - J. McW.

Just a quick note on the letter about home made gun solvent. He mentions that "All of these solvents comes in colored glass to keep out sunlight."
He goes on to mention hard liquor bottles as a possibility. My problem with them is their size. You can get the "pocket flask" but most often you see 750 ML and 1.5L bottles. Common old beer bottles will work just as well, may be easier to find, and will hold more manageable amounts.

For labeling such recycled bottles I like to use a medium Sharpie [permanent marker] and plain white paper with a wrap of clear shipping tape. Go all the way around the bottle with at least an 1/8 inch over lap onto the glass and between multiple rows of tape if needed. The tape is tough, UV resistant, and cheap.


In the home-made gun solvent article, hydrogen peroxide is mentioned. It shouldn't get near any aluminum parts as it can induce corrosion, pronto. We have been advised in aviation facility where I work that any solvents and cleaners used on aluminum surfaces should specifically state whether it can be used on aluminum and absolutely should not contain peroxide. I'd hate to see a reader clean a nice lightweight 1911 with aluminum frame with something containing peroxide, only to get pitting and corrosion as a result.
BTW, I've picked up the Kindle version of "Survivors" and gifted one (so far) as well. Thanks for SurvivalBlog and all you do. God Bless, - G.R. in Texas

One needs to avoiding cleaning [complete] polymer guns in an ammonia solution, as the ammonia will do irreparable damage to the plastic. - J.D.F.

JWR Replies: Those two warnings should not be ignored. Do not use this cleaner for Glocks, Springfield XDs, or other polymer-framed pistols or guns with any aluminum parts unless you have removed the barrel and are cleaning the steel parts nowhere near the gun's plastic or aluminum parts!

Friday, October 7, 2011

I'm a benchrest shooter and gunsmith, and I use quite a bit of cleaning solvent. When I used to buy it, I would buy it by the pint bottles. While not terribly expensive, it was still a cost. I asked fellow shooters what they used and most did as I did, buy it. Then I asked a very successful shooter what he used and he said "my own brew"! Just what I wanted to hear. He was nice enough to share his brew mixture, and that is all I've used since.

There are a couple main things you're trying to do, or combat, with cleaning solvents: carbon fouling and copper fouling. Carbon is the byproduct of the burned powder. Copper fouling is bullet jacket material that has plated itself in the bore. If you used lead bullets, you would have to contend with that, but I don't, so this is targeted for using copper jacketed bullets. Carbon is probably the toughest to get rid of, it is extremely hard and stubborn. It can build up and degrade accuracy. The best way to keep it in check is to not let it build up in the first place, by cleaning when the barrel is new and not shoot a hundred rounds before cleaning. But sometimes you have to deal with what you have, now. Copper fouling does the same thing, it builds up in the barrel and just keeps getting worse.

If you get a used gun and it is fouled pretty bad, you may want to use something other than this cleaner at first. Abrasive cleaners (JB's, Iosso) do a good job of getting through this stuff. It takes some elbow grease to work it back and forth and you need to keep changing patches, but it will get through it. Once the rough stuff is gone, then using this mixture cleaner will get the rest. [JWR Adds: The general consensus is to avoid abrasive bore cleaners, unless it is absolutely necessary. In my opinion, on a very pressing emergency would dictate that. Otherwise, nothing more abrasive than a brass bore brush should ever be used.]

[JWR Adds This Warning: All of the usual precautions for handling caustic and flammable fluids must be taken, such as wearing goggles and rubber gloves.]

So how to make it? There is an initial expense to this, but it goes a long way and my formula makes quite a bit. First, go to a GM car dealer, and buy a few cans of "GM Top Engine Cleaner", ask if they have it in the metal can. It is my understanding the newer Top Engine Cleaner comes in a plastic bottle, and may not be as effective. I'm not sure since I have the metal can cleaner. I would think it would still work okay. It comes in a 15 ounce can and it the basis for the cleaner. It has the chemicals in it for fighting carbon deposits. [JWR Adds: Very similar products are sold under various brand names as Upper Cylinder Lubrication & Injector Cleaner.] You can scale how much solvent that you want to formulate in a batch by the number of cans of Top Engine Cleaner that you buy. The second ingredient will be the hardest to get, and that is strong ammonia. Ideally, find a blueprint shop, large printing shop, and ask if they have 28% ammonia. It comes in a gallon jug. Trust me, don't sniff it, it will clean your sinus' like you've never known. The next ingredient is Marvel Mystery Oil that you can get in most auto parts stores. Lastly is regular Hydrogen Peroxide which you probably already have.

Get a colored glass container, brown, blue, something that is tinted. All of these solvents comes in colored glass to keep out sunlight. Some of the whiskey/bourbon/scotch bottles are brown and work fine [if prominently labeled "Poison" and with a description of the contents.]. Shake and pour in a 15 ounce can of top engine cleaner. Measure 25 ML of ammonia, 5 ML of peroxide and 5 ML of Marvel Mystery Oil and dump it all in. It won't explode, don't worry. Shake it all up and you have a top notch bore cleaner. The Top Engine Cleaner goes after carbon deposits, the ammonia and peroxide attack the copper fouling, and the MM oil acts like a penetrating oil that helps get under the deposits and keeps the bore conditioned.

The ammonia reaction to copper fouling will turn a white cleaning patch blue, or rather the patch will pick up the blue tint from dissolving the copper. It a good tell-tale indicator of how well the barrel is cleaned. You don't have to get every last bit out, but if there are heavy deposits, it will be a deeper blue, when getting fairly clean, it will be a much lighter blue.

I use this on all of my rifles, and for pistol barrels. Most of my rifles are bolt actions, and cleaning is easy, but use a bore guide to keep the cleaning rod from damaging the barrel. If you have an lever gun or semi auto, you may have to clean from the muzzle. Beware that you can severely damage the end (what is called the crown) by letting the cleaning rod drag over the edges of the barrel end. I would recommend getting a "coated" cleaning rod to help with this, but still, go slow and watch the rod position to keep it centered in the barrel.

There are a couple substitutions I've heard that you can use Mercury Quicksilver Gear Lube. It is a product made by the Mercury Outboard Motor company. It must have the same properties as the Top Engine Cleaner". The ammonia is the toughest to get, and may even have some restrictions now, given the state we're in. You need the strong stuff. The 28% I referenced is what I have. Most blue print shops now use large copy machines instead of the old "blue prints" where the ammonia was used. You may be able to find some strong ammonia at commercial janitorial suppliers. You can substitute Kroil Penetrating Oil for the Marvel Mystery Oil. Kroil is a penetrating oil, not exactly easy to find but it is available. - W.S.

Monday, September 12, 2011

One of my consulting clients recently bought several Bed Bunker gun vaults and I had the chance to examine them. This product is an unusual horizontal home gun vault design that replaces your bed's box springs. These vaults have two major advantages: 1.) They don't take up any more floor space than your current furniture, and 2.) They will probably be overlooked by most burglars that are in a hurry. (And statistics show that most burglars are in a hurry. Typically, they are in a house for less than five minutes. The bad guys can't attack a safe if they don't know that it is there.)

I was pleased to hear that these vaults are manufactured in Spokane, Washington. That minimizes the shipping costs for those who live in any of the American Redoubt States, and you can feel good that you'll "Buy American". In this case, you'll even "Buy Redoubt".

Bed Bunkers are built with welded 10 gauge steel in the body and a 1/4-inch thick inset steel door that weighs 140 pounds just by itself. The hinge side is backed by a very heavy flange that protects the vault against attacks where the hinges might be cut away. Because of the flange, that would be a huge waste of time for burglars. The basic unit (twin bed size) weighs about 650 pounds. The vault's pair of cylinder locks are a robust "bump proof" and relatively pick-proof lock variety with cylinders and keys that are made in Israel. These vaults have a two-hour house fire protection rating. At around $2,000, they are relatively expensive per cubic foot, compared to traditional upright gun safes. So I would mostly recommend them to families where space is at a premium. One of the vaults that I examined was a double vault where the two Bed Bunkers are bolted to a welded spacer, providing a platform for a king-size bed. The combined empty weight is 1,450 pounds, so it would be exceedingly difficult for burglars to tote that vault away.

The legs on these vaults have threaded attachments, with a very long adjustable length of travel. They can be screwed all the way in so that the vault nearly touches the floor. Or they can be completely removed, allowing you to bolt the vault to the floor, with lag bolts. For the greatest security, I recommend bolting your safe down. By attaching a long dust ruffle, you can make a Bed Bunker disappear from view. (Use a 14-inch dust ruffle if you don't use the vault legs.)

As with any other home security purchase, be sure to keep quiet about it. Do not mention to friends or relatives that you've bought a vault, and swear your kids to secrecy. Just remind them that if they blab about it, then a possible consequence is that burglars will steal a portion of their eventual inheritance. When burglars learn of a lucrative yet hard target, they'll probably come equipped with a cutting torch that can defeat even the best gun vault. So remember: Loose lips sink ships!

Lastly, be careful about where you leave your vault keys. Don't just put a vault key on your key ring. It is best to establish a well-hidden yet quickly-accessible place to store your vault keys. A fake electrical outlet box is one well-proven ruse. (Unless you live off grid, every room in your house probably has several outlets, so an extra one won't be noticed by all but the most sophisticated burglars.) Another good hiding place is a fake can of shave cream in the bathroom drawer.

Disclaimer (Per FTC File No. P034520): Bedgunsafe.com is not a SurvivalBlog advertiser. They have not solicited me or paid me to write any reviews or endorsements, nor have they provided me any free or reduced-price merchandise in exchange for any reviews or endorsements. I am not a stock holder in any company.

Friday, June 3, 2011

I often have blog readers and consulting clients send me questions about firearms calibers. They are often confused, but this not always their fault. It is a confusing, complex, and often arcane topic. A lot of the facts that you will find are mere trivia, but since safety is an issue--(we mustn't fire the incorrect ammo in our guns!)--it is important to study.

To begin: Metric caliber designations are usually written with an "x" in the middle to distinguish the bore diameter and case length. For example, the 6.5x55 designation tells us that the cartridge uses a 6.5 mm bullet, and a case that is 55 mm in length.

The following table is partly Creative Commons licensed (courtesy of Wikipedia), with additions by JWR (such as 7.5mm, 7.7mm, .375 H&H, .455 and .577) and minor corrections and comments. Hence, I am retaining my moral rights.





Bullet Dia.


Typical Cartridges JWR's Comments
.172 4.4mm .172

.17 HMR,
.17 Remington

Varmint cartridges
.177 4.5mm .177 Pellet, .175 BB Airgun .177 caliber Common "BB Gun" and "Pellet Gun" ammo
.204 5mm .204 .204 Ruger, 5 mm Remington Rimfire Magnum Dubious market longevity, so beware!
.220 5.45mm .220 5.45 x39mm AK-74 series. (.220 Swift is actually a .223)



.223 .222 Rem., .223 Rem., .220 Swift, FN 5.7x28, .22-250, etc. A bullet diameter of .224 is used with some cartridges
.228 5.8mm .228 .228 Ackley Magnum  
.243 6mm .243 .243 Winchester, 6mm Remington Actually, it is 6.2mm
.25 6.35mm .25 .25 ACP  
.257 6.5mm .257

.256 Win. Magnum, .25-06, .257 Roberts,

  6.5mm .264 6.5x55 Swedish Perfect for deer-sized game
.264 6.7mm .264 .264 Win. Magnum  
.270 6.8mm .270 .270 Winchester, .270 Weatherby Mag. Great for antelope
.280 "7mm" .284 .280 Ross, 7x57 Mauser, 7mm Magnum, .280 Remington Actually, it is a 7.2mm bullet, but called 7mm.
  7.5mm .307 7.5x55 Swiss Schmidt-Rubin
.30 US 7.62mm .308 .30-06, .308 Winchester Ubiquitous!
.30 Euro 7.62mm .311 7.62x39, .303 British 7.62x39 is the world's most common centerfire military cartridge.
.30 Mauser 7.63mm .311 .30 Mauser Broomhandle Mauser.
.32 7.63mm .312 .32 ACP, .32 S&W  
  7.7mm .311 7.7 x58 Jap WWII Arisaka
.323 8mm .323 8x57 Mauser .325 WSM, 8mm Remington Magnum, 98 Mauser, et al.
.338 8.58mm .338 .338 Lapua, .338 Winchester Magnum, .338 Federal Becoming popular for counter-sniper rifles
.348 8.75mm .348 .348 Winchester  
.355 9mm .355 9mm Parabellum, .380 ACP  
.357 (".38") 9mm


.357 - .359

.38 S&W, .357 Magnum A ".38 S&W" is NOT 0.38"!
  9.22mm .363 9mm Makarov The Russians just have to be a little different.
.374 9.3mm .374 9.3x62 Mauser, 9.3x72 R  
.375 9.5mm .375 .375 H&H Magnum The world's most popular dangerous game cartridge
.400 10mm .400 .38-40, .40 S&W, 10 mm Auto A .38-40 is actually a .400
.41 10.25mm .410 .41 Magnum Sadly, fading away
".405" 10.25mm .411 .405 Winchester Misnamed, but a great cartridge
.408 10.4mm .408 .408 Chey Tac Based on the venerable .505 Gibbs case
.404 10.75mm .423 .404 Jeffery  
.41 Swiss 10.4mm



.41 Swiss / Vetterli The famous Vetterli cartridge
.416 10.6mm .416 .416 Barrett, .416 Rigby  
.43 11mm .430 .43 Spanish Remington Rolling Block
.44 10.8mm



.44 Special, .44 Magnum  
.45 11.45mm



.45 ACP, .45 Colt, etc.  
.454 11.53mm .454 .454 Casull Bear Medicine
.455 11.53mm .454 .455 Eley British revolvers, often reworked to fire .45 ACP.
".476" 11.53mm .454 .476 Enfield aka ".455/476". Named for its neck diameter
".450" 11.6mm .455 .450 Adams Yes, a ".450 Adams" had a bigger bullet than a ".455"
.458 11.6mm .458 .458 Winchester Magnum, .45-70 Big game rifle
.460 11.6mm .458 .460 Weatherby Actually a .458, but called a .460 for marketing
.475 12mm .475 .475 Linebaugh  
.480 12mm .475 .480 Ruger Actually .475" bore, but .480 sounds better
.500 12.7mm .500 .500 S&W Magnum Polar Bear Medicine
.50 12.7mm .510 .50 AE, .500 S&W, .50 Beowulf, .50 BMG, 12.7 x 108 mm, etc. More correctly, they are .51 caliber.
.505 12.8mm .505 .505 Gibbs African big game rifle
.577 14.5mm .570 .577 Snider British service rifle and carbine
"14.5mm" 14.88mm .586 14.5x114mm (PTRS-41) Light cannon, but there are now "sniper rifles" chambered in 14.5mm
.68 17.27mm



Nelspot Paintballs Paintball Markers
  20mm .787 20×102mm, etc. Light cannon
.950 24.13mm .950 .950 JDJ Based on the 20 x 102 mm Vulcan case
  30mm 1.18 30 x 113 mm, etc. Light cannon

As you can see, there are some amazing inconsistencies in cartridge designations. (See, for example, .405 Winchester and .38-40.) As Jim Keenan at the Firing Line Forums aptly put it: "It is usually best to just accept cartridge names; trying to figure out reasons for the names leads to insanity.")

One regular source of confusion in cartridge naming is whether "bore diameter" refers to the rifling land dimension versus rifling groove dimension. For example, most .303 British rifles have a land-to-land diameter of .303 and a groove-to-groove diameter of .311. So when you handload a ".303" cartridge, you actually use a .311 diameter bullet.

Specifications have also changed for a few types of ammunition. One example is the 8mm Mauser cartridge. Early production 8x57 rifles used 8.08 mm (.318 caliber) bullets, but the later guns used 8.2 mm (.323 caliber) bullets.

Now, on to the realm of shotguns, where life is simpler but there is still some minor confusion.

Common Production Shotgun Bores and Gauges in North America


Diameter, Inches

Diameter, Metric
Round Balls Per pound JWR's Comments
.410 .410 10.41mm 67.62 Not truly a "Gauge". (If it were, it would properly be a "67 Gauge")
28 Gauge .550 13.97mm 28 Uncommon gauge, loved by some quail and dove hunters
20 Gauge .615 15.63mm 20 Second most common gauge in the U.S. and Canada
16 Gauge .663 16.83mm 16 Fading in popularity
12 Gauge .729 18.53mm 12 The most common gauge in the U.S. and Canada
10 Gauge .775 19.69mm 10 Revived popularity, due to the mandate of lead-free shot for waterfowl hunting in the U.S.

Note that there are presently enormous revolvers being marketed that can fire both .45 Colt cartridges and .410 shotshells. (The Taurus "Judge" series.) I attribute the popularity of these revolvers to: A.) Ignorance of ballistics, and B). The unerring willingness of the American people to spend their money on impractical toys.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Mr. Rawles,

While I agree, of course, with Steve V.'s assertion that firearms need to be handled safely, people should be familiar with their firearms, and training is a good thing; I very much disagree with the assertion that operating the slide of an automatic pistol the correct way is "an extremely bad habit".

First, his complaints about what happens when racking a slide with thumbs on opposite sides of the slide and facing opposite directions aren't very valid in my opinion. The notion that a shooter's hand and arm conceal the pistol making it "hard to see exactly where the muzzle is pointing" is silly. Even with a small-frame Glock 26 or 27 I can still see the muzzle when operating the slide. But I don't have to even see the muzzle to know where it is pointing because the hand on the pistol grip is indexed and I know where my fingers point without having to actually see them. Almost any man, woman, or child can stretch out their arm and point their index finger and know where their arm and finger are pointing without looking at them.

Also, at no time does the muzzle point "along or into the left lower forearm". Even if I had forearms like Popeye, this would not happen. The pistol is pointed downrange, the left hand is on the slide, well behind the muzzle, and every other part of the left arm is farther back than the hand.

Second, I manipulate a pistol up high in my field of view so that I can see the pistol, the environment, and potential adversaries all at once. Manipulating the slide the way that Steve prefers when the pistol is up high in the shooter's field of view is nearly impossible (which is why he recommends the low 45-degree position). You have to either turn the right wrist to the right (for a right-hand shooter) in order to effectively grasp the slide with the off hand or you have to contort your arms to bring your forearms parallel with each other with the elbows nearly together in order to keep the pistol pointed ahead and get your off hand onto the slide with the thumb-forward grip that was recommended.

If you do see someone pointing a pistol to their left or right while manipulating the slide -- regardless of their approach to manipulating the slide -- it is a training issue and should no doubt be corrected. But that doesn't mean that a mechanically inefficient or awkward approach that is better only for the range should be preferred. - Jeff in Georgia


Mr. Rawles,
The article by Steve V. leaves me with some concerns for the general populace.  I have spent my entire adult life in public service, serving both my country (13 years) and my state (13+ years), always carrying a weapon. 

My concerns are the way Steve V. has individuals pulling the slide to the rear; “With the left hand, reach over the slide (your thumbs should now both be pointing in the same direction – forward, but on opposite sides of the weapon), and with thumb and forefinger grasp the slide near the muzzle. Pull the slide back and lock it open.”  This does multiple things wrong in my book.  One, it places your hand operating the slide close to the muzzle.  No plan survives first contact!  With a sympathetic response, one could be missing a finger and thumb or parts thereof.  Second, you only have one finger and only a portion of your thumb on the slide to obtain your grip.  Third, you are potentially placing your body, dripping blood, or clothing over the ejection port and possibly in the chamber.  And fourth, this only allows you to hold the weapon vertical, as in a firing position or cant it to the left; both ways again cause possible problems and more malfunctions if your intent is to clear a malfunction.

Steve V. states that “most people rack the slide by holding the pistol in the right hand, grasping the rear of the slide with the other hand in a manner such that the thumbs are pointing in opposite directions on the same side of the weapon,” is an extremely bad habit.  I completely disagree and argue the following reasons.  One, your hand operating the slide is nowhere near the muzzle and is rear of the ejection port, clearing it of any self-induced malfunctions or injuries.  Two, you have four fingers on the right and most of your palm on the left of the slide making a C clamp.  Blood is slippery and the more friction area you have between you and the slide the better.  Three, this forces you to either have the weapon upright or allows you to cant the weapon to the right allowing anything you don’t want, i.e. a spent casing, to fall free.  Obviously to the right is preferred.

Muzzle Discipline.  This is a taught technique or an allowed bad habit from the start.  Weapons are always down range or pointed downward (cover/ready position) with the finger off the trigger until necessary.  Even when clearing a malfunction, loading, unloading, or reloading, the muzzle faces the enemy.  It is muscle memory and if taught from the start is second nature.  All should be taught never to flag (point, cross, etc.) your buddy with the muzzle, always keeping in mind weapons are inherently dangerous.  That said, good guys walk in front of other good guys in the heat of the moment.  Your finger should be off the trigger and if you are up on target, lower [your muzzle to a] ready [position] if this happens.  After they pass, move if necessary, and re-acquire/re-engage your target.

Final thought when clearing your weapon.  One, drop the magazine allowing it to hit the ground or floor!  No need to train a bad habit by grabbing it as it drops.  If you do, you have the potential of grabbing an empty in combat.  Let it drop!  Two, rack the slide three times to the rear, locking the slide to the rear on the third time.  If you do it three times, you shouldn’t be tempted to try and catch that round as it comes out, yet again another bad habit.  After locking the slide to the rear, visually inspect the chamber and the magazine well for anything. 

Practice doesn’t make perfect.  Perfect practice makes perfect!
Stay safe and when in doubt, empty a magazine!  Or two. Regards, - T.F.

Monday, March 7, 2011

What advice could you give for moving one's store of firearms and ammo a considerable distance in a relocation within the continental Unites States?  I am in one of the reasonably free northern New England states and figure that if I can make it through New York state without being stopped I can breathe a relative sigh of relief.  Still, I envision a scenario where the vehicle with the supplies is never left unattended.  And if I had to make this move alone I would consider doing so in a motor home so that I would only have to stop for gas.  Shipping would be legal, but risky just the same, not to mention costly.  Your thoughts on this matter would be appreciated. Thank You, - Scott S.

JWR Replies: You are correct that commercial movers cannot be trusted with firearms or ammunition. Don't make the mistake of thinking that you can hide them in the bottom of a box that is marked "Packed By Owner" ("PBO"). They will very likely get pilfered. A good friend of mine lost a nice Series-70 Colt Model 1911 pistol that way. The moving company's response when he tried to file a claim was that they would only reimburse him a pittance at their standard rate for "three pounds of household goods." Not only is the temptation for theft too great for the individual employees, but companies often have liability restrictions. For example, most moving firms refuse to transport ammunition because they mistakenly consider it a fire hazard.

My advice is to rent a fully-enclosed U-Haul type truck with a roll-up door. Buy a top quality round padlock to secure the rear door. If your drive is lengthy so that you must make an overnight stay, then pick a motel where your room is on the ground floor, and where the truck will be within line-of-sight to your motel room window. The very best situation would be to back the truck in, so that the cargo door is directly outside your motel room, just a few feet from your window. (This, however, is rarely possible if you are driving a big truck.)

You can legally use a common carrier such as UPS or FedEx to ship a gun "from yourself to yourself", without having to do a transfer through a Federal Firearms license holder. This might be practicable if you need to move just a couple of guns. Or if you are doing a cross-country move and either flying or traveling by train while your household goods are simultaneously shipped via truck, then you can check your firearms with your baggage, in a locking airline-approved case. I recommend Pelican brand and Starlight brand cases that have large locking flanges for padlocks. Make sure that you put padlocks at both ends of the case, so that it cannot be pried open.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Dear JWR:
Regarding the recent Cold Weather Patrol Tactics and Techniques article, just one note about condensation prevention from bringing a cold weapon indoors. Packing or leaving a heavy duty garbage or similar bag outside and placing your weapon inside the bag can greatly reduce condensation from the indoor climate. Just place your weapon completely inside the bag. I like to compress the opening in my hand like a balloon opening and instead of blowing into this opening, I suck as much air out as I can with my lungs. If two or more deep inhalations are required to remove excess air after manual compression of the bag, remember to close your hand around the bag opening to avoid the bag expanding. Once you are satisfied you have removed as much air as possible, tie the opening very tightly with a rubber band, tape or the bag itself. I have found this technique to nearly eliminate all condensation on the weapon as the metal warms to ambient indoor temperature, but the plastic bag will have some moisture on the outside.

I do not recommend the usage of heavy duty compression or vacuum bags if the weapon is your first line defense arm. Unless these bags have a rapid way to open and extract your weapon, I prefer the tear-away and cheap garbage bags to allow rapid rearming when needed. However, as an aide to the air removal, I have seen the usage of small hand pumps and even a small battery powered air mattress inflator used in a reverse role. - J.G.

JWR Replies: That is a good suggestion. Of course, once a gun fully equalizes to room temperature, it should soon be removed from the bag, so that any trace of moisture doesn't settle on the gun an induce rust.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Dear James,  
Thank you for all that you have done for millions of us who were once asleep and unprepared!   I had a question for you regarding obtaining a Federal Firearms License (FFL).  I am in the process of starting some home businesses as a backstop to my "office job."  I have considered getting a FFL and Class 3 license to generate income from gun and ammo sales out of my home.  Is this advisable or does this make me too "high profile?"  I remember the movie Red Dawn!   Thanks and I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! - Mark in Florida

JWR Replies: I have some strong reservations about getting an FFL. The biggest advantage is of course that it gives you access to modern firearms at wholesale prices. But unfortunately there are several drawbacks. First and foremost, it raises your profile, both locally and with the BATFE. Secondarily, it also makes your business premises subject to government search under some circumstances. (The last time I checked, the ATF agents were more constrained in making searches if you operate a gun business out of your home.) You will also need to keep meticulous records and the records will become government property when you eventually go out of business.

My advice is to not get an FFL but instead to specialize in selling pre-1899 guns. Buying and selling these doesn't require a license. Nor does selling ammunition (in most jurisdictions).

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Greetings fellow SurvivalBloggers.  Any of you who read my piece “How I Woke Up” may recall that I started my awareness and prepping in August of 2009. 

Today I wanted to touch on my limited knowledge of firearms, and what I’ve done to start firming up that area. 

Up until six years ago, I had never owned or fired any kind of weapon other than slingshots and pellet rifles as a child.  I dabbled in archery as a young adult, but wasn’t the guy splitting arrows on the bulls-eye. 

But then something happened six years ago that changed that.  I live in arguably one of the safest semi-rural neighborhoods in the country.  I also own and operate a preschool on two acres.  So every time I even casually brought up the idea that it might be prudent to own a firearm, my wife flipped out and that was the end of the discussion.  (We both grew up in families that never owned guns.)

Anyway, back to six years ago.  Aside from the preschool, I also did a lot of side work in real estate, consulting for restaurants, bars and hotels, and property management.  I had an office suite in the building where I was manager on the weekends.  It was in a somewhat seedy part of my town (the south side, where our city leaders put all the low-income housing).  I was often in the office late at night, always trying to get caught up on paperwork.  Usually I had the door open, as our climate is very comfortable most of the time.

One night at about 11 p.m., I was just wrapping up and getting ready to leave.  I looked up from my desk to see a very nefarious-looking character standing in my doorway.  He was looking around, sizing up me and the office.  Being a bit of a hooligan in my youth, I put on my best “game face” and stared intently back at him, nodding my head in a “what’s up?” move.  Fortunately I had taken off my dress shirt, and just had a tee-shirt on.  This exposed the tattoos on my forearms, helping with my tough-guy bluff.  For whatever reason, he decided I wasn’t what he was looking for, nodded back and moved on.  Very scary.      

Well, the next day I was at the local gun store.  Knowing absolutely nothing about guns, the semi-autos with their slides and magazines scared me.  So I got something I understood – a Charter Arms Snub-Nose .38 Special.  I liked the concept of revolvers.  Very easy to operate, and know without a doubt if they are loaded or not.  And I liked the compact size of the weapon.  That was less intimidating to me. 

I went over to the local range and popped off about 10 or 15 rounds at a target about 10-15 feet away.  I hit that target, and was satisfied that I was “good to go.”  That gun and few cartridges went in my office desk, not seeing the light of day for a long time.  (I’d be lying if I didn’t say I secretly hoped my previous visitor might make a repeat appearance.  Fortunately for all involved, he didn’t.)

Right around this time, my wife and I purchased a cabin in the mountains.  Our plan was to retire there in 10-15 years, but in the meantime enjoy it on weekends and holidays.  After a year or so up there, I realized if there was ever trouble, we were virtually on our own.  The nearest Sheriff sub-station was 20 minutes away.  And its crew consisted of four people: a daytime dispatcher and a daytime patrolling deputy, and a nighttime dispatcher and a patrolling deputy. 

So I picked up another snub-nosed .38 Special, and put it and a few cartridges in my bed-stand table.

Fast forward to August of 2009, when my wife and I began prepping.  Soon, we were basically set:  Retreat, check.  Tribe with former Special Forces guy, Carpenter, Electrician, and Registered Nurse, check.  One year worth of dried and canned food for tribe, check.  Heirloom seeds for four acres, check.  Neighbor’s well who will need my photovoltaic power system to get water out of the ground (thus we’ll share the water), check.  Armament, check.        

The last one got me to thinking.  I really hardly know how to use any of that stuff.  Recently I did shoot at hand tossed clay pigeons with a shotgun.  Proud to say that I hit 13 out of 16.  But still, not very experienced.

So when an offer was in my e-mail box to take a four-day mid-week defensive handgun course at Front Sight for only $99, I jumped on it. 

The course was very similar to a recent writer’s shotgun course, so I won’t get into all of that.  But I will say that I learned so much.  There were a lot of tactical things that had never occurred to me.  Also, one of the two-hour lectures talked about the moral, ethical and legal ramifications of firing upon someone.  That is something that we might not think much about, but should.  Oh sure, when the Golden Hordes come it will not be an issue.  But until then, it is. 

I also learned what my wimpy little snub-nose .38 Specials can (and can't) do.  At seven meters or less, I was dead on.  At 10 meters and it was about 70%.  Beyond that, those weapons are basically worthless for me.  That was good to know. 

Everyone else on the range had Glocks, M1911s, and Springfield Armory XDs.  They were putting out much more accurate firepower at greater distances.

So if you have firearms but little to no experience and think that you’ll handle whatever comes along when the time comes, then you may be sadly mistaken.  And that mistake may cost you or your loved ones dearly. 

JWR Adds: I also strongly encourage my readers to get fully and properly trained. When it is YOYO time, you will need effective firearms with power and range kept close at hand. That means battle rifles and riot shotguns, not handguns. As many firearms trainers have observed, a handgun is just a handy defensive tool that might give the opportunity to fight your way back to your rifle, in the right circumstances. Showing up at a gun fight armed with a just a handgun is arriving seriously under-gunned.

Proper firearms training means getting plenty of regular practice. Firearms training is not just one-time event that you can check off a list. You need to regularly work at it, to maintain a perishable skill. This means dry practice every week, and live fire at least several times per year.

Take full advantage of local firearms training, mobile trainers (such as the inexpensive Appleseed shoots), and the big schools like Gunsite, Xe, Front Sight, and Thunder Ranch. A defensive handgun course is just the beginning. Get training with rifles and shotguns, too. Train like your life depends on it, because someday soon, it very likely will.

It is also important to think of each firearm as a weapon system. This means buying all the accessories you need to make it fully capable--such as an ACOG scope, plenty of spare top quality magazines, magazine pouches, cleaning equipment, lubricants, slings, holsters, web gear, spare parts, and ammo. Practice using all of these items extensively, to work the kinks out. You should practice until you are confident, competent, comfortable, and quiet, using all of these items as a system. I'd rather have just one truly fully-equipped rifle than a dozen guns that are minus crucial spares and accessories.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Recently I have been asked by a number of friends and associates for specific recommendations on the selection of suitable rifles for hunting big game (including feral hogs, deer, problematic black bears, etc.). Rather than spending considerable time conversing with everyone on an individual basis through a whole bunch of e-mail messages, I will offer some of my own brief personal observations as a starting point, and then will be glad to answer any additional questions for those who may be so inclined to ask.  I must make it perfectly clear from the start that I do not consider myself to be some anointed “expert”, but rather someone who has learned a few lessons over the past years.  Because my views are not going to be published in any for-profit endeavor, I am not beholden to any particular manufacturer for opinions expressed.  With this in mind, I will focus on a few different models that will provide excellent service, yet be cost effective and of a good value for the money spent. 

When hunting any kind of game, the objective is to dispatch the game animal quickly and humanely while using a minimal number of rounds of ammunition.  Of primary importance in this are two critical factors: exactly where the bullet strikes the animal, and the construction of the bullet itself; it must be matched to the type of game to be taken.  In order for the bullet to strike where it must, the operator must be able to deliver the shot from any number of field shooting positions, under time pressure. The weapon selected for this need not be fancy or expensive, but it must be reliable, and the operator must know it thoroughly inside and out.  There are several action types to choose from, such as single shot, semi-automatic, pump, lever, bolt, etc., and all can be used effectively, and each has specific advantages to offer.  Due to the popularity of the basic bolt-action design, many manufactures offer it in a wide variety of calibers and barrel lengths.  Add to this several different stock designs and finishes, other features such as blue steel or stainless, detachable magazines, integral scope mounting bases, sling swivels, etc., and one can have many different choices that can seem complicated.  I have observed that weapons featuring all the latest gadgets, bells and whistles, and in the flavor-of-the-day wiz-bang calibers offer no real advantage for the majority of hunters, but likely serve to keep the manufactures busy dreaming up what they will offer the following year.  However, understand that there are some special circumstances where specialized equipment can make the difference for an experienced hunter, but this article is not geared in that direction.  Let us not waste money on stuff we don’t need.  Let us instead invest in a simple, reliable and accurate weapons package, and become highly proficient in the use of such.  

For the purpose of this article, I will focus on a few bolt-action hunting rifles, currently offered in popular calibers.  Why?  For starters, the basic mass produced bolt-action design is simple to operate, reliable, very strong, inherently accurate, easy to maintain, easy to carry in the field, and affordable.  Given a decent optical sight and a couple of small extras, it will be just as good as anything else for the greatest majority of our needs.  True, custom rifles built from the ground up are fun to own and give great pride of ownership, and performance to match, but they can be cost prohibitive.

Ammunition and caliber selection:  If there is one aspect of my choices that will generate debate, it is this one.  There are many suitable calibers that will do the job, some better than others.  Many are so very close in ballistic qualities that the differences in actual field conditions are negligible.  Several are re-hashed versions of older cartridges that failed commercially, and have been brought back to life under new names.  A few may actually offer very good performance but are expensive when compared to others.  True, the cost of a few rounds of ammunition is only a very small part of a successful hunt, but the ability to properly use any given rifle and achieve good results demands that the operator use sufficient ammunition in practice to be skilled.  One has only to compare the costs of different cartridges (with similar bullets) suitable for big game hunting to see what I mean by this. While this can be mitigated to some extent by assembling your own ammunition, for many this is not cost effective due to initial start-up costs.  Another major factor in caliber selection is the ability to purchase ammunition in just about any place in the world.  Try finding the latest wiz-bang ammunition in some small town sporting goods store or local Wal-Mart on a Sunday afternoon, let alone in a foreign country. For this reason, I stay with my two favorites, the .30-06 Springfield and its shorter cousin the .308 Winchester.

The .30-06 Springfield is a long-time favorite for literally millions of hunters in every corner of the world.  Adopted by the United States military in 1906, it has accounted for a huge number of game animals, large and small.  It is very versatile, and is offered by every major manufacturer in a wide variety of bullet configurations suitable for just about any game one could take within the scope of it’s power range.  I have used it with great success to take a variety of game, and have found it to be very accurate in a number of different rifles.  With the availability of decent military surplus ammunition of good quality, sufficient practice in field shooting scenarios and techniques can be done without burning up a pile of more expensive hunting loads.  

Adopted by the United Stated military in 1955 as the T-65, and first commercially offered by Winchester, the .308 is my second favorite choice for gig game.  It uses the same bullet diameter as the .30-06, but in a slightly shorter case.  Because it uses a shorter case, the length of the rifle’s action can be made a bit shorter, thus reducing the overall length. The ballistics of this cartridge are very close to that of the .30-06, although bullet weights for hunting are typically lighter than that of the .30-06.  The .308 Winchester has taken a large number of game animals, and like the .30-06, it well suited for our purposes.  In military nomenclature, it is known as the 7.62x51 NATO, with lots of good surplus loadings available for less-expensive practice sessions. It has a history as a sniping and machine-gun round, and is very versatile. I have had excellent results with this cartridge hunting a variety of game.  My most accurate center-fire rifle, a Remington 700P, is chambered for this.

When it comes to selecting a suitable big game hunting rifle, there are what seems to be endless choices of caliber, finish, stock material, barrel length, sight arrangements, and other options in the fore-mentioned action types by a whole bunch of manufactures. What follows are some observations as to brands and models of the bolt-action types observed by myself and a couple of associates whom I have hunted with and also have a good bit of shooting experience.

Ruger: Offering several models based on the Model 77 action, the newest and improved offerings called the Hawkeye line, feature very good triggers, integral scope bases, choices of finish and stock material, and models of compact or standard length.  My personal favorite is the “All Weather” line in stainless steel with synthetic stock.  At this time, it is listed in .308 and .30-06.

Remington: The Model 770 is a base model entry-level rifle featuring a polymer stock with integral trigger guard in a very simple action. An associate uses one in .30-06, and is able to get quite acceptable accuracy from it.  While not my preference, it will get the job done.  The Model 700 is the rifle by which all others are judged.  Released in 1962, it is one of the most accurate rifles out of the box.  Available in many different versions, it is favored as a basis for many custom rifles, and has a proven record in military use and as a sniping weapon by countless law enforcement agencies. As a hunting arm, it is offered in numerous calibers and configurations.  It has been my go-to hunting rifle model, and has never failed my uses.  It’s short-action cousin, the Model 7, is a shortened version and very well liked.

Savage: Often overlooked, Savage offers quite an impressive line of quality bolt-actions mostly based on the Model 110 and it’s variants.  A unique feature is the barrel system, which uses a special retaining nut that can be removed and replaced much easier than most designs.  Custom builders like this for creating switch-barrel rifles.  My preferences are models in the Weather Warrior series, featuring the newer AccuTriggers and the new AccuStock design.  I have seen Savage rifles used to take game, and observed their use in various tactical shooting competitive events, and believe they represent a very good value.

Mossberg: They currently offer hunting rifles in .30-06 and .308 Winchester in the 100 ATR line.  Several of the variants feature rifle scope bases installed, and some have a very durable applied metal finish. Synthetic stocks are available.  While I have limited experience with this line, and they are very new, I liked the sample I test-fired.  

Thompson Center (T/C): Offers a line of bolt-action rifles called the Icon.  While not inexpensive, features such as integral scope bases, detachable magazines, quality barrels and several finish and stock options make this brand worth a good look.  Available calibers are several, including .30-06 and .308 Winchester.

Winchester/FN: The Model 70 dates back for many years, and has included numerous variations in a variety of calibers. Often referred to as the “Rifleman’s Rifle”, it has an almost cult following.  However, due to a storied history of manufacture and company ownership, it would take quite a bit of writing to cover even half of it, and at this time I am not sure of exactly what is being offered and in what configurations.  I can say this: if one researches the different Model 70 variations, he can find some very quality used rifles out there.  The newer versions produced here by FN look promising.

No big game hunting rifle is complete with out a few basic accessories.  Some are affixed to the rifle itself, some can be carried by the hunter.  Suffice to say that those accessories that are not affixed can become lost or forgotten, so plan accordingly.

Telescopic sights are a great aid to accurate shooting, and when chosen properly can help ensure a successful outcome.  For big game rifles, a high magnification is not really necessary, and I have had great success using 4X or 6X fixed power models.  I recommend using some form of the basic duplex reticle.  Other types can be too busy, and it is easy to become confused when making a quick shot.  Variable power range models are acceptable, and the better quality brands are repeatable throughout the power range.  I have had very good results using scopes built by Leupold, and recommend them for many applications. Excellent quality is the norm, and the range of available models is extensive. One inch main-tubes are well suited to hunting rifles, but for peak performance a 30 millimeter main-tube is tops. However, expect to pay a premium for this.  I have used models featuring illuminated reticles, but this feature elevates the cost substantially, usually beyond the budgets of most hunters.  One more important point: the bigger a scope is, the higher above the centerline of the rifle’s bore it must be mounted.  This can severely interfere with getting a proper cheek weld on the stock, thus making field shooting more difficult.

Iron sights are unfortunately missing from too many rifles these days, but I have them on my favorite Model 700 as a backup if my scope is damaged in the field.  The scope rings on this rifle are the quick detachable type, helping to make the transition from scope to iron sights much quicker.

Slings are a great aid, not only for carry, but also as an aid to field shooting if you have learned the proper technique.  Most rifle manufactures offer only a basic carry strap design, but I have found that the "Ching Sling" is excellent.  [JWR Adds: The very best nylon Ching Slings were formerly made by Wilderness Products (sadly discontinued), but very good quality leather Ching Slings are still made by Galco.] This sling design requires the installation of a third swivel stud forward of the trigger guard.  Once you learn to use this, you will want one on all your rifles.

Bipods of the folding type mounted under the forearm have worked very well for me.  I always try to get into the most stable shooting position, and this type offers the greatest speed.  I use bipods made by Harris exclusively. While not the lightest, they are the best quality for the price.  Some folks don’t like them for whatever reason, but I have found them to be an essential accessory.  Avoid the imported copies if possible.

Factory rifle packages that include scopes are a nice idea, but most feature cheap, lower quality imported optics.  Spend a bit more money up front to set up your rig correctly.  It will be worth the expense later on. 

All the above information is a start on equipment selection, but it is only the views and expressions of one man.  Every hunter or shooter will have their own ideas about what may be best suited for them, and there are enough options out there to handle most every need.  If I can add one more important aspect to this, it is that proper training and practice in safe, efficient gun handling skills and field shooting techniques is absolutely necessary.  All the best equipment in the world will not make up for a lack of purposeful quality practice. In a future SurvivalBlog post, will present a detailed writing of what practice and range drills have proved useful to me for those who are interested.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Having been a wilderness survival and firearms instructor for many years, I never considered the need for a survival retreat until I got married and moved from the country to a small city of about 30,000.  My minimalist lifestyle had allowed me a certain level of financial freedom.  Driving used cars and fixing up a home that had been previously condemned meant I had not made a car payment or house payment in years.  I spent summers running a high adventure camp for the Boy Scouts of America and worked for city the rest of the year as a firefighter and HAZMAT Technician.  I also managed a real estate investment trust that purchased distressed properties for resale on installment. 

For most of my life I lived in the same small town where I grew up.  My ancestors had been there for generations, carving a life out of Appalachia after immigrating from Wales.  Our economic inactivity and rural location gave us some buffer against the downward spiral of society.  I would find out later that we were much more independent than the majority of Americans.  I remember being shocked the first time I met someone who could not replace the wax seal on their own toilet.  I was very close to my grandfather who grew up during the Great Depression.  He had a backup for everything.  Like most modern homes, his had a gas furnace and heat pump.  He also installed a natural gas heater that required no electric fan and a coal furnace backup “just in case the gas line froze.”  This is the atmosphere in which I grew up.  I never wondered why we had a big garden and multiple freezers.  Where else would we put the hogs we raised and butchered? 

I guess I figured that if small town life became intolerable, I could melt into the wilderness reappearing only when I needed provision from my food storage.  Growing up around Amish and Mennonites I maintained a year's supply of food to hedge income fluctuations.  I knew before I got married that most women prefer luxuries like central heat and toilets that flush without a bucket of water.  So when we married, I moved into her home in her small city and immediately felt uneasy.  I was no longer self-sufficient.  I had lost my independence.  I recognized our need for a safe house, a mortgage-free self-sufficient retreat that we could get to on foot if necessary.  My new wife is no prepper, but agreed that I could spend whatever I sold my house for on whatever I wanted if it made me feel more comfortable about my move to the city. 

This is the story of some of the major changes I have made thus far.  I have never made a lot of money, but half of those on the planet survive on less than $2 per day and I earned more than that so the only obstacle between me and savings was self-discipline.  I do not know what to tell someone who has consumed as much or more than they produced their entire life.  Those who insist on living like the rest of the world will die like the rest of the world.  I do not know what the future holds, but I do know that if we always do what we have always done, then we will always get what we have always gotten.  I share this narrative in hopes that my experience will sensitize the reader to opportunities in their own lives.  Luck is when opportunity meets preparation.  Maybe something here will help someone make their own luck.  Many of the smaller purchases have been omitted.  Few people want to hear how I bought windows for my retreat at the local thrift store although almost everything except the lumber itself is previously owned.  I have better things to do with my time than salvage lumber.  There are things I would have been done better with more money, but my goal was to shift existing resources whenever possible and stay within my budget.  Early last year, I built a house in Honduras as part of a mission team.  The Hondurans taught me to live an abundant life with very little money.  I learned to build and cook on a mud stove.  The daily lives of the very poor provided a lot of survival insight and ideas.  I have included a breakdown of my revenues and expenses.  These transactions all occurred in Appalachia and amounts will vary by region.

Selling My Home During Recession
Since no bank would dare finance my dilapidated house, I sold it and the adjacent lot on installment to a qualified buyer for my original cost of $9,000.  I bought it years ago on installment for what the seller was going to have to pay to tear it down.  In the past year I received revenue as follows:
Down payment $2,000
Monthly payments (one year)  2,000
Total received   4,000
Net Cash Flow $4,000


I fell into my first major purchase when I bought a gun collection from someone I knew who had been charged with a felony.  It would be illegal to own them after his trial and he needed cash.  I subsequently sold the ones I did not want ending up with 9 guns (including a handgun) for $1,350.  While the collection came with some ammunition, I waited for sales and spent another $500 on ammo. 
Beginning balance $4,000
Purchase gun collection -1,500
Sold junk guns +  150
Bought additional ammo -   500
Ending balance $2,150


Like most people, my new wife bought things as she needed them.  We immediately bought three month's worth of staples for the pantry for $650.  This included six gallons of bleach and three ceramic water filter kits for about $35 each if we need to drink water from the 10 acre lake behind us. 
Beginning balance $2,150
Pantry upgrade -   650
Ending balance $1,500


I faithfully searched web sites for a pre-electronic diesel 4WD which I eventually found in good working order for $1,500.  I immediately sold my high mileage Chrysler 300M to a Facebook friend for the same amount.
Beginning balance $1,500
1989 Ford F-250 diesel -1,500
Sold Chrysler 300M +1,500
Ending balance $1,500


At one time I attempted to form a group to buy land together.  After getting banned from a few Yahoo groups for Spam, I gave up and decided to find like minded neighbors instead.  I rolled a small retirement account from a previous employer into a self-directed IRA that allows me to purchase real estate.  Every morning for four months I checked the multiple listing service (MLS) for new listings in my target area.  I immediately drove to new listings myself contacting the listing agent directly if I was still interested.   The acreage purchased in the name of my Roth IRA trustee for $5,000 is exempt from bankruptcy assets and cannot be easily attached by creditors (if I had any) because it is in a qualified retirement plan.  I had to hike up the gated road it lies on after a snow storm to see the property which was being liquidated as part of a divorce settlement.  My initiative made me the first of many offers for the asking price.
Beginning balance $1,500
Roth IRA funding +5,000
Purchase acreage -5,000
IRA fees -   200
Ending balance $1,300


Precious Metals
I have a state employee retirement plan which allows me to borrow up to 45% of the value.  I diversified by doing so and using the funds to buy precious metals at the end of January because historical charts showed it almost always rises from there.  It has. 
Beginning balance $1,300
Retirement loan None of Your Business
Precious metals None of Your Business
Ending balance $1,300


Long-term Food Storage
Not everything needs to be freeze-dried and nitrogen packed.  Those things were purchased online from Costco where every year I also order a bucket of survival seeds.  Grains came from a bulk food co-op (ask around) truck route and packed in Mylar-lined buckets with oxygen absorbers.  Other things were purchased from the local warehouse club.  ($1,250-$1,250=$0)
Beginning balance $1,300
Long-term food storage -1,300
Ending balance $    -0-


The Retreat
Since my acreage is held through an IRA, I am not to make improvements to it that are not funded by my IRA.  Anything on blocks, however, is considered personal property and not real estate.  I could build slowly as installment payments on the house I sold came in, but want to finish this month, so I am using some of my windfall extended unemployment compensation to build a fortified, insulated, building that sleeps six.  It has a wood/coal stove (that I bought years ago for $200) and a rain catchment system.  My solar power system and other valuables are in a rented metal storage unit close to the retreat.  When I actually use the retreat, it will be considered a distribution of my account, but that will be the least of my troubles. 
Beginning balance $     -0-
Remaining land contract +5,000
Retreat building costs   -4,000
Ending balance $ 1,000

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I found an Internet vendor who makes and sells gun racks right here in the USA! His prices are good and he publishes the dimensions of the racks on his site so anyone who is handy can build them at home.

I know you hear this everyday but I’ll say it anyway. I sincerely enjoyed your books and SurvivalBlog. I am sorting my way through the "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course.

I want you to know I appreciate your attempts to open the public’s mind to the crisis which is coming to our country. Knowledge gained and then positively applied is true wisdom. You have enabled me with knowledge and I am now applying it positively.

Best Regards, - Doug T. in West Virginia

Friday, May 28, 2010

CPT Rawles:
While there are many potential methods to emplacing a cache of supplies, I wanted to provide some insight into a very simple but very effective cache method that I have saw during a recent deployment to Afghanistan.

Most Afghans rely on the karez system for getting water for survival and watering plants. For an aerial view of what the karez system looks like, look at Michael Yon’s photo essay on water in Afghanistan. The lines of holes dug in the ground are the karez system. Some of these tunnels are very deep in order to get to the water. The Russians, unfortunately, did a very effective job of destroying karez systems during the denial phase of their war in Afghanistan. Fortunately, the Afghans are extremely resourceful, and have rebuilt many of the systems.

When one goes down into a hole, at the bottom there is a tunnel with water flowing through it. The tunnel becomes so small that a Soldier will have to remove all of his gear except his clothing. Armed with only a Beretta M9 and a flashlight, our great Soldiers go into these tunnels to clear them like the tunnel rats of Viet Nam. While clearing the tunnels, our Soldiers found that the tunnels often expanded into underground rooms with caches in them. We frequently found drugs and weapons cached in these underground caverns. Interestingly, the weapons were not rusted by the high humidity or dirty though it was impossible to get them into the underground cavern without submerging them in the muddy water.

The Afghan solution for extremely simple and cheap caches was to use an old [truck] tire tube like those that some Americans tube down rivers in. Cut the tube all the way through, which creates an open rubber tube. Fold one end over in a gooseneck fashion, and tie it off. Insert your supplies in the open end. Once loaded, fold the open end in a gooseneck fashion and tie it off. Once in the tube with both ends tied off, the equipment is protected from dirt and moisture. - W.J.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


I am a 50-something urban homesteader, selling my house to move to a rural area.

I currently own a handgun (S&W 459 9mm) and a shotgun (Mossberg 12 gauge pump) and am researching what kind of rifle would be good for my new urban homestead.

I am a good shot, not pro and not wild, just get within the target lines. I have hunted in the past with a 30-06 but feel with my age and all this would be too much for me now. Not to mention that I am a petite female at only 5'1" tall and 120Lbs.

The areas I am looking to move to are all what I call "big snow country". The wildlife ranges from Moose to pronghorn, Grizzly to badger, with the usual cougar, bobcat, wolf, coyote and rabbits, etc.

So basically my criteria is a leaver action, short barrel (no longer than 20"), accurate rifle with the stopping power for the animals I may run across or have to hunt if the SHTF.

In short the basic functions that I would like the rifle to be good at are: animal defense, food hunting, home defense (in that order). Then tack on - readily available and inexpensive ammo.

My "friends" have many suggestions from ARs, AKs to Savage, Winchester and Marlin ranging from .22 to 30-06. Somehow I just don't picture the. 22 being good unless I was a sharp shooter and could make a brain shot without thinking, as I stated previously I think the .30-06 would be "too much" for me to be accurate enough with and the "assault" rifles just don't come across or look like hunting & animal defense rifles to me.

I have followed your blog and purchased a book or two, so I value your opinion greatly and figure that some kind of lever action 30-30 would be my best choice.

That said, what type of rifle do you (or your blog readers) suggest for me? Am I way off base, or thinking with reality? - Criss K.

JWR Replies: If moose and grizzly are commonplace where you'll be living, then you have a few conflicting criteria.

First, any ammunition that will be a stopper for moose and large bears will not be "inexpensive". For example, .45-70 ammo is current around $2 per cartridge!

Second, given your small stature, you are better off with a semi-auto chambered in something with lighter recoil, rather than a "whomper" bear-stopper such as a .45-70. Unless you are a seasoned shooter, you are likely to develop a flinch if you buy a gun that is near your tolerance for recoil.

Third, lever actions are fairly fast to shoot, but you must practice the operation of the lever while the gun is at your shoulder. Many shooters--especially smaller ones--have a tendency to lower the butt to their hip when working the action. Don't get into this bad habit! But their greatest detractor is that they are very slow to reload, once the magazine has been emptied. This makes them second-rate guns for self defense. If you are on a budget, then you are better off with a bolt action that can accept stripper clips for reloading, such as a Mauser, a Lee-Enfield, or perhaps a Schmidt-Rubin. (The latter employs a unique and quite fast "straight-pull" action. You might find a Swiss K-31 Schmidt-Rubin carbine at your local Big 5 Sporting Goods store, for under $220.)

My recommendation is that if you are on a tight budget, then buy either a Yugoslavian detachable magazine SKS, or US-made AK-47 clone. Those have fairly short stocks, which will benefit you, given your stature. If your budget is more substantial, then buy a semi-auto .308. Some options include the Saiga .308, the Winchester Model 100 (long out of production, but often found used), or the Browning BAR (not to be confused with much larger military issue full-autos with the same name!). If you have a big budget, then consider an AR-10 or a Valmet Hunter .308. OBTW, I do not recommend the often-mentioned Remington 7400 (or the older Model 742). These were aptly described by a gent over at THR as "difficult to properly clean, sensitive to ammo [variations], and d**n hard to clear when you hit a feed jam." If you opt for any .308, then be sure to have the stock shortened (or in the case of the AR-10, get a 6-position collapsible stock), and have a recoil pad installed. For many years, my late wife used a Valmet .308 with a short stock and a soft Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad. She also had the barrel shortened, and a muzzle brake installed. She considered this the best "compromise" hunting/self-defense rifle for someone of small stature. (She was 5'2", and weighed around 100 pounds.) The Valmet Hunter doesn't look like a battle rifle, but it uses the unstoppable AK action. Extra magazines are available in 5, 9, and 20 round capacity. The big drawback is that these rifles now cost around $1,100, and spare 20 round magazines cost around $250 each!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Author’s Background
I live in Northeastern Minnesota with my wife and four children ages: four to seven.  I teach and am a sports coach at the local high school in town (population 1,200).  We live two hours away from any type of big city, which in our case is Duluth, Minnesota (population 85,000).  My wife is a stay-at-home mom.  Three years ago, we built a new house four miles outside of town on 15 acres that my parents gave us.  Combined, we make just over $56,000 a year.  In just this past year, my wife and I have started making the transition to a more preparedness-minded lifestyle.  As I have scanned and read hundreds of articles online, I have found a wealth of practical information, but little in the way of practical advice for families.  I hope this article helps young families that are either on a limited budget, may feel overwhelmed in their initial stages of preparation, or both.

My Introduction to Preparedness
I didn’t know it at the time, but my introduction to preparedness came in 1999 when I sat at a large table with about 15 other men in a small town café for our weekly bible study.  A small portion of these men were worried about Y2K and urged others to prepare.  I thought they were “nuts.”  I did respect them as Christian men, however, and prayed for guidance.  Looking back, I was a squared away 24 year-old but was still spiritually immature.  At that time in my life, I felt no urging by the Lord to prepare for Y2K. 

About ten years later in the middle of a bitterly cold 2009 winter night, the power went out in my newly-built home.  My home, at the time, ran completely on electricity with no form of back-up heat.  I was lucky to have in-floor heat on both levels of my home, but the wind was howling that night, as the temperatures outside kept dropping and eventually hit 30 below zero.  With the wind chill effect, it was probably near 60 to 70 below.  My kids didn’t like how dark the house was, even though we had flashlights on hand for each of them.  I put my four children to sleep early and piled on some extra blankets.  At 7:00 p.m. it was 60 in the house and I wasn’t worried as my new home was well-insulated and built tight.  I went to call my parents, who own the 20 acres bordering the western boundary of our place.  Our phones in the house, however, all depended on electricity so I decided that my call could wait until the morning.  When I went to bed at 11:00 p.m. it was now 50 in the house and I just assumed the power company guys were having a hard time in the wind and cold.  I woke up in the early morning and noticed that it was about 40 degrees in the house and still no electricity.  I was now a little uneasy as I didn’t need pipes freezing up on me.  At 7:00 a.m. I bundled up the kids and took them next door where I knew my dad had a gas fireplace.  To my surprise, his electricity was up and running.  To make a long story short, it was just my place without power as the wires from the transformer came loose when my box moved from winter heaving.  I called the power company and they had my box fixed within the hour.  Nothing bad had happened, but it did get me thinking about a few questions:

  • What if we were without power for a few days, a week, or even longer?
  • What am I going to do to make sure I don’t have to be up all night worrying about my children?

Later, I called up one of the men in my bible study from years back….one of the “nuts.”  We started talking regularly and then I started emailing back and forth with his brother who lives in Alaska.  Both guys are solid Christian men with a heart for being prepared and ready.  They borrowed me the book, One Second After by William Forstchen.  Reading that book gave me a sense of urgency.  In addition, I also teach Economics, Political Science, and Finance and am very weary of today’s economy for numerous reasons.  When I got to the point where I was ready to make a commitment to preparedness for my family, here are the steps we took to get started (these are in no particular order - just how they worked for us):

Step One: Get on the Same Page with your Wife
While my wife and I agree that the man is the spiritual head of the family, it sure makes life easier in all respects when you both agree to commit to something together.  Depending on your circumstances, this may take some time, substantial prayer, and even some tutoring.  This may mean having your spouse read Mr. Rawles' excellent book,"Patriots".  It may mean having them read One Second After.  I have a friend of mine right now that would like to start preparing, but hasn’t had the courage to bring it up to his wife yet.  How is that going to work?  It isn’t.  We need to be on the same page with our wives.

Step Two: Make a Financial Plan
I first thought to myself, “I can’t afford to buy any of these items.  We live paycheck to paycheck with a nice big mortgage payment on the 25th of each month.”  My wife and I then had to decide how serious we really were.  Is this just talk, or are we going to commit to being prepared?  Do I want to watch my kids freeze to death if TEOTWAWKI takes place?  I suggest each family assess their own individual situation and then plan out their finances in two phases if possible:

  • Decide if you can make a “down payment” to jumpstart your preparation.
  • Then, factor in a monthly stipend for preparation goods and materials.  Think of it like paying a monthly life insurance premium, only this one will save your life.

Step Three: Evaluate Your Situation and Prioritize Your Needs
One thing to mention here:  Just because you have something on your priority list of preparation items, doesn’t mean you can go get it right away.  You have to balance your “priority list” with your checkbook.  My wife and I won’t buy anything we can’t afford.  If we have to use a credit card to get it, we simply don’t!  In our individual situation we created this prioritized list:

  • A Wood Stove to heat the house and to cook on in case of an emergency.
  • Installation of a hand pump on our current well for water
  • Back up food:  Both short-term and long-term
  • Learning new skills (Making our own bread from wheat, canning our vegetables from the garden, using non-hybrid seeds, splitting our own wood, etc.)
  • Buying some added security (Guns and ammo)

For example, we decided to cash-in a $6,500 investment that I could get without paying a penalty.  We first used some of that money to purchase a new wood stove and a hand pump for our well.  Heat and water were no longer concerns for us.  What was next for us?  Back-up food.  Each time at the grocery store we spend an extra $50 on canned goods, rice, cereal, staples, toilet paper, etc. to build up a rotating pantry that will last our family of six approximately three months.

The next step for us was the hardest: long-term food.  In my humble opinion, once you decide to buy long-term food, you have entered the official prepper stage.  Now you are in.  We took $1000 from my investment and used half of it to buy a Country Living Grain Mill and all of its extra parts.  We then bought 1000 pounds of hard red wheat, 200 pounds of rye berries, and a few other staples like wheat, sugar, etc.

My friend (from the bible study) and his wife then taught us how to make the following: bread from scratch using the mill, corn meal mush from feed corn, and bannock native biscuit-type bread).  We then set up future dates to learn how to make Ezekiel bread over an open fire, as well as many other helpful tutorials we could use around the house.

Last, but not least, I used my tax return and bought a DPMS AR-15 and 1,000 rounds of ammo for an added sense of security.  If anyone would have come over to our place in a threatening manner and we had to defend ourselves, before that purchase, I only had the following: a single shot Remington Model 37 Steelbilt 20 gauge shotgun, a Remington 30-06 Model 700 hunting rifle, and my .380 Bersa with just one magazine.  With some remaining money left over, I found two spare magazines for my .380.  I have much more on my wish list that we just can’t afford at this time.  I really don’t want to have to use any of these weapons, but if the time comes where I must protect my wife and kids, I will be ready with the resources that I have.

Don't Be Intimidated By What Others Have!  Everyone’s financial situation and priorities are different.  My wife and I could have easily read what others have in the way of supplies and knowledge and just said, “There’s no way we can do that.”  Instead, we just decided to do what we can with what we have.  We have to give our plan to the Lord and let him provide for us in the ways he sees fit.  Start where you can, and get on the same page with your family.  What are you immediate needs?  Can you get them now?  If not, now you have something to save for.  If yes, that is great.  Now you can move down your list to the next priority.  We are now currently saving up for a case of freeze-dried butter powder and a case of freeze-dried egg powder.  My next big wish is to build an underground root cellar somewhere on our property.

Step Four: Include Your Kids in Everything so They are Prepared
If I tell my kids that we are having a fire drill, they can get out of their beds, crawl on the floor, open the window, take off the screens, and get out of the house in less than one minute.  All four kids also know to meet behind the shed if such a thing were to happen.  Our kids need to be a part of the process.  If TEOTWAWKI happens and our kids are so terrified that they can’t function, surviving will be twice as difficult.  I once did the fire drill while throwing pillows at the kids.  That day we taught them to be focused even if there is chaos all around them.

Our kids also help in the bread-making process, each to their own abilities.  The oldest can now turn the mill; one mixes the flour, etc.  All four of our kids also know where we store our food and they know not to tell anyone.  We tell them, “Lots of people don’t have extra grain.  It is like bragging.  Just tell people that dad’s hunting and fishing gear is in that cabinet.”

As a kid I grew up hunting and fishing with my dad, but my dad always did the “messy” work like gutting the deer and cleaning the fish.  My wife and I are doing our best to teach our kids how to fish, a healthy respect (not fear) for guns, the tips to wood splitting, how to start a fire, etc.  Our kids are too young to do a lot right now, but we always take the time to teach the “how and why” of what we are doing.  Our kids love it and are now starting to ask if they can help.  We never deny them that opportunity.

Even if your kids are young, don’t underestimate what they can do.  Here are some things we have been introducing our four young children to:

  • Fishing
  • Stacking, hauling, cutting wood
  • How to start a fire
  • Lighting a candle in the house on their own
  • How to identify animal tracks
  • A respect for guns – an introduction to shooting with the Red Rider
  • How to cook various meals
  • A familiarity with our property and our trail system
  • How to use walkie-talkies
  • Fire Drills and places on the property to meet
  • Camping skills and helping put up a tent
  • How to use a compass
  • How to use a slingshot

Obviously, I am not going to hand my three year old a 12-guage shotgun and let him go in the woods.  All of our boys, however, the four-year old included, can start a fire from scratch in my wood stove or in our fire pit.  As they get older, we challenge them with the next level of preparedness.  Not only are you giving your kids invaluable skills for the future, you are helping them become self-sufficient and not reliant on others.

Step Five: Use Discernment in Finding Like-Minded Friends
My wife and I have been fortunate to find an older couple to mentor us.  We are careful not to open ourselves up to just anyone.  We live in a small town where if one person tells others something, you can assume a large minority of town knows about it.  We have many close friends that have no idea about our level of preparedness.  When we see an opening in a conversation with someone we trust, we will feel them out, and take it from there. 

Step Six: Continue to Research and Don’t Get Discouraged!
I can’t believe how much I have learned in just a year’s time.  SurvivalBlog alone has thousands of outstanding articles written by people who have been preparing for years and years.  Use the internet and any other resources of information you can find.  Like many others, my wife and I have started our own little library of books, articles, etc.  We even learned how to seal up Mylar bags in our five gallon buckets of food storage on YouTube!

In conclusion, if you are a beginning family or have a tight budget, don’t get discouraged!  Even if you just start by putting away $20 a month and save up your funds for a while.  Over time that money will grow and you will have a nice start to your preparedness plan.  Checking out books at the library is free.  Take down the notes you feel are important and then move on to another book.  Before you know it, you and your family will find that preparedness is a way of life.

Friday, April 16, 2010

I’m hoping that by sharing my experience, I can provide information that can help others in similar situations. When uninformed people think of a “survivalist”, I am most definitely not what comes to mind. I’m a twenty-four year old female, who wears makeup, has several pairs of comfortable (thrift store) designer jeans and a Creative Writing education from Johns Hopkins University. I have four cats, and live in a tiny inexpensive apartment in North Carolina. However, little do they know, my education hasn’t simply been gained from traditional schooling.

About two years ago, I found that it was getting much more difficult to pay the bills. The financial situation was steadily declining, and my tip-based income was definitely suffering. I moved to North Carolina in hopes of grasping the last threads of an economy that was doomed for difficulty. I began working as a freelance writer, writing on topics from everything from “How to Build a Windmill” to medical articles on diabetes.

However, this still didn’t seem to cover all of the bills. I hired on as a waitress, but found a lack of customers in a struggling economy. I had several credit cards from my financially irresponsible youth, which were all deferred to huge payments. I took out a loan to stop the bill collectors from calling, then defaulted on the payments in favor of paying rent. I sold my jewelry, DVDs, electronics and other items just to stay afloat. I reluctantly cashed in my stash of silver and vintage coins, which I had been dutifully saving since I was a little girl.

However, my story isn’t simply full of hardship and sacrifice. My experience being consistently broke has taught me innumerable lessons that I may not have learned otherwise. When I couldn’t afford to buy dish soap, I made my own with baking soda and borax. I mended my own clothes with needle and thread, my clumsy stitches gradually becoming less lumpy. I made chicken soup from boiling discarded chicken bones. I grew bread starter out of flour and warm water to make sourdough bread. I sprouted alfalfa and broccoli seeds in my kitchen, in a small sprouting kit I received as a Christmas present. I made my first-ever batch of applesauce from scratch, and started a small “peasant garden” in recycled plastic containers by my windows. I traded yard work for fresh chicken eggs from a neighbor, also gaining friendly smiles and a surprising amount of respect.

There are a few important items that have survived with me in my southern ‘adventure’. I have a Ruger .22 rifle with a zoom scope, and a banana magazine that holds 17 cartridges. I know it may not be enough if I needed to protect myself, but my optimism tells me "It’s something, at least!" I also have a small “Get out of Dodge” duffel bag stashed in my linen closet. It has a small camp stove, Datrex emergency food bars, a water filter, a small medical kit and a 2-person tent. I’m hoping to save up enough to renew my “Wilderness First Aid” certification from the Red Cross in a few weeks. At some point, I want to get some real training with a rifle, and begin saving up enough to increase my very small stash of ammo. I also hope to purchase a long-term supply of storage food, as well as additional supplies for my “Bug-out-Bag”.

I’ve been a long-term reader of SurvivalBlog, reading articles about elaborate water filtration systems, independent power storage, purchasing gold/silver, constructing nuclear bunkers, etc. However, there’s also information for people like me, which I truly do appreciate. I am determined to survive, even if my income remains sub-poverty level. I will continue to learn from my experiences, without relying on government handouts or welfare payments. I will become educated in resilience, continuing to slowly build my set of skills and supplies until I am confident that I could survive a TEOTWAWKI situation.
I know that for this writing contest, I am supposed to focus on practical skills that can be of use to others. I also know that many SurvivalBlog readers are wonderful people with incredibly useful talents, and knowledge that far surpasses my own. However, for people in situations similar to mine, who are scraping by each month, I’d like to offer some information that I hope will be helpful.

Making Bread Starter

This is actually incredibly easy, though it takes about a week for your bread starter to “mature”. Find a container (preferably glass), I find that a wide-mouth canning jar seems to work pretty well. You can also use glass jars from mayonnaise, honey, jam or other grocery items – Just be sure you wash them thoroughly! The cost of the finished bread loaf recipe is around $1 - $1.50, depending on the flour, salt, sugar (or honey) and oil you use.

Now, the starter recipe – 1 cup of warm water, 1 cup (preferably wheat) flour. That’s it! Blend the mixture thoroughly, cover loosely (air needs to be able to get in/out) and place in a warm area – around 70-80 degrees (temperatures of 100+ degrees will kill your starter). I put my starter on top of the fridge, since that’s where the warm-air vent is. Don’t forget to feed your starter. Feeding your starter simply involves pouring out half of your starter mixture, and adding ½ cup of flour, and ½ cup of warm water. You need to do this every 24 hours.

Your starter is done when it has a bubbly froth on top. It also should have a beer-ish aroma. This usually happens after about 4-7 days, depending on how warm you kept your mixture. After your starter is done, you’re ready to turn it into bread. Here’s the recipe I follow. I like to add dried rosemary and a bit of honey to this recipe, I think it goes nicely with the sourdough-ish taste.

Cheap Dish/Laundry Soap

I’ve found that Borax is an extremely versatile an inexpensive washing aid. You can use this recipe to make regular dish soap, automatic dishwasher soap, or even laundry detergent. The cost of this recipe is less than $1.

  • 1 Cup Borax (available at most grocery stores)
  • 1 Cup Baking Soda
  • 1 Tablespoon Salt
  • 1 Gallon Water (for Laundry Soap)
  • 2 Cups Water (for Reg. Dish Soap)
  • You can also mix in some bar-soap shavings, if you want to give your recipe a small boost. I find that just the soda+borax+salt mixture works in automatic dishwashers, with vinegar added to help reduce spotting. I’d recommend storing this mixture in a glass jar, only adding water when you use it for dishes/laundry/etc.

Chicken-Bone Soup

You’d be surprised at how many people throw out their chicken bones, without realizing how useful they can be in making delicious soup stock. The cost of chicken-bone soup is virtually $0.00 (since you are using waste-bits), except for the cost of any beans/vegetables/seasonings that you want to add.

After a chicken dinner, instead of throwing the bones in the trash, put them in a sizable metal pot that has a lid. Fill the pot completely with water, since much of the water will evaporate during the boiling process. You can add a small amount of salt and other seasonings if you like. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. You should cook until the remaining meat falls off the bones (usually about 5-6 hours). Be sure to keep an eye on the water level, as it can evaporate quickly if you don’t have a lid.

Strain the broth with a pasta strainer or through cheesecloth. There may be a significant amount of chicken fat on the top of the broth, you can either skim it off or leave it on - it’s a matter of preference. I don’t like oily soup, so I usually skim it off.

Add salt, herbs, spices, onions, carrots, potatoes and beans if you’d like. I usually use green lentils, since they are cheap ($15 for 10 lbs), and have around 18g of protein, 13g of fiber per cup. They also don’t have a “soak time”, so will soften up quickly when boiled.


Though starting a garden is a great way to get fresh vegetables, waiting in between harvest times can leave you without any fresh vegetables. To avoid purchasing any from the store, I like to start a few batches of alfalfa sprouts, several days apart. Alfalfa sprouts are quick-growing, and fairly nutritious. Also, sprouting is so easy! The cost of alfalfa seeds is usually around $6-7 for a 1lb bag. A whole pound of seeds lasts me for quite a while! Here’s a simple guide to starting sprouts. You will need:

  • Alfalfa Seeds
  • 1 Glass Mason Jar
  • Cheesecloth
  • A Rubber Band (or Twine)

Place around 2-3 Tablespoons of alfalfa seeds into the mason jar. Then, fill the jar with lukewarm (not hot!) water, and let the seeds soak. I find it’s best if they soak for around 4-6 hours. Cover the top of the jar with the cheesecloth and rubber band. Strain the soak water out, then shake the seeds so that they stick to the sides of the jar. Place the jar in a sunny area, and watch your sprouts grow! They should be ready to eat in about three days. It’s best to water them (fill the jar with water and strain it out) around twice per day.

I’d just like to mention that the “soak water” from alfalfa seeds is also full of nutrients. I sometimes make iced tea out of it, which is a great energizer on a hot day. You don’t necessarily have to use your soak water, but since I suppose I have a “poverty mentality”, I like to use every bit of everything!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Your needs when the SHTF will vary greatly, yet some needs rank higher than others. Of course there will be many considerations at any point on your journey, in every circumstance, regardless of the cause (earthquake, flood, volcano, terrorist attack, storm, riots, etc). In any situation the considerations will certainly include a need for food, water, shelter, body armor and helmets, vehicles, fuel, heating, medical supplies, land for security and for growing future food, and such. There is no intention to downgrade the importance of those items - yet it is my intention to get you to think about some of the basics - one basic - very strategically.

When the SHTF, what will be the first concern? In a chaotic situation, other than prayer, in terms of your supplies where will you turn first? When you stop and really think through any nasty circumstance what is the one thing that you will really need? In chaos, beyond anything else other than the immediate need for air and water, you must have weapons for immediate protection and security (if not also for food or eventual barter).

As examples, look to the riots in Los Angeles in the early 1990s following the Rodney King case verdict. Look to happenings in New Orleans, Haiti or Chile recently. Look to the couple in the novel "Patriots" escaping from gangs and mobs in Chicago in the middle of the night. What would happen if there were a nuclear attack? A tsunami hits California? A chemical attack? An asteroid strikes the Earth? Or an EMP or solar flare takes out the power grids? What if a political figure were assassinated and a that triggered riots in every major city simultaneously? What if a powerful earthquake hit a major portion of the country affecting major cities? Most cities are not prepared for such challenges. Unrest can happen at nearly any time for nearly any reason - the one thing you can guarantee will happen is utter and ultimate chaos.

Look at September 11th, 2001. Every commercial airliner was grounded and uncertainty reigned - then the markets plummeted. In the southern United States, every grocery store sells out when there is a threat of a hurricane or snow.

The challenge for most folks is that “newbies” don’t have a clue where to start with weapons. As a simple explanation, like the variety of clubs in a golf bag for different types of types of shots at different distances, many different weapons exist for the multitude of circumstances. Remember, no weapon is perfect in every situation - which is the reason for short range handguns and shotguns, and medium to long range rifles.

With that being said, I think after you do some of your own investigations you will find this series of weapons that I am proposing to be superior in many ways, yet being practical, which makes this posting critical for discussion. I would like to introduce you to the Saiga family of weapons.

In all of my studies, there is no weapon family like the Saigas. Saigas may or may not be the most superior weapon in every scenario, however they have their niche. Your need obviously depends on your circumstances and your preferences. It is safe to say that the Saiga’s offer some unique capabilities that you may not have considered. These include: reliability, durability, functionality, practicality, special purpose, and affordability.

The Saiga is an off-shoot of the AK-47. It looks like the AK-47. In fact, they are mostly Russian made, by Izhmash, at least in parts origin. Although the part availability question, since they originate in Russia will come up, (and make sure to get what you need now!) overall these weapons are worth serious consideration.

The Saiga’s are known to be fairly reliable. (Reliability improves as you use the appropriate ammunition as specified.) Original Soviet Bloc AK-47s tend to be the most durable, common rifles and the Saigas are arguably not far behind. Of course for any purchase, you do your own research and make up your own mind.

One of the important considerations is that they come in a variety of calibers. For one, you can purchase the Saiga chambered in .223, which is one of the most common rounds in the US and around the world. Furthermore, the Saiga .308 is a variant of the AK-47 (7.62 mm x 39 mm) design, yet is shoots the common (in the US) .308 round. Importantly, the .308 packs a bigger punch than the .223 and large magazines exist for both rifles (up to 25 rounds that I have found). Even though the magazines aren’t cheap, (you can probably find them for about $45 - $55 per magazine) the remainder of the considerations for the Saigas are important.

The Saiga .223 and the .308 both come standard in a 16” and 22” barrel. Other lengths may exist, however these are the two most common. In comparison to the AR-15, the .223 Saiga is just slightly heavier. Of course if you want more maneuverability and quick sighting, then go for the shorter barrel. If you want more muzzle velocity and the benefit of the doubt when it comes to improved accuracy, then choose the longer barrel.

One recommendation, especially if money is not too much of a concern for you, is to have both the Saiga .223 with the 16” barrel and the .308 with the 22” barrel. Truthfully, either Saiga with the shorter 16” barrel would be great for quick combat movements. At that same time, perhaps you should consider a longer range set up.

If you haven’t thought about a long range weapon, perhaps you would include a side rail or Picatinny rail and a good scope for the .308, which can be very effective for longer range shooting with significant knockdown power. The .308 round is very common for hunting and it is very common in many of the world’s militaries. One nice aspect of the Saiga is that they are made to handle the variations between the .308 Winchester and the 7.62 NATO case dimensions and pressures. (The variable ammunition factor is a vital consideration should ammunition become sparse in the times after TEOTWAWKI.) Make sure you consult your manufacturer’s guide for your specific weapon before selecting ammunition.

Normally, a nice long range option for hunting or sniping is the Remington 700 chambered in the .30-06 or .308 Winchester. For larger game, longer ranges, and hard targets like engine blocks, or light armor you can go with a Barret M82A1 semi-automatic in .50 BMG with a really good scope. Expect to pay $4 - $6 per round). The challenge with bigger caliber, highly precise rifles is that the prices reflect the quality. Many .50 caliber, bolt action rifles (like Barret and McMillian) are in the $2,500 range for a bolt action and around $8,000+ for the M82A1 semi-automatic with ten round magazine.

Even though the common and more affordable Remington 700s, for example, which are durable, accurate, and relatively inexpensive - about $600 in many cases (Dick Sporting Goods has a sale currently for $449 plus tax for the ADL version) - are incredible weapons, they are a still bolt action with a limited fixed internal magazine capacity (versus a semi-automatic weapon with larger, detachable magazines) which may have some limitations in a firefight. What if a good, inexpensive, larger caliber (.308) weapon were available in a semi-automatic? That is where the Saiga .308 is great to consider.

Importantly, if you are already thinking ahead, you can have .308 round for the Remington 700 and the same round for your Saiga .308 if you decide to have both - one for more long range shots and one for more "tactical" situations - even though the Saiga .308 is the “better, two in one, sniping and hunting” weapon. Even though the Saiga .308 may arguably not be as accurate as the 700 for long distance shooting, the Saiga .308 in good hands and with a good 4 - 12 x 40 scope can do the job. Overall all, having pair of weapons is a great idea, yet if you had to have just one, then perhaps consider the Saiga .308.

As you acquire multiple weapons, remember to use common calibers for all of your acquisitions since it will benefit you to be able to shoot the same, common round out of your multiple rifles. Then stockpile that size ammunition for future needs. Planning ahead and preparing is the name of the game, this is another reason for this post - the commonality yet versatility of the Saiga .308.

If it weren’t obvious for you at this point, all of the Saigas are semi automatic,. Therefore, you can punch out more rounds more quickly--one round with each pull of the trigger--than you could with a bolt action rifle because you don’t need to manipulate the bolt for each round. At least with the opportunity for extended magazines for the Saigas, you can shoot more times without touching the bolt action and thereby sending more rounds downrange, more quickly. Even though there are fantastic shooters with a bolt action rifle, in firefight you want to put as much lead accurately down field without extra steps if you can. The benefit with the Saigas is that if you can keep your eye on the target with larger magazines, you will win more battles. In dire times, aggressive action will save your life.

As a nice bonus, you have many options for adding additional features to the Saiga .223 and .308 which I will discuss in later in this article. Options are always nice and in difficult situations flexibility is paramount.

As you probably know, a shotgun is one of the best weapons for any home invasion or close quarter combat scenarios. The downside to most tactical shotguns is that the capacity of the weapon tends to hold from only 5 + 1 in the chamber round to 7 + 1 rounds typically for either the common Remington or Mossberg pump action weapons. Even though they are great weapons, they have some limitations. That’s only 8 shots! And that is on the higher end capacity shotguns that many preppers have. For serious situations involving a dozen attackers, wouldn’t you want more rounds? I don’t know about you, I would rather have one too many shells in the weapon than one too few! Also, for a mob of a ten people, how many rounds do you want? Do you only want six, and then have to reload in the midst of the fire fight?

And as another point, have you actually tried to quickly reload your shotgun? How does that work for you? I don’t know about you, but when I make the effort under calm circumstances I might be able to get six rounds back into the shotgun tube in about ten seconds. And how many times like I do you stumble and drop one as you quickly push it into the tube? In a crisis, how quickly can you reload? The point is, how quickly can you really reload a “normal shotgun” putting one shell into the magazine tube at a time? It might take longer than you really want. In a tough situation, tactically you are limited by your weapon’s capacity and your reloading capabilities.

Fortunately, there is the Saiga 12. This weapon was designed for tough situations like this. The Saiga 12 is a 12 gauge shotgun that is potent weapon. It is basically the AK-47 frame with larger magazines, yet you shoot 12 gauge shotgun shells. It doesn’t get much better than that. By the way, Saiga also makes the Saiga 20 and Saiga .410 - which are 20 and .410 gauges respectively.

Several box magazine sizes are available. Magazine sizes are 5, 8, 10, and 12 rounds. 12 round magazines makes 12 + 1 round in the weapon to start. That is nearly twice the capacity of the Mossberg or Remington.

Also, think about this factor, you can more quickly put more rounds back into the weapon when you reload. You may take five seconds to reload just like with a “normal shotgun”, however when you reload, you are putting 12 rounds back into the weapon as opposed to only six to eight, with others. You also didn’t have to reload as early in the fight because you had the 13 rounds total to start with. That’s 25 rounds with a 5 second changeover. The alternative is 25 rounds with having to stop and reload one round in the tube at a time, 25 times for a total of 25, precious moments that seem like a lifetime, in the middle of a firefight. Fortunately, somebody was really thinking and designed an intelligent and practical weapon with the right mindset.

Of course the argument is that a pump action is more reliable than the semi-automatic action of the Saiga 12 and I would agree in theory. The Saiga has an adjustable gas tube where you can ensure more gas is diverted to eject the spent shell from the chamber. They have really thought of about everything, including the ability to utilize a wide variety lengths and a multitude of loads in the shotgun shells in the same magazine. Regardless of the pump reliability versus the semi-automatic argument, you can easily punch out 24 rounds from two magazines in less than 10 seconds! Saigas rarely jam.

If you are serious about protecting your loved ones and your property, you will find that 20 and 30 round drums are also available for the Saiga 12. That’s a total potential of 30 shotgun shells delivered at a target in less than 8 seconds! Using 00 buck shot in 3 inch shells, that’s equivalent to 450 round bullets of .32 caliber. That’s a hailstorm of lead. If you want to win a firefight in a short range battle, the Saiga 12 with a 30 round drum is the right strategy.

There are a few considerations for these drums for you to remember. Of course, these larger drums take up a considerable amount of space due to their design. You may need to do some planning if you intend on humping around a couple of spare drums, but it probably wouldn’t be a bad set up for one (or perhaps two) thirty round drums and to back them up with a half dozen so, twelve round magazines which can be carried more easily, with their more linear design. (They are a only slightly curved magazine).

Also, the drums are expensive. You can look to spend about $300 per drum which may be cost prohibitive for many folks. (Of course you could consider, which may be a better strategy, to buy 6 to 9 twelve round magazines for a total of 72 to 108 round capacity, compared to buying just one 30 round drum for the same investment.) When it comes to the price you need to make your own decisions. [JWR Adds: Thankfully, MD Arms recently dropped the price of their 20 round drums to less than $175. I suspect that the 30 round drums will soon come down in price, as well, with economies of scale.]

When you purchase, the magazine or drum quality needs to be taken into consideration as well. Do your homework since there are at least two companies that make the drums. (And a half dozen that make the box magazines.) Plan ahead for a potential future situation when the silly anti-gunners decide to put another unconstitutional ban on weapons and higher capacity magazines. Stockpile enough magazines! Another consideration other than simply having the magazines available for your own defense is that the magazines will jump in price if there is another ban.

One nice benefit of a 12 gauge shotgun is the variety of ammunition. Of course shotgun shells are fairly easy to load for your own ammunition preference - buck and ball is an option. Always thoroughly test your ammunition. In the magazine for maximum effectiveness, you may alternate (slugs for stopping power) and #4 buck (.24 inch diameter), 00 buck (.33 inch diameter) and 000 buck (.36 inch diameter) rounds.

One consideration is that you can use different colors for your magazines or use a label maker for certain arrangements of your ammunition. Whatever system you choose, you will be able to quickly distinguish what you have and what you are using depending on the types of situations and shots that you may encounter.

Remember, slugs are best for down range, longer distance shooting - up to 200 yards with substantial knockdown power. Buckshot is for increased opportunities to hit your target. The trick is to still have a large enough mass behind each hit; that is the purpose of the larger pellets. Make sure when you choose your ammunition that you decide to balance your purchasing for a variety of scenarios. Your best “middle of the road” buckshot round is arguably the 00 buck - each pellet is about .33 inches in diameter and the average 3 inch shell will hold around 15 pellets.

On a different note as a consideration, make sure you consider Federal gun laws. According to the US laws, with recently-imported guns, you must have a certain quantity of parts that are made in the US. Make sure that you always have a sufficient number of Sec. 922(r) Compliant Parts to adhere to the current laws. (Do a web search on "Sec. 922(r) Compliant Pats Count", for details.)

One of the perks of the Saiga family, somewhat like the AR family, is that there are many options for these weapons if you do your homework. Many accessories are available including rails for scopes including red dot scopes, adjustable stocks with pistol grips, muzzle brakes and flash hiders, and for the really serious “prepper” even a bayonet lug for that dreaded worst case.

As suggested, one consideration is to put choke tubes on the threaded end of the barrel for a tighter shot pattern. As you may know, the benefit of having a choke is to keep your pattern a little tighter to extend the effective range and functioning of this weapon with bird or buckshot. Just make sure you get what you need exactly for your weapon. Just make sure that you remove the choke and replace it with a "cylinder bore" tube when you shoot a slug, as appropriate. (If you neglect to do so, you could blow up your weapon! Always check the technical details to know which set up will be best for your needs.)You can also use the threaded end for a muzzle brake or flash hider.

Many great accessories and parts for your Saigas can be found at Dinzagarms. If you are looking for alternative muzzle attachments, front sights, tools to work on your Saiga, rails and other items, this is a great resource. Additionally, I negotiated a perk for my fellow SurvivalBlog readers. When you buy from this web site and enter the coupon code “SURVIVALBLOG”, you will receive a 5% discount.

An important factor is your sights. With the Saiga 12 shotgun you are probably better use a holo sights, with iron sights as a backup. Of course, carry spare batteries and choose a scope that makes the most sense for you. Red dot scopes are a great idea and they are ideal for quick target acquisition. You can find some good ones at Amazon.com relatively inexpensively if you get a rail for your weapon. One red dot scope that I like is the Leeper Golden Image.

Of course having good backup iron sights is important. What if your batteries run out, you experience an EMP, or if your sight gets damaged in battle? Use the Boy Scout motto: Always Be Prepared!

When you think about the possibilities of carrying and firing the weapon, flexibility and ease of transportation are vital. One of the best ways to do this is not just with the shoulder strap to allow the weapon to be slung over your back, rather use a single point tactical sling. This carrier harness comes in a few styles and can be found through on-line companies like Midwest USA.

As far as the tactical harness is concerned, you need to have an easy point by which to attach the harness clip to the weapon. One of your best solutions is with TAPCO collapsible/adjustable stock which will allow your weapon to seat nicely in your hands at the best position and with a “clip on” point where the stock connects to the weapon. You have to specifically look for the single (right or left handed) metal loop, or a double loop set up exists.

In regards to adjustable stocks, one of the benefits is comfort, flexibility, and easier use. You can do a search for these stocks since they are nearly everywhere including www.amazon.com, www.ebay.com, www.cheaperthandirt.com or again, Midwest USA. Also remember, one of the best reasons to have the collapsible stock, other than for comfort, is that the adjustable stocks are ideal for closer combat scenarios including shooting around corners. Simply, an adjustable stock is a great consideration as it is easier to handle a shorter weapon for such tight engagements. Regarding your Saiga configuration conversion, you will find this link helpful. If you become a Saiga connoisseur, check out the Saiga Forum.

Transportation of your Saiga gear will present some new challenges. The unique, long magazines and drums for the Saiga weapons need to be carried somehow. One great resource for carrying options is The Vest Guy. You may find others, perhaps even a tactical back pack.

Perhaps you have yet to consider how to function at night. Of course if you have a red dot scope, your needs are covered. What happens if you simply run out of batteries? Night sights are available and probably a good idea if your variation is compatible. As one source, try Dinzagarms.com for some basic information. MD Arms has many options for Saigas. As another great resource, they have pistol grips and drums, plus many other set ups.

As you may know, the barrel of your weapon will get hot as you shoot enough times. I never thought about it until I learned the hard way. The amount of heat generated really startled me in my younger years. It was an accident, yet a lesson well learned, therefore, consider hand guards and other variations that double as rails where you can attach options like lasers and flash lights. As a side note, only use these at the exact moment you are going to fire, otherwise you are giving away your position. For other options such as hand guards, check out web sites like DPH Arms.

Some folks are shy about recoil. In addition to a recoil pad, you may want to consider a muzzle brake because they can reduce the recoil by up to 30%. With the Saiga 12 you can easily unscrew the threading at the end of the barrel and quickly affix a brake in a matter of a minute, and many options are available. Good brakes can be found at Carolina Shooter's Supply. One of the best muzzle brakes on the market is the competition brake which comes in two forms - #2 and #1 for door breaching, which is great for close quarters because of the pointed end. Another option for the Saiga 12 is the Tromix Shark Brake. It works as a muzzle brake, flash hider, and door breaching tool. For other accessories, you can visit Tick Bite Supply.

Specifically for the Saiga .223, you can find 30 round magazines for reasonable prices if you look. Here is one example of a normally $39.95 magazine that is being sold right now for $28.95 by Mississippi Auto Arms. For Saiga .308 25 round magazines, Mississippi Auto Arms has them for $39.95 per magazine. (That’s about $5 to $15 less than most sellers of this magazine.)

For the Saiga 12, here is a ten round magazine for $37.95 for places (such as California) where magazine capacity may be limited to ten rounds. The price offered here is considerably less than the normal retail of $49.95.

If you keep your eyes open, you will find some great deals for your Saiga needs. Here is some information, modified from a recently received e-mail detailed for purchasing a weapon. 1.) Saiga 12 gauge with 19 inch barrel IZ-109 @ $489 + shipping 2.) Saiga 12 gauge with 24 inch barrel IZ-107 @ $489 + shipping 3.) Saiga 7.62x39 rifle with 16.3 inch barrel IZ-132 @ $299.99 + shipping 4.) Saiga .223 rifle with 16.3 inch barrel IZ-114 @ 299.99 + shipping 5.) Saiga .308 rifle IZ-137 @ $489.99 + shipping 6.) $100 off any converted Saiga 12 gauge shotgun. (This example is Mississippi Auto Arms, Inc.) You will have to confirm these deals with Mississippi Auto Arms, however these are some stellar deals if you are serious about picking a Saiga (or several) while you have a chance. Can you imagine picking up three Saigas for the price of one Bushmaster AR-15?

Joe’s gun shop in Coal City, Illinois earlier this year was selling Saiga 12, 12 round magazines for $35. Also, he had the Saiga 12shotgun for $449 (plus tax, cash price) - of course you would have to work out the interstate details with him or find someone in your area. Joe’s phone number is( 815) 370-8002.

For the performance of the Saiga 12, you can watch free videos on You Tube all day long. Other than the prototype AA12 (the automatic shotgun that was developed for the US military, but never adopted), you will see why the Spetsnaz were marginally favored with this weapon compared to the Green Berets in computer simulated, combat scenarios on the Deadliest Warrior show:

Lastly, one key benefit of the Saigas is the “bang for the buck.” Many Saigas can be acquired for little money compared to other similar weapons. I have recently seen the Saiga .308 for as low as $479 (plus tax), the Saiga .223 for $335 (plus tax) and the Saiga 12 for $449 (plus tax). Again, talk with Joe in Coal City, Illinois. All of these are prices for "new in box" guns. Compared to the lowest I have seen the base model Mossberg 500 for $330 from Dick’s Sporting Goods, $449 for a tactical shotgun with magazines of 12+ rounds is pretty amazing. You do your own research of course. For an idea of what is on the market, see: GunBroker.com.

Check your laws before you purchase any weapon. Hopefully with the McDonald v. Chicago case regarding the gun ban in Chicago now being argued in the Supreme Court, the 2nd Amendment will be applied to laws within the 50 states.

As you plan ahead, maybe considering stockpiling these weapons, parts, and accessories. If things do get bad in the future, you will want these weapons as your disposal. Ultimately, the Saigas are very robust weapons and they will serve you, your family, and friends for many years to come.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I will start this article with a question: What are you doing on a regular basis (i.e. daily) to prepare yourself mentally, physically, emotionally, and most of all, spiritually, to not just survive, but prevail during a violent encounter?

This is a question I ask myself on a regular basis.  I have also posed this same question to my hand-to-hand combat students.

There is no question that interpersonal violence will be fact of life for many in a post-societal collapse.  But, it is a reality in today’s society that many people (i.e. sheeple) choose to ignore.

Depending on your source for statistics, the number of instances of violent crime reported [in the US] in 2008 was more than 5,000,000.  Yes, there are six zeros after that 5!  That figure astounds and saddens me, but doesn't surprise me.

My full-time job is a police officer with a suburb of a major city that regularly meets or exceeds the number of violent acts from the previous year.  These acts of violence are prominently displayed in local newspapers and on radio and television.  Yet, for many, they refuse to accept this reality and thus refuse to prepare to for it.

Security Awareness

Security awareness needs to be a way of life for all of us because prevention is the best defense.  Now, I am not talking about paranoia, but preparation and practice.  One such example of being security minded is locking your doors once you are in your house or car.  How many times have you seen someone get into their car and talk on their cell phone or do some other task while being totally oblivious to what's going around them?  Maybe you have even done this yourself.

Speaking of locking your doors, how many of you consistently make sure that the door from the garage to your house is always locked?  I can't even begin to guess the number of burglaries that I have been on where the offender(s) found the victim's garage door open and the offender(s) then gained entry into the home via the unlocked man door.  As part of your daily OPSEC for your residence, make sure the garage door is shut and the man door is locked.

Let's take the last scenario one step further.  Just this past summer I saw several incidents in which the offender(s) pushed the center of the garage door back far enough to reach the disconnect cord for the electric garage door.  Once the opener is disconnected from the chain, they quietly lifted the garage door and stole valuable items from the garage.  Also, in one case they gained entry into the home because the man door to the garage from the house was unlocked.

A personal security tool that you can purchase for yourself and keep on you at all times is a small LED flashlight.  Streamlight, Surefire and Dorcy are just three of the quality brands that are out there.  You want a small metal one that’s not much longer than the width your hand so I am not talking about one of those big, 3 or 5 “D” cell Mag-Lites, even though those are good options for your vehicle and home. Having a flashlight already in your hand allows you to check in and around your car when you’re in dark parking lots or garages and performing OPSEC on your personal property.  You can also shine this light in the eyes of a potential assailant, causing temporary blurred vision and disorientation.  If you choose to get a flashlight, try to get one with a tail-activation switch option and that has replacement batteries and keep at least two extra batteries with you at all times.  Most people, even cops, forget to charge their lights and the lights don’t work when they need them the most.  Also, consider getting a light with the scalloped or serrated edges around the lens area.  It makes a great impact weapon should you need it.

Entire chapters can be written on personal and property security awareness.  But, suffice it say, security awareness needs to become a way life because, especially post-WTSHTF, your life may literally depend on it.

Hand-to-Hand Combat

As I mentioned earlier in the article, I am a Hand-to-Hand (H2H) practitioner and instructor.  My primary form is an Israeli H2H system that I have taught to both civilian and law enforcement.  I also teach security awareness and self defense seminars for women in the community.

I have studied several different styles of martial arts over the past 25+ years and have seen many drawbacks of traditional systems.  Most traditional systems are heavy on tradition but light in the area of combat applications.  This fact is well known and recently there has been a plethora of "new" systems out there that refer to themselves as reality-based martial arts (RBMA).

I personally believe that everyone should learn how to defend themselves with both empty hands and weapons.  Even now, depending on the size of your area, the number of officers on duty, and some other factors, our response to your 911 call could be anywhere from two minutes to an hour.  Even if our response is only two minutes, when fighting for your life that may seem like an hour.  Post-WTSHTF, police response may be non-existent. 

RBMAs have tried to step in and market themselves as the "answer" for your H2H needs.  But, there are some serious dangers involved that you need to be aware of.  First, it seems like most of the instructors or "creators" of these systems are former Navy SEALs, Green Berets, Special Forces etc.  Please take the time to learn the instructors true credentials, check references, and observe a few classes.  Also, be wary of the home study courses that claim that you will be able to defeat any attacker in seconds if you just purchase their products.

Another type of RBMA is one that relies heavily on ground fighting, such as Gracie or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or on joint locks, such as traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, Aikido, or some blend thereof.  The goal of these systems, especially in the beginning stages, is to learn to defeat and/or control another one-on-one.  There are too many variables in a violent encounter to justify spending time wrapped up tight with just one person. 

You should train in a system that teaches you to defend common attacks, encourages aggression when appropriate, limits ground work at the beginning levels, works in multiple attacker scenarios on a regular basis and teaches empty hand vs. weapons at the lower levels.  Some of the styles I mentioned do these same things but normally at a much higher rank level which translates to much longer training time.  At our school, you will see all of the above within the first 6 months of training.  I am not saying the system I train/teach in has all of the answers because such a system doesn't exist.  However, one comment I hear consistently is how the participant felt they were ready to defend themselves after the first lesson. This was how our system was designed and is why the Israeli military and police use it to this day.

I know that there are many proponents out there that believe mixed martial arts (MMA), judo, boxing, Thai boxing and wrestling are competent RBMAs, and they are for what they are designed for.  However, these specific RBMAs are limited by rules, safety equipment, number of opponents (which there is only 1), and lack of non-personal weapons.  Don’t get me wrong, these specific systems bring a lot of good training characteristics to the party and I have participated in several of them myself.  But, the point is that you need to train beyond the limitations of these systems. 

Now, some personal thoughts about your family members training in H2H.  If your budget allows, I believe each household member should receive competent H2H training.  Encourage your spouse/significant other to train but, when it comes to your children, especially younger ones, I think you should mandate it.  My wife has attended a womens' self defense seminar and we recently discussed her attending another one.  While she doesn't take formal classes on a regular basis, she likes Tae Bo so I encourage it.  Tae Bo done on a regular basis provides her with physical fitness, is fun for her, and allows her to practice some of the moves she had learned.

As far as children are concerned, I believe that quality self-defense training is a must.  According to a study I read a couple of years ago, there are more than 250,000 assaults in public schools every year.  Based on my experience, I believe that the actual number for this is about 25-50% higher.  I know many schools don't report these incidents because they believe that it will reflect negatively on them.  I know that the training my children have been through has greatly helped them.  One of my children has had issues with a bully and has had to defend himself from an attack where the other child was choking him with both hands on his throat.  This same child was also saved from a nasty fall on concrete when he executed a perfect break fall after he accidentally tripped over an object when playing.  A real good resource for preparing your children is the DVD titled, "I Am Not a Target".  We found a copy of it at our local library and I highly recommend it.

One key aspect of having you and your family trained in a quality H2H system is that everyone should be able to recognize pre-assault indicators.  This way, if one of you doesn’t see the indicators, someone else in your family may and then they warn the rest of the family and/or attack the assailants.  This especially vital in a post-WTSHTF period when it might just be your family against "the world".

Don't Cheat Fair!

I have a specific saying and philosophy when it comes to self-defense: The only fair fight is one that I win!  I have applied this saying to both my personal and professional life.

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned not just surviving, but prevailing during a violent encounter.  You must think and train with the understanding that you may be the only thing standing between your loved ones and their potential pain, suffering, or even death. 

What are you willing to do to stop a violent assault against you or loved one?  Are you willing to scratch, bite, or dig your thumb in someone's eye?  Are you willing to hit someone with a lamp, run them over with a car, plunge a butcher knife into them, or stab them in the neck with a pen?

These are questions you must ask yourself ahead of time and be mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually prepared to do what is necessary to prevail.

One aspect of not cheating fair is using your environment.  Take a look around at the area you are in right now.  What items do you see that you could defend yourself or someone else with?  What could become a barrier between you and your attacker?  What could you strike or stab an attacker with?  Is there anything that you could throw on an attacker that could cause pain, like hot coffee?  If you are at home, how quickly could you get to a firearm should you have picked one out for home defense?  Knowing your environment is a security awareness concept that you should be practicing constantly.

Now, let's talk about biting and eye gouging.  How many of you have ever been bitten real hard?  I have and it was one of my children.  She was 18 months old and she sunk her teeth into my neck the first time I started to dunk her into a pool.  She bit me so hard that my girlfriend had to physically pry open her jaws to get her off of me.  I remember two distinct things: first, it was some of the worst pain I had ever experienced and secondly, it didn't bleed.  I know some people are scared that by biting another person, they may contract some kind of disease.  Yes, that is a valid concern.  But if you’re dead because you wouldn't cheat fair, does it really matter?  Also, if the attacker intends the attack to be a sexual assault, what are you most likely to get a disease from, the completed sexual assault or some blood from a bite?  When you bite, go for a major muscle area like the chest, shoulders, side of the neck, back and thighs.  Try to stay away from appendages such as fingers, ears, nose, or genitalia.  These areas, while being fairly sensitive, will separate from the body with enough force, which helps the attacker with the pain factor, and these areas have the tendency to bleed a lot more.  Why take the chance with blood if we don't have to?

As soon as you mention sticking your thumbs in someone’s eyes, you see people’s demeanor change.  It’s a gross thought that cause many to squirm.  When my wife was in her self defense class and the instructors mentioned eye gouges, she looked at me and said that she couldn’t think of any reason why she would do something like that to another person.  I quickly asked her what she would do if someone suddenly grabbed our son from her.  I immediate saw a physical change in her demeanor.  Her eyebrows furled, her shoulders raised and her fists clenched.  She just visualized a reason she absolutely would stick her thumb in someone’s eye.  A good account of someone doing this very thing in combat can be found in the book, “House to House”, which is about the Battle of Fallujah.

Weaponry Options

No discussion about interpersonal combat would be complete without talking about weapons.  I will focus this part on weapons that are used for close quarters combat.  These weapons will be classified as blunt, chemical sprays, edged, electric discharge, firearms (mainly handguns) and improvised weapons.

When I think of blunt weapons, I think of any object that can be swung fast and hard as to cause blunt force trauma.  Some common blunt weapons are ball bats, sticks, telescoping batons (ASP, Monodnock), kubotans and hammers.  If you carry or intend to carry a blunt weapon for personal defense, you need to practice regularly by striking fairly stiff objects such as a heavy bag or rolled-up carpet.  Many people are surprised how a blunt weapon feels in their hands when striking a hard object.  I know of several instances of where officers have had their batons go flying out of their hands when they have struck a suspect.

Chemical sprays seem to be a choice that many people, especially females, make.  Actually many chemical spray products are specifically marketed to women as self-defense tool.  Chemical sprays have their place but some things to keep in mind is that it is not instantly incapacitating to an attacker, you will likely be contaminated as well and you need to practice regularly to know your particular spray device works.  Several manufacturers sell an inert spray that can be used for training or you can buy a second can of the same kind so you can practice. 

Use of edged weapons is an area that I know I am weak in, and I continue to learn more about. It is also an area filled with many options, misconceptions and a plethora of experts.  Edged weapons are scary to face and personally, when empty-handed, I would rather be facing a pistol or other weapon in close quarters than an edged weapon.  When learning about edged weapons, make sure that sure that your training includes defense against and the offensive use of the weapon.  Spyderco and other manufactures make training knives that look just like a regular one but that don’t have a sharpened blade.  The first time that I trained with this knife it was intimidating to me because it looked so real.  Another training option I recommend is to take several pieces of heavy duty cardboard and glue them one on top of the other until it’s about 4-5” thick.  Now you can slash and stab the cardboard several times.  This will help you to decide if the knife you have chosen will work with the impact of combat.  Once you find one that can hold up to this kind of training and not tear your hand up, keep that one for training and buy a second one for everyday carry.

In my humble opinion, electric discharge devices such as stun guns, Tasers, and similar devices are the most over-hyped and misunderstood self-defense options out there.  Based on my experience and research, these devices don’t always work when needed and, especially stun guns don’t instantly incapacitate an attacker.  Add to the fact that these devices are battery and technologically-dependant, and I believe that they are very impractical, especially in a post-WTSHTF world.

For many people, the firearms option is an absolute must.  If you choose this option then you need to constantly train with it. Shooting is a very perishable skill.  Also, shooting a few rounds into a paper bull’s eye target is not training, it just helps you to get familiar with the gun. Try to shoot human silhouette or similar paper targets.  Shooting competitions, especially the IDPA, are good ways to work on your skills under the stress of competition.  Your training should include force-on-force scenario training with Airsoft, Simunitions, and/or paint ball.  Airsoft guns are a great basic training options for children and others that are not familiar with and/or are initially scared of guns.  You can work on grip, sight picture, sight alignment, trigger control, basic marksmanship and gun safety. While nothing replaces shooting real ammo, air-soft is a great option that I use myself at a mere fraction of the cost of shooting real ammo and I can do it in my home. Just make sure to get a CO2 or green gas operated gun and not a spring operated one that has to be cocked with every round.  You need to train different retention options with your gun, whether the gun is deployed or still in the holster.  You also need to train to shoot one handed with either hand and train to use your flashlight and your gun together for low-light situations.

I kind of glossed over improvised weapons in the “don’t cheat fair” section.  Use your environment to your advantage.  I have seen this done in both bar fights and by women who have defended themselves from domestic assaults.  I have seen people who have been hit with pool sticks, bottles, mugs, pool balls, 2x4s, chairs, and cooking pans.  In many cases the injuries were quite severe.  Some other options are pens, vehicles, screwdrivers, garden implements and household brooms or mops.  One great option is a small fire extinguisher that you keep in your home and/or vehicle.  These are fairly small and lightweight so they can be wielded as an effective impact weapon plus if you spray it an attackers face, it is hard for them to breath and see.  An option I hear touted a lot is putting a key between your fingers and strike that way.  For this to work, you must hit a vital area, which is very hard to do in a dynamic situation.  Plus, I believe that the impact will cause significant enough damage to your hand at impact that they keys will leave your hand and cause severe injury to you.  To see so for yourself, fold a towel over several times and put it over a small pillow that’s lying in the floor.  Now, slowly strike downwards into the towel/pillow combination.  I think you will find that just a soft strike like this can sting your hand.  A good option for your keys is keep a small chain or lanyard on it, like the ones that you see people wear around their necks.  In a self-defense situation, grab the lanyard and swing your keys in a circular motion towards the attacker like a mid-evil flail.  When choosing a lanyard or similar option, get one with as much metal as possible, especially the clip that attaches to the keys.  You want something that will hold up to the impact that will result from a strike.

A common theme for weapons is that you need to regularly train with whatever options you choose.  Consistent, quality training is must that will pay off when you need it.  Do a lot of research and networking to find competent instructors and training venues.  While nothing can equal the stress of actual combat, choose training options/venues that put you under stress, which helps prepare you for combat.  This is why force-on-force training is so critical.

Your Mind: Your Greatest Resource

Preparing your mind and your body for the realities of combat should be a constant journey, not a destination.  For average citizen, seriously hurting or killing another person is not a normal behavior and I thank God for this.  This is why we are able to have a somewhat “civilized “ society.

The military and law enforcement know that this is true and that’s why measures are taken in training to help soldiers and police officers overcome this normal resistance.  Humanoid 3-D targets, human-shaped steel or paper targets, video simulators and force-on-force training are just some of the methods used to help remove hesitation/resistance.

Along with previous mentioned training methods, you should be thinking of scenarios in your mind and how you would react to them.  We do this in law enforcement all of the time.  But, it is no longer referred to as “if/when” thinking.  This method is now referred to as “when this happens, this is what I will do”.  When you leave “if” in the equation, there seems to be room for doubt and many people are still surprised when a violent event occurs.  By using the “when/what” method of preparation, you are more likely to be surprised when a violent event doesn’t occur.

Also, you need to be thinking outside the box.  An example of such thinking is feigning compliance should someone get the drop on you and has a temporary advantage over you.  This is especially true in sexual assault situations.  Feigning compliance may cause the offender to lower his guard enough for you to launch a counter attack or it may cause him to take his eye off you long enough for you to grab an improvised weapon.  Another example in the area of sexual assault is that the attacker may get close enough for you to suddenly bite or scream into his ear.  How many of you have picked up a child who suddenly screams just about the time you get the child to your face level? It scares the heck out of you.  Screaming when in close to an attacker is a great force multiplier.

There are some great training books that will help you to prepare for the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of being involved in combat.  First and foremost on the list is the Bible.  One Biblical example is David, who was a great warrior who served God and protected His people.  The books "On Combat" , "On Killing" and “Sharpening the Warriors Edge ” are also great resources.

But, even with everything I have said previously, I believe that the strength to defend yourself or a loved shouldn’t come from just you because the human is a created being and thus has limitations.  The strength that you should rely on comes from God and the hope we have in His Son, Jesus, as our risen Lord and Savior.  As a Christian, I pray for God’s strength and protection on a regular basis and I hope that you do too.

I pray that this article is useful and informative to you.  I pray for our nation and our leaders.  I also pray for God’s blessing and protection for each of you and your families.

Monday, March 1, 2010

In a previous post you mentioned that Chilean 1893 Mauser rifles were not safe to fire [standard commercially-loaded] .308 [Winchester] because of excessive chamber pressure, but that these were safe to fire 7.62x51mm NATO. In your Antique Firearms FAQ you reference antique Mausers that have been converted to .308 [Winchester]. Can you recommend some antique Mausers that are safe to re-barrel for .308? I ask because I've had a difficult time finding 7.62x51mm hunting rounds.
Thanks, - Dylan F.

JWR Replies: The rifles that I used for those .308 Winchester,. 6.5 x 55, and .257 Roberts conversions were Turkish contract Oberndorf Mauser Model 1893s, that had been deep re-heat treated, back when they were arsenal converted to 8x57 in the 1930s. That brought them up to higher pressure specifications. Around 1994, I bought 60 barreled actions or rifles with cracked stocks--most with dark bores--for between $29 and $59 each. The Turkish contract M1893 Mauser action is still one of the strongest and least expensive of the legally antique bolt actions available. They can often still be had for under $125 each. (Yes, I know that Model 1898s are much stronger, but just try to find a pre-production "German Army Trials" Model 1898 action that is of pre-1899 manufacture. Those are practically "Unobtainium.")

The Turkish contract Model 1893s were marked with 1930s dates when they were re-arsenalized, but the ATF letter (with PDFs linked in my Pre-1899 Cartridge Guns FAQ ) confirms that they are still confirms that they are still antique even if rebarreled and/or sporterized.

The least expensive way to make 7.62x51mm NATO hunting rounds is to pull the bullets of military surplus rounds with a collet-type bullet puller, and re-seat spire point soft nose bullets of identical bullet weight, with a seating die. (Typically, these are around 150 grain bullets. Use a powder scale to weigh both the originals and their replacements, to be sure.) This "Mexican Match" process does not cause any significant change in chamber pressure, and will yield practical hunting loads. It is a process that even a novice handloader can handle.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Just in case laws change, and I must bury my collection of [modern] guns [to avoid registration or confiscation], then what do you recommend me buying for an "above ground collection" of 1898 and earlier guns? I'm assuming that they'll still be unregulated [in the United States]. That is a great exception in the law, I think!

My thanks to you in advance, sir. - G.K.B.

JWR Replies: These are my recommendations for the most practical and affordable Pre-1899 guns, at the present time:

  • Finnish Model 1939 Mosin-Nagant rifles built on hexagonal Pre-1899-dated actions. (They re dated on the tangs, inside the sock.) Pat Burns is a good Mosin dealer that usually has some Finnish M39s built on antique (1898 or earlier) receivers available. (Scroll down to the second half of the yellow table of M39 listings for the pre-1899 antiques.) Please note that most of the 7.62x54r ammo on the market is corrosively primed. Search for the Russian Silver Bear 7.62x54r ammo, which is non-corrosive. J&G Sales in Prescott, Arizona often stocks it.
  • Mauser military bolt action rifles. These include M1894 Swedish Mauser carbines, and the Ludwig Loewe-made 7x57mm Mausers. (Mostly made for Chilean military contracts.) The years of manufacture is marked on the Swedes, but not the Chileans. But all Mausers marked "Ludwig Loewe - Berlin" are antique, because Loewe ceased to exist in 1897, when it became part of DWM.
  • Early (pre-1899) Marlin lever action rifles. The only models that are certain to be legally antique are the models for which ended production before 1899 are the Model 1881, 1888, 1889, and 1891.
  • Pre-1899 Winchester rifles. In terms of ammunition availability, .30-30 and .44-40 are the best chamberings to look for. You can often find these rifles at gun shows at bargain prices, especially if you don't mind a gun with a well-worn exterior. Remember, it is the mechanical condition and bore condition that are crucial. Everything else is just a beauty pageant. Sometimes you can get lucky, and find a seller doesn't realize that what he is selling you is pre-1899, or the significance thereof. So it pays to carry a hard copy of my Pre-1899 Cartridge Guns FAQ with you, when you attend gun shows.
  • Winchester Model 1897 12 gauge pump-action shotguns made in 1897 or 1898.
  • Colt Model 1892 series revolvers chambered in .41 Long Colt. This was one of Colt's first swing-out cylinder designs. Now that .41 Long Colt ammunition is again being manufactured by Ultramax and a few other companies that cater to the Cowboy Action shooter market, it makes these guns once again practical to own and shoot. The double action models are largely overlooked by collectors, who are fixated with single actions, and Cowboy Action shooters, who are limited to single action guns by shooting competition rules. (Except, if I understand the rules correctly, for double action "Second Guns", if fired in single action mode.) So this leaves the double action models as some of the most affordable antique Colts.
  • Smith and Wesson top break revolvers. As I've mentioned once before in the my blog, I anticipate that S&Ws will nearly "catch up" to Colt prices in the next 20 years. The .38 caliber S&W top breaks are often available for less than $300 each, and .44 calibers for less than $900. My top choice would be one of the "New Frontier" double action variants, chambered in .44-40. (The .44 Russian ammo is also quite potent, and also now back in production.) These revolvers are sold by a number of antique gun dealers including Jim Supica (at The Armchair Gun Show), and Joe Salter.

As I noted in my Pre-1899 Cartridge Guns FAQ, many antique guns models span the Dec. 31, 1898 cut-off date, so you will have to do some serial number research. (I've already documented many of the cut-off serial numbers, in my FAQ.)

You can find many pre-1899 antique guns available without a paper trail by mail order through GunBroker.com, AuctionArms.com, and GunsAmerica.com. Just include the word "antique" in your search phrases.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I currently do not fall in the category of the less than 1% of the population that can afford the real possibility of a "retreat" on 40+ acres, based on a Rawlesian criteria. However, I do have a solid brick house on 1.5 acres in a rural area on the southern plains. For the immediate future this will have to serve as my permanent abode. I have always had an interest in outdoor survival skills, and have lived, vacationed, and worked for extended periods of time in isolated outdoor camps while working "in the bush" with limited modern comforts. These experiences have taught me numerous self sufficient survival skills: basically camping or "roughing it" comfortably while providing clean water, safe and sanitary kitchen facilities, latrines, and other amenities. In addition to some time outdoors spent tracking, hunting and fishing, these experiences have given me an "outdoorsman" background. I also believe that I have a basic "survivalist mentality" and am sure I have a better than average knowledge of the skills and planning needed to survive a variety of chaotic situations the future may bring. However, I have not prepared in the past as I should. I have only recently begun to get organized for any serious long-term survival scenario. Part of this process has been to take stock of my situation. In doing so I have identified many of the pros and cons of my lifestyle and current living conditions (I have a young family, am not close to retiring, have some debts, and am a fairly new homeowner with a mortgage). I believe the end of the world as we know it is already happening in a slow, not so subtle slide. Plan A is to keep preparing for a self sufficient life at home and hunker down, and if TEOTWAWKI is in the form of a dramatic upheaval in society (as many describe) we may have to go to Plan B (get out of Dodge), followed by Plan C (make a last ditch effort to live off the land until order is restored within a few months) or until my family unit can join up with a like minded group. I know that Plan B or C have a less than good chance of "success" (they are for true dire straits), but at least we have a fall back plan. As described below, future preparations are still required to strengthen our plan.

The following outlines my basic situation, which I suspect is comparable to that of many citizens who are in the process of preparing better for an uncertain future, and includes a variety of skills and items I have recently taken stock of. In doing so, I will provide some profile information on my current state of readiness (Part 1) while attempting to offer advice on a few sets of skills and items I haven't seen on most of the basic “beans, bullets, and band-aid” lists (Part 2).

Part 1: My Homestead and Basic Resources

Based on Rawles' criteria, my region has a moderate retreat potential.  To start with, the main detractors are that I am less than 10 miles from a large population center (over 100,000), the region has high insurance rates and is drought prone. However, we have fairly strong gun laws in this state with the right to carry a concealed handgun and an improving Castle Doctrine. Other benefits to my immediate region are that the smaller communities nearby and the wider region in general is conservative with strong Christian family values. I have a wife and several children under 13-years old. I have a stable job and pay my bills and taxes. My wife is very frugal and is the list maker. We share the common goal of insuring our family’s future, and contribute to assisting extended family, friends and community when possible. I have not been able to convince her to store the food stocks we should need for a long term period of hunkering down, or some of the other measures suggested by Rawles and others for this scenario. However, the soils are good for gardening and farming. My house is double walled (it was a pier and beam wood frame house that was moved to the current location and then bricked over), our homestead has a deep well (with a brick well house) and septic system. We have piped natural gas for heating and hot water systems, and electricity from a co-op. I have a greenhouse with plumbing, a large garage and shop with an air compressor and well stocked with tools and various home and auto repair materials. We have a small supplemental solar kit that is expandable. We plan to go to a grid-tie with backup system soon and eventually go off-grid with a hybrid solar - wind system. We regularly make a shopping trip to the nearest Habitat for Humanity Restore (we consider this a frugal man’s "home depot"), which has numerous home repair supplies and materials. We stock up on goods such as paint, PVC pipe and fittings, lumber, hardware, solid core doors, appliances and fixtures, etc. for very cheap prices. These are usually used and donated by contractors or home remodelers, and the price we pay is minimal. The money then goes to Habitat for Humanity for their operations. I search online sources for good tools and materials and have found fencing materials, farming and gardening supplies, soil, compost, PVC pipe, steel plates and pipe, appliances, and good used tools. Craigslist.com is one of go to sources for these materials - especially the free and barter goods. We obviously approach these transactions with a “buyer beware” attitude, however we have always had good luck and have met decent and interesting people in doing so. We are always looking for appropriate spare parts, tires, repair kits, hoses, belts, bolts, fluids, etc. on sale at big box stores or in classifieds. We also have other outbuildings and sheds which we have ongoing projects to modify for livestock housing and specialty workshops. I am in the process of designing a self sufficient chicken coop, and goat pens and barn. We are expanding our garden and rainwater catchment system. With any luck, I may in the near future have access to 15-100 additional acres of pasture and woods adjacent to my lot.

Vehicles: I drive a diesel 4x4 pickup, my wife has a fuel efficient VW with a gas engine. I am currently beginning to restore an early 1970s model Toyota Landcruiser. The skills I am learning to restore this vehicle (replace all old and worn mechanical parts, hoses, fluids etc.), and the versatility of this heavy duty wagon will be very useful in an uncertain future. It will soon be a bug out vehicle that can go anywhere, just not very fast. I am developing new “jack of all trades” skills and have always been able to tackle basic home and vehicle maintenance work, but lack experience in advanced auto mechanics or construction. I am planning some long term gas and diesel storage. Since diesel is easier to store for long term, the diesel truck will probably be the last working vehicle we will have if TSHTF.

In addition, I have a 31-foot early 1970s Airstream travel trailer. It has been fully refurbished and is basically self-sufficient with a few modifications. With additional water filters made from four tubes of PVC (gravel, charcoal, fine screen filters, and chlorine) an emergency water source can be pumped from to supplement the tanks. With an added solar trickle charger, the batteries can keep the lights and ventilation fans on. With enough propane, cooking and heating could be maintained for an extended period of time. I plan additional modifications to harden this trailer and improve its utility as our "escape pod". I do not have a private retreat, but hope to someday afford a sufficient amount of land in a good location (with Rawles' list of security details in mind) as a retreat. To keep costs down, all I need is suitable acreage with natural resources such as water and timber. We could transport the Airstream for shelter. I had a family member in the 1980s who had some land in the mountains, cut a small road in, leveled an area on the slope, dug a trench, lowered his Airstream trailer into the trench (stocked with guns, ammo and freeze dried food), and buried the whole thing as insurance against a "red army" invasion of CONUS. I never got to see this and do not know how long the stores lasted, but have recently considered a modified version of this tactic. By digging a ramped trench to back or pull a trailer into I could have concealment; using the back dirt as bunkers it would have built in mass for a ballistic barrier; natural insulation for heating and cooling; and other benefits. Mainly it is less expensive than building an underground bunker. In the mean time and until I can acquire private retreat land, with my diesel truck and “escape pod” I can bug out with the family and dogs anywhere within 400 miles on one tank of gas and be self sufficient for several weeks to months. Without additional food and supply stores or the benefit of a sustainable retreat location, this is obviously not satisfactory as a long term solution.

At present, I don't anticipate many scenarios which would require fleeing the homestead, so Plan A is really to continue to prepare and hunker down. As I mentioned, I am fairly close to a large population, but live in a rural area with dependable neighbors and open land flanking my homestead. In keeping Plan B as a working option, my wife and I plan several trips a year to educate the kids for a self sufficient lifestyle learned from camping, hiking, fishing and hunting and take these opportunities to practice outdoor survival skills. Other Benefits of preparing the homestead  as a "modified full time retreat" include the ability to pay off a few remaining debts as soon as possible. Except for the mortgage, I should be debt free in about 2 years. With a little luck and hard work, we will decrease this time and be financially independent sooner. I live close to work and can be home in 10 minutes, with little chance of running into any escaping hordes on TEOTWAWKI day. By homesteading, I feel I can meet many of the needs that Rowels and others have outlined for surviving TEOTWATKI.

I have a basic set of kits, tools and skills to feel a level of confidence that I can take care of my family in a crisis, and with some efficient planning, preparing, hard work, prayer, luck and protection from a guardian angel, we will be among the survivors if TSHTF.

Shotguns: I have owned a Remington 870 pump shotgun since I was a young teenager and am proficient in bird and small game hunting. I have studied self defense use of the "scattergun" or "streetsweeper" and feel confident I could protect my family and property if needed. I have recently purchased an 18.5” open choke cylinder barrel (riot gun barrel) and keep buckshot for home defense. I have about 300 rounds of various birdshot loads, 40 deer slugs, and several boxes of the buckshot. I would like to take some self defense training and properly engage in a long term training regimen - for all calibers and categories of guns I currently have. I also have 20 gauge, bolt action shotgun. It is solid, dependable and good for small bird and game hunting. 20 gauge shells take up slightly less storage space then 12 gauge, and we have about 120 birdshot shells in 20 gauge.

Rifles: Col. Jeff Cooper was a proponent of the Scout Rifle. (The specifications: .308 caliber, less than 1 meter in total length, less than 7.7 lbs, with a long eye relief scope (LER) and a tactical sling). I have a pseudo scout. I shoot a Remington 750 Woodsmaster chambered for a .243 Winchester. With a 22 inch barrel and OAL at 39 inches, 7.5 lbs, and full scope, it is meets most of the specs for a scout. Additionally, Col. Cooper lists this type of gun as appropriate for young or small-framed people (like myself). Also, my wife and 12 year old son will be able to shoot this rifle (my wife was formerly in the Army and is one of the only women I know who has qualified on the M16). One thing I like about the .243 is that I can shoot it a lot with no recoil pain. Since I am less proficient with the rifle (compared to the shotgun) I need to practice more often with this rifle. It is a semi-auto feed and could carry five shots. I have a regular neoprene sling and BSA 3-9 x 50 scope, best used for deer hunting. I have left the iron sights installed and could drop the scope if needed. Following Cooper's criteria for proficiency, I should be capable of shooting less than 4" in 3 shot groups at 200 yards. I need more practice. I am better with the .22 LR rifle and have two: a single shot and a bolt action. While varmint hunting with friends, I have found that a semi-auto is much more practical (rabbits are not easy to hit on the run). I plan on obtaining one soon. A dependable, basic AR-15 style rifle is also high on my list of needs; we need to protect the livestock from predators/coyotes. I bet my wife will enjoy showing me how to field strip and operate it!

Handguns: I have a Ruger P345. This semi-auto hand gun shoots the classic .45 ACP, but fits my small hand and frame, is relatively light weight (compared to a 1911, or large .357 or .44 magnum revolver). It is appropriate for concealed carry, but I carry my .380 much more comfortably. I have studied Col. Cooper's Modern Method and have been practicing a version modified to fit my gun's specifications. I currently have about 500 hundred rounds of .45 ACP ball for targets or varmints, several hundred rounds of JHPs (I prefer the CCI Lawman 200 grain JHP, aka “The Inspector”) and add a box of 50 whenever I have a chance. If I plan on shooting 50 rounds at the range or on a friend’s ranch, I buy 100 rounds. I also have a semi-auto .380 which is easy to carry concealed. It is a Bersa (Argentinean) and a clone of the classic Walther PPK. The .380 Remington JHP 88 grain bullet can penetrate well enough into a solid wood backstop I use for target practice. It is half the size of my .45 and works well in an everyday concealed carry situation. I don't shoot this weapon as much as I should, but am more accurate in short range (under 20 feet) with it. To quote Cooper: “The purpose of the pistol is to stop a fight that someone else has started, almost always at close range." He also stated that a pistol is used to help get you back to your rifle if you are separated in a fight.

I keep a few of Jeff Cooper’s quotes handy to always remind me why I have a small battery. He also states that, "the police cannot protect the citizen at this stage of our development, and they cannot even protect themselves in many cases. It is up to the private citizen to protect himself and his family, and it is not only acceptable, but mandatory." I also learned from Cooper to think strategically more than tactically and demand of myself proficiency in my gun use. In addition to shooting at targets basically in my backyard, I try to practice shooting in non-target range situations. Hunting and plinking on a friend’s ranch offer some of the few opportunities where I can practice scenarios in handling and shooting firearms in real life situations of being constantly armed with long and short guns (proper gun handling with a group of people, in and out of vehicles with weapons, hunting & target practice in different seasons and different times of day and weather).

Working Dogs
Although all of our dogs are pets and part of the family, they serve multiple purposes. I decided to mention them in my profile for others to consider the attributes of these breeds. I have a Catahoula. This is a multipurpose dog supposedly bred from the first Spanish War Dogs that the Conquistadors brought to the Americas in the 16th Century mixed with Native American dogs. The Catahoula is a ranch dog bred in Louisiana and trained for various tasks: cattle or goat herding, small varmint hunting (they can tree coons and are even known to climb trees in pursuit), hog hunting (they can be trained to pursue and kill wild hogs in specially trained teams of three dogs), and bird hunting (they can point and hold). Although a single dog cannot be trained to do all of these tasks, this is a very versatile breed or working dog that I think would make an excellent survival breed. They are very intelligent and loyal as a family protector, have a medium to large build (50-70 lbs), and are good guard dogs. They do have short coats and would not be a great choice for an outdoor only dog in a location with long cold winters. We also have two Chihuahuas (my wife's dogs), the only use I have for these little dogs is that they make great indoor alarms. If the doors open, windows rattle, or a vehicle comes near the house, we hear the Chihuahua alarm! They are bred for rodent catching and I wish I could use them for this task, but my wife is afraid that they would die from eating poison ingested rats or mice if we used them for such... In a SHTF situation, I would unleash them in the food storage area and let them earn their keep. They are very small and need minimal food and water. If allowed to do what they were originally bred for, I wouldn't doubt they would contribute to the family security by keeping the vermin out of the food storage area.

Our “need to do” list is long. It includes:

  • Food preparation and storage
  • Improved garden
  • Solar pump and new well and storage tank sufficient for several days of no sun
  • Propane tank to convert from natural gas, if necessary
  • High security fence around 1.5 acre homestead
  • Complete reloading bench & tools (have basic scales and brass)

Part 2: Primitive Survival Tools & Skills

If we have to fall back on Plan C (G.O.O.D. and live off the land - at least to supplement our diet), then I have a basic knowledge of primitive outdoor survival skills that should help me to work hard at supplying my family with some basic necessities. In addition to hunting, fishing and tracking skills, I have practiced the primitive arts of making a fire using a fire bow, making and using a hand drill, and flintknapping. I do not offer the following as a substitute for modern tools and techniques, but as an emergency supplement or replacement. We have progressed from Stone Age tools to steel and computer age materials to our own benefit, but the stone age tools and techniques helped man survive for many thousands of years and they could have a use in modern survival situations. Just as with any modern tools (firearms, chainsaws or a 4x4 diesel truck), the manufacturing/maintenance and use of the "primitive" tools is not easy to learn and one should not acquire these skills after your life depends on them. Also, just because these are referred to as "primitive" tools, doesn't mean they are not carefully and expertly made or mastered. I have a lot of practice and can manufacture (through flintknapping) a basic stone knife and set of scrappers that would be suitable for wild game and food processing. With additional practice, I continue to improve my skills in manufacturing stone dart tips for arrows or spears. I have not attempted to make a bow and need to practice this, but have assisted an old friend in the process. However, one expedient tool I can make for throwing a projectile is the atl-atl (or dart thrower).

The atl-atl is a primitive weapon which was used by our early ancestors for thousands of years before the bow and arrow was invented and copied. It is capable of launching a projectile (called a dart) very accurately and with enough velocity to penetrate and kill large game efficiently. Native Americans hunted bison and other large game with this simple tool kit. It is made by carving a shaft of wood with a handle and a spur (or cup) which the dart is seated in before launching it. The atl-atl is about 24-30 inches long, and can be carved from a tree limb (ash or many other hard but not brittle types of wood can be used) with a small hook or stub of a branch left for the spur. It is advisable to attach two finger loops on the handle end. These make it easier to keep the atl-atl in one's hand while throwing the dart. This simple tool allows the kinetic energy to be stored while the arm is in motion (a lot like a baseball pitcher’s motion using the arm and wrist). The dart can be projected 6 times farther than a hand-thrown spear with 150 times the foot-pound energy. With practice, the atl-atl can be accurate to 100 meters, but is best used at close range of around 20 meters. Its value as a survival tool is that it can be easily manufactured and operated silently. Hunting can be conducted with no noise to attract unwanted attention in any situation. One drawback with its use is that the hunter (or thrower) is basically standing and in the open while launching. With practice this can be minimized with camouflage and technique. One uses an atl-atl with minimal effort, and throws it by taking a step or two forward and launching the dart with a quick snap of the wrist. It really doesn't take much effort and is successfully done using a motion like casting a fishing line with a rod and reel. In fact, during demonstrations with 8-16 year old school kids, I have observed that the girls who are just trying to learn to do this without too much embarrassment out-throw the boys who are going for world record launches! 

The atl-atl's "ammo" consists of darts about twice the length of a standard arrow up to 5 or 6 feet. In fact, two modern aluminum arrow shafts can be screwed together with one set of fletching and one dart tip or point. Using natural stems of cane, willow shoots, bamboo, reed, or straight saplings would require a series of steps to complete a working toolkit for the atl-atl. A dart can be made in three parts: a foreshaft, a shaft, and fletching. The fletching is a row of feathers, usually short, trimmed one-sided wing feathers, glued to the base end like on an arrow. They are in three rows with a slight twist to provide steady flight and rotation. One outdoor survivalist (Alloway, 2000) also suggests using credit card strips set into the shaft, what a great way to put that plastic to use after TEOTWAWKI! Instead of a notch, like on the base of an arrow, the atl-atl dart base has a round divot for seating the shaft of the dart to the spur on the atl-atl. The foreshaft (made of a short 3-4 inch piece of shaped hard wood) is attached to the stone or metal point with glue (or tree sap) and sinew. All of the joints or areas on the shaft, foreshaft, and fletching that could spilt have to be reinforced with cordage or animal sinew. Acquiring these materials takes time and knowledge as well, but natural fiber string and "gorilla" glue or similar glue works great. Tree resin (such as pine) works as a natural glue to help hold the cordage intact. Once assembled, the foreshaft is jammed into a joint or hole on the “front” end of the shaft (opposite the fletching). This replacement technology allows for the need to make and carry only a few shafts, which are labor intensive to make, while having multiple foreshaft sections to reload with. The shaft sections also must be straightened. One way is by steaming and drying the wood or reed shaft while bending with a shaft straightening tool (a small block of wood with a round hole through it will work or a stone with a straight groove in it to run the shaft through until it dries). Use the "pool cue" or woodworker's test to eyeball it and see if it is straight. The shafts can and should be retrieved after launching. The other benefit of the foreshaft is that upon impact with the prey, it separates from the shaft leaving the sharp metal or stone point and 3 or so inches of foreshaft embedded where it causes massive internal bleeding as the prey's muscles contract and expand while running. The shaft can then be retrieved and reloaded with another foreshaft armed with a point. A blunt dart shaft or foreshaft can be used to stun or kill small birds and prey with just a fire-hardened wood tip - no need for "expensive" (labor or material cost) points. A side note on terminology: the term "point" or "projectile point" refers to the head, as in "arrow head," of the "projectile" - which is a general term for an arrow, spear or dart. The atl-atl "dart" is not a "spear" (which is a short, inflexible stabbing weapon). An atl-atl dart is a very advanced tool and took our ancestors many years of trial and error to develop as a silent, multi-component, high velocity, manual weapon. 

Fire making is another primitive art that is extremely important in an outdoor (or indoor) survival situation. A "fire bow" kit is easy to make out of natural materials found in most environments (desert, forest, mountain, plains, etc.) and is easy to master with practice. The kit contains a fireboard, socket, drill (or fire stick), and bow. The small bow (made like a toy bow and arrow) is made using a curved, stout but flexible branch or stick (about 24 inches long) with a bow string. The string can be made from a shoelace or parachute cord (natural fiber cordage can be used but tends to break from the rapid motion and friction it has to endure). The string is attached with enough slack to twist a short fire starter stick (called a drill or shaft) in it. It should be adjusted to be just tight enough - not too tight to be difficult to turn, and not too slack where it won't create the friction need to start a fire. The bow is rapidly manipulated (in a motion like a hand saw) to twirl the fire stick rapidly on a notched plank (called the fireboard). The fire stick (8-12 inches long) should be of soft wood (like willow or cottonwood) with a rounded, dull tip on one end that will help produce the ember; and a pointed tip that will seat in the socket (which is held in the non-bow hand) on the other end. The socket has to fit in the hand comfortably and is gripped to hold the twirling fire stick in place. It should be a cupped rock, but hard wood or a dish shaped piece of scrap iron can work. The notch on the fireboard, or plank, is to allow the fine saw dust (created during friction) and the important small ember to fall through on a bed of tender. Dry grass, a dry bird's nest, wasp nest, pine needles, cotton, or steel wool make good tender. The fireboard (plank) should be of dry wood, at least a half-inch in thickness, and thick bark is often the best plank. Pine is very useful in starting a fire due to its flammable resin content and can even be used when damp. Care should be taken to have all materials ready before starting to use the fire bow. This takes some effort, but preparation is most of the battle. Only a small ember is created in the process and must be handled appropriately. This is “cardio vascular” exercise and can produce a quick sweat. Use care to keep sweat from dripping onto the tender or plank and extinguishing your ember. Google these tools for pictures and other tips. One the ember is produced and lands or is placed in the tender, blow long, steady breaths to get a flame. Add this to your pre-set kindling and build up a good fire. (See other entries in the survivalblog for light security and safe methods of laying in wood.) 

One item in everyone's G.O.O.D. kit, BOB, vehicle glove box, bedside table, pocket, belt or boot should be a good steel edged knife. It is one tool that we should all hope to never leave home without. However, if separated from a good steel blade, or to supplement a small knife in a survival situation, one can manufacture a substitute tool kit from stone. Flintknapping is a skill our ancestors used for thousands of years to produce most or all of the tools needed to hunt, gather, and prepare most if not all the food and materials needed to survive in most of the climates humans have ever "survived" in. Hunting, butchering, and game processing, vegetable gathering and processing, hide scrapping and prepping, leather work, wood work, and many other tasks (including mortal combat) can be conducted with stone tools. A basic flintknapping tool kit for producing these tools includes: one or more hammerstones, soft hammer billets made from wood and/or deer, elk or moose antler, antler tines for pressure flaking, and a leather pad for protecting the palm and leg. It is not easy to do, and has a steep learning curve. I will outline the basics and suggest further research, kit assemblage, and practice be planned as part of one's overall survival strategy. There are numerous flintknapping groups across the U.S. and a variety of resources to help one get started. Besides the basic "knapping kit" described above, the main resource needed for flintknapping is a good quality "flint." There are various minerals that can be knapped (chert, obsidian, fossilized wood, quartzites, and others) and identifying useful materials is something knappers and archaeologists who study these primitive techniques do. I suggest Google research on this and a trip to visit a local geologist, rock quarry, rock shop or mountainman's rendezvous to start learning how to identify the right raw materials.

Once preparations are made, please remember that this is a potentially hazardous activity. Knapping is done by smashing a "core" (usually a fist sized cobble of a quartz material) with a "hammerstone" (a stream rolled dense stone, also usually quartz which needs to be solid and hand held). This is done usually by holding the core in or near one's lap or on the thigh. A near miss can cause pain or injury, and rock spalls are the desired result (which can fly in all directions and penetrate flesh, eyes, or bystanders. This should be done over a tarp (to help in cleanup) or in an area that is not a living space, especially one that isn't walked on barefooted, by people, pets or livestock, or used for food processing or sleeping, etc. Eye protection, leg padding, gloves or a leather pad are necessary personal protective equipment (PPE). By striking the core with the hammerstone at a controlled angle, a "flake" can be produced. In fact, one of the longest lasting technologies known to man is called "flake technology." Numerous flakes can be created in just a few minutes of knapping from one core. These are then selected for their ultimate use: arrow points, dart points or spear points; double edged or beveled knife blades; hide scrappers, etc. A core can be used multiple times and reduced to a very small fragment. A good knapper can pick up a core, visualize what he or she wants/needs to make, take a whack or two, pick up the flake, and continue the process. To make a bifacial tool (sharpened on two sides to hold an edge longer and able to penetrate flesh better) the knapper then can switch to the next tool in the kit, a soft hammer billet. These are "soft" hammer because they are softer than the stone material being shaped. In general terms, I think of knapping as whittling stone. These billets are about the size of a hammer and held and operated the same way. They are made from solid antler (deer, elk or moose) and sawn or cut to length. The base of the antler makes the working end of the billet and is ground or sanded round (a lot like the round end of a ball-peen hammer). This is then used to more accurately strike the chosen flake (held by a piece of leather in the off hand and held stable against the padded thigh or a bench) and continue to shape the flake and sharpen its edge. The billet can be used to get the basic shape of the tool set up. The final step is to use the antler tine (or a rigid copper wire with a wrapped tape handle) as a "pressure flaking" tool. The prototype tool is then held firmly (with a glove or leather pad) against the thigh or bench, and the pressure flaking tool is placed just off the edge to be sharpened/worked. It is pressed firmly with a short popping motion toward the working edge which is away from the midline of the tool (difficult to describe, but fairly easy to do with a little practice). This is done to take off very small bits at a time (called micro-flakes) and continued around the sharp edges of the tool until the final shape and sharpness is obtained. To make arrow, dart or spear points or other tools like knives (that have to be hafted to a handle or dart shaft to be usable), the base of the stone tool will be shaped to fit a handle or shaft. The hafted end will need to be dulled (so it doesn't cut through the cordage used to haft it or bind it to a shaft) by gently grinding it on a stone. Even expert knappers have relatively high failure rates doing this, but practice helps with the odds. Beginning with the basic flake produced by cracking open a core, one can expediently produce a sharp cutting implement that is sharp enough to cut deeply into flesh. A raw flake will lose its edge quickly, but with ample stone cobbles around, this technique can be repeated and improved with practice. A raw flake with a little bit of work along the edge can hold a fairly sharp edge for small cutting tasks, and be "retouched" with minimal effort to maintain its sharpness to complete a job like butchering small game, cutting edible parts of a useful plant, etc. Again, these are no substitute for a good, American made, steel knife blade, but just may be needed in a survival situation. Hopefully, none of you will have to rely on these tools and techniques to survive, but I also hope you find time to learn a little more about them and practice once or twice, just in case you do need to rely on some primitive survival tools.

Desert Survival Skills by Alloway, David. Published by University of Texas Press. Austin, Texas. 2000. 

The Art Of The Rifle

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Over the last four years I've bought at least eight rifle slings. From the over the shoulder slings (which do not keep the weapon anywhere near ready) to complicated tactical slings. A year or two ago I ordered the "end all be all" of Tactical slings at the recommendation of a sales associate, then got it home and have had a hard time working that thing. It was complicated and I could not get it to work as described. Frankly, in a SHTF situation, I probably would have hog-tied myself with it, leaving myself bound, gagged and defenseless in the presence of an attacker. I had started to think that maybe it was just me, maybe I was the problem and maybe I was expecting too much from a sling.

My criteria was simple though:

1. The sling needed to be rugged and well made.
2. The sling needed to keep the rifle on the front of me near ready.
3. It needed to be simple to use.

# 3 was really important to me because in a panic, I can't be fumbling with a sling. If I am not armed and need to become armed in a flash, I need to be able to just throw it on when on the move. If I am alerted to a potentially dangerous situation, I need to be able to put on the sling in one easy step, preferably at a dead run.

Stepping back a bit, you may be asking what the big deal is, asking why I have been on such a quest to find a good sling. Sure, I could rely on my hands to carry my rifle(s) but even holding the rifle with one hand leaves me one handed if I am going about my day and performing actions other than shooting. If I need two hands, even if I stay relatively close to the rifle, then I still have to make my way back to the rifle if someone is watching and chooses to take advantage of the situation. (It is not difficult to imagine a food raider taking advantage of seeing me prop my rifle against the side of the house while I carry things to the shed.) If I use an over the shoulder sling, then I need to reach behind me or drop the sling off before I can get the rifle into a firing position. So to me, a sling is a very important part of the whole weapon system. It allows you to keep the rifle on your body at all times, near the ready.

Last week I had a friend suggest a different sling to me. It was the Spec. Ops Brand Lonestar Rig - Single Point Sling. (Spec. Ops. Brand makes other slings, but I have not used them.) The sling was $35. When I opened the package, I could tell that it was very well made and rugged, one of the better ones that I have come across. It was simple. I attached it to my rifle in a couple of minutes and when I need to use it, I just toss it on... no muss, no fuss. It keeps my weapon near ready on the front of my body and allows me to use both hands for other activities while keeping my rifle in an effective location. So, I got finally found exactly what I wanted. Now I'm going to also buy a couple more of these for my other rifles.

I have no skin in the game with this company, I don't own stock in it and I don't know anyone that works for them. They simply created a high quality product that meets my needs, so I thought that I should tell others about it, so that maybe you can skip the eight other types of slings that I tried first.

Spec. Ops list this sling for $45 and I found it at Academy Sports for $35. - CT in Texas

Monday, November 16, 2009

I occasionally hear from consulting clients that get stuck in the rut of "over -planning". They do so much planning for training, and planning for stocking up, that they never seem to get around to doing either! Lengthy "to do" lists are worthless if they never get implemented. This sometimes reaches absurd lengths, as illustrated by one of my clients that showed me a spreadsheet on his laptop PC, in which he not only compared prices from various vendors for ammunition, but also tracked the changes in their prices, over the course of two years. I asked him: "Well, when did you buy, and how much did you buy?" His reply: "Well, none yet, actually, but I've found the best sources, and I've logged their price increases, shown in dollar prices here, and in percentage terms, here. Look here: This company has increased it prices by 12% less than these others. Now look at this column: their prices are up an average of only 21% since this time last year." So, while he was busy fiddling with his spreadsheets, the purchasing power of his money went down by more than 20%. He would have been ahead by at least 20+ percent, if he had just bought ammo a year earlier. But instead, he sat idly by and watched the value of his dollars melt. And these were dollars kept in a typical bank account, perhaps earning only 2% interest. (If he had invested precious metals, then he would have at least stayed ahead of the price increases on ammo.)

The foregoing instructs an important point: Avoid infinite planning cycles, and get started with some concrete steps at preparedness. Clip some coupons and go to you local discount grocery store or "Big Box " store, and actually lay in some supplies, when prices are favorable, of course. If you are not sure exactly what you should buy, or about the shelf lives of various foods, or how to repackage them in oxygen-free sturdy containers, then get a copy of the "Rawles Gets You Ready" family preparedness course. The bottom line is that a good plan today beats a perfect plan, tomorrow. Or, as we often used to quote in the US Army: "Better is the enemy of good enough."

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Mr. Editor,
In his article "Surviving an Expedient Ambush Roadblock While Traveling by Vehicle", M.W. was incorrect when he wrote, "The lead vehicle should place their vehicle at a 45-degree angle to the direction of travel and the weapon system should then be employed across the hood so that the engine block provides a [limited] ballistic shield for those person(s) providing cover[ing fire]."

Do not stand leaning over a vehicle[, thinking that it will provide ballistic protection.]. At 200 yards .30-06 FMJ will penetrate 20 inches solid white pine. It will just as easily penetrate the sheet metal of a vehicle and you. See Hatcher's Notebook.

Have one or more shooters take cover in defilade in a ditch. If terrain permits, then have one or two take cover on a hillside so as to shoot down on the bad guys.


A.) You cannot see through [most] concealment.
B.) You cannot shoot through cover.

BTW I saw a episode of [the television series] Jericho that showed the defenders leaning across cars. I wonder which idiot they chose for technical advisor. - Vlad

JWR Replies: I concur! To amplify on your advice: If you are ever in the unenviable position of being caught in the open, with only a car or truck to provide marginal cover, then make the best of it. Getting down prone will reduce your target signature by 80%. And if you have no available intervening terrain that will provide cover (i.e. you are an open, forward slope), then get as low as possible, positioning yourself so that both a vehicle wheel and the engine block between yourself and los hombres malos. Tires and tire rims are actually fairly difficult for bullets to penetrate intact with any regularity, so they too afford marginal protection. If you are returning fire from a prone position behind a car, keep in mind that it might suddenly take a 7 inch drop, when a tire is punctured, so do not put any part of your body under a vehicle while in the midst of a firefight.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dear Editor:
The suggestions of where to hide money prompted me to write about my experiences with storing cash. I keep on hand a few hundred dollars in small denominations in the event of an interruption of cash supply . I keep the cash in a small home fire/water proof lockbox from Sentry (just large enough on the interior dimension to fit an 8.5x 11 sheet of paper, and about 2 inches deep) along with other papers I want to protect from fire. The small size obviously offers no theft protection so to secure it, as well as up the fire protection, I put the lockbox into a fireproof gun safe. I always felt that this was the best way to store it until I ran into a little problem.

I infrequently open the lockbox just because the nature of what’s in it isn’t needed often. Once after a couple of months I opened it to find that the currency had molded (not mildewed) while sitting in the lockbox. It was my first experience at laundering money.

I take two steps to avoid this problem. First I place the money in an envelope and vacuum seal it. Secondly I place in the lockbox, about a half cup of silica gel desiccant, with indicating beads, in a coffee filter and check the condition every few months replacing as needed.

I’ve never had any corrosion problems with any of the firearms in the safe so I have to assume that the issue is with the lockbox. In my mind either the rubber seal allowed the currency to draw moisture from the humidity in the air, or the currency had enough moisture in it to cause problems when it first went into the lockbox.

I thought this was something that could save someone a little heartache. - Kentucky Possum

JWR Replies: If your document lock box is marked "fireproof" then it probably has a moisture-bearing insulation, typically Calcium Silicate. The moisture is part of what makes it fireproof.) This insulation BTW, will eventually induce rust on your guns if stored in the same vault, unless you take precautions. Place in the vault either a large (1/2- pound) bag or canister of Silica Gel (rotated by drying in an oven or in a food dehydrator at 160 degrees F overnight, four times a year), or use a Golden Rod dehumidifier, continuously.

The same types of linings are used in "fireproof" file cabinets at gun vaults. And coincidentally, because these linings eventually lose their moisture, their "fireproof" ratings expire after a few years.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

For anyone that might have found my warnings about feral dogs (such as in my "Pulling Through" screenplay) somehow alarmist, see this article: Sheriff: Georgia couple likely killed in dog attack. Too bad that you need a license to carry a firearm openly in Georgia. Parenthetically, we have the occasional grizzly bear that passes through, here at the ranch, but at least we are regularly armed, so we have a fighting chance. IMHO. the open carry ban in Georgia is a racist anachronism that should be abolished.

And speaking of open carry, our compadre Tamara mentioned this: Man carries assault rifle to Obama protest -- and it's legal. The mainstream media is in veritable fits of apoplexy about this, but I have news flash for them: This was in Arizona, where open carry is legal. Get over it!

Yesterday (Tuesday), I was interviewed by Fox News about open carry, in their "Happy Hour" market wrap-up show. Unlike my previous appearances on the show, I actually had time to get a word in edgewise. I offered them one of my old sayings, which in full is: Much like a muscle that atrophies with disuse, any right that goes unexercised for many years devolves into a privilege, and eventually can even be redefined as a crime.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I am a retired Marine Corps officer and Naval Aviator (jets and helicopters), commercial airplane and helicopter pilot, and most recently, an aircraft operations manager for a Federal agency.

I graduated from numerous military schools, including the U.S. Army Airborne (“jump”) School, U.S. Navy Divers School, Army helicopter, and Navy advanced jet schools. In addition, I have attended military “survival” courses whose primary focus was generally short-term survival off the land, escape from capture, and recovery from remote areas.  Like most Marine officers, I attended The Basic School, an 8-month school (only five during the Vietnam era – my case), which is still designed to produce a second lieutenant who is trained and motivated to lead a 35-40 man platoon of Marines in combat.  This course covers everything from field sanitation to squad and platoon tactics, artillery and other ordnance delivery, communications, reconnaissance, intelligence, firearms training, and much more.   Later, I attended the Marine Amphibious Warfare School and the Command and Staff College, both follow-on schools and centered upon the academic study of tactics and strategy as they applied to the missions of the Marine Corps.  I flew helicopters offshore in the Gulf of Mexico and across the U.S. I found out first hand how thoroughly corrupted is the federal bureaucracy and the government, in general.  Not a pleasant experience. I’d rather have been flying. I have bachelor's and master's degrees.

As a result, my wife of forty years and I seem to have been moving endlessly from place-to-place.  Nevertheless, I have tried in each place to do what I could to maintain a level of self-sufficiency for my family that varied greatly with locations and personal finances. My intention here is to try to share some of the less-than-perfect ways that I have tried to accomplish that end. 

Only in the last few years, primarily as a result of the political and fiscal situation in the U.S., have I begun reading some of the huge amounts of literature about how one can prepare for serious long-term off-the-grid survival.  I have found that the preparation required to be ready for that contingency seems to be endless.  I do not want to talk about all of those preparations.  Others have done so very well, and besides, I’m not there, yet.  What I would like to do is to talk to those, perhaps like me, who are not true survivalists in the commonly referred-to sense, but who are genuinely concerned about the future of this country, and might desire, like me, to begin to prepare. Perhaps my elementary and simplistic efforts might be of help to someone else who is beginning to think about the subject of preparedness.  There are many scenarios that might require this, but the two that I am thinking most about are economic collapse and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. I’m building small Faraday boxes, but not doing much else for EMP.

My thinking on begins with my own estimation of the basic problems:  shelter, water, food, fuel, and security.  I view these as the most critical needs, whether living in a tent or other outdoor shelter or here in our rural home in West Virginia. Here I have and often take for granted what I have -- shelter, well water, a small stream, a pond, a rain barrel; canned, dried, frozen, and freeze-dried foods; fuel for the generator and portable stoves, kerosene heater and lanterns; factory-made and reloaded ammunition for any one of several firearms.  Edible plant books. Gardening books. Encyclopedia of Country Living-type books. Reloading books. Hunting books. Tracking books. A few novels devoted to the “what ifs” of the future, including Jim Rawles' excellent "Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse", for example.  Books to fill an entire bookcase.  The Boy Scout Field Book sits right there next to the military survival manuals, as do Tom Brown's Field Guides, the The Foxfire Book series, a canning book, field medical books, and quite a few others.

Those are the basic things about which I think. I have been thinking about them for quite a while, in fact, longer than I even realized.  Perhaps I’ve been thinking about them ever since I was a young lad.   For example, my very first “survival book” was the Boy Scout Field Book, the original of which I still have (circa late-1950s edition). It is still a great reference if one is looking for an all-in-one manual for starting fires, making simple shelters, recognizing game tracks, tying knots, and much more.  I note that it is still available on Amazon.com. (It’s probably been scrubbed to favor the politically correct, but don’t know [JWR Adds: Yes, I can confirm that unfortunately it has been made politically correct--with the traditional woodcraft skills showing any injury to innocent and defenseless trees duly expunged. So I advise searching for pre-1970 editions!] ) One does not necessarily need the SAS Survival Handbook or the U.S. Army survival manual. I have them and have read them. They do cover security problems, but then don’t cover other topics.  Alas, there appear to be no “perfect” manuals, and the Boy Scout Field Book is no exception.  But it’s not a bad beginning. And so I was beginning the journey even before I knew that I was. 

I think that my first education in “survival” came at about fourteen. That’s when I first shot a .30-06, an old [Model 19]03 Springfield. It pretty much rattled my cage.  Mostly, my older brother and I used to track and shoot small animals in the deep woods of Missouri as youngsters.  We were “issued” ten rounds of .22 LR ammo by our father, a retired USAF pilot, to be used in a bolt action, single shot, .22 rifle with open sights.  One would be surprised what that meager handful of loose ammunition could do for one’s choice of shots, one’s ability to be patient in waiting for the shot, and for one’s great satisfaction at having brought home six or eight squirrels for the cooking pot, having used just those ten rounds – and sometimes, but not often, less.  My point is that the knowledge of firearms is, in my view, basic to the notion of preparedness and in surviving in the wild. And it need not be exotic or overly complicated in nature.  One can surely attend modern schools that will teach one to double-tap a cardboard target or silhouette at seven yards with a semi-auto pistol, as well as basic and advanced tactical rifle courses, but very basic survival skill with a rifle can be had without much cost if one is committed to learning the skill and if one disciplines oneself. Start with only one round, and work up from there.  As Col. Jeff Cooper used to say, “Only hits count.”  In a purely off-the-grid survival scenario, I can envision that .22 LR rounds would be very precious, indeed.

Consequently, and even though I own handguns and rifles that will shoot .45 ACP, .44 Magnum/.44 Special, .357 Magnum/.38 Special, .380 ACP, .223, .25-06, .270, 7mm-08, .308, .7.62x39, .30-30, .30-06, and .45-70/.457 WWG Magnum (a wildcat), I shoot a .22 rifle and pistol more than all of the others, combined, and normally at least twice a week. And I’m hoarding them, as well as shooting them.  I have the capability to reload all the calibers (except .22 LR/Magnum, of course) above, as well as shotgun ammo in 12 and 20 gauge. I wasn’t really thinking of “survival” when deciding to do this about twenty years ago, but was interested only in having the capability to shoot more, and to do it more cheaply. Yet it appears that much of that ammo could be used for barter. I had never even considered this until reading some of the recent “survival novels.”

My apologies.  I’ve wandered into the weeds here, as I could do forever on my favorite subject.  Suffice it to say that whatever firearm one chooses – and make no mistake, one is necessary in my opinion -- there are all kinds of reasons to choose one over the other, depending on the situation and the person. One must endeavor to shoot it well. Owning a firearm is of almost no consequence, at all, unless it is properly employed.  Personally, I prefer a M1911 .45 ACP pistol and a 7.62 M1A SOCOM, while my wife is comfortable with the milder .38 [S&W] revolver and 20 gauge. pump shotgun.  I won’t even begin to get into the debate over .223 vs .308 and 9mm vs. .45 ACP.  Suffice it to say that in Vietnam I had the opportunity to see the effects of all of these, and I chose for my own security the .308 and .45 ACP.

Having got my favorite subject out of the way, I’ll talk about one that is likely even more important.  Water.  It is amazing how complicated this can be, and how many choices one has to solve this problem.  I have not yet solved it.  I have put up a rain barrel, and plan to get a couple more.  It’s amazing how rapidly a 55 gallon barrel will fill in even a moderate thunderstorm.  I got mine from Aaron’s Rain Barrels. http://www.ne-design.net/. I’ve camo-painted the first one to make it recede into the bushes that surround it.  

We have a very shallow stream down the hill that I need to dam so that it keeps only about a foot-or-two deep pool for gathering some water. It flows into a large pond, of which we own half (The owner of neighboring property owns the other half.).  But that’s over a hundred-yard trek downhill with empty buckets, and the same distance uphill with full ones.  Now, while that is okay for a backup, in my thinking, because I’m going on 63 years, I prefer to have something closer.  So my next “big” purchase will be a Simple Pump that allows one to drop a pump and pipe though one’s existing well casing down to below water level and extract water by means of a hand pump or DC motor attached to a battery which, in turn, will connect to a solar panel.  This is much, much cheaper than a Solar Jack.  At $1,200 for the hand pump capability (I’ll add on the DC and solar later), it’s a bargain, for me. See: http://www.survivalunlimited.com/deepwellpump.htm.  
I’m not recommending it for anyone, yet, as I haven’t got one. It has plenty of good reviews, and I’m willing to try it.  My apologies, but I am just talking about how I, for one, intend to solve my “water problem.” 

I’ve also started collecting clear plastic soda bottles for use in Solar Disinfection (SODIS), see; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_water_disinfection.  I’ve set up a rack for putting out the bottles in a sunny place.  Again, that’s a backup, but I’ll use it.

I have bought three different water filtering devices, the best of which is the Swiss-made, all-stainless Katadyn Pocket Microfilter.  It works wonders in that shallow stream and pond down the hill.. [JWR Adds: The same Katadyn filter model is available from several SurvivalBlog advertisers. They deserve your patronage first, folks!]

With the exception of the Simple Pump, these solutions are relatively cheap and effective, if not producers of great volume.  So far, they are what I’ve come up with.

I won’t go much into the food problem. It isn’t quite as complicated as the water problem.  I’ve either got to have it [stored], grow it, or kill it.  I’ve started storing all kinds of Mountain House freeze dried #10 cans (with expiration date dates in 2034), two-serving meals from Mountain House (expiration dates circa 2016), and numerous grocery store-type canned foods (expiration a couple years), in addition to dried beans, rice, Bisquick (sealed in plastic bags with desiccant inside), salt, sugar (Domino, which are sold in one-pound plastic tubs), olives, peanuts, wheat, etc.  Basically hit-or-miss, so far.  I need to get this “food problem” organized and do it right.  But it’s a start.  I think we’ve got only about a 60-day supply now, for two.

I’ve got two Coleman two-burner stoves.  One is a butane stove, and the other a dual fuel (white gas or unleaded gas), as well as several small backpacking stoves, the best of which is a MSR Whisperlite International, which uses virtually all fuel (unleaded, white gas, kerosene, diesel, and maybe even corn oil).   I was heavily into backpacking when we were stationed in Hawaii in the late 1970s, and still have all the gear.  After having one knee replacement and hedging doing another, I’ll not be backpacking if I can help it.  Nevertheless, I have two bug-out bags with essentials in them, ready to hit the trail if need be.  I’ve saved up and bought two good Wiggy's bags and a couple of his poncho liners.

Concerning backpacking stuff, I can recommend a book that I read back then called The Complete Walker, by Colin Fletcher. I haven’t read it in at least a decade, but its import is such that I remember much of it.  He emphasizes simplicity in gear.  That is to say, don’t pack a tent if you can get by with a tent fly – which you cannot in cold weather. I’ve still got my old three-season tent, but am saving up for a four-season. And he emphasizes: don’t worry about pounds – worry about ounces.  That is to say, if one is packing tea bags, remove the labels from the bags.  Ounces.  Remove all packaging material unless it is absolutely necessary (usually never). Don’t carry a “mess kit,” nor a knife, fork and spoon set.  A spoon will do (I’ve done it) along with a pocket knife. Now I have so many knives of so many types that I can’t remember them.  Personally, I’d go for a multi-tool.  But it’s heavy.  I never used to carry a weapon while backpacking.  Of course, it was (and is) illegal in Hawaii, but I think one would be remiss in not doing so today.  There was so much good advice in that book that helped me in the USMC, if nothing more than when packing my helicopter before a mission, or a car, trailer, or truck to move across the country.  “Think ounces, not pounds.”  I always think about Mr. Fletcher’s advice when I pack.

Anyway, I think I’ve got the camping stove angle covered in spades.  That is, until the fuel runs out.  Same goes for kerosene heater and lanterns (5).  My plan is to pull out our pellet stove and replace it with a free-standing wood stove.  Pellets are nice, but they must be bought, and the price is getting exorbitant, according to my pocket book.  They likely will be non-existent in a crunch. 

I connected a 12,000 Watt/50amp gasoline generator when we moved into this house nine years ago, as I have with every house in which we’ve lived for the last two decades.  I’ve got it wired through a transfer box to the circuit-breaker panel, a job that I did myself. It works, and it’s safe.  The main reasons for having this were to run the 220V[olt AC] well water pump and to run the refrigerator and our free-standing freezer during power outages.  But I’ve got it wired, anyway, to nearly every circuit in the house, except the other 220V appliances – water heater and heat pump.  It is somewhat selectable. That is to say that I can choose which circuits I want to power by engaging or disengaging the switches on the transfer box.  The problem is that it uses gasoline. So in a long-term outage it would soon become useless.  I’ve had the propane gas company come out to estimate what it would cost to get a dedicated 100 gal propane tank for the generator.  It would be about $500, but then, in addition to the 50+ gallons of gasoline, butane tanks, and white gas that I keep stored in a separate outbuilding, it would make a great explosion when hit with a tracer round.

Which brings me to the subject of security.  We live in a split-level home on about ten acres of forest.  The property is surrounded by other similar-sized properties of seemingly like-minded individuals.  I gleamed this because everyone out here shoots.  The sweet sound of gunfire can be heard at times in a full circle.  West Virginia, at least, has still got its priorities straight in this regard.  But I digress. This is a frame house with half of it below ground in front, but framed in back, which faces the forest.  The forest, itself, is a maze of downed pine trees blown over by the wind, interspersed with small saplings, vines and low brush.  Not a likely avenue of approach for anyone but the most determined.  For those who are determined, the downed trees would make excellent cover and concealment.  So I have a security problem to solve there, as well as at the front. 

I’ve started buying rolls of barbed wire and baling wire.  Unfortunately, I do not have access to dynamite, which we used to be able to buy in a hardware store in the 1960s.  We used it back then to blow stumps while clearing the land for our house.  I am thinking of buying a bunch of used railroad ties to build cover in the back; I’ve thought also of bricks and sandbags.  Problem is we’re reaching the point in all of this where the house would begin to look like a fortress, of sorts, to all but the most ignorant observers.  So there’s a line here concerning security versus “normalcy” that I must cross sooner or later.  Inasmuch as my wife is a few years older than I and is on constant medications, I’m afraid that finding a retreat (if we could even afford one) would be out of the question, as access to doctors, hospital and pharmacy are a necessity. Nevertheless I’ve got the bags packed and gear ready to throw into the pickup (Toyota 4x4 – like to have one of those older model American trucks, but I think they are getting rare, at least around here.  And what there are will likely go to the Cash for Clunkers Program….grumble, grumble. What will they think of next?).

So it looks to me as if we are here for the duration of the crisis, or sooner, if they try to take the guns from my cold, dead hands.  Speaking of, I still have to build a cache or two for guns and ammo and a few other necessities. 

And since I’ve more-or-less made that decision (here for the duration), I’ve thought of organizing the apparently gun-loving neighbors.  I’ve begun to buy walkie-talkies, if not field phones and commo wire.  I’ve got solar panels and several batteries (need to get a mega deep cell or two, however) to run the small battery chargers and the CB radio. My shortwave is up and running.

I will have to wait to talk to the neighbors, whom I rarely see, much less know.  I can just imagine the words that would come out of their mouths if I were to mention to them the notion of forming a security “company” and establishing a perimeter.  “That old retired Marine down the road is nuts!”

So that’s what I’ve got to say.  I do hope it at least stimulates some thought for those who are starting out trying to prepare, as I am.  All of this shows me that one “problem” in this “survival” business leads to several more, and they in turn lead to even more problems.  Lots to do. So I’m glad I’m retired.  I’ve got time to think about it.  If I were rich, I could do a lot more and likely in a far away place, but as it is, we do with what we have.   I have to use the lessons taught to every Marine:  Improvise, Adapt, Overcome.  

Long Live America.  Keep the Faith. - “Two Dogs”, Col. USMCR (ret.) in West Virginia

Thursday, July 9, 2009

In descending order of frequency, the 78 readers that responded to my latest survey recommended the following non-fiction books on preparedness, self-sufficiency, and practical skills:

The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery (Far and away the most often-mentioned book. This book is an absolute "must" for every well-prepared family!)

The Foxfire Book series (in 11 volumes, but IMHO, the first five are the best)

Holy Bible

Where There Is No Dentist by Murray Dickson

"Rawles on Retreats and Relocation"

Making the Best of Basics: Family Preparedness Handbook by James Talmage Stevens

The "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course

Crisis Preparedness Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Home Storage and Physical Survival by Jack A. Spigarelli

Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times by Steve Solomon

Tappan on Survival by Mel Tappan

Boston's Gun Bible by Boston T. Party

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth

Survival Guns by Mel Tappan

Boy Scouts Handbook: The First Edition, 1911 (Most readers recommend getting pre-1970 editions.)

All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew

When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency by Matthew Stein 

Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, Third Edition by Abigail R. Gehring

Preparedness Now!: An Emergency Survival Guide (Expanded and Revised Edition) by Aton Edwards

Putting Food By by Janet Greene

First Aid (American Red Cross Handbook) Responding To Emergencies

Making the Best of Basics: Family Preparedness Handbook by James Talmage Stevens

Nuclear War Survival Skills by Cresson H. Kearney (Available for free download.)

Cookin' with Home Storage by Vicki Tate

SAS Survival Handbookby John "Lofty" Wiseman

Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables by Mike Bubel

Outdoor Survival Skills by Larry Dean Olsen

Stocking Up: The Third Edition of America's Classic Preserving Guide by Carol Hupping

The American Boy's Handybook of Camp Lore and Woodcraft

Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook by Peggy Layton

98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive by Cody Lundin

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth

Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life by Neil Strauss

Five Acres and Independence: A Handbook for Small Farm Management by Maurice G. Kains

Essential Bushcraft by Ray Mears

The Survivor book series by Kurt Saxon. Many are out of print in hard copy, but they are all available on DVD. Here, I must issue a caveat lector ("reader beware"): Mr. Saxon has some very controversial views that I do not agree with. Among other things he is a eugenicist.

How to Stay Alive in the Woods by Bradford Angier

The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman

Tom Brown Jr.'s series of books, especially:

Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wilderness Survival

Tom Brown's Field Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking

Tom Brown's Guide to Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants (Field Guide)  

Total Resistance by H. von Dach

Ditch Medicine: Advanced Field Procedures For Emergencies by Hugh Coffee

Living Well on Practically Nothing by Ed Romney

The Secure Home by Joel Skousen

Outdoor Survival Skills by Larry Dean Olsen

When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need To Survive When Disaster Strikesby Cody Lundin

The Last Hundred Yards: The NCO's Contribution to Warfareby John Poole.

Camping & Wilderness Survival: The Ultimate Outdoors Book by Paul Tawrell

Engineer Field Data (US Army FM 5-34) --Available online free of charge, with registration, but I recommend getting a hard copy. preferably with the heavy-duty plastic binding.

Great Livin' in Grubby Times by Don Paul

Just in Case by Kathy Harrison

Nuclear War Survival Skills by Cresson H. Kearney (Available for free download.)

How to Survive Anything, Anywhere: A Handbook of Survival Skills for Every Scenario and Environment by Chris McNab

Storey's Basic Country Skills: A Practical Guide to Self-Reliance by John & Martha Storey

Adventure Medical Kits A Comprehensive Guide to Wilderness & Travel Medicineby Eric A. Weiss, M.D.

Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Indispensable Green Resource for Every Gardener  

Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook (superceded the very out-of-date ST 31-91B)

Wilderness Medicine, 5th Edition by Paul S. Auerbach

Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Longby Elliot Coleman

Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, Third Edition by Abigail R. Gehring

Government By Emergency by Dr. Gary North

The Weed Cookbook: Naturally Nutritious - Yours Free for the Taking! by Adrienne Crowhurst

The Modern Survival Retreat by Ragnar Benson

Last of the Mountain Men by Harold Peterson

Primitive Wilderness Living & Survival Skills: Naked into the Wilderness by John McPherson

LDS Preparedness Manual, edited by Christopher M. Parrett

The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century by James H. Kunstler

Principles of Personal Defense - Revised Edition by Jeff Cooper.

Survival Poaching by Ragnar Benson

The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses by Eliot Coleman

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Just sending this letter as a quick update to the situation with ammunition and "black guns" or defensive weapons in Canada. Contrary to what many people think, Canada does allow citizens to get licensed and own firearms of most types. Basically anything except full auto weapons unless you previously owned one years ago and were grandfathered after that particular portion of Nazi legislation was implemented.

This last weekend I was fortunate to attend Canada's largest gun show in western Canada located in Cow Town, Calgary, Alberta. This gun show is nothing compared to the big shows across many of the US States (about 500 tables) however, none the less, it is an opportunity to meet with all the big vendors from across the country and pick up ammo and supplies with cash for OPSEC reasons, while you still can.

Its interesting to note that like the USA, supplies are rapidly drying up as far as defensive firearms, loaded ammo and reloading components but not yet reaching the levels of devastation as seen in the USA., yet. What we are seeing is this, because of the lag time with bureaucratic red tape processing of ammunition and firearms coming into Canada from the USA, there are a number of good-sized stockpiles of ammo and firearms that are still trickling through Canada Customs and into the local guns shops six months after the orders were placed which was about the time the supply runs began in the USA. I fear however that this will very soon no longer be the case due to the supply issues south of the border. For those in the know, we recognize that our window of opportunity to purchase such items is rapidly coming to a close. Massive supply runs have not yet begun, however supplies are drying up rapidly as preppers and those ahead of the ball are consuming the majority of the common calibers and associated reloading components.

Also very interesting: The vast majority of gun shop owners and vendors up here are completely asleep at the wheel where the supply issues are concerned. Many of them actually think that the delivery trucks will always be there to bring stock for their shelves. I've actually heard comments from such people as this "The government will not allow this to happen as it will hurt the firearms industry". What have they been smoking? When I was at the show in Calgary this last weekend, it was rather humorous to approach many of the vendors who had the only significant quantities of the major calibers of ammo at this show (.45 ACP, .40 S&W , 9mm , .223, etc) and simply walk up to them, ask them how much for case lots of ammunition and then actually haggle with them and eventually purchase it at a much lower price than they were originally asking. If these folks knew that their supply was near complete extinction they wouldn't even be selling it or would at least jack the price in accordance with the principles of supply and demand. But it was great for me, though. No complaints.

It was a good show where Canada was concerned, mainly because we mopped up what the golden horde was willing to trade for soon to be useless paper dollars (big laughs over that) and we were able to get the supplies that we know will soon be gone. We have reason to believe that the last of those cross-border ammunition imports might be done and over with and we will shortly see panic hit the regular gun crowd in Canada who will be left to fight over the odd box of shotgun slugs and pistol rounds at best.

Thanks for all you do. I hope this information is of interest to fellow Canadian SurvivalBlog readers. - Luke Duke

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I just got back from attending the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot near Fort Knox, Kentucky. I have never seen the ammo situation as bad there as it was on April 3rd to April 5th. I took four other people that have never been there and told them that they would be able to satisfy their needs at this show over any other. Boy, was I wrong! Supply on certain items was either non existent or had decreased dramatically. Several nationwide ammo dealers didn’t even show up and I have seen them there for 10 consecutive years.

9mm +P+ Israeli SMG ball or tracer – last November.was $100 now $150 per thousand (Pat's Reloading told me that they had gone through four Semi-trailer loads of the stuff and this was nearing the end of it.) I loved this stuff because I couldn’t even touch the components for $100, especially tracer.
.223 Israeli ball was $375 per thousand at Pats reloading
.223 Israeli tracer was oddly less expensive than ball at $149 per 500. I looked through mine and about 10% appears to be Lake City (early to mid-1990s). Purchased at Pat's Reloading
.223 Federal 2008 production XM193 was $450 per 500. Don’t even think about what that equates to, "per case".
9mm was in somewhat short supply. I heard one supplier tell a customer that he brought two pallet loads with him, but the dealers bought it all before the show even opened.
7.62x39 Last November Golden Tiger was $180 a case. I didn’t see one single case of the stuff and Wolf was $300 a case.
7.62x54R was holding steady at $160 for two sealed tins (about 880 rds)
30-06 Greek sealed tins of 240 rds was up from $59 to $100.
.308 South African $90 per battle pack of 200 rds.

While there was some pistol ammo, it was not stacked up by the pallet load as usual and self defense loads were either in short supply or exorbitant in price. I did somehow manage to stumble into some Blazer nickel plated case 165 grain solid point 40 S&W ammo for $15 per 50 and some .223 IMG (Guatemalan) that was boxed but tarnished for $375 per 1,200 round case. Time to dig out the reloader and supplies.

On the Magazine front, nearly all [of the once inexpensive and plentifull magazines] now have jacked up [prices].
DSA still had nice metric FAL mags for $7 and 30 round [.308 L4] Bren gun mags that fit FALs (inch and metric) for $30. I would have bought some but I am still mad at them at playing "the DSA waiting game" for some [FAL] receivers. I have waited on two of those receivers now for going on a year, continually being promised that they "have them in stock", and being sent my money back twice. This is my forth go around with them 1997, 2001, 2003 with only one [order] being successful. [Minor rant snipped.]
AK magazines: still some around for $12
G3 aluminum mags $5
[HK] G3 steel and CETME were all $15 except for one guy who still had them for $5
Cope's Distributing was completely out of the used (law enforcement trade-in) Glock and SIG magazines that they formerly had for $10 each. They did have some KCI Korean Glock magazines for $12 that looked respectable and see to have a good reputation so far.
SVD and Romak 3 mags had dropped from $100 to $60 (for a 4-pack) in November. Now back up to $85.

AR parts kits were in short supply. Model 1 sales sent a reduced table and barely had anything. a FFL dealer behind me at the Doublestar/J&T Distributing table told me he had bought 55 full kits from Model 1 Sales and he would be sold out in 2-3 weeks so he was buying more from J&T. The owner of J&T told me that she ran out of stuff before the show even opened to the public and had to send a van back to load up with more stuff. J&T’s cheapest kit was $555 without a chrome bore. They sold out of kits by noon and were going to have to send another van back for more.

On the AR-15 lower receiver front, a FFL dealer friend of mine there told me that the log jam for receivers appeared to have eased as he was able to buy them for $88 wholesale once again and take delivery in a reasonable amount of time.

On the whole, the current situation seems to favor those moving into the AK-74 realm. AK-74 kits were $495, receiver flats were $12, transferable receivers were $60 and the ammo was $300 per 1,300 rds (in sealed tins). There never seems to be much competition for that ammo. I am thinking about getting a 5.45mm AK.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

As I started my journey into preparedness, one of the areas I pursued was getting my Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) license (sometimes called Concealed Handgun License (CHL) or Concealed Carry License (CCL)). I thought it might be helpful to Survival Blog readers to share my recent experiences related to obtaining my CCW license and getting to a point where I felt comfortable carrying a concealed weapon in public. I know there is some concern regarding obtaining a license that puts you on record as a gun owner/carrier, but that is the trade off of being able to legally defend yourself and is a decision each of us must make.

In a full TEOTWAWKI situation, concealed carry is likely not much of an issue, as most everyone will be carrying openly. However, it is possible, if not likely, that a less than full TEOTWAWKI will occur where there is increasingly more crime and yet some semblance of law enforcement is still in place. This limbo between where we are today and complete lawlessness may last a long time. You could be considered a criminal by illegally carrying a concealed weapon for self protection.

First, a little background regarding CCW. Most states are either “shall issue” or “may issue” in regard to CCW licenses (nice of them to offer something already provided for by the Second Amendment). Both Illinois and Wisconsin do not allow concealed carry at all and a few other “nanny” states (California, New York, New Jersey, etc.) are “may issue” and only provide licenses in very limited circumstances. There is a complicated set of state reciprocity (which states will honor another states license), especially considering that many states offer non-resident permits and a few states only honor resident permits. The best source I have found to understand the laws pertaining to individual states is the HandgunLaw.us web site. Even though there are sporadic attempts to nationalize concealed carry, I do not believe this will happen which is probably a good thing (the federal government, especially the current one, would likely make things much worse).

I applied for and subsequently received my CCW license about 18 months ago in Idaho, my state of residence. My first several months of carrying a concealed weapon was limited to having my gun in the car (in a somewhat hidden spot) anytime I left the house. My concern was that, even though I had some experience shooting handguns and rifles, actually carrying a weapon in public carries a high level of responsibility and I did not have enough confidence in my ability in handling the weapon or in having the proper mindset as to how to respond to the variety of situations that could present themselves.

I made one of the best decisions of my life when I attended the Four Day Defensive Handgun class at Front Sight. Not only did those very intense four days enable me to gain familiarity and confidence in handling my Glock 23 but started me down the road to good marksmanship. The range work (about 75% of the class) focused on gun handling safety, proper mechanics for drawing the gun and shooting, and shooting accuracy. Just as important was the classroom work at Front Sight where they discussed a wide range of topics related to self defense, including the legal ramifications of even a justified shooting and the color codes of awareness. The most important thing presented was that you should only present your weapon if you are in fear for your life or grave bodily harm and, if you do present your weapon, you should be prepared to shoot until the threat is stopped. This may sound simple but there are many shades of gray here that each individual must come to grips with.

One of these gray areas involves protecting others. Of course, there is no question regarding protecting my family who would get a higher priority than even myself. My personal decision is that I would also use deadly force to protect my friends. Here is where it starts to get gray. Do you protect acquaintances or strangers? While it would be very difficult to stand by and let someone be harmed or killed when you could have done something to stop it, the real issue is: Do you know enough of the circumstances about the event? How do you know for sure who the bad guy is? Is the person holding the gun seeming to threaten someone an off duty cop or even another CCW who is restraining a bad guy? You certainly cannot count on presenting your weapon to get everyone to stop until it can be sorted out. Chances are pretty good that the bad guy (or the off duty cop) holding the gun will not surrender and you will either be shot or have to shoot them.

Another gray area is: how far do you go to protect your stuff? You are only legally able to shoot someone if you are in fear of your life or grave bodily harm. In most states, you cannot legally shoot someone who is just taking your stuff. For example, if someone pulls a gun (or knife) on you and demands your wallet, you could shoot them if you were in fear for your life. However, if you see someone stealing you car and you shoot them while they are driving away; you are likely in deep trouble. An exception (in most states), called the Castle Doctrine, is that you do not have to be in fear for your life if the bad guy is inside your house. Be sure to check your state laws on use of force!

Prior to the class, I had begun to read the defensive handgun forums primarily regarding hypothetical and actual defensive scenarios. I highly recommend these forums. My favorites are: Defensive Carry Forum, Concealed Carry Forum, and the Glock Carry Forum. Even though there are many different opinions expressed on these forums, hearing them helps to solidify your own mindset as to what you would do in a variety of situations. It is important to think this through thoroughly prior to carrying a weapon because there will likely not be time to do so when a situation arises.

The main point is that you need to go out of your way to avoid a gunfight. This is illustrated by the fact that in a gunfight, you risk everything (including your life) and don’t win anything. The ramifications to your life of even a good shooting are such that it is something to be avoided if at all possible. Those ramifications can include financial ruin, losing your job, tarnishing your reputation (at least among the non-violent types), or even incarceration. Now that I am armed, I am more able to resist the macho urge to stand up to someone because I know that escalation could be deadly. It also doesn’t hurt to have witnesses that say you tried to walk away or de-escalate the situation in case the unavoidable does happen.

After attending the Front Sight class, I made the leap and started carrying in public all of the time. This is where you start to figure out the type and manufacturer of holster which is going to work best for you. Most people end up with a drawer full of holsters since it is difficult to evaluate a holster without wearing it with different clothing options and sometimes in different positions for some period of time. Again, the defensive handgun forums can provide a wealth of opinions regarding the variety of holsters available. Some holsters are adjustable for height and/or cant, which make them more versatile but also extend the time to figure out the most comfortable concealed position. I could write many pages on all of the options and types of holsters available since I did considerable research and tried many of them personally.
To simplify, the most common holsters are either OWB (outside the waistband) or IWB (inside the waistband). They can be worn in various positions (usually described but referencing the numbers on a clock with straight ahead being 12:00). Many people carry “behind the hip” at 4:00-5:00 (for right handed people) or 7:00-8:00 (for left handed people) with some amount of forward cant (grip of gun forward and barrel angled toward the rear). That cant (typically 10-20%) allows for a more natural grip on the gun for drawing from that position as well as provides better concealment than a straight drop. I could never get comfortable with this behind the hip position, maybe because I am not very limber and I have bad shoulders making it difficult to reach behind my hip both for getting the holster positioned initially and for access to the gun when needed.

The 3:00 position allows for a straight draw and is the most comfortable, even when sitting. Since it is on the apex of your hip/waist, it is a little more difficult to conceal but is a good option in winter when jackets and coats are common. You just need to make sure that you won’t be put into a position where you will need to remove your cover garment. I have found that a fleece vest works very well to conceal a handgun at 3:00 and you can still wear and remove a heavier coat and keep your weapon concealed.

I have gravitated toward “appendix carry” at about 1:00-2:00 using an IWB holster, especially in the summer. It allows for excellent concealability and access and can be concealed with just a light shirt. This position also allows you to be able to visually make sure you are not “printing” (outline of the gun showing through your clothes). There are a large number of IWB holsters available and some of them allow a shirt to be tucked in between the pants and the top of the gun if you need to have your shirt tucked in. I did have to go up one size in pants to accommodate the holster and gun being inside the waistband.
Cross draw is another option and works well for people who spend a lot of time driving. Other options that have drawbacks but may be useful for some people include SOB (small of back) holsters, shoulder holsters, and ankle holsters.[JWR Adds: As previously mentioned in SurvivalBlog I consider SOB holsters too much of a risk for back injuries, particularly for anyone on horseback, or that is riding motorcycles or ATVs.] I use a fanny pack (worn in the front) sometimes, especially when hiking. A fanny pack in public tends to scream “gun” to most law enforcement and some bad guys. For women, carrying in a purse is an obvious choice. However, you have to be very careful not to set it down anywhere where someone else could get access to it. A purse can also be the target of someone trying to snatch it, which not only deprives you of your means of self defense but gives your weapon to your attacker. There are other options that each individual should look into to meet their specific need.

To maintain and even improve the level of proficiency gained at Front Sight, there are a few approaches. The obvious one is to do a lot of shooting. With the cost of ammunition these days, this can be very expensive. A .22 conversion kit for your carry gun will help to minimize the cost of putting a lot of rounds down range. An alternative is to mix in dry practice. Personally, I like to try to maintain 10%-20% of my practice time as live fire but sometimes that is even difficult to achieve. Dry practice can help to maintain muscle memory for drawing, sight acquisition, trigger pull, and even malfunction clearing. An obvious important safety concern when dry practicing is to absolutely insure that the gun is unloaded. I know that sounds pretty basic but a clear delineation of starting and stopping dry practice will help to eliminate a very bad experience of a negligent discharge. Unload the gun and double check that it is unloaded. Then remove all ammo from the dry practice area. Check again to make sure the gun is unloaded. Even then, make sure you dry practice target has a good backstop and make sure you never point the gun at anything you would not want to destroy. At the end of the dry practice session, remove any dry practice targets, load and holster the weapon, and go as far as to say out loud, “The weapon is loaded and dry practice is over.”

I have applied for and am awaiting receipt of my Utah non-resident permit which will make me legal in more states (33 states in total). I am also planning to attend Front Sight again in a few weeks and take the Four Day Practical Rifle class to gain more proficiency with my battle rifle. I even talked my wife into taking the Four Day Defensive Handgun class at the same time. - AceHigh in Idaho

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I’m writing you today after our rural home/retreat was broken into while we were at work. I thought it would never happen to me, Oh, was I so very wrong. First things first, thank you for convincing me to purchase a safe and after reading the suggestion many times in you blog I eventually bolted it down. This is the only thing that saved me from losing the safe and all of its contents. The Sheriff told me of another burglary where the didn’t have his very large ("they can’t move it--its too heavy") safe bolted down and they took the whole thing. After much thinking, online research and discussions with the local locksmith/safe dealer with 40 years of experience, I have some suggestions that may be of use to my fellow SurvivalBlog readers:

ANCHOR YOUR SAFE!!! I cannot stress this enough. I had a fairly low end safe and they were not able to get into it (they almost did) nor were they able get it out of the house. The Sheriff's deputy estimated they worked on it for two to three hours to no avail. These thieves tore a wall out to try to gain more access to it.

I have decided that a safe is my final line of defense from a burglar.

First thing, put gates at the entrance to your retreat and lock them as I now have. Put all tools out of sight as the thieves used my hammers, pry bars to work on the safe. Reinforce the door jambs in your home. I have added 3-inch screws to the door hinges and a steel plate behind the striker plates with 3 inch screws. If your budget permits add an alarm with an outside strobe light. This may or may not help depending on where your home is located. We are on a paved county road with our retired neighbor who has a line of sight to our home a quarter mile away. If it would happen again our neighbor would be there in short order. As for dogs, I don’t know, I have three and they did not stop them. From what I have gathered unless you have a trained security dog they don’t help much, they just kick them out the door and go about their business. Don’t leave keys/combinations in your home while away. They opened every cabinet door, drawer, trunk, dresser, night stand, picture frames and closet in the house and emptied them. There was only one cabinet door they didn’t open which was the one with my truck keys in it which was in the driveway.

Don’t put anything in or under the beds, ours were all flipped upside down. Don’t leave any firearms out and loaded while away, you don’t want to come home and be confronted by your own weapon in the hands of a criminal. Do what you can now before a burglary to make your home less inviting to a thief. If they want in they will get in given enough time. I feel bad saying this but if your neighbors’ home is less secure than yours they will go visit your neighbor. My worry now is they have been in my home, will they be back since they know I may have something worth getting.

After a lengthy discussion with the locksmith/safe technician. The strongest way to secure to concrete is the Powers/Rawl brand wedge bolt +. Don’t use the lead "bullets" or drive in anchors. He told me a story of removing 16 safes for a chain of stores that were bolted down with these style anchors. If you can get a pry bar started under one corner you can pull them right out. The wedge bolts cut threads in the concrete with no inserts. He stated you will pull the floor out of the safe before the anchors pull out. If you’re anchoring to a wood floor and you have an unfinished basement you should use a steel plate. Use 1/8” or 3/16” [thick] flat steel plate large enough to catch at least three floor joists. Screw the plate to the bottom of the floor joist. Use an extra-long drill bit to drill down from the safe thru the steel plate. Get hardened bolts long enough to be installed from the bottom, cut a piece of pipe slightly larger than the bolt but shorter than the floor joist is tall and slide it over the bolt as you are installing it. This will make it very difficult to cut the bolts as the pipe will spin freely on the bolt. Be sure to "double nut" them inside the safe. The last step is to weld the bolt heads to the steel plate.

Thanks for all the good information on your blog. I hope maybe someone reading your blog my find some of this info useful and maybe prevent someone from entering their home. I didn’t sleep well for a week, the wife and I are still a little on edge and everyone who drives by is suspect! This makes you feel very insecure knowing someone has been in your home and went thru all your things. I wish I would have made our place more secure before and maybe this would never have happened! The Sheriff told me this is getting much more frequent and I agree it will get worse. God Bless, - Jason in Missouri.

JWR Replies: Thanks for that letter, Jason! Hopefully it will motivate folks to up their level of home security and vigilance. I agree that the home gun safe should be the last line of defense. One intermediate line of defense is concealment. Burglars cannot attack a safe if they don't know it exists. See the SurvivalBlog archives for a variety of articles and letters that discuss hidden rooms, such as this one, or this one, both from 2007.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

I saw the article on how Cabela’s shares surged based on gun sales. Let me tell you, we are in the midst of a feeding frenzy here in Colorado.

First, its not just guns, its all of the accessories as well. I had to return some items from Christmas to Sportsman’s Warehouse and found that the whole gun department was basically empty. They only had some black powder firearms and a couple of shotguns. Nothing else. I had run into this before Christmas when I bought my two oldest boys new elk rifles – and got the last .308 bolt action and the last .30-06 bolt action to be had. But I figured after Christmas things would be better. Well, they are not. So unless you shoot something odd like a .22-250 forget getting ammunition right now let alone a gun. And the cleaning kits were sold out as well. And holsters, ammo belts – you name it and if it was shooting related it was gone.

Now in my wanderings in the store I also found that communications gear is also disappearing off the shelves. I had a brief conversation with the kid that was working there and it turns out that this is another trend they are seeing. Basically all of the walkie-talkie units that can take ear buds or microphones are gone. The only things left are some cheap FRS units. The same thing was at work with the flashlights – all of the better units (like the Surefire models) were gone. I begin to wonder what is at work here – am I being paranoid or is this the next run on “near tactical” equipment?

Now I shoot as much as I can when I am in country so I go through a lot of reloading supplies and bulk ammunition. I have been told by some of the national dealers that I buy from (in bulk lots of 10 cases per caliber per order) that they are almost all sold out as well. One sales person related to me that they had run through over 10,000 cases of .223 that week alone and could not keep any in stock. Common calibers are gone – 9mm, .45 ACP, .38/.357, .223, .308, 7.62x39 – and less common ones such as the .40 are hard to get. So unless you happen to be shooting something that is very uncommon, keep your eyes open. I did however with a week of scrounging manage to come up with one box of 7.62 match grade ammo – the 175 grain M118 loading. Fortunately my long range precision gun likes this ammo so I bought it.

This is one trend that if you were not way out in front and loading up on ammunition, guns, and accessories, you would not be able to catch up now. - Hugh D.

Hi Jim,
FYI, just got done shopping at Midway [for ammunition handloading components] and all of the .308 150 grain soft nosed bullets priced at $25.00/100 and under are gone. All gone! This includes all round nose and flat point for 30-30. Only some of the premium stuff is available. The next best deal is a Lapua 150 grain at $42.00/100. Guess I'll have to top off with the only decent spitzer, a 125 grain Sierra Pro-Hunter at $22/100 if I can't find 150 grainers elsewhere. I suppose these can be reliable through a[n M1] Garand and are certainly adequate for deer. I've also shopped all over for loaded 9mm Luger JHP and it's all gone as well. Yes I shoulda got the XD-.45 instead, yet common ammunition that can be shared with the rest of the family and in case the gun fails the ammo would not be wasted. I have plenty, but more would be nice. The same can be said for the cheap 7.62x39 and M2 ball (.30-06). All gone, everywhere. There does appear to be some 7.62 NATO out there.

Cabela's seems to have a fair selection of all .308 spire point bullets and 9mm/.45ACP JHP, and a very limited amount (500 rounds) of the cheap 7.62x39, and limited quantities of .223 and .308.

The run on ammunition continues and is amazing. A report from the latest gun show in our area described [buyers with] dollies stacked with cases that emptied the place within three hours. What is the most shocking is that reloading components are also disappearing. - E.L.


News of the [U.S.]Attorney General asking for renewal of the Assault Weapons ban (on behalf of Obama) went out across the Internet last night [Wednesday, Feb. 25th.] Here was the result I saw: There was a line of about eight guys in front of my local gun shop this morning, waiting for the doors to open. This was at 9 a.m. on a Thursday morning, mind you. I was one of them. Most of the guys looked to be in their 30s and 40s--so we were taking time away from work to be there. (In my case, it was a "dental emergency". Obama has me grinding my teeth at night!) We got in the door, and I immediately saw there wasn't much left on the shelves--mostly just pump [shot]guns and bolt-action [rifle]s. There were just two centerfire semi[automatic]s in the rack: some POS no-name AK that looked like it was built from a beater parts kit, and one of those woosie S&W AR[-15] clones with no flash hider on but with the Mossy-Breakup camouflage paint job. Those both sold in the first few minutes. The owner said that he doesn't expect [to receive] any more black guns for three or four months!

One thing you definitely had nailed: They did not have a single high-cap magazine left in the store, except the one that came in the mag well of the AK I mentioned.

I cleaned out the last of their .45 and .308 ammo--just a few boxes. There was not a round of 9mm, .223, of 7.62 [x39mm] Russian to be found. Those was some slim pickin's! I wonder: What will they have left by Saturday night? - Ray H. in Virginia

Friday, February 27, 2009

Yesterday, in Part1, I discussed the "safe" and counter-cyclical occupations for the unfolding economic depression. Today, I'd like to talk about one specific approach: self-employment with a home-based business.

I posted most the following back in late 2005, but there are some important points that are worth repeating:

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

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

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

You can get out of debt

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

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

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

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

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

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



Medical Transcription


Repair/refurbishment businesses

Freelance writing

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

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

Burglar Alarm Installation

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

Recruiting/Temporary Placement

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

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

Personalized stationary and greeting cards (Freelance artwork)


Web Design


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


In closing, I'd like to reemphasize that home security and locksmithing are likely to provide steady and profitable employment for the next few years, since hard economic times are likely to trigger a substantial crime wave. After all, someone has to keep watch on the tens of thousands of foreclosed, vacant houses. (If not watched, then crack cocaine addicts, Chicago syndicate politicians, or other undesirables might move in!)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mr. Rawles:
I took your advice you posted last year and have been investing in some high cap magazines. I've bought about $2,000 worth since the [November 2008 presidential] election, and I haven't had any second thoughts. Thank you sir, your advice is making me a tidy profit. The 75-round Romanian [RPK] drums that I bought for $135 each the day after the election are now going for $250 each. And the 31-round Glock 9 milly magazines that I paid $33.50 each for are now going for $65 each. Oh, I found +2 [magazine floorplate extension]s for those, so now they are all 33 rounders. I figure those mags will be over $100 each in a couple of months.

My real coup de largesse was this past weekend, when I went to a local gun show here in Texas. (There is a gun show just about every weekend, somewhere in Texas. Some just take a day of driving to get to!) The place was a mad house. It took 30+ minutes to stand in line just to pay to get in the door. People were buying mil surplus ammo and magazines like crazy. Basically the ammo and mags were all sold out by noon on Saturday. And most of the "black guns" were sold out buy the time they closed the doors Saturday night. Prices on magazines have basically doubled since the election.

Anyway, just after the show opened, I was scanning the tables, looking for high cap magazines--what else--when I spied a Mini-14 GB stainless, with an original Ruger-made 30-round magazine tucked up next to it. I was about to ask [the seller] if he'd sell the magazine separately, when I glanced at the gun's price tag: $400! I just about died of an infarction on the spot. That is a great price on a fairly scarce model. (The "GB" is the LEO-sales model, with factory-installed flash-hider.) The seller--a nice old gentleman and a Korean War vet--said that he had put less than 500 rounds through it. The rifle's looks matched the story, so I whipped out four Franklins and a copy of my driver's license to show I was "Free, white and 21". Anyway, we got all set (private party sale--my only way to business) to get the gun out the door, and the old timer says, "Oh wait, don't forget the [factory shipping] box, and the magazines, they come with it." He reaches under the table and lifts up a shoe box full of original Ruger 20s and 30s, some of them still in the white boxes! I nearly had a second heart attack. There were 11 [magazines in the box, of which] six were 30 rounders. That's like $900 worth of magazines, these days! Later at the show I also scored four 20 round Beretta M92 "Robocop" mags, two [Steyr] AUG 42-rounders for $30 each, five AR-10 mags (for just $40 each--I've seen them advertised on Buddy's board for $80 apiece!), a half-dozen "Okay [Industries]" M16 mags, and big box of nearly new [Austrian] STG[-58] FN/FAL magazines--which for some weird reason are still around $15! I bought 23 of those. I talked the guy down to $12 per, since I cleaned him out.

Speaking of FAL .308 mags, my next purchase (already agreed, by phone) will be a DSA [FN/]FAL clone. I have to drive 115 miles each way to pick it up. I found it private party, [listed] on GunsAmerica.com. I'm now tapped out, but my dad is lending me the cash. I explained the situation, and he says that it is wise to buy it. [He said:] "We'll have a good chuckle about the price, in a year or two!"

Here is my strategy on mags: Buy what you can, while you can--while prices are still halfway reasonable. I don't own a Beretta 92, an AR-10, or an AUG, but I figure I can always trade [for what I need] later. And I practically had to buy that FAL, since I found all those magazines. (What a great excuse to buy a gun.) My only regret is that I didn't have the cash to buy more magazines at the show. At the rate prices are zooming, Beta [C-MAG]s will pretty soon be back to $750 apiece, just like during the [1994 to 2004 Federal "Assault weapons" and 11+ round magazine] ban. .

Thanks again for your advice, sir. Your were right about silver. You were right about magazines. And for that matter you were right about derivatives, too. The world seems more and more like the first chapter of "Patriots" every day. (What, were you psychic?) I'm taking [your novel] to heart. I got all my "beans", and "bullets" in hand, now I just have to work on the "Band-aids". Thank You, Sir! - Matt E. in Texas (Soon to be a 10 Cent Challenger and an Appleseed qualified rifleman.)

JWR Replies: I'm glad to hear that you stocked up. You won't regret it. Those extra magazines will make fine barter items, both before and after a "Crunch." OBTW, I'm not the only that is one advocating investing in magazines. The following is from a recent e-newsletter from firearms training guru Gabe Suarez:, advocating preparedness: "...Then get as many magazines as you can justify. Glock magazines are going for about $35 now. A year ago they were under $20, and dealer price two years ago was about $12! At the height of the assault on freedom known as the Crime Bill, they were selling for $125. Forget Ameritrade, buy magazines."

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Mister Rawles,

My husband and I have two editions of "Patriots", both heavily highlighted. I shudder to think that your books sounds all too prophetic about now.

I've seen you reference The Appleseed Program [of rifle matches and clinics] on your web site, but I can't determine if you have ever been to one of our events. If you haven't, it is truly worth the time, since we are about more than just marksmanship. That is just the hook to get people to come.

We teach the history of the beginning of the Revolutionary War and the mindset of the people involved. Somehow Appleseed changes people. It gets people off their rears to come and it gets prompts many to take up the call to spread the word of involvement. It gets people thinking. Appleseed has given me hope that there are good committed people out there and that with them, not all of America is lost. It has also proven to be an excellent way to meet like minded people. If the worst comes to pass, I have the marksmanship skills to survive and I now know many others who do as well.

My husband and I are new instructors, as we have taken up the call. We are involved in teaching in the Southwest, but there are classes around the country, so everyone should be able to find one relatively close by. The training is highly effective and I have yet to see anyone, even experts, leave without some new skills.

Sincerely Yours, - G.F.in New Mexico


Hello Jim,
A little follow up to MJM's article on basic marksmanship. He is 100% spot on. The fundamentals and basics of marksmanship are the foundation that all shooting is built on. I would recommend seeking out NRA high power competition to improve their rifle shooting skills. High power shooters are always looking for new people and welcome them with open arms and are willing to teach. Plus the matches are just plain fun and gives you goals to strive for and measure your progress against. Also don't forget Fred's Appleseed program as well. Take care, - Jeff in Ohio

Monday, January 19, 2009

As many people will remember from the last "Assault Weapons" Ban (AWB) [in the US, which was effective from September, 1994 to September, 2004] there was a time window before the law took effect. Once it took effect, however, pre-ban purchased receivers could not legally be built into "assault weapons" unless they were in AW "format" before the ban took effect. So what does one do to get around this? It's a rather silly technicality, but so are a lot of other legal issues. In this case, your stockpiled receivers need to be in AW "format" before any ban takes place. If you can't afford to buy full kits for every receiver, you have to find other ways to meet the letter of the law. Remember that while you are innocent until proven guilty, government agencies often play by different rules, and of course, legal fees are expensive if you have to prove your innocence.

In the case of AR-15s or other firearms with sectional receivers, this means you need one complete upper with all the allowable evil features--bayonet lug, threaded muzzle or flash suppressor. Install a proper trigger kit into each receiver, and then attach the upper to it. Document this with photographs. You want one photo that clearly shows the serial number and one that clearly shows the attached "Evil features" on that receiver. (This also applies if you have already built a weapon from a stripped receiver and need to document that it was done before the cutoff date.)

It is acceptable to use digital photos for this purpose, but do not edit them in any way--experts can tell, and any edits call into question the credibility of the entire photo. Ideally, have the photos or the actual shoot witnessed by a lawyer or notary, although friends you can trust to step up and testify on your behalf will suffice. You need to "place" the photos, which means to add matter that documents the time and location of the shot. Set the camera clock for a proper timestamp and date on the photos. Consider adding a [dated] newspaper banner under the weapon and/or using a notable background such as your house or vehicle (if you can shoot outside) to add additional placement. To increase the continuity between the close-up and the overall photos should they ever come to court, place items in the setting that are obvious placers--a few long matchsticks resting on the weapon, or a trail of string over it, that would be hard to replace exactly for a different photo. Do not move or disturb the object(s) between the two shots. Print hard copies and archive CDs on your premises and at least one place off premise--a trusted friend or relative, with a lawyer or in a secure box under a different name that cannot be seized--since dishonest law enforcement have been known to do that to prevent any evidence for the defense.

Once you've created and documented your AWs, you can defer buying other upper receivers/features until your budget permits. You did create that receiver into [a complete] AW format [rifle] before the ban. Therefore, by the letter of the law, it [demonstrably] is always an AW. (This assumes that future bans are similar in construct to prior bans at state and federal level). If your local culture is gun friendly, be seen at ranges and gun shows with your legal AWs often. If any legal question arises, you want lots of local citizens, range officials and law enforcement who will testify that of course Joe Preparedness has AWs. He's had them for years, all legal, long before that ban took effect.
The photos are also useful if you decide to sell an AW at some point in the future--you can clearly document that it was in fact [built as] an AW before the cutoff date. They can also serve for insurance purposes. - Michael Z. Williamson [with additional input from his wife Gail Sanders, She is an honor grad of the Defense Information School, and a combat, forensics, and public affairs photographer.]

JWR Adds: I'm not a fatalist when it comes to re-enactment of an AWB. By all means contact your representatives numerous times, by multiple methods (mail, phone, and e-mail) and express most vociferously, your estimation of the Constitutionality of a new ban, especially in light of the recent D.C. v. Heller Supreme Court decision. With that said, I must also state that I am a realist: We all saw what happened last year when the congresscritters were deluged with phone calls, running by some estimates at a ratio of 25-to-1 opposed to the TARP Bank Bailout Bill, yet the majority of our so-called representatives still voted for it. This demonstrates that the congress is now no longer responsive to the electorate. So I can only conclude that given political expediency and the nature of quid pro quo dealings inside the DC Beltway, there will be more "Change" made than the American people want. There is a very high likelihood that some flavor of "Assault Weapon" and full capacity magazine ban will be enacted during the first three month "honeymoon" period that will be enjoyed by the BHO Administration and the Democrat-dominated congress. There may also be a separate importation ban, via an executive order, perhaps in first two weeks that BHO is in office.(One BHO camp insider told me that he'd heard talk of "more than a dozen January Surprise executive orders".)

My advice: Take the appropriate countermeasures: Stock up, especially on magazines, and "cover your tail in paper" using the method that Mike Williamson suggests. Someday soon, you may be very glad that you did.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I enjoy reading your blog and have improved my preps exponentially since I began following you. I don't know how many dozens of [telephone] consultations you do annually, but you and I spoke for an hour earlier this year. I live on Long Island, if that rings a bell. I feel that it was money well-spent.

The post on vehicle stops was informative. You mentioned Boston T. Party's "Boston's Gun Bible" as a reference source. I have read all his books, fiction and non-fiction alike, and found him to be both entertaining and informative. If I may, I suggest letting your readers know that he has a book devoted solely to interactions with law enforcement. His book is entitled "You and the Police" and can be found on Amazon.com for as little as $10.88 at last glance. This book covers all phases of dealing with law enforcement including traffic stops, roadblocks, airports etc . It also tells you what the police are allowed to do and what your rights are during a "contact", "detention" and "arrest". I have purchased copies for myself, family and friends. As the cover of the book states :If you don't know your rights, you have none!"

Thanks for the blog. It's my first stop each morning. God Bless, - Ken B. in New York

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I wanted to contribute this the following to your ongoing discussion on high capacity magazines.
Selling high capacity magazines is normally a small part of our business, but that changed last week. Between October 31 and today, we have sold more than I normally sell in a year.
I had stocked up anticipating increased demand, but was nowhere near prepared for the huge surge in sales that we experienced. A normal order was 3 to 6 magazines, now it is 12 or more and we have had several customers buy in quantities of 100+. As a result, we are completely sold out of AR-15 magazines. I have had 400 on order since before the election, hopefully to arrive some time later this month, but many are already allocated to back orders. I could use 1,000 more magazines, but I have no idea how long it will take the manufacturer to produce them, where I will be on their waiting list, or how much their price will have increased.

I sold out of Glock Model 23 magazines and am very low on Glock 19 magazines. I was able to re-order, but my supplier was out of a couple of varieties and the price has increased $2 each on the rest, so we had to raise prices. My profit margin was only $5 on Glock magazines, and one of my other suppliers is now quoting wholesale prices that are equivalent to what my retail price was.
This feeding frenzy should be an example to everyone who has delayed some of their preparations. Don't wait until the panic starts -- buy your long term storage food now. Get a water filter and grain mill while you still can. Buy your silver during the current dip. Survival supplies are tight, but things will get worse before they will get better. I have been in the survival business since before Y2K. (BTW, I have a 1997 edition of [your draft edition novel] TEOTWAWKI in its three ring binder on my bookshelf) and this is the busiest we have been since early 1999. - Dave (of Captain Dave's)


Mr. Rawles
I found this online - it is at an AR15.com forum where folks are presently discussing who is raising their magazine prices and who isn't: Stay safe. - David B.


Brownell's has still not raised any of their prices, as of this week. I have an account with them and bought a bunch of mags (AR and AK). Most of these are going to be traded off to my brother and some other contacts. Brownell's AR mags are still $12.50. These are good quality and I have never had a problem with them. FYI, - Sarge



I've seen similar goings on here in Memphis. General threat of mob violence on the night of the 4th and after if The One lost the election, so I went to pick up some extra buckshot and I figured a couple extra boxes of .45 while I was at it. First went to Sportsman's Warehouse, but they were out of just about everything in the major pistol calibers except the exotic and high-dollar loads. The mountain of 9mm ball they'd laid in planning to put on sale this weekend was reduced to less than a mole hill.

They were also pretty much out of buckshot, too. Bear in mind that this is an outdoor sporting goods "big box" and not a gun store per se. I left there empty-handed and headed over to Guns & Ammo, my usual stop for same. I knew something was really up when a guy coming out as I went in had two black Glock cases and a blue SIG box in his arms and his son was carrying a double-arm-full of handgun ammo boxes. Once I got inside the store, it looked like Christmas Eve in there; people lined up three deep at the counter, which is about 50 feet long. All six employees were going like mad trying to keep up with the sales. I got the last half-dozen boxes of Hornady TAP buckshot and a few boxes of Winchester Ranger .40 and high-tailed it. Looks like everybody's a bit worried, and with good reason. "May you live in interesting times," indeed. - Booth


A recent post said that Cabela's in Texas was out of ammo. I live in central Indiana and my local Gander Mountain store is (by now) out of .223 and other popular Battle Rifle calibers so I thought I would buy on-line like I usually do. What a shock. Able Ammo, MidwayUSA and Cheaper Than Dirt are out of just about everything in Battle Rifle calibers. I've never seen anything like this ever. Most are not even accepting back orders. I stopped by a local but out of the way gun store and had trouble finding a place to park. The employee's said you could not move around in the store on Saturday and the owner said he was thinking of going out of business after the first of the year. Interesting.

Friday, before work, my wife and I stopped by our local police department to request Concealed Carry permits. We got there Friday morning, 10 minutes before they opened. I was first in line and the lady asked me why everybody wants gun permits? Apparently it was a busy week for her. By the time I was fingerprinted and left the lobby was full of people, mostly couples, all seeking similar permits. These were all professional people. I live in a bedroom community where we have the highest per household income in the state. Something interesting is happening on in our country and intelligent hard working professional people feel the need to be able to protect themselves.

At a local outdoor shooting range, which was very busy despite 38 degree temps and wind, I talked to as many people as I could. They are mostly male in their late 30's to 50's. I ask them how long they have owned their weapon and the usual answer was "Since Tuesday!" There are a great many new shooters out there and they are not hunters. While they were not seeking training, at least they know if their weapon will fire if needed. I rarely see the same people again. Apparently, if the gun works, it works and that is the end of it. - Russ in Indiana

Saturday, November 8, 2008

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

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

Cast Iron Cookware

FN PS 90

10 PS 90 magazines

5.7 handgun

10 FN 5.7 handgun magazines

5.7 ammo

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

Body armor: Nick at BulletProofME.com

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

$10,000 cash in small bills
100 one-ounce silver coins (GoldDealer.com or Tulving.com)

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

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

Regards, - SF in Hawaii

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

Saturday, October 4, 2008

I'd recommend that "Greenhorn" should take a look at your "Profiles" page. I learned as much reading them as I do reading the blog! As you say, starting a "List of Lists" is invaluable to preparedness. It is the only way I can keep track of what I have on hand, whether it be too much or too little. And, just because I know it is a weak spot with everybody, more medical supplies is always a good thing.

Also, most gun shops have a layaway program, so it's possible to at least start paying on another rifle or handgun. When you get one of these items, make sure the ammo to feed it is your very next purchase! I'd rather have just a couple of good, solid guns and lots of ammo, than a lot of cool-guy stuff and only one magazine of ammo for each.

Make a habit of checking eBay, Craig's List and the local papers for good deals on things. If there is a sale at the local department store, I strongly recommend "buying ahead." Meaning, buying children's winter clothing in the spring when the stores are trying to clear it out, and buying a couple of sizes up. Same with shoes. Another great investment. This is one of those tangible investments that Jim speaks of all the time!

Most of all, stay calm! Breathe! Even having a few extra cases of beans and rice will put you ahead of most of your neighbors. Make sure the whole family is involved, and especially that your wife is your partner in everything you do. Take care. - SJC

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Bill from Ohio has a number of great observations about carry issues for females. Among the issues he mentions about hip holsters built for men:
1) Because of a woman's hips they tend to cause the butt of the weapon to dig-in to a woman's waist
2) Because women have hips, upon which they wear their belt they have less room to lift the weapon before it impinges into their armpit.
3) Because of factors 1 and 2 the FBI cant further complicates a natural draw for women.
I'd like to mention a holster made by Blade-Tech that addresses all three of these issues.

The offset allows for a normal vertical weapon carry by offsetting the distance from waist to hip. The drop isn't a dramatic drop like a thigh rig -- it just gives the woman a holster to armpit distance more comparable to what a man experiences. Finally the cant is fully adjustable to include straight drop, FBI, and even muzzle forward.
I have no financial relationship (other than being a customer) with Blade Tech. Just wanted to point out this groundbreaking product. - Keith in the Inland Northwest


As a follow-on to Pistol Holsters for Women, my wife had good luck with a Galco Lady Gunsite for a full-size 1911. This holster has an angled belt attachment, holding the gun vertical with the grip away from the body. This is not an effective concealment rig, as the gun sticks out from the body. It can get in the way until you get used to it. And of course, they don't make 'em anymore. - Simple Country Doctor.


In the recent letter regarding Holster Recommendations for Women, I found that I could understand that there is a problem, but was having a hard time visualizing it. A quick Google turned up an article on the subject. It does not offer the exact same solutions to the problem, but it does have diagrams.

As a guy, I found this very useful to understanding the problem. It is probably a lot safer than harassing the next female police officer I see with endless questions about her firearm. Somehow I doubt the officer--or my wife--would appreciate me pointing/shifting/tugging on the officer's gear and person just to satisfy my curiosity about this problem. - Jeff


Bill in Ohio brings up nearly everything I was going to write about yesterday (but killing blackberries and renovating the spring got in the way). His descriptions of the various holsters and how they fit on women is spot on and I doubt I could have described them as well. Everyone needs to read them very carefully, and learn!

Unfortunately, I learned all that the hard way. For over 30 years, I have carried a pistol when horseback riding, and I can assure you that as a 5'3" woman, with hips and breasts, it is no easy thing. And over the years I have come to the conclusion that the traditional thigh-tiedown type holster works best. The cowboys had that one right!

There are a couple of reasons why I use this set up. First off, it's easy and comfortable, even if you carry a good-sized pistol (in this case, a Dan Wesson .357 with a 6.5-inch barrel.) The only problem I ever had with it was that the Pachmayr grip rubbed a hole through the lining of my long riding coat. So I covered that place with Cordura.

The second reason is that while I was trying out various ways of packing that pistol, I had that big pistol at the small of my back. That worked okay, once I worked out how to get rid of the "bounce" when going faster than a walk. (I had to wear the belt so tight it was uncomfortable) But that wasn't the worst part. The worst part was taking a bad fall one day, and landing on the damn thing! Ouch!

So, I nixed the belt/small of the back idea, and went back to the thigh holster.

I do sometimes carry a smaller pistol (9mm Ruger with a 2-inch barrel) at the small of my back. I rigged a fanny pack with a synthetic holster, and that works well.

I have often wondered if anyone has tried to modify (or if someone already makes) a holster integrated with one of those neoprene back support belts. It would seem to me that this would work very well. Something like a pancake holster sewn onto the belt at the small of the back. It would be comfy, wouldn't bounce, and if done right shouldn't be too difficult to draw. So, unless someone comes up with a better idea, I'm sticking with my thigh tie-down.

Oh, something else in regards to packing a weapon when riding. You should always keep your weapon on your person! If you get dumped (or your horse takes off while you are taking a leak.) you do not want to be without your defense. I also carry water, a couple power bars, a small first aid kit, and a Leatherman in my fanny pack as well.

Many of my riding friends have made fun of me over the years because of all the stuff I carry with me. I have big saddlebags, stuffed with everything I might need. But all that teasing sure stops in a big hurry when someone needs something that I happen to have! ( Like toilet paper, a tampon, a shovel, or even my gold pan!) I also take a lot of flak for usually riding the smallest horse with the most gear.

Take care, and my thoughts are with your family. I hope Memsahib is on the mend! - Mrs. JD

JWR Replies: Like you, I am not an advocate of "small of back" (SOB) holsters. They are particularly risky when riding a bicycle, motorcycle, ATV, or horse! You are fortunate that you didn't take a harder fall, or you might have suffered a spinal injury. I have read accounts of a few law enforcement officers that had severe injuries because of SOB holsters. I'm not willing to take that risk.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Hello Jim,

Like many readers I have always been somewhat of a gun nut. Back when I was young and single I spent a lot of money on guns and ammo including items I didn't really need that have since accumulated over time. I was single and had money to spend. Fast forward to the present with wife and kids and money is tight. There is not much left for prepping. So I decided to take stock of what I really need for my core battery of weapons/ammo and sell the rest and use the proceeds for prepping. Here are some lessons learned:

It's important to have balance in your preparations between weapons and everything else. An M1A battle rifle is no more important than a Troy-Bilt tiller or a good pair of Danner boots. Ammunition has appreciated greatly in value and been an excellent investment (although [that was] not my original intent). My stocks of 7.62x54r, 7.62x39 and .303 British have at least doubled or tripled in value. A friend recently stated that Portuguese 7.62 NATO [ammunition in sealed battle packs] would have been a much better investment than gold. It would be nice to hold onto this ammunition longer and allow it to appreciate some more but there are other critical supplies that take precedence. You are correct when you state "tangibles, tangibles, tangibles" as a store of value. Hope this provokes some thought. - Jeff in Ohio

JWR Replies: Your observations are spot on. Prioritizing and logistical balance are crucial.

I can personally attest that Portuguese 7.62 NATO battle packs were indeed a great investment. Because of the Memsahib's recent large hospitalization expenses, I've been forced to liquidate many of my tangibles. For example, I recently sold two cases of "Port". (Each wooden case has 1,000 rounds, packed in 200 round battle packs. Each case weighs about 65 pounds.) These cases cost me $180 each in 2001. I just sold them for $475 each, and I've seen them recently sell for as much as $500 each. It is notable that there are very few bonds, stocks, or other investments that have appreciated so well in four years. My only regret is that I couldn't afford to buy 30 or 40 cases at $180 each! As some of the characters in my novel often lament: "Oh well. Hindsight is 20/20."

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Why do the incredibly robust "cheap" imported AKs have chrome lined bores , yet some of the expensive and finicky American-made ARs not chrome lined? Well, if you live in a humid climate, it makes a difference. I made the classic error of storing my guns in gun cases. In fact, that's the worst way to store them as the humidity accumulates inside. One of them had nearly rusted solid in three years.

Thanks to the ministrations of another firearm enthusiast, all my guns are being de-rusted, dipped in preservative oil and mylar bagged along with oxygen absorbents, rust inhibitor tabs and desiccants.
I don't want to talk about what happened to the barrel of my M21 so just don't ask. If you live in a humid climate, then consider the PS90. Mostly plastic, hi capacity, very ergonomic.
I also learned about the weight limitations of gamma seals. I just noticed that when I put ammo in five gallon buckets with Gamma seal ls on them, if I go over three buckets high, the bottom seal breaks and falls into the bucket. Now I limit it to two high and only lightweight buckets on top. - SF in Hawaii

JWR Replies: Thanks for being so frank. Perhaps other readers learn from your mistakes and avoid some costly problems.

A humid climate dictates extreme vigilance for gun storage. Here is my general guidance:

1.) Clean thoroughly, lubricate heavily, an a inspect frequently.
2.) If storing guns in a vault or a wall cache, invest in a Golden Rod dehumidifier. But don't expect it to be a miracle panacea. Mark your calendar with reminders for monthly inspections!
3.) Never, ever use a muzzle cap for more than an hour or two. They are for use in the field, not for storage!
4.) R.I.G., silica gel, and and VCI paper are your friends.
5.) If you use grease or a heavy coating of oil in a gun bore and/or its chamber, then be sure to tag the gun with a prominent reminder to yourself to remove the grease it before firing. (Not doing so can be a safety hazard!)
5.) Do NOT use oxygen absorbing packets for gun storage! These are designed specifically to kill insect larvae in stored food. These packets use a chemical reaction of moisture, salt, and ferric oxide (rust!) to consume the oxygen in a confined space. These packets can be bad news for stored guns. Instead, I recommend that you use silica gel to prevent rust. Silica gel packets also have the advantage that they can be re-used many times if you dry them out in an oven or a dehydrator overnight. (Since they employ a chemical reduction process, oxygen absorbing packets can only be used once.)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Long before the current trend in drop-leg holsters, we used some in Army Aviation to clear the armor on the seats in some specific aircraft. The one I flew had more armor coverage, and frankly even a drop-leg wasn't going to work, so the shoulder holster was the way to go for me. Tanker wear shoulder rigs, as well as desk jockeys for the very same reason. Your pistol needs to be out of the way to do your primary job. That's the Army though. Just because Big Army does it, or uses it, it doesn't mean it's really a good idea for you as an individual. There's a lot of junk the Army uses to great effect that is just useless for the individual or small-group survivalist. Don't ever base what you need on what you see the Army, or even contractors, using. The missions are entirely different. Buy and use what you need.

That being said, drop-leg rigs are great for wearing directly on your belt, or a dedicated gun belt, along with a knife. If you remember Trasel's post a while back about gear he mentioned keeping your knife, etc. on your trouser belt, so you always have it with you, if you ditch, or just don't have your web gear. Sage advice there. A drop-leg, or even a shoulder rig, does this for you. By using the right holster (that's key there), you can have it attached to your person, and clear your web gear. If you have to ditch your web-gear, your gun and knife are still with you.

While most schools frown on shoulder holsters because of safety concerns, and the complexity of sidearm retention, in many cases it's a good choice. Pilots have used them forever, and it's unlikely you'll face a retention situation in your own cockpit. Same with tankers. I remember a picture of a P-38 pilot in the Pacific that had the usual USGI WWII shoulder rig, with the shoulder strap also going through a mag pouch and survival knife. Not a bad set-up for his use, and worth thinking about for a lot of reasons. Not the perfect rig for a night on the town, but it obviously worked for him. Even what's perfect in a schoolhouse training environment might not be perfect for you. The key is to go with what works for you.

Whatever holster you choose, if you have more than one try to keep to one system. If you're using a Safariland 6004, look at a holster with the self-locking system (SLS) for concealment, or go without [secondary] retention. What you don't want is different retention systems to deal with. Using a 6004 with SLS on your leg, then using a thumbsnap for concealment, and using a level three retention holster for belt use isn't a wise move. [For the sake if kinesthetic memory] you want to make the same movements each time to get the gun out.

Sometimes you can modify stuff to work. The Safariland 6004 is often the subject of some surgery which allows it to ride higher and much more comfortable for many. Sometimes you can get holsters that do many things. The USGI M12 [aka Bianchi UM-84 series] holster can be adapted to many different types of carry. I frankly don't think too highly of that holster, but many think USGI means it's the way to go. They're cheap enough I suppose. I currently use an Eagle brand drop leg that the drop leg flap can fold over so you can use it both as a conventional belt service holster as well as a drop leg. It rides high enough to be out of the way in drop-leg mode, and low enough to clear gear. The full flap, with Fastex fastener means it's secure no matter what I do, and the full-flap velcros out of the way to allow an open top configuration with a thumbsnap retention as well. It pretty much does it all for me from admin to tactical and it's all the same holster, so training is simplified and it's cheaper to buy one good holster than several different ones (though I always seem to buy several anyway). It's doesn't do concealed carry well, but most CCW holsters are either non-retention, or thumbsnap, so again there's nothing to re-learn in a fight.

As for slings, I said before the Israeli type has a lot going for it, and that's what I use. You can beat it in specific tasks with other slings, but for all around lugging a rifle around and still be effective with the sling, they're great.

While I agree on having different sets of web-gear for each rifle, I don't agree on caliber/weapon specific. I think they should be universal for what you're equipped with. That way all that needs to change is the magazines, and not the whole set of web gear. Weapon-specific web gear is too specific, in my opinion. Regards, - Doug Carlton

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hey Jim,
I used to make my living as a construction electrician and had several big steel Greenlee brand tool boxes with my tools. There is usually one in the back of my
truck all the time.

Price of gun safes has continued to rise, so I took one of my boxes and cut out a plywood rack for my guns, then filled in around the rack with polyurethane foam. After it was set and cured, I painted the urethane foam flat black.

The fit and finish on my Greenlee tool box/gun safe is good enough to protect my weapons, keep them locked and secure. It also has the advantage of handles and skids so it can be loaded into a pickup or bug out trailer to get to the remote retreat in a hurry. If necessary, I can load it with a forklift, or a chain hoist, or muscle it on with three other men.
Anyway, I thought you might be interested in my improvised gun safe.

The steel tool boxes can still be bought from Lowe's [hardware store] for $199. Regards, - Lawrence, editor of SurvivingTheDayAfter@yahoogroups.com

JWR Replies: Thanks for that cost-saving suggestion. Just keep in mind that "portability" works both ways. It is essential that you secure your vault, box, or chest to a floor or a very sturdy wall, to prevent burglars from hauling off "The Whole Shebang." Be sure to use heavy duty lag bolts!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Food & Supplies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skills that I have acquired:

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

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

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I often stress that a key to survival is not what you have, but rather what you know. (See my Precepts of Rawlesian Survivalist Philosophy web page.) In part, I wrote:

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

To expand on those precepts, consider the following:

Balanced logistics are important for everyone, but absolutely crucial for someone that is on a tight budget. If you have a three year food supply, then a quantity miscalculation for one particular food item will likely be just an inconvenience. But if you only have a three month supply, then a miscalculation can be a serious hazard. Be logical, systematic, and dispassionate in your preparations. You need to develop some detailed lists, starting with a "List of Lists." Be realistic and scale your retreat logistics purchasing program to your budget. Avoid gong in to debt to "get prepared." A friend of mine who was a Physician's Assistant went way overboard in 1998 and 1999, stocking up for Y2K. The massive credit card debt that he racked up eventually contributed to a prolonged mental depression.

Choose your retreat location wisely. If you can't afford 40 acres, then be sure to pick the right 5 or 10 acres. Finding a property that adjoins public land, and/or property with like-minded neighbors, can make a huge difference. The smaller your land-buying budget, the longer your search should be, to get the most for your money. In today's plunging real estate market, don't overlook the possibility of finding a foreclosed ("bank owned") farm or ranch at a "below market" price. Watch the foreclosure listings in your intended retreat region closely. Two foreclosure monitoring services that I recommend are RealtyTrac.com and Foreclosures.com.

Buy used instead of new. It goes without saying that your purchasing dollars will go farther if you concentrate on quality used tools, guns, and vehicles. Remember that preparedness is not a beauty contest. There are no "Style" points awarded. So owning gear with some dings and scratches is not an issue. Just be sure to inspect used items very carefully. In the case of buying a used vehicle, it is worthwhile to run a check on the vehicle's history through a service like CARFAX. This will reveal if the vehicle might have been repaired after a major collision. Also, hire a qualified mechanic to do some checks before you buy a used rig. That will be money well-spent!

Clip coupons, watch and wait for seasonal sales, shop at thrift stores, go to garage sales and flea markets, attend weekend farm and estate auctions, and learn to watch Craig's List and Freecycle like a hawk. The only thing better that finding inexpensive used items is having thing given to you. This is a common occurrence with Freecycle. For example, it is not unusual to have someone give you several dozen Mason-type canning jars. Just be sure to return the favor, in the spirit of Freecycle.

Strike a balance between quality and quantity. I'm a big believer in the old adage: "Better is the enemy of good enough." Why buy a $320 Chris Reeve folding knife when a used $30 CRKT or Cold Steel brand pocketknife bought on eBay will provide 95% of the functionality of a custom knife? Buying at 1/10th the price means that you will have money available for other important logistics and training.

Take advantage of free or low-cost training. The WRSA, for example, offers shooting and medical training at near their cost. I've discussed other such training opportunities at length previously in SurvivalBlog. In my Precepts page, I noted:

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

Learn to distinguish between essentials and non-essentials. Do you really need cable television? Eating out? snacks from the vending machine? ? Use the cash generated to buy the really important things, like storage food.

When you don't have cash, then apply sweat equity. Do you need pasture fence or garden fence at your retreat property? Don't hire someone and "have it done" Do it yourself. Not only will you save money, but you will also learn valuable skills. You might even lose some of that flab around your midsection, in the process. Also consider that people are often willing to barter their excess tangibles in trade for your skills and time. Do you have an elderly neighbor with a big gun collection? Then offer to paint his house in trade for a couple of guns or a few of those heavy ammo cans that he won't live long enough to shoot? In my Precepts page, I wrote:

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

People often assume that because my blog and novel are widely read that I am wealthy. I actually have a very modest income. The only reason that our retreat is so well stocked is that I have been systematically stocking up for 30 years. I am not a "yuppie survivalist" as at least one fellow blogger claims. I gave up my Big City salaried job years ago, to concentrate on living self-sufficiently. Part of this was a conscious decision to raise our children in a more wholesome environment. The major drawback is that the Rawles Ranch is in such a remote area that we don't get into town very often.

The Memsahib Adds. The good thing about living so remotely is there are no shopping opportunities. Even if I had the urge to indulge in some retail therapy, I'd have to drive more than two hours to do it. The next best things you can do is cancel your magazine subscriptions. If you analyze the contents of most magazines you will realize that they are designed to make you dissatisfied with your clothes, your home decor, garden, electronics, autos because they aren't the latest, greatest, and most fashionable. I also highly recommend selling or Freecycling your television, for the very same reason. A couple of exceptions to our magazine rule are Backwoods Home, and Home Power, since they are both light on advertising and heavy on practical skills.

In closing, do the best you can with what you have. Be truly frugal. I grew up in a family that still remembered both our pioneer history and the more recent lessons of the Great Depression. One of our family mottos is: "Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without." I thank my mother for passing that wisdom along to my generation, and I am doing the same, with my children.


You wrote in reply to a recent e-mail from "Billfour": "JWR Replies: That is a great suggestion. Just beware of any desiccant that has any additives, dyes, or scents. A perfumed desiccant would be fine for tool storage, but potentially a disaster for food storage."

I've just been through this. Tidy Cats Crystals has perfume, which I discovered after getting it home and opening it. (I'll use it for my stored ammo.) The brand that I have found that has no perfume is the Amazing Cat Litter brand. It only has silica gel as the stated ingredient on its Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). Also, the chunks of silica gel are larger, with much less dust. I used twist-ties and brown coffee filters to wrap-up an ounce at a time, which is the approximate amount needed for six-gallon pails. - Ham

Monday, June 2, 2008

Hi, James
There is always a need for desiccants for various uses, be it food storage, caching, or other projects. Most who need such things already have a favorite supplier, but I'll make another recommendation for the sake of saving a few bucks. Any local grocer, pet supply dealer or Big Box store carries silica-gel cat litter in amounts from 3 to 30 pounds: Tidy Cats Crystals is one such product, though there are many. A rounded tablespoon place in a square of mesh fabric purchased in a craft/hobby department (where it can be bought by the yard--think about the bird seed packets at weddings) and securely tied [or sewn shut] will work well when placed in the desired container; depending on the need, they can also be spooned directly into the bottom of the vessel. Note that I'm suggesting the clear-blue "Crystals-only" type which are pure silica; one doesn't want the silicate-clay "Blend" which is also offered.

Being silicate, they have the potential for re-use by oven drying. Compared to the cost of individual commercial [silica gel] packets, this is a bargain. Regards, - Billfour

JWR Replies: That is a great suggestion. Just beware of any desiccant that has any additives, dyes, or scents. A perfumed desiccant would be fine for tool storage, but potentially a disaster for food storage.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I live in an area of the south that is fairly rural. People her still plant gardens, can, hunt, raise livestock and I believe could if need be survive longer than most in a crisis time. Don't get me wrong I am stocking and preparing for a long term survival and defense possibility.

My question is this: The 40 acres I live on is situated on a ridge in this area surrounded by deep flowing rivers,streams and creeks. These water ways separate the area I live and a metropolitan area 80 miles in one direction and another 60 miles. In a full collapses such as in your novel "Patriots" would it be feasible to block or make impassable these bridges as to route the flow of scavengers and marauders away from my area. Also it would funnel any that would find their way in to my area in from one defensible direction.

I'm talking about doing this only in the event of a full collapse as in TEOTWAWKI. The only real protection the people in this area will have will be themselves and their neighbors. Our group will be large enough to defend our stronghold at the size it is now. I just think that a more controlled area with fewer entry points would be easier to defend. Now we are not going to box ourselves into a hole, but limiting vehicle access just would be prudent. If we pulled back closer there are four smaller bridges that are less than a mile away that would close our "back door" from unexpected visitors. Most of our neighbors are self reliant and I believe in that situation would agree that limiting access would be to all of those in the "enclave's" best interest. I'm not talking of destroying them--only blocking them with junk cars and such. We have a lot of heavy equipment between us and it would not be a problem. Typically the bridges are in low spots so they are also easily defendable from higher ground. I know this sounds extreme but we are planning long term defense and survival. - Southern Survivor

JWR Replies: Legally and ethically, as an individual you can only block roads on your own property. But if a small community makes a collective decision to block a road or bridge, then that is another matter. I would assume that every state in the Union has laws forbidding blocking any public road. Further, as both police (in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, under color of law) and various protestors have found, Federal law prohibits blocking interstate freeways.

As I've mentioned in SurvivalBlog several times, it is best to pick a property that is situated away from channelized areas (also known as "lines of drift.") A ridgetop location is generally quite good, but this of course raises the age-old issue of clear fields of fire versus concealment. The best possible solution would be to have a cleared area for at least 50 yards, yet still have a solid screen of trees close to any nearby thoroughfares. This necessitates having at least 20 acres--which is out of the price range of many preppers. In the end, it comes down to compromise, and tailoring your defensive preparations to your locale and to your personal "worst case" expectations.

In my years of consulting work, I've met many folks that have confided that in the event of an absolute worst case--the dreaded "Mutant Zombie Biker" scenario--they plan to block public roads or even destroy bridges. Two of my consulting clients own large Caterpillar-type tractors. I've urged them to not use those Cats to move earth and rock to block roads, but rather to possibly use them as mobile road blocks. Parking a Cat crosswise at the end of a two-lane bridge (with its blade lowered) will stop most vehicles. OBTW, when doing this, don't depend on just a keyed switch to disable the vehicle. Just a few types of key variations were made and/or they can easily to bypassed ("hot wired".) So a mobile roadblock must be disabled by temporarily removing or disabling a crucial ignition, fuel, or hydraulic system part. (See how utility companies do so, for some examples.)

By using a mobile road block that is under armed observation 24/7, you will minimize the risk of alienating your neighbors. Who is to say how long a crisis might last? If you were to block a road with earth or rock piles, or even with wrecked cars, you would probably infuriate any neighbors that decide to return to a normal life of work and commuting, as well as any that resume hauling produce or livestock to market.

Also, as I've pointed out many time in the past: Physical obstacles are just delays--not absolute safeguards. People will find a way through them, over them, or around them--on foot if need be. Also, given enough time, almost any obstacle can be reduced or removed. This necessitates covering any obstacle with armed sentries. For a community in a post-collapse situation, this is best accomplished by 1.) a mobile roadblock, 2.) prominent warning signs, and 3.) covered by one or more well-camouflaged sentries equipped with scoped battle rifles and radios, from a 200+ yard distance. Just one rifleman in a ghillie suit, set back in a tree line can have a tremendous psychological impact in defending a roadblock. ("Where did that shot come from?") In my estimation, the traditional "armed party of men" standing behind barricades manning a roadblock is a thoroughly antiquated carry-over from the Ancien Régime. In the modern context, it is just an invitation to take casualties, as well as a waste of manpower.)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Ammunition storage is one of the survival planning trinity: ("Beans, Bullets and Band-Aids"). But what happens when you run out? You can’t plant a garden for 7.62mm NATO or cut up old sheets to make .45 ACP. In this case you need to at least consider the practice (some would say art) of ammunition reloading. Speaking from a perspective of more than 10 years experience, I can honestly say that reloading is no more difficult than repairing a leaking faucet and baking a loaf of bread. It is very similar to making up a recipe with a few mechanical interventions. It is also relatively safe, so long as you don’t try to smoke while measuring powder or try to seat a primer with a hammer. I will limit this discussion to center fire metallic handgun and rifle cartridges, but similar considerations would apply to shotshell reloading.

First, let me present an introduction on ammunition components. There are four basic ingredients to loaded ammunition: Primer, powder, brass case, and projectile. We will handle each in order. We need to be precise in our use of language (Thank you Jeff Cooper!) A cartridge or round is one unit of loaded ammunition. A bullet is the projectile of a cartridge (in the same sense that a clip is different from a magazine). Let me stress at this point that if you already have all the components, it is far better to put it together now rather than later. Reloading takes time, something that may be in extremely short supply in a TEOTWAWKI situation. If your ammunition inventory is adequate, you should consider keeping some components for barter or future use, but the majority of your powder should be in loaded ammunition!

Primers and powder are the two things which cannot be reused and require an industrial capacity to produce. Making primers out of matchstick heads or smokeless powder out of nitric acid and cotton should be regarded a fantasy for individuals wanting to survive. While black powder can be made relatively safely, it will not function well in modern firearms. There is a reason the old-time black powder cartridges were as big as cigars, smokeless powder is far more efficient and safer to handle as well. In other words, if you are considering reloading sometime in the future, you should store some primers and powder now while they are available. (A political aside: In addition to banning guns and ammunition, there have been legislative attempts to ban reloading components.)
Primers come in two sizes each for both pistol and rifle for a total of four sizes: Small pistol, large pistol, small rifle and large rifle (Pistol in this sense includes revolver cartridges). The small version of each type is designed for smaller cartridges and vice versa. While small pistol and small rifle are essentially the same size (likewise for large pistol and large rifle), they are designed to ignite vastly different powder charges. Mixing them up can lead to disaster. An example of a small pistol primer cartridge would be the 9mm NATO (also known as 9x19, 9mm Parabellum and 9mm Luger). The .45 ACP uses a large pistol primer. The 5.56mm NATO (aka .223 Remington and 5.56x45) uses the small rifle primer, and the 7.62mm NATO (aka .308 Winchester and 7.62x51) uses the large rifle primer. Due to the difference in size between small and large, confusion would be difficult and impossible to use incorrectly, but do not confuse pistol and rifle primers of the same size.

Besides the four basic sizes, there is a myriad of subtypes, including standard, magnum, match and military grade. Magnum primers are a niche market and not used in common caliber ammunition (Note .357 Remington Magnum does not use a magnum primer), so you can safely ignore them. Match grade primers are supposedly made with tighter specifications and better quality control. Military primers typically have a “harder” cup and require a strong firing pin impact to ignite, but are less likely to be punctured by a misshaped or pointed firing pin or suffer a slam fire in semi-autos with floating firing pins. The differences in my experience are minimal to nonexistent and you can safely ignore them and go with standard primers. Typical military style weapons (in good working condition) such as AR-15s FN/FALs and M1As work fine with standard primers. Likewise, the difference between the manufactures such as Federal, Winchester, Remington and CCI are also minimal.

Reloading powder (also called canister grade propellant) is available in a confusing array of types from multiple manufacturers. The most distinguishing characteristic is know as burning rate, with a huge spectrum between the slow and fast burning (arbitrary unit designation). The burning rate is controlled by several manufacturing techniques. First is composition. Powders can be either single or double base, with the double base including a proportion of nitroglycerin in addition to the nitrocellulose. The size and shape (spherical or rod shaped) of the powder granules also dramatically alters the burning rate as does various coatings applied in manufacture. The burning rate is tailored to the pressure limits of individual cartridges as well as the projectile weight and barrel length. The general rule is faster powders are used in handguns and slower powders in rifle ammunition. Smokeless powder is listed by weight (typically in grains, one pound is 7000 grains) for a given charge, but is usually measured volumetrically to obtain the desired weight. This is one reason I prefer spherical (also called ball) propellants. The spheres measure much more uniformly when metered by volume.

Just as we simplified the primer issue down to four basic types, the more than 100 different powders available can be vastly simplified for personal reloading. For example, I typically store only four different powders and could go with two in a pinch, one moderately fast for handguns and one moderately slow for rifles. Now, let me discuss safety. While smokeless powder is very stable, it is flammable. Unless contained in a closed space (such as a cartridge) it will only burn, albeit vigorously. It will not explode if dropped or otherwise mistreated. Primers on the other hand are designed to explode if crushed. Treat them as you would treat loaded ammunition. Both components prefer a stable room temperature without excessive humidity and will survive almost indefinitely in such an environment. One thousand primers takes up about as much space as two decks of cards and an eight pound jug of powder is about the size of a gallon of milk.

Our next component is the brass cartridge case, hereafter simple called brass or case. Apart from factory new brass, most reloading is done with used cases. These can come from collecting your own to scavenging the local shooting range. I prefer to reuse my own brass since I know its’ history, but “when times get tough….” When scavenging brass, one needs to be extremely careful. Modern factory ammunition is made with several different metals besides brass. Steel and aluminum are the most common and are definitely not reloadable in a safe way. They need to be crushed and disposed of. In addition, some foreign ammunition is Berdan primed (discussion beyond the scope of this article) and also is not easily or safely reloaded. The problem is that externally, it is near impossible to tell the difference. For safety’s sake, discard everything which doesn’t have a recognizable domestic US factory stamp on the case head (Winchester, Federal, Remington, etc.). Another problem arises with surplus military brass. These frequently have crimped primer pockets, and while reloadable, require special care which will be discussed later. All collected brass should be cleaned and sorted by caliber. Be careful here since some shooting range ammunition (not necessarily “common caliber”) can be very similar. For example, a 9x21 is only slightly longer than the much more common 9mm NATO, but would be catastrophic if it functions at all in a common 9mm. Another common “competition cartridge” (not “common caliber”) is the.38 Super, which is also very similar to the 9mm NATO. Again, the safest bet is to discard (or otherwise sequester) any brass without a legible case stamp indicating caliber.

When scavenging brass, it is also important to discard those with cracks in the case mouth. This is typically due to the “work hardening” of the brass during repeated resizing operations. Cases with small dents induced during ejection in a semi-auto can usually be reused in my experience for routine plinking ammunition, but shouldn’t be used for loads pushing the pressure limit. In fact, I wouldn’t use scavenged brass for any “top end” load since internal volume can vary significantly.

The business end of loaded ammunition, the projectile (aka bullet), also comes in a withering array of sizes and weights. For simplicities’ sake, there are two main types, either lead or jacketed. Both types can come in several styles such as full metal jacket (FMJ), hollow-point, spitzer, round nose, truncated cone, semi-wadcutter, etc. The only safety caveat here is that “pointed” bullets, such as spitzers, must not be used in tubular magazine rifles (such as lever action .30-30’s) since the cartridges are “nose to tail” and recoil could fire the stacked cartridges. In this case the bullet point is acting like a firing pin to the cartridge in front of it.

Factory bullets are sold in a specific bore size, commonly measured in thousandths of an inch, and weight, commonly measured in grains. This is where a lot of confusion is introduced because of the “naming nomenclature” of our ammunition. For example, .38 caliber is actually 0.357” and is one reason why .38 Special can be safely fired in a .357 Magnum. To add to the confusion, our naming nomenclature is used for a marketing perspective, rather than precise use of language. For example, both .38 Super and .357 SIG use 9mm bullets (0.355”) instead of the logical .38 caliber (0.357”) bullets their names would indicate. Here is a table of common caliber ammunition bullet sizes and range of bullet weights:

Cartridge Nominal Diameter (inches) Nominal Weight Range (grains)

5.56mm NATO

.223 Remington

.224 40-70 (55-62 most common)

7.62mm NATO
.308 Winchester

.308 110-180 (150-165 most common)
9mm NATO
.38 Super
.357 SIG
.355 115-147 (124 most common)
.357 Magnum .357 110-180 (158 most common)

.40 S&W


.400 135-200 (175 most common)
.45 ACP .451 160-300 (230 most common)

While it is possible, making jacketed bullets from scratch is difficult. Cast bullets, on the other hand, are relatively easy to make with appropriate tools and supplies. Safety note: Molten lead burns skin like almost nothing else, and lead fumes are dangerous, so adequate ventilation is absolutely critical. Tools needed include a melting pot with spout or ladle, bullet mold and water bath/bucket. Lead can be obtained from wheel weights (make sure they are lead, other metals are used) or by “mining” the berm at the shooting range. This “dirty” lead will need to be washed, melted, all non-lead metal (steel weight clips, bullet jacket material, etc.) removed and flux added to remove dirt. I prefer to obtain cleaned and fluxed lead from other sources (eBay, etc.) but it is more expensive and as always.

The keys to making good cast bullets are a properly heated and smoked mold. Nonetheless, the first few casts will likely be misshapen, and need to be thrown back into the melting pot. I prefer the micro banded or “tumble lube” bullet molds by Lee Precision since they typically don’t require resizing and are easily lubed with their Liquid Alox bullet lube.

There are several caveats with regard to using cast bullets. First is that lead bullets leave a residue in the barrel (commonly called leading), particularly when fired at higher velocities (greater than 1200-feet per second) and become significantly worse the higher you go. Second, barrels designed to “swage” the bullet (most typically Glock with their hexagonal rifling) will cause excessive pressure when fired with lead bullets. A simple solution is a drop in replacement barrel with conventional rifling like the Lone Wolf brand.

The velocity limitation imposed with using cast bullets can effectively preclude their use in semi-auto rifles since effective operation is severely limited at the lower velocities. Thus, if you are planning to reload rifle ammunition, I would suggest a supply of jacketed bullets of appropriate size and weight for your particular firearm.

So, now you have your supply of primers and powder, bullets (either cast or store bought jacketed) and a fresh supply of brass from the recent firefight with the Mutant Zombie Hordes, where do you star?. Reloading consists of eight steps: Cleaning the brass case, decapping the spent primer, resizing the brass case, re-priming the brass case, belling the case mouth to accept the bullet, charging the case with powder, seating the new bullet and reshaping or crimping the case mouth. Several of these steps can be accomplished at the same time, such as decapping/resizing the brass case, case mouth belling/powder charging and bullet seating/crimping but I will discuss each separately.

Cleaning is usually done with a vibratory cleaner with a mild abrasive such as ground corn cob. I prefer the Dillon products, but others are equally useful. Depending on the state of your brass, all that may be needed is a quick wipe with a paper towel. It is critical to handle each case to examine for damage and discard suspect ones.

Decapping the brass case consists of running a punch down the case mouth to push out the old primer. This is where care must be exercised in cases with crimped-in primers. After decapping crimped-in primers, the primer pocket must be reformed to accept a new primer. This can be accomplished by reaming the pocket with a primer pocket reaming tool or re-swaging the pocket.

Resizing the brass case is mechanically complex, but is easily accomplished with an appropriate resizing die and reloading press. It is necessary at this point to bring up the concept of headspace. Headspace is simply the distance from the bolt face of the firearm to the point where further advancement of the cartridge into the chamber is stopped. Rimmed cartridges headspace on the rim, since that is what prevents the cartridge from going further into the chamber. Rimless cartridges either headspace on a belt (in “belted” magnum cartridges, serves same function as a rim but leads to easier feeding), on the shoulder of bottleneck cartridges or the case mouth in straight-walled ammunition. This is an important concept since if the cartridge is too long for the chamber; the bolt will not close correctly. If it is too short, the firing pin may not strike the primer, or worse, it may push the cartridge further into the chamber before ignition, where pressure locks the case in position and pushes back on an unsupported case head. Brass is weak compared to steel and the pressure pushing the case head back to the bolt face may stretch the brass to where it separates from the body of the cartridge. This is known as case head separation, and puts extremely hot gas under tremendous pressure venting right next to your face. Beside the risk of injury or damage to the firearm, you now have the task of removing a now headless cartridge out of the chamber before the firearm can be reused.

Resizing the brass case consists of squeezing down the now slightly expanded fired case back to nominal size. Because of the stresses imparted, lubrication is usually necessary (except in straight-walled ammunition using carbide dies) and is easily accomplished with a simple spray of case lube prior to resizing. This reforming of the brass makes the metal hard and brittle and limits the number of times it can be done without cracking (most commonly seen as cracks in the case mouth which undergoes the most change in size). The only dimension which is not squeezed back to nominal size is the overall length (OAL) and each subsequent resizing operation tends to lengthen the case neck. After resizing a couple of times, the neck may need to be trimmed in order to get the OAL back into specification. I usually discard such brass, since it is removing brass which has come from somewhere else in the case, thus weakening it to some extent. This is not so much a concern for low pressure cartridges such as .45 ACP but can be significant in higher pressure cartridges. In a TEOTWAWKI situation, re-annealing the brass (heating up and quenching) and case trimming may be necessary to get the most life out of a given case.

Re-priming is simply the act of inserting a new appropriate size primer into the brass case. This can be done either on the press, or with a handheld re-priming tool. If I am using a single stage press (where each step is done on a batch of brass before moving on to the next step), I prefer to use the handheld tool. If I am using the progressive press, I leave it up to the press in its sequence of events.

Case mouth belling is the process of slightly enlarging the case mouth to provide ease of bullet insertion. This step is typically not necessary with boat-tailed jacketed bullets, but is critical with cast lead bullets to prevent shaving of the soft lead.

Powder charging is another critical step, similar to resizing. First, you need a recipe. Good sources for a recipe are the powder manufacturers’ and bullet manufacturers’ loading data books. The powder charge must be matched to the cartridge, the weapon and the particular bullet. Load data will typically list a starting load and a maximum load. You need to stay within these limits. Variations within these limits looking for optimum accuracy is know as “working up a load”, and is the source of a lot of enjoyment in these times prior to TEOTWAWKI. Powder dispensing is usually done by adjusting the volume of powder to give a specific weight charge. The ultimate in precision is accomplished by hand weighing each charge, but volume dispensers are much more convenient for routine reloading. Periodic checking of the weight of a “thrown” charge is warranted to make sure your settings haven’t changed.

Bullet seating is simply the process of seating the bullet on the case mouth and pushing it down into the neck (or the body in straight-walled ammunition) so the cartridge OAL is within specification. Once the die is adjusted for the correct depth, subsequent members of the batch will have the same length.

Following bullet seating, reforming the case mouth or crimping the bullet to prevent movement under recoil may be necessary. There are two types of crimps. Taper crimping simply smoothes out any belling and snug’s up the case mouth like a turtle neck sweater. This is used in straight-walled ammunition like pistol cartridges where you need the “step off” from brass to bullet in order to headspace correctly. Roll crimping actually cinches up the case mouth, much like a clothes belt, to provide purchase and prevent movement. Bottleneck cartridges and rimmed revolver cartridges are usually roll crimped.

So what kind of supplies do I need to “roll my own” now or when times get bad? Basic equipment would consist of:

Reloading manual.
Single stage press (Lee makes a nice, inexpensive one).
Die set for your caliber (available from several manufactures).
Powder/bullet weight scale.
Dial caliper/micrometer.
Hand priming tool.
Powder funnel

For the consumable supplies, I consider the amount needed for 1,000 rounds of loaded ammunition. I choose this not only because it is a nice round (and comforting) number, but because our weights are measured in grains and there are 7000 grains in a pound. If you know the charge (or lead bullet) weight, you simply divide the number by 7 to tell you how many pounds are needed to make 1,000 rounds of ammunition. For example, if the charge weight of powder is 35 grains, 35 divided by 7 equals 5, so I will need 5 pounds of powder to make 1,000 rounds with that powder. If my bullet mold makes 230 grain bullets, 230 divided by 7 is slightly less than 33, so I will need 33 pounds of lead to make 1,000 bullets.

For my logistics, I limit myself to “common caliber” ammunition. For handguns, this means 9mm NATO and .45 ACP. For rifles, this means 5.56mm NATO and 7.62mm NATO. For handgun reloading, I mostly use two moderately fast powders both of which work fine for 9mm NATO and .45 ACP. These are Hodgdon HP38 and Accurate #5 powders. These have similar burning rates, but the HP38 uses a significantly lighter charge which makes it more economical.

For rifle reloading, I choose two moderately slow powders both of which work fine for 5.56mm NATO and 7.62mm NATO. These are Hodgdon H335 and Accurate 2230. Likewise, the burning rates are close and charge weights nearly identical. Since cast lead bullets are not appropriate for these rounds, you will obviously need 1,000 jacketed bullets for either.

Supplies Needed for 1,000 Rounds by Caliber:

Component .45 ACP 9mm NATO 7.62mm NATO 5.56mm NATO
Casting Lead or Jacketed Bullets 230 grains = 33 Pounds of Lead 124 grains = 18 Pounds of Lead Need 1,000 FMJ Bullets Need 1,000 FMJ Bullets
Primers 1,000 Large Pistol 1,000 Small Pistol 1,000 Large Rifle 1,000 Small Rifle
Hodgdon Powder 5.3 grains = 0.76 Pounds of HP38 4.4 grains = 0.63 Pounds of HP38 44 grains = 6.3 Pounds of H335 25 grains = 3.6 Pounds of H335
Accurate Powder 8.5 grains = 1.22 Pounds of AA #5 6.2 grains = 0.89 Pounds of AA #5 44 grains = 6.3 Pounds of AA 2230 25 grains = 3.6 Pounds of AA 2230

Like baking bread, reloading can be enjoyable and a real valuable skill in bad times. The costs associated need not be excessive. - NC Bluedog

JWR Adds: While 5..56mm NATO and .223 Remington have quite similar case dimensions and loading specifications, they are not completely interchangeable. For example, it is not considered safe to shoot commercial soft nose .223 loads in a semi--auto rifle chambered for 5.56mm NATO. The same warning applies to 7.62mm NATO and.308 Winchester. Use caution and use the appropriate safety equipment when storing powder and primers, when reloading ammunition, and when melting lead/bullet casting. Study the standard safety warnings before you begin!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

One skill that will be in great demand by almost everyone in a post-TEOTWAWKI environment will be a skilled and resourceful ammunition reloader. Equipment is relatively inexpensive and downright cheap if you know where to look. Pawn shops almost never buy reloading equipment because it is slow and, or difficult to move. I have made arrangements with a few pawn shop owners and when a batch of reloading stuff comes available from estates they just give them my number. No matter how much gear there is, a pawn shop will only offer, if they even make an offer about a hundred bucks. I usually try to offer the widows a fair price but in the end you are still buying for pennies on the dollar. Often reloading gear will be given to you if you show an interest and a little respect.

It is an opportunity to acquire odd caliber dies, bullets, brass and often large stores of powder. The old reloading books are great references for older powders that will still be usable if stored properly. Always store your powder in a cool, dry and dark place. I am using some 30 year old powder that was stored this way and it works just fine. One can never have too much powder, [too many primers,] or too many reloading manuals.

Any gun shop that sells reloading equipment has free loading data provided my the powder and bullet manufactures and these small books can be acquired by writing, calling or going to the powder and bullet companies web sites. These are invaluable resources as they try to show case how versatile their products can be and the large reloading manuals will leave out some less than ideal powder, bullet, caliber combinations that we may be forced to try some day simply because of space limitations and the large manuals are somewhat expensive although necessary. Remember that we are trying to make safe reliable ammo that will suffice for the purpose at hand and we are not trying to come up with the perfect powder, bullet combo that will better factory ballistics.

JWR is right when he suggests that you stock only common caliber ammo in large quantities for yourself. However, there are still going to be quite a few .32 Winchester Special, 38-55 and especially 30-30 Winchesters around that will need ammunition and all three of those caliber cases can be made from fired .30-30 cases. A host of calibers can have their brass cases formed from the very common .30-06 such as .270 Winchester and .25-06 just by sizing the necks down. The.308 Winchester (7.62x51mm) is the parent case for .243 Win,..260 Rem, and 7mm-08. Simple neck resizing is all that is necessary and all it takes is a little knowledge and the correct dies.

Much more elaborate cartridge conversions can be done by annealing the cartridge brass (necks only--never the bases) simply by standing the cases in an inch of water, heating them until red with a torch and then knocking them over to cool in the water. This softens the brass and makes splitting case necks less likely. Brass work hardens as it is reloaded and this process is a useful skill to prolong case life even for common calibers. Calibers like the 7.5x55mm Schmidt Rubin in the well made Swiss [K31] rifles that have flooded the market the past few years are easy to fabricate from the very common .308 Win cases if you know where to look for specs and the place to look is "The Handloaders Manual of Cartridge Conversions" by Donnelly & Towsley from Stoeger Publishing. It is a great resource and it covers more than 1,000 cartridges in detail with accurate drawings, capacities and dimensions. With this book a set of good calipers, micrometer and reloading data there are very few calibers that one can not reloaded.

Anytime someone asks you if you want a small lot of odd caliber of brass take it and clean, sort and store it. It doesn't matter if you don't have a gun in that caliber, someone, somewhere will or it might be used to create cases for another caliber There are only four sizes of boxer primers so stock up on those. Large rifle, small rifle, large pistol and small pistol and don't worry about magnum primers just use one of the hotter standard primers such as Winchester 's Stainless. The only caveat here is gas auto loading rifles should only use CCI #34 or #41 hard military primers to prevent slam fires.

There are some powders that are very versatile and can be used for many calibers, for example Unique handgun powder can be used for just about every pistol caliber. It might not be the perfect choice for certain cartridges but it would certainly serve the purpose.

Reloading skills can be bartered for other things because a firearm without ammunition doesn't even make a good club. As charity you might be the only person that can give a family a means of self defense by reloading ammo for them that is impossible to obtain any other way.

Since you can't reload .22 rimfire ammo, buy a couple of the 550 round boxes every time that you are at Wal-Mart, or mail order 5,000 round. cases. This is something that almost everyone can afford. While you are making connections at the pawn shops pick up some used .22 rifles, I often can buy Glenfield and Marlin autos for less than 50 bucks apiece if I shop in the spring and avoid the 1st and 15th of the month and go on the first of the week. Pawn shop owners are more likely to cut you a deal at these times because of cash flow. What a great trade item or gift to some deserving but unprepared family

Bullet casting equipment is often included with reloading equipment and this simple skill is another arrow in your quiver. The Cast Bullet Association has a free forum that has a wealth of knowledge and any question that you have will be answered by the top experts in this field in an informative and entertaining way. Cast bullets were used for all hunting and war purposes for centuries before jacketed bullets came along in the late 1800s. You will notice that some of the cast bullet rifle shooters are getting 10 shot groups around an inch at 200 yards! I assure you that my efforts have never been that amazing but then I'm not a top competitor.

Making bullets and reloading ammo could make your talents very sought after over a fairly large geographic area so be prudent about your security measures. Word of your skills might bring about many barter opportunities that otherwise might be impossible. As charity, you might save an entire family's lives for very little investment of resources and we all want to help the good guys out if we can. Folks will want to insure your safety if you have built up a relationship with them and provide a necessary service.

I have an extensive list of reloading equipment but have invested less than the cost of a FAL or M1A. I've been at this for almost 40 years now and have taught Boy Scouts, housewives, service veterans, preachers or anyone that asked the necessary skills to produce quality ammunition. Several times I have been given firearms simply because ammo was unavailable and I haven't failed to produce good safe ammo for any gun yet. Get your beans, bullets and band-aids in order first, and then get started looking for the tools and acquire the skills to become the community Ammo Cobbler. - East Tennessee Hillbilly

Monday, March 31, 2008

Mr. Rawles:

You recently wrote: "Oxygen absorbing packets would have no efficacy for ammunition storage. (These are designed just for killing insect larvae in storage foods)." Sorry, Jim, but that's not quite correct. Oxygen absorbing packets come in a variety of sizes and do their job very well. Their job? Absorbing oxygen. They are placed in packets of food such as jerky to reduce amount of oxygen which degrades the flavor of the food. That they also make life more difficult for bugs is a side-effect.

The ability to absorb nearly all the free oxygen in an enclosed space makes them uniquely qualified for preservation of a variety of things - including guns and ammo. Back when Y2K was the big issue, I enclosed an SKS [carbine], a hundred rounds of ammo and several oxygen absorbing packets in a plastic tube with and glued-on caps. I stored it outside for a year before I opened it up to check it out. When I made my initial cut into the pipe I was rewarded with a "hiss" as air entered the pipe. Since oxygen comprises about 16% of our sea-level atmosphere and since it was now tied up in the packets I was left with a partial vacuum inside the pipe. Upon reassembling the rifle, I loaded it with the ammo it had been stored with and fired it.

I need to point out that this experiment was conducted in Oregon, a fairly wet climate, and that after close inspection of the rifle, I found no rust on any of the metal. Obviously, oxidation of the steel couldn't occur when the oxygen wasn't free to combine with the iron. - D.Y.

JWR Replies: I should have been more thorough in my reply to that letter, when I mentioned Oxygen (O2) absorbing packets. Instead of dismissively writing "...have no efficacy for ammunition storage" I should have written "...are not the best choice for ammunition storage". (I will update that post.) I will elaborate:

If you are the "belt and suspenders" type, then by all means use both desiccant packets (such as silica gel) and O2 absorbing packets. But of the two, desiccants are much more reliable. The formation of rust takes two ingredients interacting with ferrous metals: moisture and oxygen. Ditto for oxidation of copper and brass. Without moisture present, corrosion will not occur with typical atmospheric oxygen levels. Hence, O2 absorbers are not "uniquely qualified", as you asserted.

Both types of packets will work in protecting guns or ammunition is sealed containers, but desiccants have far more reliable efficacy. The biggest problem with typical food grade O2 absorbing packets is that there is no easy way of insuring that they were handled properly before they came to you. The O2 absorbing packets that I have seen all have gas-permeable coverings. If the seal on the outer package that the packets were shipped in was compromised, or if they were removed from their original packaging and later re-packaged, then they will have virtually no usefulness. They are effectively "used up" when they come in contact with a large volume of air for more than a few hours. And once used, these packets cannot be reactivated at home. You have to buy new ones.

But unlike O2 absorbing packets, if you use silica gel desiccants, you can reactivate them by simply putting them in a dehydrator (or in a kitchen oven on a 150 degree F setting) overnight. Using this method, they can be used over and over. This is vastly superior, especially in the context of a survival situation where regular commerce is disrupted. And, as I've mentioned previously in SurvivalBlog, in the present day, desiccants are often available free for the asking. Just make a few phone calls. Piano shops often get musical instrument shipments that include large desiccant packs. Most of these get thrown away.

So if you are going to depend on one of the other for firearms and ammunition storage, in my opinion you should choose silica gel desiccants rather than O2 absorbers. OBTW, beware of re-using any packets that you find in jerky packaging. These sometimes include an integral moisturizing packet, to prevent jerky from becoming too dry. Those packets would of course be counterproductive, for ammunition or gun storage. Again, only use O2 absorbing packets that are factory fresh, and preferably that come vacuum shrink wrapped. Otherwise, you have no way of knowing whether or not they have already been chemically neutralized.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some other non-lethal weapon options:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You might also find some other weapon possibilities at the Less-Lethal.org web site.

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

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

Think Through Anticipated Levels of Force

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 14, 2008

In the next few paragraphs I'll be tackling four issues that for many years, I've labelled "The Four Gs." One of my contemporaries, Richard "Doc" Sweeny, even made the concept into and acronym: GGGG, for "God, Gold, Guns, and Groceries."

I consider faith in God the cornerstone of my family's preparedness. Faith in God's sovereign control of the future gives my family hope and peace in these troubled times. If there is no hope, then why prepare? Our hope is in Christ Jesus.

There are continuing reports of shortages around the country of wheat flour, corn meal, rice, and cooking oil at some of the "big box:" stores such as COSTCO and Sam's Club. This phenomenon is not uniform. Some readers tell me that it is "business at usual" at their local stores, while others report "one bag per customer" rationing signs have been posted, and a few report empty shelves. With galloping wholesale prices and shortages at the wholesale level, I expect these spot shortages to continue.

I've had a half dozen anxious e-mails from readers in the past week, complaining that their storage food orders have been delayed, that they can't get a firm answer on delivery dates from the vendors, or that the vendors won't even return their calls or e-mails. In nearly all of these instances, the companies in question are not SurvivalBlog advertisers. I've heard from several vendors that the big packing and canning outfits like Mountain House and Alpen Aire are essentially sold out of stock on hand, and that their order backlogs are at least 30 days, and growing. The problem is that in "normal" times, these companies serve a "niche" clientele. They just aren't scaled to handle the order volume when more than 1% or 2% of the population places orders. I witnessed a similar situation back in 1999, just before the Y2K rollover. Some good news that I can mention is that several of our advertisers such as Ready Made Resources actually still have some storage food on hand. It is actually on the shelf ("in captivity") and ready to ship. For any of their items that are back ordered, just be patient. You may have to wait four to six weeks. The other good news I can offer is that our advertisers all have good reputations. (If they didn't, then they would not be allowed to advertise on SurvivalBlog.) The most reputable food storage vendors will not bill your credit card until the day that your order is actually shipped. Beware of small "fly by night" vendors that don't keep any inventory on hand and that will bill your credit card weeks ahead of when they know they can ship. If you buy from a vendor that is not a SurvivalBlog advertiser, my advice is simple: pick your order up in person only from stock on hand, and pay cash on the spot. If you are taking delivery personally, then there is no need to leave a paper trail. Buying with a credit card is advised, in instances where immediate delivery is not promised. In that case, your credit card's "charge back" buyer protection policy could protect you if you are defrauded. Keep in mind, however, that a charge back complaint often must be made within 30 days of the time of purchase.

The next presidential election is huge question mark: Will the Democrats take the White House? And if they do, will another so-called "assault weapons" and "high capacity" magazine ban be legislated in the US? (Something similar to the 1994-to-2004 Federal ban.) At present, these possibilities are difficult to predict. But even if the "worst case" (namely, another ban with no sunset clause) doesn't come to pass, I still consider battle rifles, full capacity magazines, and ammunition to be good investments and excellent barter items. If nothing else, like other nonperishable tangibles, they are good hedges on the falling dollar. Stock up, but do so quietly. If it is legal to do so in your jurisdiction, make all your gun purchases from private parties with no paper trail. Keep your eye on the local newspaper classified ads, as well as ads from sellers in your own state on GunBroker.com (on-line auctions) or GunsAmerica.com (fixed price sales--usually more expensive) Search only for sellers from your own state. That way, you won't run afoul of the Federal law that prohibits the transfer of a modern (post-1898) gun across state lines, except through a FFL dealer. It might also be worth your time to drive long distances to some of the larger gun shows in your own state. Once there, you should of course buy guns only from private parties.

The upcoming Heller v. US supreme court decision should be interesting. I suspect that instead of striking down all Federal gun laws--which they rightfully should--the supreme court justices will pen a decision that is tightly worded and hence will only apply to just that one gun ban in the District of Columbia.

OBTW, for any of you that think that my advocacy of gun ownership and training is somehow un-Christian, all that I can do is direct you to Christ's words in Luke 22:36.

I'm addressing gold last, for a reason. You've undoubtedly seen the recent headlines like this one: Gold at $1,000 on Weak Dollar, High Oil. Keep in mind that $1,000 is a psychological barrier. This might trigger some profit taking that could push the spot price of gold down as far as $920 per ounce. Take advantage of such dips. However, don't get caught up in precious metals buying fever. Your key responsibility is to provide for your family, not to be a speculator. Don't even think about investing any of your money in precious metals until after you have all of your crucial "beans, bullets, and Band-Aids" preparations well in hand. If you don't have an honest one year food supply, then stop wasting your time hitting reload at the Kitco web site! (You probably won't get the web page to load with any regularity anyway. The recent spike in gold and silver prices have generated so much web traffic that it has nearly crashed Kitco's server. You might have better luck at the Swiss America web site.)

Remember: You can't eat gold! There may come a day when you need to barter for day-to-day essentials. In such times, barter goods like common caliber ammunition or one-gallon cans of kerosene will be more sought-after than gold. Recognize precious metals for what they are: storehouses of wealth and hedges on the dollar. Think of them as a "time machine". They can be trusted to preserve your wealth from one side of an economic collapse to the other.But do not expect them to keep your family fed in the midst of a socioeconomic collapse.

An afterthought: Perhaps I should add a fifth "G"", for Ground. I have long been a proponent of buying productive farm land. The nationwide market for real estate is clearly in a tailspin, and probably won't bottom for several more years. But I firmly believe that the price declines will not be nearly as significant for good farm ground. Just be sure to be a wise buyer. Study local markets thoroughly (including soil surveys), and don't feel rushed into making a purchase. In today's market, time is on your side. I now recommend keeping a close eye on foreclosures, using services like Foreclosures.com or RealtyTrac.com.


Sunday, March 2, 2008

President Bush has embarked on the final phase of Pax Americana and is ushering in an advanced imperial stage that will endanger every living American. The coming election will assure us that every American will have his Second Amendment rights infringed or predated upon in some fashion no matter which party succeeds (is there a difference except the spelling?). Perennial readers of this site are better versed than most in the predatory nature of the state and its ability to target and vilify those it wishes to eliminate eventually whether through political neutralization such as Trent Lott or lethal means such as Waco or Ruby Ridge. I'd like to focus this essay on the practical application of what Boston T. Party refers to as "liberty's teeth" or small arms. There are plenty of organizations like Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JPFO) and Gun Owners of America (GOA) which will provide you with all the intellectual ammunition you need to know why you should be armed; I want to tell you how. I want to offer a bare-bones primer on how to get started in amassing your personal armory (contrary to what the government says, an arsenal is where weapons are manufactured) and using the weapons you obtain. I have a military background that spans two decades, shoot competitively and currently instruct tactical firearms so I have left the armchair a few times.

There are plenty of sites from which you can obtain this information but I wanted to provide a fairly painless gateway to get started if you are beginning from ground zero. The black helicopter crowds are chockfull of hunker-down survivalist information which for the most part suffers from their barely hidden desire for the apocalypse to occur coupled with their propensity to be armchair enthusiasts unfettered by real world application of firepower. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the nation's largest gun prohibition organization, the National Rifle Association, selling plenty of safety-oriented gun practices (while winking lustfully at the Beltway media and other hoplophobes) and ignoring any martial aspects of weapons or gun handling the Founders wrote the Second Amendment for in the first place.

1. Establish a mindset much like the Flinters in F. Paul Wilson's novels. Fully embrace the initiated non-aggression principle. This is not a call for armed revolt or insurrection. This is summed up as leave me alone or else. Whether you own weapons now or not, you should be fully decided that when, not if, the government comes around to seize them you will relinquish them one round at a time. Or you have had the foresight to properly cache spares and you can hand over that Lee Harvey Oswald Carcano to the nice young men in black ninja suits who are from the government and just want to help you. If you have any doubt about that, stop reading this and take any weapons you now own and donate them to a paleo-conservative or libertarian who cares. You may continue reading if liberty means more than lip service. The right to self-defense should be beyond question to this audience.

2. If you bought one book on the subject, buy Boston T. Party's book, "Boston's Gun Bible" (revised April 2002). Hey, we're on LRC, you always want a book on the subject. As a matter of fact, this logical and sound compendium of gun stuff is worth a whole shelf of gun tomes. Read it two or three times and always have a highlighter in hand. He's done all the work for you. You just have to read and heed. It has had a perennial place on my nightstand since I bought it. While those new to the gun community will be amazed at the pedantic disagreements that enliven every corner of the gun culture from ballistics to weapons choice, enquiring minds will really be energized by the level of intellectual ferment once you get the gun habit. If one only read the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times, you'd think all gun owners were backward hillbillies who only Jim Goad could love. Like so many American subcultures, there is a niche for every need or desire. For instance, I disagree with his number-one choice for a battle rifle (M1A versus FN-FAL) but that is the nature of the enterprise.

3. Write this on your whiteboard one hundred times: I will never, ever buy a weapon from a Federal Firearms Dealer (FFL). I will only make private party purchases through gun shows, the classifieds or through friends and neighbors. The Feral (no misspelling) government has developed a devilishly clever system using the BATF as their stalking horse to enable a de facto and de jure gun registration system established at the central government level every time a weapon is purchased at a brick and mortar gun shop. Check your risk tolerance and local and state laws to determine the regulations regarding private sales but the litmus test is easy. If you see guns for sale in your local newspaper classifieds, it is under the government radar (for now). Recent events such as the spate of college campus shootings and the attempts by local and state governments to regulate and suppress every manner of arms employment and provisioning should convince you that time is short. The same applies to ammunition; buy it at a gun show for cash as there is no requirement for a permit (yet) in most states. I hope you are fortunate enough to live in a state unlike Illinois or some of the Borg states in the northeastern part of these united States. When buying these weapons through private sales, always be prepared to walk away if it smells funny. Never buy any weapon that even appears to be fully automatic or is hinted to be. The Class 3 licensing system in the US regulates these firearms in a very draconian fashion under the auspices of the 1934 National Firearms Act. The government has a history of entrapment and provocation. Ask Randy Weaver if a half-inch on a ruler is hazardous to your health or that of your family.

4. I could write a book on what to buy but that is beyond the scope of this essay. Armed conflict is a discipline of distance. Different firearms have envelopes of lethality as distance is increased which is also a factor in accuracy. To paraphrase Boston, a pistol is what you fight your way to your rifle with. Spare no expense since your life depends on these tools. At minimum you need a rifle and pistol for every member of your family. The Glock pistol is the hands-down winner for accuracy and reliability. As to rifles, if you are poorer than dirt, scrape up $100 and buy a Lee-Enfield .303 rifle. These bolt actions are highly serviceable for social work. If you have more money, invest the hundreds and thousands it will take to get a proper battle rifle such as an FN-FAL, M1A or HK91 and all the equipment and ammunition to accompany each rifle for its care and feeding. Be sure to have a minimum of 25 magazines per rifle and ten per pistol. From this point, once you have started to empty your wallet, more equipment will start to appeal to you such as load-bearing gear, body armor and all manner of shooting accouterment. The sky is the limit (and your income).

5. Pay for the very best firearms training you can afford; a single digit percentage of the gun culture pays for professional training and this is the greatest shortcoming you can have. No matter how American the concept of having the most elaborate toys, if you can't employ them, then their value is moot. Go to Google or Metacrawler, type in firearms training in your state and see who offers it locally or go to the nationally renowned training centers like Gunsite, Thunder Ranch or Firearms Academy of Seattle (my personal favorite for value and quality). Take your spouse, too. She is your primary team-member.

6. Teach your children well. The gun culture has roots as far back as the first settlers in North America. This continuity is a result of parents passing on their knowledge and weapons to their progeny to continue down the line. Exposure to guns early enough can make liberty contagious.

Remember, guns don’t kill people, governments and the criminals they create do. - William Buppert, February 18, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I have to disagree with some of C.D.'s measures listed in his letter (i.e. using Scroogle and Zone Alarm) and refer your readership to the best article I've yet seen on the great difficulty in online anonymity: The Ugly Truth About Online Anonymity Also note comment on the linked article 12 - even if all else could be secured, the moment you behave according to your established surfing profile, you'll be spotted. Kind Regards, - J. in Kyrgyzstan

JWR Replies: I have my own perspective about online activities: Do the best that you can to cover your cyber trail, but don't get so paranoid that you withdraw to hide under a rock. In the context of political action, the day that you go off-line for the sake of privacy or anonymity, then your political opponents have won. In the context of physical preparedness, if you go off-line for the sake of privacy or anonymity, then you have isolated yourself from any like-minded potential allies. It is impossible to build a survival network without taking some risks. And if you are adverse to taking any risks, then you are relegating yourself to a "team" with just one member. A solitary individual is ineffective and vulnerable.

One individual that I greatly admire recently castigated me in an e-mail for having posted F.L. in Southern California's letter titled: "Keeping a Low Profile is Crucial for Preparedness". I think that his criticism went a bit too far. My position is that everyone should strike a balance between maintaining privacy and blatant visibility. There is an old Japanese proverb: "The nail that sticks up get hammered down." I believe that there is value in employing what David in Israel refers to as The Gray Man approach. (Blending in with your neighbors, to be unremarkable and unmemorable.) But the other end of the spectrum is being so vocal, and so visible that you end up being the #1 on the most wanted list. Each individual should consciously set their own parameters, based on their personal circumstances, prayer life, and their comfort zone.

Regardless of where you place yourself on the continuum of visibility, never, ever, give up your guns. That is an inviolable and absolute line in the sand. Without an effective means of self defense and the common defense, a man is just another sheep for the slaughter.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

JWR’s Specific Recommendations For Developing Your Lists:

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

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

Food Preparation List

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book/Reference List

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

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

Friday, January 25, 2008

Mr. Rawles:
My wife and I enjoy your web site immensely. I do have one question for you. I know we are targeting how much food/water supply we need for long-term survive but how much ammo do you think the average family should strive to purchase/store? Thanks, - David K./p>

JWR Replies:
It is important to maintain balance in your preparations. Food storage, first aid supplies, and heirloom seed storage should be priorities. But after those have been taken acre of, it makes sense to stock up on ammunition. As long as you store your ammo in sealed military surplus cans, there is no risk in over-estimating your needs, since ammunition has a 50+ year storage life if protected from oil vapors and humidity. Consider any extra ammo the ideal barter item. The late Col. Jeff Cooper rightly called it "ballistic wampum."

For your barter inventory, I recommend that you stick to the most common calibers: For rifles: .22 Long Rifle, .223, .308, .30-06 (and in the British Commonwealth, .303 British.) For handguns: 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP. For shotguns, 12 gauge and 20 gauge. As I've previously mentioned, you might also buy a small quantity of the "regional favorite" deer cartridge for your area, as well as your local police or sheriff's department standard calibers. (Ask at you local gun shop.)

I consider the following figures minimums:
2,000 per battle rifle
500 per hunting rifle
800 per primary handgun
2,000 per .22 rimfire
500 per riotgun

If you can afford it, three times those figures would meet the "comfort level" of most survivalists. In an age of inflation, consider that supply better than money in the bank.

Ammo prices have recently been galloping, so do some comparison pricing before you buy. Bring photocopies and "print screen" print-outs with you when you shop, as bargaining tools. Typically, the larger gun shows each have several large ammunition vendors.

Some Internet ammunition vendors that I recommend are: AIM Surplus, Cheaper Than Dirt, Dan's Ammo, J&G Sales, Midway, AmmoMan.com, Natchez Shooter Supply, and The Sportsman's Guide. Both to save money and to maximize your privacy--since umpteen heavy crates being unloaded from the back of a UPS truck is pretty obvious--I recommend that you be willing to drive a distance take delivery in person from a regional vendor. Ammo is best bought by the 3/4 ton pickup load! Also, keep in mind that by buying in large quantities all at once from a big vendor, you will typically get ammo for each caliber all from the same lots, which will result in more consistent accuracy.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 18, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Snap shooting is something I learned a few years ago that can make one well trained, aggressive shooter, able to defeat many lesser-trained opponents. The idea of snap shooting is to present as small a target as possible while quickly peeking out and delivering accurate fire, and then returning to your cover.

In the movies you always see the bad guy will put his back against a corner, using it for cover. He then turns the corner, exposing his entire body, raises his weapon to take aim, and is promptly shot dead by the good guy. Snap shooting aims to correct all the mistakes of this very poor example of how to exchange gunfire with someone who aims to shoot you.

When someone is shooting at you, you obviously want to expose as little of yourself as possible, for as short a duration as possible, to minimize the chance of being hit. At the same time, you have to deliver accurate fire when you do expose yourself to make the risk worth something.

The first thing to know about snap shooting is how to properly use cover. Ideally you will have some decent cover to use (something that can stop incoming rounds and provide concealment) In our movie example, the bad guy puts his back up against the corner and then turns the corner and exposes his entire body to make his shot. In doing this, he has limited his visibility of what is going on, by facing away from the target, and as he presents himself, does so in a way that maximizes the enemy's likelihood of hitting him. At the same time, because his weapon is not raised, he must expose himself for a longer period of time to aim his weapon and fire.

Stand, or crouch behind your cover, facing towards the enemy. You want to put yourself far enough off your cover so that you can pre-aim your weapon, and also be mobile enough to quickly move to other pieces of cover, or move to flank and continue engaging your target. Raise your weapon and get proper sight alignment towards where you believe your enemy to be. This will save you the time of doing later outside of cover.

Now that you have your weapon raised and ready to fire, quickly peek out with only your barrel and eyes, putting your weight on your right foot (left foot if peeking from the left side of cover) and bending at the torso. Only expose what is absolutely necessary to get an accurate shot off. Fire as many shots as you feel you can safely and accurately, and then return to your previous position behind cover. (This should just mean bending back to cover from the torso.)

In the space of a second you can peek out, exposing only your barrel and eyes, shoot off a couple of well placed shots, and bend back into cover. This technique should be used to fight your way into a position of better cover, more advantageous shooting positions, or for flanking your enemy if working within a team. That is not to say that this is only good for aggressive movement, but is also fantastic for defending a fixed position or close quarter battle. With practice you can become very fast and remain deadly accurate, while only exposing a very small target for your enemy.

Being "backed off" from your cover so that you can peek around also allows you to have greater situational awareness. Greater situation awareness can win the battle, and often does. Also be sure to peek out from different positions so that you do not become predictable. You can peek out standing, crouching, on the left or right side. Just keep things mixed up to throw off your enemy. Here is a good example of some snap shooting being done by a paintball player. [JWR Adds: I consider paintball a useful adjunct to tactical firearms training. Just beware that paintball competitors have a tendency to start subconsciously thinking of concealment as cover (since paint balls have minimal penetration), and they also develop a "60 yard mindset" wherein they feel safe to maneuver if they are more than 60 yards from their opponent(s). Modern centerfire rifles of course have 400+ yard effective range!]

One might say this is something paintballers use and doubt its effectiveness, but its effectiveness in paintball translates into the real world as well. So practice snap shooting the next time you go out to shoot and see just how fast you can engage targets with accurate fire from cover. One very skilled snap shooter can defend very well against many untrained shooters. I spoke with a friend of mine who is an Army Ranger and got through most of Green Beret training before suffering an injury that put him out of training. He never trained in this style of shooting! It is somewhat surprising that something people who play paintball use all the time and is extremely effective is unknown to nearly all combat forces. Make sure you have the edge and train to snap shoot!

I recommend the AR-15 with a 16" barrel for this, or another short rifle, because the AR-15 rifle is lightweight, light recoiling, and accurate. It lends itself well to snap shooting. The .223 is not and will never be a .308, but will allow you to carry more ammunition for suppressive fire when working in a team of two or more, so you can cover one another and out flank your enemy for killing shots if you cant score them from your current piece of cover. Good luck and train hard.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Recent comments in SurvivalBlog provided excellent advice on using the public library. You can gain lots of knowledge with no expense, then purchase only those books you want to keep on hand for personal reference. Also, many colleges and universities loan to local residents, so you can use them too, even if you aren't a student.

If your local libraries participate, a great resource is Worldcat. It lets you search for books from home, then go check them out, or get them through interlibrary loan.

What will happen to the Internet when the SHTF? There's no guarantee it will survive. Even if the World Wide Web endures in some form, most of the individual computers connected to it will not. Hopefully by then you will have already downloaded all the free info that's going to help you cope with the new world.

You may want to download a copy of information on this web site or any other web site with useful content. It would be a shame to face some disaster when all the resources of the internet are no longer at your fingertips.

 In preparation for a worst case scenario, it's a good idea to begin now to collect the knowledge that will come in handy later. You can download whole books, save them to jump drives, and keep an entire library in a very small space. All kinds of free manuals, guides, tech tips, and schematics are available on the internet; for everything from firearms to furnaces to computers to appliances.

All of the downloads listed here are in the public domain or allowable for copying. Stay away from sites that may involve copyright infringement. If you use a file-sharing site such as Limewire, Kazaa, or any site that uses bit torrents, you are not only downloading, but also uploading. Your participation involves automatically uploading to other users. If the file is illegal, you are distributing illegal material, not just downloading it. Stay away from these and stick with the legitimate sites listed below.

Keep in mind that some of this information you download might be illegal to use at the present time. You can't practice dentistry on your neighbor just because you have the book. Nevertheless, you have the right to possess this very vital information. After TEOTWAWKI, all bets are off. The information you collect today might save your life or the life of somebody you love.

Many downloads are in Portable Document Format (PDF) form, so to read them you must have a suitable program such as Adobe Reader, which is the free version of Adobe Acrobat. There are alternatives to Adobe that can read PDF files, if you prefer. Some of these files are very large. If your internet connection is slow, it's better to right click and download rather than try to read a huge file online.

Some documents you may want to print out. Others you can just leave on disc. Just be sure to store your drives safely. Not included in this list are the many web sites that are very good resources in themselves. Rather, these are the files you can download for offline viewing at a later time. Download them while you still can!

Project Gutenberg was mentioned as a good place to go for eBooks.

The Smithsonian Institution is another great resource. They have digitized many older books, maps, and documents in their collection.

Wikisource has a nice collection of free eBooks.

One way to search for books no longer in copyright is to use Google Book Search. Check "full view." If it comes up in the search, it can be downloaded as a PDF file.

A good alternative to Google is the Internet Archive which includes books, images, audio, and more. The Internet Archive also hosts the Wayback Machine, which archives copies of an incredible 85 billion pages from the internet of years past.

Over 100,000 free eBooks can be accessed through Digital Book Index

2020ok is a directory of free online books and free eBooks

The British Columbia Digital Library has an impressive Collection, including dictionaries, encyclopedias, and most importantly, the Holy Bible. It also has a Guide to other digital libraries.

Scribd is an online document library of free research articles, eBooks, and other content.

A great resource for home schoolers is the Internet's largest directory of free audio & video learning resources maintained by LearnOutLoud.com.

Check out the postings of Home Schooling On-line Resources on the The Mental Militia Forums, as well as the "Must Have" Books/reference material topic.

More than 3,200 pages related to the U. S. Constitution can be downloaded from The Founders' Constitution

Firearms For any firearm you own or plan to own, you should have a drawing of its Exploded View, which will help identify parts and how they fit together. One of the most comprehensive collections of Exploded Views is the paper edition of the Numrich Arms Catalog, which in itself is a gold mine of information and very inexpensive for a volume of over 1200 pages.

But if you only need certain Exploded Views, there are many places on the internet where you can download them for free:

Gunuts is a good place to start with hundreds of drawings. Another source is The Okie Gunsmith Shop, which is apparently no longer operating, but you can still download drawings and parts lists from its web site.Big Bear Gun Works has another good list. For pre-WWII firearms, check out Gunsworld. For examples of specific firearms manufacturers, see Remington, Browning, and SKB Shotguns

The book, The Defensive Use Of Firearms by Shane C. Henry is available as a download from rec.guns. An enormous amount of additional gun information is available on the rec.guns web site.

There are several good sources for Military Publications: GlobalSecurity.org has a huge collection of Military manuals.

Try Integrated Publishing for access to millions of pages of engineering manuals and documents.

The U.S. Army Materiel Command maintains the LOGSA web site for access to thousands of Army technical manuals.

The U.S. Air Force maintains the Air Force e-Publishing web site.

As mentioned recently, The Small Wars Journal has a Reference Library of downloadable military documents.

The Brooke Clarke web site has a good guide to accessing military field manuals

Surviving War and Nuclear Attack For a basic guide, download How To Survive A Chemical Or Biological Attack.

Nuclear War Survival Skills, along with some other very interesting books, can be found on the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine web site. This book includes plans for the Kearny Fallout Radiation Meter (KFM). If you have not bought a radiation meter, you should at least download the book for future reference. You can also get the Free Plans from The Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Nuclear War Survival Skills is also available on the KI4U web site as an online book, but not as a download.

The Equipped To Survive web site has some free ebooks, as well as books for sale: Survival, Evasion, and Recovery and U.S. Army Survival Manual FM 21-76.

The Volunteer Center of Marin County, California has prepared A Guide to Organizing Neighborhoods for Preparedness, Response and Recovery which you can copy from their web site. 

Medical Resources The Disease Net has a library of downloadable manuals on survival, weapons, emergency medicine, and less serious subjects.

Virtual Naval Hospital is a digital library of naval, military, and humanitarian medicine

The very important field manual, First Aid For Soldiers FM 21-11 can be downloaded here.

One of the best medical handbooks available is the U.S. Army Special Forces Medical Handbook ST31-91B. It can be downloaded free (as well as additional essential guides) from Delta Gear, Inc.

A newer version of the Medical Handbook, plus more great material can be downloaded from NH-TEMS (New Hampshire Tactical Emergency medical support).

The American Red Cross has some of their disaster guides online for download. For most of their material, you have to go to the local office. Some of it can be copied from the Earth Changes Media Survival Tips page. 

The Red Cross Book, First Aid in Armed Conflicts and Other Situations of Violence

The UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency book, The Ship Captain's Medical Guide

Hesperian makes available free downloads of its books for medical treatment in primitive conditions. Two highly respected guides it publishes are Where There Is No Doctor and Where There Is No Dentist.

Here is a direct link to the must-have book Survival and Austere Medicine: An introduction. Australian Survivalist Online has several additional Files for downloading.

The Department of Agriculture has a treasure trove of information for free download. This agency maintains The National Agricultural Library, a collection of free information on Agriculture, Food and Nutrition, and other related subjects.

Another USDA web site is the Cooperative Extension Service. Click on the map to navigate to various Extension offices around the country. Don't limit your search to just your own state. Many of them have invaluable information on animals, crops, construction, food preparation and much more for free download.

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) offers downloads about preventing plant and animal diseases, among other topics.

The USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) offers Fact Sheets about food handling and preparation, and emergency preparedness.

Other Important Reference Resources The classic outdoor guides, The 10 Bushcraft Books by Richard Graves are available on the Chris Molloy web site. Free manuals for electronic equipment can be downloaded from eServiceInfo.com. Another source is UsersManualGuide.com. For Ham Radio and Test Equipment Manuals, the KO4BB web site has Free Downloads, as well as LINKS to many other web sites with free downloads. A few examples of repair information for outdoor equipment are Penn Reel Schematics, and Mercury outboard parts.

Paid Services In the unlikely event that you can't find free information on the Net to fix that generator or whatever you need to repair, there are web sites that charge for information. As a last resort, you can check Sam's PHOTOFACT service manuals, or RepairManual.com. Hopefully, that won't be necessary.

The foregoing just begins to scratch the surface. Some of these free downloads are also available as books or CDs from eBay, Amazon or from some of the survivalist web sites. That is fine. Sometimes it is easier to just pay the money and buy the book. But nobody can afford it all, and downloading gives you access to millions of pages - much more knowledge than you could acquire through any other method.

Friday, December 28, 2007

After reading the Profiles you have posted. I have come to the conclusion I cannot hold a dime to these folks. Makes me wonder why should I bother. Hmmm, that thought lasts all of five seconds. A lot of the people for whom you profiled are in a much higher income bracket than the rest of us working folks. Personally, I have two jobs and work 12-14 hours a day. I was unlucky enough to be in a third rear end collision. In my life time this year, although instead of being rear ended by an illegal uninsured illegal alien like the last two times. This time I was rear ended by a 94 year old woman who also was uninsured. Makes it hard to work with post-concussion syndrome from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I have a hard time with short term memory. But do what I can, the best that I can.

I live in a small city in Massachusetts in a 500 square foot second floor apartment in a house.
I have four 15-gallon water containers + 15 cases of Poland Spring 3 liter bottles, About 20 cases of MREs or the equivalent thereof. I bought only the items I knew I liked, 20 cases of the two person pouches from Mountain House again a chosen menu but rather extensive. Also 50 #10 [one gallon] cans of both freeze-dried food and dehydrated foods--mostly soups in the dehydrated department. I have close to 15 weeks supply of groceries. I work in a supermarket for one of my jobs and I look around during my break for "ideas " to expand my dietary habits.

I have canned butter, cheese, bread, and meats. My other job allows me to get discounts on a product called a Vittle Vault. An 80 gallon air/water tight container which I use to bury my other food (all freeze dried pouches) but not before sealing it in plastic from a nifty device I found at Costco one day ( One day I was shopping at Costco and I stopped to look at something else and came back to my cart and there it was just sitting in my cart. Never did find who put it there. Anyway it has found a good home with me ever since.:) Everything is hidden away. Amazing what one can stuff safely under the bed. I have a couple of products that run on propane one-pound cylinders like the Mr. Heater Big Buddy and a Coleman lantern. The Christmas Tree Shoppe is world renowned for having lots of candles on sale all the time too. Although do not want to have any lights on when other do not. Not too draw any unnecessary attention to ones self.

I have a Black Berkey water filtration system, with a half dozen back up filters and several 5 gallon buckets for either the collection of snow or from the stream out back, or to use as an emergency dry toilet.

I am a faithful practitioner of homeopathic remedies,and have quite the collection of remedies and books and homeopathic today magazines. Which I read all the time, to keep it fresh in my memory. Also read a lot of medical/ wilderness first aid books. Took a class from the National Ski Patrol. Thought it would be another 1st aid class. Boy was I wrong. Three months later they awarded me with a WEMT certification, finished top 3 in my class of 20. I have an easier time learning " if I can play with it ". So now I have a collection of 500 EMT flash cards that I go through twice a week, Also Wilderness Way magazine read through my collection of 40 magazines every week as well. My library also included books on herbs, symptoms, pathology, anatomy, first aid, NBC, wilderness survival.

I'm obtaining a [State-issued] Firearms Identification (FID) card soon, God willing for a long gun or three. Handguns are not allowed in Massachusetts for subjects err I mean citizens. Also magazines over ten rounds are not permissible unless one has a handgun permit for that as well or its off to jail for a year, no questions asked. Trying my best to avoid the jail part.
Go to a gun range three times a month and rent a instructor and a gun of my choosing over 300 to choose from ( guns)and say teach me how to use this. Stocked up on medical supplies and trauma kits mostly from Galls.com. I have wiped out many a first aid kits just from cutting my finger. What am I preparing for I think the economy is going to blow out sooner than later. Like it would not surprise me if it happened in the next 30-to-60 days. How bad it will be and how long it will last?. No clue but history shows major wars start with major economic troubles.
Oh forgot to mention already went shopping at KI4U and got the complete package. A lot of other items I am sure I left out but you get the gist of it. The longer the economy survives the longer we have time to prepare, for whatever. I do not wish the dollar to die but if it does die then I hope it enjoys a long, very long lingering death. - Scott V.

JWR Replies: I commend you for your dedication, Scott. I have long held the opinion that true preparedness is more about skills than it is about money. I have a lot of wealthy consulting clients that have heaps of supplies and tools, but I have my doubts about their ability to actually survive when things get Schumeresque. When I ask them about firearms training, they often say that they have the money, but that they don't have the time to attend. What good is a large firearms battery if you aren't confident and competent with these tools? (Some owners admit that they haven't even zeroed all of their guns!) I hear similar lame excuses about first aid training. Many community classes are available free or for a nominal fee, but few take the time to attend them. And the same for physical fitness. Most exercises take little or no equipment, or can even be done with improvised "low cost/no cost") equipment.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

In the event of a disaster (I live in New York City) I intend to shelter in place until all the riotous mobs destroy each other or are starved out. I am preparing for up to six months. I have one liter of water stored for each day (180 liters) and about 50 pounds of rice to eat as well as various canned goods. I have not seen on your site anything about heat sources for urban dwellers who intend to shelter in place. I'm assuming that electricity would go first soon followed by [natural] gas and running water. Do you have any recommendations for cooking rice and other foods in this event.
I am considering oil lamps or candles, methane gel used for chafing dishes, or small propane tanks. Because of the small size of my apartment and potential hazards of storing fuel I'm unsure which would be best. Please advise. Thank You, - Michael F.

JWR Replies: I've heard your intended approach suggested by a others, including one of my consulting clients. Frankly, I do not think that it is realistic. From an actuarial standpoint, your chances of survival would probably be low--certainly much lower than "Getting Out of Dodge" to a lightly populated area at the onset of a crisis. Undoubtedly, in a total societal collapse (wherein "the riotous mobs destroy each other", as you predict) there will be some stay-put urbanites that survive by their wits, supplemented by plenty of providential fortune. But the vast majority would perish. I wouldn't want to play those odds. There are many drawbacks to your plan, any one of which could attract notice (to be followed soon after by a pack of goblins with a battering ram.) I'll discuss a few complexities that you may not have fully considered:

Water. Even with extreme conservation measures you will need at least one gallon of water per day. That one gallon of water will provide just enough water for one adult for drinking and cooking. None for washing. If you run out of water before the rioting ends then you will be forced to go out and forage for water, putting yourself at enormous risk. And even then, you will have to treat the water that you find with chlorine, iodine (such as Polar Pure--now very scarce), or with a top quality water filter such as a Katadyn Pocket water filter.

Food. For a six month stay, you will need far more than just 50 pounds of rice! Work out a daily menu and budget for an honest six month supply of food with a decent variety and sufficient caloric intake. Don't overlook vitamin supplements to make up for the lack of fresh fruit and vegetables. Sprouting is also a great option to provide vitamins and minerals, as well as aiding digestion. Speaking of digestion, depending on how your body reacts to the change in diet (to your storage food), you may need need a natural laxative in your diet such as bran, or perhaps even a bulk laxative such as Metamucil.

Sanitation. Without water for flushing toilets, odds are that people in neighboring apartments will dump raw sewage out their windows, causing a public health nightmare on the ground floor. Since you will not want to alert others to your presence by opening your window, and no doubt the apartment building's septic system stack will be clogged in short order, you will need to make plans to store you waste in your apartment. I suggest five gallon buckets. A bucket-type camping toilet seat (a seat that attaches to a standard five or six gallon plastic pail) would be ideal. You should also get a large supply of powdered lime to cut down on the stench before each bucket is sealed. You must also consider the sheer number of storage containers required for six months of accumulated human waste. (Perhaps a dozen 5 gallon buckets with tight-fitting o-ring seal lids would be sufficient.) Since you won't have water available for washing, you should also lay in a supply of diaper wipes.

Space heating. In mid-winter you could freeze to death in your apartment without supplemental heat. As I will discuss later, a small heater or just a few candles can keep the air temperature above freezing.

Ventilation. If you are going to use any source of open flame, you will need lots of additional ventilation. Asphyxiation from lack of oxygen or slow carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning are the alternatives. Unfortunately, in the circumstances that you envision, the increased ventilation required to mitigate these hazards will be a security risk--as a conduit for the smell of food or fuel, as a source of light that can be seen from outside the apartment, and as an additional point of entry for robbers.

Security. The main point of entry for miscreants will probably be your apartment door. Depending on the age of your apartment, odds are that you have a traditional solid core wood door. In a situation where law and order has evaporated, the malo hombres will be able to take their time and break through doors with fire axes, crow bars and improvised battering rams. It is best to replace wooden apartment doors with steel ones. Unless you own a condo rather than lease an apartment, approval for a door retrofit is unlikely. However, your apartment manager might approve of this if you pay for all the work yourself and you have it painted to match the existing doors. Merely bracing a wood door will not suffice. Furthermore, if you have an exterior window with a fire escape or your apartment has a shared balcony, then those are also points of entry for the bad guys. How could you effectively barricade a large expanse of windows?

If you live in a ground floor apartment or an older apartment with exterior metal fire escapes, then I recommend that you move as soon as possible to a third, fourth, or fifth floor apartment that is in a modern apartment building of concrete construction, preferably without balconies, with steel entry doors, and with interior fire escape stairwells.

Self Defense. To fend off intruders, or for self defense when you eventually emerge from your apartment, you will need to be well-armed. Preferably you should also be teamed with at least two other armed and trained adults. Look into local legalities on large volume pepper spray dispensers. These are marketed primarily as bear repellent, with brand names like "Guard Alaska", "Bear Guard", and "17% Streetwise." If they are indeed legal in your jurisdiction, then buy several of the big one-pound dispensers, first making sure that they are at least a 12% OC formulation.

If you can get a firearms permit--a bit complicated in New York City , but not an insurmountable task--then I recommend that you get a Remington, Winchester, or Mossberg 12 gauge pump action shotgun with a SureFire flashlight forend. #4 Buckshot (not to be confused with the much smaller #4 bird shot) is the best load for defense in an urban environment where over-penetration (into neighboring apartments) is an issue. But if getting a firearms permit proves too daunting, there is a nice exemption in the New York City firearms laws for muzzleloaders and pre-1894 manufactured antique guns that are chambered for cartridges that are no longer commercially made. It is not difficult to find a Winchester Model 1876 or a Model 1886 rifle that is in a serial number range that distinguishes it as pre-1894 production. (See: Savage99.com for exact dates of manufacture on 12 different rifle models.) You will be limited to chamberings like .40-65 and .45-90. You can have a supply of ammunition custom loaded. A Winchester Model 1873 or and early Model 1892 chambered in .38-40 might also be an option, but I would recommend one of the more potent calibers available in the large frame (Model 1876 or 1886 ) rifles. Regardless, be sure to select rifles with excellent bores and nice mechanical condition.

For an antique handgun, I would recommend a S&W double action top break revolver chambered in .44 S&W Russian. None of the major manufacturers produce .44 S&W Russian ammunition. However, semi-custom extra mild loads (so-called "cowboy" loads, made specially for the Cowboy Action Shooting enthusiasts) in .44 S&W Russian are now available from Black Hills Ammunition. The Pre-1899 Specialist (one of our advertisers) often has large caliber S&W double action top break revolvers available for sale. The top breaks are very fast to load, and you can even use modern speed loaders designed for .44 Special or .44 Magnum cartridges with the stumpy .44 S&W Russian loads.(It has the same cartridge "head" dimensions.)

Firearms training from a quality school (such as Front Sight) is crucial.

Fire Detection and Contingency Bug-Out. A battery-powered smoke detector is an absolute must. Even if you are careful with candles, lanterns, and cook stoves, your neighbors may not be. There is a considerable risk that your apartment building will catch fire, either intentionally of unintentionally. Therefore, you need to have a "Bug Out" backpack ready to grab at a moment's notice. Although they are no proper substitute for a fireman's compressed air breathing rig, a commercially-made egress smoke hood or a military surplus gas mask might allow you to escape your building in time. But even if you escape the smoke and flames, then where will that you leave you? Outdoors, at an unplanned hour (day or night), in a hostile big city that is blacked out, with no safe means of escape. (This might prove far too reminiscent of the the 1980s Kurt Russell movie "Escape from New York.") By the time this happens, the mobs may not want just the contents of your backpack. They may be sizing you up for a meal!

Fuel storage. Bulk fuel storage has three problematic issues: 1.) as a safety issue (fire hazard), 2.) as a security issue (odors that could attract robbers), and 3.) as a legal issue (fire code or tenant contract restrictions). I suspect that New York City's fire code would not allow you have more than a week's worth of propane on hand, and completely prohibit keeping more than just one small container of kerosene or Coleman fuel. From the standpoint of both safety and minimizing detectable odors, propane is probably the best option. (The odors of kerosene and chafing dish gel are both quite discernable.) But of course consult both your local fire code and your apartment lease agreement to determining the maximum allowable quantity to keep on hand.

Odds are that there will be no limit on the number of candles that you can store. If that is the case, then lay in large supply of unscented jar candles designed for long-burning (formulated high in stearic acid.) I suggest the tall, clear glass jar-enclosed "devotional" candles manufactured in large numbers for the Catholic market. You can even heat individual servings of food over these if you construct a stand with a wide base out of stout wire. Watch for these candles at discount and close-out stores. We have found that the large adhesive labels slip off easily if you soak the jars in water for an hour. Since their burning time is approximately 24 hours, and since you might need two of them burning simultaneously for sufficient light and to stay warm, that would necessitate laying in a supply of 360 candles! (This assumes that the worst case, with the outset of a crisis in October, and your having to hunker down for a full six months.)

Fire fighting. Buy at least two large multipurpose ("A-B-C") chemical fire extinguishers

Cooking odors. In addition to the smell of fuel, cooking food will produce odors. I recommend that you store only foods with minimal spices. In situation where you are surrounded by starving people, just frying foods with grease or heating up a can of spicy chili con carne could be a death warrant.

Noise discipline. Just the sound of moving around your apartment could reveal your presence. For some useful background, see if your local library has a copy of the best-selling memoir "The Pianist", by Wladyslaw Szpilman. (If not, buy a copy through Amazon or request a copy via inter-library loan. It has been published in 35 languages. The US edition's ISBN is 0312244150.) The book describes the harrowing experiences of a Jewish musician in hiding in Warsaw, Poland, during the Second World War. Following the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising and forced deportation, Szpilman spent many months locked in a Warsaw apartment, receiving just a few parcels of food from some gentile friends. In his situation, the power and water utilities were still operating most of the time, but he suffered from slow starvation and lived in absolute fear of making any noise. His survival absolutely defied the odds. There was also an excellent 2002 movie based on Szpilman's book, but the memoir provides greater detail than the film.

Light discipline. If you have any source of light in your apartment, it could reveal your presence. In an extended power blackout, it will become obvious to looters within a couple of weeks who has lanterns or large supplies of candles and/or flashlight batteries. (Everyone else will run out within less than two weeks.) And I predict that it will be the apartments that are still lit up that will be deemed the ones worth robbing. So if you are going to have a light source, you must systematically black out all of your windows. But sadly these efforts will be in direct conflict with your need for ventilation for your heating and/or cooking.

Heat. With the aforementioned restrictions on fuel storage, heating your apartment for more than just a few days will probably be impossible. Buy an expedition quality sleeping bag--preferably a two-bag system such as a Wiggy's brand FTRSS. Under the circumstances that you describe, don't attempt to heat your entire apartment. Instead, construct a small room-within-a-room (Perhaps under a large dining room table, or by setting up a camping tent inside your apartment, to hoard heat.) Even if the rest of the apartment drops to 25 or 30 degrees Fahrenheit, your body heat alone will keep your demi-room in the 40s. Burning just one candle will raise the temperature another 5 or 10 degrees. For the greatest efficiency at retaining heat, your demi-room should be draped with two layers of mylar space blankets.

Exercise. While you are "hunkered down", you will need to maintain muscle tone. Get some quiet exercise equipment, such as a pull-up bar and some large elastic straps. Perhaps, if your budget allows in the future, also purchase or construct your own a quiet stationary bicycle-powered generator. This would provide both exercise and battery charging.

Sanity. .Hunkering down solo in silence for six months would be a supreme challenge, both physically and mentally. Assuming that you can somehow tackle all of the aforementioned problems, you also need to plan to stay sane. Have lots of reading materials on hand.

In conclusion, when one considers the preceding long list of dependencies and complexities, it makes "staying put" in a worst case very unattractive. In less inimical circumstance, it is certainly feasible, but in a grid-down situation with utilities disrupted and wholesale looting and rioting in progress, the big city is no place to live. But, as always, this is just my perspective and your mileage may vary (YMMV).

Monday, December 24, 2007

Mr. Rawles,
First off I would like to thank you for your profound impact on my life in the last four months. All of my life I grew up with a father and grandfather who were/are minor survivalist men. They believe that the end times are coming and we should prepare for them. They keep about three days of food and water at their homes and plenty of guns and ammo. For the longest time I always thought it was ridiculous and never understood it. Now my thinking has changed to the fact that they are under prepared. When I was 11 my parents divorced and they both re-married. After high school my dad moved to Arizona and I do not see him much and live with my mother who thinks my dad was "crazy" for his survivalist lifestyle.

Five months ago I met my boyfriend. Our second date we went shooting and our third we went fishing. We are very outdoors-oriented people. One day he handed me your book "Patriots" and I shrugged it off for a little while. Eventually I picked it up and didn't put it down till I was done reading it. It changed my life. Soon after I became a SurvivalBlog reader and have a moderately stocked bug out bag. We have talked about a future together and dream of a life together and it includes getting a house and prepared for TEOTWAWKI because we both know it will happen eventually.
My issue is that I live with my mom and stepfather. I have a small room and small car. My parents don't allow me to store anything in their garage or tool shed and are in a "getting rid of stuff" mood. They think having a day or two worth of food in our RV outside will cut in for a SHTF situation. My mom freaked out that I wanted to bring my 12 gauge shotgun to her house when I got it, so it stays at my boyfriends along with my M44 [Mosin Nagant carbine] who also lives at home. Needless to say if I asked for a place to store food and water I would become "crazy like your father" which is what she said when she saw my Bug-Out Bag (BOB) in my closet. In addition to that I pay for my own car and bills, work 40 hours a week and am a student.

In January I will be attending paramedic school and that will take a lot of time and money. That being said I also already have a lot of medical supplies around my room and car since I am an EMT. I'm also a girl who has a lot of clothes and a closet jam packed with them and old school books. I also have shelves and a desk, again filled with books and personal items that I simply cannot part with. (childhood memories) I have very little space and very little money. I know there are many ways to start small with survival, but do you have any suggestions for storage that I can get to while being cost efficient and not asking a friend who would think I'm crazy? Any advice would truly be appreciated. I know most of the blog readers either have their own place or a place to store things but in my situation I can't think of anything.
Thank you again for changing my life and how I think of the world. Sincerely, - Michelle T.

JWR Replies: Don't be discouraged about the state of your preparations. Just store things as best as you can with the space that you have available until after you are married and have a place of your own. You might want to enquire about the price renting a small commercial storage space. If that is cost prohibitive, then you might wangle some extra garage or attic space with friends or relatives. Another possibility might be to get permission from your EMT organization to store two or three padlocked "contingency" footlockers of clothing and food--stenciled with your name and "Contingency Gear"--for you in a back room. You can explain that in some disaster situations you might have to stay "on station" 24 hours a day, with no chance to go home. Regardless of where you store things, just keep in mind that heat will greatly reduce the shelf life of most storage foods. See for example this chart at MREInfo.com on MRE shelf life versus temperature.

OBTW, if you can handle the recoil of a 12 gauge and 7.62x54R from a light carbine like a M44 Mosin-Nagant, then you rate pretty high in my book. And you are an EMT, too? And outdoorsy? Please tell your boyfriend that--at least according to this editor--he has found himself a good choice for a bride.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


I have just finished firing 500 rounds through an Advantage Arms .22 conversion for my Glock 17 and Glock 22 While not as accurate as my .22 Ruger pistol, it allows me to practice my shooting skills using the same holster and magazine carriers at fraction of what 9mm and .40 cost. More importantly, by using a conversion rather than a different pistol such as the Ruger, I am developing the same muscle memory, skills, and techniques I will use when shooting my service pistol. I chose the Advantage Arms over the Ciener conversion because the slide locks open when the magazine is empty, allowing me to practice my reloading skills. The conversion is well made except for the fragile factory Glock adjustable sights and only comes with one 10 round magazine. They also make conversions for the 1911 style pistols. - Bill N.

Monday, December 3, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some preparedness upgrades that I'd recommend for you:

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

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

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

4.) A supply of antibiotics.

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

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Last week my wife told me that another couple had gotten reservations at the cabins at Haleakela State Park for the Labor Day Weekend. We would hike across the crater floor, then down the Kaupo Gap. These are hard to come by and since we were invited, I felt we had to go. Great, a chance to try out my bug out bag. I gave my feet a liberal and prophylactic spraying of anti-fungal medication (a ritual I would end up doing every morning on that trip) and put on my Bug-Out Bag (BOB). Before we left, I unscrewed the aluminum pole from a mop, checked to make sure my backup knife would fit on it and now I had myself both a strong and lightweight walking stick as well as a spear in case a wild boar came too close. The BOB weighed in at 55 pounds. I'm 160 and with the backpack I was using it felt like a manageable weight. On the way there, the steering and brakes on the car went out. I hit the emergency brake and slowed down. The engine just turned off. Since it had power steering and brakes, when the car turned off, they went off too. Strange for a reasonably new car. It started up again so I figured EMP was ruled out. We drove up to about 10,000 feet, got our gear on and started hiking. It was a steep decline into the volcanic caldera/crater and within about 10 minutes I noticed a hot feeling in the heels of my feet. You see, as a sufferer of athletes foot, I tend to keep my shoes loose. Bad idea. Loose shoes make blisters. I stopped and got out the moleskins but I didn't have a pair of scissors. Let me say for the record, a knife is not a pair of scissors. These are separate tools. There I was with my BAK (Big A** knife) trying to cut moleskin pieces. Not only was it the wrong tool for the job, but one slip and it would be a bloody mess.
To take the pressure off my heels, I walked native style (toe to heel) and this helped.
We hiked for the rest of the day through what can only be described at the surface of Mars and finally arrived at the first cabin. The manual pedometer gave me some lousy data. It was set for a 2 foot step/4 foot stride length but I forgot to take into consideration that stride changes with inclines and declines. When I got there I tried out my Zipstove for the first time. At first glance, it looked like something made in a high school metal shop class, and it's a lot heavier than other stoves, but then again, I didn't need to pack any fuel. It has a battery operated fan built in and get fires hot real fast. I hit my sparker into a cotton ball with some vaseline rubbed in and presto. I dropped the little ball of fire into the stove, and added a few twigs and turned on the fan. Wow. The stove worked great. In a minute or two dinner was on it's way. I'll be investing in their titanium version and perhaps I can swap out their metal fan for a plastic one to drop the weight. I was cooking in a titanium Titan pot and I was concerned that due to the rapid heat transfer of titanium I'd burn the food but it never happened. Another nice thing about cooking with titanium is that as fast as it heats up, it cools down too and less than a minute after taking it off the fire, the top was cool enough grab and move around. We sat around when the lights went out, lit some candles and played Hearts for a few hours. (Make note to get Hoyle's Encyclopedia of Card games.) Before I went to bed I inspected my feet. Yup. Two huge blisters, one on each foot. These were the biggest blisters I'd ever had. Each one covered my entire heel. I also had burns on the backs of my hands. I was wearing nylon pants and a long sleeve shirt to keep out of the sun, and because we all know 'cotton kills.' I also had a cloth over my head which I kept in place by wearing a pair of sunglasses which had a retaining strap on them to keep from getting lost during activity. The strap around the back of my head kept the rag in place nicely and with the exception of a spot on my nose, I escaped the searing rays of Hawaii at 10,000 feet. What I didn't think to cover was the backs of my hands. The were bright red and angry when I saw them. I cut squared of cloth off my head rag and placed on the backs of each hand. I held them in place (mostly) with rubber bands around my wrists. They kept me from getting burned any worse, but it was a constant annoyance repositioning them for the rest of the trip. (Make note, put tactical gloves in BOB).
The next morning after having some oatmeal, I packed up. I put on another pair of socks and this was helpful as with less wiggle room, my feet didn't slip around so much and maybe I wouldn't make any new blisters. My wife suggested that in her experience (She hiked the Thorong La Pass. I lance the blisters. (Make note to bring needle in first aid kit) I left the blisters alone. Personal preference. The other fellow on the trip I noticed had the soles of one of his shoes come off. He was wrapping cord around them to hold them together when I suggested he use the awl tool on his swiss army knife to stitch them back on his shoe. He liked this idea and it worked. (Make note, find that Speedy Stitcher and add it to my BOB.)
The second day was excruciatingly painful. I can't recall the last time I was in that much pain for that long a period. I now had pain along the entire bottom surface of my foot. There was no comfortable way to walk. I was very grateful for the walking stick! Sure I could have make one from wood on the trail, but it would have been much heavier and bulkier to be as strong as the cheap aluminum tube.
After hours of promising myself I would never go hiking again, we arrived at the second cabin. At this point the fellow's second shoe fell apart. Keep in mind that both shoes were in good condition before we left. His wife was also having shoe trouble but she overcame it with a safety pin. (Make note, safety pins.) More cards and dinner and now the other people were complaining. No one else had a good external frame pack and their hips and backs were sore. For me, it was just my feet. Even though my pack outweighed anyone else's there by a factor of 2, it was a good pack and now showing itself to be worth the high cost.
The third day we had to hike down from over 6,000' to 1,000'. We'd already gone from 10,000' to 6,000 the previous two days and left the Martian landscape. We were now in fog enshrouded hills and rain forests. The next 5,000' would be a 30 degree incline though rain forests and meadows. I filled up my 4 steel water bottles with filtered water from my Katadyn and told my wife that with the condition of my feet, I wanted to leave a hour and a half before the rest of the group as I'd be going slow. I also wanted to hike in the morning to stay out of the heat . She finally agreed and we slushed though thigh high wet grass and we were both soaked in short order. It was about five minutes into the hike that I learned that not only were my hiking shoes too big, but they weren't waterproof nor even water resistant. The cool dewy water was sloshing around in by boots for hours. It wasn't just an annoyance either. When I took the map I got from the Ranger station out of my pocket, it was soaked and the pages were sticking together. Oh, did I mention that the trail I was taking was right along a crease on the map and due to the water damage it was totally illegible? (Make note, put Zip lock bags in BOB).
Although she didn't say anything, I know she was pissed. Cold, wet and pissed but when she realized how hard the hike was getting, she looked at me. "I'll just say it once and get it over with. I told you so." She thanked me. We smiled and moved on. That extra time was great to have. I used an altimeter to guesstimate where we were on the map. I didn't bring my topos with me, but it was a great psychological benefit to know how much longer you had to go.
My wife started complaining about her left knee under when we stopped at an old growth Koa tree. We snacked on ostrich filets (kept at 150 degrees in the oven overnight), peanuts and some chocolate. She wanted a Koa walking stick. "But that's a heavier wood and look, no straight branches here darling." Well, she wanted one anyway so I hacked her a walking stick, put a point on the bottom and cut away the bark where her hand would grip it. At about 4,000 feet I saw my wife walking backwards for a few seconds. I tried it and it was great. Although it was riskier, I couldn't walk forwards anymore. Aside from the fact that my blisters were hurting, I now had somehow developed a pain in my left knee too. It only hurt when I walked forward, or sideways (yes I tried that too) so my wife and I walked backwards down the rocky and treacherous declines for miles. The trails were covered with golf ball and base ball sized spherical lava rocks that acted like ball bearings. It was hard going and nerve racking. I made us both drink like fishes and soon I was dripping with sweat and she was peeing like a racehorse. Every time my mouth got dry I drank and so did she. I wasn't thirsty but I drank anyhow. Then the water stopped feeling good to drink. Dang, with all this drinking and sweating I was beginning to going hyponatremic. (Make note, put ORS packets in BOB). On the milder inclines I tried walking while dragging my left leg behind me to avoid having to bend it. It was slow going and again, my wife thanked me for getting us out early. We came across some ambiguous fork in the road and she lost it for a bit. I said that I thought both trails would probably work and let her pick the route. She picked and then got nervous. "What if it's the wrong one?" She was starting to lose it again. "This trail is the correct trail." I said forcefully and with more confidence that I really had about her choice. She seemed okay with that and we kept going.
We used the last of the water that everyone said I was crazy to bring just minutes before reaching the rendezvous point. One of the women in the group I later found out had a near nervous breakdown as she never knew how much farther she had to go. That altimeter kept my wife and I sane.
I'm finally home and writing this out before I forget. The blisters will probably heal in a week the knee, who knows. (Make note, put ace bandages and maybe even knee and ankle supports in BOB). I'll be walking with a cane for a bit but no permanent damage, I don't think. I will now have a dedicated foot first aid section for my BOB. Consider giving your BOB a test run. You may find things you want in it you don't have now and some things you can do without. I think of my BOB like a gun now. If it's all shiny and new but not zeroed in, you may be in for some nasty surprises. - SF in Hawaii

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

After being scared Schumerless by the potential US economy meltdown and reading various related posts on SurvivalBlog, I finally took the plunge and purchased some junk silver coins. Since I plan to store these at home rather than a bank safe deposit box (because of potential accessibility problems), would you please recommend a strategy for storage. I'm assuming a small, somewhat hidden, safe bolted to the floor/wall would be reasonable. Any recommendations? Thanks, - Russ S.

JWR Replies: Unless you already own a large home vault--such as a gun vault--I recommend that you construct one or more secret caches in your house. If the weight is modest, you can simply hide a bag or box of silver coins under the insulation in your attic. Keep in mind that it will probably be resting on top of horizontal ceiling sheetrock, so keep the weight under 15 pounds!

To conceal up to 200 pounds of silver, you can make a Rawles "Through The Looking Glass" Wall/Door Cache. Even someone with just rudimentary skills can make one of these "between the studs" wall caches. These are simple to construct, and will go un-noticed by all but the most astute and methodical burglars. Here is how even someone inexperienced with carpentry can do so, in typical North American wood frame houses--with modern sheetrocked walls: Pick out a section of sheetrocked interior partition wall in a bedroom where a wall-mounted mirror wouldn't look out of place. Go to your local home "Big Box" store such as Home Depot or Lowe's and buy a vertical mirror that is at least 16 inches wide, and 4+ feet tall. (Ideally, you should get one that is the the same width as your wall's stud interval, so that the mirror mounting screws will attached the sheetrock into the studs. Such mirrors typically come with a set of L-shaped mounting clips that attach to a wall or door with screws. Figure out where any wiring might be running through the wall. Typically it will run horizontally, about 1 foot up from the floor, parallel with your power outlets. Do not pick a section of wall that is near a light switch, since vertical wires may be running though those wall sections. Plan to mount mirror at least 6 inches above the wiring. Look for small indentations, puckers, or other signs of nails attaching the sheetrock. These will typically be centered either 18" or 24" apart. If you can't spot the nails or screws you can either buy or borrow an inexpensive magnetic stud finder--a little magnet-on-a-pivot gizmo that reacts when you pass it over a nail head or drywall screw head. (A bit of judicious tapping to hear pitch changes can also be helpful.) The nails will be driven into vertical studs, and it is between two 2"x4" studs that you will cut your cache hole. It will provide you a caching space that is about 15" wide and 3-1/2" deep.

Once you've estimated where the studs are, drill some small exploratory holes in the sheetrock, at a sharp angle. Probe inside the hole with a length of coat hanger wire to confirm where the vertical studs are located, and whether or not there are any horizontal 2"x4" fire stop blocks. (Those are typically half way up each wall.) Then, with a power jig saw or a SawzAll, cut a hole (or holes) to provide access to the wall cache dead space. Leave at least 2 inches of sheetrock width around the hole that will be covered by the mirror. Remove any insulation from the cache area, and vacuum out the sheetrock dust. Place your valuables in the cache. If there is substantial weight, do not rest it directly on top of any wiring at the bottom of the cache. (You should first cut a support block out of 2x4 block and screw it in place with drywall screws.) Then neatly mount the mirror over the hole, measuring carefully and/or using a level so that the mirror will be mounted straight up and down. Accessing the cache will just take a few minutes to remove the mirror mounting screws. (Or about 10 seconds (rip!) with a claw hammer if you need to Get Out of Dodge in a real hurry.) If you need to access the cache frequently, you'll find that if the screws are screwed only into sheetrock and not into studs behind, then the screw holes in the sheetrock will become enlarged and the screws will eventually loosen. If that happens, you can install anchor bolts behind most of the screws. (Remember, I mentioned leaving at least a 2 inch overlap. You will need that width of sheetrock to support the anchor bolts.) Oh, by the way, the same technique can be used to created a similar--albeit more shallow--cache inside a hollow core bedroom door. One neat trick with a door cache is to only remove the top mirror mounting brackets when you access the cache. With those removed and the door slightly open you can simply slide the mirror up to reveal the cache opening.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

I have pondered your recent posts about stocking up on ammo. I've decided to spend $6,000--the same that I spent last year on storage food, a wheat grinder, and heirloom gardening seeds--to buy some ammunition to squirrel away. That will pretty well tap out all of my available cash. I'll mainly be buying mil surplus rifle ammo (.223, 7.62x39 and .308) plus some civilian pistol ammo--mostly .45 auto, for my two Glock 21s and my Glock 30. But I'm also taking your advice from a post earlier this year and buying 300 rounds of .40 S&W, even though I don't own any guns in that caliber--because my local police department issues Glock Model 22s [chambered in 40S&W.] I think having that ammo may be great for bartering and as a way to 'make friends and influence people", once the Schumer Strikes the Oscillating Blades.

My question to you sir, is, where is all the reasonably-priced ammo hiding? My local gun shop charges near full-ticket retail, even when I ask about ordering me some case lots. Are there any places on the Internet you can recommend? Thanks to You and Best Regards, Ray in Southern Arizona.

JWR Replies: I'm glad to hear that you bought your storage food and seed first. I recommend: AIM Surplus, Cheaper Than Dirt, Dan's Ammo, J&G Sales, Midway, Ammunitionstore.com, Natchez Shooter Supply, and The Sportsman's Guide. If you plan to buy $6,000 worth, it is probably worthwhile for you to drive a 3/4 ton pickup truck up to Prescott, Arizona, to visit J&G Sales. With their inventory, they can probably supply 2/3s of your needs. They are in north-central Arizona. Paying for that gasoline will be far less expensive that paying for UPS shipping, and it will also help you keep a low profile. (Neighbors might get curious when they see 20+ large, very heavy boxes being unloaded from a UPS truck in front of a suburban house.)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Hello Jim,
I'd like to respond to MB's article. In the Securing Your Castle section, MB wrote:
"If you have studied survival even a little, then you are aware that arming yourself ranks high on the list of recommendations. Perhaps some of you share my reluctance to build an armory in my home. I have children, and being married to someone who is strictly against guns makes security a particularly difficult element in my survival preparations. While I recognize security as an absolute must, I have reservations about keeping a device designed to kill in my home. Ironically the reasons not to own a gun are the very reasons why I feel I should own gun. The reasons are aged 2-11, not including the Mrs. In a volatile scenario that could spiral out of control; I would feel helpless without weapons to protect my family. All the stockpiling of food and water will be futile if some thug can easily take it from you (and maybe your lives with it). If you do decide to own a firearm (or firearms), don’t flaunt it and please educate yourself and practice. Keep a chamber or trigger lock in place and store the ammunition in a different location if necessary."

Keeping a firearm with a trigger lock in place and ammunition stored in a different location renders that firearm useless in my opinion. In the city, once there is an unknown perceived noise in the house, the clock is ticking. You would have to go and get your firearm, unlock it, go get the ammo and load the magazine. If it is at night, reaction time to get out of bed and wake up enough to grasp the situation is additional time that will depend on the person. You might as well just go and greet your designated thug and let them in and save yourself the structural damage.
City people have to deal with the constant propaganda that makes them rethink the reason to have firearms in the first place where it's always about the children and not about self defense. It reminds me of the book "Dial 911 and Die". Here are the numbers: Five seconds to your firearms or five minutes until the clean-up crew arrives.

The solutions: Gun Safes, Educating your Family and Training.

Gun Safes keep children away from the firearms and keep you within 5 seconds of having a loaded and round chambered firearm that is ready to go. In larger houses, multiple locations are useful to keep one close by. There are many types of handgun safes that can be located thought a house that will keep children out. They should contain the gun and magazines or speed clips preferably in a pouch to make easy to grab and clip on to whatever you are wearing at the time. A holster would be handy to have adjacent to the safe so you can have both hands free if needed. There are other wall-mount safes for long guns and shotguns as well. I also know people who normally wear their firearms while they are at home or at least when they answer the door.

Educating your Family is the most important thing. The safes keeps young ones away from the firearms. When they are ready, they can be introduced to what a firearm is, its uses and to not speak to others about them besides immediate family members. The other major aspect is that they can ask to see the firearms at any time they want. At that time they are interested, they will listen and learn. I'll drop what I'm doing and allow them to explore while teaching them further. This eliminates the mystery and "forbidden fruit idea" that leads to most problems.

Training can be broken into two categories, firearms training and planning for your location.

The successfully use of a firearm in self defense can be greatly enhanced by training and practice. If you buy a firearm, don't get a false sense of security now that you have one. It does no good without being able to properly use it. Know the firearm you purchased. Read the manual, learn all the features and know how to manipulate it. There are a number of basic firearm training courses available from various organizations. If you don't take a course, go practice with a knowledgeable friend. There are many resources available on the internet as well.

You've got a firearm, you know how to use it and now how will you employ that tool to your particular location? You wake up from a disturbing noise and now you need to take action. What will you do? Where will you go? Where are the children? If someone confronts me here and now and I miss, will I have a chance to hit a family member in the next room? Looking at your location and developing simple action plans will take the time consuming guess work out when you only have time to react. Plan and practice that plan so when the time comes you will naturally follow your plan without needing to think. Make the "what if" scenarios fun for the whole family so if the time comes, your family will be coordinated and have a greater chance to handle the threat. There are numerous resources on the internet for thinking about scenarios as well. - Paul.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

As long as I can remember, I have felt that someday the comforts of a modern American lifestyle would vanish, at least temporarily. So I have made small mental preparations for some time now; keeping my mind and body fit and strong, staying informed, dropping hints to the wife, etc. Recently, and mostly after reading Patriots, I have a renewed interest in preserving my life and protecting those I love.

After educating myself on the subject of survival, I felt, as I’m sure many others have, very vulnerable and even overwhelmed. I needed to take action, immediately. Many thoughts spring into one’s mind during these moments. “What will I feed my children; oh man, water is essential; what about all those crazy people in the city, I need a gun, I need several guns; I need to move to North Dakota!” Sloooow down! These are daunting items. Once you quiet your mind and restore some sense of calm (it may take a couple days), you realize that you must be realistic. It’s not feasible for most of us to pack up an arsenal and move to a remote retreat in the hills or forests of the upper Midwest. We have jobs and responsibilities, relatives and friends; lives that at least for the time being, limit our options. And there is also the feeling that hundreds or even thousands of dollars spent on preparations could be wasted if The Schumer doesn’t ever Hit The Fan. (Doubtful, but it does cross one’s mind) A sense of urgency is implied; however, a caution against panic is warranted. It’s easy in this post 9/11 age to let fear control your life. Don’t! Simply take comfort in the fact that doing something to prepare for various scenarios, however big or small, will most importantly increase your odds of survival in the worst of emergencies, but also increase your comfort in the less dire situations and even improve your life now.

You Don’t Have to Move to Idaho--Survival Mindset for City Folk

I wanted to write an article for people like myself who are in the beginning stages of survival preparation. People on limited budgets, who may not live on farms, or maybe have never served in the military or had experience with guns. Those people who live in or near a city, particularly congested east coast cities. I write for those city dwellers and suburbanites in less than ideal regions; students, urban professionals, everyday people. However, it can apply to just about anyone who is not already well “squared away”. I will attempt to provide ideas on where to begin, how to prioritize and how to prepare mentally and with limited monetary resources for a multitude of events. I will try to focus on things that can be useful now and for a lifetime. My intent is not to instruct on what exactly is needed for every particular individual; there are more capable advisors for that. I aim to get people thinking and to provide a more general approach to surviving the times.

Get Your Mind Right
First and foremost is your mindset. Think about your values, your morals. What is most important in your life? Who is most important to you? How far are you willing to go to protect them? In the most serious situation, we would do anything, right? Why let it come to that? There’s good reason to get motivated. Put yourself and your family in the best possible position for survival now, so you don’t have to act out of desperation later. Also, think about what you spend your money on and where you spend it. Do you really need that big screen plasma television? What are you teaching your children about spirituality, health, money? Just as important, what are others teaching your children? You see where I’m going here. It’s not all about beans, bullets and Band-Aids. It’s about your mentality. Only the strongest-willed individuals will make it through tough times, be it TEOTWAWKI, high school, or simply life as an adult in the 21st century.

Beginning Logistics

Now think about tangible items to have on hand. Make a list. Just jot down ideas, then categorize (based on cost or type) and prioritize later. Your location and climate will impact your list. Set up your inventory and storage on varying degrees of threat and length of time of crisis. For instance a blackout that lasts 30 days vs. a full scale economic collapse. Will you be staying put or escaping to a safer location? What criteria will you base your decision on? What would you miss most if something tragic happened? Put yourself in that situation. The obvious answers are food and more importantly, water. If you are human, you already eat and drink water, so this is nothing new. You just need to think about having more of it on hand. In turn, storage is needed. We find room for other items; we can find room for potentially life saving sustenance. Package enough easily transportable food for 30 days. A durable plastic tote should work well. Then store enough for much longer periods of time. Buy a little extra food with each grocery shopping trip and date it. Not extra chips or TV dinners, get extra items such as dried fruit or granola that will last for an extended period of time, without electricity. Buy in bulk and incorporate raw grains into your diet. Start a garden. Not only will you know how to prepare these foods now, you will be more accustomed to eating them later, not to mention the health benefits. Think about buying a food dehydrator. They are reasonably priced. Keep a few five gallon containers of water in your garage, basement or crawlspace. If you live in an apartment, do you have a spare room or a patio? For long term situations, any amount of water that can be conveniently stored in most homes will be consumed surprisingly fast. Think about other sources and get a good water filter. Again, this is prudent to have anyway. A [compact] portable filter might come in handy also. With both food and water, as much as possible, use your storage as supplement, not a main source.

Little by little set aside money and acquire items you will need. Keep an extra supply of first aid items on hand. Don’t forget some of the less apparent items like toilet paper, sanitation, batteries, tools, candles, medications and fuel. Keep some spare 5 gallon containers of stabilized gas in your shed. It’s not wasteful as it can be used in your vehicles at any time. And with the rising gas prices it may prove to be a worthwhile investment. Don’t forget to rotate [your stocks]. Consider buying a generator. In a full scale crisis, drawing attention to yourself and home with a loud, light-producing device is not going to be very smart, but when power goes out and the masses aren’t yet rioting in the streets, a generator will be nice to have. Get a portable model. Study maps and plan different routes to and from your home. Keep an emergency kit in your car. This is by no means a complete list, it’s designed to get you started. Yes, the preparations are abundant. Don’t get overwhelmed into thinking you have to get it all at once. The key is minimization. Minimize the chances that you will be taken by surprise, wondering why you didn’t do something earlier. Start small and with things you can use in everyday life. The wealth of available information on specifics is immense. This web page is a great resource. It’s up to you to educate yourself and determine exactly what and how much you will need.

Help Others Help You
Working together will be to your advantage during crunch time. Find strength in numbers. Seek out others who share your values and have skills you lack. How can you help each other? Build relationships and share ideas. Educate others, but be careful as you can imagine the funny looks you might get if you start prophesying doomsday. And guess who’s doorstep they’ll be standing on come crunch time. I am a firm believer that the more people around you that are prepared, the better off all of us are. If your neighbors can take care of themselves, then it’s more likely your preparations will be preserved in the event of crisis. In short, at least fewer of your neighbors will be knocking on your door the same day of an event.

Securing Your Castle
I’d like to take a moment to discuss security, specifically firearms. If you have studied survival even a little, then you are aware that arming yourself ranks high on the list of recommendations. Perhaps some of you share my reluctance to build an armory in my home. I have children, and being married to someone who is strictly against guns makes security a particularly difficult element in my survival preparations. While I recognize security as an absolute must, I have reservations about keeping a device designed to kill in my home. Ironically the reasons not to own a gun are the very reasons why I feel I should own gun. The reasons are aged 2-11, not including the Mrs. In a volatile scenario that could spiral out of control; I would feel helpless without weapons to protect my family. All the stockpiling of food and water will be futile if some thug can easily take it from you (and maybe your lives with it). If you do decide to own a firearm (or firearms), don’t flaunt it and please educate yourself and practice. Keep a chamber or trigger lock in place and store the ammunition in a different location if necessary. In addition, don’t rule out other ways of defending yourself. Albeit, less formidable, they are less expensive. These include pepper spray, knives, batons, stun guns and martial arts. I don’t think I need to remind people that these are mostly ineffective against attackers with guns, or even large groups of unarmed evil doers. However, they may prove useful in that they are very portable and can be used in less dire emergencies. Deterrence in the form of dogs, fencing, motion detection, alarm systems and location should also be considered. Protection from those who intend to harm is imperative and yet another item that is useful even today.

Back to Basics
Take an assessment of your skill sets. What knowledge do you posses that would be of value in a crisis situation? Don’t worry, if needed, your survival instincts will take hold, but some basic skills can make you an asset and will help you survive. Develop and hone these skills now. Start simply; make your own bread, catch your own fish, grow your own vegetables, prepare healthier, less processed meals. I enjoy beer, I brew my own. It’s rewarding and I’ve learned much from it. Learn basic plumbing, carpentry and electrical skills. You don’t have to be a master mechanic, but any vehicle owner should know the basics; how to change the oil, filters and spark plugs. Having a skill can be just as valuable as having an inventory; you never leave home without it and could earn you a spot in a group if needed. Maybe you are a dog trainer or electronics engineer. Don’t forget your kids. Teach your children to swim, hunt, split wood or sow a garden. It seems that all too often, in our frenzied lifestyles, we focus all our energy on skills that will get us fat paychecks and forget the simpler but more important things. Get back to basics. Slow down. Simplify. If something isn’t adding positive value to your life, eliminate it. Many preparedness items can be fun and done as a family. Go camping, take hikes, etc. If you have kids, consider home schooling them. Most importantly get to know your children; spend time with them.

It’s Up to You
You can make self sufficiency a way of life without going “off the deep end,” so to speak. Taking action will not only give you peace of mind, a sort of insurance policy, but also can improve your life in the meantime. Many corollary benefits will emerge. Here are some that come to mind: Less reliance on outside institutions, money saved, healthier eating habits, time spent with your family. Regardless of the future, you’ll be teaching your children to be prepared, to think logically and independently and not to have a lazy, consumerist attitude of entitlement that dominates our culture today.

This writing isn’t packed full of technical how-to information, but I sincerely hope it helps to serve those of you that may feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin and to breathe hope into those who are obliged to retain their current lives without major upheaval. There are many who see the challenges involved with getting ready and are scared into doing nothing. For one reason or another they go back to sleep, their head comfortably lodged in the sand. Don’t be one of those people. Enjoy the time and blessings you have, but be ready. An old proverb says “Trust in God, but tie up your camel.” Just the same, pray for peace, but prepare for war.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

As the British would say, it was one of those rare moments of 'serendipity,' but I was watching "The Postman" the other night on cable [television], and decided to field strip and clean a couple of rifles while doing so. As I was reassembling my CAR-15 in particular, I told my wife, as I charged the bolt - and felt everything moving as it should in a rightly reassembled firearm - that, "guns are a lot like computers these days - either you put them (back) together the right way, or they simply won't work at all."
The very next day, I was attempting to mount a brand new MTI lo-mount scope base on my PTR-91, and sure enough, I stripped the threads on one of the tiny little hex-head bolts that clamped it to the rifle. In mid-panic, over possibly ruining a $155 mount, I suddenly remembered my own comment about "guns & computers," and went downstairs to check my cabinet o' spare computer parts. Sure enough, I found a tiny Phillips head bolt, that was long enough, and threaded perfectly, to work on my mount! Problem solved - expensive mount, saved!
In a worst-case scenario - nuke strike with massive EMP - most computers will be nothing more than over-sized paperweights anyway. But, since all of them are held together with a plethora of tiny, finely threaded bolts, nuts, and screws, they can be a treasure trove of spare parts for mounting optics, rails, and other rifle accessories, not to mention all the other uses you might find, or even dream up, while scrounging out an existence post-SHTF. As I also wear eyeglasses, computers just might be the difference between being terribly near-sighted, and of little use to anyone, and being able to put my eyeglasses frames and arms back together!
In my "can't do without" bag, I have now added an empty medicine bottle full of assorted computer bolts, nuts, and screws, from my ample supply of spare parts, to go alongside the jeweler's screwdriver set I also have in there. No guarantee that Lenscrafters will survive the apocalypse any better than any other business. Extra pairs of glasses are nice; extra screws and screwdrivers to go along with them, are even better. - Bob McC.

JWR Replies: Thanks for that tip. BTW, as The Memsahib can attest, I am famous for scrounging hardware. Whenever any appliance here at the ranch is beyond repair, I always strip it of any usable fastener hardware, cooling fans, lamps, lamp sockets, motors, batteries, battery holders, switches, wire, ribbon cables, fuses, fuse holders, annunciators ("beepers" and bells), and power cords. I've ve even bought "dead" appliances at garage sales for 50 cents or a dollar, just to strip them for hardware and scrap sheet metal. As I often say: "These things may come in handy someday". I keep most of the parts in two large sets of well-labelled military surplus metal divider drawers, down in the JASBORR. OBTW, if you plan to do likewise, show great caution when working around capacitors or power supply modules that could still be holding a charge!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Dear Jim and Family,
Some months ago, our president signed into law a bipartisan bill that protects Americans from gun seizure during a disaster. In theory, every emergency worker (including police and National Guard) knows they cannot take guns from citizens, period. In theory. In practice its far more likely that we can all expect: the worst case scenario. This is uncomfortable as you have no idea if the cop down the street is honest or a bully who's taking guns because he can, or because he's been ordered by by his boss, or a buddy on the force with plans. I have encountered crooked cops. They really do exist, not just in movies. They do a real disservice to honest cops and endanger lives but investigations are hampered by the code of silence and Internal Affairs can only do so much without getting murdered undercover.[JWR Adds: Thankfully, the vast majority of police are honest and trustworthy.]

I'm wondering if your encounter with the police is about to make you a victim or not leaves you with the unpleasant choice of either losing your ability to defend yourself during the most critical time or deciding to be proactive and run the risk of dying for it, or even killing an honest cop by mistake. Following Hurricane Katrina, the Federal government and National Guard behaved in a shameful manner, disarming people trying to protect themselves. The result is this law, which probably won't be followed. How would you enforce it? Take them to court? If you survive, great. But if you really needed the gun, why did you survive, weakening your own case. If you really did need it you're too dead to sue.

When the cop says give me your gun what will you do? Do you have a backup? Do you have an argument that will keep him from taking it? Does the cop know or care that taking your gun during this disaster is a Federal crime? And will he harm or imprison you for pointing it out? These are ugly questions, but you had better think long and hard what your options are and what is the appropriate response.
Best, - InyoKern

JWR Replies: You are correct that H.R.5441 has been signed into law, (becoming Public Law No: 109-295). So it would be considered an extrajurisdictional act for any officer to "temporarily or permanently seize, or authorize seizure of, any firearm the possession of which is not prohibited under Federal, State, or local law, other than for forfeiture in compliance with Federal law or as evidence in a criminal investigation" during "a declared disaster." By now, all sworn officers at all levels should have been briefed on this law, and its existence has surely been added to the curricula of police academies. In most states, by exceeding jurisdictional authority, officers shed their "Sovereign Immunity" from prosecution and/or civil suit as individuals. (Up to a $100,000 per Title 42, USC.) In many states, sworn officers sued in this manner for damages in their personal or individual capacities are classed as "persons" (rather that state officials). See: Hafer v. Melo, S.Ct., 112 S.Ct. 358, (19, 116 L.Ed.2d 301 91). And in many states, by doing so they even put themselves in the same category as a common criminal. To wit, extrajurisdictional seizure of property constitutes common theft. (Technically, you would be able to place an officer under citizen's arrest. But I wonder what circumstances would allow you to safely do so.)

The wise course of action during a disaster is to studiously avoid confrontations with anyone in law enforcement that is exceeding their authority. And, if you are unfortunate and do get your guns seized, then have a backup set of guns cached nearby. They can't take what they can't find. BTW, this is just another example of the value of redundant logistics. Don't be belligerent or come to blows over this issue. Worry about recourse in the courts later. In the short term, your key responsibility is to protect your family members and see them safely through the crisis. And you can't do that if you are behind bars.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Dear Mr. Rawles,
First off, I would like to thank you for writing the novel "Patriots" and starting SurvivalBlog. My dad sent me your book in the mail and told me to read it. Being a fan of Tom Brown-ish survival literature, I decided to give it a try. I read it in one night, starting at about 8 pm and finishing at 3 in the morning. Truly, my world view has changed. I have immediately started making preparations---getting my Bug Out Bag together, my Bug Out Routes planned and starting to practice some of the skills sets I've let fall by the wayside recently.
I am a full time college student and collegiate cross country and track runner at a school in the great state of Tennessee, but have had the benefit of being raised in a preparedness oriented family in a
southwestern region of rural Montana. I was at school when [Hurricane] Katrina hit and remember the close-to-home impact it had on many of my friends who lived in the New Orleans area. Our school sent relief teams to New Orleans immediately afterwards, with shipments of food and water. At the time, my perception of the Katrina disaster was largely shaped by the major media
outlets. A humanitarian crisis it surely was, but I never realized the uglier side of the story until recently.
It seems that disasters and emergencies bring out the best and the worst in people. Having read extensively many of the SurvivalBlog entries and perused the Internet for stories and first-hand accounts of surviving the Katrina disaster, I discovered that the population of New Orleans could be broken down into four "classes" of people during the evacuation/hurricane/post-disaster crisis.
The first class of people was composed of a small group of individuals and families who had plenty of food, water and protection stored away to either weather the storm, or to travel to a safer location without sacrificing their safety.
The second class of people was composed of a larger section of the populace who decided to leave New Orleans or evacuate their area and had no food, water or self-protection supplies built up before-hand. These became the highway refugees, or the refugees huddled in the Superdome. Some were successful in escaping safely, many were not.
The third class of people was composed of people who decided to stay in New Orleans, without the necessary preparations, and planned on either the government helping them or on obtaining supplies from their vacant neighbor's homes and Wal-Mart. These were looters, thieves and murderers.
The fourth class of people was composed of law enforcement and National Guardsmen who stayed in New Orleans to try and maintain order. They were usually not successful.
In my analysis, everyone in the first class of people were prepared to handle whatever came their way. They were good, hearty men and women, with respect for God and a practical view of the world. In order to survive, they just needed to minimize contact with all three of the other classes of people, namely the refugees, the looters and the police.
The refugees were desperate people, some willing to kill for gasoline so that they could rescue family members. While not necessarily bad people, they were victims of the circumstances. Avoidance of these people was relatively easy, as long as one stayed off of main highways and out of refugee concentration areas. One reader posted a letter on this blog about his experience with his dog and pickup filled with gas-cans on his way back to secure his gun store. The looters were also desperate, but not necessarily refugees. They weren't fleeing, but were actively preying on people and businesses to
sustain themselves. These people were a lot like the "Mutant Zombie Bikers" [often mentioned by SurvivalBlog readers]. Mostly active in New Orleans, these looters were to be feared and avoided mostly by the prepared and self-sufficient people.
The police were able to direct traffic and enforce the law in the early stages of the disaster, but by the time traffic spilled out into the opposing lanes and looters really started opening up on their rampage,
they were relatively helpless. One thing that much of the public is not aware of is the indiscriminate"martial law" tactics undertaken by many police/SWAT and National Guardsmen during and after the evacuation. While their actions in arresting and confiscating weapons may have been justified in trying to control the looting problem, many honest, prepared men and women who were "holding the fort" had their homes invaded, searched and any and all weapons confiscated. In one of the parishes near New Orleans, the police used boats to pull over riverine traffic and search and confiscate any weapons found, often without providing receipts for the weapons confiscated. Obviously, for a prepared survivalist who was protecting their property, Bugging Out, or trying to provide humanitarian/rescue assistance, this was a major problem. After watching this short documentary on 2nd Amendment violations in [the aftermath of Hurricane] Katrina, which every law-abiding American owes it to themselves to watch, I have realized that in a TEOTWAWKI or near-TEOTWAWKI type disaster, even law enforcement can be more of hindrance than a help. The indiscriminate firearm confiscations that occurred in the wake of Katrina are very worrisome indeed.
In planning my Bug-Out-Plan (with multiple, redundant routes...one by foot if need be: yes, all 2,000 miles of it back home to Montana), I fully intend to avoid law enforcement like the plague. As [the] Doug Carlton [character] said in Patriots, "Roads are for people who like to get ambushed." Similarly, getting searched by the police in a TEOTWAWKI type situation is something you definitely want to avoid. There may be cops out there with their heads screwed on straight who can discern an honest citizen from a looter, but the risk of running into a hotshot and losing the means of protecting myself is too great.
I hope all other preparedness men and women take this into account when planning. Oh, and never become a refugee and confine yourself to a refugee camp. - R.D. from southern Tennessee

JWR Replies: The troublemakers in New Orleans came from many races, and surprisingly from both lower class and the lower middle class. It is difficult to stereotype the "looters" when based on the archived news footage it is clear that they represented a fairly wide cross-section of the New Orleans populace. Safe distance from major population centers is the key to survival during a widespread disaster. Fewer people means fewer problems. Most of the armed confrontations will take place in the big cities. Yes, lives will be lost far and wide WTSHTF, but the vast majority of the violence will be in the cities.

Monday, June 11, 2007

I started reading SurvivalBlog this year after a friend told me to check out the site and it has been a great resource. I had a couple of thing that might be of interest to everyone.
First is the 2nd annual Bug-out drill at Tiger Valley in Texas. Tiger Valley will host its second annual Bug Out Drill, September 29, 2007. We will run the same distance as last year, 15 miles, but the physical challenges will be tougher. For those who didn't attend the last event, the idea for this was spawned from reading the survival forum. I, like a lot of people don't believe that something does what it claims without a test; hence, the But Out Drill was born.
As last year the challenge was to move and recover family members who are a distance away. For the sake of argument an EMP has disabled all vehicles, I know some of you have spare parts wrapped in foil, but we have to keep this on an even keel. That means you have to travel the entire route on foot, no bikes, 4-wheelers Gurkhas or Donkeys allowed on the course. You must carry everything you need for the event on your person. We will have a hydration station that you can top off water during the event.
Last years event had 20 physical challenges, everything from having to cut through chain link fence to triage a tactical mannequin. This year I plan on making some of the challenges technically and physically more challenging. I won't go into detail on the plans but nothing is off the table.
We had 27 hard-core contestants compete last year. Everyone made a great effort, and from the feedback, learned a lot from the experience. As the concept stated last year, you don't have to complete each event. If the event is to challenging, you can bypass it and take the penalty. Remember, this event is designed to test you and your equipment, not kill you. We don't want to run those off who might be intimidated by some events.
I need some feedback from you guys on one area. I thought it might be good to require those attending to camp out on Friday night. Pitch whatever survival tent you have and take off in the morning. This idea is still up for grabs so let me know what you think.
The price for the event will be the same as last year, $150. I will start getting prizes as soon as I get back from this class in Waco.
The other item of interest is medical training information from Medical Corps. This organization has a substantial amount of information that I'm currently digesting. {Meanwhile,] OperationalMedicine.org has downloadable videos on various procedures like "How to Suture a Wound" that can supplement or help prepare for classes. It could also be the only training available to people without the means to attend classes. Thanks, - Paul in Texas

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Dear Mr. Rawles,
Regarding the use of gold as a store of value, it's important to realize that gold often functions as a fiat currency. It does have intrinsic value for jewelry, electronics, rust-proofing, and some chemistry applications but the vast majority of its value comes from the shared expectation that people will accept it as being valuable in the future. The only difference from fiat dollars is that it's harder - but not impossible - to increase or decrease the gold monetary supply, and that supply isn't controlled by any government.
In a disaster situation things get even worse, because if the lights are out you probably don't need gold for jewelry, electronics, or chemistry, and there are less conspicuous ways to rust-proof things than to gold plate them. The only significant value of gold in that situation will be the expectation that others will value it in the future - it will be a pure fiat currency. Contrast that to prison currencies like cigarettes, which hold truly intrinsic value but are still used as money for trading.
I'm not saying that it definitely won't be useful - fiat currencies have worked fairly well since the late 1960s and there's no reason to believe that gold cannot function as an unregulated fiat currency. However, all the preparedness sites I've read appear to see gold as having intrinsic value, where in fact only usable items and resources have truly intrinsic value. (Food, ammo, coal, whatever)
I know personally that given the choice between trading MREs for gold versus trading for bullets, I'd have a heck of a lot more use for the bullets - regardless of now or after a crash.
Thank you for the time you spend maintaining your site. When my own personal finances aren't so dire I certainly intend to buy your books. Sincerely, - Daniel

JWR Replies: I agree that gold will have only marginal utility for barter during an economic collapse. It will only come into its own in the recovery phase. Gold can act as a "time machine", preserving your buying power from now until the far side of a currency collapse. (When it presumably could be converted into a new, stable currency.) But don't expect it to do you much good in the middle of a crisis. (You are right that common caliber ammunition will be a preferred barter item.) I 've always considered silver preferable to gold for barter, for the reasons outlined in my novel "Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse"--most notably that gold coins are too compact a form of wealth for efficient barter. Silver dimes and quarters are much more practical.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Mr. Rawles:
In yesterday's blog, you mentioned that bolt cutters are important to have available. This reminds me of something that my father always taught me: There is no such thing as "wasting" money on tools. With maybe a few exceptions, you can never have too many [tools], because you can use the extra ones as barterables or to pass on to your kids. A lot of things can be improvised, but proper tools can't [be improvised]. As a prepper, I have a big assortment of tools, mostly hand type. I do have some power [tools], but I consider those secondary because if there's ever a long term the-end-of-it-all kaflooey, you can't rely on grid power and the number of people with windmill, solar, or waterwheel power will be few and far between. So I mainly buy 19th Century-style tools. Yup, a big Makita battery pack power drill is nice, but my old reliable bit-and-brace runs forever on muscle power.

All SurvivalBlog-oriented families ought to buy a big assortment of hand tools [in all categories]: carpentry, metalsmithing, farrier, gardening, auto-mechanical, pipe threading/plumbing, pipe bending, and so forth. Get the basics first, like hammers, chisels, screwdrivers, pliers, tin snips, files, pipe wrenches (several sizes), open-and closed-ended wrenches, socket wrenches, hand saws, and such. For high-stress tools like your wrenches and socket [set]s, stick with buying just the best [quality] name brand tools: Craftsmen and Snap-on.

After you have the basic tools, move on to getting specialized tools that most of your neighbors won't have. These will make you the "go to" guy in The Big Crunch. These specialized tools are things like big Stilson wrenches, bolt cutters, tubing benders, planes, Surforms, an old-fashioned blow torch, an oxy-ac cutting/welding rig, big 2-man saws, digging bars, pulleys/hoists/snatch blocks, oversize wrecking bars, post hole diggers, and an so-on. In your novel ["Patriots"] you talked about Hi-Lift Jacks and [ratchet cable hoist] come-alongs. I'm glad you did, because those are both "must haves." (They have a gazillion uses.) Buy a pair of each, plus rebuild kits.

For anything that wears out quickly, breaks, or that gets used up, buy lots of spares--like hacksaw blades, linoleum/box cutter knife blades, tubing cutter blades, the smaller-sized drill bits, [welding] gasses, and welding rod. You gotta think things through: What will people run out of in one year? In five years? Any of those things are a "must" to stock up on--both for you, your friends, and for bartering.

Beyond that, you should have a full set of tools for any home business that you are planning to run to earn a living in TEOTWAWKI. So if you plan to be a cabinet maker, you need a full set of carpentry tools. If you plan to do generator repair, you need a full set of those tools. If you plan to be a gunsmith/armorer, you need a full set of those tools, and so forth.

My favorite places to buy tools by mail/online are Northern Tool and Lehman's (the Amish store, in Ohio.) Some auto-mechanics tools that are hard to find locally you can get through JC Whitney or AutoAnything.com. When deployed [overseas], a lot of us bought knives and Leatherman tools from US Cav[alry] Store. I saw on one of your pages you have links to Hechinger Hardware and Boater's World who I've also done some biz with. Oh, and I should warn everybody: watch out for Harbor Freight. Most of their tools are Chinese cr*p. A lot of cheap castings that break, plus mostly they are made with slave labor.

Thanks for the fantastic blog, Jim. I just started reading the blog again after being away for a 14 month deployment in the Sandbox. I was blown away by how much useful stuff you posted while I was gone. The Archives are a-maaaazing! As of last week, I became a 10 Cent Challenge member. What a small price to pay for so much! I encourage others to do same-same. Be Ready, Be Able, and Check Six, - G.T.C.

JWR Adds: I like your "19th Century" approach to tools. That is entirely appropriate for the circumstances that we envision. And your assertion that "there is no such thing as 'wasting' money on tools" is sage advice.

Proper sharpening, oiling, and storage are crucial for giving your tools multi-generational longevity. This is particularly important in damp climates. Keep tools well-oiled. Depending on your climate, you might need tool chests with tight-fitting lids and plenty of silica gel. If you have any tools that are rusty, evaluate their condition. Minor rust can be removed with a wire wheel. But if any tools are badly rusted, consider either paying to get them bead blasted, or if need be, replacing them completely. Why? Because leaving one rusty tool in contact with your other tools that are in good condition will encourage"sympathetic" rusting, and eventually ruin many more.OBTW, bead blasting is good potential part-time home business.If you have a side yard available to dedicate to it. (It is a bit messy.) You could even carry on this business post-Schumer if you have a generator an/or a large alternative power system.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Mr. Rawles:
I was at a gun show last weekend, stocking up on ammo and magazines. A dealer had some original [Ruger] Mini-14 magazines (made at the factory, in white boxes) that were marked "restricted for law enforcement use.." or somesuch, stamped right into the body of the magazine. I also saw some Beretta M92 magazines with a whole bunch of the same kind of "thou shalt not..." small print. I thought that the [Federal] magazine ban had expired. I'm confused here. Could I get in trouble with my local police if I buy magazines with these marks? Thanks, - R.R.

JWR Replies: You aren't the first one to ask me this. The U.S. Federal ban did indeed expire in September of 2004. (It expired because of a 10 year "sunset clause.") A letter from the ATF confirms that you can disregard any ban markings on magazines. The only exception would be state or local laws, that can vary. (The state of New York, for example has its own ban that continues to make ownership of post-9/94 production high capacity magazines illegal.)

OBTW, there are also still some manufacturer's restrictive sales policies to contend with. Ruger is one of the most notorious for this. They started restricting their dealers several years before the 1994 ban was enacted. But thankfully these sales policies do not cary any force of law. There are lots of distributors that flaunt them and sell outside of law enforcement channels. I suppose that the worst that could happen is that the distributor could lose their "factory authorized dealer" status and lose their special distributor pricing incentives.

With all that said, I need to repeat something I've mentioned before. There is a threat on the horizon: Beware of pending congressional bill, H.R. 1022--the worst piece of proposed federal gun legislation introduced since 1968. Paragraph (L) is the dangerous catch-all that would make this new law much, much worse than the 1994-to-2004 "assault weapons" ban. That paragraph leaves the determination of what constitutes an "Assault Weapons" up to the arbitrary whim of the Attorney General (AG)--a political appointee. The real weasel phrase in paragraph (L) is "...and a firearm shall not be determined to be particularly suitable for sporting purposes solely because the firearm is suitable for use in a sporting event." That phrase is the "back door" that they leave open for banning M1As and virtually any other model that the AG deems sufficiently ugly or "evil" looking. The NRA warns us that this law would also "begin backdoor registration of guns, by requiring private sales of banned guns, frames, receivers and parts to be conducted through licensed dealers." In case this law ever morphs into a more draconian mandatory registration or confiscation law, I recommend that all American "black gun" gun owners look seriously at buying a few "sporting" semi-auto models such as a Valmet Hunter, Galil Hadar, HK SL6 (or 660), SL7 (or 770). Also consider FN-49s, which have a fixed 10 round magazine and no pistol grip. Ditto for M1 Garands, which use a 8 round en bloc clip. You should also show foresight and look beyond this particular piece of pending legislation. In the event of eventual "worst case" legislation--e.g. universal registration or confiscation of all modern firearms--you should hedge your bets by buying a few pre-1899 cartridge guns. (Such as those sold by The Pre-1899 Specialist.)

The only saving graces of the proposed ban are that it only affects new manufacture and importation. That still leaves a lot of existing ("grandfathered") guns and full capacity magazines in circulation. If it passes, I predict that this law's effect will be much like the 1986 machinegun freeze. And you've seen what has happened to the prices of Class 3 guns. The law of supply and demand is inescapable. Prices went up a lot during the 1994-to-2004 Federal ban. This time, prices will surely skyrocket even more, since this is a much wider-reaching law and there will be the public perception that the ban will be permanent. My advice: Stock up, especially on magazines. Buy at least a dozen for each of your guns. Buy hundreds, if you have some extra cash to invest. Again, based on the experience of the 1994-2004 ban and the 1986 Federal machinegun "freeze", I expect magazine prices to at least triple. If you can, buy lots of extras, even for models that you don't own, to use for barter. Buy a mix of mostly commonplace magazines (like HK91, FAL, and AR, and M14), and a few exotic ones (like Glock 33 round, Galil, SIG, Valmet, et cetera.) There may come a day when practically no amount of cash will buy you a pre-ban detachable magazine, but trades will still be considered.

Prices are still reasonable, because the full implications of this pending legislation have not yet registered with average American gun owner. For example, the last that I heard, TAPCO was still selling alloy 20 round HK91 magazines (that also fit CETMEs) at 50 pieces for $70. I think that in a couple of years such prices will seem like a dream. BTW, be sure to buy only factory original or original military contract magazines. Avoid all of the after-market junk.

The only other suggestion that I can make is: call, e-mail, and FAX your congressman frequently about this bill or any similar legislation. H.R. 1022 is blatantly unconstitutional legislation! And any of you that are NRA members should also contact the NRA and urge them to "hold the line" on this legislation. There is no "middle ground" or room for compromise.

My other oft-repeated advice, is: stock up on magazines now. Consider buying a lifetime supply for you and your children. Someday you may be glad that you did.

Monday, May 21, 2007

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

Friday, May 18, 2007

I appreciate your advice. Here is my situation: I attend college full time in a post-industrial [Eastern United States] city that has had a 50% population decline in 30 years. Most people here are on welfare, and the largest employers are prisons. I am in a bit of a predicament because I only make about $6,000 per year, so I cannot really afford to spend much on supplies. My goal if things go downhill is to do a ruck march (assuming EMP, otherwise I would drive) with my ROTC-issued [TA-50] equipment to my family's summer home in farm country on a lake. The home is located about 40 miles from where I go to school. Going home is not feasible as I live in Massachusetts which would take a full tank of gas, and is entirely highway and there are several choke points, including driving through Albany, Springfield, Worcester, and into the high-density suburbs.
At school, one of my best friends is also into survivalism and he also has experience. We share the same goals and are both Baptist. Additionally, we are both known on campus as people who have everything, tools, water, food, etc. which means that if there was a situation, we would likely be inundated with requests from others to help us. We keep a small, verbal list of people we would accept, and keep it to five people.
What would you recommend I do in this situation? If you need more information, please do not hesitate to ask. Thanks, - Sam

JWR Replies: I recommend that you form a survival retreat group. That is exactly what I did 25 years ago, when I was an Army ROTC cadet. Stock your retreat as best as you can, given your limited budget. Prioritize your purchasing. Water purification and food storage should be at the top of your list. Set group standards for communications gear and guns. For short range tactical coordination, I recommend the modestly priced MURS transceivers, since they use a little-used band. This is particularly important in the signal-dense northeastern United States, where using CB frequencies would be almost impossible WTSHTF. For advice on firearms selection, see my Survival Guns web page, and my novel "Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse".

Be very selective about who you bring into your group. Unlike building a group based on an extended family, you can be choosy. Be dispassionate in choosing new group members. Evaluate each candidate on their stability, motivation, and their mix of skills. Friendship is a great thing, but the guy or gal who is presently your dormitory buddy may not be your best choice for a survival group member. Look at their weight, health, and physical fitness. Consider their religious background. Are they moral and trustworthy? Are they intelligent and adaptable? Do they have valuable skills? Are they hard working or will they just be "talkers" or "strap hangers"? Avoid people with extremist views or anyone that suggests making any preparations that are illegal. Ask yourself the key question: Am I willing to trust my life to this individual? If any candidates don't pass muster, then keep looking.

In the long term, try to develop a retreat that is in a less densely populated region. When you graduate, direct your job search--assuming that you will be a reserve officer--to a region that is suitable for self-sufficient retreats. (For details, see my Retreat Areas web page and my book Rawles on Retreats and Relocation.) Odds are the group that you form in college will have a considerably different composition five or six years from now, once your friends change locales to pursue careers. In fact, depending on where you end up, you may be teamed with an entirely different group of people.

If you are destined to go on active duty, then tailor your "dream sheet" of preferred duty assignments (after OBC) to posts that are in the western U.S. (You didn't mention if you had been branch selected yet. That could make a big difference in the locale of your eventual posting.) I suggest that you consider posts like Umatilla Army Depot, Fort Carson, Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Tooele Army Depot, Dugway Proving Ground, Fort Lewis (possibly permanent party at Yakima Training Center), Fort Greely, Fort Wainwright, or perhaps Sierra Army Depot. Army PERSCOM branch managers are often willing to accommodate requests from junior officers that state a preference for posts that their peers would consider "backwater" assignments. (Let everyone else ask for a posting in Germany, Fort Meade, or Fort Devens.) Your branch manager may exclaim to his co-workers: "Holy cow! This lieutenant asked to be assigned to Umatilla Army Depot!"

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Mr. Rawles,
I am a new reader of your blog. One of my co-workers recently told me about it and I am hooked. I never knew there was such a large gathering of like minded people. The reason for this e-mail is to ask about gunsmithing courses. Being new to your site I may not be looking in the right direction. If this is a subject that has not been covered can you or any of your readers recommend an online or correspondence course? Thank you. - Randy G.

JWR Replies: I have not yet covered this topic, so here is my input on gunsmithing training opportunities in the U.S.: Gunsmithing is indeed a valuable skill and highly recommended as either a primary or secondary source of income. Assuming that you are looking at gunsmithing as an "at home" business and you want that business to be recession proof or even depression proof, I suggest that you develop a non-decorative specialty. (Not engraving, stock carving, or bolt jeweling,.) America already has plenty of engravers. To be fully employed both before and after TSHTF, you should consider specialties like semi-auto rifle repair/customizing, or combat handgun repair/customizing.

Full length courses are available from a number of colleges including Lassen Community College (Susanville, CA), Montgomery Community College (Troy, NC), Murray State College (Tishomingo, OK), Trinidad State Junior College (Trinidad, CO), and Yavapi College (Prescott, AZ).

Some very useful instructional videos/DVDs are available from AGI. Correspondence courses are available from Modern Gun School. But I have heard that they are no substitute for hands-on instruction. The NRA offers some excellent short term hands-on courses. Also take advantage of the relatively low cost armorer's courses offered by gun makers like Springfield Armory, Colt, SIG and Glock.(For some of these you have to be a FFL dealer and already stocking their brand, or be associated with a police department that has that brand of gun as their issue weapon. One way to do that is to become a reserve police officer, and get involved as a police department armorer.)

You might also ask about apprenticing with a local gunsmith. Or if you are quite serious about gunsmithing as a life-long career, be willing to relocate to apprentice under a master gunsmith in the specialty of your choice. The best ones will want to train only someone that has a few years of basic gunsmithing experience, proven aptitude, and a real burning desire to excel at gunsmithing.

I don't generally recommend military training as an armorer. The U.S. Army formerly had a separate "armorer" specialty, but that is now part of the 92Y (Unit Supply Specialist) military occupational specialty (MOS). Sadly, there is not much a gunsmithing "craft": taught to 92Ys anymore--no offense, but in essence they've been reduced to just parts orderers and parts changers. For anyone that is already in the Army (active duty, reserve, or National Guard) there is a CD training set available from Tobyhanna Army Depot for the small arms portions of the 92Y advanced individual training (AIT) course. The applicable CDs are: CD 101-75 through 101-84. It might be useful to pick up 92Y as a secondary MOS.

As a starting point, I recommend that you start assembling your own gunsmithing library. For example, get every gun assembly/disassembly manual (such as the J.B. Wood's multi-volume series) that you can lay your hands on. Used copies are often available at low prices through eBay or Amazon.com. I also recommend that you get a set of Jerry Kuhnhausen's "Shop Manual" gunsmithing books. They are excellent.

You will of course also need to start assembling a set of gunsmithing tools. One of the best sources for tools is Brownell's. The rudimentary basics to start gunsmithing would be: a full set of good quality hollow ground screwdrivers (I especially like the Chapman's brand sets), a set of pin punches, a brass/plastic head hammer, wire cutters, a set of Swiss pattern files, a set of larger files of various profiles, a set of stones, some cold bluing solution, a roll pin assortment, and some coil spring stock.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Hi Mr. Rawles,
I'm currently reading and enjoying your fine book Rawles on Retreats and Relocation as well as a few other publications (such a Boston's Gun Bible, by Boston T. Party), and actually have a rather simple question for you. At present, I am in the process of trying to prepare an urban retreat at our home in Orange County (in the PRK). Until we can early-retire and move to our newly acquired land in either Montana or Wyoming, we are stuck here because of our jobs. In any event, with regard to the subject of long-term ammo storage, I was wondering if you (1) favor placing your ammo into ammo cans, with the ammo still sitting inside the commercial manufacturer's paper/card stock boxes (in which the ammo was purchased) or (2) if you simply dump the cartridges straight from the manufacturer's box straight into the ammo can. I've heard both good and bad things said, from a number of friends, about both kinds of storage strategies. I am presently using (1) as my storage medium, but I wanted to go the The Mountain to get the final word. Thanks so much for your input. Regards, R.T. in Yorba Linda, Occupied PRK

JWR Replies: When storing ammo in military surplus ammo cans, I always leave ammo in the original boxes unless they are water-damaged. This aids recognition--not just of the maker and load/bullet weight, but right down to the lot number--which some makers print inside their box flaps. Recognition also plays significantly into the desirability of ammo for resale or barter. The original boxes also protect soft nose bullet tips from deformation, which can affect accuracy. OBTW, in case there is a trace of moisture left in the cardboard, and for moisture in the atmosphere, I always drop a small packet of silica gel in each ammo can before I snap it shut.

OBTW, I've also recently had a reader ask about re-packing plastic "battle packs" of military surplus ammo. There is no need to do so if the plastic sleeve is still sealed and intact. Just be sure to protect the battle packs from sunlight and vermin. (One little rat's nibble, and the pack will lose its seal.)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Here is the first round of responses to this question: Those who are well educated enough to see a societal collapse of some sort or another in the making fall into two groups, the merrymakers and the preparers. The merrymakers don't see life worth living post-SHTF, so they live it up now. We on SurvivalBlog are the preparers and have chosen to survive, but why? Our children? To rebuild civilization? Because the collapse will only be temporary? Because we can and we're stubborn with a stronger than normal will to survive? The following is just the first batch of responses. I plan to post at least one more batch. Please send your responses (one paragraph or less) via e-mail, and I will post them anonymously.

The survivalist is an optimist -- not merely because he/she thinks he'll make it through the crisis, but because of the (possibly subconscious) hope that something good will emerge in the aftermath. It's the logic of any kind of apocalyptic thought... Theological systems that have a conception of a climactic struggle or an "end times" imagine that, after Armageddon, we'll see the dawning of a new age. Not surprisingly, a lot of Hollywood movies follow this script, too: After the aliens are defeated, for example, in "Independence Day", mankind stands united, having put aside their differences; After catastrophic weather changes in "The Day After Tomorrow," the planet begins to heal itself, etc. Heck, this theme can be seen, too, in your fine book, "Patriots". In the same way, I plan to live not only because I'm stubborn and have a finely-tuned sense of justice -- and thus hate the idea of turning over the planet to looters, thugs, and others who would prey on the innocent -- but also because I'm both curious and hopeful about what will emerge as society reconstitutes itself.

My modest preparation springs from the knowledge that I and the Lord are the protectors of my family (there are five of us). Our ultimate trust is in Him, but it is on me to do what I reasonably can do to protect my family from in the event of hardship and/or disaster. (After watching [Hurricane] Katrina, it seems apparent that the government cannot do that.) Anyone reading your web site thinks that there is at least a fathomable chance that our nation's run of blessing/luck will end (or be suspended) at some point in the future. Nothing lasts forever. If and when that time comes, I would never forgive myself if my family suffered unnecessarily because I did not take reasonable steps to prepare for such a time. In addition to that, it's just plain fun to learn about this stuff. (Anyone who says otherwise is lying!)

Because the alternative is inconceivable to me!

I’m currently going through some things in my life that are agonizing (but subject to change) and make things feel almost hopeless for me at times, yet every day I wake up again and thank God that he breathed the breath of life into me. I won’t waste that breath. I’m motivated to prepare to survive and overcome by many factors. Here are some examples:

I’m a 7th generation descendant of a settler in my current state and I’m motivated to survive by the risks my settler ancestors took, the struggles they went through, the multiple battles they fought in, the children they lost prematurely and the price they paid to be here. I recently visited some of their graves for the first time. I see it as my responsibility, honor and duty to live freely and survive. The stock I am from is cut out for it.

I prepare to survive because I’m ultra conservative, at times feeling like an endangered species or “minority” and I’m tenaciously defiant to those who would like to see my “kind” exterminated. I am equipped with a few trusted friends that are peers in regard my views (though mostly surrounded by sheeple) and have inspired some to begin to prepare. I discern a negative spiritual force is taking action to see my country’s sovereignty given away. I am motivated to be a hindrance to that spirit. My country is worth saving.

I prepare to survive because as a young man I swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, despite the fact that there have been some truly sorry individuals working to undermine that Constitution since before I was born. I intend to see my oath fulfilled.

I prepare to survive because I read "Patriots", awoke to how fragile our economy really is and saw how foolishly I’d been behaving in the past (assuming life would always be normal) and am in the process of repenting of any residual foolish, sheeple-like attitudes and habits I have.

I prepare to survive because I’ve been in a city where gasoline was temporarily not available and walked through the local grocery store at 3:00 AM (less crowded) and have seen the store shelves stripped of food for a short period of time. It’s pretty convincing you need to prepare when the fuel in the tank of your vehicle and few 5 gallon cans (at the time) may be all you’ll have for a while.

I prepare to survive because if things ever Schumerize I have multiple skill sets that can help a number of people in a number of survival situations. I believe I was created to help people, when possible. I gather info, educate, discuss and leave food for thought for those who are unprepared, but willing to listen and consider my views on the subject.

Why an I preparing? For the simple reason that I live in the middle of the midwest. Bad winters, heavy snow, and ice storms. The rest of the year heavy rain , floods, tornados, et cetera. You can't depend on the government to come through when needed, so if you don't have what you need than you are SOL! You have to be able to get by on what you have or fabricate something to do the job needed. I haven't depended on the government to help and I really don't think they have the capacity any more if ever. It will be your self and friends and neighbors pulling together that will make the difference. I prepare for me and mine so that we may be able to help others if need be. I've traveled extensively in South America, off the beaten path, and if you don't have what you need or can fabricate it than you should not be there. The same goes for having all your ducks lined up at home.

I'm a Jesuit educated 38 year old Bachelor, Eagle Scout, USMC Gulf War Vet, working for a major aerospace company in Seattle. The reason I'm preparing is I inherited ~$500K from my grandfather, who sold the family farm in California to housing developers. He worked hard for all of us and I don't want that blessing of wealth to be squandered. I'm preparing because being prepared is what's been beat into my head since I was a kid. You can't play the "victim" card on the Four Horsemen.

Why do I prepare? Probably because I read too much science fiction as a child! Probably because surviving is so much more interesting than succumbing. Born in the late 1950s, I remember bomb shelter salesmen and diving under my desk during A-bomb drills. I always assumed something, a war, or a pandemic, could change life as I knew it. It never occurred to me not to want to survive. Both my parents were alive during the depression, and that contributed to not taking food/housing for granted. Perhaps my uncle, who survived Bataan, or my aunt, who was a prisoner of war in the Philippines, might also have had something to do with my mindset?

Because I believe that life is worth living, and I have no intention of simply "biting the dust" unless I give it the old college try. I believe that trying and ultimately failing is far better than not trying at all.

Bottom line: I owe it to my family to be prepared. I could not bear to look into their eyes as they look to me for help and have to say "Sorry."

I am a preparer. Not because I'm smarter than anyone else, but because from what I see, there just is no other choice. I do it for my family; my beloved husband who humors me but thinks I'm slightly nuts, my grown children who love me but roll their eyes whenever I speak about what is happening around us. look, I don't have any college degree or any fancy smarts, no one would call me well educated. But I can see what I can see. I read, study, research and from my angle, we are gonna be toast and I bet my surly one eyed cat that it will be ugly. so I plod along doing the best I can when can. I don't have a retreat, I don't have a bunker or fallout shelter, I don't have 10 acres or two years worth of food. But I've got God. I keep plodding on doing the best with what I have and I know He takes care of the rest.Will we survive the whatever that comes? Heck if I know. But I'm a fool if I do not give it my best shot.

As a man of firm Christian beliefs, I believe all our days are numbered and have value. In those number of days we are to protect and provide for our our own selves, our families and so on. Examples in scripture are numerous how people were commanded to defend their homes, their cities, their neighbors, and their land. Unless we (like some were) are destined to go into Babylonian captivity I see no other proper choice.

I am taking what steps I feel necessary to survive in a societal collapse of infrastructure because I realize that the more intricate a system of living becomes, the more possible facets of failure are therefore created. As the machine known as Society grows in scale and complexity, so do the required aspects of its function; increasing the number of things that can go wrong, thus eventually causing a critical failure of the system. With the statistical (and historical) inevitability staring one in the face, how can someone not do everything within your power to be prepared?

I feel its my duty to four fathers, kids, grand kids, friends, although they are getting harder to find these days, an it just feels like the right thing to do,also its interesting,fun, a great learning expense,i spend hours on your site an i want to really thank you for it. I'm sure you make money off of it an you should, but I'll bet you are the type of person that really believe in what you do. I love my guns an have about 25 [of them], I try to go to the range at least three times a week, its the most relaxing time in my life ,by myself or with someone, I'm sure a lot of people don't understand, I love the military weapons a lot, I have .303s, Mausers, and others. I'm proud of my beliefs, thanks.

I consider preparing my Christian duty. I'm also stocking up lots of extra food, clothing, and so forth for charity, which is also my Christian duty.

Myself, I am what would be called a "millennialist" based on my beliefs from the Bible. The majority of mankind is stupid and sinful. Thousands of years and we are still doing the same mistakes over and over. I do not believe in any Gene Roddenberry vision where mankind, by its own efforts, rises from the ashes and evolves into a benevolent a Star Trek society. Nothing sort of divine intervention will save us in the long run from permanent self-destruction----Now aren't I a cheerful one to invite to a social gathering?;)

Just for the record, I'm not one of those nuts that believe in trying to hasten or encourage the Second coming The world is dong a fine job all by itself.

While I had read about survivalism and planning for a couple of years, the importance of having some sort of plan didn't hit me hard until I was living in the South, had a new baby, and [Hurricane] Katrina hit. All of a sudden the importance of having an evacuation plan, supplies, and a known destination to retreat to were very important. I am not as prepared as many of the readers, but I know where to go and what I'll do when I get there. Also, thanks to some great books on small farming and some great advice on here I know how to avoid some real pitfalls.

I’m preparing to survive for my wife and my children, because I can and because it gives me a feeling of confidence. I say “because I can” since most of my acquaintances don’t have a clue of the probable upcoming changes in society, but of those that do have a clue they can’t prepare for survival. They can’t prepare for survival because they’re financially tapped out by having been brainwashed into living on credit today figuring somebody else will take care of them tomorrow, but it won’t be me.

And it drives me nuts. A 45 year old single female friend of my wife owns a boat, owns a camper, had two vehicles, bought a scooter and recently bought a house within the last two years. When I first started preparing for survival, my wife made a comment to her about it and her friend said when the SHTF “we’ll all be as snug as a bug in a rug.” I said“What do you mean we? I think you need to make your own preparations.”

I used to try and educate our acquaintances but have started taking more of an inquiring approach with regards to what they think are the possible upcoming changes in society. A couple we know refinanced their house to buy a travel trailer but they only camp within 45 minutes of their house because they can’t afford the gas and their tow vehicle is not reliable. I asked the husband what he thought was coming in the future, he said he figured things were going to get pretty bad. But then they just put down a deposit on a trip to Hawaii so I’ve got to figure you just can’t help people like this.

And it’s not that I wouldn’t help anybody, I saw value in a comment on your web site with regards to helping neighbors and I will. (Is it okay if I only help the ones I like?). We live in a conventional neighborhood and I wish we didn’t but at this point it would take too much of our resources to move to a property with more land. So our best defense is to bond with the good neighbors but I don’t want all our irresponsible acquaintances coming to live with us.

We have a good life and are lucky to be able to make preparations for what may come. And I am thankful for every additional day I have to get better prepared.

I am preparing to survive because I believe the threats to our way of life are manifold. We are in a global war. China strength's grows, our borders are not protected. Our government is shredding the constitution. Natural disasters, environmental concerns, the basic depravity and selfishness of man--its reason enough. I was a volunteer during [Hurricane] Katrina. Not one person who had preps, was sorry. Many other equivalent societies in this century have fallen, why is America better ? It is inevitable, one disaster will prove the wisdom of preparing.

1. Life is worth living.
2. I want to be around if there is any defending of this nation to be done.
3. Who said one can’t prepare and merrymake? (I guess it depends on one’s interpretation of ‘merrymake’).

It's something that was raised in me. Whether it was the Boy Scout's motto of always being prepared, or just the human instinct of survival, if I see something on the horizon, I won't back down. Not to mention I get to justify spending a lot of money on camping gear and guns, my two favorite hobbies.

We are trying to prepare because it is the right and responsible thing to do for our family, friends, neighbors, and country. If we all became part of the solution, then there would be no problem.

Jim, I grew up in the bomb shelter/Cold War era. A neighbor two houses down actually dug out their front yard to install a bomb shelter. My folks had a rudimentary bug-out bag and we always kept a month's worth of food on hand. Hey, for the 1950s, that was progressive thinking so I guess I come by being into preparedness naturally.

I hold advanced degrees but my education does not get in the way of exercising common sense. It is obvious that our complex society is too interdependent to survive major interruptions and we have numerous examples to look at (the L.A. riots, Hurricane Katrina, and such). To believe that a major interruption of services could not occur is delusional. The empirical evidence is right in front of us. The family which is prepared has far fewer worries.

Do I believe we are headed for TEOTWAWKI? Not particularly. Do I believe that we will see significant disruptions that will affect us for 10 days or so? Yes, definitely. Disruptions lasting to 30 days or beyond? Less likely, but I maintain a "year's supply" nonetheless. Also, my Church has preached being prepared for years. Our leaders have constantly cajoled us to have a year's supply of food and other necessities and my guess is they know something we haven't heard yet.

Most pundits state that human beings are constantly evolving. The point they have ignored or can't see is that the evolvement of the human race in the last 50 years has been a deterioration, not an advancement. We survivalists are, quite frankly, throwbacks to the pure genotype that got us to this point in time.

I prepare because the end is nigh (at least TEOTWAWKI), and there will be a lot of merry-makers who suddenly changed their minds, post-collapse. If you're prepared and you decide the going is too rough, you can always quit,but if you're not prepared, your options are zero. You're done. Besides, my family is Finnish, and we're stubbo