Investing/Barter Category

Saturday, January 18, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I then leveled up the rifle itself.

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, January 12, 2014

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

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

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

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

Thanks! - GunrTim

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

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Dear JWR,
Regarding the recent article by "Nomad": I strongly urge all AR-15 owners to get an 80% complete lower receiver, even if you do not finish it now.  [Under American jurisprudence,] if gun confiscation comes, the only thing that must be turned in is the stripped lower receiver.  The BATFE recognizes that the stripped lower receiver constitutes the firearm as it contains the serial number.  The rest IS NOT a "firearm", by their own regulations.  With the non-registered (as per regulations, again) lower receiver, you can build a fully functioning AR-15 that is not on their books. - Carl X.

The letter on building your own AR-15 with a 80% receiver prompted me to write. I work for an FFL, and have lived through the four panic buying periods since Bush the First's"Assault Weapons" import ban.

First: Unless you 1) work a sub-minimum wage job, and/or 2) live in a part of the country where licensing fees, FFL fees or the like are huge, then completing a '80%' receiver is not worth the time. Even with the new polymer 80% blanks will take 1-2 hours to finish unless you have a real machine shop to work with.

Just before Christmas, several online sources were selling fully finished aluminum AR-15 receivers for $57 delivered to your FFL. Add in the $25-$40 FFL paperwork fee, and it's at best a wash to spend hours finishing your 80% receiver. And if your Dremel slips, then you're buying another receiver blank.

You also need to be aware that the term '80% receiver' is made up by the industry and has no legal standing with BATF. I would strongly suggest that you ask for a copy of a determination letter that the manufacturer of the 80% receiver should have asked ATF for, that states that in the opinion of BATF, that the part you are purchasing is in fact not legally a firearm. If the manufacturer does not have, or will no provide you with a un-redacted copy of such a letter, stay away!

It is entirely possible that BATF, in the absence of such a letter, may make an determination that the 80% receiver was in fact too close to a full 100% receiver for BATF's liking, and retroactively ban them, turning your receiver into contraband subject to summary forfeiture.

Second, the price of AR-15s is about to plunge. It's done the same thing after every single panic in the past 30 years. We received a mailing from a lesser known AR-15 manufacturer before Christmas offering a package of 25 units of a basic AR-15, CAR, A3, 16" bbl, for $599/each. This week that same package is offered at $499/each with shipping included.

Currently the only part of the AR-15 platform that is still in short supply is the bolt carrier group, and some trigger/hammer parts. Low end for Bolt Carrier Groups is currently running about $120. In normal times the low end for these units will be in the $70-ish range. So expect a drop of ~$50 for completed uppers in the near future, and $10-$20 drop on lower receiver parts kits.

The desperation indicated by manufacturers trying to push product out the door at low ball prices, indicates to me that these companies are sitting on a mountain of product that they built for the perceived demand. Now that that demand has subsided, the fire sale that will likely happen in late spring when these companies start to go bankrupt after failing dump their inventory, will bring the retail price of basic AR-15's down to close to the $500 figure.

In addition, the 11% FET that is due on completed guns, can be avoided by the manufacturer if they sell the lower receiver and parts kits separately.

If you want to finish a 80% receiver blank for reasons other than economic ones, then the above does not apply to you. However, do be on the look out for SHOT Show specials (mid to late January) on parts kits and uppers and, perhaps, complete rifles.

Good shopping and happy new year. - C.

JWR Replies: There have been a lot of electrons spilled in cyberspace about the legalities of AR "build parties." You are correct about the term "80% receiver." In the eyes of the BATFE, what you hold in your hand is either a paperweight or a "firearm." The point at which the former becomes the latter is fairly arbitrary, and it is frightening to think that the threshold (and enforcement thereof) is up to the whims of un-elected bureaucrats. (Just ask the folks at KT Ordnance, in Montana. They had huge legal bills, before they were exonerated.) To be on the safe side, some erstwhile "80%" makers are now selling "60%" lowers. Regardless, these incomplete lowers represent a good opportunity for people to exercise their Constitutional rights with privacy.

I think that some readers must have missed the key point of Nomad's article. The primary goal is not just to save money. Rather, it is to free ourselves from the clutches of an increasingly paternalistic government. In many states it is now illegal to buy "firearms"--even used ones from private parties living in the same state--without filling out government paperwork. For folks in those states, I recommend that you do indeed "roll your own" AR-15 and AR-10 lower receivers. In all other states where you still have some privacy: Unless you are a tinkerer, I recommend that you simply frequent your in-state gun shows and pick up a half-dozen stripped or complete AR lowers whenever you find them for sale at reasonable prices on the tables of private parties, with no paperwork. Someday your children and grandchildren will thank you for your foresight!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving on to the completion phase...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 28, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 16, 2013

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,  - D.S.C.

JWR Replies:

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

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

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

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

Some of my favorite ammo sources are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

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

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

Am I missing something? - Peter A.

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

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

Friday, November 8, 2013

Is the M1A the best rifle to have sitting in your gun safe?  Ever since there have been rifles and humans, there has been discussions about what is the best rifle to have when you are thrust into a survival situation.  That situation might just be a government fallout, natural disaster, or the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI).  Either way, you need a rifle that will take you thru that situation and give you a fighting chance to survive. 

So what attributes make a good rifle to rely on?  For starters there are many of you that will feel that they already have the best survival rifle already.  Just hear me out.  A must is a semi automatic rifle that has the ability for you to shoot a single round for deer hunting or get you past an hour long shoot out with people trying to take your resources.  For this, you need a semi auto over any other form of repeating rifle.  Lever action, bolt action, pump, and single shot rifles all fall short here. 

Second, you need to be able to come back on target after your first shot.  I know that you are the best shooter and its one shot one kill right.  Well trust me, as a military combat veteran, it doesn’t always work that way.  Follow up shots are a must, whether you miss or acquire another target.

Touching up on the last requirement of being able to make follow up shots, your go to rifle needs to contain a box magazine.  This is a requirement and not optional.  The reason is the ability to reload fast and carry your ammunition in a way that you can make that reload fast and consistent.  This also allows you to share your ammo with other people in your party if you find yourself in this situation.  Box magazines come in all shapes and sizes.  Since we are discussing the M1A, we will limit this to those magazines.  I rely only on one brand of magazine for my rifle, checkmate steel magazines.  These come in all capacities.  No, I’m not talking about 100 round magazines.  Keep these limited to two sizes.  Standard twenty round magazines and a couple five round magazines.  The five round magazines are for hunting before a "without rule of law" (WROL) situation.  Once fish and game are no longer an issue, stick with the 20 round magazines.  I like steel magazines only.  The reason is they are easy to repair compared to plastic.  Steel will last forever, be bent back into shape, and have been proven where polymer magazines are new to come about.  M1As are picky when it comes to magazines.  Spend the money and buy a good set of magazines.  There is no reason to spend $1,500 on your rifle to go cheap on the accessories.  At a minimum you should have 10 magazines.  With everything, more is always better. 

Next I want to talk about the bullets themselves.  There are discussion boards that talk about 5.56 vs .308 vs 7.62x39, and you can read until you die.  Without going into a deep discussion, let me talk to you about why the .308 is the best round.  In North America, there is not a single animal that cannot be taken with this round.  This is not to say that you cannot take them with an AR-15 or AK, but I would feel much better hunting with a .308.  Looking at what hunters use right now, why would your even consider elk or moose hunting with that small of a round.  In the south, wild boar will be a huge part of the diet when there are no longer grocery stores to go to.  You should not risk an animal getting away from you if you wound them when you and your family are relying on the meat. 

Moving on, knockdown power or penetration is another area that the .308 will be able to win.  The military uses the 7.62x51 for their crew served weapons.  This gives the soldiers the ability to shoot thru cover and concealment.  The extra mass of the round allows it to not be deflected as easy when passing through leaves and small brush.  This could be the difference between a hit and miss.  Lastly, when it comes to ammunition, you need to be able to find it and purchase it at a good price.  With the ammunition shortage that has happened, I have still been able to find some .308 ammo on the shelves.  While the .223 shelves have been empty, there are some instances where you are able to find .308.  The times you do find .223, the price is just as much as what you can find .308 ammunition for. 

Moving on to the reason that the M1A is now the best rifle to have, lets talk about proposed bans.  The assault rifle has come under sustained fire ever since its been around.  This has not been more tested than now.  With the few mentally ill people going on shooting sprees, some members of congress feel that the American people should not have the ability to defend themselves.  This has been shown with Dianne Feinstein and her many assault weapons bans that she has tried to pass lately.  Looking at what she wants to ban, you never know if you will be able to keep your rifle in the future.  Lets just say that she gets her way and is able to pass the bill someday.  What is left to own?  The FAL is out, since it has a pistol grip and box magazines.  The AR platforms are out for the same reason.  The AK formats are in the same restrictions. The HK91, Galil, SCAR, and nearly every other [.308 detachable magazine] option are eliminated.  This is why the M1A is the best rifle to have in your possession today.  Proven, reliable, and possibly safe from the government. 

JWR Replies: Although you've constructed a bit a of straw man argument, a lot of your points are valid.

The core premise of your letter--the potential advent of new firearms laws--is what led me to diversify my collection to include some Pre-1899 guns, which are not even considered firearms under Federal law. (They are entirely outside of Federal jurisdiction.) A scoped Mauser Model 1895 bolt action shooting a cartridge like 7x57 Mauser or 6.5x55 Swedish Mauser can be quite potent and very accurate. To own one that is in the same category as a black powder muzzleloader in the eyes of the law is a great advantage.

Of all of the .308 semi-autos I've ever owned or shot, the one least likely to be banned is the M1 Garand (yes, some have been made in .308), since it uses a top-loading 8-round en bloc clip rather than a bottom-loading detachable box magazine. But I'm not going to sell off any of my other .308s out of fear of them being banned. I will not compromise when it comes to my Constitutional rights, and I will not comply with any law that is plainly unconstitutional. However, I am quite pragmatic about choosing the right time to "lock and load.") Claire Wolfe was prescient, in her most famous quote: "America is at that awkward stage. It's too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards." So it indeed might be wise to have some pre-1899s and other legislatively resilient guns, just in case. Presumably we'll be able to leave these out in plain view while some other guns in our collections disappear for a while.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Mr Rawles,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 4, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The results of this layman’s experiment follow:





.45 ACP Reload 185 JHP

Not Sealed



.45 ACP Reload 185 JHP




5.56 LC Reload 55 FMJ

Not Sealed



5.56 LC Reload 55 FMJ




5.56 LC M855 Factory

Sealed from factory



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





5.56 LC Reload with FMJ

Sealed Primer



5.56 LC Reload with FMJ

Sealed Primer and Bullet



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

Monday, September 16, 2013

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

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

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

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

Here is quote from the Hot Hands web site:

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

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

Friday, September 13, 2013

There is a lot of talk in the media these days about three dimensional (3D) printers. For our community there is the Liberator, a 3D printed gun. It is an amazing development but certainly not ready for widespread use. 3D printers also make it possible to print your own magazines, holsters, and just about anything else you can think of that is made from plastic. But how good are these printers? Should they be part of your survival arsenal? If so, which one should you get? You can get used 3D Printers for around $550 without trying very hard but is it a waste of money? I'll answer these questions and much more in this article.

My Background
I am a mechanical engineer and I design products every day. I use my own 3D Printer regularly, which is a Thing-O-Matic from Makerbot. I bought it for $1,200 a few years ago and I had to build it myself. I have since made my own customizations to it to make it work a little better than it did originally. I use it to make parts, for projects to help me demonstrate a concept to a client, for prototyping an idea, or for fixing my kids' toys. It costs me pennies to make something on this machine and I can go from idea to finished part in as little as 5 minutes.

I also have access to an Objet 30, a $30,000 machine. I use this machine regularly when my 3D printer isn't be sufficient. It has a bigger build volume (12"x8"x6"), a better surface quality, higher accuracy, and is a dual material printer (I'll explain more below). I only have to pay for the material costs and it typically runs overnight.

When I really need a large item printed or a nearly perfect quality part I use a local 3D print house. They can even make molds of my "Master" part and produce replicas using nearly any plastic material. It usually takes a few days for a master part and a lot more money. They have an array of printers but their printers can easily cost $500,000.

How do 3D Printers work?
3D printers all use the concept of building a part in layers. Most machines build from the bottom up. Typically the "entry level" printers build each layer of plastic by squirting a noodle of hot plastic out a nozzle. The nozzle is connected to 3 servos(motors) that control the left-to-right, front-to-back, and vertical motion. There is also a servo to control whether the hot plastic is being squirted out the nozzle or not. These four motors are controlled by a computer that coordinates their actions.

The build process works as follows: if your part is going to be a tube standing on end the 3d printer would squirt material as it moved around a circle on the outside. Then it would stop squirting plastic and move to the middle and draw the inside circle of the cylinder. Next it would fill in the material between the two circles. Then the nozzle would lift a small amount, usually .005 to .020 inches and repeat the circles and fill. It would repeat this process hundreds of times until your part looks like a tube. On a more complex part the inside and outside profiles could be any shape. During the setup process you decide whether you want the printer to create the part as completely solid or internally use a honeycomb structure (which makes the part lighter and saves material).

3D printers are unique in that they can build parts that you can't build with any other machine. They can create internal features on a part because the nozzle has access to the inside of the part during the build process. 3D printers have created a new market of manufacturing referred to as "Additive Manufacturing".

If a machine has only one nozzle you can't build parts that have any sudden overhangs.  If it does the noodle will droop and give you a poor quality part. Another issue with single nozzle machines is that you need parts that have a wide flat base. These are big limitations. You really want a printer with a dual nozzle. On these dual-head machines one nozzle lays down a support structure with a water soluble material and the other dispenses the part material. If your machine is a dual-head printer then when your part is done you need to clean the part in a sink to remove the support material. A high pressure sprayer is helpful.

The best dual head machine on the market is the Replicator 2x from MakerBot (owned by Stratasys). This is the machine that the Liberator pistol was made with. In fact Microsoft says that the next service pack of Windows 8 will natively support the Replicator 2 as another printer. I don't know what this means exactly because there is more to the process that just connecting to it.

The Replicator 2x can dispense different colors and PLA or ABS plastic. ABS is a relatively strong material that isn't brittle and has a relatively high melting point. PLA is also strong and can produce more accurate features but it has a low melting point. Parts can droop in a hot car. The Replicator 2x is $2800 (not including support service).

There are other kinds of 3d printers that use a process called SLA in which a movable platform sits in a pool of liquid. A laser shoots at the top surface of the pool and hardens the liquid where it builds the parts. These machines are extremely accurate but the resulting part is brittle. A new "entry level" printer called the Form 1 is due in November 2013 that has the professional rapid prototyping service companies nervous. It is expected to cost $3300 which is extremely cheap for this kind of machine.

Let's assume that you decide to buy a printer. You also need a computer to run the printer. If you want to create your own parts then you need software to design your parts. Right now you can download Creo Elements for free. Creo Elements is a basic 3D modeling software but it is very functional for many parts. For the price you can't go wrong. Personally I use Solidworks but it starts at $4000. SolidWorks is the most common 3D software among small to mid-size companies. I can design anything with SolidWorks.

If you don't want to design anything you can download 3D parts such as magazines and grips that others have designed. has a lot "defense" related models. You can also get some at and In my experience they usually aren't designed very accurately or for 3d printing. DefCAD is your best bet. There are also other sites that have zipped up the DefCAD models and made them available to ensure the models never become inaccessible.

So are these 3D printers useful in a TEOTWAWKI scenario?
I think that there may be some very useful applications for a 3D printer. I could see someone developing good quality models of magazines, belt clips, grips, and other "accessories" for your systems. When you need more you print them.

I personally wouldn't make any parts for a weapon that see any kind of high pressure, temperature or need high precision. The Liberator gun suggests replacing the barrel between every shot of a .22. It would take nearly 2 hours to print one barrel. It costs maybe $1 in material. Between time and money it isn't worth it. Even more importantly, the danger is that the barrel is made in layers and under high pressures it could crack and or disintegrate in unpredictable ways. I suppose if things got really bad I might consider it but it would be have to be extreme circumstances.

Is there anything else a 3D printer could be used for?
There is an entire other possibility for 3D printers that I haven't mentioned yet. This is the idea of making molds for parts. There is a resurgence in the DIY market of making your own molds and therefore producing low volume production of parts. The essential company to know is They have everything you need to make your own molds and parts. In fact, in some cases you don't even need a 3D printer. You might be able to take some of the existing parts you have, create molds, and duplicate your parts. Smooth-On has an unbelievable array of materials that you can make parts from. You can even make metal parts from some of their mold materials. Now if you combine a 3D printer into the mix you have yourself a versatile, small production manufacturing capability. It does take practice learning how to make a mold well but it isn't rocket science.

Should everyone get a 3D printer?
Personally I think if you operate in a relatively large group and are well prepared a 3D printer and molding supplies might be worth considering. More likely is that I would suggest the tools and knowledge for someone that wants to have a backup profession for when the SHTF. I could see someone being the local manufacturing guy in their area. I have made hundreds of parts in my basement from my 3D printer, mold materials, and some simple tools (drill, knife, screwdrivers, etc).

Right now the 3D printer market is still in its infancy. There are a lot people out there trying to figure out to get the average household to want them in their house. No one has figured it out yet. If you do think that you want get a printer then I recommend the Replicator 2x. It has good customer support, a strong community, and lots of connections to software. I will seriously consider the Form 1 printer once I see that the bugs are worked out. There are less expensive printers out there that you might consider to experiment with but I don't see them as a useful tool. Best wishes in your preps and be safe.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

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

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

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

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

Thanks, - Jim P.

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

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

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

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

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.

Monday, July 29, 2013

There's not a week that goes past, that I don't hear from someone asking me "what's the best gun for home defense..." and I can't give a pat answer to that question. First of all, what does a person mean by "home defense?" Secondly, what are your physical abilities - or disabilities - when it comes to handling a firearm? What is your budget? What is your skill level with any firearm? And, the list goes on and on. So, as you can see, there is no single or easy answer to what is the best gun for home defense. And, no matter how I try, I can't convince most people that there is no one answer to this question - there is no "best" gun for home defense. And, if I recommend this gun or that gun, I'll enter into an endless debate with someone, and I don't have the time to do this. We are all entitled to our opinions and views on this subject.
I often recommend some type of "riot" shotgun for home defense, and we are talking about a 12 gauge shotgun with a barrel length of around 18-inches to 18.5-inches - something that is a bit easier to handle in the close confines of your home or a hallway. Sporting shotguns with long barrels aren't recommended because you can maneuver them easily in close quarters. I own several "riot" shotguns, and I enjoy shooting them all. I live in a very rural area, and if someone is breaking into my home, the local sheriff might be a long time in arriving, so I take the safety of myself and my family as my own responsibility. And, "yes" I do keep a handgun as my "bedroom" gun, however, within easy reach is a shotgun.
Many shotguns made today come with an aluminum receiver, and I own several like this. However, my favorite shotgun is my Stevens Model 350 for several reasons. First of all, it has an all-steel receiver - which means it's heavier and can take a lot more abuse. Secondly, the 350 is very close to the famed Ithaca Model 37 shotgun, that has a bottom eject feature, unlike other shotguns, that eject from the side of the receiver. Nothing "wrong" with a side ejection shotgun, I just like the bottom ejection feature of the 350. Yes, this makes the 350 a bit heavier than some other shotguns - it weighs in around 8-pounds unloaded, this is good and bad. The good part is, it helps tame recoil, the bad is, well....the gun is heavier to carry. However, I don't plan on an extended romp in the boonies with this shotgun - it is reserved for home defense. Also, the 350 is a pump-action shotgun, and they are very reliable, and not complicated, like some semi-auto shotguns are to get that first round chambered.
The 350 is parkerized in a nice gray/black finish - tough stuff. The furniture is black synthetic polymer, which makes if ideal for my area, where wood stocks can swell from all the rain and moisture in the air. There is also a rifle-style front sight and ghost ring rear sight, and if you've never used a ghost ring rear sight on a shotgun, you are missing out on how fast and how much more accurate you can shoot - all things considered - with a shotgun... What a ghost ring rear sight does is, it allows you to focus on the front sight, while the ghost ring rear sight is "ghostly" in appearance - it is a bit fuzzy is maybe a better way to describe it. Still, it is VERY fast to acquire a good sight picture. The safety is easy to reach, and so is the slide release - on some shotguns, you have to change your hold on the gun to push on the slide release - not good! I keep my 350 magazine tube loaded with 5-rounds of 00 buckshot, and the chamber is empty. I also keep the slide closed (locked) so I either have to pull the trigger to unlock the slide (not good) or I can simply push on the slide release to pump the slide and chamber the first round - the smart way to do it.
I also keep a side-saddle magazine holder on the left side of the receiver, and it holds 6 extra rounds of 00 buckshot for me. I'm going to add another side-saddle magazine holder on the right side of the polymer butt stock. I could add another on the right side of the receiver, but that will just add more weight that I don't need. With 5 rounds in the magazine tube, and 6 more rounds on the receiver, and when I add the other carrier on the right side of the butt stock, that will give me 17-rounds on-hand, with reloads. If that doesn't get me out of trouble, then I'm in deeper than I can possibly be.
The 350 is easy to load and shoot, although the trigger pull is a bit heavy, then again, we are talking about a shotgun, and not a long-range precision high-power rifle, where pin-point accuracy is called for. So, the heavy trigger isn't a handicap as far as I'm concerned. I can fire 5-rounds in about 2.5-seconds from the 350, and that's fast shooting, and I can hit my target out to trick to this, other than to practice.
I have had zero failures to feed, function and eject with the 350, and the action is fairly easy to operate, too - some pump-action shotguns require a pretty aggressive "pump" to load and ejection rounds and when you tie-up a pump-action shotgun, you are in serious trouble, it takes time - a lot of time - to clear a double-feed. And, I keep the 350 loaded with only 00 buckshot - I live in a rural area, so I don't worry too much about over penetration - my guest house is next door, however, should I have a break-in, it will come from a direction opposite of my guest house. If you live in a big city or have neighbors next door, you might want to consider using bird shot, or a #4 shot for self-defense - in the confines of your house, this will get the job done - as most shootings take place at very close distances - yes, 00 buck is better, but you have to balance all things, and take into account where you live and the danger of over penetration. Just something to think about - now you see why I can't give anyone a pat answer, as to what is the "best" gun or ammo for home defense?
I recently received the Alpha Tech Shotgun Flashlight Mount, for testing for an article, and I thought it would make a perfect product to add to my Stevens Model 350 shotgun. Without going into the details, on how easy it is to install this flashlight shotgun mount on your shotgun, you can find complete information on their web site. Now, I've tried some other flashlight mounts on my shotguns, and while they worked, they weren't to my satisfaction - not durable enough, and many simply clamp onto the barrel. The Alpha Tech Shotgun Mount is a bit different, in that, it attaches to the magazine tube - again, I'm not going into details - you can find complete info on their web site, but it only takes a couple minutes to install this mount. And, it is made out of steel, and black in color, with a sling adaptor on it, too. There is a "ring" for installing your flashlight, and you need a tactical flashlight that has a barrel of 1-inch - and that is easy to find. It only takes a few minutes to get this whole thing up and running.
Now, this particular Alpha flashlight mount wasn't designed for the Stevens 350, because of the set-up in relationship to the barrel/magazine/disassembly tube set-up, I was able to tinker with it, and make it fit on the 350, with a shim. While not the perfect set-up, it works. I could have put the mount on my Maverick shotgun - and it fits - however, I wanted it on my 350. Alpha Tech is in the process of developing mounts for other shotguns. Contact them for details to see if they have a mount that will fit your shotgun.
If you are planning on using a shotgun for home defense, I highly recommend you  have some type of flashlight mounted on it for several reasons. Firs of all, it helps you ID an intruder, secondly it can blind the intruder, and it helps you get on target in the dark - since you can't see your front sight in the dark. Right now, the Alpha Tech Shotgun Flashlight Mount is made to fit many shotguns, including the Remington 870 and Mossberg 500 and many others. They are in the process of making one that will fit on the Winchester line-up of shotguns, too - check with them to see if they have a mount for your particular shotgun.
I found the Alpha Tech mount to be well-built, and very solid. I fired several boxes of ammo through my Stevens Model 350, and the mount showed no signs of coming loose. Full retail for the mount is $48.50 and a worthy accessory to complement your shotgun for home defense. It's also a great mount for law enforcement officers to have on their shotgun they have in their patrol cars.
So, with the Stevens Model 350 and the Alpha Tech mount, and a good tactical (bright) flashlight, I'm pretty confident that should I have to use my shotgun at night, I can ID my attacker(s) and I have a shotgun that is totally reliable. The Stevens Model 350 is hard to pin down as far as price goes - so many sporting goods shops and gun shops discount Stevens shotguns, it's hard to come up with a price. I believe you can find a brand-new one for around $300 give or take a few bucks, and it's a great deal, on a shotgun that will give you a lifetime without problems. And, just because this shotgun is made in China doesn't take anything away from the quality - you can get as good as you want from China. I don't especially enjoy contributing to the Red Chinese government, however in this case, I'll make an exception. So, if you're in the market for a good affordable pump-action 12-gauge shotgun for home defense, take a close look at the Stevens Model 350 for your next purchase. If all you can afford is one gun - then a good shotgun for home defense is hard to beat! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Mr. Rawles,
I wanted to share my experience regarding this situation. When the great scare began in December, I knew that as a prepared individual I did not need to panic buy and so I decided to perform an experiment.

The goal: To acquire an AR-15 for the lowest possible cost during a time with the highest possible demand.

Total cost for my AR-15: $654 (For perspective, the bulk of the component parts that I purchased was when complete rifles were easily selling for $2,000+)

How I did it:

When the scare began in earnest, I knew that the odds of getting the Rock River Arms tactical operator 2 that I had been eyeing went out the window, so I decided the easiest method of acquiring would be to buy the key components (the ones most likely to be banned) and then lay low for everything else.

Purchased during the scare:

Lower: Milled lowers were in short supply and those that were available were testing the $400 range, this was not an acceptable price. Based on many positive reviews online, I knew that Palmetto State Armory carried lowers produced by ATI that were polymer (and would not be on the top of anyone's purchasing list). Cost $49 + $20 FFL transfer fee

Upper: Clearly, any of the high dollar uppers that one would normally buy were in the realm of crazy prices at this time. Again, Youtube and Google came in handy. A small operation known as Blackthorrne sells AR uppers at very reasonable prices online and I was able to acquire an M4 style 16" upper (assembled) for $300 shipped.

Stock: As "Evil Adjustable Stocks" were going to be squarely in the crosshairs, I went on to a local firearms forum and offered to trade a 500rd bulk pack of .22LR (at this point more endangered than African Elephants) in exchange for a stock, tube, buffer and spring (Mil Spec not commercial as that is what the lower had marked on the box). Estimated value: $27 (including shipping)

Lower parts kit: Needed to complete the lower. And it included the "evil" and potentially banned, pistol grip. RGuns in Carpentersville, Illinois provided it for $80 (Including Shipping + Sales Tax -- I am in the People's Republic of Illinois.)

Total expenditure during the Crisis: $466

Purchased after the scare subsided (Items that had the feinstein ban passed (With no changes), we still would have the ability to purchase):

Bolt carrier group: Cosmetically blemished, but otherwise fine Auto profile BCG from Palmetto State Armory: $99

Charging Handle: $19

Professional Assembly by a gunsmith: $70 (Headspace checked, test fired, etc..)

Expenditure after the crisis: $188

What have we learned during this crisis:
Some of the good that has come out of this crisis are actually very interesting web sites. allows you to search for "In stock" ammo sorted by price per round. ARPartsFinder allows you to find "In stock" AR components, again at the lowest possible prices. Additionally, and I think this is the most important thing, if you can afford to stock up more than you see yourself needing, do it. If nothing, when the next scare comes, you will be positioned that you can turn a handsome profit. Last summer I had purchased Tapco AK mags for $6/each, not out of any need but rather just to have them... I sold 10 of those magazines in January at a staggering $15/each, this may not sound like much but in six months I had a 150% return on my investment... when was the last time you had an annual return of 300% on your 401(k) or IRA? - K.A.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Twenty years ago in 1993, I had already been collecting paramilitary style firearms for over 15 years. I remember purchasing my first HK91 rifle in the late 1970s and being so excited about the Galils, Uzis, Valmets, FN/FALs and the other varieties of collectable rifles that were available to a firearms enthusiast in that period of recent American history.

Being a collector of arms also made me interested in collecting the ammunition that was abundant in that era. Shortly after getting married in the 1980s, my lovely wife asked, “Why do you need to keep all this ammunition?” I responded that it was like a savings account and that I was gathering it because it was, “still cheap.” I guess I had a premonition of what might someday happen to ammunition availability. I remember buying .223 ammunition to fuel my AR-15 rifle, and paying around $110 per thousand for the stuff.

Like minds seek each other out and it was at a gun show that I met and became acquainted with an older and financially successful firearms collector. This man owned more than a few Class 3 registered firearms. He had the things that I had only dreamed of and I respected his wisdom in collecting and preparing.  After our friendship grew, he introduced me to the concept of ammunition caching.
This man had already placed multiple ammunition caches, when he allowed me to know that he was doing this. I was intrigued and asked him about his methods.

He was making each of his caches about the same. His caches consisted of 10 Krugerrand one-ounce gold coins (at this time gold was about $375 per ounce), a Ruger factory folding stainless Mini-14 rifle with five magazines and 1.000 rounds of ammunition. He also placed a cheap nylon backpack in the cache to aid in transporting the contents from the site. This gentleman claimed he preferred the stainless Mini 14 side folder, because with the pistol grip removed, he could make his cache to fit inside a 3 inch piece of PVC pipe. He then capped both ends and voila, you have a pretty handy cache for the future. I asked him how he remembered where these caches were located, and without going into too much detail, he told me he had a pattern, based on section lines. He stated that any friend of his only knew where two or less of the caches were. He buried his caches near steel cattle guards, culverts, or other large metal objects to discourage the use of metal detectors in compromising the cache locations. He explained to me how he preferred fresh plowed fields (not his own) and that he used a sheet of plywood with a hole in the middle, along with an auger to make the placements. He would search for location matching his “pattern” and the aforementioned criteria. He would place the plywood in the field and auger cache burial hole through the hole in the plywood. The plywood allowed him to control how the site looked after he finished, by containing the excess dirt, with the excess being distributed away from the site. When the cache was in place, he would remove the plywood and make the plowed field look as if he had never been there.

Needless to say, I was envious of his provisions, but sadly I was nowhere near as financially capable as this man, to make caches containing gold and rifles. What did happen; however, was that the seed was planted and I began thinking in earnest about the concept of caching.

The 1990s were an eye-opening time for me. I remember how horrified I was at the news of the federal siege at Ruby Ridge. The shooting of Randy Weaver’s son and wife caused me to wonder just how far the “powers that be” in this country could act against citizens and also to wonder what might be ahead as far as an out of control federal effort that seemed squarely against something as basic as the Second Amendment. Then in 1993 came the Waco siege. I remember watching on television as military tanks were used to smash holes in the church compound. This is the first time in my memory, on U.S. soil that I had seen military tanks used in an operation against U.S. citizens!  When the whole church compound went up in flames, the tanks and dozers kept pushing the rubble together to burn everything rather than extinguishing the flames to preserve evidence. I began in earnest to think how it could be that we had come to this in America and what the future of freedom would look like in the coming years.
By this time I had piled up a fair amount of ammunition.  As I hefted one of the wooden cases I struggled with the logistics of having to move ammunition in time of emergency. I remember thinking, if I had to leave my home under an emergency (I had not yet heard of the term “bugging out”) it would be next to impossible to include very much ammunition in my vehicle’s payload…  I made up my mind that I would locate at least some of my ammunition offsite to a remote location.

The following is what I did and how it turned out after I returned to open the cache this year, some 20 years later.
Once I decided that caching ammunition was a goal, I began keeping a lookout for various types of materials to construct containers to use for my caches. I did not have the extra money to make the acquisitions all at once, so I kept looking over different materials and possibilities.

I was also trying to think how a cache might be designed to allow retrieval quickly and without a large amount of effort as far as digging. The idea of a container that would hold another, removable container began to form as my design. This has been the pattern for the development of my caching system. I do not believe that I read about or heard others describe this type of cache. It is a design that was born of my desire to be able to quickly retrieve cached items. By its very design, the cached items have a double wall layer of protection from the elements. Time has proven that this is a viable method of creating a cache.

To get my project started, I discovered some heavy duty green sewer pipe at a second hand store. There were two pieces; one of eight inch inside diameter and one ten inch inside diameter. Each had some damage to the ends and so they were fairly inexpensive. I made an offer on the pipe and returned home to hack saw the cracked portions off of the pipes. Next I purchased caps to seal the ends. I did not find threaded caps, but only simple slip on caps. On one end of the pipe, I fiberglassed the cap in place to make a permanent seal to the pipe.  The other cap was left to simply slide onto the pipe to make the seal. The removable slip on cap fit so tight that it took more than a minute to remove the cap due to suction.  The next component came about because I often visit “Army Surplus” type stores. I remembered seeing plastic tubes that were U.S. Navy surplus sonobuoy shipping containers. A quick search of the Internet will show you what a gray plastic hexagonal sonobuoy shipping tube looks like.  As luck would have it, one of these sonobuoy tubes fits exactly inside an eight inch inside diameter pipe. The sonobuoy containers were selling for less than ten bucks apiece, so I could not pass up adding these to my project. The ten inch inside diameter pipe turned out to be the perfect size to hold the remainder of the eight inch pipe perfectly.

So, picture the design as being a permanently placed outer container (in this case pipe) as a “shell” to contain the smaller removable container, which I refer to as the “pod”. The outer shell will remain embedded in the ground (or concrete, or whatever you can imagine) and be placed so that the pod could be relatively easily removed.  One design possible with the materials I had gathered used the smaller sonobuoy as the pod inside the eight inch pipe (as the shell) to complete one cache.  The other used the larger ten inch pipe as a shell and an eight inch capped pipe inside as the pod. In either case the design uses a tube inside a tube. I termed this design an “encapsulated cache” which should allow the relative rapid withdrawal of the cached material. The encapsulated cache, uses the internal removable pod container, surrounded by the fixed protective walls of the outer shell container. The outer shell container in this concept is not excavated (other than to expose the cap) in the retrieval of the removable cached pod with its valuables.

The materials I had collected, had come together to give me what was needed to complete my idea for a cache concept that had formed in my mind. My plan was for a vertical cache, with the end (of the shell) that could be opened, hidden just under the surface for a quick retrieval of the contents. The cache would have to be located in such a way that I could quickly uncover it, remove the cap on the shell container and retrieve the inner pod containing the ammunition. The more likely the chance of people being in the area, the deeper or more creative you would have to be in the placement to conceal the removable outer cap of the shell. If need be the whole cache could be buried deep, but that begins to defeat the need for the “encapsulated cache” as time and effort to remove the pod would negate the “quick extraction” feature of this method. A variation in the encapsulated cache placement could involve the shell being placed horizontally. A horizontal placement of the shell could be included in the construction of a concrete basement wall for example and sheet rocked over. The retrieval would only require the breaking of the sheet rock veneer to expose the “shell” cap underneath. Rebar in the concrete might thwart the use of metal detectors to locate the cache set in such a wall.

Most of the remainder of this description will focus on my actual experience in placing and using the cache made from the eight inch outer pipe (for the shell) with the sonobuoy inner container (for the pod), but the concept would work the same whether you could obtain sonobuoy tubes, or made your inside pod tube from other material such as a smaller diameter pipe. I envisioned the cache design that I was going to place to be oriented vertically, and with the removable cap for the outside shell container only slightly underground or under a random large, discrete object.

As a side note, I have also made this type of cache by using a five gallon bucket as the permanent shell container with an ammo can as the interior pod container. I have had one such “bucket encapsulated cache” in place for over two decades. It is buried about six inches underground. I have returned to the bucket cache many times over the years to retrieve and add items from/to the “pod” (ammo can). At times I have found a very small amount of condensation in the “shell” (outer bucket), but never any inside the removable “pod” (Always protect the “pod” with desiccant where possible). This bucket encapsulated cache survived a logging operation that skidded trees directly over the placement. It survived one hundred percent undetected and unscathed.

In the placement of the encapsulated cache that I made with the sonobuoy pod, I used Mylar (metalized) bags to hold the various calibers of ammunition for the cache. I had one of the old “seal-a-meal” bag sealers and I began to collect the small bags of desiccant that came with various items I had had purchased. When the day came to load the interior container, I heated the many desiccant bags to recharge them, just prior to sealing the Mylar bags with varying calibers and quantities of ammunition.  I took a marker and labeled each bag to identify what it contained.

I found that my sonobuoy tube could hold all of the following:
Four bags containing 250 rounds each of 223 ammunition for a total of 1,000 rounds.
One bag containing 500 rounds of 9mm ammunition.
Six bags containing 100 rounds each of 308 ammunition for a total of 600 rounds.
One bag containing 120 rounds of 45 auto ammunition.

With the bags sealed, I arranged them in the sonobuoy tube, placing a large commercial bag of desiccant that I had scrounged from a snowmobile shipping crate and recharged in the oven, on the top of the pile of individually sealed bags. I screwed on the plastic cap of the sonobuoy pod and applied a silicone sealant gasket to provide an additional barrier against moisture.

When you put something like this together, you will notice is that the cache tube is very heavy.  To assist in the removal of the pod from the shell, I decided to construct a harness out of ¼ inch nylon rope for the pod, so that once uncovered, I could grab the rope harness and remove the inner cache from the vertical burial tube with more ease than if I had to try to pull the inner tube out by the cap alone.

With all this constructed, I now had to decide where I would place my cache. My concept was that this might have to be accessed by me in the event that I had to leave my home…what has become known today as bugging out. The different scenarios I envisioned all centered on the possibility of having to leave home and venture to a remote location. This is the most important consideration that anyone making this sort of preparation has to consider. You do not want to return to your cache after an extended absence and find that a new highway had compromised your efforts. How about a new housing development, and then there are logging operations and so on. In the end, I chose a remote location that I had spent some amount of time in my younger days camping and exploring. I choose public land far from civilization. I went camping and looked for “my spot”. The location I chose was in the high plains, above 6,000 feet elevation. I choose a location that gets about 20 inches of moisture a year; much of it in the form of snow.

Since I planned on leaving the upper cap on the vertical shell where I could access it quickly, I had decided that I would find a location with abundant rocks in the hope of locating the cache under a large boulder. My idea was that this would help water proof the cache, hide the cache and make the cache quickly accessible by simply moving the large rock “cap stone”.

After much searching, I found my location. I moved my materials along with two 4 foot by 4 foot pieces of plywood (to keep the surface of the ground pristine) to the location. With a digging bar, and a shovel it took most of the afternoon to place the vertical shell tube in position. It should also be noted that I picked a location that was well hidden from curious eyes by vegetation. With the shell tube in place I removed the dirt that had been dislocated in the process of digging the hole, away from the site to keep the site looking natural. I took the larger rocks that had been unearthed and used them to line the area directly around the removable shell cap. I did this so that upon retrieval of the ammunition, I would not have to dig, but could just pull these loose rocks from the area immediately surrounding the shell cap. With a great deal of effort I rolled the cover rock, which was a large mostly flat rock, into place over the cap of the cache shell.

One thing that I worried about when I initially placed the cache was the possibility of disturbance by bears, as bears often move rocks in search of moths, grubs, and ants to feed on. In this case I chose a cap rock that was very large. I also was careful not to use any container or material that had been used to hold food that might attract a curious scavenger.

Over the next twenty years, I made many efforts to revisit the area. I often went with friends, never mentioning the location of the cache, but lingering in the area to see if anyone might notice anything out of the ordinary. No one ever did. As time went on, a tree grew a branch directly over the cap stone adding to the security of the location. Sometimes I would leave a branch or twig lying on the cap stone to alert me if the stone had been tampered with. Over time, pine needles, leaves and debris continued to build up over the area and I became certain that the cache was safe for the foreseeable future. On some visits I observed four feet of snow covering the cache site. Other times the air temperature was nearly 100 degrees.

This year, being the twenty year anniversary of the placement of the cache, I decided I would test my design and see how the cache has fared. I approached the cache and observed that everything was as I had last left it.

I was careful not to break the tree branches that have grown over the stone as they add a level of natural camouflage to the shell cap stone that I cannot reproduce artificially. I slid the cap stone off of the cache cover (the stone weighs about fifty pounds). There, just as I had left it, was the plastic cap of the shell. I carefully, but easily removed the larger rocks around the perimeter of the plastic cap. I held my breath and began to work the cap up and off of the shell. When it came off, I was greeted with the view of the sonobuoy tube and its rope harness. Within three minutes of approaching the site and without any tools, I had extricated the pod containing the ammunition from the larger shell. I peered into the bottom of the larger, now empty shell and saw that the larger tube was indeed as “dry as a bone”. I was overjoyed as I often wondered if moisture had been seeping into the cache. In retrospect, I might have opened the cache a couple of years after the initial placement to assure that everything was staying dry, but in this case it all worked out just fine.

I put the plastic cap back on the now empty vertical shell and returned the cap stone to its place. Next, I anxiously opened the cap of the sonobuoy tube to reveal the contents after twenty years. I sampled the bags and found the ammunition dry and shinny. I took a 10 percent sample and test fired the ammunition. I had 100% reliability in firing the test ammunition. It should be noted that much of this ammo was surplus ammunition to start with and some is now more than forty years old.  I replaced the quantity of ammunition that I used in testing, recharged the desiccant by heating it and again sealed the bags and the sonobuoy tube. I did take advantage of a small unused space inside the tube to add an additional 750 rounds of .22 long rifle ammunition, to top off the space in the sonobuoy tube. I returned to the cache site and replaced everything as it was before the cache was opened.  The replacement of the cache took only minutes and no special tools.


I can’t tell you how much peace of mind I have knowing that this cache is in place and functioning as I had hoped for two decades. I do not see any reason that it might not survive many more decades into the future.  When the time is right I hope I can show my children the cache and pass it on to them.
At the time I buried the cache, I would have been somewhat embarrassed to tell anyone that I would make such preparation. Now, twenty years later I believe there are many more people who would not think the placement of such provisions is at all eccentric.
I have written this description to encourage other kindred spirits to pay attention to the materials that you may come in contact with that could be used to construct a similar cache and to motivate you to make such a preparation for you and your associates for the day when such provisions may be needed.

My guess is that some will scoff at the idea of the cache being only slightly underground, or being covered by a removable rock. The weakness is that the cache may be found; however, the location that I placed this cache in is so remote that humans seldom even walk near the location. Also, large boulders are common in the location, giving the “cap stone” a very inconspicuous look (I would NOT recommend placing the cache under the only prominent rock in an area). These factors give this type of cache the security that has allowed it to be successfully placed these twenty years.
I know of another individual who has placed a cache of ammunition in a totally different way. His cache is buried more than ten feet underground! It certainly is secure, but how long would he have to work to remove the contents?  

In the end, your choice of materials and designs are endless. My “encapsulated cache” is really one that came together by imagination and luck in finding the materials I used to construct it. The secret is being ready and available to make use of what is around you and then being motivated to do something, rather than spending your precious time “getting ready to get ready” and in fact doing nothing.
Lastly, I want to state that I consider myself a patriotically motivated individual. My cache is in place as a last resort to preserve the ideals of the Constitution of the United States, and especially our God given rights. I consider it my responsibility to be prepared to personally keep the Minuteman mentality that I came to admire as I learned our nations history.  I pray that it does not come to the point where freedom is so curtailed that patriots are again force to fight tyranny on this North American continent  in order to preserve the concepts that made this country great, but the fact is, that it is looking more and more like that is our situation.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." - United States Declaration of Independence

Saturday, June 22, 2013

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

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

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

Prioritizing concepts of personal importance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 17, 2013

Todd Savage of Survival Retreat Consulting is developing two secure storage projects in the American Redoubt--one in north Idaho and one in Northwestern Montana. The facilities will give private members access to several storage options to store their preparedness gear until they can relocate. The undisclosed locations will feature various sizes of climate controlled vaults and safe rooms, featuring underground bunker construction and redundant security features. These facility can eliminate a prepper's quandary: having all their crucial preps stored in one location with no ability to move it to their safe haven quickly.

A retrofitted facility should be available for occupancy in September of 2013 and a larger newly-constructed facility should be available for storage in August of 2014. These facilities will be bonded. For security reasons, the exact locations of the facilities will only be revealed to clients once they have signed a contract. These high end security and climate-controlled units will cost more monthly than typical commercial storage spaces. (Which are typically not climate controlled and offer only marginal security in locations that are widely known to the public.)

If you have interest in short or long term secure storage options for some of your gear, then please contact Todd Savage through his web site. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Hey Mr. Rawles,

So I'm stuck in The People's Republic of California. I can't get out. We would basically have to walk away from a business we have been running since 1978 with nothing. As I've noted in the past, I do have a mountain retreat that is ready to go.

But here is my question - With all these new California laws which will surely be passed and signed by the governor, I'm obviously a little concerned about my semi-auto long guns. I know folks talk about burying them in tubes and such. But would this be a viable option - I live about three hours from Yuma Arizona, and have someone out there I believe I could trust to hold my guns. If the authorities every came sniffing around asking where the weapons were, would I be able to legally say they have been taken out of state for safe-keeping until such time as the laws are repealed or changes, or whatever? Or not say anything at all, let them tear up the place and find nothing (except my bolt actions and revolvers)?

I mean, it seems like they'd have no jurisdiction in Arizona. Any thoughts you might have on this would be most welcome, thanks - Mountain Man Virgil

JWR Replies: I'm not an attorney, so don't take the following as legal advice and consult an attorney licensed in your state for definitive answers. But I can mention, in general terms that a state's jurisdiction ends at its state lines. Imagine that you mysteriously received an income tax bill in the mail from the Czech Republic, even though you've never worked there or had any business dealings with anyone there. Would you have to pay it? Could they come and arrest you or seize your bank assets for not paying it? Of course not.

If you transport a gun out of California before a new law goes into effect then you will be immune from prosecution by the State of California (the once fine but now sullied California Republic). Now, if that same gun were formerly registered in California then you might be asked to prove that it is now out of the State, but you are not bound by law to do so. And be advised that warranted police searches can be time consuming a and destructive, and you will have limited legal recourse. So maintaining a signed and witnessed affidavit from a friend or relative in Yuma would be wise.

Anyone who attempted to indict you without physical evidence of a crime would be laughed out of court. This is part of the long-standing corpus delicti requirement. The onus probandi (burden of proof) in any prosecution for a state law violation rests upon the state. ( "Semper necessitas probandi incumbit ei qui agit.") Without substantive evidence that you had a proscribed firearm or magazine in your possession inside the state's boundaries after the law went into effect, there could be no prosecution of a case, and not even grounds to arrest you. And mere suspicion--without a statement from a witness--would be shaky grounds at best, to secure a search warrant. (But again, we are talking about The People's Republic of California, where in some cases they search homes with impunity, so who knows?)

It bears mention that there are a few firms in Las Vegas, Nevada that specialize in private vault storage of valuables (such as documents, precious metals, jewelry, gemstones, and guns.) It is also notable that some guns, such as AR-15s, a gun can be quickly disassembled, so that just the banned parts (namely the lower receiver and magazines) can fit in a safe deposit box. The remaining parts could legally be stored elsewhere. (Again, consult your state and local laws.) The beauty of doing business with these firms is that because they are not FDIC-insured "banks", they would not be affected by a national "Bank Holiday" situation, which would otherwise limit access to safe deposit boxes. Another storage option for Californians might be buying a membership and renting vault storage space with a well-established firearms training academy in Oregon, Arizona, or Nevada.

Storing guns with friends and relatives out of state can be problematic, but if your alternatives are surrendering your guns for destruction, or selling them at a loss, or facing prosecution, then in my opinion it is well worth the risk. By the way, even though Yuma has a very dry climate, you should consult the many articles in SurvivalBlog's archives about long term gun storage, as well as the copious advice on wall caches, door caches, hidden rooms, and some"hidden in plain sight" options.

And the unspoken bottom line is: Vote with your feet. The history of the western world is replete with tales of families that strategically relocated to escape tyranny. But there are also plenty of stories of families that did not. Go ahead and put your business on the market. If it is God's will for you to move, then you will find a buyer. Jehovah Jireh!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

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

Monday, April 29, 2013

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

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 15, 2013

Captain Rawles,
I would like to tell your readers about a piece missing on HK Model 91s and clones, except for some Vectors.  This is the paddle magazine release.  With this latest skyrocketing of prices and the cheap availability of HK .308 magazines, you have suggested these type rifles.  I have had my beloved PTR for years, but only recently had what I consider the most important upgrade added to it: My paddle magazine release.  The G3 rifle (which all these are civilian copies of) had the paddle magazine release, but since it also used the pushpin mount/hole for the select fire trigger pack, HK did away with it when it released the HK 91 to make it harder for people to convert the weapon to a machinegun.  This must be done carefully because if you drill a hole to mount the bushing for the paddle mag release and drill the hole [all the way through the receiver] then [legally] you have just created an unregistered machinegun [in the United States], per the pronouncements of the BATFE.

It is recommended that a professional gunsmith do this, although parts are available on and  My preferred gunsmith for this was Bill Springfield, in Colorado.  He also does tune ups for HK triggers.  Having the paddle mag release not only makes the rifle more ambidextrous-friendly, but speeds up reload time and is just plain easier.  The pushbutton release on HKs is just out of reach of my finger, so I had to shift my hand to push the button, forcing me to juggle the rifle around, making things clumsy, difficult, and slow.  No more.  If I ever get another HK, the first thing I will have done is have this important piece installed.  It was somewhat expensive, around $200 for the work, plus parts and shipping, but well worth it.  Turnaround time was about three weeks for me, and I did not like not having my rifle for that period of time, but again it is well worth it.  I encourage your readers who have HK-91s or clones (or 5.56 or 9mm versions, HK93s and 94s respectively) to consider this important upgrade. - Allen in N.C.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

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

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

Spent on building each AR:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 1, 2013

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

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 23, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 15, 2013

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

Best Regards, - G.H.

Monday, February 11, 2013

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

So we all got the Friday afternoon crowd instead!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Regards, - Gunwriter

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

Saturday, February 9, 2013

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

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

My Reality Check – Survival School

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

Podcasts – Free Information on Just About Anything

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

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

Food Storage & Gadgets on the Cheap

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

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

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

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

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

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

When It's Time to Have The Talk

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 28, 2013

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

Saturday, January 19, 2013

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 17, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 7, 2013

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

A Congressional Research Service report provides these details:

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 3, 2013

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

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

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

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

Respectfully, - Brian T.

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

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mr. Rawles,
I wanted to write to you about my recent experience with the US shortage of semi-automatic rifles, full-capacity magazines, and .223 ammo.
I am relatively new prepper.  So far, we've got the bug-out bags, the bug-out bins, the emergency plans, the food and water, some other stuff, and a start on guns and ammo.  As of last week, I had my 9mm Glock, a 12 gauge Remington 870 shotgun, various pellet guns (and ~2500 rounds of various ammo).  I had been thinking of my next gun purchase, and leaning toward the Ruger 10/22 takedown model.  That would have gotten me up to minimal firearm preparedness: a rifle, a pistol, and a shotgun.
Then came the Sandy Hook tragedy.  And a renewed discussion on gun control (pushed relentlessly by the media).  And the possibility of a ban on so-called assault rifles (we know that term is much-debated elsewhere, so I will not discuss its meanings/implications here).  And I began to worry about the availability of semi-automatic rifles. 
A good semi-auto defensive rifle has always been on my list of intended firearm purchases.  However, it was way down on my list.  But my worry about availability just got it promoted to the top.
A week ago last Sunday, I was checking the news, and seeing more and more articles about congressmen (and women) planning to re-introduce the ban on assault rifles and so-called full-capacity magazines (more than 10 rounds!).  Then the president announced that he would speak to the country later that night.  I began to worry that he was going to alarm the purchasing public, and there would be a run on guns, mags, and ammo. 
Fortunately, I had been researching different ARs, and had my eye on the Smith & Wesson M&P 15 Sport, as a good quality, relatively inexpensive, entry-level semi-auto rifle.  So, around 5 pm that Sunday afternoon, I called the large sporting goods store (about 10 miles away) and asked if they had any in-stock.  They had two; I asked them to put one on hold for me, and they agreed to hold it until closing time (7 pm).  My wife had been out that afternoon - when she walked in the door at 5:30, I informed her that I was going out for an emergency shopping run, and off I went.
The store was busy (probably due to Christmas shopping), but the gun counter was very busy.  There were about 5 employees manning the counter, and about 30 people waiting to look at guns.  Lots of people were getting background checked, standing in line at the register, and walking away with those long, flat cardboard boxes.  And the long-gun displays were starting to show bare spots.  
Finally, my turn came, and the clerk fetched my box from the back.  The rifle looked gun, felt good, and seemed as advertised.  Sticker price was $1,050, and by God's providence, I could afford it.  I told him I would take it.  It came with one magazine.  I asked about extra magazines: they were all out.  I asked about .223 ammo: they were all out.  Okay.  On the way out, I grabbed some full-capacity magazines for my 9 mm.  Then, I exercised my credit card and I was out the door, with a piece of fancy metal and some empty plastic magazines.  Back at home, they went into the gun safe, and I felt pretty good about front-running the surging demand for these guns.   
The week kept me busy, and I didn't have a chance to look for magazines and ammo until Thursday.  I called several large sporting goods stores in the area.  No one had any AR-15 magazines or .223 ammo, and none had any estimate on when they would get restocked.  It was time to expand my shopping horizon.  A Google search informed me that there were three local gun shops in our area. 
By now, I was somewhat panicky.  Would I be able to find anything?  Would there be a continuous shortage on mags and ammo until a gun control bill is passed?  Would I be stuck with my fancy rifle, and nothing to shoot?  Back on the phone, I talked with the owner of gun shop number one: he was out of AR mags and .223 ammo: no estimate for restocking. 
Over the phone, a clerk at gun shop number two claimed to have .223 ammo, so I was out the door again, and in 20 minutes, I was visiting a tiny little cinder block gun shop with huge bars over all the windows, and more guns per square foot than I had ever seen.  The very surly owner had 11 boxes of Federal .223 for $20 each - I told him that I would take them all.  I asked about AR mags, and he just laughed and told that he was "not selling them."  Okay.  With another plastic swipe and signature, I was off to gun shop number three.
Gun shop number three was in a tiny strip mall, and at 6 pm, it was the only store still open in the plaza.  What was amazing was the number of cars in the parking lot and the number of people in the store.  The store was about 20 feet wide and 50 feet deep, and had about 20 customers either at the gun counter or scouring the remains on the racks and the shelves.  About a dozen other customers were outside the store, talking on the sidewalk.  All around the store, were printouts telling customers about purchase limits on magazines and ammunition.  No AR magazines were left.  But, there was a small stock of .223 'varmint' ammo at $13 each.  So I took ten (the maximum allowed number) of the boxes, up to the counter. 
The shop owner and his three clerks, were doing their best to serve the high demand, but the stress and strain were evident in their manner.  At the counter, several customers were looking at guns, and the owner was very blunt with them, saying: "If you think you want this gun, then you should buy it now, because if you wait and come back later, it's going to be gone."  The owner was also talking about the price increases from his suppliers.  Talking about buying an AR, the owner said that, over the course of the week, his price had gone up "$100, then $300, then $500."  At first, I thought that he was talking about a cumulative price increase, then he clarified: "now I'm paying $900 more for this gun, than I was paying last week."  The owner also said that people were buying guns, just to get the magazine(s) that come with the guns.  Wow.  I made my ammo purchase and I was out the door.
So far, no luck in finding extra magazines.  From what I hear, all stores in my area are out of ARs, AR magazines, and AR ammo. 
So, maybe this letter gives an example of one story in this situation.  But, I think that it also gives some lessons for preppers, in their purchase of firearms.
First, consider availability issues, when determining priorities about the purchase of firearms.  Second, don't expect to count on the ability to purchase full-capacity magazines at a gun-show or from a private seller.  As I understand it, the proposed ban on full-capacity magazines (more than 10 rounds!) will make it illegal to transfer (i.e. purchase) such magazines.  Third, even if you're still working up to a firearms purchase, it pays to do your research, so that you know what you want when an opportunity (or necessity) presents itself.  Fourth, learn about gun shops other than your local big-box stores.  The big-box stores seem to run out of stock first, and (at least some of them) seem to be vulnerable to pressure to limit sales of certain firearm items.  Fifth, where possible, try to build relationships with gun shop owners (and other firearm suppliers).  The owners I recently met were reasonably courteous to me (as a new customer) but they certainly didn't go out of their way to help me.  Sixth, in your preparedness efforts, think about how to stay in front of the herd, when it comes to purchases.  In your hour of need, you don't want to be at the store with a hundred other people, competing to pay huge upcharges on scraps - you want to be at home or at your retreat, planning your next step in preparedness. 
Let's hope that supply and demand get back to normal in the near future, so we have a chance to make those purchases that we've been putting off. 
  Best Regards, - Chuck W.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Nanny Statists are on the war path, here in the United States. While their incessant calls for a ban on semi-auto firearms will probably fail, I predict that a bipartisan compromise in Congress will result in a new ban on full capacity magazines. This renewal of the 1994 to 2004 ban will likely have a grandfather clause, but no sunset clause. So TODAY is the day to do your best to round out your family's multi-generational supply of magazines. Even if you' don't already own an AR-15 or and AK-47, buy a dozen magazines for each. And for all of the guns in your battery that can accept 11+ round magazines, consider six magazines per gun to be a bare minimum, and 20 per gun to be a comfort level. Do not hesitate on this, folks. Prices are likely to gallop, once the details of Senator Feinstein's ban bill are announced! And even if common sense prevails in congress, at a minimum we can still expect an executive order that will ban the importation of 11+ round magazines. So this makes buying magazines for your foreign-made rifles (AK, FN PS-90, FN-FAL, FNAR, Galil, HK, etc.) or handguns (Beretta, FN, Glock, HK, SIG, etc.) your highest priority.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 8, 2012

To make the most sense of this note, please refer to the SurvivalBlog archives for the December 22, 2011 original post with an update March 29, 2012.
The range of feedback to the post and update ranged from supportive to beyond hostile--which was more or less what I expected. Those critical to the "Barter Store" concept mostly missed the premises--that at least in some smaller, conservative towns/cities, small-scale commerce will help preserve order and civilization; security is handled and will not be a driving issue; that "preppers" have stocked up on and will be willing to sell/trade/barter some small/compact, useful, in-demand items to others who need or want them in exchange for either silver coin or similar items they forgot; and that your leadership could make a difference.
The suggested stocking list is relatively unrelated to your personal prepping list. For example, you don't have to be a coffee drinker to realize others who are will be anxious to trade for it, if you have it available. So, we are speculating on those tradable and useful little things others have forgotten. And, even you--dedicated planner and prepper that you are--will forget an item or two you might need or want that you might be able to trade for (or barter or purchase) if you have a reasonable inventory.
Here are a few additions and modifications to our working list, with rationale (the numbers refer to the sequence we used on the previous posts)--
1. Alcohol. The original recommendation was to purchase a couple of cases of miniatures (airline-style bottles). These could probably be used as money as well as consumed, bartered, sold, or traded. I have noticed that the liquor stores sell these as multi-packs of ten (10) bottles as well as loose bottles. Instead of buying cases (too much $ to be spent for many preppers), you might consider keeping the cost down by putting away a few of the multi-packs. That way, you could also stock several different "flavors" without breaking the bank. You are not limited to hard liquor, BTW. Just about every supermarket or liquor store that sells wine also sells multi-packs of inexpensive red and white wines in single drink (one glass) bottles.
3. Tobacco. My US Army LTC son (who has just returned from his umpty-umpth trip to that nasty hole in the map) has pointed out to me that the troops will want snuff, not cigarettes. If there will be young men around (especially military, but not limited to them), add several dozen cans to your stock. These are also available (multi-packs of 12) in the "cage" at the wholesale clubs (too expensive to buy individually at the C-store).
4. Ammo. Do you remember I said this was mostly out of my lane? Plenty has been written elsewhere on SB about what you should stock, but I have a couple more thoughts: Put away some ammo (cans of .175 "field loads") and CO2 cartridges for the pellet guns--useful for plinking doves, squirrels, ...and rats. 
Here's one so easy/cheap I'm surprised no one else has suggested it. I have a couple of inexpensive slingshots and extra rubbers I picked up at Wal-Mart, but you don't need to purchase these. The Post Office (yes, the P.O.) uses big rubber bands by the ton to bundle mail. Next trip to the P.O., take a plastic grocery bag with you. Hand the bag to the friendly clerk and politely ask for some rubber bands for a "project." They have a full mail cart of these somewhere in the back and you'll probably get a bag full back. You can repackage these in Zip-locs for DIY slingshot construction. When I was a kid, we tried to make slingshots out of cut up inner tubes (remember those?). These never worked very well, but big rubber bands do.
21. Bikes. I thought of these as I was inventorying my Y2K leftovers (used almost everything over the years, but had some miscellany in a couple of boxes)--bike locks. When I was in basic training (BCT) a million years ago, someone asked the drill sergeant why we needed to secure (put locks on) our foot lockers. He answered instantly--"So we do not make thieves out of honest men." After TEOTWAWKI, it would be a shame to lose a bike ...just because it wasn't locked. I have a couple of "Kryptonite" locks left in stock. There are plenty of combination lock cheapies out there to do the job--Ask any college student.
32. ED meds. Condoms--another wholesale club purchase. Wasn't sure where to put this; this is as good a place as any.
Thanks, James, for the opportunity to continue to build our "stocking list." All reader suggestions welcome - A.A.A.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I have read article after article on gun reviews, the best pistol to buy, how to fire one, etc.  However, what about those who don’t even know where to start on what type of gun they need? I will give a brief synopsis on where to begin when buying guns for self-defense.

First, we need to look at what exactly you will be defending yourself against.  For self-defense away from home, there is no better protection than a pistol. But before you go and buy yourself a sidearm and pack it inside your waistband, be sure you know the legalities of where you are traveling. Most states require a Concealed Carry Permit (CCP), which allows you to carry a concealed weapon in public; minus a few restrictions such as government buildings and places that sell alcohol. Some states don’t allow you to carry at all, while some don’t even require a permit. An easy way to learn about CCPs is to visit  You will find nearly everything you need to know about CCPs for each state and then some.

Many states will require you to complete a basic pistol shooting class before you can obtain your CCP. This class is taught by instructors certified by the National Rifle Association. To locate a class nearest you visit . Here you can find information on a plethora of courses offered by the NRA. Even if you don’t plan on obtaining a CCP, it is still beneficial to attend one of these courses. I recommend it for both beginners and also veterans who haven’t completed the course. Many veteran shooters do not use proper shooting techniques such as breathing and stance that could improve their precision and accuracy. The course normally ranges in price from about $50-$150 and requires about 50-100 rounds of ammunition. Many places will even provide a weapon, but ensure that you obtain all details for the class given at each specific location.

Whether you intend to obtain a CCP and carry in public or not, you will have to determine what type of pistol you need.  You need to decide for yourself what is more important in a variety of different areas. While revolvers are the epitome of reliability, they may not be the best choice when you need to fire more than six rounds in a short amount of time. Revolvers are very easy to use and less complex than semi-automatic pistols, especially for the new gun owner.  Malfunctions rarely occur and if they do they take mere seconds to fix.

I recommend a semi-automatic pistol due to the number of cartridges they can handle and their ability to be concealed. There are hundreds of different handguns out there and everyone seems to have their own opinion on which is best. Let’s first start with the caliber required. I would not recommend anything smaller than a .380 caliber for self-defense. While there may be the urge for a new gun owner to purchase a .22 caliber handgun, I highly recommend against it for self-defense. It just isn’t big enough. Can it kill someone? Absolutely.  But it can also put you in a very difficult situation with someone who carries something larger. The best utility semi-automatic pistol out there for both the newbie and the veteran is the 9mm Luger. Ammo is plentiful and cheaper than most ammunition out there due to its massive popularity. There are many makes and models of the 9mm so again it depends on what you what. Are you looking for easy concealment or is dependability your main concern? I could write on this topic alone for days, so instead I’ll get right to the point. Go to a gun store and get a feel for whatever gun feels best to you. While I personally recommend the Glock 19, there are many others guns that are equally dependable and effective. The .40 caliber is also a popular choice for many handgun owners, as well as the .45. I suggest you do some research on your own to learn what’s best for you before visiting the gun store. If you believe bigger is better, then you might want to consider a .44 magnum or 10mm. The 10mm is found in many semi-automatics but unless you want to carry around a seven pound Desert Eagle, you will have to opt for the .44 in a revolver. I personally own three handguns: a Ruger .380 ACP which I use for easy concealment, a Glock 20 10mm which I use for self-protection and  hunting, and a Beretta M9 9mm. I am an Army NCO with 17 years of service and carry my assigned Army M9 during my deployments. There is no better way to be proficient with the weapon you are carrying in combat than owning it and firing it regularly. Owning my own Beretta M9 allows me to do just that. Whatever you decide, remember that everyone has their own opinion. With a little bit of research and a visit to the gun store, in the end you will be much better off with any handgun at your side than none at all.

Now let’s talk about home defense. Again, there are many variables here. Do you live in a rural area on 100 acres or in an urban area such as downtown Chicago? To me there is no better weapon for self-defense inside your home than a 12 gauge shotgun armed with 00 buckshot. You’re talking about a massive amount of fire-power and not much room for an invader to escape at short distances. Deciding which shotgun to buy once again goes back to exactly how you want to use it. If you will also be using it for hunting, what will you be hunting for? Turkey? Deer? Waterfowl? There are guns/barrels designed for all of them and if money is limited you may want to choose a shotgun that will suffice for all. If you hit an invader with some 00 buckshot, I highly doubt he or she will know the difference in what brand of shotgun it was fired from. To me, you can’t go wrong the venerable Remington 870. You can configure it with many different barrels suiting your desired target and it can be purchased at a reasonable price. For dependability you can’t go wrong with a Benelli Nova Pump, but if price is your main concern then consider a Mossberg 500 or 930. All of them will do the job, but realize there is a difference in reliability. A pump-action shotgun is going to be more reliable than a semi-auto, not to mention less expensive. But, if your main reason for purchase is home defense, you may want that auto-loader that will throw massive amounts of lead as fast as you can pull the trigger. For this, I recommend none other than the Saiga 12. The Russian-made semi-auto shotgun can be loaded with 12 to 25 round drums and completely unloaded within seconds. The amount of damage one of these can do is terrifying. To watch a quick video of what the Saiga 12 is capable of, then watch this YouTube video.

If you live in a rural area, you may need to reach out a bit further to hit your intended target. For this you will need a rifle. Like shotguns and pistols, rifles come in many varieties.  A bolt-action rifle such as the Remington Model 700 is going to be extremely accurate and reliable, but for home-defense I recommend a semi-auto such as the .223/5.56mm caliber. This is one of the most popular rifle rounds in the world. Ammunition is plentiful and available at a very reasonable cost. It is the round used by most Soldiers in the Armed Forces and its dependability, accuracy, and lethality has been proven many times over. For this weapon I recommend either the Ruger Mini-14 or one of the many brands of the AR-15. Either one of these will accommodate 30-round magazines and have an effective range of about 300 yards, although capable of being lethal at further distances. If you want a bit more punch, I recommend the AR-10 variant called the Remington R-25. This is one of the best weapons I have ever fired but it comes with a hefty price tag. It is available in the .243 Winchester, 7mm-08, and .308 calibers. All of them will get the job done. The .308 caliber is a very popular round and is used in many weapons by the United States Armed Forces. It is also a very effective cartridge for medium-sized game hunting.

I know there may be a lot debate on which gun is better than another. That topic is very subjective. My intent is simply to give someone the basics and a couple of recommendations for those who are just getting started in the self-defense arena of prepping. Don’t just take my word for it; use this as guidance and do some research for yourself. There are many solid gun reviews on this blog such as: “Pat's Product Review: The Saiga 12 Shotgun” written on March 28th 2011. You can find a review for nearly every gun you are considering to purchase. I recommend reading reviews once you have come to the conclusion on what type and caliber, not brand, of gun you wish to purchase. Be careful on what reviews you read. Ensure the review is not written from someone who has a vested interest in the product itself.  Many of the best unbiased reviews come from none other than

Whatever you decide, self-protection for your assets in a SHTF scenario is a must. It doesn’t do you much good to have a year’s worth of food, water, and other necessities if you have no means of protecting them from unprepared citizens.  Visit your local gun store, do some research, and shop around for the best deal once you are decided on the gun you want. Many times the asking price is negotiable despite the price on the tag. Also, shop around online for guns. While I am an advocate of supporting local businesses, buying guns online is a lot easier than you may think. Simply find the gun you want to purchase from an online gun retailer and have the gun shipped to a local Federal Firearms Licensed Dealer (FFL). Most gun stores will accept firearms in for a nominal fee, usually about $25. Once your gun arrives at your chosen FFL dealer, you will complete the paperwork and background check, pay the transfer fee, and be on your way. It’s that easy. I have completed many transfers from guns I have purchased online and it is much easier than I ever thought it to be. Most online gun retailers have an FFL finder integrated into their web site, but there are many ways to find a local FFL dealer such as Once you locate an FFL dealer, contact them to ensure they accept incoming transfers and ask them what their fee is. FFL dealer’s fees vary just like the price of the gun itself.

It is never too soon to start purchasing the firearms you will need. With the current economy, guns are continually going up in price, not down. Ammo is continually rising in both price and demand. Once you purchase your gun, do not skimp on ammunition. Buy hundreds if not thousands of rounds. That gun will be worthless without the ammunition it needs to fire. Any extra ammunition you have may be used as a barter tool. Just keep that last statement in mind; there will be a lot more demand for .223 or 9mm than .25-06 or .460 Magnum. The latter are decent cartridges, but good luck finding ammo when the SHTF-or anyone to barter with that needs them.

Even if you never need to use your guns for self-defense, they make good financial investments in today’s low-yield savings account economy. There are many politicians on Capitol Hill lobbying to reinstate the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban (Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act) signed into law by President Clinton that expired in 2004. Many guns available now will likely become banned in the future and would sell at a premium. Buying the right guns ensures that you may still have a high-yield retirement account in a future inflationary scenario. No matter your reasons, being an educated gun owner always pays off.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

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

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

About this time last year, I did a review for a print publication on the Masterpiece Arms MPA10T - a semiauto only .45ACP MAC-style pistol. The gun was fun to shoot, and worked 100% of the time. The only thing I didn't care for was the weight of the gun - it was heavy, and a little bit bulky, especially with the 30 round magazine in-place and fully loaded. If you're interested in a short history of the MAC-style of submachine guns, check out this web page.
When I lived in Colorado Springs, Colorado some years ago, a friend and I ran a gun shop out of his gas station, and we sold a lot of SWD M-11/9 pistols. This was the semiauto version of the MAC-style pistol in 9mm. Matter of fact, we sold more SWD M-11/9s than any other type of gun. Back then, you could get an SWD for about $189 with a 32 round magazine, magazine loader and barrel extension (read: false suppressor). It was a great deal. Only problem was, it was a hit or miss - if you got a gun that would function all the time. More often than not though, the guns worked. The biggest problem was the Zytel 32 round magazines that came with the guns. They were poorly made and the feed-lips would often break, or the,  magazine would split, making it totally useless. Still, we sold hundreds of those SWD M-11/9s.
Enter Masterpiece Arms and they are doing the MAC-style semiauto-only guns the right way these days. Everything about the MPA line of guns is being done right. The welds on the stamped sheet lower and upper receivers are expertly done, and the tolerances are extremely tight - tighter than you can imagine on this type of gun.  What amazed me more than anything on my MPA930T-GR sample was the trigger pull, it was outstanding - breaking at about 4.5 lbs. There is also an easily reached safety on the right side of the lower receiver, that turns 180-degrees for "safe" and 180-dgrees back for "fire."
My sample MPA 9mm pistol is a new version called the "Grim Reaper" and it got this name from the Grim Reaper finish on the gun and barrel extension. There are skulls and bones all over the gun. This may or not appeal to you. I like the look. Now, does this gun differ from the standard MPA 9mm mini-pistol? No, only the Grim Reaper finish on the gun is different from the other 9mm minipistol that MPA manufactures. However, the kool-factor is there, and everyone who saw, handled and fired my sample loved the look of the gun with the Grim Reaper finish on it.
The MPA930T-GR is what MPA likes to call a "Mini" 9mm pistol - and compared to the full-sized version, it really is mini in size. The Grim Reaper comes with a top cocker - some of the other MPA guns can be had with a side cocking handle if you want to mount some sort of red dot sight on top of the gun. I prefer the top cocking versions - seems more natural to me, more like other semiauto pistols, where you chamber a round by pulling back on the slide. With the Grim Reaper, you grab and retract the cocking handle on top of the upper receiver.
The sights are improved, in that, the front sight is adjustable for elevation by screwing it up or down. I didn't like how easily the front sight screwed up and down, and once I had it adjusted for the proper elevation, I used some Loc-Tite on it and it stayed put. The rear sight is crude, "U"shaped, open type, but functional, and gives a fast sight picture. There is no windage adjustment on the rear sight - however, I found it to be dead-on for windage. Right off the bat, I'll tell you, this little Grim Reaper was accurate - I honestly wasn't expecting this type of accuracy - I was getting about 4" groups at 25-yards, and that was hand-held. With the 32 round magazine in place, I couldn't bench rest the gun 'cause it was too tall.
The MPA web site states that the Grim Reaper comes with a 30 round magazine - in fact, they are 32 round magazines. The magazines are made by TAPCO, and are some type of poly material - much better made than the SWD Zytel magazines - I don't see these magazines falling apart or breaking like the old Zytel magazines did that SWD provided with their guns. The magazines were fairly easy to load by hand, but some of the many folks who shot my sample could only load about 25 rounds into the mag, then they had to use the supplied magazine loading tool to top-off the magazine. I found, as I have with Glock magazines, is that you fully load the magazines, and let 'em sit for a couple of weeks, then they can easily be fully loaded by hand, without use of the loading tool. The spring just needs to be worked in order to make the magazine easier to load by hand.
What you get with the Grim Reaper package is a very nice polymer carrying case, the Grim Reaper mini 9mm pistol, a magazine loading tool, long barrel extension that looks like a sound suppressor, and a short barrel extension that acts more like a flash suppressor, and a very complete instruction manual that is easy to read and understand. There is also a limited lifetime guarantee on this gun. The 3 1/2 barrel is threaded 1/2X28" so if you want to jump through the FedGov red tape and pay the $200 transfer tax to get a real sound suppressor for it - the gun will take a real suppressor. If you live in Kalifornia, you can get a non-threaded version - that comes with the mandated 10 round magazine. Of course, this kinda defeats the purpose of this style of gun - limiting yourself to only 10 rounds. The real fun-factor of this gun is the 32 round capacity magazine.
I fired Black Hills Ammunition and Buffalo Bore Ammunition as well as Winchester 9mm through this gun, and the accuracy results were all just about the same...most loads shot right around a 4" groups at 25-yards if I did my part. There honestly wasn't a winner with any of the above ammo tested...the gun didn't seem to prefer one brand of ammo over another in the accuracy department. MPA recommends that you only use factory new FMJ 9mm ammo in their guns. However, I found that my Grim Reaper would fire all manner of JHP ammo without any problems, as well as +P and +P+ fodder. Black Hills provided me with their 9mm +P 115-gr Barnes all-copper hollow ammo, as well as their 115-gr FMJ and 124-gr FMJ reloaded ammo for testing, and every round went "bang" when the trigger was pulled. Buffalo Bore supplied me with their 115-gr +P+ Barnes all-copper hollow point ammo, as well as their 95-gr +P+ all-copper hollow point ammo - no problems with this hotter ammo - the Grim Reaper just continued to perk along. Winchester provided me with their USA brand, white box 115-gr FMJ ammo - again, no problems were encountered with their ammo. No matter what I fed the Grim Reaper, it continued to  function perfectly. I will say though, that the Grim Reaper seemed to like the +P and +P+ loads a little better - nothing scientific that I can point to, but the gun just ate this stuff up like it was candy.
I fire more of the Black Hills 115 grain and 124 grain FMJ reloads through the Grim Reaper than any other ammo, and as with all Black Hills reloads, I encountered no malfunctions. I've stated before, that I'd have no problems loading and carrying Black Hills reloaded ammo in my guns for self-defense, and that still rings true. I'd trust the Black Hills reloads before I'd trust some other brand-new ammo from some other big name ammo makers.
Other folks who shot my Grim Reaper sample provided their own ammo, which was usually a mix of all types of ammo and different brands. And, not one of us had any problems - well, that's not exactly true - the problems they all encountered was that, they didn't bring enough ammo with 'em...they all complained "I should have brought more ammo with me.." was commonly heard. It wasn't unusual for one of the shooters to burn through 300 rounds of ammo in half an hour - I kid you not. In all, more than 2,000 rounds of various types of ammo went through the Grim Reaper - and during that time, the gun was not cleaned or lubricated once. I lubed the gun when I first took it out of the box, and I didn't lube it during the testing - and the gun still hasn't seen a cleaning or any lube. What's nice about the MPA Grim Reaper is that, it runs very well, with very little lube.
I don't care for the fact that the Grim Reaper only comes with one 32 round magazine - I'd like to see a second mag included, even if MPA has to charge a little more for it. The gun weighs in, empty, at just slightly under 3 pounds - so it's fast and easy to shoot. The recoil? No one said the gun "kicked" at all. One person said there was some trigger slap - but no one else complained about this. There is a poly trigger cover on the trigger to prevent trigger slap or at least reduce the felt trigger slap. Personally, I didn't feel any trigger slap. Without a doubt, you need to shoot the Grim Reaper with the longer barrel extension attached - it gives you something to hold onto, with your off-hand in rapid fire. And, burning through a couple of mags, rapid fire, the barrel extension did feel warm to the touch, but it never got hot. I didn't like the flash suppressor barrel extension, though - nothing to really grab on to. The longer barrel extension would work itself loose after a magazine or two, and I'd have to tighten it down. I found a quick and easy fix for this. I applied some plumbers Nylon tape wrapped around the threaded barrel took care of things. I wrapped the plumbers tape around the threads a couple times, then screwed the long barrel extension on, and it stayed put and didn't unscrew itself. You could also apply some blue Loc-Tite and it would probably accomplish the same thing.
I ordered some spare 32 round magazines for my Grim Reaper, they are available from Masterpiece Arms, or any number of other sources. When I go out and shoot my Grim Reaper, I want plenty of loaded spare magazines on-hand. And, everyone else who shot my sample also loaded-up plenty of extra mags before heading to the range, rather than loading the mags at the range.
Okay, so where does the MPA Grim Reaper fit in? Well, I already mentioned the fun-factor - and this gun is lot of fun to shoot. We have 32 rounds in the mag ready to go. The Grim Reaper would make an excellent home defense gun, loaded with JHP ammo. What's not to like about having a lot of hot-stepping JHP 9mm ammo on-tap, when the bad guys break down your front door? If I were caught out in my rig, when the SHTF, and the bad guys were coming at me...the Grim Reaper would make them wish they had picked an easier target. The gun could easily fit in a backpack or briefcase, too - if you were out hiking, or trying to get home from work after a disaster - a couple spare 32 round mags - and you're ready to defend yourself and those you love. Now, the politicians would call the MPA Grim Reaper an "assault gun" - but they are fools, plain and simple. The Grim Reaper is a semiauto only pistol - it just happens to look "bad" to the ill-informed.
I guess what surprised me the most with the Grim Reaper was the accuracy - it's as accurate as many other 9mm factory pistols. And, the reliability factor - more than 2,000 rounds down range, with zero malfunctions, and it fed every type of ammo we put through it. If you're in the market for a new "fun factor" toy, then check out the new Grim Reaper, it retails for $537.95, but in my humble opinion, it is well worth the money. Just be sure to stock-up on plenty of spare magazines - I have 10-spare mags right now and plan on getting some more, before election day in November. I'd also recommend that you stock-up on some spare parts for the Grim Reaper, and you'll be pleasantly surprised at how inexpensive spare parts are. I'd sure get a spare firing pin, extractor and recoil spring - just to have on-hand for the bad times that are sure to come. And, replacing any broken parts would be a piece of cake on the Grim Reaper, too. The gun is very well made, and not complicated at all, and simpler is better - less things to break or go wrong.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Good Day, Mister Rawles.

Thank you as always for the good work you do. I was trawling around on the interwebs and came across this DIY suppressor solution. This may be old news to some but for everyone living in nations where suppressors are banned (or far too heavily regulated) then this is absolutely vital viewing.

The fitting displayed is what would be registered as the suppressor in this instance, but I can think of a few particular plumbing fittings at the local hardware store that I might be needing in the near future. For home renovations of course...

Kind regards, as always. - The Apple Islander

JWR Replies: Readers in the United States are warned that failure to pay the $200 Federal transfer tax could result in an eight year felony prison sentence. Don't risk becoming a felon and losing your right to own guns and your right to vote for life. Pay the silly tax.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A note on finding Lanolin, for making Ed's Red bore cleaner:
Lanolin is readily available in the breast feeding supply section at most big box department stores, or baby specialty stores. A full tube the (last I checked) is $8-9 but it lasts a very very long time. (And I once scored an unopened, factory sealed tube at a garage sale for 25 cents.) - Alyssa

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dear Mr. Rawles,

I heartily agree with the "Weapons Maintenance -- A Missing Element, by Odd Questioner".  I would add that having lots of good bore cleaner handy makes maintenance a lot easier.  There are MUCH better and cheaper bore cleaners around than the classic Hoppes No. 9.

Ed's Red bore cleaner has been around for over 20 years now and has been mentioned before in your blog.  Even so its a good thing to repeat once in a while.

"Ed's Red" bore cleaner is credited to C.E. Harris.  Its an excellent, easy-to-make and inexpensive bore cleaner and lube.  It stores indefinitely in an airtight container.  It cuts powder fouling like nothing else I've found. The formula and instructions for making Ed's Red has been detailed before in SurvivalBlog, so I won't repeat it here.

I've been making up a couple gallons every few years for over a decade.  I give it away to new friends a few ounces at a time.  Makes a great birthday/Christmas/whatever present for new preppers or shooters. Everyone I've given a sample to has ended up making a gallon of their own.  It is that good!

Ed's Red works for corrosive ammo as well as noncorrosive.  Its an efficient short-term rust-preventative as well.  Adding an emulsifiable oil + water to the mix makes "Ed's Pink" which is specifically for black powder. Do a web search on "Ed's Pink" and you'll find the details for it.

Two words of advice from experience:
(1) the Lanolin may be harder to find than the other components, but its VERY worth it.  Try craft stores that sell soap making supplies.
(2) Lots of folks have ideas for "improvements" to Ed's Red, but these really aren't needful.  The original formula works great and "If it ain't broke . . ."  Just stick with a classic.

Also, I think Ed's Red will be an excellent barter item, come to that. Every prepper should keep a hard copy of the the recipe for Ed's Red in their reference binder.

Cordially, - John

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dear Mr. Rawles,

Here is the definitive test to determine whether ammunition is corrosive or not.  The procedure is credited to Small Arms Review publisher Dan Shea. This test is simple, quick, cheap and conclusive.


1. Take a suspect round, pull the bullet and dump out the powder. I like to also take a known corrosive round as well for a benchmark.

2. Take a few brand new "brite" (i.e. non-galvanized) steel nails with a head size just large enough to fit into the case mouth. Degrease the nails in acetone or other and roughen them slightly with sandpaper. Drive the nails into a block of wood.

3. Slip the empty cartridge cases over the nail heads, and taking appropriate safely precautions (shielding, eye protection, gloves, etc) pop the primers with a punch and hammer.

[Dan Shea recommends the following additional safety precaution: Take a piece of wood and drill a hole large enough diameter to accept the case head, about 1/2" deep and not all the way through the wood. Then drill a small hole (to accept a small nail or punch) in the center of the larger hole, all the way through the piece of wood.  Place the larger hole over the case head and insert the punch or nail through the smaller hole.  Use this assembly to pop the primers.]

4. Leave the cases undisturbed on the nails for 24 hours in a warm place (I usually leave them on top of the water heater) and then examine the nails.

If the nail looks black and smoky, then the ammo is noncorrosive. If the nail has red flecks, then the ammo is corrosive. It will be obvious - but doing a known corrosive ammo as a control is helpful.

Cordially, - John N.

JWR Replies: Thanks for sending that. For some important priming data on U.S. military arsenal loadings, see this SurvivalBlog reference page. (It provides the lot numbers and cut-off dates to determine if military ammo has corrosive (mercuric) or non-corrosive (styphnate) primers. If in doubt, then use the brite nail test.

Monday, June 11, 2012

For the past several months, Tim Sundles, who runs Buffalo Bore Ammunition has buried me in some of his newest ammunition offerings. Somehow, I think he doesn't like me. He just keeps coming up with more and more new loads for hunters and for self-defense use, for me to test. Seriously, I don't know of any ammunition company, that is as innovative as Buffalo Bore is. Some of the big name ammo companies might come up with a couple new loads each year - if that. Most are content to sit back on their past accomplishments - not Tim Sundles!
If any ammo company is coming out with more newly developed loads than Buffalo Bore is, I'd sure like to know who it is. I like that a small, American-owned ammo company is taking the initiative, and taking the time and effort to come out with so many new caliber loadings. And Buffalo Bore doesn't produce "plinking" ammo - all that they produce is top-of-the-line premium hunting and self-defense loads. On top of that, Sundles adds a flash suppressant to his self-defense loads to help maintain your night vision, if you are forced to shoot at an attacker in low-light. (Which of course is when many self-defense shootings take place.) Are there many other ammo companies doing this yet?
One of the newest loadings I tested from Buffalo Bore is their .380 ACP +P 80 grain Barnes TAC-XP load - for those not familiar with the Barnes bullets, they are an all-copper hollow point design. These Barnes bullets retain 100% of their weight, as well as penetrating deeper than other conventional JHP bullets do. This is my carry load in my Ruger LCP .380 ACP back-up pistol. Tim Sundles tests all his loads in actual firearms - he doesn't use test barrels to hype the velocities. I'm getting about 1,050 FPS from my little LCP with this load. It's a bit stout in this little Ruger, but it can handle it. I believe the .380 ACP caliber is best reserved for use in a back-up gun capacity. However, with this load, I think it really boost your power factor quite a bit. So, with that said, it might be acceptable to use this round by Buffalo Bore if this is going to be your main concealed carry gun.
Next up are the new 9mm loadings, and these are both +P+ rounds, one is a 95 grain Barnes TAC-XP load at around 1,550 FPS and the other is a 115 grain Barnes TAX-XP load, at 1,400 FPS. Screaming? You bet! Once again, the Barnes all-copper bullets will get the job done, in either caliber. As a rule, I don't like going below a 115 grain bullet in a 9mm round. However , the 95 grain Barnes bullet will get the job done because it will penetrate a bit deeper than a conventional bullet of this weight will do, and stay together. What I really like about this load is that even though it's a +P+ load, it doesn't feel much different than a conventional standard velocity load does. For me, this is a no-brainer, this is the load to put in your "house gun" that you have in your nightstand - it's easy to control and will take care of the bad guys - and the recoil isn't what you'd expect from a +P+ 9mm loading - it's very controllable. The 115 grain Barnes loading is great for your carry gun - it will penetrate, hold together and get the job done. There is a bit more recoil with this +P+ loading, but nothing you can't control in the least. My new Ruger P95 loves this load for some reason. Make sure you test any +P or +P+ loads in your guns to make sure they will function 100% of the time with 'em - in this case, I tested both of these loads in numerous 9mm handguns, and had no problems at all. Great loads!
Back when I lived in Chicago, and worked as a private investigator, I usually carried either a S&W .38 Special snubby or a Colt .38 Special snubby of some sort, as a back-up gun - one of these guns was usually carried in an ankle holster. There were times, when I (only) carried a .38 Special snubby of some sort. One time, when working for an alarm company - I installed alarms on the day-shift, and answered alarms at night - I carried a .38 Special snubby. While this wasn't a big problem working the day shift - it wasn't the smartest thing to do when answering alarms at night - all alone. This became a reality to me one night, when I answered an alarm and was confronted with searching a huge warehouse by myself. I realized if someone was too far away and started shooting at me, that little .38 Special snubby wasn't gonna be of much use - I went out the next day and purchased a 4" barrel .357 Magnum Colt Trooper Mk III revolver. Okay, back to the snubbies in .38 Special:
Most people don't understand how much velocity (thus "power") you lose when loading a 2" .38 Special snubby revolver compared to the power you get from a 4" barrel or 6" barrel .38 Special revolver. It is very significant - so much so, that more often than not, a JHP round won't expand when it hits an attacker - which then makes that bullet nothing more than a solid - passing through the body and not doing as much damage as you'd expect. Enter the Buffalo Bore "Standard Pressure" short-barrel, low-flash 110 grain Barnes TAC-XP round - and this baby will give you about 1,000 FPS velocity from your snubby .38 Special revolver - enough velocity to make that bullet expand. Best of all, this round is very controllable. This is "the" round you want if you carry a .38 Special snubby revolver for self defense. And, I believe, the .38 Special needs all the help it can get.
Also, in the .38 Special line-up from Buffalo Bore is their .38 Outdoorsman +P round. If you carry any kind of .38 Special out in the boonies for self-defense against critters - this is the round you want. The 158 grain Hard Cast Keith bullet, at 1,250 FPS from a 6" barrel or 1,150 FPS from a 4" barrel revolver will give you plenty of penetration - which is what you want and need when facing critters in the wild. If you look at those velocities, you'll note that they are right on the heels of many other makers .357 Mag rounds - what's not to like here? While I would personally look at carrying a .357 Mag revolver if I were in dangerous country, if all I had was a .38 Special of some sort, this is the round to carry.
Not to be left out, if you carry a snubby .357 Mag revolver, and you're out in the boonies, take a close look at the Buffalo Bore .357 Mag Barnes 140 grain XPB round - this is a different bullet than the TAC-XP - the XPB bullet is designed for control expansion, and it will penetrate deeper than the TAC-XP round will against wild animals. This is the round you want in your .357 Mag snubby if you are carrying it for self-defense against critters out in the wild. Once again, a very controllable round, at around 1,150 FPS. I really liked this one.
Are you a big bore fan? Yes, me too! I really love shooting the .44 Magnum revolvers - and I can sometimes be "caught" using a .44 Mag when I'm out deer or black bear hunting. The .44 Mag is really quite a caliber - you can load it up, to super-charge it, or load it down to .44 Special velocities for plinking fun or self-defense. If forced to own one revolver, this would be the caliber I'd choose over all others. Tim Sundles does a lot of handgun hunting - he does this for several reasons, one is because he loves to hunt, and secondly, he gets to test his new round that he comes up with against real critters in the wild. How many big name ammo companies get out there and actually tests their ammo? Not many.
A new .44 Mag loading that Buffalo just came out with - and I've only limited testing with - is their 200 grain Barnes XPB load, which should be an excellent load to use against deer and  most black bear. I usually prefer a heavier load to use against black bear, but this load will get the job done with the XPB bullet because it penetrates a bit deeper and stays together. Coming out a 4" barrel revolver, you can expect over 1,500 FPS from this round. And, best of all, even though this is a .44 Mag round, it is more controllable than you think - this is because of the 200 grain bullet. Most folks stick with 240 grain bullets for much of their .44 Mag shooting - and they "kick" a lot more than this 200 grain Barnes bullet does. From an 18" barrel rifle, you can expect over 1,800 FPS - that's screaming! If you look down at this Barnes XPB bullet, you'll get lost in it because it looks sooooo deep. If you are hunting bigger game, check out some of the heavy .44 Mag from Buffalo Bore - they have something there you're gonna love!
These next two calibers that Sundles sent me - I didn't have firearms for - so I had to borrow a couple of guns. The new buffalo Bore  .357 SIG, 125 grain Barnes TAC-XP low-flash round will be, in my humble opinion, "the" round to carry if you depend on a .357 SIG for self-defense.  If you want a .357 SIG load, that uses an expanding bullet, that penetrates very deeply, this is the round for you. I admit, I've only had limited experience with the .357 SIG round, and I've never actually personally owned a gun in this caliber. There's several good reasons for this, first of all, for some reason, this round just hasn't caught on - at least, not in my neck of the woods. Secondly, .357 SIG ammo is hard to find - once again, in my neck of the woods. Lastly, .357 SIG ammo is more expensive than other calibers - like the .40S&W is. This is slowly changing, as I've noted that prices are coming down a bit - especially for FMJ practice ammo.
What we are looking at, with the .357 SIG round is a .40 caliber case, that is necked-down to take a 9mm bullet. One thing I like about these types of rounds is that, they are very reliable when it comes to feeding from the magazine to the chamber.  Tim Sundles tells me that, his .357 SIG round, will roughly penetrate 20+ inches of flesh and bone, and expand to about .55 caliber! Yes! During testing, this round is coming out of a SIG Sauer P229 at about 1,300 FPS - screaming! What I've found, is that, the .357 SIG is just about the same as a +P+ 9mm round in power and velocity, but without the excessive recoil that you expect from a +P+ loading - and it's easier on the gun - it doesn't get battered as much, as a 9mm +P+ round would do to a pistol.
What I'd like to see Buffalo Bore come up with, is a super-deep penetrator round (FMJ) in .357 SIG - this would be an outstanding round to carry out in the boonies - it would give you all the deep(er) penetration you'd need against critters. And, knowing Sundles, I'm sure he'll be coming out with this type of round - he's done it with the 9mm, with his "Penetrator" round, and he'll do it with the .357 SIG round - watch and see. I'm really impressed with the .357 SIG - from my limited shooting of this caliber over the past year or two, and one of these days, I'm gonna lay-down some hard-earned cash and actually purchase a handgun in this caliber.
I almost "hate" Tim Sundles, for coming up with this next round for me to test. I've been a fan of the .41 Magnum round for about 25 years. My late friend, Tim Caruso, from Colorado Springs, Colorado actually turned me onto this caliber. While not quite the power of a .44 Mag, the 41 Mag round will take care of many of the same tasks that a .44 Mag will, and with less punishing recoil. On top of that, I've always thought the .41 Mag would make an excellent self-defense round with the 175 grain bullets instead of the 210 grain bullets. Well, Tim Sundles just came out with a 180 grain .41 Mag Barnes all-copper hollow point load, and this bullet is coming out of a revolver at around 1,500 FPS - depending on barrel length.
I had to borrow a .41 Mag revolver from a friend to test this load, and it makes me "hate" Tim Sundles all that much more - I haven't owned a .41 Mag revolver in several years. Why? I have no idea! I love the S&W Model 57 .41 Mag revolver - and I guess I'm now gonna have to get another one - one of these days. Of course, Tim Sundles is on my wife's "I'm gonna kill him list..." since he is "forcing" me to go out and find a new .41 Mag S&W Model 57 or 657 revolver one of these days. I keep telling my wife "I only need one more gun..." and she keeps reminding me: "You said that last time...." to which I reply "it's still true...I only need one more gun."
This Buffalo Bore 180 grain Barnes bullet is the XPB style - great for hunting medium to medium-large game - it will penetrate deeply and has controlled expansion as well. It would prove a great deer round, if you ask me. If you've never fired a .41 Mag handgun, you owe it to yourself to at least try it - you'll find just as I did, that the round is a lot more controllable than the .44 Mag is, and it can do "most" of what a .44 Mag round can do. The .41 Mag has always been a bit of a red-headed step-child if you ask me - never getting the credit it deserves. If you have a .41 Mag of some type, you really need to lay claim to a box or two of this new Buffalo Bore .41 Mag ammo.
As I mentioned at the start of this article, Tim Sundles, has been burying me in new ammo to test. Yes, shooting new rounds is always fun and challenging, and quite often, I'm one of the first to get these new loadings - I appreciate this. And, SurvivalBlog readers are often the first to get real-life, first-hand test results on new Buffalo Bore Ammunition. I've heard from several SurvivalBlog readers, asking me if any of the ammo or gun companies pay me to promote their products. Never happened - never will! If anything, I should be billing Tim Sundles for my time and effort in shooting all the ammo he sends me! LOL!!
Seriously, if you are into handgun hunting and take your self-defense needs to heart, you want the best-of-the-best, when it comes to ammo. You're not gonna find any cheap plinking ammo from Buffalo Bore - they only make hi-quality, self-defense and hunting loads. Sure, Buffalo Bore ammo is a bit more expensive than ammo from the big name ammo companies. However, what Tim Sundles is offering - you can't find from any of the big name ammo companies, period. Sundles puts in a lot of time and effort to come up with these new loadings, and he also tests all these new loadings himself, too.
Like I said, Buffalo Bore is an American-owned company (in Montana), and it's a small company, that is rapidly carving itself a real niche in the self-defense and hunting calibers scheme of things. You won't find another ammo company, of this size that is producing and developing a more vast line-up than Tim Sundles is doing. There are lots of "good guys" in the firearms and ammo fields - I've been doing business with them for more than 20 years as a writer. However, Tim Sundles is, without a doubt, one of the really good guys and he's working hard to give us something no one else is giving us. He deserves your business, checkout his web site - and I'll be reporting on even more new rounds he's working on for us all.
Now, I'm waiting for the spring monsoon rains to stop in my area, so I can get out there and test the new Buffalo Bore, .40 S&W, 140 grain Barnes TAC-XP "standard pressure" rounds in my Glock 27 That .should make a great combo - with this round coming out at approximately 1,300 FPS in a slightly longer barreled gun. But I'm thinking, this will be a controllable round in this pocket rocket pistol from Glock. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Over the years, as I've been perusing the pages of SurvivalBlog and various other sites, one thing had been missing the whole time, and to my own mind, I completely missed it too.

It wasn't until this weekend that the point was driven home quite clearly. You see, I was out shooting with friends, and taking in a glorious day. In the course of plinking cans and putting various sheets of paper out of their misery, my favorite M1911 light-framed .45 ACP jammed. The slide was nearly locked solid, and after finally clearing out the cartridge and the magazine, I realized that the pistol was in horrible need of cleaning. And yes, I was neglectful of that, as, I suspect, are most folks who use guns a lot are – bad habits do creep in, after all. Sometimes it just never gets done, no matter how many mental notes are made to do it.

Okay, so it's time to clean the little beastie. I get out the tools, the kit, set it all down on the table, and... the solvent bottle was empty. No solvent. Anywhere. No idea why, but there was no solvent to be found anywhere in the house. Not in the gun closet, nor the safe. Not in the preps, and basically nowhere at all. Well, okay, I know full well why, and I bet a lot of you out there have the same problem – just that I found out this weekend, but you don't know it yet. I'll explain...

You have a huge cache of firearms. You have mountains of ammunition. You may even have enough reloading equipment and materials to be your own local arsenal. However, take a quick peek: How much do you have in the way of cleaning equipment? How many spare brushes, swabs, patches, and spare rods do you have? How much spare oil, tools, and solvent are on hand at home right now? Do you have enough to handle every firearm you own, including the stuff you've recently bought? My particular little problem was solved with a quick trip to the nearest sporting goods store (and I made sure to buy four large bottles of the stuff this time – just to be sure). Now how easily could I have solved this little problem if civilization happened to have collapsed before I found out I didn't have any solvent? I can answer that – not at all without improvising, and improvisation is never as good as having the very thing you need.

My little tale (yes, a true story), highlighted two big problems that I bet most preppers don't even bother with: regular weapons maintenance, and having enough stuff to actually perform it for months to years after that stuff can no longer be obtained at a store.

Let's tackle the fact that hey – keep your weapons clean! I was completely blasé about doing it (a bad habit gained from years of playing around in local shooting events, where I routinely ran 600+ rounds through the barrel in any given event, without bothering to clean until every other event, or it saw 1,200 rounds). However, thinking further, imagine if that pistol jammed at a moment where my life really, really relied on having my weapon work perfectly. It's one thing to endure a couple of friendly insults and jibes from friends at a gravel bank, but another thing entirely if I'm facing an intruder, my first shot didn't do the job, and now I'm standing there with a half-open slide while the now-wounded (and now rather angry!) intruder raises his own weapon. The thought is enough to scare the crap out of any sane prepper, and once I realized it, it scared me rather straight as well. I spent three hours cleaning every last nook and cranny this morning, and a quick drive back out into the countryside with 100 rounds confirmed that everything worked flawlessly again. Once home, I cleaned everything again, just to be sure.

I even learned again how a perfectly clean gun operates a whole lot smoother (yes, you tend to forget), and that over time I just stupidly got used to the slowly degrading performance. It is far easier, and safer, to get into the habit of never considering your shooting day done until after you clean every weapon you used. It's easy to think that you're good to go with waiting until x number of rounds have been shot, but it's a very bad habit, and one I'm glad that I caught and learned from - before that lesson came the hard way. Very simply put, always clean your weapon after you're done using it. In a post-collapse world, clean it every chance you get, because you may not get the time to do it when you think you will.

Second item on the agenda – check your stores. No, not your guns, not your cartridges, and not your neat-o accessories. As a prepper, you should check into, and stock up on, the following items:

  • Cleaning solvent (the good stuff. Don't go cheap here.)
  • Light gun oil (again, don't even think of skimping.)
  • Spare wire bore brushes (because they wear down quickly when you actually use them.)
  • Spare small wire brushes (because using a bore brush to clean out the inside of a slide assembly is foolish.)
  • Spare bore and magazine swabs (because they get dirty in a hurry, and you can only clean them so many times before they become useless).
  • Spare patches (as many as you can lay hands on), and spare patch-holders.
  • Spare rods of sufficient length (those things are notoriously fragile when you don't want them to be.)
  • A big pile of clean/unused rags, set aside especially for cleaning your guns. Make completely sure that they're lint-free.
  • Spare tools specific to assemble/disassemble your firearms (the funny-looking wrench you use to take apart the muzzle of an M1911 .45 ACP, for example, because pliers will work but really, not right.)
  • Spare consumables for your firearm (examples? No problem: My .45, over time, will eat slide-return spring bushings, slide springs, an extra grip, spare screws for the grip, magazine springs and followers, an extra barrel or two, etc.)

So what if you only have a few firearms and have to do it on the cheap? Well, you can still get by with buying up and storing at least a half-dozen of those small rifle and pistol cleaning kits you normally find in the average department store's sporting goods section. Each is usually self-contained with everything needed to clean your rifle or pistol, are sold by caliber, and each is enough to last about 5 cleanings (10 if you're careful with it). They're also cheap – averaging $10-15 per kit. I figure that by the time you crack open that last kit, you'll likely be almost out of ammunition in your stores anyway. Just stick with a reputable brand, and avoid the absolute cheapest stuff.

But let's get back to keeping these things clean in a post-collapse situation. Hopefully you now have everything you need to do that with. But hey, not everything is perfect in this world, so...

Let's say you're out of supplies to keep your favorite firearm clean, or you found a good weapon with a ton of ammo (Hypothetically, let's say you've been a good little prepper, survived the collapse of civilization, and as a reward the SHTF-fairy drops off a pristine M16A1 and a can of ammo? Oh, but she didn't think to include a cleaning kit. Go figure.) Or, let's say you had to bug out in a hurry, and a pistol cleaning kit doesn't make much sense in that bag of yours. So, now what? The need to keep that gun clean hasn't gone away.  You'll want to make sure it does what you want it to do, especially when you need it to do so. Well, good news! You can improvise. At the low-end, if the firearm is truly Mil-Spec, you can get away with as little as using soap and near-boiling water to literally scrub and rinse the thing (the heat insures that things dry off quickly afterward), only needing a light coat of oil when you're done. If you can find/scrounge up some brake-cleaner (or even clean brake fluid, come to think of it), you can use that in place of typical gun solvent. For oil, you can use a rag and (very little!) clean machine oil, hydraulic fluid, or automatic transmission fluid (but use it sparingly! Too much oil attracts dirt and dust.) There are lots of options in a pinch, but use them intelligently, and don't use it as an excuse to skip cleaning your firearms.

By the way, when it comes to cleaning your weapons, get to know the things deeply. Know to always make sure not only that the weapon is unloaded, but that no bullets are anywhere near the table you're working on, period. I always make it a habit to move all the bullets to a bag on the floor, and double-check everything to make sure no bullets can be found in, on, or around the weapon. Know how to field-strip your weapons, clean them and put them back together in perfect working order. Know where all those nooks and crannies are, and how to get the goop, burn-marks, lead/copper build-up, and all that other crud out of them. Get into the habit of giving every square millimeter a close eye, looking for signs of a failing part: minute cracks, worn edges or lips, curling metal, odd discolorations, pitting, and any bulges or warping where there shouldn't be. Replace those parts ASAP (you remembered to store spare parts, right?) Be aggressive about even the slightest sign of surface rust, scrubbing it completely off with solvent and a rag, wiping off the solvent, then scrubbing it again with a lightly-oiled rag.

Even if you don't use it very often (or at all), get into the habit of taking out each weapon you own at least once every year (once every six months in a wetter climate), and cleaning it anyway, searching carefully for rust, cleaning out any dust, and working everything on it until it feels perfectly smooth and natural.

Yes we've been talking about firearms all this time, but let's take a few moments to get into your knives, swords, bows, arrows, crossbows, or maybe the spare trebuchet you may have stashed in the garage. Just because it doesn't spit fire doesn't mean that you can leave it dirty.

Compound bow cams can clog up and the bearings filled with grit. Knives and edged weapons can pit and rust in a surprisingly short amount of time. That crossbow trigger needs to be kept clean and perfectly functional, because you'll never know when your life will depend on it functioning perfectly. You would be amazed at how quickly that something as simple as a recurve bow can get dirty, causing grit to become sandpaper in the string notches, slowly weakening the bow overall.

If you've ever field dressed an animal with a knife, you already know how quickly it (and your hands) can get greasy, hairy, and smeared with gore. Now think about gripping that greasy, gory handle and defending yourself with it. Anything with an edge that gets used at all will get nicks in the blade, and any blade will dull after even the most careful use. To that end, learn how to truly sharpen a knife. Have the right oils, stones, files, and stropping tools on hand – lots of them. Contrary to popular belief, it takes a lot of practice and skill to learn how to do it right, but once you do, you can not only keep your edged weapons sharp, but can actually create an edged weapon out of almost any sufficiently-shaped piece of metal.

So let's sum it all up here, and hopefully, you get the idea by now – you have two things to help make your prepping complete: One, get in the habit of cleaning your weapons every time you use them, and periodically if you don't use them. No exceptions, no excuses. Two, make sure you have enough bits, bobs, and supplies in your stores to help keep those weapons clean (and maintained) for at least 2-to-3 years (or more!) beyond the point where civilization goes splat.

Do this, do it faithfully, and you will find yourself leagues ahead of the prepper crowd. You will be better able to survive. You will be able to hold out long after the wannabe commando types got killed off due to their own jammed, dull, dirty, and broken weapons. That is, long-neglected weapons which failed them at the wrong time: precisely when they were needed the most.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

While we are all preparing for something most of us are not financially secure there for we must stretch our Dollars as long as we have them as a form of currency. 

Here in falls the concept of reloading your own ammunition.  Because face it we need to practice and we need to store for when the supply runs out.  Let’s start by doing a little math, Ammo 9mm Luger Winchester USA 115 Grain FMJ 1190 fps 100 Round Box $21.11 x 10 = $211.10 bought online.  Now let’s order the individual component parts online and see how much we save Winchester Bulk Bullets 9mm 115 grain FMJRN = $105.10, Winchester Small Pistol Primers 1,000 = $29.95, Powder 1 pound about $20.00, Winchester Bulk Brass 9mm = $176.30.  Ok total to load your own 1000 rounds of 115 Grain FMJ = $331.35 now you’re saying to yourself that’s $120.25 more than if I just bought it already loaded there’s no savings to heck with this idea right?  Wrong!  Take a look around next time you go to the range or your favorite outdoor shooting spot how much 9mm brass is just laying around.  LOTS and LOTS all you have to do is pick it up, and as for the powder on average you can load 1200 to 1400 rounds of ammo with just 1 pound.  Hmmm, so let’s take just the price of brass $176.30 out of the equation that will leave us with a grand total of $155.05 for 1,000 rounds of loaded ammo that is a savings of $56.05 or roughly 27%.  Greater savings can be had by buying plated and lead bullets. (If you shoot a handgun with a Polygonal rifling such as a Glock DO NOT USE unjacketed lead bullets!)

I think if you have made it this far into the article you are now saying to yourself but the equipment is expensive.  This statement is true for the most part however there are many different manufactures to choose from thus making it a matter of figuring out how fast you want to load your 1000 rounds.  You can get a RCBS ROCK CHUCKER SUPREME PRESS you will need to buy Dies (single stage) for MSRP $ 202.95, or a Lee Breech Lock Challenger Press you will need to buy Dies (single stage) for MSRP $94.00 or a Lee PRO 1000 9MM LUGER (progressive press includes Dies) for MSRP $254.00. Another option is the Dillon Square Deal 'B' (progressive press includes Dies will not load Rifle ammo) for MSRP $379.95 or the Dillon RL550B you will need to buy Dies (progressive press loads Rifle ammo) for MSRP $439.95.  I can go on and find all the presses that are available and put prices in here but then I might as well just open a store and sell the stuff too. (Note to self, find investor open store)  Ok do some more research on your own talk to friends other people at the range find out what they like and WHY.  Before we get too much further I am not employed by nor do I receive any kickbacks from any of the above mentioned Manufactures, however I was at one time employed by Dillon Precision.  Yes I do like there products I have used them for over 10 years and the Lifetime "No-B.S." Warranty is great!  Links to some key manufacturers mentioned are listed at the bottom of this article.

You will need to buy Reloading Dies for most of the machines listed.  The Dies range in price from about $29.95 to $63.95 depending on which company you go with.  If you by a Lee reloader and Dillon Dies you may need to buy 1 more Die for the system to work correctly and yet if you buy a Dillon machine and Lee Dies you may not use 1 of the Dies. My strong recommendation is to use Dies made by the same company that made your Reloader.

Most of the companies also have some sort of case prep Deals (i.e. Starter Kits) these kits should include a Scale that weighs in Grains (the industry standard unit of measure), a case tumbler (the thing that cleans the brass), media (the actual cleaning material), a bottle of polish (so the brass is shiny again), a set of dial calipers (used to measure the dimensions throughout the loading process), and a Reloading manual (this is where we find all the data needed to make SAFE ammo).  On a side note your-cousins-sisters-boyfriend once used X amount of powder Y on a ### grain bullet will cause you to BLOW UP your GUN, HAND, FACE, and other things you DO NOT want to BLOW UP!!!  If someone gives you a recipe for a load look it up in a RELOADING manual before ever trying.  Your Best friend in reloading is your RELOADING Manuel get lots of them cross reference them with each other if it’s not in a book DO NOT TRY IT!!  Most powder manufactures put out FREE manuals every year or so. BUY multiple Manuals from different manufactures they are worth it, lots of research has gone into them so you will not hurt yourself.

Your initial investment will be around $1,000 for one caliber this is a lot of money.  However if money is no longer good for anything other than fire starter then having it will do you no good. Invest in Heavy Metals (lead) keep a comfortable amount on hand.  Set a minimum and maximum number of loaded rounds that you want to keep on hand then set a minimum number of projectiles, primers, and pounds of powder that you want as your supply.  Remember that powder and primers are the only parts of the ammo that may go bad if not stored properly or for too long.  Powder should be bought and rotated often if you buy 2 pounds every time you stock up use 1 from your old supply and put the 2 new ones into your reserve.  Then the next time you buy powder use the ones on the shelf to load and put the new ones in their place on the shelf.  This practice is much like rotating your stored food. 

Loading rifle ammo is a little more complex than handgun ammo but the primary principles are the same with a few added steps.  Rifle brass has to be identified as boxer or Berdan primed, brass cased or steal case.  The Berdan cases have two off-center flash holes and are difficult to de-prime because of this without special Berdan tools and very time consuming.  I have heard of steel cases being reloaded however I strongly recommend against it due to the case being more rigid than brass and possibly having unseen cracks that would cause a catastrophic failure.

The principal steps of reloading handgun ammo.  You will start by acquiring your brass, and then separate it by caliber.  The next step in the process is to clean and polish it this is accomplished by using a tumbler and a medium such as crushed corn cob or crushed walnut shells and adding in a polishing compound.  The polishing compound is not necessary but it does make the brass look almost new again.  Step number three is to separate the media from the brass.  In step four you will start the transformation from fired case to loaded ammo by sizing the brass using hopefully a carbide re-sizer for the appropriate caliber being loaded.  If not you will have to lubricate the brass before sizing.  In step five you will be flaring the case mouth, this makes it easier to insert and seat the projectile.  Step six is adding the proper amount of gun powder for the chosen load.  Be very careful to not over or under charge the load this too can cause a catastrophic failure.  In step seven you will be placing the projectile in to the top of the case so that the properly adjusted bullet seating Die will press the projectile into the case.  Step eight is to crimp the brass and remove the bell from the case mouth, so that the bullet will be held securely.  This will keep the projectile from being pushed back into the case in a semi-automatic handgun or shaken loose in a revolver.  Step nine in this process is to use your micrometer to check the overall dimensions of the loaded round.  The best part of this process is finally here you’ve made several small batches with different powder weights.  You’ve placed them in separate containers and labeled them accordingly, you now need your reloading log book (this is just a notebook that you keep) with the load data entered onto different pages the only thing missing is in the results section.  Now it’s time to go to the range and find out which batch works best in your gun or guns. Don’t forget to enter your results!

The difference between rifle and handgun ammo reloading comes at the beginning of the case preparation.  Rifle brass will need to be measured prior to loading if it is too long you will need to trim it to within the specifications listed in your loading manual.

The reason to reload is so you will be able to resupply yourself and your group with quality low cost ammunition for training and during a SHTF scenario the ability to stay in the fight.

I hope this article has given something to think about and give you another option for procuring one of the three primary supply that are needed in TEOTWAWKI: Beans, Bullets, and Band-Aids you can never have enough.  As always stay alert and Prepare for the Worst and Pray for the Best.

Online Vendor Resources:

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dear Mr Rawles,
I've been reading your archives. I loved the December, 2011 SurvivalBlog article titled Barter, Post-TEOTWAWKI: The Micro Store. This one is a natural for me.  One way that I have been collecting barterable items is at yard/garage/estate sales.  Estate sales in particular are excellent for the micro store collection.  You hit the kitchen area and get current food items for your own stores and then the bathroom for bandages and sample size items such as soap, shampoo, shaving gel, toothpaste and so forth.  I’m not talking about items used but items never opened; I have even found various supplements also never opened.  I told my sister the nurse that if TSHTF I have a small hospital for her.  Leg brace boots are also really very cheap and can come in very handy.  

One item I have seen a ton of is sewing supply; I am partial to those heavy duty needle packs that are bound to come in handy for patching up heavier gear, am looking for upholstery thread that would go well with those kits, or dental floss can used if needed.  As far as cigarettes, I can get those at half the cost from Indian tribe stores, I have placed individual packs in Seal-a-Meal bags and vacuum packed them and placed them in the freezer, also did that with cigars I picked up at a yard sale.  I don’t smoke but know that if a smoker is desperate enough, anything will do 

Another item that I think is very handy are those small pouches of seasonings, they have become quite expensive at a grocery store, up to $1.89 each. At estate and garage sales I pay a quarter or less for them. If you have potatoes, pasta or rice, one packet of flavoring will go a long way.  I do plan to get some of those little bottles of liquor that are sold on air flights, those are an excellent idea.  Going on to the garage area is great for fishing gear and tools.  I have come home with prepper items along with a few collectibles to sell on eBay.  The profit from what I sell on eBay covers the cost of my prepper item purchases. 

I was curious however, about my plan to move from Washington to Idaho. When I do find a small town to live in, wouldn’t those people already be prepper-minded thus making a micro store a moot point?  Just wondering.  My husband said we could just set up shop to an area that was not prepper-minded and sell/barter there.

Keep up this wonderful work and call me, - Prepper on the cheap.
JWR Replies: Don't worry about the lack of a barter market in a region with more predominant preparedness and self-sufficiency. Even there, you will find plenty of people that are not well prepared, or those who have overlooked some items that they will need. The sure bets will be expendable items like soap, tape, detergent, lubricants (especially two-stroke fuel-mixing oil), common caliber ammunition, salt, seeds, various liquid fuels, adhesives, batteries, flat earth tone camouflaging paints, and so forth.

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!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I got myself into prepping and survivalism after the turn of the century, so my main resource was the Internet. That in and of itself was a whole learning process, as well -- but the scope of this article will focus on what appeared to be an amazing find in that great, infinite Google. $80 for an accurate, reliable, rugged bolt-action repeater that was on-par with a .30-06, ballistically... and had dirt-cheap ammo, to boot? There had to be a catch, and oh, how the forum-goers toting $5,000 AR setups assured me (and plenty of people in similar metaphorical boats) that it couldn't hit the broad side of a barn (from the inside), it blew up, all the bolts stuck, the triggers were horrible and couldn't be fixed, and the corrosive ammo wasn't worth the trouble.

Boy, how I learned how wrong they were. Though I've had a fascination with the rifles for quite some time, I ended up acquiring other weapons first, as fate would have it. However, I've since gotten my own example, and no longer have to bother friends or roommates to get a chance to toy around with one (although an acquaintance at gunsmithing school had a beautiful 91/30 he'd refinished the wood on, himself).

My rifle is a round receiver Tula, 91/30. I was lucky enough to get one with an excellent bore, bolt, and all the accessories (oiler, tools in cloth wrap, sling, bayonet and two ammo pouches), while paying only $90 in-person. $80 online is still a perfectly fair price, even after transfer and shipping -- though I would advise anyone purchasing multiple specimens, or other qualifying weapons, to consider a Curio and Relic license, if that is in your interest.

The rifle's main detriment that I've determined thus far? The sights. They're not bad -- though I'm biased, and apparently an abnormality when it comes to American shooters raised with traditional American guns, for the most part. However, the majority of my open-sight shooting since adulthood has been with an AK variant, which has very similar sights, anyway. That doesn't change what they are, though; crude, dark, and on some guns, not even adjustable to make your point-of-aim the same as point-of-impact. A $5 part fixes this, and I suspect that the better quality sample you acquire, the less likely the phenomenon is. If you're new to Russian sights, try to remember that it's something you get used to. There's nothing directly 'wrong' with them; they're not always as precise, and they're just different.

In the course of my life to date, I've fired three Mosins, including my own. They have all been 91/30s, and I have never seen any of them malfunction, not that bolt actions are particularly susceptible. A common story I found online, initially, had me worried about 'sticky bolt.' Don't believe everything you read, though; degreasing the gun (with one of a variety of methods, or multiple, ideally) will eliminate this problem nine out of ten times. My rifle's action is as smooth as my Mauser. Sticky bolt happens when cosmoline is not completely removed from the gun, and subsequently heats up and turns to a very sticky, unfavorable substance. Removing it is slightly harder after that happens, but still easy, in any case. Make sure you remove all cosmoline before shooting your rifle at all. While it won't wreck the gun, it's just not a good idea to let it build up.

Another problem mentioned for the guns is the relative difficulty of mounting a scope. A traditional job can be done to flop the bolt handle and fandagle a mount like the sniper Mosin variants had, and while those are fine, they are not my recommendation. The Brass Stacker mount goes over the rear sight, solidly locks, and allows a scout-style scope to be mounted -- my choice being a Simmons Prohunter in fixed 4x power. The mount is superior to similar ones not only in quality, but in that it allows the rifle's iron sights to stay on the rifle, unchanged. Any weapon you have for real-world use should have iron sights, even if it also has an optic. Right now, that translates to being able to keep hunting if your scope malfunctions; post-SHTF, that could mean still making accurate hits instead of area-effect fire after an optic goes down. Regardless, a scope is not necessary with these weapons; [the Finnish army marksman] Simo Hayha demonstrated that well enough. My strategy thus far is going to be to scope two rifles (for me and my lady-friend), and keep the rest with iron sights, mainly as backup and hand-out weapons.

If you've never shot a Mosin, and you get an opportunity to, accuracy test it and you'll be surprised. Obviously, surplus ammo is less accurate than current-manufacture, but a scoped 91/30 will absolutely keep up with other surplus rifles. I wouldn't feel under-gunned shooting it against a Mauser, assuming it wasn't sporterized. If you picked a good rifle and use good ammunition, 1 MOA isn't uncommon with quality optics. Iron sights, expect whatever your proficiency level is; my rifle outshoots me, and I'm not a terrible shot, by any means.

One unfortunate thing that is true of Mosins is that the stripper clips suck. No bones to pick about this one; rimmed casings make them awkward. Some are completely unusable, others just difficult, but they're nothing I'd ever trust my life to. Furthermore, they're expensive! While SKS stripper clips are cents a piece, Mosin ones can be as much as $3-5 per clip! For an $80 rifle, that's not worth it, to me -- but they're unreliable, either way, and I thusly recommend sticking to hand-loading [the internal magazine on] these [with individual cartridges]. For what they are, if you're doing everything correctly, an absolute speed-reload shouldn't be as necessary as with other weapons. Make your shots count and learn to load by hand as quickly as possible.

Getting a Mosin quickly teaches you about corrosive ammo. I'm still learning, on that account, but the method I've been using is to disassemble the gun, spray the metal parts down with Windex to soak, and then let more Windex flow through the bore. Apparently, the ammonia is thought to be good for removing corrosive salts, but I can't attest to that. Some people use hot water to the same effect, and I wouldn't feel uncomfortable doing so. In any case, after your corrosion-cleaner of choice, clean the rifle as normal -- though, thoroughly, especially if you don't shoot often or are going to store the rifle for any length of time. Better safe than sorry. Surplus ammo has acceptable, although certainly not outstanding accuracy. Don't be afraid of corrosive ammunition if it's your first experience with it. Again, it's just different; take care of the gun and it'll take care of you.

While the rifles aren't light, they're very well-balanced. A fiberglass stock would help, but again, I don't recommend getting that simply because of the price. Recoil is stiff, but not overly so. If you've fired a .30-06 in a similar configuration, a 91/30 is nothing new. Carbine variants will blow your hat off and singe your hair, though. While they're very cool, I find the longer rifle makes more sense because of the role I'll be describing for it to fill -- and again, because it's much less expensive than its smaller cousins.

With all of this being said, what is a Mosin, to a prepper? I have to preface by making it clear that I understand there are better alternatives, but it needs to be said that there is not a better value in a centerfire survival weapon, especially to a newcomer into survivalism. A Mosin is a budget marksman's rifle, or sniper rifle if outfitted properly. For under a hundred dollars, you have a full-power centerfire rifle with inexpensive ammunition that can take down game animals, and easily incapacitate any threats -- and better yet, at range. While a 12 gauge shotgun can be similarly inexpensive if a good deal is found (and I recommend a Remington 870 per person in your group's arsenal), a Mosin allows you to effectively neutralize threats at a greater distance, with greater accuracy, and significantly less expensive ammo.

Ambush is the prepper's friend. Guns-blazing shootouts are not what you want, whether it's a roving band of outlaws, or coalition forces you're having to deal with. In most situations, distance is preferable, and this also allows greater use of stealth and camouflage, and potentially using the landscape to your team's advantage, as well. Ground forces fear snipers, and deploying snipers effectively makes for an insane force multiplier. An $80 rifle and a little training will take you a lot farther than a spendy AR and no experience.

While I have to encourage everyone to find the autoloading carbine of your choice (I recommend the AK most of all, though I prefer the FAL, excepting its price tag), remember that the longest-serving rifle in history isn't obsolete just yet. They make great gifts and backup weapons, and are easy to encourage new preppers to invest in. Inexpensive, reliable, accurate, and fun as Heck to shoot. If you're new to shooting, get one and practice on the cheap. If you're seasoned, get a few and hide them away -- along with a few spam cans of ammo, of course.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


To follow up on M.B.'s article: I use the 12" Tramontina machete all the time.  Using a hacksaw to make it more pointed, I dropped the point 7/16" and put a 1 3/4" long false edge on top with a 1/8" wide bevel, and this shortened the blade to about 11 3/8." It was easy to get the top edge perfectly straight with a file. This drop point makes it an effective stabber without weakening the blade.  

The cutting edge was sharpened with a double cut bastard file, then a single cut smooth file to put a 1/8" bevel on both sides of the blade. The edge is finished with a Big John Super Stick Ceramic Sharpening Rod  ($6.49) from This ceramic sharpener is roughly the size of the machete, and it's great for sharpening tools and large blades. The Tennessee Big Stick Ceramic Sharpening Rod  ($1.99) is thinner but also a good size.  Great values and good stocking presents for Christmas.

I'm lucky to have a nice sheath from a Meyerco Combination Axe Machete ($26.99) that had its edge break.  I use the Tramontina knife all the time as a large box cutter to cut cardboard. It's plenty sharp and holds an edge well, and it sharpens easily.  They are available for about $5.

Sincerely, - Hardy Citrus

Friday, April 27, 2012

The purchase of good-quality knives for long-term use can be a huge challenge for preppers. Buying a knife is a lot like hiring a lawyer: when you ask how much a good one will cost, the answer you get is often, "How much would you like to spend?"

A good knife for general usage often starts at $80 to $100, and prices can quickly escalate into the hundreds of dollars. Knife aficionados on the online forums often speak of spending several hundred dollars for the "perfect" survival/tactical/combat knife from a famous custom maker. To collectors and to some users, this is a reasonable price, but many of us on a tight budget can see better uses for such a sum of money. For one thing, we want every adult in our family or survival group to have one or more good, dependable knives. Additionally, anyone who has used knives in the outdoors knows that no single knife can do everything -- we often need a few knives to properly address the large and small jobs that require a knife or other cutting tool. Most of the knives discussed in this article have a maximum price of $25. Many knives in this price range are simply junk, but there are exceptions, some of which are described here. I have personal experience with all of these knives, unless otherwise stated. I've owned them, used them and learned some of their strengths and weaknesses. They come from a variety of places, but none are made in China.

Let's start by looking at what many of us consider to be the essentials, in terms of knives. Rather than looking for a single, "perfect" knife, some of us try to select a knife "kit" for each adult, to better handle a variety of tasks.


My approach to the knife kit is to obtain one large, fixed blade knife for general use and big tasks, one medium-sized fixed blade or strong folder for general utility, and a multitool or multiple blade pocket knife for small jobs and for tasks requiring special tools, such as scissors, a screwdriver, a can opener, etc. My personal kit consists of three tools: (1) a 12-inch Tramontina machete, (2) either a custom knife I made from a Frosts of Sweden "Mora" knife or a Svord Peasant folder, and (3) either a Leatherman Tool or a Swiss Army "Recruit" pocket knife. I find that these knives allow me to tackle any of the tasks that are appropriate for a knife. My entire kit (with the Swiss Army knife and the Svord Peasant Knife) can be purchased for well under $75.


There is some truth in the old adage: "You get what you pay for." The companies selling high-quality knives for low prices have to make compromises to do so. Generally, this means that most of the money and effort goes into the blade. That's good, because the blade governs much of the knife's capabilities. It is possible for a budget-minded user to address shortcomings in handles and/or sheaths with a few basic tools and a little bit of time. Don't expect Kydex sheaths or exotic handle materials in the low price range. In some cases (most machetes), no sheath will be included, and you may need to make your own or to have one made. Other sheaths may be suitable for carry in a pack, but not on a belt, again requiring the user to make or buy their own sheath if that is not acceptable. Handles may require some sanding or other finish work for best comfort and performance.

Most knives in this price range have thin blades. This is not necessarily a huge disadvantage. Many of the knives carried by mountain men and those who followed to settle the western United States had thin blades. In general, thin blades take a fierce edge with less effort than a thicker blade, and they slice well. A thin-bladed knife is often a good choice for dressing wild game or for preparing food.

Thin does not always mean weak. Machetes are usually thin, yet they are tough and springy. Some small, thin knives can be tougher than you may expect. Some thin-bladed sheath knives can be "batonned" -- pounded on the spine with a heavy stick -- to cut down small trees or to cut larger pieces of wood in a pinch. This is abuse, but some knives -- especially many of the Mora fixed blade knives -- seem to tolerate it without damage. Thin-bladed knives are usually lighter and easier to carry than thicker knives. This is a big factor in a knife chosen to go in a G.O.O.D. bag. Conversely, some thick knives are poor slicers and are heavy enough to feel clumsy for almost any task other than chopping.

Sheaths for smaller knives can be made by the prepper, with either leather or Kydex plastic. Kydex has the advantage of being weatherproof. It is also possible to heat it and form it to make a sheath that holds the knife in place without any straps or keepers. For a very inexpensive sheath -- especially for larger blades, such as machetes -- the plastic in trash cans for home use is very good. It can be cut, drilled and riveted, much like leather, but it's very weather resistant and long-lasting. Trash can plastic is less expensive than either leather or Kydex, yet it can be made into an excellent sheath.


Low-cost "Mora" knives from Sweden are very popular with outdoor people, especially in recent years. These fixed blade knives come in a wide variety of styles, in both stainless and carbon steel. Handles can be wood or plastic, and sheaths are almost always made of plastic. The blades tend to be somewhat thin, and the blade grinds are different from what most knife users are accustomed to. Most knives have a primary bevel and a small secondary bevel that forms the sharpened edge. With Scandinavian knives, there is no secondary bevel. The primary bevel -- which may be about 1/4-inch (about 11mm) wide -- is laid directly on the sharpening stone. The resulting edge can be surprising sharp. Many people who are not fans of knives have trouble correctly sharpening a knife with a traditional secondary bevel. When they buy a Mora and learn the simple sharpening method, it may be the first time that they've owned a really sharp knife.

Mora knives are very low in price: often in the $10-20 range. The traditional Moras, with a simple hardwood handle and carbon steel blade, are among my favorites. Others may prefer a stainless blade and plastic handle for a low-maintenance knife. In any case, the area at the base of the blade should be looked at carefully. Some Moras have a small gap here, where bacteria and/or moisture can get in, under the handle. In these cases, I simply clean the area with alcohol and apply a small amount of a good grade of epoxy, such as JB Weld, to seal off the opening. If the opening extends down into the handle, I use enough epoxy to completely fill it, with the intention of strengthening the knife as well as sealing the handle/blade junction.

Some Moras come with simple but functional sheaths, while others may not be suitable for daily carry. I generally make a simple leather or Kydex sheath (usually Kydex) as a replacement. By the way, Kydex does not require a suite of expensive tools. My "presses" are made from scrap wood and mouse pads, and I assemble the sheaths with regular rivets made for leather, or with pieces of narrow-diameter, soft copper tubing (from the plumbing section of big hardware stores) flared to make eyelets. I've even used pliers to turn large paper clips into heavy-duty "staples" for sheaths.

A good source for Swedish Mora knives is Ragweed Forge. "Ragnar," the owner, offers the best selection of Mora knives I've seen so far, along with information about sharpening. His customer service is very good, and the prices are fair.

The Ahti "Finman" is a Finnish fixed blade knife, It is very similar in design, and in price, to the Mora knives. Ragweed Forge offers one version, with a stainless blade and a green handle and sheath. It needs to have a handle gap -- at the base of the blade -- filled with epoxy, but it is a very practical and useful medium-sized fixed blade knife. The stainless blade and rubberized handle make it a good all-weather tool. I frequently carry mine as a pocket knife -- in casual pants with generous front pockets.

Another Scandinavian brand to consider seriously is Marttiini, from Finland. Many of us are familiar with their "Rapala" line of fillet knives for fishing. My Rapala is very light in weight and the long, narrow, flexible stainless blade takes and holds a very good edge. It came with a traditional wood handle and a superbly practical plastic-lined "dangle" sheath of good leather. A sharp, thin blade is extremely useful for more than fish, and mine has been our only kitchen knife on some of our trips. It served very well in that role. All it needed to make it ready for use was a tiny amount of JB Weld epoxy around the base of the blade, to seal the handle. It cost me under $15: a bargain. I found it in a large sporting goods store.


Opinel folding knives are wonderfully useful. Consisting of little more than a hardwood handle, a blade, a pivot pin, and a rotating collar that locks the blade open, they lock open with authority and are one of the simplest, strongest designs available. The Opinel's blade has a nail nick and the knife requires two hands to open it, like a traditional pocket knife. Because the lock does not engage when the blade opens -- but must be engaged manually -- Opinels may be legal for carry in jurisdictions that ban some "tactical" folders. The blades are flat-ground and are very thin at the edge. As a result, Opinels can be made scary sharp in very little time and are wonderful slicers that hold their edges well. They can be found in a variety of sizes, with either carbon steel or with stainless blades. Although the blades are thin, they are stronger than you might expect and made an excellent choice for a daily-carry pocket knife. Opinels are very inexpensive, as well. Smoky Mountain Knife Works carries several Opinel folders, most of which are in our price range.

Cold Steel used to make their own version of the Opinel: the Twistmaster. With a Zytel handle and a "Carbon V" blade, the Cold Steel version was stronger than the French original, although it tended to be a bit thick at the edge and didn't slice quite as well as the Opinel. The Twistmaster corrected the one shortcoming of the Opinel: in wet conditions, the hardwood handle could swell, making the knife very difficult to open. The Zytel handle of the Cold Steel was unaffected by moisture. Both the Opinels and the Twistmasters (if you can find a used one) are recommended as pocket-sized cutting tools, just as long as you don't try to use them as a chopping tool or a pry bar.


Svord Knives in New Zealand makes the Peasant Knife: a folder that has become one of my all-time favorite knives. It's one of the simplest folders available. The knife consists of two post screws, a blade, two handle scales, and one pin. It can be completely dismantled in a few moments for a complete cleaning. The carbon steel blade has a flat grind, similar to that of the Opinel, and its cutting abilities are similar.

There are no springs in a Peasant Knife. It uses a long tang that sticks out of the closed knife and lays along the back of the handle when the knife is open. The user's hand holds the tang in place and keeps the knife from closing. The tang makes the closed knife somewhat longer than most knives in its size class, but I use it to draw the knife out of my pocket. The Svord Peasant Knife is available with wood, plastic or aluminum handle scales. I purchased mine with the plastic handles, and I believe that the plastic handles are the best choice for preppers. They are strong and light and are textured for a good grip. A wide variety of Svord Peasant Knives can be found at Knife Center. All are in our price range.


For a large knife, I chose a Tramontina machete with a hardwood handle and a 12-inch, carbon steel blade. The hardwood handle allowed me to customize the machete to fit my hand better, using a pocket knife and some sandpaper. I use the Tramontina machete more as a large knife than as a small machete. Although the blade is long, it is light and thin enough for the Tramontina to be used in the camp kitchen, and it will slice tomatoes or onions with ease. I sharpen machetes with a small file, and the slightly rough edge from the file seems to stay sharp longer than one would expect from a machete blade with a "spring" temper. Machete Specialists offers the 12-inch Tramontina, with the item number TR26620012.

The Tramontina is too light for a dedicated chopping tool. It could be used to cut poles for a shelter or for a stretcher, but if I expected to use it for chopping, I would choose a 12-inch Ontario machete. Avoid the "economy" version of the Ontario that is sold in some places. The original has a 1/8-inch thick blade and is a much better chopping tool. I was also unhappy with the "D" handle models and strongly prefer the original handle type. The exact Ontario machete that I recommend is sold under item number ONCT1 at Knife Center.

I prefer to use machetes as large knives that can be used to chop, rather than as dedicated choppers. Chopping makes noise that can disturb other campers today; after a crunch, it could attract two-legged predators. A small folding saw is my wood cutter of choice, although a sharp machete can be used to split damp kindling in wet conditions, or to make fuzz sticks. I tend to keep my fires small, and I generally do not need an axe or large chopping tool to prepare and maintain a fire.

A short machete is a fearsome weapon, if needed. The 12-inch Tramontina machete is not a heavy chopper, but it's very quick in the hands and could deliver a much more serious slash than most folding knives or small fixed blades. The edge bevel at the point of the blade needs some work with a file to sharpen it properly. Someone seeking an edged weapon should probably look at the 12-inch Ontario machete. It also needs some attention to the bevel at the point. The Ontario's blade is stiffer and heavier than the Tramontina's blade, and it could be a very effective self-defense weapon at close quarters. Longer machetes, on the other hand, handle more like a sword than a big knife and require more skill and hand/wrist strength to be efficient defensive weapons.


No discussion of bargain knives would be complete without mentioning Swiss Army Knives. Both Victorinox and Wenger offer some basic knives in our price range. One of my favorites is the Victorinox Recruit. It is a Swiss version of the classic Boy Scout pocket knife. It is inexpensive and tremendously useful as a light-duty, multipurpose tool. Another Victorinox knife has a big following: the Farmer. Although it's a little above our price range, it has metal scales instead of red plastic, and it features the wood saw: one of the most useful of Swiss Army tools. Victorinox and Wenger Swiss Army Knives are available from a wide variety of sources.


I find myself keeping one large "chopper" around and using it frequently: the Cold Steel Special Forces Shovel. Many who have served in the military know the value of a small shovel as a general-purpose digging/cutting/hacking tool. I sharpen the edges with a file to make it a more efficient digging tool, capable of chopping through roots or breaking up hard soil. It could also be used to cut wood, in a pinch. The blade would need regular attention to keep it sharp, however. Heavy chopping can also put terrific stress on a shovel handle. If I planned to do a lot of chopping, I would wrap the area where the blade attaches to the handle with some wire, or with epoxy-saturated cord or twine, to reinforce it. This is the weakest part of any shovel. The Special Forces Shovel can be purchased direct from Cold Steel.

My Special Forces Shovel is kept sharp and has a blade cover made from trash can plastic, with two pieces of nylon webbing and snaps to hold the shovel in place. A few holes drilled near the edges of the blade cover allow my Cold Steel shovel to be lashed to the side of my pack for carry.

The Cold Steel SF Shovel can also be a low-profile weapon. A sharpened shovel, spade, or entrenching tool has been used countless times in infantry close-quarters combat. It can slice like a knife or chop like an axe. If used for a while as a shovel, it will show the marks of a tool and will be less suspicious than a brand-new, razor sharp shovel. Mine travels under the radar and has never been questioned. Its scarred handle and well-used blade make it look like what it is: a small, useful shovel.


Choose your tools carefully, and they should serve you well. Don't forget to invest in files, ceramic sticks, sharpening stones, oil, and other accessories needed to keep your cutting tools sharp and in good condition. Carbon steel knives that are used frequently with food can be kept rust-free by drying after use and wiping with any type of cooking oil. Take care of them, and buy a few extras as spares, or as trade goods. Good knives may be hard to come by after a Crunch.

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.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

First of all thank you for running SurvivalBlog as it is has been a valuable source of information. Years ago, you mentioned Zanotti Armor as a high quality gun safe company, I'm glad you did, as I am now a very happy customer! I ordered the ZA-3 6-foot--the largest safe available from the company--and it fits my needs perfectly. It only took two of us to move all the [modular] pieces to the basement and assemble the walls. It required two extra pair of hands to assemble the top and door. I ordered the safe in June and received it in March. The customer service was excellent throughout the whole process and even after the safe arrived. At the beginning when I asked for a quote they steered me in the right direction and even when asked for certain features, such as lighting, they let me know that I could get what I wanted locally and for less money.

After installing the safe I contacted the company to ask what paint I should use on a couple of scratches in the front due to our hurried assembly they sent me a small bottle of touch up paint at no charge. Great safe and a great company. I only have one issue with the safe - it makes my gun collection look small! I guess I'll just have to start filling it up soon! Thanks, - John in Wisconsin

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Much has been written about what particular guns are best for home defense and SHTF, but I haven’t seen much about taking care of these weapons when gunsmiths are not around.  Let’s look at what typically causes firearms to fail. 

As a gunsmith, the main cause of firing malfunctions I see is dirt.  This can be crud built up from dust collecting in oil forming a grease-like substance, or rust, or build-up from burned powder (carbon), or residue from the casings or shells.

The second most encountered problems stem from magazines, or broken or weak springs.  Lost pins or screws, and broken extractors or firing pins tend to be the next [most common] group of failures.

So how do you prepare for these problems?  First, if you don’t have an owner’s manual for your gun, go to the manufacturer’s web site and download one.  It will give you information on proper operation, how to field strip the gun for cleaning, and lubrication instructions.  If it is an older gun, you may be able to find a manual at  The next document you should have is an exploded parts list and instructions on disassembly and assembly of the firearm.  Many of these are also available at 

The next thing you will need is a good cleaning kit.  Be sure you have lots of patches, and extra bore brushes for your particular caliber.  A chamber brush is also helpful.  There are all types of bore cleaner solvents.  Pick your flavor.  Here is a recipe for a great bore cleaner that you can make up yourself.  It was invented by C.E. ''Ed'' Harris. You can always bottle some of it for barter later.  It is the widely-used “Ed’s Red” (ER).   This cleaner has an action very similar to standard military issue rifle bore cleaner, such as Mil-C-372B. Users report it is more effective than Hoppe's for removing plastic fouling in shotgun bores, or caked carbon fouling in semi-automatic rifles or pistols, or in removing leading in revolvers. It is not as effective as Sweets 7.62, Hoppe's Bench Rest Nine or Shooter's Choice for fast removal of heavy copper fouling in rifle bores. However, because "ER" is more effective in removing caked carbon and abrasive primer residues than other cleaners, metal fouling is greatly reduced when "ER" is used on a continuing basis.  It is inexpensive, effective, provides good corrosion protection and adequate residual lubrication so that routine "oiling" after cleaning is rarely necessary, except for long-term storage of over 1 year, or harsh service environments, such as salt water exposure.

CONTENTS: Ed's Red Bore Cleaner
1 part Dexron II, IIe or III Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF), GM Spec. D-20265 or later.
1 part Kerosene - deodorized, K1
1 part Aliphatic Mineral Spirits, Fed. Spec. TT-T-2981F, CAS #64741-49-9, or may substitute "Stoddard Solvent", CAS #8052-41-3, or equivalent, (aka "Varsol")
1 part Acetone, CAS #67-64-1.
(Optional up to 1 lb. of Lanolin, Anhydrous, USP per gallon. It is okay to substitute Lanolin, Modified, Topical Lubricant, from the drug store)


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

Mix outdoors, in good ventilation. Use a clean 1 gallon metal, chemical resistant, heavy gauge PET or PVC plastic container. NFPA approved plastic gasoline storage containers are also okay. Do NOT use a HDPE container, which is permeable, because the acetone will eventually evaporate. The acetone in ER will also attack HDPE, causing the container to collapse, making a big mess!

Add the ATF first. Use the empty ATF container to measure the other components, so that it is thoroughly mixed. If you incorporate the lanolin into the mixture, melt this carefully in a double boiler, taking precautions against fire. Pour the melted lanolin it into a larger container, rinsing the lanolin container with the bore cleaner mix, and stirring until it is all dissolved. Divert a small quantity, up to 4 ounces per quart of the 50-50 ATF/kerosene mix for optional use as an "ER-compatible" gun oil. This can be done without impairing the effectiveness of the remaining mix.

Label with necessary SAFETY WARNINGS: RIFLE BORE CLEANER, CAUTION: FLAMMABLE MIXTURE, HARMFUL OR FATAL IF SWALLOWED. KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN.  Flammable mixture! Keep away from heat, sparks or flame. FIRST AID, If swallowed DO NOT induce vomiting, call physician immediately. In case of eye contact immediately flush thoroughly with water and call a physician. For skin contact wash thoroughly.

The lanolin can be found at better pharmacies like CVS or Walgreens.  Ask the pharmacist, they usually have it in the back, not out on the shelves.

Ed’s Red will not dissolve copper fouling, so have some copper remover solution on hand.  Be aware that the ammonia in the copper remover can damage stock finishes, and will dissolve brass bore brushes.  Have some extra brushes on hand, or use a stainless steel brush.

The next item to have on hand is a quality gun oil.  They are all pretty good.  Note above that you can make your own from ATF/kerosene mix.  If you want to improve on this, add a little lanolin.  The lanolin provides longer term protection, since some of the other ingredients will eventually evaporate.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR USING "Ed's Red (ER)" Bore Cleaner:
Open the firearm action and ensure the bore is clear. Cleaning is most effective when done while the barrel is still warm to the touch from firing. Saturate a cotton patch with bore cleaner, wrap or impale on jag and push it through the bore from breech to muzzle. The patch should be a snug fit. Let the first patch fall off and do not pull it back into the bore.
Wet a second patch, and similarly start it into the bore from the breech, this time scrubbing from the throat area forward in 4-5" strokes and gradually advancing until the patch emerges out the muzzle. Waiting approximately 1 minute to let the bore cleaner soak will improve its action.

For pitted, heavily carbon-fouled guns, leaded revolvers or neglected bores a bronze brush wet with bore cleaner may be used to remove stubborn deposits. This is unnecessary for smooth, target-grade barrels in routine use.

Use a final wet patch pushed straight through the bore to flush out loosened residue dissolved by Ed's Red. Let the patch fall off the jag without pulling it back into the bore. If you are finished firing, leaving the bore wet will protect it from rust for 1 year under average conditions.

If the lanolin is incorporated into the mixture, it will protect the firearm from rust for up to two years. For longer term use Lee Liquid Alox as a Cosmoline substitute. "ER" will readily remove hardened Alox or Cosmoline.
Wipe spilled Ed's Red from exterior surfaces before storing the gun. While Ed's Red is harmless to blue and nickel finishes, the acetone it contains is harmful to most wood finishes.
Before firing again, push two dry patches through the bore and dry the chamber, using a patch wrapped around a suitably sized brush or jag. First shot point of impact usually will not be disturbed by Ed's Red if the bore is cleaned as described. It is always good practice to clean your guns twice, two days a apart whenever using corrosively-primed ammunition, just to make sure you get all the corrosive residue out. [JWR Adds: If in doubt about the priming used in any batch of military surplus ammunition or any ammunition of any description that is made in Eastern Europe or China, clean your guns repeatedly!]

Remember, after cleaning, you can apply a thin layer of oil to protect from rust.  Blued or parkerized finishes will still rust.  But notice, I say “thin”.  Excess oil will attract dirt, and can freeze an action in very cold weather.

Now, for spare parts.  Replacement spring sets are available for most guns, usually for about $10 to $20.  They are inexpensive, and can be purchased from  or   The other items I would recommend are replacement pin kits, a spare firing pin, and a spare extractor.  If you have an odd or old gun, you may be able to find parts from Numrich at  Some guns like an AR-15 have critical spare parts kits available for around $35.  Even if you don’t feel comfortable replacing some of these parts, gunsmiths will be around, and if you have the parts, and diagrams, they can fix it for you.

Recommended tools would include a basic gunsmithing screwdriver set, some pin punches, a plastic faced or rawhide hammer, needle nose pliers, and some sort of vise, with padding for the jaws.  Specialty tools might be a broken shell extractor for your caliber rifle.

Battery powered optical sights are great, but be sure to have spare batteries, and some sort of iron back-up sights in the event they break.  Extra magazines are also essential.

I don’t want to get into specific guns to buy, but I would recommend a “reliable” one.  Cheap or worn-out guns should be replaced now.  You can keep old ones for barter, but don’t rely on them for yourself.  Also, some guns can cycle reliably on any ammo you feed it, while others are very sensitive to different loads and brands.  You may not be able to have the luxury of buying the exact brand that you like in a SHTF situation, so maybe it is time to trade for one that is happy with anything.  Most new guns need at least 500 rounds run through to properly break them in.  Another good reason to practice!

Another good source of information on particular firearms are the gun forums online.  For instance,,,, or You will learn pretty much all that you need to learn from them.  Just remember, as with this and any info you find on the internet, use common sense applying it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The last few years have seen the development of an interesting legal mechanism called the gun trust. Gun trusts use estate planning law to deal with, and in some cases legally circumvent, arcane and restrictive federal laws that regulate the use and possession of certain types of firearms. These federal statutes make up the National Firearms Act (NFA), a series of laws that require registration of guns such as machine guns, short barreled rifles and shotguns, and sound suppressors (aka silencers). They are often referred to as Title 2 weapons because they are regulated under Title 2 of the 1968 Gun Control Act. Many people mistakenly call them Class 3 weapons, but Class 3 refers to the dealers of these weapons, not the weapons themselves.

History of the National Firearms Act

The NFA was passed in 1934 in response to the gang violence of that time. It imposed a tax on certain firearms thought to contribute to the growing "gangster" crime problem, including machine guns, short barreled rifles and shotguns, and silencers. In an effort to discourage possession of these types of weapons, individuals were required to register them with the federal government and pay a tax stamp fee of $200. The NFA was amended in 1968 and again in 1986, but its basic provisions remain unchanged: national registration of certain weapons and payment of a $200 tax per weapon, or $5 for devices classified as Any Other Weapon. ("AOWs").

The NFA has strict requirements and carries stiff penalties for violations. Essentially, only a registered owner of an NFA weapon may be in possession of that weapon. Illegal possession of an NFA firearm carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years and/or a fine of up to $250,000. Be forewarned, “possession” can be a relative and arbitrary term in the eyes of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

ATF Requirements

Title 2 weapons must be registered with the ATF through an extensive and lengthy application process. Whether you are purchasing a weapon from a Class 3 dealer or building your own (many people will make their own short barreled rifle out of an existing non-NFA weapon such as an AR-15-style rifle), you must first go through ATF to have it transferred to you. ATF requires that you fill out the appropriate form, affix a two-by-two inch photograph of yourself along with fingerprints, and have the application signed by your local chief law enforcement officer (CLEO) [this is the police chief inside of city limits or the county sheriff if you live outside of city limits.] The $200 must be included, and that is for each weapon. Once the application is approved you will receive notice and the weapon may then be transferred to you. The approval time may take anywhere from three to six months.

The Gun Trust

NFA gun trusts have become popular in recent years as an alternative to individual registration. The central idea behind a gun trust is that the trust itself is the registered owner for NFA purposes, and anyone listed in it as trustee may legally possess the NFA weapons as trust property. There are basically three types of individuals in a gun trust: grantor/settlor, trustee, and beneficiary.

The grantor, or settlor, is the person who sets up the trust. This is usually the individual who wants to register and own Title 2 weapons but also wants other people to be able to use and possess those weapons. The grantor will submit the application to ATF but instead of registering the weapon in their name, he or she will list the trust as the owner. Trustees are individuals who, along with the grantor, will hold the trust property for the beneficiary. Trustees may legally possess NFA weapons in the trust even though they are not listed on the application. Trustees must be at least 18 years old (federal law prohibits anyone under 18 from possessing NFA weapons, and anyone under 21 from purchasing NFA weapons from a Class 3 dealer) and not be otherwise prohibited from possessing firearms. Finally, the beneficiary is the individual who receives the trust property upon the death of the grantor. The grantor can list as many beneficiaries as he or she likes, and there is no age requirement under federal law to be a beneficiary. Thus minor children can be named beneficiaries, and should the grantor die before the beneficiary is of age to take possession a trustee can be designated to hold onto the trust property.

Advantages of a Gun Trust

Gun trusts can be set up to be very flexible. Most are established as a revocable trust, which means it can be changed by the grantor during his or her life. When the grantor dies the trust becomes irrevocable, and changes can no longer be made. With a revocable trust, the grantor may add or subtract individuals or weapons to and from the trust as necessary.

Another advantage is that a trust allows the grantor to legally bypass many ATF application requirements. Fingerprints, photographs, and CLEO signature are not required. Not only can this speed up the process, but it’s nice to be able to tell the government, “No, I don’t have to give you that information.”

Sometimes people will ask about setting up a corporation as the registered owner, but I think trusts are better. Trusts are generally private and do not require public filing (this may not be the case in every state so you should check with a local attorney on this). Corporations are public, do require filing, and also require annual maintenance fees and taxes. For these reasons, trusts are a better way to go.

Should I go the gun trust route?

It depends on your situation, but generally I recommend yes. The trust will be in effect for your life and longer, and with the strict laws that govern NFA weapons it is reassuring to know that you can plan for the distribution of the trust property. For instance, gun trusts are usually good for families. A husband can name his wife, and perhaps other close relatives, as trustees, and his children as beneficiaries. It really just depends on your situation and your long-term goals.

It also depends on where you live, and here I must include the obligatory disclaimer: NFA weapons are not legal in every state. If you are considering getting into the world of Title 2 guns, then please check your state laws. All the information I have given you in this article is based on federal law, but state law applies too and that may differ. I suggest contacting a gun trust attorney in your state to discuss your options.

Patrick Stegall is a Memphis, Tennessee lawyer. Part of his practice is concentrated on drafting NFA gun trusts for individuals and families in Tennessee. For more information please visit him online at Tennessee Gun Trust Lawyer, or e-mail him at

Sunday, February 12, 2012

J.S. did a pretty good review of multi caliber weapons ("Introduction to Multi-Caliber Guns by J.S.") but he forgot the time honored Thompson-Center (T-C) Encore and Contender, now owned by Smith and Wesson single-shot firearms.  
The Encore and Contender firearm lines not only allow changing barrels but to convert from pistol to rifle and back again by not only switching barrels but stocks, forearms and grips.  Encores are the larger frame and can handle almost any cartridge that you can.  You can buy barrels from 12 gauge to sub-caliber Hornet based wildcats and with either an offset barrel or a modified firing pin assembly even .22 LR, Long or Short.  There are also muzzleloading barrels in several calibers made for them.  
The Contender now being sold in the G2 version is a smaller frame than the Encore that switches between rim and centerfire cartridges with the flip of a lever on the hammer.  Earlier Contenders are not as strong as the G2 version and need to be checked for stretched frames if bought used.  The contender is a 20 gauge and smaller firearm with many common rifle and pistol rounds chambered in the many barrels that have been made for it.  Barrels are interchangeable between Contender and G2 Contender frames but not between the Contender and the Encore frames.   
T-C has just introduced a new multi cartridge rifle that is a magazine-fed bolt action repeater with a three-round magazine called the Dimension that has interchangeable barrels, magazines and bolts from .204 Ruger to .300 Winchester Magnum.  It is an interesting firearm that fills some needs. - Lowell K.

Captain Rawles,
I just wanted to add to the very well thought out and well-written article, Introduction to Multi-Caliber Guns by J.S. 

He mentions that the .454 Casull can also handle .45 Colt, the new Smith and Wesson .460 S&W Magnum revolver will fire .460 S&W Magnum as well as the .454 Casull and .45 Colt cartridges.   That gives you three options if you were considering a large bore revolver.
Keep up the good fight. Thank you - Brad M.

Friday, February 10, 2012

There have been dozens of articles on survival firearms on SurvivalBlog, and many of them focus on the “bare minimum” and/or doing the most with the fewest firearms.  None of us wants to fall into the trap of over-emphasizing firearms at the expense of food, water, arable land, and other supplies for balanced preparation.  We all know of “that guy” with 100 guns and a case of MREs who considers himself prepared for anything.  This is especially important when you’re looking to bug out WTSHTF; it’s very difficult to reconcile leaving firearms behind and, say, 50 long guns + 50 handguns + ammo & accessories can easily fill a truck all by themselves.

I wanted to focus on firearms that can either fire multiple calibers without modification or with fairly minor modification --- no unscrewing of barrels with special spanner wrenches, etc.  There are two purposes behind multi-caliber guns (or MCGs) for the prepper:  to increase the flexibility of the firearm to use found or bartered ammo, and to increase the utility of the firearm (reduced recoil, hunting a larger variety of animals, etc).  The big reason behind most of these for the non-prepper is cost of shooting, which is related to the prepper concern of cost of stockpiling.

I am splitting MCGs into two categories, those that require no modification and those that do.  Some of these are basic knowledge to old hat gun nuts, but talk to any gun store employee and they will tell you there is no such thing as “common knowledge” when it comes to guns.

If I get anything wrong please let me know!  I’ve shot plenty of these but far from all, a lot of this is research.  If in doubt, read the manual that comes with the gun, manufacturers are getting quite savvy at covering their butts with warnings against cartridges that will chamber but aren’t meant for the gun.

MCGs not requiring modification:

Most MCGs that don’t require modification to shoot multiple calibers typically just fire cartridges of the same bore diameter but differing power.  Less powerful cartridges are often cheaper and put far less stress on the weapon (increased longevity).  I list the longest cartridge first.

.22 Long Rifle (LR) / .22 Long / .22 Short:  Nearly all revolvers and tube-fed, non semi-auto (bolt, level, pump) rifles that fire .22 Long Rifle will fire their older, weaker .22 Long and .22 Short cartridges just fine.  Semi autos designed for the .22 LR won’t cycle these weaker cartridges but can be used as a single shot.  The utility is questionable as .22 Long and .22 Short are much, much less common than .22 LR.  .22 Short is fine for pest control in built-up areas but in a true grid-down SHTF scenario I think subsonic .22 LR will be much, much more useful.  Also, the shorter cased .22 Long and .22 Short can build up lead in the chamber (making shooting .22 LR difficult until cleaned) and worse, with continued use can fire-cut the chamber directly in front of the case and ruin it for .22 LR shooting.

***I am not aware of a single firearm that can safely and accurately shoot .22 LR and .22 Magnum (also called .22 WMR) without modification due to the wider case of the .22 Magnum.  .22 Magnum won’t chamber in a .22 LR gun, and while .22 LR will slip just fine into a .22 Magnum chamber, it will cause split cases, jammed cylinders, and other problems.  There are a number of revolvers that can shoot both with a cylinder change that I’ll dig into later in the article.

.357 Magnum / .38 Special:  Probably the most common MCG combination.  Any .357 Magnum revolver and lever / pump action rifle will fire .38 Special.  Both are extremely common.  From a prepper standpoint, I believe one should always get a .357 Magnum versus a .38 Special gun, it’s going to be built much stronger, fires both rounds, and will be just a fraction heavier / larger.  Most .357 Magnum semi autos will not cycle with .38 Specials.  The newer Coonan Arms .357 Magnum pistols are built to use .38 Specials with a special weaker recoil spring.

The most unique variant of the .357 Magnum MCG is definitely the Phillips & Rodgers Model 47 Medusa revolver.  These were low-production in the late 1990s and are exceedingly hard to find and expensive when you do run across one.  They were designed to fire just about any non-bottlenecked pistol bullet (rimmed or not) in the .355-.357 bullet diameter range.  This is 25+ cartridges and includes the .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .380, 9x19mm, .38 Super, etc.  They are still in use by the Navy SEALs as they can be fired underwater.  I consider this the ultimate long-term SHTF centerfire handgun, although parts are hard to stock up and a single gun might run you $1500 or more.

.44 Magnum / .44 Special:  Pretty much the same dynamic as the .357 Magnum / .38 Special, although .44 Special isn’t very common and not a discount from “Wal-Mart” .44 Magnum for the shooter/stockpiler.  .44 Special is much more tolerable and easy to shoot than full-bore .44 Magnum loads if you’re considering how to arm your less gun-savvy or smaller-statured friends WTSHTF.  The only .44 Magnum semi-auto pistol I’m aware of, the Desert Eagle, won’t cycle .44 Special.

.327 Magnum / .32 H&R Magnum / .32 S&W Long revolvers:  The new .327 Magnum will fire all three while the .32 H&R Magnum can also fire the .32 S&W Long.  None are very common, the main selling point of the .327 Magnum is that the guns typically hold 6 cartridges versus a snub nose .38 Special or .357 Magnum that holds 5.  Not much SHTF utility here.

.410 bore / .454 Casull / .45 Colt:  There has been a recent crop of .45 Colt revolvers that can also fire .410 bore shotgun shells (Taurus / Rossi Judge series, S&W Governor, etc).  I’ve had the pleasure of shooting an early Judge and think it’s a great pest control gun but fail to see the utility in it WTSHTF.  Perhaps more useful are .454 Casull / .45 Colt revolvers as the .454 can be used on medium to large game along with predator protection while the .45 Colt is a better fit for self defense against two legged varmints.  If you’re convinced you need a shotgun revolver, get a S&W Governor as it will fire .45 ACP as well, kind of a poor man’s Medusa in .45.  The Taurus Raging Judge will fire .410, .454, and .45 Colt but is a big handgun and weighs more than 4 pounds, empty!

While any .454 Casull will fire .45 Colt, don’t try .454 Casull or .45 Colt in any .410 bore shotgun unless it explicitly calls for it.  A good rule is any smoothbore .410 shotgun is only designed for .410 shotgun shells; you’re not going to hit anything smaller than a bus with a .45 Colt out of a smoothbore, and a .454 Casull round just might blow your gun/face up. (It has five times the maximum pressure of a .410 shotgun shell).

MCGs requiring modification:

The sky is the limit with MCGs that require some modification to shoot additional calibers.  New cylinders, barrels, upper receivers, etc turn one firearm into two or more.

.22 Long Rifle conversion kits for semi-auto pistols and rifles:  This is such a great concept that nearly every popular centerfire pistol and rifle has a conversion kit.  Originally popular with military forces for cheap target practice, this has bled over into the civilian shooting community that likes cheap practice too.  For the prepper, this allows one to use one gun for defense / big game hunting and quickly convert to hunt small game.  Also, one can easily and inexpensively stockpile tens of thousands of .22 LR, in a long term SHTF scenario you can keep your guns running longer.  I’d sure rather have a Model 1911 in .22LR versus a butcher knife spear for example.  Below I have listed some common guns that have kits available.

ARs chambered for 5.56x45mm / .223
Mini-14s chambered for 5.56x45mm / .223
AKs chambered for 7.62x39mm
FAL and clones
G3/HK91 and clones
HK93/33 and clones
Beretta/Taurus 92-style pistols
Browning Hi-Power
SIG-Sauer P series
CZ-75 series

.22 Long Rifle / .22 Magnum switch-cylinder revolvers:  These are revolvers that will shoot both calibers with a simple spare cylinder.  The most common is the well-made Ruger Single Six Convertible.  Harrington & Richardson makes a cheaper knockoff that lacks the transfer bar safety and polish of the Ruger.  Great utility to use two very common cartridges.

.357 Magnum or .38 Special / 9x19mm switch-cylinder revolvers:  Perhaps less well known are the switch cylinder .357 Magnums to fire 9x19mm (although more common in Europe).  Ruger makes a convertible Blackhawk single action.

.45 Colt / .45 ACP switch-cylinder revolvers:  Ruger also makes a Blackhawk convertible for these two calibers.

Rossi Wizard Series:  A couple of years ago Rossi came out with a line of single shot long guns that, with a barrel change, could convert to a large selection of rimfire, centerfire, muzzleloader, and shotgun cartridges.  Now one rifle could be an inexpensive .22 LR, a deer-slaying .30-06, a muzzleloader for that hunting season, and a 12g shotgun for birds --- or anything in between.  Of course, the drawback is it’s a single shot, but the utility is hard to ignore, especially the youth models.  Find out what the most popular calibers are in your area and get a Wizard with those barrels just in case.

7.62x25mm Tokarev / 9x19mm switch-barrel conversions:  Although they can be tough to find, most pistols in 7.62x25mm like the CZ-52 and Tokarev clones have had 9x19mm barrels made for them.  Great way to make these handguns more useful in a SHTF scenario as 7.62x25mm isn’t all that common.

.40 S&W / .357 SIG switch-barrel conversions:  Most popular pistols in either caliber have a barrel available for the other.  If you have one, get the barrel for the other caliber.

I am aware of switch barrels to convert Glocks and SIGs in .40 S&W or .357 SIG to 9x19mm, not sure if there is another pistol this conversion is available for.

10mm / 9x25mm Dillon switch-barrel conversions:  There are 9x25mmD barrels available for 1911s and Glock 20 pistols (perhaps others but I’m not aware of them).  9x25mmD was designed for competition shooting and produces enormous flash and noise.  It does not have much SHTF utility, in my view.

In addition to 9x25mm Dillon, there are switch barrels for the 10mm Glock 20 for .40 S&W, .357 SIG, and even special order .38 Super (these are NOT the same as the stock Glock barrels for their respective models but are special fit for the Glock 20).  The Glock 20 is a pretty amazing gun that can fire 5 calibers with a barrel change and has a .22 LR conversion kit too.  And, since it shares the same frame as the .45 ACP Glock 21, you could get a complete .45 ACP slide & barrel for your Glock 20 to make it a Glock 21 (and then, naturally, get a .400 Cor-Bon barrel for it, see below).  Or go the other way and start with a Glock 21 and get all the Glock 20 stuff.  Great pistols, not a huge surprise they are so popular.  Apologize if anyone went cross-eyed trying to follow this explanation!

.45 ACP / .400 Cor-Bon switch-barrel conversions:  Many pistols chambered for .45 ACP have .400 Cor-Bon barrels available.  Most of the time these don’t require a new recoil spring.  The .400 Cor-Bon is a poor man’s 10mm and is simply a .45 ACP necked down to a .400/10mm bullet.  .400 Cor-Bon never gained much popularity, but there are some that convert their .45 ACP to a 6” barrel .400 Cor-Bon for hunting and predator defense.  For preppers, not sure it’s truly worth the money unless you want one handgun for human and predator defense.

SIG P250 Pistols:  The P250 is a pistol from SIG that can change calibers (.22 LR, 9x19mm, .357 SIG, .40 S&W, .45 ACP) by changing the slide and barrel assembly (and magazines) much like an AR upper.  More expensive than, say, a Glock 22 with a .40 S&W, .357 SIG, and 9x19 barrels but throw in the .45 ACP which a .40 S&W Glock can’t do.  With all of the kits you have a handgun that covers almost every common pistol caliber.  I’d still rather have a Glock 20/21 will all the accessories as described above.

The less common EAA Witness full sized pistols can switch between .22 LR, 9x19mm, .38 Super, .40 S&W, .357 SIG, 10mm, and .45 ACP by changing the slide assembly and magazine.  Each kit is about $200.

AR Upper Receivers:  I saved the best for last, this is where most of the MCG action has been in the last 10+ years.  An entire new family of cartridges has been created around the constraint of the AR-15 magazine well width and AR-10 cartridges like the .243 Winchester have gained popularity as well.  Buying an upper is almost always going to be less expensive than a complete rifle, and if you put a lot of money into a lower with an aftermarket trigger, high-end stock, and grip why not stretch that out to several platforms?  Of course, the big drawback is one lower, one shooter --- bad if you need to defend your retreat and none of your buddies bring a rifle.  Some may come to the conclusion that 2-3 complete ARs are better than one lower and 5 uppers.  If you’re going to make the leap, I am of the opinion that a 5.56x45mm base rifle + pistol caliber matching your sidearm + 6.5 Grendel long barrel with scope + .22 LR conversion kit would be the most effective and efficient setup.  Note that, even pinching pennies with lower end upper assemblies, this will be almost $3,000 before optics.  For $2,500 you could buy a basic AR, an inexpensive pistol carbine like a Hi-Point or Kel-Tec SUB2000, a budget long range .308 bolt action rifle, and a .22 LR kit for your AR (or basic Ruger 10/22 rifle) and have 3-4 complete guns.  It’s not for everyone and your mileage may vary.  I honestly don’t see much utility in multiple uppers for AR-10s as, beyond .308 and .243, the cartridges are just not all that common. 

Now, the newly announced Colt CM-901, with its lower receiver that can adapt to both AR-15 and AR-10 size uppers, will be a great SHTF platform if it works as advertised.  You could have a CQB 5.56mm carbine and a long range .308 in one platform.

Upper calibers for AR-15 type guns (available non-custom):
5.56x45mm / .223 (of course)
.22 Long Rifle (although the conversion kits are going to be cheaper by a long shot)
5.45x39mm (super cheap surplus ammo but filthy and often corrosively primed!)
6.5 Grendel (great long range cartridge)
6.8x43mm SPC
.300 AAC Blackout (great for suppressed rifles)
9x19mm (also great for suppressed rifles)
.45 ACP
.40 S&W
.50 Beowulf
.450 Bushmaster
.458 SOCOM
.30 Remington AR
.243 WSSM (Olympic Arms)
.25 WSSM (Olympic Arms)
.300 OSSM (Olympic Arms)
.204 Ruger
.50 BMG single shot (not sure how great these are, but they’re available)
And more…

Upper calibers for AR-10 type guns (not all are current production):
7.62x51mm / .308 Winchester (of course)
.243 Winchester
.260 Remington
6.5 Creedmoor
.338 Federal
.284 Winchester
.450 Marlin
.358 Winchester
.257 Roberts
Entire WSM family
Entire SAUM family

I hope this detailed look into multi-caliber guns gives good food for thought, especially if you’re looking to build a small battery of flexible SHTF firearms that’s highly portable versus a huge, difficult to move stockpile at your permanent live-in retreat.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Post collapse barter has been a hot topic for as long as I have been lurking around the Survival Community. Yet each time I read the offerings on the subject they have left me feeling like the whole story is not being told. This is an attempt to tell that story.
Post collapse barter is often presented in romanticized ways of a simpler and happier life such as depicted by Eddie Albert playing the role of the Persian peddler “Ali Hakim” in the Rogers and Hammerstein musical “Oklahoma." He went town to town peddling everything from perfume to frying pans with his horse and wagon. A Spartan life to be sure but he was the model of happiness. After all, he had a girlfriend in every town! Or the notion of an impromptu open air market in the town square where people gather to fellowship and trade.
This type of commerce probably will commence in time, after the crash, but from my vantage point there is a whole lot of turmoil and violence between “here” and “there.” When the “free stuff” stops flowing to the entitlement class we are not all going to “just get along.” Surviving to the point of peaceful open air markets is not going to be for the faint of heart or the unprepared.
In this essay I will address:
The two problems with barter
The two fundamental questions of barter
The two logistical issues with barter
A few examples where I think barter will occur in the short run.
My credentials are that my family and I are long term, serious, God fearing, Christian preppers who own and live on our rural retreat full-time that we refer to as our “sanctuary homestead." The retreat has been built up in such a way that with lots of hard work, a bit of good luck and the favor of God mixed in, we can provide food for many in a grid down scenario pretty much indefinitely. That retreat is located in the American Redoubt. Also, I have a degree in business economics from a major university and have worked in finance for 30 years at both the corporate and small business levels.
I hope the fact that I have “one foot in both worlds” so to speak, will give a perspective on this subject that is at least worthy of consideration.
Two Problems:
Commerce is technically described as “bringing together a willing seller and a willing buyer in an arms length transaction." The “arms length” part means that both parties are looking out for their own economic best interest. This isn’t charity. For example if grandma gives you a ten thousand dollar car for changing out her broken light bulb. That would be the inverse of an “arms length transaction." Mediums of exchange such as currencies make this process easier which is why they are used so universally. Yet in a post collapse world such as depicted in “Patriots” the currency of the land is useless as it is worthless.
That brings us to Problem #1: absent a recognized societal medium of exchange to conduct commerce you still need to put that definition together of buyer, seller and arms length. On the buyer-seller side of the equation, that means that you have to find someone with something you want, that they are willing to part with, who want something you have, that you are willing to part with.
Problem #2 is the “arms length” part. Our current economy of commerce is very efficient. If you walk in to a hardware store to buy a splitting maul the price to the buyer from the seller is not influenced by whether it’s going to be your only splitting maul or your 50th one (“satiated demand” in economic terms).The price doesn’t change due to the mood of the cashier or what day of the week it is and so on.
In a barter system the “price” of an item is extremely subjective and influenced by a whole host of variables. If you have to cut and split wood to cook and stay warm, trading off one of your 50 splitting mauls is going to be much easier to part with, and you’ll require much less in return for it, then if you only have two of them. So, those types of pricing considerations for both the “buyer” and the “seller” in a barter transaction are much more exaggerated than when money is used.
So to affect one barter exchange, five things have to align.
1) You have an item
2) They want that item
3) You are willing to part with that item
4) They have something to give you in exchange for that item that you want.
5) Agreed upon valuations of both items by both parties.
Agree on 4 out of the 5 and there is no deal. Putting deals together like this can be at best a nuanced dance or at worst a nightmare that engenders division between the parties. That is why so many barter clubs and societies have failed over the years.
If you are thinking "Well, we will be fine because we have those silver coins and some items that we think will be in high demand." That’s fine but you still have to find someone who wants those items (probably fairly easy) who have things to trade you back that you want (the harder part, more in a minute) and you both have to agree on the “value” of both items where the use of “comparable sales” are non existent.
This is not to say that barter is impossible because we know that its not. The point is to illustrate that barter is more complicated than many make it out to be. If you are thinking that no matter what the possible pitfalls of barter are, you would rather be holding some tangible assets that you believe will be of value for trade in a post collapse world rather than holding worthless dollars. To that I say, I agree. But are those your only two choices?
Fundamental Questions:
The most common writings on post collapse barter inevitable get to “the list” of items people plan to lay in to trade away. Many times those lists have plenty of common sense items but there are times when you guys come up with things that sound, well, crazy to me (Viagra?)
Question #1: Do I have the cart before the horse? Is it prudent to focus on what other people, known or otherwise, might be wanting in a crunch? Or should I think about what items I will be in search of in exchange for what I have laid in for trade? Put another way, what do you want to attain in trade for your barter items? Since this is a “for profit” endeavor as apposed to charity that’s the business model, not where do I want to begin (your list) but where do I want to end up.
 If your reply is that we don’t really know what we will want/need because it will be “situationally dependant," to that I say maybe. Prepping really is not that “situationally dependant” though. Food, water, shelter, heat, light, security, first aid, good clothing, etc. are what we have on hand for any and all calamities, large and small.
If you have utilized the resources available on SurvivalBlog in terms of what to do to get ready, make lists and so on you should have at least some ideas of where you stand.  Where you are strong and where you have holes. I agree that there are items that “you can never have too much of” but really it’s the holes that you would presumably be trying to plug with barter. The question then i.: Am I more ahead to use resources to plug holes and strengthen our prepping position today, as opposed to using those same resources to lay in tradable items? Your answer may be different than mine but the questions should be asked because..
Question #2: On the one end of the spectrum most people do not prep. Those of us who do are in the extreme minority even today when it is much more visible. So that vast majority of people out there living pay check to paycheck in the land of mammon…by and large they have nothing to trade you that you will want or place much value on in a collapse. On the other end, we, the choir, the serious preppers who have followed the advice of Mr. Rawles and the contributors to SurvivalBlog,  are in pretty good shape to weather the coming storm. So,we have extra everything so you really don’t have anything that we need and certainly nothing that is mission critical that we would trade high value items for. Oh, sure if you show up with a 55 gallon drum of fresh kerosene we can talk and probably put a deal together but we wont “sell the ranch” for it because it's icing on the cake for us. The pool of potential barter mates just shrunk a lot.
Logistical Issues of Barter
No matter how far along you are with your preps when the balloon goes up those instantly become priceless. If you have a thousand dollars of stored food and TSHTF those stores could be the difference between life and death. You will trade no amount of money or precious metals for them at that time because you can’t eat those. If you have $100,000 worth of stored supplies and the crunch is on, someone could offer to write you a check for a hundred million dollars and you would have no part of it. Your survival stores would then be your most valuable asset in spades (that nobody should knows about). Thse are survival items that people would be willing to kill you for, and that we are prepared to defend with our lives.
Most people that I know with retreats and designated bug out locations. When the balloon goes up they simply want to roll up the draw bridge, help their neighbors out where they can and be left alone to rely on themselves to provide for themselves and then, maybe, be meaningful participants in the re-build if God wills it.
Logistics issue #1: In order to conduct barter exchanges you would need to leave your selected “safe” location in order to do commerce. Or someone in your group would. That then would mean you are potentially out in “it” rather than safely behind your line in the sand and your absence means that the security of the retreat is reduced. If you are ready to start a “road show” of barter exchange early on what does that say about the depth and breadth of your preps? If you are well prepped there is nothing out there in “barter land” that comes close to the value of your preps at home
Logistics issue #2: If for those reasons you decided not to leave your safe location to barter exchange but you still have the itch to trade. That means your “customers” would need to come to you. Is it a good idea that in a time of desperation and starvation to potentially tell the watching world that you have excess? (That not only do you have enough stuff stored to cover yourselves (when most people don't) but you have extra such that your in a position to trade away?) If that word gets out it will spread like wildfire and you should prepare to have whole lines of beggars at your gate and “authorities” wanting to talk with you about your illegal “hoarding."
Its probably obvious at this point that we have not put a great deal of stock into the concept of post collapse barter in our preps, but I will acknowledge that it has its place for some people and I said at the outset that it will occur. Our approach to preparedness has been three pronged with regard to laid in assets.. First step; fully prepped for our family for a year. That means everything. Next, lay in extra to be in a position to accept someone to the group who is under or not at all prepared such that it does not seriously compromise the preps of the immediate family/group. Primarily we are talking relatives and close neighbors. Finally utilizing the industry standard (if you will) of the Rawlesian approach to charity and stocking up accordingly, to do just that. I believe that for most people, because of the challenges listed above, provisions for barter should be made after those three core goals are met.
The Post-Crash Barter Landscape
1) The world’s oldest profession will skyrocket. What will be in demand to trade for those “services”? Food, mind altering substances and security.
2) Rural residents who already have trusted relationships with neighbors that have grown over a span of years have a good chance of barter trading during the crunch. Especially amongst the homesteader types, many of them have been barter trading with each other for years at this point. This does not mean throw OPSEC to the wind though as we are reminded by the Bible that times can come where “neighbor against neighbor and brother against brother” occur.
3) Lone Wolf: This type of person is a very small minority of the prepper world but they do exist. They are the Lone Wolves with bug out bags at home and in their cars. They plan to “get out of Dodge” and “head for the hills” and become invisible at least until things settle down. For most of us that would be a good way to end up starving or dying of exposure or both. These are not the “wannabe’s” without any other option than to try to make it from a metropolis to a state park some place. This is the real deal that most likely can survive this way and are not fooling themselves.  These guys typically have military experience including survival school; they are proficient with weapons as are their “hunter gatherer” skills. They are in good physical shape or have the capacity to get that way in short order. They are well versed in caches and probably have more than one already stashed.  Ironically they “get” what a group survival retreat is about better than some members of group survival retreats. It’s just that they are not “group” types, they are Lone Wolves.
Their plan is to lay low and remain invisible for six months or so. During that initial period, as time allows, they will conduct reconnaissance to find survival group retreats and functioning homesteads. When the time is right they plan to approach the group in a non threatening manner and offer their services to the group. Those “services” including providing intel of what’s what in the area or region. They could magically “show up” about the time that trouble was brewing or they could be sent out on search and acquire missions. For example lets say that battery charge controller on your small solar system went out; they could be sent out on a mission to acquire one and bring it back to the group. Primarily what they would want in return is food, ammo, clothing or clothing repairs and maybe even a hot shower every now and again. It would take some time to build the trust but under the right circumstances this type of person could do pretty well in a barter world.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Hello James:
I thought that the post on barter micro stores was superb.

I think additional consideration should be given to "dispense-from-bulk" strategies.  1 pound of petroleum jelly in single use (0.5g) pouches costs $48 from Sam's Club.  35 pounds (5 gallon bucket) of petroleum jelly costs $90 from an on-line candle supply company.  Similar cost spreads run between single serving bottles of vodka and one gallon bottles and salt in bulk and single serving packets.

It is pretty obvious that you will need a secondary container to carry the bulk materials if you are going to put the micro-store on wheels.  There are some very large syringe bodies available from farm supply stores that make dandy grease and petroleum jelly dispensers.  They are also graduated with markings on the side to add some credibility to the amount dispensed.  Virtually any kind of bottle can be used to dispense other liquids.

And while I love Tabasco sauce as much as the other man;  there are some significant logistical advantages to dried pepper flakes.  They are easier to measure out of bulk and I think they are easier to store.  Any Ziploc type bag will do.  Another advantage is that the seeds are usually viable.

Best regards and may the blessings of the season shower upon you. - Joe H.


I enjoyed the article last week on stocking a barter store. Back in 2006, I read where you suggested that ammunition in the most commonplace calibers would be a good thing to sock way as a barter item. That was truly sage advice. Ammo is great because it is durable, divisible and desirable. Like you say, you can't shoot a burglar with a Krugerrand. I took your advice in big way, and now have a handsome stack of ammo cans that covers one whole wall of my basement.

My modus operandi for my ammo investing is to never pay retail! I buy ammo only when I can find it is deeply discounted in retail stores. I also constantly watch for ammo at garage sales, guns shows, CraigsList ads, and even stores that are going out of business.

I followed your advice on calibers [like 5.56mm NATO, 7.62mm NATO, 12 Gauge, 7.62x39, 9mm, .45 ACP, and 22 LR], but I went more heavily toward the Russian calibers like 7.62 [x39mm] for the AK, the long 7.62[x54r] Russian for the Mosins, and 5.45 [x39mm] for the AK-74s.

While about 90% of what I've put away is in commonplace calibers, there were some bargains that I abso-tively couldn't pass up. This included: Seven boxes of .250-3000 Savage that I got for $4.50 per box at a garage sale, five boxes (250 rounds) of .455 Webley [revolver ammunition] that I got from a guy advertising on Craigslist, some .243 [Winchester], some .40 S&W, and 200 rounds of uncorrosive FN-made 7mm Mauser that I picked up in trade for some old webbing and canteens at a gun show. That deal worked out the same as if I'd paid just $3 for each box of 20.

About one-third of the ammo that I've put away is .22 rimfire--most of it's .22 Long Rifle, but also some .22 Magnum, and a bit of the scarce .22 W.R.F. and .22 Auto stuff. I can predict that .22 shells will be be traded like cigarettes were, in the [World War II] POW camps, and behind the Iron Curtain.

I should also make mention of the fact that I store all of my ammo in GI ammo cans. Every investment should be well cared for. Ammo will last a hundred years (or more) if you store it in cans with good seals, and you throw a silica gel packet in each can. I also have quite a few ammo cans that I've filled with magazines and stripper clips. Most of the magazines I've accumulated are M14, M16, M1911, M9 (Beretta 92), HK 91/G3, FN [FAL], Glock (the most common ones), [M1] Garand clips, Mini-14, M1 Carbine (30 round bananas) and various kinds of AK mags. Those too, will be like gold, someday.

My wall of ammo is the perfect barter item. I am certain that it will trump just about anything [in barter], when times are hard. I'll just parcel it our real slowly -- never letting on to anyone just how much I have. I'll be a secret millionaire, in a Mad Max world.

Thanks again for all the great info that you put out in SurvivalBlog. All of the other prepping blogs are just a pale imitation. I gave SurvivalBlog 5 Stars in the Reader's Choice Awards. - Clement in North Dakota


This was a great article, I'd already acquired some extra of most everything listed, here's a couple of thoughts...

Hopefully, things will calm down eventually to have a secure mini-store selling to strangers, but I had stocked up extra initially and primarily just to help my closest neighbors. Some I'll gift preps to, some I'll trade, but with all it will be done with an eye towards also maximizing and enhancing our own security here.

I want to convert those close by, best I can, from future potential roaming threats into, as much as possible, useful cooperative allies. I want to be surrounded by a buffer of ever more self-reliant and self-supporting helpful neighbors for mutual aid & protection.

I'd also much rather get a heads-up of any threats detected well before they get to our immediate Area of Operations (AO) and hopefully then already thinned out some, too, if need be.

With that in mind, regarding the list...

Ammunition; extra would go first to trusted capable neighbors who could then enhance our own local security, especially those who are open to working together in a coordinated way. I also have some extra  weapons, beyond our groups needs, for this purpose. Also, extra ammo in some calibers that I don't even have weapons for that are locally popular.

I've also put back an additional half dozen cheap FRS radios with rechargeable batteries, to be deployed only to those neighbors who are capable and willing to participate in establishing a com net for mutual aid and defense.

Taking excess paper wealth, after one's personal family preps are largely squared away, to get some extra preps for barter, sale or charity is good, but then always looking first to deploy them where they'll best serve to enhance your own family security, too, is  even better. - C.S.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I love these muffs. I've had a pair of Pro Ears Gold Predator earmuffs for 18 months, and I haven't found a flaw. So let me tell you what I've found that's good: The first thing one needs from muffs is noise suppression, obviously. The Gold series have a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of 26. There are several factors that contribute to an NRR, one of which is frequency dependent. Pro Ears seems to have picked frequencies that are specific to shooting. The muffs have proven adequate for large bore rifles, .44 magnum revolvers and even make standing in the arc of a muzzle brake tolerable. They seal well around the ear, and are contoured to allow clearance of a rifle stock without bumping or dislodging.

Now to comfort, and back to those seals. The ear cups are a firm foam with a light leather cover. I've worn them for hours in hot or cold weather with no discomfort. They're hardly noticeable. There are
also convenient replacement parts available for maintenance.

These are active muffs, which mean they normally amplify, and shut off when noise passes into unsafe levels. The response time on these is claimed at 1.5 milliseconds. Most active muffs work by clipping the signal—they simply shut off. The Pro Ears work by signal compression and limiting—reducing amplification on a curve. It's more natural sounding, less jarring, and means no odd static sound when working around equipment at the edge of the safe level—rather than cutting in and out, they attenuate the noise.

In addition, they're equipped with a standard 3.5mm jack to allow iPod or radio use while working. The headphone sound quality is excellent, with two separate circuits, rather than a single split circuit. The batteries are easily changed, though I've not had to often. [They use the now fairly common size "N" batteries.] In addition, they shut off automatically after four hours to conserve battery life. If you're still wearing them, the knob on each muff is easily reached, and clicking them off and back on resets them. The volume level is adjustable, and the halfway setting is comparable to normal hearing. One can hear conversation, hand tools, movement, with weapon or industrial noise attenuated without obvious dips in sound.

As with many professional products, these are not inexpensive. However, with a five year warranty and readily available replacement parts, they're a better investment, in my opinion, than cheaper, shorter-lived muffs. They retail at $329.95, but are available in many outlets at good discounts. [JWR Adds: Pro Ears Gold Predator earmuffs are available through for around $283.]

Disclaimer (per FTC File No. P034520): SurvivalBlog accepts cash-paid advertising. To the best of my knowledge, as of the date of this posting, none of the advertisers that sell the products mentioned in this article have solicited me or paid me to write any reviews or endorsements, nor have they provided me any free or reduced-price gear in exchange for any reviews or endorsements. I am not a stock holder in any company. I was furnished a free pair of Pro Ears muffs by a third party who is sponsored by Pro Ears, as payment for other work. I have no direct interest in Pro Ears. - SurvivalBlog Editor At Large Michael Z. Williamson

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The incredibly large volume of information available regarding emergency preparedness and survival is both wonderful and terrible at the same time.  There’s enough information to keep an enthusiast occupied for years and enough information to keep beginners away for the rest of their lives.

It can be a very daunting task for a new or inexperienced person to try and decide where and how to begin.  Should a beginner attend survival training, have a year’s supply of food, have their home hooked up with backup generators, move to the country, live off the grid and have stockpiles of firearms with thousands of rounds of ammunition? 

Depending on where you are researching, some people will claim that if you don’t have these levels of preparedness then you are doomed.  Is the saying, “If you can’t do it right then don’t do it at all” really the way to think when it comes to survival? 

Don’t get me wrong.  I would love to live off the grid, have a year’s supply of food stored away, have a stockpile of firearms and attend weeks of survival training.  But, the fact is I can’t afford that.  Not many people can.  These can be great long term goals but it’s not a realistic start.

My goal in this brief writing is to “ease the mind” of the people that want to start preparing themselves for emergencies but are on a limited budget and may be intimidated by the overwhelming amount of information available.  I want people to know that many times “something or anything” is better than nothing.

So to answer by question from above, is the saying, “If you can’t do it right then don’t do it at all” really the way to think when it comes to survival?  I say no. 
My experience in the area of survival began early in my life. I spent a lot of time exploring the woods and thorny brush of South Texas.  I quickly became handy with a machete, confident with firearms and learned the importance of hydration and taking care of wounds. (And I learned real fast what a diamondback rattlesnake looks and sounds like.)

I spent nine years in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper.  My first four years were in the infantry and I finished my time in as a combat medic.  I believe my experiences and training in the military have greatly contributed to my skills and confidence in being able to take care of myself, my family and others in an emergency. I do not consider myself an expert at survival and I would not describe my level of preparedness as even close to 100%.   But, I’m always working to improve my situation and I believe I know just enough to help guide a beginner in the right direction.   

In my opinion…
The best start is what you are doing now; seeking information.  “Knowledge is Power.”  What an amazing and true quote. I believe the Internet is wonderful! I have found that browsing multiple blogs and YouTube channels on survival, self-sufficiency and homesteading to be a useful resource.    You do have to remember though that just because something is published on the Internet doesn’t mean that information is the best or even true.  But, if you compare enough similar opinions and observations made by others you can begin to catch on to what ideas and concepts are legitimate and reasonable. That’s what makes the Internet so great because you can quickly compare multiple sources.  Remember also that you don’t have to study individual sources exhaustively or go back to the creation of the blog and read everything that’s ever been posted on it.  Begin by searching for information that currently interests you. 

Some folks will tell you not to rely on the Internet because if someday the “stuff hits the fan” you will not have access to it.  That’s certainly possible but remember I’m trying to help get the ball rolling with someone that’s new to this.  The Internet is the easiest, quickest and most cost effective way to initiate someone to the world of survival. You can work on purchasing books and other literature as the opportunity arises and you decide where you need to concentrate.  You will find many references to great books as you explore and learn about survival on the Internet.

Three of the most important “needs” when it comes to survival are shelter, food and water.  If I had to start with nothing and begin building a new preparedness kit from scratch my first tool would be a knife.  A knife can aid you in procuring all the above needs more than any other tool can.
Does it have to be a certain type or brand of knife?  No.  Some knife enthusiast may tell you that if you don’t have brand X then you are wasting your time.  I disagree. 
There are some high quality, durable and expensive knives available.  But you don’t have to start with those.  If you don’t have a knife then get one, any knife.  Try to get the best knife you can reasonably afford.  If this happens to be a $5 knife from the flea market then that is better than nothing.  A more versatile knife will have a combination plain edge and serrated edge.  If you choose a folding knife try to get one with a lockable blade.

One unfortunate caution regarding knives is your local ordinances.  Some jurisdictions have particular rules about blade length, lockable blades and various other irritating rules.  You might want to speak with one of your local law enforcement officers and inquire what the policy is and what is generally enforced.

Next you need to think a little bit about what you are building your emergency kit for.  The beginner should build a general purpose “survival kit.”  As you learn more you can create specialized kits/bags. You can have a kit to help you escape the city (bug out bag), survive in your home (bug in bag), get home from work (get home bag), hiking/camping survival kits and many others.  I will describe a few things the beginner may want to put in their kit next.

Without the knowledge of how to use the tools you have most of them would be worthless.  I recommend the next “tool” to be some type of compact book on survival. As you read through it you’ll quickly see how versatile that knife is. There are many good books that discuss various methods of building shelter, finding and making water safe to drink, getting food via hunting, trapping and fishing, making fire and performing first aid.  Collins Gem used to make a small durable survival book that would fit great into a small general purpose survival kit.  Try to find something like that.

After that I would get something to make fire with.  Actually, I would get multiple things to make fire with.  The survival books discuss in great detail how to make fire with friction devices. (Rubbing sticks together.) You can learn how to do that stuff when you have time.  For now, get a couple lighters, matches, flint/steel/magnesium fire starters or all three.  Upgrade as you learn more or your financial situation improves.  Most lighters are inexpensive and reliable.  Get these first.  Matches are great backup but need to be protected from moisture.  Magnesium fire starters are reliable as well but I recommend you practice and become proficient with them before making them part of your kit. 

The next two things to get before the precedence of items gets too subjective are a water container and a shelter device. 

A couple factory sealed 16 oz plastic bottles of water (the typical container so many people drink out of these days) are good because they can be kept safe to drink for long periods and don’t take up too much space. A drawback to these is they are not very durable. Some type of metal container is important as well so that new sources of water can be boiled to make safe.  A military style canteen with matching metal cup is a good inexpensive option.  As you develop your understanding of water procurement and how to make it safe you can purchase water purification tablets, filter straws and learn many of the other methods of gathering and making water safe to drink.

Depending on the situation, shelter can be one of the first priorities in an emergency.  For example, if you were caught in a snow storm it wouldn’t matter how much food and water you had.  If you couldn’t get to shelter you would quickly be in a deadly position.

One option is to get an emergency blanket.  Those are those compact aluminum foil looking blankets.  (Space Blankets) They do a surprisingly good job of retaining heat, are inexpensive and are very compact.  You can wrap yourself up in them, use them as overhead protection, lay on them as a barrier between you and the ground or a multitude of other uses. 
The military style ponchos are nice also.  They are made with durable material and they have grommets on them so that you can tie rope or other binding material to facilitate making shelter.  And of course they have a hood on them so that you can wear them over your head and body to protect you from adverse weather.  One drawback to this style of poncho is they don’t roll up particular small.  They are fine for medium to large kits but do not fit well in a typical compact survival kit.

The importance of other items in a survival kit are very subjective to an individual’s personal philosophy on survival.  Many lists and recommendations can be found on the Internet.  First aid accessories, rope, flashlights, mirrors, fishing line and hooks are some of the other items to consider.

Would a person ever be worse off for having an inexpensive item?  Yes, it’s certainly possible and this must be considered when making a purchase.  An example would be a fire starting device that doesn’t actually work.   So you would be worse off because you thought you had something to protect you but find out when it’s too late that you don’t.  (This underscores the need to test your equipment.)
Don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you from making that first step towards self-reliance and being prepared for emergencies.
Don’t be intimated by others who might make you feel that starting small is a waste of time or that the top of the line most expensive product is the only viable option.
Gain control of your destiny. Go get that knife, now.

Monday, November 14, 2011

For much of my adult life, I've lived in rural areas - and I prefer it that way. Even now, I live halfway between two small towns in Oregon, and I don't especially enjoy going to town for much of anything. I prefer to do a lot of mail-order shopping for many things I need or want. Over the years, I've been disappointed in many mail-order companies, their products and their customer service. I've done a lot of mail-order shopping from one particular company for the past 15-years or so, and that company is CDNN Sports and they have excellent service and their products are as-advertised. And, in most cases, orders ship the same day. So, it took a lot for me to look at another mail-order company.

I've probably driven past U.S. Tactical Supply in Albany, Oregon hundreds of times over the past 5-1/2 years, and yet I never stopped in their small walk-in store. U.S. Tactical Supply is only about three blocks for one of the gun stores I regularly haunt, but for some reason, I never stopped in this neat little store. I recently purchased a S&W M&P 9mm handgun, and I like to get plenty of spare magazines for any new guns I purchase. Only thing is, no one had any spare 17-round magazines for the M&P 9mm - not even Smith & Wesson! Believe me, I called all over the place, and no one had these mags. Enter U.S. Tactical Supply. I just happened upon their web site while searching for the M&P 9mm mags. I didn't even pay attention to where the store was located at first. Then it dawned on me, that I had driven past this stores hundreds of times. Now, my next problem: Would they actually have the magazines they advertised in captivity, and at the price (which is low) advertised. I checked, and they did!

Now, if you are looking for US military "style" clothing and gear, don't waste your time at U.S. Tactical Supply - just go and waste your time and hard-earned money at some outfit like Sportsman's Guide - where much of the clothing (and gear) they advertise in their catalog and web site is described as US Military "style." Those knock-offs don't even begin to come close to genuine US Mil-Spec clothing and gear. But if you want the best of the best, then take a close look at U.S. Tactical Supply. You can even request one of their small catalogs if you prefer shopping that way, instead of via their web site.

I hear from SurvivalBlog readers almost daily, and over the many months I've been writing articles for SurvivalBlog, I've learned you all are a pretty intelligent bunch. I've also learned that you prefer to get the best clothing and gear available - and that is commendable. I've also noted that many SurvivalBlog readers are interested in counter-sniper tactics and gear. Well, I'm here to tell you, look no further than U.S. Tactical Supply, for all your counter-sniping needs. Need a sniper data book, angle cosine indicator kits, ballistic cards, scope dope kit, Mildot, master, field density altitude compensator gear, camo accessories, tripods - you name it, U.S. Tactical Supply has it - and once again, it's not military "style" - it's all the real-deal.

Want the newest US Military multicam camo clothing? Yep, they've got it, and they sell it for well below what others are charging, Again, it's the real deal - not just military "style". I know a lot of SurvivalBlog readers are really into their Springfield Armory M1A rifles, and it's always hard to find accessories for their guns - look no further. Need some type of AR-15 accessories - they've got what you want. For example, they have EOTech and Aimpoint brand scopes. They also sell registered ($200 transfer tax) suppressors for your weapons. Other product offerings include MagPul accessories and A.R.M.S. brand scope mounts.

If you're looking for the new U.S. Military Danner hiking boots (U.S.-made). (These are the boots that the military is presently transitioning to.) U.S. Tactical supply has them.They are the only place I've seen 'em, to date. Need a really good tactical pack? Check out what U.S. Tactical Supply carries. Knives and multi-tools - how about Benchmade, SOG Knives and Gerber, for starters? Plus plenty of medical supplies and gear, too.

There's just a lot of outstanding gear in the U.S. Tactical Supply catalog and on their web site--too many to mention here. However, be advised, that this is some of the best of the best military and law enforcement gear on the market. The only things that I'd like to see them add to their line is some Blackhawk Products gear and clothing, and some ammo made by Black Hills Ammunition.

You should know that, U.S. Tactical Supply is also a DoD supplier, as well as a GSA supplier. While the store front operation is small, their mail-order and walk-in service is second to none. These guys take a personal interest in giving their customers the absolute best service they can. In today's world, that's important to me - and it should be important to you, too. If you want cruddy customer service - walk into Wal-Mart or any of the big box stores - they could care less if they can help you find something. Walk into U.S. Tactical Supply, or call them with a question, and they will bend over backwards to help you out any way they can. These guys are serious about their gear and their customer service.

The guys are U.S. Tactical Supply didn't know me from Adam, but they went out of their way to help me out. They even offered to hand-deliver one of their catalogs to me, after the one they mailed to me didn't show-up. How's that for taking care of a customer? And I'm 25-miles from their walk-in store! I have no vested interest in U.S. Tactical Supply - but I'm telling you, if you want the best gear possible for your long-range survival needs, then you need to check out their web site and printed catalog that U.S. Tactical Supply produces. If you want customer service that is the best around - give these guys your business - you won't be sorry!

If it sounds like I'm excited about this small company, I am! I like to give my business locally whenever I can. However, if this company were clear across the country, I'd still give them my business. If you're like me, and you don't want junk for your survival needs, then give them your business. And, unlike walking into one of the big box stores, most of the gear sold by U.S. Tactical Supply is Made In The USA, not China!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

In a recent article, Jerry M. mentioned:

“One more thing worth mentioning is the small rifle and small pistol primers are the same size cups, same as the large rifle and large pistol primers are the same size. The cups on the pistol primers are a little thinner than the rifle, for obvious reasons, most rifle firing pins hit a lot harder than pistols do. I have used rifle primers in pistol rounds, and they seem to work fine. You might run into problems on S&W revolvers, using rifle primers, if you have the spring tension screw backed off to get a lighter trigger pull, but this could also happen with pistol primers, if backed off too far. Men sometime do this for wives who have trouble shooting double action, don't! Your taking a chance on a misfire when you do this. And never use a pistol primer in a rifle round, the cup is too thin and if the firing pin penetrates the primer, you will get gas back in your face.”

To add emphasis and a clarification to Jerry's warning: Rifle and pistol primers may have the same diameters, but they don't have the same height. Using a large rifle primer in a pistol case will cause the primer to protrude above the case head, since large rifle primers are deeper (taller) than large pistol primers.  Worst case, a semi-auto pistol (like a Model 1911) could be “slam-fired” or even double (go into uncontrolled full auto fire).
Please use the correct primer for the cartridge you are reloading! - J.B. in Tennessee

Friday, October 28, 2011

Having spent my teenage years in my dad's commercial reloading shop, circa 1955 to1958, I learned quite a bit about reloading ammunition. Back then we loaded mostly .30-06, .30-30 Winchester, .270 Winchester, .300 Savage, 250 Savage and other old calibers that were excellent deer and elk rifles. Long before the magnum mania came about, these rifles were killing big game, and doing it quite well.

Many today find this unbelievable, but back when the silver certificates were money, and fiat currency was only a dream of the globalist bankers, you could buy a pound of DuPont 4895, a box of 100- .30 caliber JSP bullets, and a box of 100 Large rifle primers for less than $5! And the best Winchester and Remington .22 Long Rifle cartridges were 50 to 60 cents per box of 50!

But those days are long gone now, and JSP bullets of all kinds now run well over $20 a hundred, and $30 for the specialty bullets. And today the gun manufactures are under the illusion that you have to come out with a new caliber every year, just like the auto industry, to sell guns to the public. This one has a little more destructive bullet and is 30 FPS faster than the last caliber that came out, But I'll guarantee you the deer or elk has no idea how fast the bullet was that took him down, whether is came at 1,600 FPS, or 3,500 FPS, he's just as dead. And remember, before 1900, all bullets traveled at less than 2,000 FPS, and many were in the 1,200 to 1,500 FPS category, and  they killed everything that walked the American continent.

Most people on fixed incomes are always looking for alternatives to the high prices of ammo when making other preparations for the coming collapse. Well, a bullet mold for each rifle and pistol caliber you own is a good investment. And some old advise from Elmer Keith, always get the biggest bullet that will function in the calibers you shoot! And I feel most of the time, this is very true, especially with cast bullets. But there are exceptions with mold and bullet designs. I like the Lee mold 121 grain plain base truncated cone in the 9mm, which I find also works well in the .380 ACP. But I shoot the 195-200 grain dome bullet in the .38 Special.  I still have the first mold that I bought for  $6.00 complete with handles, a Lyman 357446 Semi Wadcutter (SWC) 160 grain. And I wouldn't shoot anything less than a 230 grain in the 45 ACP, I've seen too many failures of the lighter weight JHPs. But that's a personal choice. In the old S&W .45 ACP revolvers (Model 1917 and 1934 Brazilian) I like the 255 grain Keith SWC with 5 grains of Unique powder, which seems to drop badly if shooting over 150 yards out of the Commander size M1911 autos.

By the way, don't get caught up in the gun writers in the gun magazines. They are writing for the money, and get most of the things they write about from the factory for just writing an article about it. I use to get a kick out of Charles Askins, one article the revolver is much superior to the auto loader, the next month or so, the auto loader was better than the revolver! It was just a matter of who sent him what at the time, which was the better gun.

If you are just starting out with your preps, Watch the yard sales and pawn shops for bargains on reloading equipment. I suggest an old Lyman lead pot that can be used over a fire, along with their dipper. The electric pots work great, as long as you have electric power. I have an old Saeco 20 LB. electric pot that I had repaired several times over the years when the wiring got too hot and shorted out, last time I just tore it apart and now use just the pot in a wood monkey stove, as it fits good in the top front wood feed hole. And seems to heat faster than it did with electric power.

Now after years of loading ammo, I say there is no round that can't be reloaded if you have the proper tools. I have reloaded the steel Russian 7.62x39 rounds, that they say are not reloadable, But with inflation today, you pay more per primer for the 550 mm Berdan primer package of 250 primers, than you do per loaded round for the surplus 7.62x39 ammunition! But I do keep a couple packages around just for drill! Also note that the Berdan primers come in several sizes, so you have to figure out what you've got before you buy a package of the wrong size. But RCBS does make a good decapping tool, that works better than filling the case with water and [hydraulically] popping them out with a stick the right size!

Getting back to the cast bullets, a friend who lives in California just told me you can't shoot lead bullets anymore in California, because the California Condor is swallowing them when eating dead game and dying of lead poisoning. And if you believe that one, I have some beach front property near Las Vegas, Nevada I'll sell you, real cheap! I think the liberals and bunny huggers slipped one over on the hunters and shooters of California.

I cast a Lyman .311041 179 grain gas check bullet, for use in the .30-30, also shoots well in the .308 Winchester, .30-06, 7.7 Jap, 7.65 Argentine, and .303 British. It has a flat nose and feeds without danger in Winchester and Marlin tube feed magazines. I prefer the old Lyman .311314 -180 grain gas check bullet In the military rifles as it's a spitzer shape and doesn't drop as fast as the flat nose for longer shots. But my favorite bullet for .30-06 is the Lyman .311224- 220 grain gas check bullet which comes out of my mold at about 225 grains. For the newcomers, a gas check is a small copper jacket that goes on the base of a cast bullet, if there is a recess for a gas check. It seals the gases that might blow by on a plain base bullet. I use beeswax for fluxing the lead pot, keeps the metal melted so the tin or hard metals don't float to the top and get skimmed off as slag. or candles work well too if you can find them cheap, but will catch fire if pot gets too hot. in fact I make all my own bullet lube, melt bee's wax in a coffee can, add graphite, and a wax toilet seal ring found in most plumbing shops, Wal-Mart, or Home Depot. And pore it into the bullet sizer hot. The only bullet lube I buy today is SPG Black powder bullet lube and TC Bore Butter from Dixie Gun Works in Union City, Tennessee. They also have many other black powder shooting supplies.

Now for the survivalist, the one powder that can be used in any rifle,  pistol, or shotgun is Unique. You can come up with a shootable loading for any rifle, pistol or shotgun using Unique. Incidentally, I use Bullseye in the small pistol calibers .25 ACP (a totally worthless caliber) the .32 ACP, and the .380 ACP. And in case this nation gets into civil war, after the fiat dollar collapse, Bullseye pistol powder has a very high burning rate. You really have to be careful when using this powder, I've seen lots of good S&W and Colt revolvers over the years, missing the top half of the cylinder and the top strap folded up, from people starting out reloading, and thinking 3.0 grains of Bullseye couldn't possibly be enough powder, like the book says, and triple charge it. I believe you can get something like 15 grains of Bullseye in a .357 mag case and still set the bullet on it, but if you do, you have just turned your favorite handgun into a hand grenade! (Very dangerous!) So don't exceed what the reloading manuals says as a maximum charge with any powder. That brings up another good point, get a good reloading manual, I've got dozens I've bought over the years, but always seem to go back to the Lyman Reloading Handbook as it seems to cover a lot more than most.

I have made many of my own powder dippers, as in survival reloading you can't take along a powder scale and measure if you have to bug out. I use to keep a Lee hand press and set of dies with dipper and powder, bullets, and primers in a .50 caliber ammo can, with a hundred cases and bullets, (my grab and run box) when I worked nights at the sheriff's office as dispatcher. On a quiet night I could load a hundred rounds of .38s or 9mms and sometimes .45 ACP. It sure beat watching television!

To make my dippers, I take a fired cartridge case close to the size powder charge I need, pound a 5 inch piece of brazing rod flat on one end and solder it on the base of the case, then take an old piece of antler, preferably a contoured tip, cut it off, and drill a hole in the cut off end, and epoxy the rod into the antler. Then start dipping powder, and using your scale weigh it, and file off the opening until it gets down to the powder charge you want, then run the burr remover around the inside and out side of the case mouth to remove the burrs. I find this is just as accurate as using a mechanical powder measure, once you get the hang of dipping powder. Lee also make a kit full of plastic dippers, but I prefer to use my own, in case I don't have a pair of glasses handy to read what's on the plastic dippers, to make sure I have the right dipper.

Paper patching - This never took hold in our military, but was quite common in all of Europe back in the 1800s. Our Buffalo hunters did get into the paper patch bullets from the Sharps rifle company. To paper patch, you use an under sized bullet and cutting a parallelogram out of cotton bond paper, dampen it then starting half way down the bullet wrap the paper, the cuts should come out together, meaning the first wrap should have a wrap of paper over it, but have it come out to where the last wrap butts against the first with no overlap, Then twist the paper hanging over the bottom to where its flat against the base of the bullet,then trim off the excess.  It will tear when you stick it into the case if the cuts overlap on the sides and cause a bump. I have several molds I've had made for paper patching, but never used them yet, other than the 460 grain 45/70 bullet, over a charge of 58 grains of FFFG [black powder] with a felt wad soaked with Bore Butter. Loading black powder is a whole different science, and if you get into it, you'll find some very accurate ammo can be made up with black powder loadings.

The art of paper patching can be a benefit in survival conditions as you can patch up a .243 bullet to shoot in the 6.5 mm, the 6.5 mm up to 7mm, the .270 bullet to shoot in a 30 caliber, or the .30 caliber to shoot in the 8mm Mauser, and it's all in cutting the right [thickness] wrap out of cotton bond paper.  That is if you don't have the right bullets for the right caliber!

Something I might mention for survivalists is chamber adapters. I have adapters for most of my .30 caliber rifles that will shoot .32 ACP ammo from a .30 caliber rifle. This is legal, but very quiet, as you fire a .32 ACP out of a .30-06, as the bullet travels down the barrel some of the gas bleeds around the chamber adaptor, lessening the report, plus the fact that the 32 doesn't break the sound barrier, you don't have the loud supersonic crack that is normal for the .30-06. Good for shooting rabbits while deer hunting. I'm loading a Lee Mold 100 grain cast round nose in the .32 ACP over 2.0 grains of Bullseye, and I think I might be a little hesitant about shooting the 71 grain FMJ down the .30 caliber barrel, as most are .312 to .314 Diameter. I have a confession to make here, a while back a guy gave me a hand full of very old .32 ACP ammo, with steel jackets. I wanted the brass but was to lazy to use the puller, and took an old Mark 4 British .303 out with the chamber adaptor and started shooting up the .32 ammo, about the 5th or 6th shot, shooting at a 6" rock about 75 yards out, I didn't see any impact, so I shot 2 more rounds and then the lights came on after seeing no impact, maybe I should pull the bolt and check the bore. Well I had about three of these stuck in the barrel about 4" from the muzzle. I tried in vain to knock them out with a rod and mallet, no dice. so I took the rifle over to our local gunsmith to see if he could get them out. No way, so I now have [shortened it to become] a British .303 carbine with no flash hider! A lesson learned the hard way, no Jacketed bullet use in the adaptors, from then on!

Accuracy - No question in my mind after years of shooting cast rifle bullets, if you use the right bullet material combination, lead, tin, antimony, and good bullet lube, the right powder charge, you'll find cast bullets can be just as accurate as any of the expensive jacketed bullets on the market. Most shooters know every rifle barrel has it's own vibration, and finding the vibration of your barrel can be tricky. I had an old 1903 Springfield sporter with an old 4X Weaver scope on it, and the Government ammo would shoot a 3" group at 100 yards, I started loading a 165 grain JSP-BT (Jacketed soft point boat tail) and pulled that down to 2" I started backing down the powder charge 1/2 grain at a time, and got down to 45 Grains of IMR 4895 and it was breaking one hole! This is an impossibility for most old military Springfield's. But at 45 grains I found the rifle barrels vibration point.

I experimented with cast bullets in a Ruger Mini-14 .223, all I had was a 44 grain gas check round nose mold so I started experimenting with powders and loads. When I got it up to where it would cycle the action, I was shooting about a two foot group at 100 yards, and the barrel was leading something fierce. So I started backing it down to where I was shooting a 6" group and working it like a bolt action! I gave up. So I found an old Rockchucker .224 bullet forming die and press, at a very good price, so I bought it, including about 1400 .224 copper jackets. Well, having a metal lathe, I took a 7/8x14 hardened bolt annealed it and bored it .225, and made a .217by 4"  post with a shell holder base, re-hardened the bolt and base, and now I make .224 jackets from .22 Long rifle brass. It's a long, slow process to make bullets this way, but it will function the autos, and it's very accurate. You have to find clean 22 brass, anneal it in the oven for 3 hours on "Broil", CCI stinger nickel plated brass makes pretty bullets. About another hour in the oven, but you have to check them close for cracked and overlapped tips. those shoot okay in a .22 Hornet or .223 at lower velocities, but not in full house loads. Then you have to cast the cores, I cut the core mold into the back side of an old .50 caliber ball mold that was rusted I found at a yard sale. I take the cores slip them into the .22 LR jacket, tap them with a rubber mallet to set them into the bottom of the jacket, then run them into the die to form the .224 bullet. Then after you make up 500 or so, put them in the brass tumbler for a couple hours to clean them up. they come out 62 grain, the Stinger brass come out a little heaver, almost a hollow point. The home made bullets from .22 LR brass seem just as accurate out of the AR, Mini-14 and .223 bolt rifles and shot out of the .22-250 at around 3,400 FPS--very accurate.

Now I'm working on developing a similar die set for .30 caliber. One more thing worth mentioning is the small rifle and small pistol primers are the same size cups, same as the large rifle and large pistol primers are the same size. The cups on the pistol primers are a little thinner than the rifle, for obvious reasons, most rifle firing pins hit a lot harder than pistols do. I have used rifle primers in pistol rounds, and they seem to work fine. You might run into problems on S&W revolvers, using rifle primers, if you have the spring tension screw backed off to get a lighter trigger pull, but this could also happen with pistol primers, if backed off too far. Men sometime do this for wives who have trouble shooting double action, don't! Your taking a chance on a misfire when you do this. And never use a pistol primer in a rifle round, the cup is too thin and if the firing pin penetrates the primer, you will get gas back in your face.

Well reloading in my case is a necessity, being on Social Security I can't afford to buy anything but .22 Long Rifle ammo. But I think over the years I have loaded enough ammo to keep my grandkids shooting for life. Keep a good supply of powder and primers, and bullets if you can afford to buy them in bulk. My main powders are IMR 4895, 3031, Unique, 2400, and Bullseye, yeah, I'm old school. Bullseye is good for .38 Specials, using the 200 grain cast dome bullet with 3.5 grains of Bullseye I get 2,000 loads from a pound of powder. I have tried most of the new powders, but always go back to my old mainstays. (I hope I didn't insult anybody by saying the .25 ACP was worthless!) I load 0.7 grain of Bullseye with the 50 grain FMJ for my daughter in law, she has an old Colt Junior that her dad gave her, and she loves it. But in most cases the .22 Long Rifle is a much better choice than the .25, and lots cheaper! Incidentally, loading that .25 ACP with 0.7 grains that comes out to 10,000 rounds from a pound of Bullseye. And about 3500 rounds of .32 ACP from a pound of Bullseye. And if you buy these powders in the 4 or 8 pound containers that's a lot of reloading! I just wish the 4895 would stretch that far, but I get something like 145 rounds of .308 from a pound, depending on which bullet I use. I really like the Sierra 168 grain JHP-BT, that's about as close as I've come to the 173 grain FMJ military match bullet.

One main thing about reloading, keep in mind that alcohol and gunpowder is a bad mixture, and pay attention to all the operations, if somebody comes in and wants to talk, quit loading and talk. And over load is bad, but a round loaded with no powder is much worse, the primer, most of the time has enough power to put the bullet into the rifling just far enough to chamber another round! And if you don't catch the mistake and fire the following round you blow the barrel, and possibly ruin the action! Not to mention part of your face! So pay attention, and follow the manual closely, and don't use a load from memory, always look it up and make sure it's right! And never shoot somebody's reloads that you don't know, better to pull them down and reload them yourself than take a chance on blowing up a gun!

Survival reloading may come sooner than we'd like. I have Lyman 310 [hand reloading press] tools for several calibers but I don't care for the neck sizing only, and the load aren't interchangeable from one rifle to another of the same caliber. I much prefer the Lee Hand Press that will take your regular die sets. the only problem I've had with the Lee was there is no hole for the primers to fall out of the ram, and If you don't dump it regular it gets so many primers, that you can't pull the shell holder out of the ram. I drilled a hole in the front of the ram, and that solved the problem. Then I pulled one apart removing a sized .30-06 case from the die, the hand press is engineered for push action, and not pulling. When I got the replacement part I poured fiberglass resin with patches of aluminum screen in the hollow, and so far haven't pulled it apart again!

I've seen some reloaders mount a reloading press on the back bumper of their pickup, this is okay out in the country, but It wouldn't fly in the big cities where the anti-gun crowd lives, and driving on dirt roads doesn't do the press parts any good, plus they have to unscrew the handle every time it's not in use! Just watch the yard sales, pawn shops and junk stores and mainly estate sales, relatives that aren't into shooting usually have no idea what the dead uncle had invested and what everything is that he had in his shop! Many times you can buy a fortune in ammo brass and loading equipment for pennies on the dollar at these sales! And I have picked up loads of reloading stuff at sales from people who have no idea what the stuff was used for, and when you tell them it's for making bullets, they don't really want it around for fear the kids might get into it and get hurt.

One final note on cast bullets and killing game. I brain tan deer and elk hides. And if the animal is shot with a cast bullet, there is no blood saturation or fragment holes on the hide. Just a small size hole through both sides. When people offer me a hide, I ask what the animal was shot with, and if they say a .300 Magnum or 7mm magnum, I tell them no thanks, too much bullet damage, I've tried to save some that had about a 12" circle of small fragment holes and blood saturation around the exit hole, and I end up losing most of the bullet exit side of the hide! So when the dollar fails and you were too late to buy more ammo, I hope you were wise enough to buy the dies and molds for the guns you have. Plus the pot and dipper. And the dozens of other tools that expand you capabilities in reloading.

Monday, October 17, 2011

In a previous review, posted in April, 2001, I had posted favorable comments on the MGI "Hydra" modular rifle system. I am withdrawing that positive review, and alerting SurvivalBlog readers to NOT purchase this product. While the sample I wrote up in SurvivalBlog worked flawlessly, I have recently been informed of some serious quality control problems with current-production Hydra rifles. Several SurvivalBlog readers that placed orders have received defective guns. One SurvivalBlog reader, after many months, finally did get a working Hydra. But another SurvivalBlog reader is still waiting. He returned his Hydra before he even took it out of the gun shop - it fell apart. And now, despite numerous attempted contacts, he can't get any response from MGI nor have they offered a refund.
It would appear that we were all disappointed to one degree or another. So, be advised that I recommend that you DO NOT purchase MGI's Hydra rifles or receivers until they have corrected their quality control problems and have established a good reputation for customer service in rectifying their past mistakes. - Pat Cascio, SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor

[JWR Adds: I greatly appreciate Pat Cascio's honesty and integrity. His reviews are always frank, and he doesn't hesitate to mention when the quality of a product changes--for better or for worse. I have updated the review that he mentioned, so that any readers searching the archives will be fully informed.]

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.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I believe in having all the “big” things, to prepare for the possible breakdown of civil society.   I have a large home outside of a small mid-west town, and expect 12 people to arrive to hunker down, if things do fall apart.  I need to be able to feed and supply of them, perhaps for years.

So I have 1,200 gallons of Kerosene.  This is intended for heating the home for 3 winters, and I have 3 Kerosene heaters to do the job.  The Kerosene is stored in in 3 large 330 gallon plastic totes, half buried in my back yard, hidden by a wood pile, as well as four 55 gallon drums buried under my deck. I have a hand-crank pump to get fuel from either type of container.  I have treated it all with PRI-D, and I expect it to last for decades.  I have stored more PRI-D just in case.

I have 12,000+ pounds of food on site.  Along with lots of canned goods and dried meals, I have barrels of white rice, rye, Triticale, 5,000 pounds of hard red wheat, pinto beans, and 250 pounds of popcorn.  I have another 4,000 pounds of wheat in a barrels in a second location.

I bought the rice, beans and popcorn at Restaurant Depot in 50# bags, and the rest as “seed” from a local grain dealer, for around $14 per 60# bushel.  It's mostly stored in 55 gallon drums, with liners, and dry ice to drive out the oxygen.  Some is also in 6 gallon buckets. 

I have 300 gallons of water.  100 gallons of this is instantly drinkable, in 1/2-liter bottles.  I also have 100 gallons in two water heaters, and 110 gallons in two 55 gallon drums in my basement.  I could filter and/or disinfect this water if I needed to drink it, but it's intended for washing and toilet flushing.  I also have 1,000 coffee filters, and various-sized of commercial filters, to handle drinking water for the foreseeable future.  I have a 165 gallon tank collecting rain water from my downspouts as well, for gardening.  I bought that for $20 off Craig's List.

I have 36,000 rounds of ammo and eight guns.  I try to double up on calibers, so I have two rifles that use .223, two hand guns that use .40 S&W, and a .22 rifle and .22 pistol.  Much of the ammo is stored in sealed 4-gallon buckets with desiccants, but I always keep about 500 rounds in magazines ready to go.

I have bags of silver, mostly in junk pre-1965 coins, as well as gold in 1 oz coins.  I don't know if this will be needed for actual spending during a breakdown, but it should transport a chuck of wealth thru a hyperinflation.  Once there is a new currency, I can exchange the silver a little at a time to buy items I need. 

I also have Canadian dollars, which I think will do better than US currency at holding it's value.  And I have it in a Canadian bank, and I renewed my passport, in case I need to bug out for real.  I'm just a few hours from the border.

But I don't just want to survive if TSHTF.  I want to thrive.  So over the past few years I have gathered lots of other items that I don't want to be without, when there is no store to run to.  Once you have the big things, be sure to look for these “little things”, to make life easier. 

I have way too many of most of these items for our own use, unless things stay broken down forever, but I like them for trade items as well.  Barter may become very important.

I bought small 400 bars of soap.  These are individually wrapped hotel-size bars.  I paid $17 on eBay, or 4 cents each.  I want to be clean post-apocalypse, and these should trade well.  To help conserve water, I also bought a bucket of 500 Clorox disinfecting wipes.  Then I added 40 tooth brushes, at 5 for $1.  Dental hygiene will be important, and they should be trade well too.

I worry about lighting, especially in the winter, so I bought 3 gross (432) votive candles from, for 30 cents each.  They burn 15 hours.  I also bought sixå of the 120 hour Nu-wick candles on eBay for about $10 each.  They cost more per hour of light than the votive candles, but you can put 3 wicks in them, and cook over them if needed.  So combined, I have about 7,200 hours of candle light.  I think the small 15 hour candles will be good trading items as well.

I bought 200 Fish hooks for $1 at a flea market.  Others will need them.

I bought 12 rolls of Vietnam-era trip wire, 160 feet each, on eBay, and 1,000 feet of 6# fishing line.  I want to have lots of trip wires and booby traps to protect the homestead.  I also bought 50 old-fashioned mouse traps, 25 cents each, to use with the trip wires.  (You can attach the trip wire to the “cheese spot” and rig a shotgun shell primer under the spring arm, and make a nifty trap or alarm. I put aside 100 shotgun shell primers for this too.)

I bought 100 tubes of Super Glue on eBay, for about $20.  Good for trading, good for quick small repairs, and also good for treating minor cuts.  In a pinch you can glue the cut shut.  Nice pocket size item for trading.

I bought 4 gallons of Barricade Fire Blocking Gel for about $250.  You can but buy it on eBay.  That's a lot of money, but my house backs up to a woods.  If that woods starts on fire, I can quickly coat my roof and deck with this stuff, and it simply will not burn down.  Very important if there's no fire department available because TSHTF.

I bought three Water dispensing Fire Extinguishers via eBay, from a guy who salvages old buildings.  Just $15 each.  They hold 2.5 gallons of water, and you pump them up with a bike pump for pressure.  You wouldn't believe how far they throw a powerful stream of water!  They are like water cannons.   I could use them with a mixture of Barricade Gel to coat my roof will standing on the ground, if needed.  Otherwise, I have handy fire extinguishers that I can refill with water again and again.

I bought 1,200 doses of Antibiotics, from various Pet Med places on line, and Amazon.  I'm convinced they are the same as people meds.  I did my research, and settled on 200 doses of Cephalexin, 200 doses of Ciprofloxacin, 100 Metronidazole, 200 Doxycycline, 300 Amoxicillin, and 200 Ampicillin. 

I have them in the refrigerator until TSHTF, where they should stay near full potency for a decade.  After the electricity fails, they should still last for many years, and only slowly loose their punch.  After a decade, I may need to take double the dosage for the same effect, so I have stocked a good supply.  I hope to have a doctor to diagnose any problems, but in an emergency, I have some medical books, and may have to roll the dice in the face of a serious infection.

To help prevent illness, I also bought 100 of the N95 masks, and 200 pairs of rubber gloves.  (Don't ask me why, but I also bought 300 unopened, empty insulin syringes, on Craig's List for $20.)  I also bought four boxes of 100 count butterfly bandages, as well as many boxes of band aids, and 30 rolls of wrapping bandages. A primitive lifestyle can lead to lots of cuts and bumps, and I want to be prepared. 

I have all the standard over-the-counter stuff, purchased as Sam's Club.  This included many bottles of Imodium, Benadryl, Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, Pepto-Bismol and Robitussin.  I also bought a gallon of Chlorhexidine for washing wounds, and Silver Sulfadiazine and Ichthammol, based on articles I've read on treating injuries.  I also tucked away 4 quarts of Hydrogen Peroxide and 4 quarts of rubbing alcohol.

I've also stocked up on bottles of vitamins.  If TSHTF, nutrition will suffer.  So I have 50 big bottles of Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Acidophilus, and a good multiple vitamin.  This should handle my crew for years, and also allow some trading of bottles.

Having fire will always be important, so I bought 4,600 Strike Anywhere matches, in 32-match boxes.  These individual boxes should make great trading items, so I bought a gross of them.  I also bought more than 50 lighters, and spare fluid.

I am about to have installed a solar panel system and windmill to power the whole retreat, but I did buy 100 NiMH AA and AAA Batteries, and a small solar recharger.  All my little flashlights and tools use these, so I wanted a bunch.  There may even be a business opportunity, where you recharge batteries for people, and swap them charged ones for dead ones, as needed.

I hate bugs, so I bought 200 bottles of Mosquito spray!  Just 17 cents each from a guy who had overstocked.  Not aerosol cans, but the pump kinds, so they'll never go flat.  I did the research, and the active ingredients seem to have a long shelf life.  Farming would be unpleasant without bug spray, as would summer nighttime patrolling, and the bottles should also command a great deal in trade.  And when they finally ban DEET, I'll be all set.

I should get more, but I do have 10 bottles of sunscreen.

I'm obsessed with home security, so I bought 600 feet of razor wire (20 rolls of 30 ft each) and 10,000 feet of barbed wire.  (Remember to get the special gloves for handling the razor wire!)  I know wire won't keep people out if it's undefended, but we plan on it slowing the bad guys down long enough to shoot 'em.  Or just discourage them, so they move on to easier targets.  There are some good free PDFs on the net describing how to layout a good Soviet-style tangle foot obstacle.  Print one out and save it.

I may want to fortify defensive posts, and observations posts, so I have 500 sandbags.  Get the clear plastic self-sealing bags, from Home Depot, for about 35 cents each in boxes of 50.   They store/stack well, and self-sealing plastic bags have lots of uses besides home defense. (Such as human waste disposal.)

I expect we'll need to build stuff after TSHTF.  The lumberyard is unlikely to be open if things really fall apart.  So I bought about 10,000 nails and screws.  I bought dozens of trays of them at an area flea market, for about $50.  

The attic above my garage was not floored when I bought my home.  I put in a pull-down stairway, and “floored” the attic with loose 8-foot 2X4s.  I put about 100+ of them up there, not nailed down. [JWR Adds: That approach is not recommended in earthquake country.] So now it's a great place for me to store stuff like my barbed wire spools.  If and when I do need the wood for building, I can slowly un-floor my garage attic and have 100+ 2X4s for construction.  Until then, they make a fine, inexpensive floor.

I have 720 packets of various vegetable seeds.  I found a seed company distributor online, and ordered one of their vegetable variety display racks, at around 10 cent per packet.  These are the packs that sell for 59 cents. 

They are hybrid seeds, so the next-generation seeds collected from their veggies won't always reproduce true.  But I look at it this way – they are bred to produce bountiful first generation crops, unlike heirloom seeds, so my early crops after TSHTF will be reliable and big.  And I have so many packs, I won't need to save more seeds for decades.  Like all seeds, they should store well in my cool, dry basement, and the $70 they cost me wouldn't have bought me all that many heirloom seeds.  I expect the packets will make great trading items too.

I have 50 red laser pointers with white LED lights included.  I buy these on eBay for under $1 each, batteries and shipping included.    I think the little white lights are handy for in your pocket or hanging on a nail.  And we will use the red laser lights, in the hands of some of the women-folk, to make any raiders think we have even more guns aimed at them than we do.  (I also want to rig up a sort of hand-held “laser light gun” with dozens of lasers, which can be used to blind siege folks.  People are very afraid of looking into one of those lasers, and being blinded, so they should be intimidating!)

I worry about a large group rushing the retreat, in greater numbers than we can shoot quickly.  Or at night or as a surprise attack using a distraction.  If a group crashes through multiple doors and windows at once, we could be screwed.  So I bought a 150 ft long heavy fishing net, 12 ft wide, on eBay, for $100.

I cut the big net into various sizes for hanging over all the doors and ground-floor windows.  These individual nets can be hung quickly with the hooks I have, and should secure all the entries long enough for us to defend them.  Even if you shoot my front door of its hinges, it's just going to hang there in place, held up by the heavy netting inside.  Then I'm going to shoot you through it.

I bought 7 pounds of calcium hypochlorite (pool shock) for less than $20 from  Each pound will make enough chlorine bleach to disinfect 12,000 gallons of water.  I intend to make bottles of bleach in my 1/2-liter water bottles, and sell them as a business when TSHTF.  Each little bottle will itself disinfect 12 gallons of water for someone.  I'll make some money, and save some lives at the same time.

I have stored 72 gallons of treated gasoline in twelve 6-gallon cans.  I empty one into my car each month, and refill it, to keep the stock of gas fresh.  I use the mid-grade without ethanol, in case I want to use it in small engines. 

I also bought 1 gallon of PRI-G, to rejuvenate 2,000 gallons in the future.  A few years after TSHTF, there will likely be lots of old “worthless” gasoline, that can be completely reconstituted if you have PRI-G set aside.  It costs about $85 a gallon on line, but I think it's worth it--from  Five years after a collapse, I still want to have a chainsaw!  (I bought several extra chains for the saw as well.  And 2 back-up chain saws, tucked away.)

Because I worry about bullets flying in through my walls, and I also worry about inflation, I have slowly accumulated 1 million pennies (400 boxes, $25 each).  Each box already has about $40 in copper (pre-1981 pennies make up about 30% of each box), so I'm ahead $15 the day I “buy” them.  I don't sort out the good pennies. 

I have the unopened boxes stacked along the outside walls of the upstairs bedrooms.  I guarantee no rifle bullet is getting through the siding, the wall boards, and the boxes of pennies.  If we never collapse, I have a great inflation hedge in the pre-1981 copper pennies.  If we have deflation, my coins will increase in buying power.  And in a hyperinflation, if we get a new currency, the coins may be accepted as part of the new money, and avoid the inflation entirely.

Since they don't make Sears catalogs any more, I have stocked up 200+ rolls of toilet paper.  I keep adding to the stash.  It takes up some space, but I don't want to think about the end of the world without toilet paper.  Not with 14 people living in my home if things fall apart!  I also bought one of those handy 5-gallon bucket toilet seat tops, just in case.

I don't expect your average thugs to have tear gas, but some left-over police state types may have some.  So I bought 10 Israeli M15 Gas Masks and 20 spare 40mm filters on eBay.  I can also use them if the woods behind my house is on fire, and I'm busy spraying Barricade Gel on my roof while the smoke surrounds me.

I also bought five canisters of Clear Out tear gas from one of your sponsors,  $17 each.  (Remember to use the SurvivalBlog discount code "sb"!)  I figure I can roll a can down the stairs from my second floor if intruders do get in, and our gas masks will protect us from the effects, and allow us to fight while the tear gas gives us the edge.

I also bought a roll of 1,000 feet of 550 paracord for $36, from another of your sponsors  That stuff is good for so many things.  I added an 4-wheel block & tackle, so with the paracord I can lift some very heavy items.  I've practiced with it, and it's fun to lift 100 pounds with one hand.  Don't forget a few hundred cable ties as well.  Very handy.

Speaking of lifting things by hand, buy gloves when you find them inexpensively.  I also bought the expensive studded gloves for handling razor wire, and some “welding glove” for high heat, and some rubber coated gloves, but mostly you want a box full of more modest gloves.  Simple cloth hand-covers,  for doing regular outdoor tasks, will really save on the wear and tear, as well as precious water for hand-scrubbing.  At flea markets, I often see them for $1 a pair, so I have stocked up.  They should trade well too.  (If you find a couple nicer, leather gloves, stash those away as well.)

I continue to read survival blogs every day, and I am always looking for new items that will be both handy, and good for trading.  I usually buy them on eBay.  I also find the big outdoor flea markets offer a large variety of useful items.  And I watch Craig's List for things I haven't thought of.  I also love the Deal of the Day sites.  Each day, I stop by, for a summary of all the deal site offers, and I often find bargains on stuff I think I can use.

Start a list of things you'd like to have on the shelf.  Add to it every time you read something interesting on the web.  Don't rush out and buy them all at once, but check the items off as you come across them at a bargain price.  In a surprisingly short time, you will find you have stocked a lot of handy items for use, and for trading.  Good luck.

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): 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.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Dear Sir,

First, before I get started, my thanks to you for this blog and your books.

I've invested in metals: Gold, silver, check; "Real" copper pennies, nickels, check; Lead...what? lead? Yes, lead. To me, as a reloader and bullet caster for more than four decades cheap lead in the form of Linotype and wheel weights was taken for granted. But now, with the new regulatory push from the EPA, lead will soon no longer be used as the balance weights on our wheels. This will dry up the last major source of inexpensive used lead [that is in chunks that are a convenient size for melting pots].
My suggestion to all "preppers" even if you do not reload and cast your own bullets is to save your brass and keep an eye out for lead in any form (except lead/acid batteries)
because a reloader/caster such as myself would turn your empties into like new practice or hunting ammo. Some restrictions apply. I am talking about using cast lead in pistol
calibers, buckshot and slugs and some lower velocity rifle cartridges. Your MBR and  AR's require jacketed bullets but you still need to save the brass it has value and  you could barter "components" for ammo. Reloading is a skill everyone should be aware of and a "group" should be able to perform. 

One last thing: Stock up on .22 Long Rifle (LR) ammunition. 10-to-20 thousand rounds would be a good start. It makes a great barter item. I believe there are more .22 LR firearms in US than all others combined and  .22 LR and the other rimfire cartridges cannot easily be reloaded.

Keep your powder dry. - Capt. Mike

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The debate on firearms manufacturers and caliber are endless, so each person must in the final assessment decide what works for them and theirs, having over 50 years of shooting, gunsmithing experience, and having taught firearms safety, I would like to offer a insight on a wonderful .22 rimfire rifle that is available from Henry Arms Company.  It is called the U.S. Survival Rifle .22. (A very appropriate name, for current conditions in this world).   I first owned a variant of this little rifle back in the 1980s when it was called the AR-7 and enjoyed the unique shooting and storage aspects that this rifle offers.  The rifle is a breakdown unit where the barrel, receiver, and two supplied  8 round magazines, store in the butt stock and has the ability to float.  The size when broken down and stowed is approximately 16.5 inches by 6 inches.   This unit is great for a bugout bag, boat, backpack, etc.   This rifle is available on line from for about $200 and that includes shipping [to your local FFL], for a high quality, dependable 22 LR that's a winner have several of this, that I carry in each one of my vehicles and have in my general prep units. 

The reliability is fantastic, having shot nearly 30,000 rounds thru them, without one misfire says a lot about a rifle. OBTW, I prefer CCI Stingers or Velacitor Hyper .22 LR ammo. It has several features I enjoy, the orange front sight, built in mounting rail on the receiver for a scope, makes this a great gun to have around.   My experience is that any gun that has little recoil, or noise that makes it hard to adapt to most people who do not have shooting experience is a blessing.  As far as caliber, I would not wish to be in range being shot at with a .22 LR hyper velocity hollow point, and this gun has a 8 round semi-auto capability that can lay down some lead rapidly, if required.  Also it can carry a magazine in the receiver along with 2 extra magazines in their storage area in the butt stock, (it only comes with two mags, you would need to buy a third), this gives you 24 rounds on hand.

For those on a tight budget, this rifle compared to the average handgun is a steal. Consider that for about $800 you can purchase four rifles (which could help arm most of the average family), instead of buying one average-priced handgun of any caliber.  There are several YouTube videos about this great little gun. It also does not draw attention the way most assualt weapons do.  With the ever-increasing controls by the Washington anti-gunners that are always in work, having this. 22 LR rifle in your survival  planning should be prime consideration.   

God bless this great country and also this blog. - John in Arizona

JWR Replies: There have been several AR-7 makers since the 1960s, starting with late, great Arma-Lite company in Costa Mesa, California. Over the years, I've owned AR-7s from three different makers. They are indeed reliable guns, and being so compact and lightweight, they fill an important niche in family preparedness planning. They are also useful for firearms training of children. (Although I've observed that the single-shot Chipmunk teaches much better fire discipline.)

Unfortunately, all of the AR-7 rifles have rather crude peep sights that make them unsuitable for precision pest shooting, which is one of the main chores of .22 rimfires. There are grooves for a scope mount, but unfortunately scopes with this type of mount have very poor "return to zero", when dismounted and re-mounted. So there goes the gun's "everything fits in the stock" advantage. Therefore, unless space and weight are at an absolute premium, I instead recommend buying the stainless variant of the Marlin 70P "Papoose" takedown rifle. Granted, they weigh more than an AR-7, and they don't float, but they are better suited to scope mounting which in my estimation makes them a better choice.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

This article is an after action report (AAR) of sorts on my experiences with buying registered NFA items with a $200 transfer tax, and to piggyback on the few entries in SurvivalBlog dealing with suppressors.  There are a few reasons to not buy a silencer.  Mainly that you lose a bit of your privacy by giving info to the ATF, but you do that whenever you fill out a Form 4473.  After much internal debate, I decided to go off of the deep end after reading an article here on  It dealt with problems in Argentina when the SHTF down there.  The author stated how having a suppressor would have been “handy” in some situations.  Coupled with my philosophy of “Buy it now, before its illegal”, I bought four suppressors.  Now my HK USP .45 sounds like this.  That being said, you really only need three suppressors.  I’ll explain that shortly.

When you set out to buy your suppressors, there are many things to keep in mind: caliber; subsonic ammo; metal composition; and most importantly, the threading.  And don’t forget the obvious: “Do I live in a Nanny State that tells me what I can and cannot own ?” (Some states have their own laws on suppressors and full auto guns.)

Caliber.  You want to stick to common calibers. Always!  You only want three calibers, and in this order: .22LR (pistol/rifle); .45 ACP (pistol); and .308 (rifle only). Why only three calibers of suppressors?  The reason is simple—a thread adapter opens up more calibers to you.  The .22 LR suppressor is good for all similar diameter bullets and smaller (like .17 HMR).  The .45 ACP is good for all .45 ACP to include all smaller pistol calibers.  And the .308 suppressor will be good for the smaller calibers such as .223, .270, and similar calibers such as 7.62, .30-06, and .300 Winchester Magnum.  Please check to see what your suppressor is rated for first, as well as check the threading (more on that later).  Lastly, bear in mind that there may be some loss in decibel reduction when firing a smaller bullet through a suppressor not normally used for that caliber: i.e. a 9mm through a .45 ACP suppressor might be louder than a suppressor specifically designed for a 9mm (not to mention that that round is [normally] supersonic).
Metal composition.  Most suppressors are made of aluminum, steel, or titanium.  Bear in mind that over time, your suppressor will lose some of its efficiency.  I think it’s negligible. 

Aluminum: By far the least expensive.  Suppressors made of aluminum are typically for your .22LRs and other pistol calibers.  These are lightweight and dissipate heat well.  The internal baffles are usually aluminum as well.  Being made of aluminum, rust is not a problem.  However, being made of aluminum, they damage more easily (i.e.: the threads might strip more easily, or it might get crushed by something heavy).  Moreover, being made of a cheaper metal, they will not last as long as those made with more durable materials.  I do not mean that to mean your suppressor will go bad on you after 10,000 rounds.  It’s just a less durable material.

Steel: Cost more than aluminum suppressors, but cheaper than titanium.  Very durable.  Typically for your rifle calibers from .223 on up.  These get hot!  As with all suppressors, exercise some caution in removing them by wearing a glove.  My steel suppressor was so hot after firing about 50 rounds of .223 I had to wait until it cooled off sufficiently enough because it was hot enough to melt plastic even after 15 minutes.  This meant I could not return it to my backpack.  One more thing, steel suppressors are heavy!  Put one of these on the end of your gun and it feels like an anchor is on it.  And don’t forget that steel rusts.

Titanium:  The most expensive.  Super light compared to the steel suppressors.  I do not own one but the one I held gave me the impression that it would hold less heat than its steel counterpart. Most durable material there is.  Will last the longest of the three materials.

*One note: make sure you screw the suppressor on tightly.  They have a tendency to come unscrewed as you shoot them.  If you have a suppressor that unscrews from either end, be careful.  The threaded end screwed onto the barrel may get stuck on due to heat expansion, making removing the item difficult since the screw on piece is still on the barrel after you have removed the rest of the suppressor.  My solution was to put blue Loctite on that end.  I've had no problem ever since.    

Cycling (ammo and the need for a piston):
--Pistol suppressors:  Some suppressors for pistols require a “piston” in order for the pistol to cycle.  The Gemtech Blackslide features such a device.  Otherwise, you may have to charge your pistol after every shot.  Make sure you look into the suppressor’s literature before you buy.  You’ll usually only have this problem with subsonic ammo, and not the high-powered stuff.

--Rifle suppressors: No need to worry about a piston, however, cycling with subsonic ammo will be a problem with semi-autos.  When I was experimenting with loads, some led to semi ejected rounds (in my AR-15) until the charge got low enough to where the bolt stayed close.  At this point, I had to manually eject each round.

Subsonic ammo
.  Contrary to Hollywood movies, regular (supersonic) ammo in a rifle makes a lot of noise.  The thing sounded about as suppressed as a banshee.  Subsonic ammo is what you want for your suppressor.  Subsonic .22 LR ammo is readily available.  For .22LR, if not marked sub-sonic, then ammo that states its fps is around 1,070fps will do fine, even though it’s a bit louder than subsonic.  [JWR Adds: Most "Target" grade .22 LR ammo is subsonic.]

Most .45 ACP is subsonic.  This is one reason you want your large caliber pistol suppressor to be in .45 ACP.  You ge t knockdown power in a pistol that transitions from "boom!" to just "thump".  Unless you plan on firing any of those hot .45 ACP rounds, odds are that your .45 round will be subsonic. [JWR Adds: In contrast, most 9mm Parabellum and .40 S&W ammo can be supersonic, depending on the elevation. You have to pay more for special subsonic 9mm ammo.]

Adapters allow you to keep the number of suppressors you need low.  For $60 you can buy an adapter that will allow you to place a 5/8” x 24 TPI .308 suppressor on your ½” x 28 TPI AR-15.  The same goes for your .45 ACP pistol.  Buy large, and adapt down.  And remember, you cannot fire a .308 through a .223 suppressor!

  This is very important.  Pistols and rifles have different threads.  The most common threads are ½” x 28 TPI, ½” x 36 TPI, and 5/8” x 24 TPI.  Keep this info in mind if you wish to thread one of your bolt actions to get a flash hider put on it, and to use a suppressor on that same rifle.  Most .22LRs have the ½” x 28” TPI, to include .22LR pistols.  Large caliber rifles tend to have the 5/8” x 24 TPI.  A word of caution, be careful when buying a suppressor for a pistol/foreign pistol, or a foreign rifle (metric measurements)!  The threads get whacky for many of the barrels, and it’s here that you may be only able to get one suppressor for one type of pistol (i.e.: you want a suppressor for your FN FiveSeven).  The reason is that not all pistol barrels are the same diameter, whereas most rifles are threaded to the same specs regardless of the barrel diameter. 

Threaded suppressor or quick detach? 
Threaded suppressors of course require a threaded barrel.  Quick detach (QD) suppressors require a flash hider tailored to the suppressors quick detachment cut-out, or the flash hider’s thread.  Make sure that you do not buy a QD suppressor for a threaded barrel because the pitches/grooves are nowhere near the same for the flash hider as they are for the barrel, and you may have to go through hell and high water to get your barrel threaded to accept the QD flash hider, just to mount a suppressor.

  As Mr. Rawles has said, if you get this job done, be discreet.  Make sure you are clear in describing what you want, and make sure the person is reputable.  The thread must be true or else the suppressor will go on crooked and that can lead to what is called a baffle strike.  I was told by one gent that most suppressor manufacturers will not service your suppressor (under its warranty) if they do not know the person, or business, who performed your threading because it could be a defect in the threading that caused the strike and not a manufacturer’s defect.  Check with them to see if they have an “approved list”.

Firing wet. 
You can fire your can "wet", but this does not mean your can is designed to be fired “wet”.   This reduces the sound because it reduces the temperature of the hot gases which are responsible for most of the noise (minus the sonic crack, of course).  Make sure you check the directions before you do so.  I added a little water to my Blackside and the difference was huge.  Some folks use WD-40 (I would not do this!), and lithium grease.  My Blackside came packed with lithium grease.  When I fired it, the sound was very low, but there was so much smoke as to think that a semi had just changed gears going up a hill!   And remember that steel rusts.

Buying a sheath.
  I recommend this.  I thought the sheaths were for camouflage, until I tried to take mine off using my naked hand (dumb).  When I was a child, I accidentally grabbed a glowing orange/red jumbo sparkler.  It felt exactly the same.  Buy a sheath.  It’ll also provide a little more protection to your suppressor since they are slightly padded Nomex.   And just because you have a sheath on your suppressor I still recommend using a glove when trying to remove it.

Firing with a suppressor.  A few observations I’ve noticed about firing a suppressor.  Your ammo cases get really dirty!  I say this as a heads up to reloaders.  The other thing is hard to explain.  When firing my AR-15 suppressed, it was as if the gases were coming back at me.  It was like they just went in my eyes and nose and tried to come out of my mouth.  Could have been the back pressure.   So if you are trying to kill zombies trying to steal your food and gold, keep this in mind: the gases may make your eyes water.

The process.  My goal here is to keep this simple and tell you what I had to do because neither  the local Sheriff, nor the Police Chief, would not sign off on his portion of the paperwork.  My guidance came from the Class 3 FFL dealer.  The traditional way requires that you accomplish:

  • Two passport photos for each ATF Form 4 (money).
  • $200 Money Order/check for the tax stamp.
  • Copy of citizenship form (2).
  • Finger print cards (2).
  • ATF Form 4 for each item (the sheet itself is duplicate).
  • LEO form signed by the Sheriff, Judge, D.A., Police Chief, etc.
  • Pay the transfer fee the store usually charges you.  About $75 (once you get the item).

I do not recommend this method because: it costs more; longer wait; less privacy; and it’s more difficult to leave your NFA items with someone you know.  Finally, you then send all of this in and wait 4-6 months!

Here’s what my Class 3 FFL guy told me to do:

Buy Quicken WillMaker Plus 2011 (or later) and set up your Revocable Living Trust (RLT) ($14).  I already had my suppressors at the store (which meant I had the serial numbers and the physical description) so I added them (some might disagree with this). Get it notarized.  No need for a lawyer who will charge you $150! 

A word of caution here.  This is what I did based upon the advice of my Class 3 FFL who has had numerous NFA transfers approved using this method in this state.  Some recommend that you go through a lawyer, or a professional, that specializes in the creation of RLTs as opposed to using a software program.  Whatever bed you choose, you will have to sleep in it.

I put my immediate family in my trust.  The benefit to the RLT is that if you have to leave your NFA items behind, you can leave them with those on the trust as opposed to transferring the items to them, and thus having to pay the $200 transfer  tax, and then waiting for the turnaround in paperwork.  Furthermore, anytime you wish to add another NFA item, you just write it on your RLT once you take possession of the item (you still have to go through the same NFA process!).  One thing: Make sure those you list on your RLT know what they are getting into when you leave these items with them.  You owe it to them. 

Some benefits to the RLT route:

  • No fingerprints
  • No photos
  • No citizenship form to fill out
  • No LEO signature

All that you need to do if you've established a trust:

  • Pay transfer fee to FFL.
  • Fill out ATF Form 4.
  • Pay $200 tax stamp. 

A key point: If you buy multiple NFA items and submit the paperwork at the same time, do a USPS Money Order for each item since one benefit is that it will instantly clear.  The FFL explained to me that if there is a discrepancy in your paperwork for one item, and not all of them, the examiner may hold up all of your items if you, for instance, wrote a $600 check for three items.  But if you send if separate Money Orders, then the unaffected items can still go through the process because the payments for those items is independent of the frustrated item.

Using the RLT method, the turnaround time for me was three months, only because some ATF person had forgotten my paperwork in their in box.  As soon as my FFL called the ATF, the Examiner signed the docs and sent them out the next day. So really it was like 2½ months.  The FFL guy I was working through said he got his back in two months using the same process.  He said that this was the quickest he had ever seen it done.

ATF Form 4s. 
Once complete, you must keep the ATF form 4s with the items whenever you move them.  The FFL dealer showed me this really cool idea.  He had his copied and shrunk down to a card that a local place made into something akin to a driver’s license.  What I did was go to a UPS Store and have them shrink it down and then laminate each ATF Form 4.  Each card is very legible and fits in my wallet.  Keep your originals in a safe place.  I’d make digital copies of your forms as well and store that file in a safe place.

Crossing state lines. 
Unlike other NFA items, you do not need to complete an ATF Form 5320.20 when taking a suppressor across state lines. (I got this confirmed by an ATF branch agent in West Virginia).  However, you must take your ATF Form 4s with you for each NFA item in your possession whenever transporting them.  Never leave home without them.   [JWR Adds: Of course state laws also apply, so check the laws of the states that you will be transiting, before you travel!]

Inspections.  Speaking to the local ATF rep, I found out that the ATF does not conduct administrative visits for private citizens in possession of NFA items (to include machine guns).  She stated that this is a nationwide policy, and that they only inspect licensed dealers with NFA items.  She added that in New York that there could be [state] inspections. (Which is why you should vote with your feet).   In addition, she said local laws may vary, and in that regard the local authorities may be able to inspect your NFA items.

Reloading: Creating your own subsonic rounds.  If you wish to do this, bear in mind that you are giving up a lot of oomph with your .223 or .308.  My AAR observations when trying to create my own subsonic .223 rounds are as follows: 1) most subsonic rifle rounds are heavier than normal; and 2) subsonic rifle round manufacturers  ‘suggest’ that you use a faster than normal rifle twist with their bullets.  For example, I’ve seen commercial .223 subsonic weigh in at 100 grains and ask for a 1:7 inch twist.  I’ve also seen subsonic .22 LR in 60 grains and ask for a 1:9 inch twist.  When you start designing your loads to get the right combination, safety first!  You do not want an undercharged bullet to get stuck in the barrel [or strike a baffle]s.  Using a chronometer (with your rifle barrel four to five feet back), start with heavy charges and work your way down to lesser grain charges as opposed to starting weak and working your way up.  Point the barrel at the ground or at any target which you can easily discern a hit.  I suggest using the ground as dirt will fly up with each hit.  If you see dirt, then you know the bullet left the barrel.  Catalog each bullet as you decrease in grains.  Bear in mind that in a semi-auto you will go from a cycling bolt, to a partially cycling bolt with its jammed expended cartridges, to a bolt that does not cycle at all.  Keep track of the kind of brass you used (not that important), the primer, the powder, the bullet brand and grain, the seating depth, the barrel rifle twist, as well as the barrel length so that you can recreate your load and possibly share with others under what conditions your bullet was subsonic.  And keep an eye on your chronometer.  Make sure you do not get too close or you will be measuring the velocity of the bullet, and sometimes the gases.  I made this mistake and several times got a reading of 4,400fps even as I was decreasing powder charges.

In closing, one person put it, getting an NFA item is a lot like getting a CCW permit.  Lastly, remember to “buy it now before it’s illegal” (and that goes for everything).  They’ve already started banning lemonade stands, home gardens, and walking while texting. Who knows what’s next?

And thank you to those who provided feedback to the earlier posting!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I just wanted to drop an alternate product use suggestion. In my gun closet I have a mesh over-the-door shoe organizer that mount to the doors by hooks. When I swing the door open to get to the gun safe I have loaded magazines in easy to grab and recognizable rows in the shoe holder. I also keep other small parts like extra scopes, bipods, and other detachable items in the compartments.  It is four pockets across and six down, for 24 total pockets. Each pocket will easily hold two loaded AK magazines or three AR magazines.  This gives a ready reserve of 72 loaded AR-15 magazines that are taking up essentially zero [floor] space. - M.A.T. in Virginia

Friday, July 22, 2011

I have a good friend, Gene Sockut, who lives in Israel. Gene was the chief firearms instructor for the Israeli army for something like 26 years, so when he speaks about firearms, I listen. Gene is also the author of several books and videos on close combat with firearms, as well as being a much sought after speaker on self-defense. He is also a sniper instructor for the Israel Border Patrol - Gene knows about guns and gunfighting, so I respect his thoughts on firearms. Sockut thinks very highly of the Galil.

The Israeli Galil rifle was used for several years in the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) in both the 5.56mm and 7.62x51 NATO version. The 5.56mm version was more popular and made in much larger numbers. I set my sights on getting a Galil for many years, however, the few [pre-ban] examples that are in the US are high-priced and hard to come by. I was excited to hear that Century Arms was producing a semiauto version of the famed Galil. They called it the Golani, named after the famed Israeli Golani Brigade. [JWR Adds: The Golanis are built on American-made receivers, using military surplus (used) Galil parts sets, and the requisite number of of "U.S.-made parts" to comply with the silly Section 922(r).]

Of course, my first thoughts were just how close was the Golani going to be to the real thing? I had a chance to handle a genuine Galil many years ago, so I had something to go by for a comparison. Everything I read and saw about the Century Arms Golani seemed too good to be true. I saw a Golani in one of the gun shops I haunt, and was immediately taken with how well-made it was - the deal was sealed.

The Golani is based on the AK-47 design, with a few changes, nothing much worth noting, if you know the AK, then you'll know the Golani. One thing I like on the Golani is the tipped-up charging handle, which makes it easy to chamber a round with either hand. I also like the side-folding stock. When the stock is opened, it locks-up solid - not something I can say about most AK folding stocks, be they side-folding or under-folding designs.

The Golani comes with a brand-new barrel and USA made receiver, the barrel is 19" long - why Century chose that barrel length is beyond me. I would have preferred the barrel to be 16" in length - making it more compact. There is also a flash suppressor on the end of the barrel which mimics those found on AR-15s. The front handguard is made out of polymer and it just feels great to me. The gun was nicely Parkerized, giving it a very military look - I liked it. The Golani also comes with a 35-rd mag - giving the shooter five more rounds than most AR mags - nothing wrong with more rounds on-hand.

Coming in at 9-lbs, the Golani isn't a light-weight. Then again, most folks who are really into AR-15 type rifles add a lot of gizmos on their guns making them a lot heavier than nine pounds. The good news is, when you fire the Golani, that extra weight helps reduce what little recoil there is from the 5.56mm round. The Golani will also shoot the .223 Remington round.

As is the case with many Century Arms firearms, the gun was dirty and had metal filings on the innards. So, a good cleaning and lube was in order before attempting to fire the Golani. You should also clean and lube any firearm before firing it - just makes good sense, and you can see if there is something in the bore. Don't laugh, I know a gun dealer who found some wasp nest inside the barrel of a couple new rifles he had sitting on his display rack. Had someone tried to fire those guns, something really bad could have happened to the shooter and the gun.

The Golani's mag release is ambidextrous, and is thumb operated, just like on the AK-47 - you can insert and remove a mag with either hand, and the mags lock-up tight. Just like an AK or M14, the Golani mags have to be inserted with the front end going in first, and then rocked into place, locking the mag into the mag well.

I'd like to report that my Golani sample worked perfectly out-of-the-box, but it didn't! I had numerous instances where the bolt rode over the round and didn't chamber the round. I also had a lot of rounds that would take a dive up, and not chamber, beating the daylight out of those rounds. Usually, when you have feeding problems, it can be traced to a bad magazine - and in this case, it was a bad magazine. The mag that came with my Golani was very rough. I've read a number of reports from folks who purchased a Golani having the same problem. Why on earth does Century Arms ship rifles with "iffy" magazines is beyond me - but they did, and still do! Shame on you, Century Arms.

A quick call to my favorite mailorder company, CDNN Sports, and I found some as-new Galil 35-rd mags for $29.99 each, and some in "excellent" condition for $19.99 each, so I ordered half a dozen of the new mags. When the new Galil mags arrived, there were no more feeding problems with my Golani sample. You should also look at a magazine anytime you have feeding problems with any firearms, more often than not, there is a problem with the magazine. I found, upon close examination, that the magazine provided with my Golani rifle had problems - the reinforced top portion of the magazine had split. I had a friend re-weld it, and the mag worked fine after that. I understand that TAPCO is also making a polymer mag for the Golani/Galil rifles, but I haven't yet used any of them.

Be advised, the Golani 35-rd mags won't fit in a standard military ALICE M16 magazine pouch. However, you can find ALICE-style AK-47 30-rd magazine pouches from Charley's Surplus for $12.95 each, that work perfectly for the Golani 35-rd mags (as well for for 30-rd AK-47 mags). The Golani magazines will also fit in some of the tactical vests mag pockets, but not in others.

The safety on the Golani operates just like that on an AK-47, it's on the right side of the receiver "up" is safe, and "down" is fire. It's hard to operate with the right hand. There is also an added safety release on the left side (on the top of the pistol grip) but it isn't very well designed and is also hard to operate.

The sights on the Golani are better than those found on the AK, and you have a long sight radius, giving you a better sight picture, than found on the eastern European and Chinese AK-47s and most of their variants. I also like the longer and more hand-filling pistol grip on the Golani, as compared to the AK-47. There overall feel of the Golani is just one of a very-well made, and solid military-style combat rifle, period!

I tested a selection of .223 ammo through my Golani sample, including various Russian-made ammo, and of course, some outstanding .223 Rem. from Black Hills Ammunition and Winchester's white box USA brand and had no feeding or functioning problems at all - after I used the better mags from CDNN Sports. Extraction and ejection were to the right and about 20 feet from the rifle. I was getting 3" groups with most ammo tested, with a couple around just under 3" with the various Black Hills .223 ammo - the Golani liked the 55-gr bullets best with it's 1:9 barrel twist. I burned through more than 500-rds of the Winchester white box USA brand 55-gr FMJ ammo with no problems at's great ammo and I highly recommend it, especially when breaking-in a new firearm. I tried several different jacketed hollow point rounds from Black Hills, and the gun just ate 'em all up without any problems.

If you're in the market for a great .223/5.56 rifle for survival, or just fun shooting, then take a close look at the Century Arms Golani. I know you won't be disappointed, once you replace the junk magazine supplied with the rifle, with a like-new mag from CDNN Sports. The good news is that, the Golani is still in-stock and readily available. The bad news is, supplies are limited won't last forever. Presently, J&G Sales sells the Golani for only $499.99 - and that's a great deal on a great rifle with a proven design. I've dealt with J&G Sales for many years, and they provide excellent customer service and good prices. So, take a close look at the Century Arms Golani for your next purchase. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

JWR Adds: In my opinion, Galils, R4s, and Valmets represent the very best in the AK weapons family. We have a Galil Golani here at the ranch. My only complaint is that like a lot of other AKs, it has a wicked trigger backlash "slap" that makes it painful to shoot extensively. But I've read that this can be cured fairly easily.

Monday, July 18, 2011

I hear from quite a few SurvivalBlog readers about my articles. Most of you are pretty knowledgeable, polite and have questions. There's a few SurvivalBlog readers who are rude, it's okay, we're all entitled to our opinions. When you're reading a review of any product, be it a gun, knife, camping gear, or whatever, you must remember, you are reading the opinion of the writer. Although I've been writing about firearms and knives for almost 20-years now, and I've been a shooter for more than 40 years, I don't consider myself an "expert" of any sort. Instead, I call myself a serious student. When you read my reviews, you are reading what I have learned from testing a particular product. My opinion is based on many years experience, and based on my evaluation of the products being tested.

I certainly don't expect everyone to agree with my findings, especially when it comes to guns and knives. While I might think that a particular gun I tested is right for me, it may not be right for someone else. The sample gun I tested might have operated without any malfunctions, and your same model of the same gun might have problems. Bad guns slip through the QC at the best firearms factories - it's just a fact of life. However, I believe most gun companies are quick to resolve any problems you might have with their firearms - at least based on my own experiences over many years dealing with gun companies.

Okay, up for review today is the Springfield Armory M1A "Loaded" 7.62x51 NATO battle rifle. I cut my teeth on the old military M14 in basic training at Ft. Ord, California back in 1969. About the only complaint I had at that time was the weight of the M14, which was close to 10 pounds. I went into BCT at Ft. Ord weighing in at a whopping 130 pounds. I came out of my infantry school at Ft. Lewis, Washington at 165 pounds. The M14 was heavy, at least for me, and some other soldiers who were small-framed and who didn't weigh a lot. Then again, a lot of the bigger guys also complained about the weight of the M14. The Springfield Armory M1A is a semiauto only version of the venerable M14 - for the most part.

I was also a member of the Illinois State Rifle and Pistol Team, when I worked full-time for the Illinois National Guard. We were issued match-grade M14s and M1911s for competition. We were also supplied with all the ammo we wanted - how I wish I had taken advantage of that - I'd probably still have match ammo to this day - hindsight is wonderful! Our match-grade M14s could easily shoot 1 MOA if we did our part. I competed in quite a few high-powered rifle matches while on the team, and usually won in my division - I was (and still am) into guns and do a lot of shooting. The Springfield Armory M1A Loaded rifle offers exceptional value and performance with it's American walnut stock, air gauged medium weight national match barrel in either stainless steel or chrome poly. There is also a national match trigger assembly, although not as nicely done as the one I had on my M14 competition rifle. The front sight and non-hooded rear sight assemblies are also national match, along with the flash suppressor.

With a 22" barrel, the M1A seems like it's actually longer than it actually is. However, when you compare it to most standard high-powered hunting rifles, the barrel is actually shorter, and when you compare it to most magnum caliber high-powered hunting rifles, the barrel is actually shorter on the M1A. The trigger is a military two-stage, that is matched tuned to 4.5-5 lbs - and I've actually found on most M1A models that I've examined (and owned) the trigger pull as lighter. Overall length of the Springfield Armory M1A is 44.3" which isn't too bad for a battle rifle.

I'm totally ashamed to say, I don't currently owned a Springfield Armory M1A - I know, I know - 50-lashes with a wet noodle. However, the last M1A I owned was a Loaded model, and it wasn't that long ago that I owned this rifle. It was one of those "why did I trade that gun?" deals that haunts a man for many years. My last sample M1A had the chrome moly barrel, which I prefer, as I think chrome moly barrels offer a little better accuracy of stainless barrels. I have no scientific proof of this, only my own experience.

I can honestly say that, I've probably fired tens of thousands of rounds through various M1A rifles over the years, and through my military issued match M14, so I have formed some opinions based on my experience with these types of rifles. I believe the M1A is a very reliable rifle, and I don't ever recall one having any sort of malfunction - period! And, I have fed all manner of 7.62x51 NATO ammo through these rifles. We're talking reloaded ammo, Russian-made steel-cased ammo, match-grade military ammo, military surplus ammo and commercial .308 ammo with a 150 grain bullet weight- and the M1A just keeps on perking along, so long as you clean 'em once in a while and give 'em a little bit of lube.

The M1A is a very rugged rifle, to be sure. It's basically a clone of the M14, withonly semiauto fire possible. The M14 was a work horse, and so is the Springfield Armory M1A - they are meant for serious use, in all manner of weather - be it rain, snow, mud or whatever you might throw at it - the M1A can handle it. I always liked the looks of the American walnut stock. However, my next M1A will have a polymer fiberglass stock on it. I live in the western part of Oregon, and we get a lot of rain here. So, I worry about a stock warping under those conditions if I'm forced to live out in the boonies due to an end of the world scenario. You can teach an old dog new tricks!

The M1A is gas operated, with a short-stroke piston. I've never seen a short-stroke piston go "bad" but I imagine it can happen. Just wipe the piston down every now and then and they are good to go. I've also found that the flash suppressor on the M1A and M14 to be pretty effective, considering that you're shooting a high-powered round. I absolutely love the sights on the M1A as well, they are fast to pick-up, and easy to adjust. Once your front sight is centered properly, you should never had to touch it again. The front sight on an M1A need no adjustment. All adjustments are through the rear sight, that is windage and elevation adjustable with only your fingers.

The Springfield Armory M1A only comes with one 10-rd magazine, and I've yet to figure out why this is. I understand during the magazine ban, that Springfield was supplying 10-rd mags, but I don't know why they are still doing so. In any case, quality 20-rd M14 mags are easy enough to find. Just steer clear of cheap M14 magazines that Sportsman's Guide, a large mail-order company sells. They claim to be military surplus M14 mags - they aren't! Some of the best M14/M1A 20-rd mags being produced today are from Checkmate Industries. You can still find genuine military surplus M14 mags, but they cost more than the brand-new Checkmate magazines - get Checkmate, and you won't be sorry. Checkmate is currently a contract maker for M14 magazines to the US military. So you will be getting mil-spec M14 mags. They run around $25 each and they are well worth it. With a little care, they will last a lifetime.

My late friend, Chuck Karwan, who was a well-known knife and gun writer, did an article for me, when I was publishing and editing a little newsletter called "Police Hot Sheet ." Chuck's article was on the police using the M1A as a sniper's rifle on a SWAT team. Chuck made an excellent argument in favor of the M1A over a bolt action rifle. One of the points Chuck brought up was that a second and third shot was fast to get off than you could from a bolt action rifle - I concur with Chuck on this. And, the M1A is very accurate at least in my testing - you can get 1 MOA if you do your part and you have ammo your rifle likes.

The M1A would be an outstanding addition to any survival battery. The gun can be used as a battle rifle, or as a sniper's rifle if the need arises. When I shot high-powered rifle competition with my old M14 we shot out to 600-yards with open sights - no scopes - and our team would routinely beat civilian shooters with bolt action rifles with scopes on 'em. Go figure? If you do you part, you can hit a man out in the open at 600-yards with your M1A, if you do your part. You can also lay down a lot of fire-power with the M1A in a CQB situation and there's not many places you can hide from a .308 round. When I lived in Colorado, my late friend, Tim Caruso, and I used to regularly go up in the mountains and do a lot of shooting, or on his small tract of land, and we could "cut down" some pretty big pine trees with a full 20 round magazine of .308 ammo. Unless it is huge, you can't hide behind a tree and escape a 7.62mm NATO ball round.

There aren't many spare parts you need to keep on-hand to keep an M1A going. Perhaps a recoil spring, and maybe a spare firing pin and extractor for your bolt. However, don't attempt to replace the firing pin or extractor without the proper bolt disassembly tool and the training to do so. The M1A isn't all that hard to work on for the most part. And, I've never had one break on me - although I have worked on broken ones when I was being training as a military armorer. Anything mechanical can break, but I think the M1A would serve you well, and with a little bit of maintenance and cleaning, the gun won't break down on you when you need it the most.

As I've said many times, quality doesn't come cheap, and you can expect to pay around $1,800 for a Loaded M1A, and a little bit less for a Standard version M1A from Springfield Armory. There are other models of the M1A available, and be sure to check them out on the Springfield Armory web site. You can usually find some M1As at most gun shows, too. Be advised, the M1A is always in short supply, and don't expect to walk into most smaller gun shops and find one on the rack. You can find Chinese clones of the M1A at gun shows, and most are pretty decent rifles, but only after some expensive work. However, if you want the real deal, then you have to get your hands on an M1A, you won't be sorry, trust me on this.

I wish I could report something negative about the Springfield Armory M1A, but on the samples I've owned over the years, I never had any problems. And, my next battle rifle purchase will be an M1A of some sort! And, it won't be sold or traded later on! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

After first picking up your book "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It" on a whim, has definitely changed a lot about how I live my life, particularly in how I choose to spend money.  As a prospective medical student, I can't buy a retreat property and set it up the way I should (however much I want to).  However, there are many things I have found I can do.  After reading The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason years ago at the encouragement of my Dad, I started to set aside 10% of what I made for investment purposes.  I had a nice little amount saved when I came across SurvivalBlog.  A lot of the things said about the dollar's decline made a lot of sense to me.  However, while I do believe a serious collapse is possible, and I want to be prepared for it, I have a limited amount of funds.  Therefore, I wanted to put the bulk of my funds into something that will help me prepare should something go wrong, be a good investment whether collapse happened or not, and be something I could enjoy no matter what.  That being the case, the two things I have spent most of my money on are guns and books.  While guns fit all the parameters of what I listed above, books are not really a great investment if you plan on getting your money back later on or plan on turning a profit.  

My library is now loaded with most of the survival fiction suggested on the SurvivalBlog bookshelf, a fair number of the other recommended books, and books I personally felt could be of some use (Falcon Guides, books on how native Americans lived, how Civil War soldiers lived, books that would just be an entertaining read, and so forth).  I frequently stop at a used bookstore on my way back from volunteering in the hospital Emergency Room.  Used bookstores are a great way to find books at low prices.  I am blessed to have a rather large used bookstore near my home.  Amazon is of course another great resource but they are usually (but not always) a little more expensive and you just don’t get to have the same browsing experience as you get at a brick and mortar store.  I must take this opportunity to thank Avalanche Lily for recommending The Sign of the Beaver  and The Crispin trilogy.  In elementary school, my school sponsored an event we were allowed to pick out a free book once a year.  Because The Sign of the Beaver had an Indian boy on the cover, and I was interested in Native American life as well as being part Native American myself, I chose it.  I remember I thought it was too long and difficult to read, so I put it on my shelf and mostly put it out of my mind until I saw Lily's recommendation.  Needless to say I changed my view on the length and difficulty of the book and even though it is a "children's book," I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The first Crispin book has proved to be entertaining and informative as well.  I find books written for children can be great resources especially in the realm of survival.  These books tend to cut survival skills down to their basics and are written...get even a child can understand it.  While knowing the exact angles at which to place your sticks to start a fire may be useful, knowing that you should make a stick tepee will probably work just as well.  I am not saying you should do away with the "real" manuals (I have many), but children's books would make a great addition.

I mentioned volunteering in the ER earlier.  I mainly started volunteering to get experience for medical school, but I have since come to enjoy my time spent up there.  You get to help people and gain valuable experience, if not in the way you think you would.  While I am allowed to observe the treatment of trauma patients, I really don’t get a good idea of how I would be able to treat them.  Give them a shot of this, run this kind of iv, order this test, and usually they are sent off pretty quickly for an xray or CT scan and I don’t get to see much after that.  However, the real experience comes in watching how the staff interacts with the patients and their families.  We have a large variety of people come to be treated.  We have truly crazy people, people who are just a little crazy, people who can’t speak English, people are in serious pain, people who are homeless, criminals, violent people, hypochondriacs, etc., etc., who are seeking treatment.  It is interesting to see how each situation is dealt with.  The hospital staff has done a great job of adapting to each situation.  From a survival standpoint, while I may not be too much closer in being able to take care of your gun shot wound, I feel I am much better prepared to deal with people in crisis situations and I would recommend a stint as a volunteer in the ER to anyone (if you can handle it).

Now on to the stuff everyone likes to talk about: guns.  Before I started reading Survivalblog, I had a Springfield Armory XD-M .40 and a Ruger 10/22.  Now, I have in addition to these: a Taurus TCP .380, a Walther P22, a Remington 700 VTR in .308, Remington 870 Marine Magnum, an AR-15 with a great set up, a Saiga 12, an Arsenal SGL21 AKM, and a DPMS LR308AP4 (also with a great set up).  I have also purchased a Gamo Whisper pellet rifle, a Crosman 760 Pumpmaster that shoots both BBs and pellets (definitely worth the $30 at Wal-Mart), and a Bear Super Kodiak recurve bow.  I figured that with the exception of the air rifles and maybe the bow, these weapons would at least hold near their value regardless of the value of the dollar.  Plus, I now have a nice battery for defense, a great hobby, and a lot better chance of getting some meat for the table whether it is with a bullet, a shotgun shell, a BB, or an arrow.  

The main reason I started to write this was about turning tangibles into tangibles.  Some of you may be thinking, man, he has to save up for medical school, how did he get all those guns?  Like I said, I had been saving up on the side for years and taking a small percentage for investment (which I have now decided is guns) each week.  Also, I am a deal hunter.  Almost all of the above weapons were purchased at gun shows or off of  If your state has one, another great place to look is a state gun forum (not run by the state...just in your state).  However, with my gun fund now depleted, I have to get creative.  So, I turned to Craigslist.  What do I possibly have that I don't need/want anymore that is worth anything and/or may not be worth anything soon?  As a 20-something, I have acquired a rather large assortment of video game systems over the years. While I may keep my xbox 360 as a luxury in a post collapse situation (as one survivor of the Argentina collapse wrote about), I feel fine about getting rid of my old and/or seldom played systems that are just taking up space.  I also have DVDs.  

While I plan on keeping a few around for my personal collection and as possible luxury items, I have many that I am sure I will never watch again.  With the advent of Blu-ray, Netflix, Comcast on demand, etc., the time to get out of DVDs seems to be yesterday.  The good news is they haven't yet become worthless.  While a used VHS sells for around 20 cents now, a used DVD can still get you $2 to $10, depending on the title).  This may not sound like much but if you have a large collection, this may be the way to get that new concealable .38 Special revolver you've had your eye on.  And if you have a complete boxed set of a popular show, even used you could be looking at the $100-$150 range.  
is the time to trade in some items that will wind up in the free box at a garage sale for something you can actually use.  Of course, video games and DVDs are not the only tangibles you can convert.  Look for opportunities to take items that you don't use or don't want anymore and turn them into something you really want.  It is easy to just let your junk sit where it is, take up space in your house, and lose value.  You might be surprised how much you can get for your junk and how good you will feel to be rid of it.  On a side note, you can also re-purpose your junk.  My mom wanted to get rid of some inexpensive porcelain figures and decorations.  After an attempt to sell them in a garage sale, these became my new bb targets.  I am looking forward to seeing what other suggestions are out there for tangible conversion. Turn your soon to be worthless tangibles into tangibles that have value now and could become invaluable in the future.

One final thought:  We have all heard of your three Bs: "Beans, Bullets, and Band-aids".  This is a great way to summarize necessities of survival and for the fear of becoming the 20 "Bs" of survival or the 30 "Bs" of survival, it should probably remain the three Bs.  However, I find the six Bs of survival being closer to my mentality:  Bible, Books, Beans, Bullets, Band-Aids, and Bullion. - T.N.

Friday, July 8, 2011

I like it, when an ammo maker isn't afraid to experiment, or push the envelop a bit, especially in handgun calibers. Let's face it, given a choice, when things go bad, it's better to have some kind of .223 Remington, 7.62x39 or .308 Winchester rifle in your hands. However, that's not always possible, so we are "stuck" carrying some kind of handgun, and it's usually carried concealed, for self-defense purposes. If I can get a little boost in power from my handguns, then I'm certainly going to take a close look at doing so.

SurvivalBlog readers have seen me mention Buffalo Bore Ammunition a number of times in my articles. I've only been shooting their ammo for eights months or so, as compared to some other big-name ammo companies. However, I'm extremely impressed with what I'm seeing coming out of Buffalo Bore these days. When Buffalo Bore was started, back in 1997, Tim Sundles, who owns and operates Buffalo Bore, was only making big bore loads, like heavy .44 Magnum and the like. He wasn't making ammo for most handgun calibers, however that has all changed, and for the better.

One thing I like about Buffalo Bore is the fact that Tim Sundles, actually tests his ammo in real guns - not pressure test barrels. What better way to get a true reading of what ammo will do, than by testing it in real guns? Buffalo Bore ammo isn't for all handguns, be sure to read the warnings on the Buffalo Bore web site, as to which calibers or loads shouldn't be used in certain guns. The .40 S&W +P load that Sundles puts together shouldn't be used in a straight-from-the-box Glock. The load is hot, and Glocks don't have fully supported chambers - I've had some .40 S&W loads let loose in some of my Glocks chambered in .40 S&W. FWIW, it was not Buffalo Bore loads, rather reloads from UltraMax ammunition. Luckily, neither myself nor my gun were damaged - but it was a wake-up call, to be sure. I refuse to use any UltraMax ammo in any of my guns any longer. I contacted UltraMax several times about this, and never received a reply - that tells me a lot about them - they apparently don't care! Tim Sundles tells me that the 4th Generation Glocks have a better chamber, but it's still not fully supported. So, if you are intent on shooting Buffalo Bore .40 S&W +P loads in your Glock, then have the barrel replaced with one that has a fully supported chamber.

I've never been all that thrilled with the .380 ACP as a self-defense round, at least not as my main gun in that caliber. I readily admit that I like the micro .380s that are on the market, and they make a dandy back-up gun, to whatever my main gun might be that I'm carrying. Still, the .380 is marginal as a stopper if you ask me. I now carry Buffalo Bore 90 grain .380 JHP +P rounds in my Ruger LCP, and these babies let you know that you have something there that will get the bad guy's attention. This load is screaming out of a little Ruger LCP at around 1,150 f.p.s. with a muzzle energy of around 270 foot pounds. We're talking energy around that of some .38 Special loads.

Buffalo Bore also makes Full Metal Jacket .380 loads, for those who want a little more penetration in this round, as well as an all-lead round. I note on the Buffalo Bore web site, that they are now offering the .380 ACP round with the Barnes solid Hollow Point load - this should penetrate a bit more than the standard JHP round, without losing any weight or having the bullet come apart. I haven't tested this load yet, but I will.

Many folks carry a 9mm handgun of some type, most like the idea of having a lot of rounds in their guns - I have no problem with that! With the proper loads, the 9mm is a good stopper. Buffalo Bore offers quite a few different 9mm loads, to include JHP and FMJ, in various bullet weights, as well as in +P and +P+ loadings. Now we're talking serious attention-getting loads in your self-defense handguns. Once again, check the Buffalo Bore web site, to see if these loads are safe to use in your handguns, and also check the owner's manual that came with your handgun, to see if these Buffalo Bore loads are safe to shoot in your particular model of 9mm pistol. Most gun companies will tell you to not use +P+ 9mm loads, and it's not because these loads aren't safe in their guns, it's because they accelerate wear on guns fed a steady diet of these hot loads.

Most police agencies have abandoned the 9mm in favor of the .40 S&W round in their handguns. However, prior to the .40 S&W coming along, law enforcement was using +P and +P+ 9mm loads in their guns, and they had outstanding results in putting the bad guys down. When a new load came along, they all wanted it - and most police departments dumped the 9mm in favor of the .40 S&W or the .45 ACP. I find that I can shoot a 9mm handgun faster, and with more accuracy on-target, than I can with a .40 S&W loaded handgun. Recoil has a lot to do with it - not that I find the .40 S&W recoil to be objectionable, it's just that I can get the front sight back on target faster with a 9mm than I can with the .40 S&W. Buffalo Bore has 9mm loads in 115 grain, 124 grain and 147 grain bullet weights, with +P and +P+ loadings in many of these bullet weights. I personally like the 124 grain JHP +P loading, as I feel it gives me the best compromise between deep penetration and bullet expansion. And, this is just my personal choice, you may want to go with one of the 115 grain JHP loadings for more expansion and less penetration. Or the 147 grain JHP with more penetration and less expansion. Truth be told, I don't think you can go wrong with any of the Buffalo Bore loads in 9mm. Buffalo Bore also offers some FMJ loads, and I think they would be great for carrying in your handgun when you're out in the woods - you'll want that extra penetration if you run across big game - where the vitals are buried deep.

I can often be "caught" carrying a good ol' 1911 of some type - it's my preferred handgun type and round for fight stopping power. I cut my teeth on a 1911 .45 ACP pistol way back in the 1960s, and it's still my favorite type of handgun to shoot. I just find that I can shoot a single-action 1911 faster and with greater accuracy than any other handgun type - simple as that. Sure, the 1911 is bigger than many semi-auto handguns, and a bit harder to conceal, but it's worth the effort if you ask me. If I knowingly head into harms way, and all I can carry is a handgun, the 1911, chambered in .45 ACP would be my gun of choice. Now wonder so many SWAT teams carry the 1911 chambered in .45 ACP. It's a proven gun and proven round.

Buffalo Bore has you covered in all manner of .45 ACP rounds, with JHP, FMJ and all-lead bullets, ranging in weight from 185 grain all the way up to their 255 grain hard cast bullet. The 185 grain JHP +P round screams out of a 5" barrel 1911 at around 1,150 f.p.s. with 540-foot pounds of energy. Their 230 grain JHP load is coming out at about 1,050 f.p.s. with 490 foot pounds of energy. You can check out the Buffalo Bore web site for full details on the various .45 ACP +P loads they offer. And, don't be misled by the numbers - the feet per second and the foot pounds of energy don't tell the whole story - it's real-life results that count, and the .45 ACP is well-documented in gun fights over the past 100 years and it gets the job done, so long as you put the bullet where it's supposed to hit. I should mention, that Buffalo Bore also uses a low-flash powder in their handgun loads, and this is great for saving your night vision, if you have to fire your handgun at night.

The Buffalo Bore 255 grain hard cast .45 ACP+P load would be my first choice in a trail gun, if I were heading out to the woods for a day or hiking. It'll penetrate deeply, and the bullet won't come apart on dangerous game - you could do a lot worst than this round for a trail gun, if you ask me. On big, dangerous game, you have to have a lot of penetration in order to reach the vital organs, if you want to stop an attack.

I like the 10mm round, at least, I liked it in the original loadings - the current crop of 10mm loads have all been reduced down in power, to the point, where they are about the same as a .40 S&W round. Only a couple of companies make a full-powered 10mm load these days, with Buffalo Bore being one of them. The original 10mm loadings were approaching that of the .41 Magnum, and that gave one cause to sit up and take notice. I still remember my first 10mm handgun, it was the Colt Delta Elite, and you knew you had some real power in your hands. The gun was not only good for small to medium game hunting, it was also a great stopper in the JHP loadings. Of course, those full-powered loadings took their toll on lesser handguns, and the Delta Elite was really getting loose after a steady diet of full-powered loads. Colt discontinued the Delta Elite some years ago. However, I'm happy to report, they have re-introduced it, and they look better made than the originals do.

If you have a 10mm handgun, and you don't load your own rounds, then you'll want to contact Buffalo Bore and get some of their outstanding 10mm loads. The 180 grain JHP rounds are screaming at 1,350 f.p.s. with about 725 foot pounds of energy - we're talking serious power from an autoloader. Want something that penetrates deeper in a 10mm load? Take a look at the 200 grain FMJ load, that is 1,200-f.p.s. with 640 foot pounds of energy, that will penetrate extremely deep on any animal. Buffalo Bore is also offering a 230 grain hard cast 10mm load, that should take care of most of your medium sized game out in the boonies.

As already mentioned, if you want full-powered 10mm loads, then take a close look at the Buffalo Bore line-up, they have what you're looking for. Most big-name ammo companies are only offering 10mm loads that are reduced in power, down to the point, where their loads are no more effective than then .40 S&W is. The reason for owning a 10mm handgun is the major power-factor.

I have tested a lot of .44 Magnum loads from Buffalo Bore over the past eight months, and they have about the largest selection of .44 Magnum loads that I've ever seen. If they don't have what you're looking for, then you aren't looking for the right load. I like the .44 Magnum, it has taken all manner of big game all over the world. While it's not the ideal round for elephant, rhino or cape buffalo - it can take them with the right load, and of course, the proper shot placement. I like the idea of a .44 Magnum because you can load 'em up high, or load 'em down to .44 Special velocities.

Please read the warnings on the Buffalo Bore web site, about the use of some of their .44 Magnum loadings - not all loadings are safe to use in all makes and models of .44 Magnum handguns - be advised before making your selections.

If you're in the market for a plain ol' 240 grain JHP loading, then do yourself a favor, and walk into your big box store and buy something from them. However, if you're in the market for some of the best, and most powerful .44 Magnum loads around, then you don't have to go any farther than the Buffalo Bore web site. Are you looking for a 270 grain jacketed flat nose (JFN) round, at 1,450 f.p.s. with a muzzle of 1,260 - then Buffalo Bore has you covered. Want a 300 grain JFN load round, for deeper penetration? Then take a look at the Buffalo Bore round with 1,300 f.p.s. and a muzzle energy of 1,125. Want a bullet that will penetrate and stay together after hitting bone and muscle? The 305 grain lead flat nose with 1,325 f.p.s. and a muzzle energy of 1,190 foot pounds will fill your needs.

Are you looking for a bit more power in a .44 Magnum loading? Then take a close look at the Buffalo Bore 340 grain lead flat nose load, with 1,470 f.p.s. and 1,640 foot pounds of muzzle energy.  Want something a new and different? Check out the Buffalo Bore "Deer Grenade" - this round was developed for all manner of deer and the huge hollow cavity lead bullet with drop a deer in their tracks. Want something different for self-defense? I just received the new Buffalo Bore "Anti-Personnel" .44 Magnum load, which has a hard cast wadcutter bullet that weighs 200 grain. I've yet to test this load, but it appears to be one that will get the job done.

I've only touched the surface on some of the Buffalo Bore loadings and calibers. It's not within the scope of a single article to cover all the various loads that Buffalo Bore offers. I'm sure, if you're looking for a little more "oomph" in your handguns (and rifles) then Buffalo Bore will surely have something that will fill the need. I enjoy recommending a small company whenever possible...and in the case of Buffalo Bore, they are small (but rapidly growing) and the offer a line-up of ammo you can't find any place else. I like doing business with the "little guys" whenever possible. They go out of their way to make the customer happy, and Buffalo Bore is doing it by offering a line of ammo that no one else offers. Expensive? Well, that depends on how you look at it...the best is never cheap, and quality is always worth the money if you ask me. So, checkout Buffalo Bore's web site, I'm sure you'll find something there that will catch your eye, and tell Tim Sundles, you saw it on Survivalblog. They deserve your business. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, June 27, 2011

I have literally lost count over the years, as to how many Ruger Mini-14s I've owned - however, I think it's safe to say, I've probably owned a couple dozen Mini-14s. No, I don't collect them, but I've owned quite a few of 'em since they first came on the scene. At present, ironically, I don't own a Mini-14. But I do keep notes on how guns shoot when I did own them - it comes with the turf being a gun writer.

One of the gals who regularly reads Survivalblog, e-mailed me a couple weeks ago, and asked me to write about the Ruger Mini-14. I'm happy to give my two-cents worth. And, remember, when it comes to firearms, it's a pretty subjective thing. I've giving you my take on guns, after being a gun owner for more than 40-yrs and a gun writer for close to 20-years. Still, you are getting my opinion and nothing more. I really like the Mini-14, I think they are a fun gun to shoot. They are light-weight, most weighing in around 6.5-lbs to 7-lbs, depending on which model you choose and the density of the stock's wood. They are also a handy rifle to carry in your pick-up truck, and I've seen a lot of farmers and ranchers with Mini-14s in the rifle rack of their trucks. When it comes to shooting varmints, the Mini-14 is a mighty fine gun to have around, to be sure.

There have been quite a few iterations of the Mini-14 over the years, and I've lost track of how many different versions have been made. For the purpose of this article, we'll keep the discussion down to the standard and Ranch rifle versions of the Mini-14, and in .223 Remington/5.56mm calibers. The Mini-14s I've owned have either been the standard version or the Ranch Rifle version. The Ranch Rifle comes with rings for mounting a scope, and it has a fold-down rear sight. Therein is one of the problems I've had with the Ranch rifles - the rear sights have all been extremely fragile and break - I've lost count of the number of rear sights I've replaced on the Ranch Rifles I've owned over the years.

I prefer the standard version of the Mini-14 over the Ranch Rifle. I don't mind the "iron" sights in the least - they are quite functional and easy to use. The 18.5" and 16.5" factory barrels on the Mini are more than adequate for their intended purpose, too. However, I like to see a heavier barrel and better bedding on the standard versions of the Mini - just because I think they can do better in the accuracy department. Every Mini I've owned over the years was 4 MOA, at best. While, this may be good enough for combat at close range, I think Ruger can do better and really close those groups up quite a bit. Because of the accuracy issue, I don't think the Mini is useful much beyond 200 yards in a combat/survival scenario.

The early Mini-14s had steel butt plates, the newer ones have a plastic butt plate. And, the versions with synthetic stocks have a rubber butt plate, which really hugs the shoulder when you get it up to shoot - I like that. Also, the early Mini-14s had an upper forearm that was made of wood - which would get extremely hot when doing a lot of rapid-fire. The new Minis all have a plastic upper forearms, that allow for rapid cooling during rapid-fire.

I like the M1 Garand-style action on the Ruger Mini-14. It's a minimally-fouling piston system, that I've never seen fail on any Mini. I also like the Garand style safety - inside the trigger guard - where you can push it off safe, and onto fire in a split second. make no mistake, the Mini-14 is a very reliable little shooter. Where I've run into problems with the Mini is, when I've used cheap, after-market magazines. The Mini-14 comes with a 5 round magazine. This is fine for hunting. But for self-defense and survival purposes, you need either a 20 or preferably a 30 round magazine. Until recently, you simply couldn't buy Ruger-made 20 or 30 round magazines - they were restricted (by Ruger) to law enforcement sales only. [JWR Adds: Thankfully, that bit of political correctness faded away after Bill Ruger passed away.] The good news is that, Ruger is now selling their 20 and 30 round magazines to the public, and they are outstanding mags, to be sure. The only complaint I have is that they retail for $39.95 for 20 rounders and $49.95 for 30 rounders. That's spendy, no matter how you look at it.

Over the years, there have been a lot of after-market 20 and 30 round magazines for the Mini-14. Sad to say, most were simply junk! And, most of the after-market Mini magazines I've run across don't even have the makers name stamped on them. I surmise they were too ashamed to let people know they were making such cruddy magazines. Some of the worst Mini magazines I've run across were either USA brand or Federal Ordnance brand. Steer clear of most aftermarket magazines! And, you can easily spot those magazines - they aren't well heat-treated, and you can easily bend the feed lips with your fingers - not a good thing. Remember, if you don't have reliable magazines for any semi-auto firearm, you basically have a hard-to-load single-shot gun - just that simple. [JWR Adds: When buying magazines for any gun that you might someday use for self defense, procure only top quality magazines. Do not put you life at risk by saving few dollars on "bargain" magazines!]

I used to pick up like-new Mini-14s at gun shows for $150 - $250 each. Sad to say, those days are long gone. A used Mini-14 will set you back around $500 - $600 these days, at least here in Oregon. Furthermore, brand-new Mini-14s start around $750 and go up to almost $1,000 today. I have a problem with that - for that kind of money, I can go out and purchase some type of AR-15 style rifle. Now, don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with the Mini, that can't be corrected. However, if I were shopping around for a survival rifle, that had to save my bacon, I'd rather go with some type of AR over the Mini-14. [JWR Adds: I concur. Parts availability and an accuracy dictate that!]

Another problem that comes with owning a Mini-14 is spare parts. Have you ever tried to get a simple firing pin from Ruger? Can't be done, you have to send the rifle in to Ruger and they'll fit it. I'm not aware of anyone making an after-market firing pin for the Mini. Some parts can be purchased from Ruger, or after-market makers. However, I really like the idea of having a spare firing pin for my semi-auto rifles, and this isn't a problem with ARs - you can get 'em at any one of a dozen after-market makers or even directly from the factory. Now, with that said, I've never had a firing pin break in any Mini-14 I've ever owned.

The Ruger Mini-14 is easy to operate, too - just load-up a mag, insert it in the gun and draw back the slide handle and chamber a round. And, if you happen to have some kind of malfunction, it's easier to clear than one on in an AR. The Mini is also easier to clean than an AR is - and that's a good thing.

If I were looking to purchase some kind of .223 Rem/5.56mm rifle for the end of the world, survival purposes or "whatever" may come my way, then I'd pick-up an AR of some type over a Mini-14. However, whenever I run across an Mini-14 that is priced "right" I'm a sucker and will snap it up. The Mini-14 is a lot of fun to shoot and they handle nicely, too. Many females prefer the Mini over an AR. I think that black guns intimidate gals for some reason. Maybe it's the "evil" look of an AR, and maybe it's because the Mini handles better in the hands of someone who isn't all that experienced with pistol grip rifles.

Don't take what I'm saying as a strong criticism of the Ruger Mini-14, as I said, I really like the Mini, and if my local gun shop had one in decent shape, that was priced right, I'd buy it today. I'd also take a Mini-14 over an M1 Carbine any day of the week. While I know there are a lot of military vets who served with the M1 Carbine, it's just doesn't have the knock-down power that the .223 Remington/5.56mm round has. The Mini-14 is a lot of fun, when it's all said and done. And, if you happen to run across a good deal on a Mini-14, pick it up. You can always use it to help supplement your battery. You can give it to someone who isn't all that familiar with firearms in an end of the world scenario and you don't have to spend a lot of time explaining how the gun operates - as opposed to an AR-15.

You can do a lot worse than a Mini-14, and if they are to your liking, I have no problem with that. Ruger makes good guns - just that simple. However, I think there is room for improvement on the Mini-14, and the accuracy is one area that I'd like to see some closer attention paid by Ruger. I also think that Ruger could do better on the price of their 20 and 30 round factory Mini-14 magazines.

So, if you have a Mini-14, or are looking to purchase one, then have at it. They are a lot of fun. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hi Mr. Rawles, is one of five web sites I visit on a daily basis (second to yours, of course), and I love seeing links to it from your blog. 

I don't know if you've seen the following entries, but they're certainly handy in a pinch:

Of course purpose-built stretchers, slings, and bandoleers would serve one best; but once the Schumer hits the fan, the next best thing might just be made from stockpiled duct tape and parachute cord!

Best Regards, - Skip H.

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.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

I understand and agree with your position regarding the "One Gun" debate. I have no desire to challenge or question yesterday’s article on the topic. I do have a question on your thoughts about the new Ruger Gunsite Scout rifle. What is your opinion regarding the concept behind this type of gun? I know they are marketing this as the "the gun to have if you can only have one" and I am not asking about that aspect of it. I see this gun as being versatile and an asset to anyone who has small arsenal. Do you think this would adequately fill the roll of the "precision shooting / hunting rifle" in your list of four guns that constitute a minimum battery for a prepared family? I have already filled the first 3 categories on your list and have been considering this new Ruger rifle to fill the 4th. Thank you, - J.D.V.

JWR Replies: I own one of the new Ruger Gunsite Scouts, and I can tell you that it is very well executed. It is a very handy gun. The adjustable length of pull stock and flash hider are brilliant. (Most of the other "Scouts" on the market lack a flash hider.) My only complaint is that it uses proprietary magazines that are presently made only buy Ruger. (A hint to C-Products and Mag-Pul: Please start making 5s, 10, and 20s for the Ruger Scout!!!)   The Ruger factory-made magazines presently sell for $64 to $70 each!  I sorely wish that they had used an existing military magazine, such as the FN/FAL magazine.  With the same cash that it takes to buy 10 spare 10 round Ruger factory magazines, you could buy a brand new Glock Model 21 with night sights or couple of SKS carbines!

I would consider Ruger Gunsite Scout a particularly good option for folks who live in semi-auto deprived states.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

First, a big thanks for all you do to educate and enlighten us! My day is not complete until I have had my SurvivalBlog fix (one of my good habits!).  

I whole-heartedly support your gun is a tool analogy, and that having just one gun is like having just one tool in the box. Where we would differ is in how to build a suitable battery of firearms to fill most needs – much like a plumber’s tool box will look different from a auto mechanic’s. Under the cover of YMMV, those of you who have escaped to the American Redoubt, will have different needs from those of us stuck in more populated areas. The need for a precision shooting / hunting rifle doesn’t play in my semi-rural area (although that doesn’t mean you can have my Remington 788 in .308 Winchester). We also may have different physical capabilities that make some options unsuitable. Most of what I discuss below is an expansion or re-ordering of your recommended battery:
1)      Shotgun. While one gun is never enough, a good shotgun is the multi-tool of the firearms world. With the right barrel/ammunition combination you cover small game, upland birds, waterfowl, defense, and medium game. Add a rifled slug barrel and sabots, and this list expands to include any large game or dangerous animal in North America out to 150 yards (see this month’s American Rifleman magazine for a look at the performance of the latest generation of slugs). I am partial to your recommendation of the 12 gauge Remington 870, but I have also had great results with the less expensive Mossberg 500. I would further expand the recommendation to include 20 gauge guns for those folks that have trouble with weight or recoil.      

Everyone should own at least one shotgun, even if it is a single shot. Just view this video of Clint Smith running an H&R/NEF to see what a trained person could do with a single shot.

2)      Defensive Handgun. To me concealment is the key factor of the handgun; otherwise I would walk around with a shotgun or battle rifle slung on my shoulder. I understand your (and my Father’s) love of the .45 ACP, but the world of defensive handguns no longer begins or ends with calibers that start with 4. Modern ballistics have advanced viable weapon status down to even the lowly .380. I also buy-in to the thought (my undying admiration of John Moses Browning not withstanding) that the best handguns ever made are being made today. That means there are scores of guns, from a good dozen manufacturers that would fill this need nicely. The most important consideration is finding a gun that fits you and your wallet. Additional note: revolvers still work!

3)       .22 Rifle. I would greatly expand the list of options here. When you look at the main uses of this weapon (game getting, practice, and pest control) even a single shot would fill the bill. Think about your dad’s old Winchester 67. Also, my experience with both the Mossberg Plinkster and the Remington 597 would have me put them in line with the Marlin 60 for those on a budget.

4)      High Powered Rifle. I define this as anything that can reach out and touch something in the 250+ yard range. This includes your battles rifles (with additions below), your precision shooting / hunting rifle, a myriad of surplus military guns (Enfield, Springfield M1903, Mosin Nagant, K31 Swiss, Arisaka, Carcano…), the ubiquitous lever gun, and even a single shot Handi-rifle. If a battle rifle is your choice for this category you can’t go wrong with any of your .308 or 7.62x39 recommendations. But, I will commit the heresy of adding .223/5.56 to the list. I would include not only most M4geries, but the Ruger Mini-14 or Mini-30 and even the Kel-Tec SU would work as budget alternatives.  

I will end just as you did: “Be sure that you also budget for training ammunition and instruction, regardless of your choice in guns. Tools without training are useless.” - Terry P.

Friday, May 27, 2011

I often read suggestions in survivalist and shooting forums that run something like this: "If you had to choose just one gun to handle all your tasks, then what would it be?" A lively debate then ensues, usually marked by extreme opinions, running the gamut from pipsqueak calibers, to elephant guns. These debates go on, endlessly. The result is a confusing muddle that does little to educate folks that are new to shooting as to what is truly practical. What prompted this post is that recently received a "one gun solution" article entry for SurvivalBlog's writing contest, which I politely declined to post. (That one had recommended buying just a Glock 19 pistol.)

The "one gun" debates are spurious starting points for any logical discourse. Alarmingly, some people take this talk seriously, and in doing so, they usually end up opting for the Lowest Common Denominator. They often end up pushed toward a .22 rimfire rifle, a 12 gauge shotgun (often a single-shot) or a 9mm handgun. The reality is that there is no "one size fits all" solution. Owning just one gun is like owning a tool box containing just one tool for all your household and automotive repair tasks. Which one tool would it be: A hammer? A screwdriver? Pliers? A hacksaw? Remember, you can only choose one tool.

To be realistic, the minimum number of guns needed for a family preparedness firearms battery is four:

  1. A semiautomatic battle rifle. I prefer 7.62mm NATO, such as a FAL clone, AR-10, or HK91 clone. For someone on a tight budget, a used SKS or an AK might suffice.
  2. A .22 rimfire rifle. I prefer the stainless Ruger 10/22. If compactness is a key issue, then buy a Marlin Papoose. For someone on a tight budget, a used Marlin Glen field Model 60 .22 would suffice.
  3. A large caliber handgun. If concealment is a key factor, then get a Glock Model 30 or a XD .45 Compact. Otherwise, make is a Glock 21 or a full size XD .45. For someone on a tight budget, a used Argentine Ballester Molina or Sistema Colt .45 ACP would suffice.
  4. A precision shooting / hunting rifle. My top choice is the Savage Model 10FP in .308 Winchester. For someone on a tight budget, a sporterized Mauser would suffice.

An optional fifth gun would be a pump action 12 gauge shotgun with both bird hunting and riotgun barrels. (Such as a Remington Model 870.)

There is simply no way for one gun to handle everything from shooting garden pests to big game, and self defense in both concealed carry and "reach out and touch someone" modes. Yes, there are some versatile guns out there, but they would be compromises. For example, a Kel-Tec SU-16 .223 could be considered an adequate rifle that is marginally concealable. Ditto for the new .308 Kel-Tec RFB bullpup. But in attempting to handle all functions with one gun, it wouldn't perform those functions as well as a purpose-built gun.

Now if I were hypothetically forced to "grab just one gun and run" for some reason, it would probably be something like the RFB. But if budget were the constraint rather than "what you can carry on your back", then I would recommend buying a small battery of guns, as I outlined above. (And, as I noted, there are some very modestly-priced alternatives.)

I'm sure that will folks will chide me, saying that they can get by with just a bolt action rifle. Well perhaps you might. But if I'm ever faced with superior numbers, then I want to have power, accuracy and repetitive fire at my disposal. I also want the flexibility of having concealability for some guns, and some chambered in quiet low power cartridges that are suitable for small game and pest shooting. Again, there is no "one size fits all" solution available in one gun. That is my view, and as they say, "Your mileage may vary." Your budget might also vary, so plan your purchasing wisely. Don't shy away from buying used guns if they are in good condition. Not only are they less expensive, but odds are that you will be buying from private parties, so that adds to your privacy.

A reminder, in closing: Be sure that you also budget for training ammunition and instruction, regardless of your choice in guns. Tools without training are useless.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dear Mr. Rawles:
In a past life I used the popular HK MP-5SD. It's reliability prompted me to purchase one of the first PTR-91s directly from the manufacturer. (Back when that was possible--they are all now sold though distributors).

I found the PTR-91 capable of digesting a wide variety of ammunition thanks to the HK family of well designed roller delayed blowback systems. This functional reliability and availability of really cheap magazines indeed make it a popular battle rifle. What I haven't read by those singing it's kudos, is that the forcefulness of the extraction system throws the brass quite a distance, making policing brass difficult. The same ejection system creates dent in the brass that I believe compromises the integrity of the fired cases so as to preclude safe reloading. It also generates the tell tale HK chamber flute marks on the expended brass. This alerts anyone finding un-policed brass that someone was there with a HK family main battle rifle.

The factory PTR-91 plastic stock is overly large, clunky, and I believe fragile. I recommend replacement with much thinner and better made German military surplus furniture is often available from Cheaper than Dirt.

To someone well familiar with the 03A3 type sling system, that of the HK family rifles may present a puzzle. One should not overlook combined the weight of this rifle and a battle pack of at least 200 rounds of ammunition. Add a plate carrier, hydration system, pack, and helmet, and the load out can be tremendous.

The telescopic sight mount is also clunky and positions the sight well above the bore. The above comments notwithstanding, The PTR HK91 an effective and relatively inexpensive battle rifle. I am thinking about adding the new Ruger Gunsite Scout rifle (available in .308 Winchester) to the mix. What a shame that the Ruger Scout bolt action wasn't designed around the HK91 magazine.    Sincerely, - A Panhandle Rancher

Monday, May 9, 2011

In 1987 at a Colorado gun shop's "Going Out of Business" sale, I purchased a brand-new HK (Heckler & Koch) Model 91 .308 battle rifle. I got the rifle, along with 10 brand new spare magazines, 1,000 rounds of ammo, a bipod and carrying case for the gun - for the combined price of just $600. Oh, for the good ol' days! Today, you'll likely spend $2,500 just for an original H&K Model 91 - and they are now hard to come by. A wave of stupidity overcame me one day, and I sold my HK91 to my friend, and he then he later sold it at a gun show. I always regretted letting that gun get away - it was deadly accurate and never malfunctioned, no matter what kind of ammo I fed it. Since that time, I longed to get another H&K Model 91, but with prices being what they are today, it was beyond my reach.  

A company called PTR91 purchased some genuine H&K equipment from overseas, and brought it to the USA. Using a mix of surplus parts (from HK G3 rifles) are now manufacturing H&K Model 91 clones, that they call the PTR91 - and they have several variants to choose from. I saved up my pennies and had my local gun shop order-up a 16" barrel PTR91. I was delighted when the gun came, it was much nicer than any H&K I had ever handled. The gun was better finished and tighter in all respects. But I didn't much care for the newly-made polymer stock that came on the gun - it was "cheap" looking. Of course, that could have been replaced...  

When I took my new toy home, I started reading through the instructions manual and other material that was enclosed in the nice plastic carrying case my PTR91 came in. I ran across a separate piece of paper that listed several types of ammo you should not use in a PTR91. matter of fact, the list was rather lengthy. Some gun companies will recommend certain types of ammo or brands to be used in their firearms. However, this is the first time I ran across such a lengthy list of ammo that was not recommended in a firearm. I thought that PTR was being overly cautious, as is the case with many gun companies these days.   I purchased a 500 round case of Russian-made Brown Bear .308 ammo to test in my new PTR91. The gun functioned perfectly, and believe it or not, the Brown Bear ammo actually shot very well through this gun, with groups in the neighborhood of 1-1/2 to 2 inches at 100 yards. What's not to like here? I also purchased a 500 round case of Wolf .308 ammo to use in my PTR91, and again, like the Brown Bear ammo, it shot really great, no malfunctions or problems of any time. Of course, as many of you know, most Russian-made ammo leaves very dirty powder fouling -- so more time needs to be spent cleaning and maintaining your firearms if you use Russian-made ammo.  

The PTR91, is operated with a roller locking system, which is identical to the H&K91 system. Matter of fact, some of the parts in some PTR91s are surplus or brand-new H&K parts. The PTR91 also comes with a match-grade barrel, and I thought that was an added extra - and it did perform very well - with certain types of ammo. The PTR91 also comes with the Navy-type polymer trigger assembly - another plus in my book - it feels better than the old H&K pistol grip. There is also a tactical handguard that is machined out of aluminum, and you can add lasers and other toys if you so desire, but you need to purchase the rails to put on this handguard. My sample PTR91 weighed in at 9-lbs, which is about right for a battle rifle shooting the .308 or 7.62 NATO round. (And be advised that they are not the same round, be advised. The 7.62 NATO round is loaded at slightly lower pressures than the commercial .308 Winchester round.) I contacted my two favorite ammo makers for some of their .308 Win. ammo to test in my new PTR91. Black Hills Ammunition and Buffalo Bore and both sent me their 175-gr HP match-grade ammo to test in my rifle. Needless to say, I wasn't disappointed with either maker's ammo - both shot consistently under an inch, with open sights, at 100-yards. The PTR91 also functioned perfectly. Then again, I didn't expect anything less from the gun or the superb ammo from Black Hills and Buffalo Bore. Their ammo is a step above if you ask me. Again, we are talking quality ammo - not bargain basement ammo from the local big box stores. Oh, there's nothing wrong with the less expensive ammo, however, if you want sniper-grade accuracy you need to put the best ammo you can through your guns. I've been shooting Black Hills ammo for almost 20 years now, and have never had a bad round, and we're talking tens of thousands of rounds of ammo. I've been shooting Buffalo Bore ammo for about eight months now, and I've yet to encounter any problems with their ammo, either.  

I have been pleased, very pleased with my PTR91 thusfar. And, I liked the fact, that I could find surplus, but like-new, 20-rd mags for this rifle for about a buck a magazine. What's not to like about this kind of a deal? I purchased close to 100 spare mags to have on-hand. I know, sounds like a lot of extra magazines, and it is. However, I still remember the 1994-to-2004 ban on mags over 10 rounds and how expensive [full capacity] magazines s were and hard to come by. So better safe than sorry 'cause you know another magazine ban is gonna come down the pike soon.  

I decided to try some military surplus ammo through my PTR91 - which was now well broken-in. I tried ammo from South Africa as well as Germany, and a few other countries - none of it would reliably function in my PTR91. Then again, remembering the factory's warnings not to use certain types of ammo, and military surplus ammo, I was getting worried. PTR also suggests that you not use the Winchester USA white box .308 ammo - the bullets are sealed with a black tar to water-proof the rounds. Well, I tried a box, and after several rounds, the gun wouldn't function - empties wouldn't eject and loaded rounds didn't fully seat properly.   What was the problem with the PTR91? I started doing some research, and have found that I wasn't alone with this problem. It seems that PTR91 is using match-grade barrels, and that's not a bad thing - it's good in my book. However, the chamber has flutes machined into it. The theory is, these cuts or "flutes" allow gas from the fired round to swirl around the empty brass, and allow it to more easily pull out of the chamber. Well, it appears that PTR91 didn't cut these flutes deep enough in a lot of guns, and the rounds were sticking in the chamber. PTR91 denies there are any problems with the flutes cut in their chamber, or the fact that they cut fewer flutes in the chambers, than H&K does. I examined my own PTR91 sample, and it did appear to me that the flutes were very shallow, and I mean very shallow. You can find any number of blogs that are on the web, and many folks are complaining about this problem.  

I don't know about you, but I demand the most accuracy and the most reliability I can get in my firearms, especially those I plan on staking my life on. While I could have just continued to use Brown Bear and Wolf ammo in my PTR91, I was looking down the road - to a time where maybe all I'll be able to find is military surplus ammo, or some other ammo that won't function in my PTR91. After a lot of thought, I decided to trade-off my PTR91 - as much as I liked it. I've heard talk that PTR91 is now producing a "GI" version of the HK91 and the chamber has the correct number of flutes and they are cut deep enough, and there are no problems with these guns. However, I'm not about to lay down my hard-earned money again, until I start hearing some positive reports on the "GI" version. The PTR91 carbine I had, retailed for $1,295 and I got it for slightly more than $1,000 through my local gun shop. It would have been a great deal, if the gun fired and functioned with a wider assortment of ammo.  

The PTR91 is finely made, almost like a Swiss watch. I could have lived with the cheaply made plastic stock. However, when I'm laying down a good chunk of change for a firearm, I expect it to work with most of the ammo I plan on using. Of course, you can find some type of ammo that won't function in any particular firearm if you search around long enough. However, the PTR91 didn't function 100% of the time with more ammo, than it did with some types of ammo. That's not good enough in my book. I've read some blogs where many people are happy with their PTR91s - that's great news. However, you'll also read a lot of horror stories of folks with new PTR91s that won't function with certain types of ammo - especially mil-spec ammo or military surplus ammo - that's not acceptable in my book. Personally, I think PTR91 should fess-up to the problem. And, they need to produce a rifle that will function with the widest assortment of ammo possible, and stop blaming military surplus or mil-spec ammo for the functioning problems. Come on, PTR91 - you can do better than that! You are turning out a finely made firearm, and you only need to tweak it a little bit to get it to function 100% of the time, with the widest assortment of ammo on the market.

I once owned a ratty-looking Century Arms International C3 - which was a semi-auto clone of the H&K Model 91. Whoever owned it before me, spray-painted the gun in camo colors - it honestly didn't look that bad at all. This gun functioned 100% of the time, with whatever ammo I put through it - never once missed a beat. If Century Arms could do it right, then so can PTR91 - if they want to.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I've received quite a few e-mails from SurvivalBlog readers, asking me to write an article on AK-47s. Well, here's my take on the AK line-up. First of all, I only write about guns I actually own or have personally tested. I don't take a press release and write an article based on that, like some writers (that I've heard have done.) There are so many different variations of "AK-47s" out there these days, it would cost me a fortune and a lot of time, to obtain samples of 'em all to test and evaluation.

The question always arises, which is better, the AK-47 or the AR-15? Well, as I've mentioned before, there is no "better" when it comes to guns and knives, it's all in the perspective and intended uses of these tools. So, if you're looking for a debate as to which gun is better, this isn't the article. I will say, that without a doubt, under extremely adverse conditions, where regular maintenance is far and few between, the AK-47 is more reliable than the AR-15. However, I've yet to see an AK-47 that can hold a candle to an AR-15 when it comes to accuracy.

For this article, I tested the NoDak Spud, two Century Arms and the new ATI AKs. The Century Arms line of AK-47s have really gotten a bad reputation, and most of it, I honestly believe, is undeserved. I don't know anyone at Century Arms, and my samples of their products were purchased out-of-pocket, so I don't have a dog in this fight. I will say though, that for a short time, those workers at Century Arms who were assembling and modifying imported AK-47s, weren't paying close attention to some of the details, And to be honest, the AK-47 is really hard to screw-up when you are putting 'em together or modifying 'em.  I've owned more than my share of Century Arms AK-47s over the years, and I've only had an issue with one of 'em - the gas piston was ever so slightly bent, causing it to bind inside the gas tube, which didn't allow for 100% reliability. It took only a few minutes to correct the problem.

My local gun shop sells a lot of AK-47s, and there's a good reason for it - they are affordable and reliable. Most of the AKs they sell are from Century Arms, in one of the many configurations that Century produces. One of the problems they have observed over the years is that the front sight is canted and not in-line with the rear sight. There is no reason for this, other than a failure of quality control on the part of Century Arms. The problem is usually easily corrected if you have a bench vise and a little bit of knowledge. Still, there is no excuse for this sort of sloppiness, if you ask me. Another common complaint about Century AKs is that, the forearms and stocks are usually sanded (to take the dings out - these are military surplus stocks) - and Century doesn't take a few extra minutes to spray on a coat of lacquer on the wooden stock or forearm. Again, this can be easily corrected by the purchaser at home.  

One must keep in mind, that the Century Arms line-up of AKs, are very affordable for the most part - they have a few that are a bit more spendy than the others, but most of the Century AKs are made from Romanian parts. Some gun snobs will turn their noses up at a Century AK that has the "Made In Romania" stamp on the receiver. Truth be told, these are parts guns, assembled and fitted here by Century, using the correct number of US-made parts, to make them legal. I'm not going to get into the 922(r) compliance thing, you can look it up on the ATF web site if you want - the law is stupid, plain and simple!

I tested two Century AKs, one was the WASR-10 with a full wooden stock, and the other was the WASR -10 with the under-fold stock. Both guns were great shooters, simple as that. I did have two failures to feed on the first magazine through the under-fold stock, and I expected that - there were some burrs on the bolt or receiver rails. After the first two failures to fully feed, the under-fold version just plugged along without any problems. The full wooden stock WASR-10, it never missed a beat from beginning to end. Accuracy with both of these Century AKs was running around 4" at 100-yards - that's about as good as I can get with most AKs. There's a trade-off when you want more reliability - you lose some accuracy potential. I understand that the AKs that are coming off the Century Arms assembly line these days have USA-made barrels, and I would expect slightly better accuracy with these new barrels. Again, this is another stupid ruling from the folks at the BATF: AK parts sets can no longer be imported with the barrels. So they've resorted to using US-made barrels on the guns. On both of the Century samples I tested, and on many other Century AKs, I've found really great trigger pulls - most around 3-1/2 pounds. I believe this is due to the Tapco trigger and sear that Century uses. Again, certain parts on imported AKs have to contain a certain number of US-made parts - like a Romanian trigger and sear somehow makes an AK a "bad" gun, and a US-made trigger and sear make it a "good" gun.

I also picked-up a well-used AK-47 that had "NoDak Spud" marked on the receiver. Near as I can tell, NoDak Spud only makes the receivers and other folks assemble them into AKs of some type. Whoever did the work on this gun - didn't know quite what they were doing, in my humble opinion. First of all, the attempt to parkerize the gun wasn't successful - the gun easily picked-up rust in our damp climate of Western Oregon - even though I had sprayed Birchwood Casey Barricade on the entire gun. The NoDak Spud sample was very rough, to say the least. Whoever assembled it, also forgot the retaining spring, that is used to keep the trigger pin in place, and the pin would work itself out, binding the action up, until I could break it down, and get the pin back in place. I corrected the problem with an e-clip and the pin never worked itself loose again. (A 7 cent fix!)   The wood on the forearm and the stock were rough, and I cleaned 'em up with some sandpaper and steel wool. I then prepped the wood with some primer and spray painted the stock and forearm in a flat back - the gun was looking better at this point. Aside from the aforementioned trigger pin working loose, there were no malfunctions of any type during my testing. Accuracy was what you'd expect - in the 4" range at 100-yards, if I did my part. I used a variety of Wolf and Brown Bear Russian-made noncorrosive ammo in my testing. It is inexpensive and it always goes "bang."

The last AK I tested is from ATI, and it is quite a step up from the Century Arms AK. Only slightly more in cost, too. The ATI version of the AK has a milled receiver, the NoDak Spud and Century Arms versions have stamped receivers. The obvious quality in workmanship is there on the ATI AK, you can see it and feel it. The ATI weighs in at about 3/4 of a pound more than the stamped receiver AKs. The ATI also comes in a nice hard plastic carrying case with two magazines, instruction, cleaning equipment, etc.   The ATI AK was nicely blued, and there were no sharp machining marks on the gun - and it's marked "Made In The USA" too - that means a lot to some folks - me included. The ATI was a much tighter gun than any of the other AKs I've owned over the years, and I expected some malfunction because of this. I tested the gun dry - no lube - and it never missed a beat. Then again, it's an AK - they can take all kinds of use and abuse, and keep on going. The forearm and stock are made of wood, and it appears that the forearm is from Russia - both the forearm and stock were nicely finished and covered in a clean lacquer for weather-proofing the wood - nice!   I expected the ATI to shoot better than the Century Arms and the NoDak Spud - well, it did, but only by a little bit. If I did my part, I could get groups at 3 1/2 inches at 100-yards, but not all the time. Still, the quality is there in this ATI version of the local gun shop has another ATI AK sitting there, and I'm thinking real hard about getting it, too - just takes money.

One thing that I have found common in most AKs is that, the magazine usually have to be fitted slightly. Keep in mind, AK magazines are made in a lot of different countries, by different tooling, and some makers don't take the care we take in the USA to make sure things are nice and tight. The two mags that came with the ATI would lock in the mag well, but it took two men and a small boy to get the mags out. A couple minutes with a file took a small amount of material off the mag stud (lower portion) to make the mags fit properly. The same was done with the NoDak Spud and Century Arms AKs. I like my mags to snap in and out without a lot of effort, and once the mags were fitted, I sanded down the lower portion on each mag stud so it was nice and smooth. The mags - all that I have - and it's a lot - will lock-up and come out of all my AKs without any problems.

There's a lot to be said for the 7.62x39 round. It can reach out there and touch someone a little harder than the .223/5.56mm rounds can. However, the .223/5.56mm rounds do more damage - at least when used within the limitations of the distance involved. The .223/5.56mm rounds do more tissue and organ damage than the 7.62x39 rounds, when up and close and personal distances are involved. So, we have longer range possibilities with an AK because of the round - it's heavier and a bigger caliber and had greater retained energy, at range. However, with the AR, and the 5.56mm round, does more damage and the ARs are more accurate. You can also carry more 5.56 ammo than you can 7.62x39 ammo - if that's a concern. [JWR Adds: The AK-74 is chambered in 5.45x39, which has similar weight and size characteristics to 5.56mm NATO.] AK magazines are also more rugged than the standard alloy AR magazines.

Honestly, you can't lose if you pick an AK-47 of just about any type for your survival purposes. If looking into a Century Arms AK, I'd take a close look at the front sight, and make sure it's not canted from dead center. And, work the action - make sure it doesn't bind before you buy the gun. I know, Century Arms backs-up their guns, but it's a pain-in-the-butt to have to send back a brand-new gun for repairs.

The Century Arms AKs I tested, run in the $500 price range. The NoDak Spud - about the same. The ATI I purchased was $569 and it honestly was worth the little bit of extra over the Century Arms version, in my opinion. The quality and workmanship were "there" with the ATI version. Some of you asked me to review the Arsenal line of AKs - I've only handled them, and couldn't bring myself to pay the extra money over a lesser AK version. If I'm gonna be spending $800 - $1,000, you'd better believe I'm gonna be looking at an AR of some type.

So, don't believe all the horror stories you've read on the 'net about Century Arms AKs - for the most part, they are putting out some really good AKs, for a good price. However, if your budget will allow it, take a look at the ATI AK - I think it's worth the extra money. In any case, it's hard to beat an AK-47, no matter who makes it, it'll save your bacon, when the chips are down.  - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

JWR Adds: Let's face it: Most folks do not have the cash for a "Cadillac" solution like a Valmet M62 or one of the new SIG 556R rifles. (The latter outwardly looks like a SIG 556 but it is chambered in 7.62 x39 and uses standard AK magazines.) Rather, I recommend a "Chevy" solution, like the Bulgarian AK or the Russian Saiga AK. They are relatively inexpensive, but very reliable. The "Chinese Bicycle" solution is to find a used SKS carbine. These use a 10-round fixed magazine, but these can legally be replaced with a 30 round "semi-detachable" magazine in most jurisdictions.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Mr. Rawles-  

I continue to enjoy your blog.   I read with interest Pat Cascio’s review of the MGI Hydra rifle

I can think of a one very good scenario where such a system is very valuable:  In a political environment where licensing restricts the number of guns that one can own.  The Witness brand semi-auto handguns are popular in Europe for this very reason.  One receiver can support several different caliber conversions.  Unfortunately, those same places usually take a dim view of private ownership of AR-15 style weapons platforms, so other restrictions may prevent ownership in any case.  

For most people, the Hydra is a solution in search of a problem.   The caliber conversion costs as much or more as entire, good quality firearms.  Certainly as much as complete uppers in various calibers for the AR-15 platform.  For the cost of a Hydra rifle and a single caliber conversion, one could purchase two good quality AR-15s in different calibers.  Or an AR-15 and a very high quality bolt action rifle with good optics.  Or a rifle and two good pistols.  And so on.   The parts swap process, although described as reasonably quick, is not conducive to portability or longevity.  Loose parts get lost in the field.  In SHTF times, servicing the Hydra platform to replace a broken part could prove very difficult or impossible.   I appreciate Pat’s reviews, but this one seems like a product that preparedness-minded folks should avoid, unless they have a lot of spare money that doesn’t need to be going to other, more appropriate preparations.   Thanks,   - Rich S.

JWR Replies: One other legal circumstance would also make the MGI Hydra a good choice: Locales where particular cartridge chamberings are restricted. In Mexico and France, for example, there are restrictions on having firearms chambered in currently-issued military calibers. This explains why both AR-15s and Mini-14s have been chambered in .222 Remington. It also explains the popularity of Colt M1911 pistols chambered in .38 Super. (Both 9mm Parabellum and .45 ACP are restricted in Mexico.) A rifle with quick-change barrels would be a real advantage, especially if laws were to change rapidly. Your rifle could easily be adapted quite rapidly.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Update, October, 2011: This review has been updated to NEGATIVE. To explain: In my original review, I had posted favorable comments on the MGI "Hydra" rifle system. I am withdrawing that positive review, and alerting SurvivalBlog readers to NOT purchase this product. While the sample I wrote-up in SurvivalBlog worked flawlessly, I have been informed of some serious quality control problems with current production Hydra rifles. Several SurvivalBlog readers who placed orders have received defective guns. One SurvivalBlog reader, after many months, finally did get a working Hydra. Another SurvivalBlog reader is still waiting. He returned his Hydra before he even took it out of the gun shop - it fell apart. And now, despite numerous attempted contacts, he can't get any response from MGI nor have they offered a refund.
It would appear that we were all disappointed to one degree or another. So, be advised that I recommend that you DO NOT do business with MGI until they have corrected their quality control problems and have established a good reputation for customer service in rectifying their past mistakes.

As with many guns and calibers, there is a debate over which rifle is "better" - the AR-15 style or the AK-47. Once again, I've avoided this debate, and as I have said before, there is "no better" when it comes to certain guns and calibers. One of the things folks don't like about the AR-15 style of rifle is the caliber .223/5.56mm - some say it's not powerful enough to reach out there and touch someone compared to the 7.62x39 (AK-47) round. Many say the .223/5.56mm doesn't penetrate deeply enough compared to other rounds, especially the 7.62x39 round. I'll not disagree entirely to the above statements. Many feel that nothing less than a .308 Winchester round will do for their survival needs. We can debate which is "best" from now, until the cows come home, and the argument will never be won.   I've been writing about guns and knives for about 18 years. And, any more, it takes a lot to really impress me in a new gun or knife. So many guns and knives are so much alike to another design, it can make your head spin. In steps the MGI Military "Hydra" modular rifle.

The Hydra is a true modular rifle based on the ever popular AR-15, with a few new twists of its own. The Hydra can be set-up as your basic AR-15 style rifle - firing the .223/5.56mm round, and it comes with a free-floated barrel for added accuracy, as well as a quad-rail handguard and flat-top receiver for mounting your favorite optic, laser, red dot or regular sights. If that's all the Hydra did, it would be a good rifle, it's a big step above many of the economy AR-15s on the market, make no mistake about that. What we have in the MGI Hydra is a rifle/carbine that can easily and quickly change from one caliber to another - in about a minute and a half. The Hydra can change from a plain ol' .223/5/56mm to a good number of other calibers in less than two minutes, with no special tools. That is the good news. The bad news is that in recent months, serious quality control issues have emerged.

My Hydra is set-up with the standard .223/5.56mm 16" barrel. I also have conversion kits so I can use AK-47 mags, 9mm Colt AR mags and Grease Gun mags. I have four different calibers I can shoot through my Hydra, and I'll be looking at getting the conversion kit so I can shoot 9mm Glock magazines - for this, I only need to purchase a mag well that takes 9mm Glock mags - I already have a 9mm barrel and bolt. I added a flip-up rear sight, and a LaserLyte green laser to the quad-rail. the LaserLyte green laser is bright - it can be seen in bright daylight, and is military tough.   - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hi Jim.  
Dry wall is made of Gypsum, which is composed of Calcium Sulfate Dihydrate, with the chemical formula CaSO4·2H2O. It is found naturally and also made Synthetically by Flue Gas Desulfurization at some coal-fired electric power plants. Synthetic Gypsum can be used interchangeably with Natural Gypsum in some applications. There was a problem with drywall from China which contains too much Sulfur probably from the flue gas desulfurization process. When Water is absorbed by the bad drywall, Hydrogen Sulfide is formed which induces corrosion in some metals. I would not trust using drywall as a desiccant for ammo storage. Just think about opening your ammo boxes, finding the contents corroded! That would be "Penny wise and Pound foolish." - Chuck M. from the Northeast Kingdom

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Hi Jim,  
I wanted to share with others of how I make my own desiccant packs. Go to a craft store like Michaels and in the flower department you can buy a box of silica gel that is used for drying flowers. I then get a box of family sized tea bags (these are twice the size of regular tea bags but any size will work) Use needle nose pliers to remove the staple that holds on the little piece of cardboard used to squeeze the bags, empty out the tea and use a spoon to now fill the empty tea bags with the silica gel. Re-staple. They are now ready for ammo cans, food buckets etc. [The loose tea can of course be saved to use is a tea-steeping ball.] - Just a Jarhead

We don' need no steenkin' silica desiccants!

Go to most any building site or building supply store and ask for some wall board (a.k.a. gypsum board or "sheet rock") scraps.  For various reasons, there is almost always some pieces around.  The builders or store owner will be happy to get rid of them for free.

Peel the paper off one side and cut the wall board into pieces to fit the containers that you're using.  A piece about the size of a 3x5 index card will protect a .5 0cal ammo can or #10 can with capacity to spare

Bake the wall board pieces in the oven at 150 degrees F for a couple of hours to dry them out, and put them warm into your containers and seal.

Gypsum is extremely hygroscopic, and will suck every every bit of moisture from the air in a sealed container.  This can be used to protect stored electronics, optics, books, etc as well.

This approach is low tech, extremely inexpensive, and easy.  My kinda solution. Cordially, - John N.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Hi Jim,   For some time now, I've been using spare food-grade oxygen absorbers with my long-term ammo storage in regular ammo cans. I keep a regular supply of O2 absorbers in a Mason Jar that I re-vacuum each time with the now famous Alvin Vacuum sealer / Tilia Mason Jar Adaptor.   Being able to stack ammo cans is also good. Seeing the sides of the cans squeeze towards the center (and hard to re-open): Priceless. This is one of the reasons why 5.45x39mm Russian is my favorite MBR round: The surplus Soviet ammo is already delivered that way! They knew how to package their ammo for the long haul. - J.E.

Capt. Rawles,  
I read the letter from John S. about using #10 Cans for Ammunition Storage and wanted to let you and my prepper brethren (and Sisteren) know that they can “Check Out” a can sealing machine from the LDS Home Storage facilities for free when they are buying their cans and lids.  As you have mentioned before, the LDS church home storage facilities are open to the public, not just members, and they won’t send the 4th Mountain Bike Brigade (Missionaries)  to your home because you visited.  I have been frequenting the one near our home and have checked out the machines so my family can seal up wheat at home.  They typically give you a couple of days to use it, and can show you how to work it.  It is very simple.  They also sell the oxygen absorbers, plastic lids for after opening, and boxes to make stacking the cans easier.  If people don’t have the time you can even buy some prepackaged cases (6 cans) of food storage.  They have had a couple of price increases since January 1, 2011 due to cost increases, but their prices are very good, and they try to make getting your family prepped easier.   I hope this information is helpful. - Brad M.

I had no idea I could reuse and reseal the cans! I had a "Duh!" moment when I read this. Also, clarify please,  Is it safe to put an O2 absorber in with the ammo that is canned sealed to counter any dampness?   What about Berdan primed ammo? Can I can seal it up too? - K.A.F.

JWR Replies: As I mentioned once before in SurvivalBlog, oxygen ("O2") absorbing packets are not the best choice for ammunition storage. Silica gel desiccants are much more reliable, especially in disaster situations, when replacement )2 absorbers might not be available. 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

Both types of packets will work in protecting guns or ammunition is fully-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 food 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, with most of them, you have no way of knowing whether or not they have already been chemically neutralized. (A few brands have pink-blue indicator dots, but most do not.)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mr. Rawles,  
I have searched your site and others for detailed information on long term storage using sealed #10 cans.  Are there any drawbacks?  I can buy cans from the LDS cannery for around 1.00 a piece, which is much cheaper, by volume, than regular ammunition cans.  Any information you or your readers could provided would be greatly appreciated. - John S.

JWR Replies: The #10 steel can is awesome! For food storage, they don't suffer from the gradual oxygen transmission (permeability) weakness of HDPE buckets. For ammo storage, they work nearly as well as military surplus ammo cans. But be advised that they don't stack well, and they are thin gauge steel, so they must be protected from dampness. The only major drawback is the cost of a can-sealing machine. They are scarce and expensive, unless you luck into a used one on Craigslist. (Normally, $300+)  Without one, you cannot re-seal cans. You can re-seal a #10 can several times, although it loses a bit of height each time.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I returned to the United States in 1999 after spending an extended period of time in Russia. The country has a deep, fascinating and sometimes terrible history. However, of moment to this submission are three events that, in my opinion, are very beneficial for each of us to consider and contemplate as we go about our business of preparing. These three events are so significant because I believe that these events are illustrative of what may occur in a SHTF or TEOTWAWKI scenario. By examining what actually transpired in a modern first world civilization during times of SHTF/TEOTWAWKI we can divine--to some extent--what would transpire in our own culture/geographic locations under similar circumstances. Thus, an evaluation of these three events can provide us with data for practical application as we prepare ourselves, our families and our communities.  These three events are also important to consider in my opinion because they are illustrative of what--again, in my opinion--are the most likely scenarios of SHTF/TEOTWAWKI. 

The three events are, in chronological order: the siege of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), the financial crisis of 1998, and the war in Kosovo.  I lived in Russia during the last two of these three events, and I know individuals who lived through the first. I will address each of these events below.

Lesson #1: The Siege of Leningrad

During World War II, the capture of Leningrad was one of the three primary goals of the Nazi forces on the Eastern Front. The city held political, strategic and emotional importance as it was the former capital of the Russian Empire, the seat of the baltic fleet and home to numerous munitions factories, and the Russian bastion of the arts and sciences.  Hitler was so fixated on the capture of this city that he actually had pre-printed invitations to the victory celebration to be held in one of the great hotels of the city. 

The Nazi forces--at least 350,000 strong--approached the city of approximately 2.5 million souls during the summer of 1941.  At the approach of the Nazi forces, 1.4 million individuals were evacuated from the city. Those who remained--men, women as well as children--were soon to be subjected to a long and brutal two and a half years. The Nazi advance was stymied through the resistance efforts of both soldiers and civilians, and the Nazis had yet to reach the city boundaries by the fall of 1941. However, by September 1941 the Nazi forces had successfully surrounded the city, although they were unable to break through the outer defenses.  Nevertheless, the Russians could not claim victory.  For a period of 872 days the Nazi forces laid siege to the city, bombarding its citizens with shelling and machine gun fire. I have personally strode past the signs that stand as monument to this day that declare "During shelling periods, stand on this side of the street to avoid death." I have personally visited on many occasions the cemetery where over 500,000 victims of the siege rest interned. The 500,000 figure may seem high, but it is estimated that over 650,000 souls perished during the siege. During January and February of 1942 alone, between 7,000--10,000 died per day of starvation. 

So, you may be asking yourself, what's the point of this history lesson? Here it is.

During the time of the siege, the government seized control of the food sources. Rations were handed out--to those who could reach the supply tents, as many died on the way to the supply tents from cold and starvation---that consisted of 125 grams of bread mixed with sawdust. Those who were lucky killed and ate pigeons. Many resorted to cannibalizing the dead (this is a documented truth; there are much more sinister rumors, however, that there were groups who would actively kill in order to cannibalize). Although we may not ever face a military siege of the type described above, a prolonged food shortage would result in the same effects as seen by those in Leningrad during the siege. Such a prolonged food shortage could arrive in this country--or any other for that matter--by means of many things. A natural disaster such as a major earthquake or tsunami; a shortage of fuel to transport our food; a collapse of the fiat currency system; a famine; choose your own peril. The practical lesson for me to take away here is that any number of events could cut off our food supply. If that happens, then people will die and resort to otherwise unthinkable acts. So, the lesson to us is to stock our larders deep and tall, and prepare to produce our own food supplies to the extent we can. 

In summary, Lesson #1 is: food supplies for entire populations are fragile. Once that supply is disrupted the unprepared will die and/or live in unimaginably horrible circumstances. Thinking that the government or the goodwill of others will sustain you is folly, as seen by what transpired in Leningrad. Stock up on food and water, and prepare to produce your own food to the extent you can.

Lesson #2: The Financial Crisis of 1998

The causes of the Russian financial crisis of 1998 are complex and varied. I do not purport to understand all of these factors fully, and the factors that I do understand I will not attempt to explain in detail. I will, however, attempt to summarize the causes of the crisis before describing the aftereffects. The Russian economy was being driven primarily by selling commodities on the foreign market, as well as borrowing on the foreign market. However, when the Asian crisis occurred and commodities prices were decimated, Russia had difficulty paying the interest on its debts. Does the thought of a market segment collapsing, leaving said market in a spot where it is hard pressed to pay the interest on its debt, sound familiar at all to anyone? Anyone? In any event, the Russian stock, bond, and currency markets collapsed in the early fall of 1998 as a result of investor fears that the government would devalue its currency, default on domestic debt, or both. Again, sound familiar to anyone? (QE?) Markets tumbled, as well as the value of the ruble, and banks closed as there was a run on the banks as people tried to withdraw their money to buy tangibles before prices and inflation decimated the value of their fiat currency. Literally in the span of one month the value of the ruble as compared to the dollar had decreased by 2/3.  Therefore, when people were finally able to access their money, it would only buy 1/3 of what it would once buy. Can you imagine having $100 in the bank today, only to go tomorrow to try and withdraw it and find that the bank was closed, and when you do manage to finally withdraw your money, it is only worth $33? That is devastating. 

Again, you may be asking "Okay, but what does this boring history lesson have to do with anything?" Here is is.

When (not if) fiat currency loses its "value," those holding said fiat currency to the exclusion of tangibles lose. And lose big. 

I recall that many of the folks who had cash on hand foolishly went out and spent it on things like watches, televisions, and other electronics. They foolishly thought that the government would provide the necessities like food and water for them. So, they figured, they could buy "nice things" and the government would take care of them. What they saw literally two days later would turn their world upside down. Within days of the collapse there were--without hyperbole--guards with machine guns guarding the food in grocery stores. The food had been piled up in the middle of the floor and the guards encircled it. You had to show your cash to even be admitted entrance to the grocery store. People began to starve. Fights in the streets began to break out over bread and sugar. Long lines were created if there was even so much as a whiff that a store had cooking oil. People began foraging in the woods for mushrooms and berries. A barter economy started up on the streets. 

That is what post financial collapse Russia looked like. And it looked that way for several months. No food. People spending the overwhelming majority of their fiat currency to buy meager morsels of bread. So, what's the lesson here? I suppose there are a few. First, fiat currency systems are fragile and subject to systemic failures. Second, and as stressed above, stack your larders deep and tall. Third, if you do have cash on hand, don't buy stupid things. Fourth, don't be fooled: folks will fight for food. In Russia they do not have an armed populace; we in the USA do. The fists I saw flying in Russia over a bag of mushrooms could easily be bullets here in the USA flying over a box of Uncle Ben's Rice. Stay off the streets, practice OPSEC, and  be prepared for violence because it will happen. Finally, a financial collapse can happen suddenly and quickly and have ruinous effects in almost no time at all. 

In summary, Lesson #2 is: fiat currency systems are fragile. In the event of a financial collapse, the only safe haven is in tangibles. Stock up on beans, bullets and Band-Aids, and avoid the madness because madness will happen. 

Lesson #3: The Kosovo War (1998--1999)

As many readers will recall, in the mid-1990's there was escalating violence and tension between the ethnicities and religions in Yugoslavia (for you younger readers, Yugoslavia used to be a country in Eastern Europe). During 1997 and 1998 there was a full blown war between different groups vying for power, and reports of genocide.  Due to various reasons, NATO refused to sit by and let this fighting and slaughter continue, and NATO began a sustained bombing campaign in spring and summer 1999. As a combination of the ground war between the various ethnicities, and the bombing campaign of NATO, over 1 million souls were displaced, and fled the region, becoming migrant refugees. 

During that time period I was living in a Russian city that was close to the border. Tens of thousands of refugees from this region found their way into the city and the outlying region. As you might expect, they were not welcomed with entirely open arms. As you will recall, Russia was still recovering from the financial crisis. It did not have money to spare. These refugees took up shelter in apartment buildings and other edifices that had been abandoned and condemned. I saw families living in concrete blocks where the foundation had sunk into the earth, resulting in the concrete floor having a strange tilt to it such that a marble would roll from one side of the room to another. There was no running water or plumbing or heat in these edifices. The families huddled under blankets to keep warm, and cooked over open fires, often made with discarded tires. Deplorable living conditions. And yet, they had shelter. There were many more who bedded down in the fields around the cities. As these refugees would wander the city looking for food and work, they were turned away on more then one occasion by the force of fist or boot. 

So, again you ask, what's the point? Well, here it is.

The golden horde is a reality, and they will descend like locusts. This particular horde was unarmed, but I do not imagine that that would be the case in the USA. The golden horde in the USA would --I imagine--also take up residence in any edifice they could. Look for whatever food they could. Fight for whatever food they could. So, the practical lesson here is, I believe, the golden horde will come, and it is to be avoided. It will be massive. They will work together as they are in the same boat. They will be after resources such as shelter, food and fuel. So, practice OPSEC. Better yet, G.O.O.D.

Summary of lesson #3: in times of crisis, the Golden Horde will materialize. It will be massive. It will descend upon wherever it assumes there are resources. Stay out of its way to the extent you can G.O.O.D. Practice OPSEC. Be prepared for their violence. Stay safe.

Finally, it cannot go without saying that during any of these times of crisis people look to God. While that is wise, it is wiser to look to God before such a crisis. If he warns you to build an ark, then guess what? You should build an ark. 

Overall, these are three modern lessons of SHTF/TEOTWAWKI scenarios that actually happened. They all actually happened in a First World country. They are all things that could easily be repeated. Practical lesson: prepare accordingly. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Your house might be secured. In your basement or workshop you have your reloading outfit, your press, your scale and all of your dies. You can load thousands of rounds in a couple of days if you choose. So what if you have to leave your home in case of the proverbial excrement hitting the rotating circulating blades? How will you pack up your reloading outfit? How much ammunition can you possibly carry if the need arose? Ammunition runs out, especially if you can’t get to the store to replenish that supply and you are away from home.  

In the case of an emergency, you need to be able to go mobile with everything, even your reloading gear needs to be able to move. Now mind you, you are not going to be able to take everything, but you don’t need it all. I will show you what you need to condense your reloading outfit from a full sized bench to a back pack. What you will need are the basics to be able to keep your ammo supply stocked up away from home. You will be able to pack all of this necessary gear in five minutes and be out the door.

When I worked a part time overnight job that only required my presence next to a telephone a couple of years ago, most of the night was spent sitting behind a desk listening to the radio and fighting to keep my eyelids open. Eventually I decided that I would bring my reloading supplies with me, and while I didn’t completely load the rounds, I at least prepared the cases so that when I was at home, I spent less time at the bench. This allowed me to spend more time actually loading up live rounds, and if I could do the prep work behind that desk, than it would not be that much harder to load my own ammunition away from home.

Before you start packing any gear away you will need to decide which guns you are going to grab if you need to leave home in a hurry. Some calibers will be tougher than others to carry large amounts of supplies for. For instance, you can get away with packing a lot more bullets and brass for a .223 Remington than a .45-70 and it will take up far less powder for each round that you load. I would also recommend that you not make a portable kit based around an exotic gun or a wildcat that ammunition is already tough to get ammunition for, so leave that .416 Rigby behind and grab your .30-30 Winchester instead.

I have few rifles in my collection, and I have not yet started loading shotguns shells, so most of what I reload for is my revolvers. I have several guns chambered in .38 Special and .357 Magnum so if I had to grab a gun or two, you can bet that they would on the top of the list. I won’t go through all of the merits for picking those, but I can reload all of them with only one or two different powders.  Let’s go through the checklist of what you will need to reload while away from home.

Case Preparation

I keep a few pieces of 0000 stainless steel wool in my pack for cleaning up the cases in case that they need it, which after a few minutes gets them decent enough to run through my reloading dies. I do keep a couple of bottles of case lube, which makes life a lot easier than trying to force the cases in. The last thing you want is to have to try and fix a die while you are away from your bench and tools.
The next things you will need of course are a set of reloading dies and a press. You can get away with an outfit like the Lee Loader which is good for a single caliber only, but they are time consuming and can be noisy. I prefer the Lee Hand Press, which is much faster and is nearly silent. As for the reloading dies, that choice is up to you as most have the same quirks. I will say that I prefer Lee because I do not need any tools to make adjustments, and little tools and wrenches can get lost if not careful.

Lee makes a very nice set of case trimmers and cutters you will need one for each caliber. Get the large cutter with the ball end that looks something like a gear shift knob, it will make your life easier. You will need a primer pocket cleaner and a deburring tool, but these are small and take up little room. I have two of each in case one gets lost.
You will need a good caliper to measure your cases, get one with a dial and not one that is battery powered. I would recommend one of the small plastic calipers that can simply measure the length as a back up, as they are light and take up very little space.

Once you have your cases resized, trimmed and ready to go, now you will need to have them primed. You can add a priming attachment to the Hand Press, but I prefer the Lee Auto Prime hand priming tool. If you are not partial to Lee, RCBS makes a similar tool, but it is much more expensive. If you get the Lee Auto Prime tool, remember that it requires separate shell holders that are different than the ones for your press. Once your case is primed then you can move on to the next step.

Adding Powder

Before you add powder, you are going to have to find a way to measure it. I would take two scales. The first would be my RCBS 750. Even though it is a digital scale, it is small and has a 9V battery backup, and I keep a fresh battery in it at all times while I use the plug in adaptor at home. My second scale is a Lee Safety Scale. It is cheap, and it does not need any oil as it is a magnetic beam scale. It is also small and light and fits in a pack easily, even in its box.

You will of course need some loading data to know what your loads are going to be. What I have done is take all of the loads I might need for my guns and write them down on a small notepad. I include the load data from all of my loading manuals so that I don’t have to bring all of those manuals along, just the compact little notepad.

As far as powder, I would only take two different powders, a pound of Winchester 231 and a pound of 2400. The reason for that if I had to take a long gun and a couple of handguns, I can reload my .22 Hornet and .357 Magnum with 2400, and my .38 Special with the Winchester 231. I would only need one type of primer, as all three use small pistol primers. You would need to sort out for yourself which calibers you would take, but if you could narrow it down to just a couple of choices, you would be well off.


I know some people here would opt for carrying around some lead and a bullet mold, but since I don’t know if I am going to end up where there is a chance to build a fire where I can sit and mold by own lead, I would rather bring some bullets with me. Again this is where the .38 and .357 are handy because I can pack a couple hundred different bullets of the same caliber without breaking my back. If you feel like carrying more bullets, then by all means, carry more. This is going to be your portable outfit. I feel that if I have to pack around over five hundred pistol bullets, than it means I will be out in the elements for a very long time.

I would take every opportunity to load at home when you can with the Hand Press so that you can get familiar with it. I have sat many times when I got home from work after my wife was asleep in my living room resizing and priming cases. It is a different feeling than using a typical bench mounted press. The more that you use it, the quicker you will get loading up ammunition. I can tell that loading fifty rounds with the hand press and a small balance beam scale is going to seem very tedious especially if you are used to a digital scale and a progressive press. What used to take you only a small amount of time will now seem like it takes hours. You will have to get used to it.

There a couple of other little things that you should have in your pack. Make sure that you have a small plastic powder funnel, and a few small powder scoops in addition to the one that comes with the reloading dies. An overlooked but necessary item is a bullet puller, the best is the RCBS. In addition to the three part shell holder that comes with it, the RCBS bullet puller can also be used with a standard shell holder that comes with the reloading dies. You just tighten the cap and it works even better than what comes with the puller. You need the bullet puller in case you need to pull some of your own rounds, but also if you come across ammunition that you can break down for the components (say you find some .357 Magnum ammo and you only have a .38 Special, you can trim down the brass and use the bullets once they are separated).

My portable reloading outfit has been tuned down so that it weighs less than twenty pounds and can fit in my backpack. That includes two sets of dies, the Hand Press, the Auto Prime, two pounds of powder, primers, and all the little tools. I have made it so I can grab that pack and head out in a hurry, a complete reloading outfit ready to go when I need it.


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.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lots of care and time are taken to select the appropriate firearm. A precisely crafted piece of machinery primarily designed to do one thing, send a chunk of metal downrange and high speeds with the intention of killing someone or something. There are many ways of doing this and many types of bullets designed for many different purposes. We all can gather the hearsay of what round is the best, which manufacturer has the furthers traveling, hardest-hitting or bang-for-buck ammunition. So when it's all said and done, understanding what happens to that piece of copper, steel and lead once it leaves the barrel is crucial when we're faced with pulling the trigger to save lives or to feed our family members.

Ideally when a bullet is fired it travels in a straight line from barrel to target. However ideal worlds do not have air resistance and gravity, the two most hampering factors when a bullet's path are scrutinized. Many different tools have been manufactured to ensure that a bullet makes it mark every time the trigger is pulled.

When we mount a scope on our rifles, or adjust our sights we are not changing any physical properties about the direction of our barrel or bullet, instead we are using our optics system to create a constant variable of sight to compensate for gravity and resistance. So if you were to place your barrel parallel to the ground your cross hairs may fall above and to either side of your intended target. When you hold the weapon and train the cross-hairs on the target you have adjusted it so that you are actually holding the weapon at an slight angle, preferably the proper angle that will take the bullet in whatever direction you have deemed fit to place a round into a desired space at a certain range while at the same time compensating for gravity and air resistance.

When the bullet does leave a barrel, it does so at a velocity (speed) determined by:

  • The bullet's weight. (The weight measured in grains. Each grain is 1/7,000th of a pound),
  • The size of the charge (gunpowder, also measured in grains),
  • The length of the barrel, and
  • The type of bullet. (Round nose versus pointed nose.)

The velocity determines the distance traveled before it hits the ground and the energy it puts into a target when it hits. The higher the speed (closer the target as bullets lose speed over distance and time) and heavier the bullet, then the greater the damage.

When utilizing firearms there are two distances that you must be familiar with. These are the maximum range of the weapon and the maximum effective range. The latter being the farthest distance a round can accurately be placed into a target. Maximum range is the distance the bullet will travel before hitting the ground. It is true that different types of rounds, FMJ, hollow-core, partition, etc. will extend and decrease these distances however their effect is usually not more than [a difference of] a few yards.

On a side note; rifling greatly increases accuracy over distance by spinning the bullet. This creates a gyroscopic effect that stabilizes the projectile. The extent of this twisting is displayed as a barrels 'twist rate' and is measured by the number inches it takes for the groves to make one complete rotation within the barrel. 1 in 10” and 1 in 6” are examples of barrel twist rates. Different barrels for different rounds have a different number of grooves all manufactured to be the ideal number and twist rate for the intended round. Lower velocity/grain bullets (.22 LR is typically 1 in 16”) require lower twist rates to achieve nominal accuracy and vice versa for heavier weight bullets (.30-06 is typically 1 in 10”). Longer barrels mean more rifling (in most cases), different thicknesses mean reduced vibration, better heat dissipation and better pressure control. Over-rifling a barrel (too tight a twist) will actually spiral the bullet in a manner earlier in flight than designed, as described in the next paragraph.

As it's velocity slows at greater distances, this spinning begins to affect bullet by spiraling it as it still takes a straight path. So when it impacts a target at high distances this spiraling will actually continue to affect the bullet as it enters and exits the target creating a slightly curved path. Ballistic Forensics experts use this property of projectiles to determine the distance that the bullet was fired from and is an important factor when firing on targets at great distances. This is most apparent when considering 'grouping' at different distances as groups become larger.

So now our Winchester .30-06 150 grain soft-point is flying through the air. During it's flight, it would have left the barrel at 2,920 feet per second (f.p.s.) the bullet would have risen approximately 3 inches at 100 yards (That compensation we included when sighting our scope) before dropping an inch (because of gravity) and slowing to about 2,600 f.p.s. (due to air resistance) on impact at 150 yards. At that distance the circular error probability from typical 1 in 10” rifling would have increased from 0” at muzzle to about 2.5” creating a target area 5”across the chest.

Our unlucky mutant-biker gets hit square in the sternum at 150 yards, just 0.2 seconds after the projectile leaves the barrel. In .0005 seconds the bullet will have entered and exited it's target. At .0001, the bullet hits and enters a depth of about 1.5cm or the width of your pinky nail before deforming as it was designed to do. The immense energy of the impact (2,800 Joules) will open a cavity 20 cm (8 in.) wide at .0002 as the bullet fragments and transfers it's energy into his body before exiting his back. At .0004 the energy dissipates and the cavity collapses, jettisoning the liquefied flesh, bone and muscle through an exit wound approximately 15cm (6 in.) wide starting from the back of the sternum in a spray. One can see why this is a desirable sniper cartridge.

For a more typical scenario the same target, same distance but with a 7.62x39 Steel Core AK-47 round will hit with less velocity, around 2,400 f.p.s. The bullet is not designed to fragment, and at 150 yards, it will enter and exit cleanly if not hindered (by bone, metal, or Kevlar). However the impact and entrance will create a temporary cavity 3-4 inches wide and will shock nearby vital organs and cause them to hemorrhage. It is important to note that some bullets will actually 'tumble' inside victims or curve heavily due to a change in resistance (.22 LR ammunition is notorious for this). This is different from the spiral effect created from rifled barrels and is more important on a medical basis than accuracy.

It is very advisable that you research your preferred round's impact profiles before purchasing what you think is a good round. Also research real-life effectiveness of the rounds. (From actual use in the field.) News stories are rampant of cops who fired multiple 9mm rounds and failed to incapacitate a criminal who had time to fire his own weapon before succumbing to his wounds.

JWR Adds: If the foregoing seems like complex list of variables, it is actually describing just the major ones. There are others, such as temperature, elevation, air pressure, and wind velocity. Bullet designs and their various terminal effects also differ widely. There are also many other factors that must be masteredsuch as parallax, shooting positions, uphill/downhill offset, and the shooter's control of breathing. For more details, I highly recommend the book Ultimate Sniper by Maj. John L. Plaster.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Survival is a mindset.  The most valuable item one can have is knowledge.  One area of preparedness that gets reams of attention is the firearm.  The debate over which type, caliber, and capacity is endless.  Some of this is based on opinion, while other on experience. Yet with all the hoopla about the importance of firearms and ammunition, you never see much about care and cleaning.  I’m not going to throw my hat in with the hundreds of “experts” on firearms out there in the preparedness community, but I do want to talk a little about the importance of protecting your investment.   High quality firearms are an investment.  The investment purpose of firearms, for the serious survivalist, is not a hefty return on the investment.  The purpose of this investment is to provide safety (the ability to provide) and security (the ability to protect).  

Starting with the basics, you need a good cleaning kit.  Most “gun-people” have a kit, somewhere between a tackle box and a Craftsman rollaway, made up of bits and pieces we’ve accumulated over time.  Understand, you don’t need to have a rollaway to be able to take good care of your firearm.  Most sporting goods stores will have universal gun cleaning kits that are reasonably priced.  A good universal kit, meaning rifle-pistol-shotgun, can be bought for around $10.00.  Is it the equivalent of an armors kit?  No, but it will get the job done.  Here’s my building block approach, you’ll need the following:  

  • A small plastic tackle/tool box:                            $5.00
  • A universal gun cleaning kit:                                $10.00
  • Bore brushes for the calibers of your gun(s):       $5.00
  • Bore swabs for each caliber:                                $5.00
  • One bottle of powder solvent:                              $5.00
  • One pack (250 count) of .30 cal. rifle patches:    $5.00
  • One squeeze bottle of gun oil:                              $3.00
  • One package of pipe cleaners:                              $2.00  


On the high end, you’ve spent $40.00.

Now let’s look at a few things you have around the house that fits nicely into the kit:

  • An old toothbrush.
  • An old bath towel, cut into quarters.
  • Q-tips (several).  

Before you begin, make sure the firearm is UNLOADED!   Every year we will read of an account where someone was killed while cleaning their firearm.  Unload and make sure the ammo is well away from the cleaning area.  This is two-fold.  One, the gun can’t go “boom” unless it has ammo and two, cleaning solvent can cut thru the sealant on your ammunitions primers thus making your ammo useless.   

Here’s the purpose for the items in teh forefoing lists: The tackle box holds everything together.  This common sense approach keeps me from having to search all over the house to find my gun cleaning equipment, I just have to search for the tackle box!  The universal kit will contain cleaning rods, a handle, and in many cases a patch jag, brushes, solvent and oil (compare the contents). 

These rods are screwed together to the desired length of the barrel you’re going to clean.  Attached to the end of the cleaning rod are brushes, patch jags, and barrel swabs.  The solvent is used to dissolve the powder residue as well as removing lead and copper fouling, a by-product of firing the gun.  The patches are used to “dry” the barrel of the solvent and clean the aforementioned fouling from the barrel.  I use the bore swab to push the patch down the barrel (if at all possible, clean from the chamber end); this forms a tight seal and removes more fouling than a jag and patch (A note of caution:  Make sure you clean up and account for the solvent-soaked patches.  These are deadly poisonous to a chid. As we all know “If it gets in their hand…where does it go?) 

Following the manufactures recommendation, you can now concentrate on cleaning to rest of the firearm.  Q-tips, pipe cleaners, and an old toothbrush are excellent for cleaning frames of both revolvers and semi-auto pistols.  The cut-up towels make for a good cleaning mat as well as a cleaning rag.   I could write a book on the nuts and bolts of cleaning the individual weapons but for the most part, I wanted to give you a rundown of what you need to be able to provide basic care for your investment.   

JWR Adds: Use great caution where you use Q-Tips, since they can shed "fluff" that can bind up small gun parts.

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.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Finding great self-defense weapons on a tight budget can be a challenge. There are tons of tactical weapons out there, but if you’re like a lot of us, the trick is finding something that you can afford.  If you’re one of those folks - this guide is for you.

Finding Your Gear

The used market is the place to look – prices are usually lower than retail.  Some states restrict advertising of certain kinds of used guns.  That makes it tougher, but not impossible to find stuff. 

Word of mouth and asking around (“know anybody that’s looking to sell something?”) can turn up leads.  Make friends in gun stores and get to know people. They’re often buying/selling/trading.

If advertising guns is unrestricted in your state, then pick up a local "shopper" advertising paper and/or check out the classifieds in the local newspapers.  Be persistent, be patient and when you find something you’re interested in, you can get on the ‘Net and check out the reviews.  An easy way to do that is to Google search the firearm you’ve got your eye on. [JWR Adds: I have found,, and to be excellent sources. The new page might also prove useful. To keep your gun buying both legal and private, at some of these web sites you can use an "Advanced Search" feature to limit your searches by State, and to only private seller listings. I strongly recommend that you buy only from private parties if that is legal in your locality. Of course consult your state and local laws first!]

If you’re not concerned about the paperwork involved with buying a firearm in a retail gun store, you’ll find that pawn shops and sporting goods outlets often stock used or consigned weapons at reasonable prices.  Some shops will let you try before you buy, or you can go to a commercial shooting range and rent guns that you’re interested in, before you lay down your cash.

A couple of thoughts about “paperwork” – the forms you fill out and the info you give whenever you buy a gun at a gun store. First, the government tells us that the info you give to get their permission to buy the gun (the instant criminal background check) is required by law to be destroyed.  Maybe they do, maybe they don’t – either way, you give them the info, fill out the Form 4473 and register yourself. The 4473 has to be surrendered to BATFE on demand, or when the store goes out of business.

Second, every gun that is sold retail for the first time, along with the buyer’s name, address, etc., is entered into BATFE’s E-trace system; and that is made available to any LEO or police department that subscribes to it.  In other words, you’re registered with your new gun. If that’s okay with you,then happy shopping!

Cheap Shotguns:

Shotguns are the definitive fight stopper. Devastating out to about 25 yards or so, there’s something inspiring about the sound of a 12 gauge racking a round into the chamber. The good news is, for $200 to $300 can find you a very serviceable gun. Tactical models, special finishes, stocks, and slings all raise the price quickly.

What you don’t want

Double barrels, single shots, and anything other than 12 or 20 gauge.  Double barrels look cool but they are slow to reload and only have (surprise!) two shots.  Singles go bang half as much and suffer from the same slow reload drawback.  Experts like Clint Smith of Thunder Ranch can make a single run almost like a semi-auto. But you ain’t Clint Smith.

What you do want

Late model guns from Remington, Mossberg, and Winchester are probably your best bet – The Remington 870, Mossberg 500 and Winchester 1300 all have their fans. The 870s I own have been completely reliable. Ditto my 1300.
Pump shotguns are plentiful on the used market.  They are relatively cheap, easy to use, reliable and have a stout kick.  When you shoot one – keep that in mind – it kicks.
Pumps are generally less expensive and finicky than semi-automatics. What to feed them? Another good debate topic (and oh, how gunnies love to argue!). To keep it simple, buy plenty of double ought buck for social work and bird shot (# 7 or 8) for practice. Bird shot is currently going for about 20 cents a round.
Shotgun shells in 12 or 20 gauge are common now and will likely be easier to find than any other gauge when the stuff hits the fan. I know .410s are popular, especially among the Taurus Judge 5 shooter crowd and the derringer community.  To me, it’s still a boutique round. But, you pays your money and takes your choice.  I’ll take a 12 or a 20, thanks.


A rifle, effectively used, is usually the best thing to take to a gun fight. For our purposes, we are only looking for a semi-automatic military type rifle. Why?
Good ones can still be had for cheap and they offer a level of durability and reliability far beyond their low price. Military weapons are built tough for a tough job – warfare. That translates into a tough dependable weapon in any situation – always an advantage.
Bolt actions are less desirable because of a lower rate of fire compared to a semi-automatic. Should you get into a firefight, you want to have all the firepower you can muster.
On the other hand, bolt actions like the Russian Mosin Nagant can be found for less than $200, and they fire a potent 7.62x54 round.  They also may have an accuracy advantage.
There are few affordable semi-auto military rifles on the open market for less than $400.  Except the venerable SKS.  The SKS come with a WWII-style wood stock (no "fancy-smancy" black plastic stuff on these), a crude (but effective) safety that blocks the trigger, usually some kind of canvas olive drab sling and a 10-shot magazine. If you were only going to own one rifle, this one is worth serious consideration. Developed in Russia in 1944, it enjoyed a short life as a front line battle rifle and was replaced three years late

r with the AK-47.  SKSes were then used by nearly all the old Soviet bloc countries, other communist countries like China, and client states like Vietnam and Cuba.  It is still used in insurgencies around the world. Capable of firing 10 rounds of 7.62x39 ammunition (roughly the same ballistics as a 30-30 round), they are loaded by inexpensive stripper clips or one at a time.  It is reliable as a quartz watch, virtually unbreakable, cheap to feed, easy to maintain (it can be, like most army guns, disassembled without tools), reasonably accurate and common on the market.

The AK-47 beats the SKS in firepower (30+ rounds versus 10).  It is lighter, faster to reload (mags versus stripper clips), and in military guise, has full auto capability. It is renowned as one of the most reliable (read, unbreakable) rifles in the world. The good news is that both are commercially available in the US (the AK being a semi-automatic only here). But the AK is a good deal more expensive - $600 and up. In contrast, I was recently able to find a couple Chinese SKS’s for $175 each.
The 7.62x39 round has been used to harvest deer and other medium game. SKSes are sufficiently accurate with standard sights to take game out to about 150 – 200 yards. At this writing it is runs about 27 cents a round. Cheap enough to practice with.
The stripper clip can be a very fast way to reload the rifle, assuming you practice and have a strong thumb. 
In short, if you’re looking for a powerful, multi-use, affordable, tough rifle, the SKS is the one to beat.

Beyond the SKS, prices go north. Next in line, price wise, might be an AK copy – variants sell under different designations. For example, a desirable used Mak 90 (a 1990s Chinese AK, stamped receiver, sporter AK with an awful looking thumbhole stock) can be had for $500 - $600. If you can afford one, go for it.
AR-15 clones, M1s, M-14s, FALs, FNs, etc., will cost you more. There are better rifles, but there are none at a better price point than an SKS.  At the end of the day – all of them go bang when you pull the trigger.  Nobody I know wants to stand in front of one!


Loved and hated, the Ruger Mini-14 has been around since the 1970s and it is a durable semi-auto that has controls like Garand type rifles of yore (the M1 and the M14), [but uses a short-stroke gas piston like an M1 Carbine]. It shoots the ubiquitous .223 round and it is worthy of consideration to anyone wanting a .223 fighting gun. They can be found around $500 on the used market.

Older Mini-14s (serial number 180,XXX and up) are known for their reliability and their fair to poor accuracy – 7 inch groups at 100 yards aren’t uncommon. On the other hand, that level of accuracy in a combat gun is acceptable and not much worse than the SKS or the vaunted AK-47s. Later models have had mixed reviews and are reported to be more finicky about magazines. A common fix is to use factory Ruger magazines exclusively.
Newer models (with serial numbers above 581,XXX) are claimed to be more accurate and reliable.
Mine run consistently and hit with acceptable accuracy – even though they’re 30 years old. An advantage I’ve found with mine is that they shoot steel case Russian .223 happily.  A lot AR-15s don’t.  In a survival situation, it would be an advantage to have a rifle that will digest whatever ammo you have or acquire. Finally, Mini-14s are low maintenance and easy to field strip – without tools. That’s a plus in unpredictable circumstances.

A final thought on rifles: When the curtain goes down on the good times, 7.69x39 and .223 ammo will then, as now, probably be around in quantity.


Handguns are easily concealed and easily used in a self-defense situation. Most gunfights take place at close range and this is where handguns do their best work.
I am a Glock shooter.  I love ‘em.  I also love 1911s (usually Colts – older models), and good Smith & Wesson revolvers (.44 Magnums are still “the most powerful [widely produced] handgun in the world” for this Dirty Harry fan!).  Why do I love Glocks?  I bought my first one in the late 1980s and it’s never let me down. Recently I completed an intense three-day shooting school – over a thousand rounds down range and not a single failure, not one, nada – that from my old Glock 17, the one I got in the 1980s.  They are ugly, they run, and they are accurate. They are also light, easy to conceal, clean, maintain, and nearly rust-proof. What’s not to love?
Used ones turn up in the paper at around $500. 

If you are one an even tighter budget, the how about a used P85 or P90 series Ruger 9mm?  $375.  Mine has been running since around 1985.  Sure it’s big.  Sure it’s ugly.  But it’s accurate and reliable.

Used Beretta 92s (civilian version of the Army’s official M9 sidearm) are around for $400.  Does it run? Yes.  Accurate?  Yes. Easy to maintain?  Absolutely. Remember that that 9mm ammo is relatively inexpensive and ubiquitous.

Before you turn your nose up at 9 millimeter pistols, remember we’re doing this on a budget.  Are there better calibers?  Probably.  But none cheaper to practice with.  There are excellent self-defense 9mm bullets available as well, which make the 9mm a serious combat gun. For the money, they are hard to beat.

Final Thoughts

The most important thing you can do after you get your gun is learn how to run it well – that includes safe handling and good marksmanship.  Good training will help you hone both. If you can’t afford training, consider one of the excellent training books by masters like John Farnam, Jeff Cooper, or Massad Ayoob.  There are some great training DVDs available for rent at Smartflix.  The advantage to DVDs is you get to see the tactics and techniques in action. [JWR Adds: Also take advantage of low cost training at the Appleseed Shoots.]

Weapons don’t make you a master.  You have to master your weapon.  While you might not have the latest tacticool gun, experts say that marksmanship is largely a matter of practice and good trigger control – regardless of your equipment.  As Clint Smith says, “Use what you got!” - J.M.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Just as I predicted, the headlines are already full of shrill cries for civilian disarmament. Never mind the fact that these were the actions of just one man who was mentally unstable. They aim to disarm the 99.9% of us law-abiding gun owners in the hopes of disarming the remaining 0.01%--the dangerous lunatics. This is something akin to the Hungerford Massacre, where the actions of one sick individual were used as the pretext to disarm an entire nation.

Most of what I've read so far is just the expected statist knee-jerk reaction. But there was one well-reasoned response. And, despite the fact that the perpetrator was a "left wing pothead", this story is being cleverly spun into blaming the Tea Party movement, Rush Limbaugh, and even Sarah Palin.

The latest news headline: Carolyn McCarthy readies gun control bill. McCarthy is definitely in the "never let a crisis go to waste" school of Democrat politics. That article includes copious unattributed opinion, including this:

"Gun control activists cried it was time to reform weapons laws in the United States, almost immediately after a gunman killed six and injured 14 more, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in Arizona on Saturday. Many said that people with a history of mental instability, like the alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, should not be able to buy a gun — and no one should be able to buy stockpiles of ammunition used by the 22-year-old assailant."

"Stockpiles"??? At least from the initial news reports, Jared Lone Gunman Loughner was carrying around 75 rounds of pistol ammunition. That is less that the amount I shoot in just one session of target practice. And it isn't unusual for my family to go through 350 rounds of centerfire ammo and 400 rounds of rimfire ammo in just a day target practice. Do they expect me to drive 30 miles to town each time that I need 100 rounds of ammunition? That is absurd.

Next, no doubt, will be calls for a ban on so-called "high capacity" magazines. (These are called "full capacity" by those that actually understand guns. Anything else is a reduced capacity--neutered--magazine.) Jared Loughner used a Glock 9mm with a 31-round magazine and carried an identical spare as well as a 13 round magazine. But ironically, it was the length of the spare extended magazine that allowed a distaff private citizen to help disarm the gunman, as he was attempting to reload. Kudos to Mrs. Patricia Maisch. She obviously knew about guns. I owe her a couple of free books.

And they'll decry open carry and concealed laws as "too lax".

There will be calls for nationwide gun registration. (As if that would stop a lunatic.)

Some may even insist that everyone be subjected to a battery of psychological tests before being allowed to own guns.

And they'll claim that private party sales of guns (at gun shows) are somehow inherently evil and "under-regulated." ( Even though Loughner bought his Glock Model 19 at a Federally-licensed Sportsman's Warehouse store.)

And what about freedom of speech? This, they will imply, is the "root of the problem". Mark Potok of the leftist Southern Poverty Law Center blamed political campaigns with "vitriolic rhetoric" for the Tucson shootings. And there have already been calls for restrictions on political ads or editorials that include "threatening language or symbols". This leads me to ask: who will be the judge of what words or symbols are "dangerous" or "vitriolic"? Will it be some faceless commission or tribunal? This would surely create a chilling atmosphere of fear and prior restraint.

We had better be prepared for plenty of statist over-reaction to the Tucson shootings that will restrict our First Amendment and Second Amendment rights. It is a good time to both speak out and stock up. I recommend:

  • Complete the private party purchasing of your basic firearms battery. If your state laws allow it, buy guns only from private parties--either at gun shows or from newspaper/internet ads from private sellers. (If you buy through a licensed gun store, then it will leave a paper trail.)
  • Buy plenty of full capacity magazines. There is hardly such a thing as "too many." If there is a magazine ban, then prices will quickly triple or quadruple. So any extras that you buy will be a great investment. (One of the great things about American jurisprudence is the that to prevent challenges to new laws, there is almost always a "grandfather clause" that allows free trade in goods that were manufactured before a ban.)
  • Keep a low profile. When you write letters to the editor of your local newspaper about gun issues, do so anonymously. and when you buy any substantial quantities of ammunition, pay cash and don't leave your name. (Oh, BTW if you live in California, it will soon be too late for that.)
  • Pray for America. If this event gets spin-Meistered into America's Hungerford, then our liberty is in peril.

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).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hello Mr. Rawles,      
I've been using your Pre-1899 FAQ web page to advise many auction sellers from whom I buy [Federally exempt] antique guns.

You invited comments or questions so here is my latest problem: An auction gallery in Indiana offered a pre-1899 S&W .32 Hammerless for sale. I won the item at auction and the gallery owner is of the opinion that State law prevents him from mailing the item to a non-FFL holder because it uses a currently available metallic cartridge even if it is pre-1899.

But when I go to what seems to be the state law in question it says:

"Antiques and Replicas -- The chapter of Indiana's code concerning regulation of handguns does not apply to any firearms not designed to use fixed ammunition or any firearms made in or before 1899..."

[Some deleted, for brevity.]

I would appreciate any light you could shed on this matter so that trade of antique weapons be not limited any more than what is required by the law.

Yours truly,  - Jim in Georgia

JWR Replies: You are not alone. I get several e-mails like yours each year. I also very regularly see online gun auctions listed where a do-gooder seller tries to amplify the law.  (With phrases like: "This gun is pre-1899 but for me to deliver it you need to have an FFL.") What nonsense! The law is the law.

In your instance, you note that the Indiana law states: "...not designed to use fixed ammunition or any firearms made in or before 1899." [Emphasis added.] The operative word here is "or", so the law exempts pre-1899 from paperwork requirements. Clearly, guns in both categories--both muzzleloaders and pre-1899 guns--are considered exempt.

One of the precepts of jurisprudence is the phrase: 'The black letter law", which is a terse way of stating:  The law is what the law says in black and white--no more and no less. The written law is generally unambiguous and known to all intelligent readers with a basic grasp of the language and therefore is free from any doubt or dispute.

I'd recommend that you bid only on auctions where the seller states forthrightly: "Pre-1899, no FFL required."

If the sellers wants to ask for proof of majority (adult age), and a signed statement that you are eligible to buy the antique gun, then so be it. Those are reasonable protections for the seller. But for someone to insist that a non-FFL item be logged through an FFL bound book is idiotic.  Is it legal or proper to log a BB gun or an iPod, or an automobile through an FFL bound book and Form 4473 "Yellow Forms"?  NO!  Neither should you log an antique gun that is built on an original 1898 or earlier receiver.  In the eyes of the law, a pre-1899 "antique" is not a firearm. It is outside of Federal jurisdiction, plain and simple.

To voluntarily self-impose extra restrictions is, to quote my handy thesaurus: "abject, adulatory, bootlicking, bowing, brownnosing, cowering, crawling, cringing, ingratiating, kowtowing, obsequious, parasitic, prostrate, scraping, servile, slavish, sniveling, spineless, submissive, subservient, and sycophantic." Pre-1899 antiques are one part of our lives where we can fully enjoy our liberty. For those that would unilaterally "amplify" the law, I say: Don't act like a slave, or insist that I act like one!

Disclaimer: I'm not an attorney and the foregoing does not constitute legal advice. Consult an attorney licensed in your own state who is familiar with both Federal law and your state's firearms laws.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Would you like to learn a skill during these relatively quiet times that will assist you to obtain, or at least keep,  gasoline, diesel, food and every other commodity the a day after this society falls?   The SurvivalBlog posts regarding TEOTWAWKI may provide you with information regarding  what is the bare minimum you need to strive for in you preparation of the day after disaster strikes.  What if you want to be more prepared?  Do you want to possess a skill that everyone will have a need for the day after the disasters strike? Some people believe that a person’s skills will be more important than the commodities that they bring to an after disaster living situation so if you are not going back to medical school soon, you may want develop a bag full of desired skills. Every day that is like yesterday, the more likely tomorrow will be like today.  Every day that slides by, however, pushes us towards the edge of a cliff, and when we fall off that cliff as a society, our days will be forever changed, and you will then have to deal with a new normal.  There is no need to go through all the different possibilities of how and why this will happen, but many have suggested that we will be in a new Dark Age. How will this Dark Age be different than the last one?  More people will die during the upcoming series of disasters.  Many people died at the point of a sword in the last Dark Ages, but during the upcoming Dark Ages, many people will die from a bullet wound. 

All of these articles and blogs at times focus on different reasons how and why people die during these times of disaster and the authors attempt to jump start you along these roads of how and why to prepare yourself and your family.  Your needs will include fuel, fire, food, shelter, and water, but what happens when someone comes to take these precious commodities away from you, or worse yet, what happens when someone attempts to harm you or your family? Okay, so you have a gun, when was the last time you fired it?  If you and your family whole existence will ultimately going to depend on your ability to use your firearm, why aren’t you going through at least a box of practice ammo every month?  Is your family worthy that amount of time and money? What was your answer to the question … what good is your car if there is no fuel in the tank?  Similarly, what good is your firearm with no ammunition?  Hopefully, you are not in the group of people that mistakenly believe that the sight of a firearm or the sound of slide of a shotgun is enough to scare the bad guys away.

You have an ability to make something if you prepare now that could be more important than food, gasoline, and all the other commodities that you are stockpiling.  You can make your own ammunition because with a loaded firearm, many other things are possible.  Without a loaded firearm, you could lose everything including your life.  Back during the Clinton Administration, key players in the Executive branch realized that going directly against gun owners, the NRA, and the 2nd Amendment was probably not the smartest political move so they attempted to eliminate the precursor reloading supplies, and Clinton attempted to tax already loaded ammunition into oblivion.  The far left thinking is based upon the sound facts that guns are useless without ammunition, and  2nd Amendment does not mention anything about ammunition so the far left is able to reach their goal of a USA without workable firearms without going directly against the 2nd Amendment eliminating ammunition.  The current Democrat President could institute such a policy with a mere signature on an Executive Order.

So do you have enough ammunition for all possibilities that the future might hold, or would you like to have the ability to make your own ammunition regardless  of the situation?  Since the days of President Clinton when he attempted to place limits on ammunition, many people who handload or reload have been stockpiling the supplies necessary to essentially make their own ammunition.  This skill would be invaluable the day after the fall, but it also has benefits now of costing less per round to produce a useable round. The ability to reload or handload your own ammunition is extremely simple to learn.  Before deciding to purchase the equipment and supplies required to reload, you can purchase a DVD entitled RCBS Precisioneered Handloading.  There are many makers of the items listed below.  These items are listed as options that you may want to consider before purchasing these types of items. Many of these items may be purchased at your local sporting goods stores, but as an additional option, these items are listed by cost and item number at Midway. The DVD shows you the basic process of how to make your own ammunition and the necessary equipment and supplies you will need to purchase.  Making your own ammunition is a simple process. At Midway, the DVD item number is  #99910, and the cost of the DVD is $10.  After watching the DVD, you can decide you want to add this necessary skill to your repertoire of TEOTWAWKI skills.

Different manufacturers have most of the items you will need to make your own ammunition in Press Kits.  For example, RCBS has a Supreme Single Stage Press Master Kit which has over 90% of the equipment you will need to reload your own ammunition.  This RCBS Master Kit is approximately $300, but for the next couple of months, RCBS has a $50.00 rebate on RCBS items that total at least $300 so with this rebate the cost of the RCBS Kit would be approximately $250.  The Midway item number for this RCBS Master Kit is #646599.  Another reloading company Lee has a similar reloading kit.  This kit contains most of what is contained in RCBS’s Master kit and the Lee kit is on sale at Midway for $82.  Midway’s item number for this Lee Single Stage Press Kit is #423-081. So what will you do with these reloading kits?  After you fire a round in your modern firearm, what typically comes out of the weapon is a brass cartridge or casing.  When you look at that brass casing, you will notice that it has a flat bottom.  Usually on that flat bottom, there will be some words like the caliber of the weapon that casing is for, and name of the manufacturer of that casing.  In the center of the brass casing, you will see a primer.  If the round has been fired, the primer will have a  dent in it, and this primer is typically termed a spent primer once it has been fired.

What happens when you pull the trigger on a weapon is that the pulling of the trigger causes the firing pin to strike the primer in brass casing … that primer shoots a small, but powerful flash through a hole in the casing into that part of the casing where the powder is being housed … that flash ignites the powder in a semi-controlled explosion (the blast), and the mass of that powder is transformed into a gas… the energy … the gas then pushes the bullet out the barrel of the gun. What you are doing when you reload these brass casings is you first resize the brass casing to its original size… you pop out the spent primer … you place a new primer in the bottom of the casing … refill the brass casing with powder… and finally seat a new bullet in the mouth of the brass casing.  Once you watch the DVD, you will realize how easy this process is.  These tasks are primarily performed by merely moving the handle of the reloading press up and down, and it usually requires very little physical force to complete these tasks.  You will need a small area of counter space to set up the press or small reloading benches can be purchased from Cabela's and other suppliers to house your reloading supplies and equipment all in one place. The items that will not be contained in your press kits are the supplies of primers, powder, brass, bullets, and dies.

Each caliber of weapon will require different primers, powder, brass, bullets, and dies so you will have to make the determinations regarding these items once you have determined what weapon you will be using. For example, you decide that you also want to have .30-06 Springfield in your arsenal of weapons, and you want to be able to reload your own rounds for that .30-06 weapon.  You have chosen to possess a .30-06 because it is a well balanced cartridge, and there should at least be empty brass somewhere that you can obtain.  Initially, you will look in the reloading book that comes in your kit.  If you purchased the RCBS Master Kit, the reloading book contained in that kit will be the Speer Bullet Reloading book.  Turn to the pages in the Reloading book that discusses handloading for the .30-06.  In the current 14th Edition, that discussion takes place on pages  473 through 488 .  The book or manual will also discuss what you will need to purchase for primers, powder, and bullets for a given caliber of firearm.  All of these items will be discussed in greater detail in the reloading manuals, but it is important to follow the instructions in the manual very closely. 

If you still do not know if you want to add this to your bag of skills after watching the DVD, these reloading manuals discuss what to do and how to do it in much more detail so by purchasing one of these manuals, it will provide you will more information before purchasing a kit, or watch the process on YouTube.  These manuals typically cost around $20, but many times these manuals are contained in the kits if you purchase a kit.  The Midway cost on Hornady’s Handbook of Cartridge Reloading 6th Edition is $24 and the item number is #438424.  The Hornady’s Handbook is mentioned because it promotes different bullets than Speer’s bullets, but more importantly on page 38 it has a listing of all the manufactured powder currently for sale.  Hornady’s Reloading manual also lists in a separate book the drop for each bullet at a specific velocity so you can determine how your bullet will perform in the air before it reaches its target. You will have to match, with the assistance and direction of the manual,  the burning rate of your powder to your weapon or cartridge.  The list of powder on these pages is listed from fastest burning powder to slowest burning powder.  Generally, the fastest burning powders are used in shotguns or pistols, and the slowest burning powders are to be used in rifles.  This list is important if you cannot find a specific powder, but you can purchase or trade for another powder, how will this new unknown powder’s burning rate compares to what you need. The current cost for a pound of powder averages between $25-30 per can.  The day after disaster strikes the cost of powder will go off the charts and will you will probably not be able to purchase the items listed in this article anywhere at any price.  Powder has more than doubled in cost over the last several years, and there were times that you could not purchase the more popular powders. 

The more popular powders are those that can be used in several different weapons.  Some of these powders include 4895, 7828, 4831 (rifle powders) and 2400 pistol powder.  A person can usually obtain about 100 rifle rounds out of one can of rifle powder, and many hundreds of rounds from one can of pistol powder for a pistol.  You can purchase powder from your local sporting goods store or from Midway. There was a period of time when President Clinton was in power and he was attempting to shut off the flow of ammunition, or the items necessary to make your own loaded ammunition/ It was then that primers first became scarce and in some instances could not be purchased and any price.  Without proper primers, your weapon and its ammunition will not work.  Eventually, you could purchase primers, but at first, primers cost 3-5 times their normal cost when you could find someone to sell you some.  Currently, the best rifle primers made are Federal’s 215 Match large rifle primers, but there have not been any of these specific primers for sale for several years.  It is extremely important to use the proper primer listed in the reloading manuals so before you purchase any of these items, review your reloading manuals and following their instructions.  Primers can be purchased from your local sporting goods store or from Midway.

With these reloading systems, it makes your one weapon more versatile.  For example, with your  30-06 outlined above, you can have a specific bullet loaded for shooting primarily coyotes or other varmints with the Speer 125 grain "TNT" style bullet. Midway item number for this bullet is 712369 and costs $26 for a box of 100.   This bullet is light, fast, and will expand greatly on impact on small game.  Alternatively, you could handload Speer’s new Deep Curl 180 grain bonded core bullet.  A bonded core bullet is a bullet where the heavy lead core is bonded to the stiff copper jacket so it maintains approximately 90% of its original weight when striking an animal.   This retained weight will ensure deep penetration and a lethal wound channel, and those are the primary reasons most people fire a firearm. This Deep Curl bullet fired from a 30-06 is capable of bringing down any animal in North America. Midway's item number for this 180 grain Deep Curl Bullet is #973637 and the cost is $31  box of 100.  Finally, you can load this 30-06 cartridge so it is a semi-armour piercing round that could stop a vehicle by loading it with a 165 grain solid brass bullet made by Barnes Bullets.  The Midway item number for this Barnes brass bullet is #384406 and the cost is $30 for a box of 50.  So you can use the same weapon, same brass casing, same primer, same powder and with different bullets have total different impact on your varied targets.  You can purchase inexpensive bulk bullets or more custom bullets that have a specific function for specific targets.

Everyone that dabbles in this sort of ballistic analysis is asked… “What is the best bullet?”  In order to answer that question, you need to know what you are going to shoot, but the question has been mostly answered by   Gary Shciuchetti in an article in volume #193 of Handloader magazine.  Mr. Shciuchetti purchased all the 180 grain bullets made by all the manufacturers and custom bullet makers.  He shot them in speeds from 3,200 feet per second down to 1,700 feet per second.  He then measured the diameter and length of the wound cavity.   Mr. Shciuchetti weighed each bullet after it was fired to determine an average retained weight of the bullets. All the other variables being equal, and after hundreds of test shots, one bullet out performed all other bullets… almost by a factor of two, meaning that this bullet typically cut a wound channel twice as far as the next closest bullet… and that bullet was the Winchester Fail Safe.   The only problem is that they do not make that bullet any more, but Barnes MRX Bullet is made in the same manner and is as good, the problem is that this MRX bullet is comparatively expensive.  Winchester’s XP3 loaded ammunition is close, as is Barnes X bullet, in performance to the Fail Safe bullet.

The final item you will have to purchase separate from your kit is a set of dies in order to reload you own bullets.  There are many manufacturers of die sets.  Usually, there are 2 or 3 dies in each set of dies that screw into your press.  The dies are what actually make the changes in the brass casing when you work the handle of the press up or down.  With different dies you will be able to load different rifle or pistol calibers or shotgun shells by using the same press and often times the same primers and powders. For example, for your .30-06 rifle a good choice would be  a RCBS  .30-06 full length sizing die set.  Midway item number for this die set is #264330 and the cost is $29. So what would happen after to pick up your fired brass is you screw in your sizing die into your press.  Your brass is held in place by a shell holder in the top of the ram of your press.  You follow the instructions in your DVD reloading manual but the first die, sizes your brass, and pops out the spent primer.  You re-set a new primer in the casing.  Fill the case with new powder, and re-set a new bullet, using a different die.  The round is ready to be re-fired.

You can make your own ammunition, and with this skill so you can make rounds for others as long as you have the proper dies, brass, primers, and powders.   It is certainly worth the $10 DVD to better understand this reloading process, or go on YouTube and watch someone reload a centerfire brass cartridge.  Once you see all those folks reloading, you will see how easy it is to learn this vital new skill.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

So much has been written on preparing solely for survival of TEOTWAWKI. What about after? What about five years after? Granted, if something minor happens and we could overcome it within a month or so, I truly see precious metals quite viable. However, should the whole world fall to its knees and we would be looking at years before any sort of progress could be made, I think material goods would be much more important.

This list is not meant to be a final checklist, but rather a starting point that you could adjust, add, or take away from. These are some items that you could stock, to start your own General Merchandise store:

Glasses: With so many people running around with contact lenses, lots of eyesight would be lost after the first few months of TEOTWAWKI. Try talking to friends and family that have old pairs of glasses lying around and ask if you may have them. If possible, keep the frames as similar as possible. This would allow you to change out one lens for another if need be. Go to your local pharmacy and purchase a few types of reading glasses as well.

Hearing Aids with Batteries: These are a bit more pricey, but if you can come across some save them for someone that may be willing to pay for them with a side of beef in post-SHTF situation.

Boots and Shoes: It seems all we hear about is the best type of clothes for when the SHTF, but what about footwear? People will be walking all day, everyday thus making shoes wear out faster. I’d recommend going to garage sales and second hand stores to stock up on various sizes and types of footwear for adults and children. Twelve months after TEOTWAWKI and people are going to want to ditch their sandals and oversized sneakers for a more durable and appropriate shoe.

Can Openers: You would be astonished as to the number of people I know that have stocked up on canned goods but only have an electric can opener. Buy a few dozen good quality hand can openers. These will likely sell fast.

Female Products: Per my wife’s instructions. Women will need time until they can make their own pads. Nuff said!