Notes from JWR:

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Hooray! The Best of the Blog, Volume 1 is now orderable! Thanks for your patience, folks. This volume covers the first six months of SurvivalBlog posts, from August, 2005 to January, 2006. This period included some of the most important SurvivalBlog posts that spell out all of the crucial steps for family preparedness. Also included in this volume is The SurvivalBlog Glossary. In all, a whopping 295 pages of useful, no-nonsense “how-to” information. Fully indexed! Wire-o bound. (Lays flat for easy reference.) To make it easy to find what you need, the book is organized by subject area, rather than chronologically. Available as a print-on-demand book from Cafe Press. (The same folks that publish Rawles on Retreats and Relocation.) Someday the power grid may be down, but you can still have all the crucial SurvivalBlog material at your fingertips! Order your copy today!

Here is the Table of Contents for The Best of the Blog, Volume 1:

Introduction 7
Part 1: The “Worst Case” and the Survival Mindset 9
Part 2: Retreat Logistics: Beans, Bullets, and Band-Aids 25
Part 3: Gardening and Livestock 49
Part 4: Retreat Security and Self Defense 71
Part 5: Retreat Locales 105
Part 6: Communications and Monitoring 111
Part 7: Food Storage and Cooking 121
Part 8: Fuel Storage 133
Part 9: Vehicles 143
Part 10: G.O.O.D. and Bug Out Considerations 153
Part 11: First Aid, Medical, Sanitation, and Physical Fitness 163
Part 12: Recent Experiences and Emerging Threats 187
Part 13: Self-Sufficiency and Home-Based Businesses 197
Part 14: Investing, Economics, and Barter 215
Part 15: Gleanings from the Odds ‘n Sods 235
Appendix A: Sources, Suppliers, and Consultants 239
Appendix B: References 241
Appendix C: The SurvivalBlog Glossary 243
Index 281

Now back to what you were expecting to see in SurvivalBlog today…

The large volume of letters that I’ve received (about half of which are posted below) illustrate that I must have stepped on some toes when I bad-mouthed .223 Remington as a defense rifle cartridge. My apologies if I offended anyone’s sensibilities. (My comment “”I consider an AR-15 equipped with a Beta magazine as the ultimate defense weapon for a retreat under attack by a human wave of palsied, midget, and/or wheelchair-bound looters” was meant to be humorous.) All kidding aside, I stand by my statement that .223 is not a sure man-stopper especially at long range. In contrast, .308 Winchester/7.62mm NATO is a well-proven stopper, from zero meters to out beyond 400. As a survivalist, I strive for versatility in all aspects of my planning, and .308 clearly provides greater versatility than .223. Nuff said.

Five Letters Re: An Opinion on .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO

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I’d like to make a few points regarding the .223 cartridge. I am not as enthusiastic about it as Stephen D. seems to be, but I think it’s good for more than defense against, “a human wave of palsied, midget, and/or wheelchair-bound looters.” The .223/5.56 produces its nasty wounds through fragmentation, rather than tumbling. Any spitzer projectile, including the .308, is going to tumble when it hits a dense medium like water or human flesh. A bullet will generally flip around 180 degrees and continue it’s travel through the body backwards (for a body that’s pointed on one end and
blunt on the other, blunt end first is the most stable configuration).
Simply getting a .223 bullet to do a 180 doesn’t increase it’s wounding potential much, since it flips over rather quickly and then makes the same size hole going backwards as it did going forward. Fragmentation, on the other hand, is what causes truly devastating wounds. While fragmentation is rather inconsistent, it is not random. There are a lot of variables that determine whether or not a .223 round is going to fragment (including bullet construction, what part of the body it hits, etc.), but by far the most important one is velocity.
The cutoff seems to be around 2500-2700 feet per second. Faster than 2700 fps, fragmentation is practically certain, below 2500 fps, you have a .22 caliber ice pick. So anyone who wants to inflict serious wounds with their .223 rifle needs to ensure that the bullet arrives with sufficient velocity.
There are the big things that affect the velocity of the bullet when it hits the target: barrel length, bullet weight, and range. To give an idea of how the first three can interact, consider this example. A
55 grain M193 bullet (the old U.S. military standard issue round) fired from a 20-inch barrel will stay above 2700 feet per second out to almost 200 meters. On the other hand, a 62 grain M855 bullet (the current U.S. standard issue) fired from a 11.5-inch barrel will drop below 2700 fps in less than fifteen meters! Many of the recent ‘failure to stop’ incidents reported from Iraq and Afghanistan (and
even as far back as Somalia) involve soldiers firing the M855 bullet through M4 carbines with 14.5 inch barrels. This combination will only produce fragmentation out to about 50 meters or so. Beyond that, the odds of doing the target a lethal injury go way down. Soldiers with longer barreled weapons (like the 20-inch barrel of the M16 rifle and 18-inch barrel of the M249 SAW) tend not to have as many problems.
The other big obstacle to fragmentation is cover. This is perhaps the .223 round’s greatest weakness, it’s inability to penetrate barriers. The little 55 grain round just doesn’t have the mass to punch through even fairly light cover and retain enough velocity to fragment. So, anyone who wants to employ the .223 round for personal defense should keep these factors in mind: Use a fairly long barrel. 20-inches is best, but it means you give up some of the handiness that’s an advantage of a .223 rifle in the first place. 16-inches (the longest easily available to civilians in the U.S.) is a good compromise. Use a fairly light bullet. A 55-grain bullet like the old M193 round is probably best. Lighter ‘varmint’ bullets are available, but though they will fragment readily, they may not have sufficient penetration to reach the vitals. They may also break apart in flight if fired through a gun with a fast twist (1 in 7 or 1 in 9) designed to stabilize the heavier 62 grain round. Don’t rely on a .223 for extreme ranges. A 16-inch barrel with a 55 grain bullet will stay above 2700fps (fast enough to fragment) out to about 150 meters. Beyond that, lethality is going to drop off quite a bit.
Don’t shoot through stuff. If an opponent is behind cover, a heavier caliber is going to be necessary to dig them out.
So how does the .223 stack up as a defensive round? In a true SHTF situation, not all that well. It’s perfectly possible to use 55 grain bullets and a longer barrel to get pretty good performance from a .223
rifle. The limited effective range is a disadvantage, but just how big of a disadvantage depends on the terrain to be defended. In wooded or urban areas, long shots are rare and the extra reach of a
round like the .308 may not be necessary. The really serious disadvantage is the inability to penetrate cover. Potential opponents probably aren’t going to charge across and open field to be mowed
down. Having a rifle that can penetrate through a substantial tree or the bodywork of a car and still have enough punch left to inflict a lethal wound is a big advantage.
On the other hand, if the Schumer has not yet hit the fan, the .223 is a much more appealing choice. In a situation where authorities will be investigating claims of self defense, a truly long range rifle
isn’t necessary. If a target is beyond the effective range of a .223 rifle, it is going to be very difficult to justify using deadly force.
Similarly, for those of us who live in urban areas, the .223’s anemic penetration is actually an advantage. A .308 round has enormous penetrating power, particularly through wood frame construction. Fire
it in self defense and miss and it could pass through every house on the block before coming to a rest. A .223 allows the greater effectiveness of a rifle while decreasing the damage an errant round
might do.
If you can only have one rifle, a .308 is probably the best all-around choice. However, if you are worried about home defense right now, rather than just in case of TEOTWAWKI, a .223 rifle is very appealing. If funds allow, it might be useful to get a rifle in each caliber. To avoid the need to learn two completely different rifles, the best
option may be to purchase the same design in both calibers. Several weapon systems [allowing commonality of training] are available for both rounds, including the AR-10/AR-15 and the HK91/HK93.
Most of the technical information given above comes from For those who are interested in the subject, this site has an extremely thorough discussion of the ballistics and
wounding potential of the .223 round. – Chris


I would have to agree with Stephen on the 5.56 ammo. If you are shooting either the m193 55gr. or the SS109 62gr. as long as the bullet velocity is maintained above 2700fps then there is dramatic fragmentation. This is due to the military cannelure, when the bullet enters flesh it starts to yaw (tumble) once the bullet reaches 90 degrees the jacket comes apart causing massive wound injuries. This is only true of military style ammo, not plinking ammo or wolf. I feel that the 5.56 is more effective then 308 at 200 yards or less, but after 200 yards I would only recommend the 308. I do not expect you to believe just me so go to or there is a link on also. Another thing we must all take into consideration that the supply of surplus 308 is getting scarce and no major military is using it in mass quantities (that I am aware of) 5.56 is here to stay for a while and is readily available. In the event of a NATO or military invasion of US soil it is what the troops will be carrying so it would be nice to know that the enemies ammo can be used in our guns. Just a little food for thought. Great blog – Brian in Wyoming


I thought you, and the readers might find this link interesting The same site offers a daily e-mail with all their stories. Some good stuff as to the internal workings of government and the defense industry.
Also, as far as cartridges go, while you may think the .223 a bit anemic, I think it’s ideal for CQB, provided you are wearing ear protection, and your adversary is not. However, one thing that constantly seems to get overlooked in all firearm technology (especially when it comes to the .223 vs anything debate) are some of the newer bullet technologies out there.
Specifically frangible ammunition offers some advantages over your standard military ball ammo. For the most part, humans are relatively thin. I’m sure even the largest of people are no more than 1-2 feet thick. Which means, any bullet striking the body has to do whatever it is that it does in that distance. While I am in total agreement that M193’s fragmentation capability is arbitrary and not something to count on, explosive varmint bullets (like the Hornady VMAX and AMAX), and frangible bullets are more likely to increase the lethal effects of these “mouse gun” cartridges.
One thing that the .308 has in it’s favor these days is availability. There is still a substantial amount of “on the shelf” stock in .308 as well as surplus 7.62mm. As opposed to .223 which seems to be in incredibly short supply. The other day my friend stopped by, he was on his way to the range, and was only able to find 2 boxes of .223 and for $10 each! I gave him 100 rounds
with the agreement that they were to be replaced with 100 rounds of .308 ammo, and on the way back from the range he dropped off 5 boxes of American Eagle .308. Once again, it really pays to be prepared! Sincerely, – Drew


Dear Jim:
I second your opinion on the .308. Besides the ability to stop an attacker much faster and more consistently, another big factor is that the .308 has the huge advantage of penetrating much more cover than the .223.
Tactically, most often after the first few rounds, all will be hit, behind cover, or moving to it. Do you want to keep their heads down with a.223, or shoot through that tree or wall they are hiding behind?
Sometimes you just have to lug the weight, if you want the right tool for the job. Half measures don’t cut it. The .223s are great for small game, training, youngsters and petite folks, but if you have the upper body strength carry a .308, then do so. And if you don’t, then hit the gym!
Also you can modify .308s to make them more balanced, ergonomic and easier to handle:
— retrofit more ergonomic pistol grips, e.g.,, or file down your grips to get a better grip angle
–cover grip surfaces with 3M Safety Walk grip tape (the stuff used on steps to prevent slipping – in the paint department at Home Depot)
— shorten the barrel (the weight at the end of the barrel is harder to hold up) and lose the bipod
— take off the buttstock pad to shorten the buttstock and bring the weapon in closer
— put a mag in a SpecOps buttstock mag holder to balance out muzzle-heaviness
— add a vertical foregrip, etc., etc.
Any other suggestions to make heavier .308s more ergonomic? Regards, – OSOM


Dear Jim,
As any readers of mine know, I’m a tremendous fan of the AR-15 platform. However, it would not be my first choice of a survival weapon.
For survival over a long period, one should not be shooting large amounts of ammo. One should be in a secure position, preferably with neighbors for backup, and hunting occasional game, fighting occasional intruders. If things are bad enough you need a military type weapon, you’ve picked the wrong location in which to survive. (Assuming you’re not in a retreat community where such weapons are a good choice, with good logistical support, in addition to basic weapons.) However, it could be a very good choice for getting to a retreat.
I’ve tried the Beta C-Mag, and I concur with the US Army: Unacceptable Mean Time Between Failures (UMTBF). I’ve had it double feed, jam with both feed mechanisms at the bottom of the tower, and if you slam or drop it loaded on concrete, it will break. It’s adequate when pre-lubed, pre-loaded and ready to go for one time use before cleaning and re-lubing. That limits its utility. Add in the price tag, and there are better accessories to get.
For a long term survival rifle, a bolt action rifle chambered in 7.62x54R, .30-06, .308, or 8×57 Mauser is my recommendation. Easy to get ammo for, reliable, and if you have to reload with improvised propellant, bolt actions will fire it. (A self loader will not.)
I do recommend the AR-15 for bugout scenarios, based on the fact that parts are readily available, the ammo is the most common in the US, and doctrine for bugging out is to make holes in mobs–wounded or dead is the same, the military term being “Mission kill.” Someone not able to attack you is an effective kill for the duration of the engagement.
While I don’t think the 62 gr round was a wise change, I recently spoke to a Navy medic who is on a second tour in Iraq. His feedback was that any good hit with an M16 or M4 was almost always an effective hit. Most of the “I hit him three times center mass and he didn’t stop” stories are because soldiers didn’t hit. Stress can do funny things to one’s shooting. (Witness Peter Hathaway Capstick’s ["live rounds on the ground"] story of a hunter who cycled every round from the magazine [of a bolt action rifle] and ejected them, without pulling the trigger, and swore he’d hit the elephant four times.)
The military uses small caliber almost universally across the world, because militaries win wars through logistics and resupply–running out of ammo is always bad, so a larger volume of ammo is more militarily effective than a smaller volume of heavier ammo. A prepared individual in a retreat is only going to have what is on hand, and must make it count. One good rifle that will work out to 500 yards is the better choice. Obviously, funds permitting, you can do as I have–compromise and have both.:) – Michael Z. Williamson

Letter Re: Save Your Wine-in-a-Box Mylar Inserts

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In reference to MQB’s letter about box-wine inserts. While I have only had the misfortune of drinking box wine on several occasions (It is best described as a “wake up in jail” drunk) I do really like the uses mentioned. I would also like to add that using baking soda in place of Clorox [plain liquid hypochlorite bleach] for washing out the bags may work better, and impart less of a taste to any future contents. I have been using straight baking soda for cleaning out my hydration bladders (platypus brand) for several years and have found this to be superior to using bleach, soap, or just about anything else. For a little bit of extra cleansing action, hydrogen peroxide can be added and with a little bit of scrubbing will make things good as new.
I have also used the pony kegs (they are a 5L mini-keg) for storing water for trips and the like. They are made of aluminum and are quite durable. It takes some effort to get the top bung plug out, but you can find new bungs as well as kegs at many brew shops. Usually I add just a little nugget of dry ice as I’m sealing them up to give a little bit of positive pressure, I’ve even added quite a bit of dry ice and had lovely club soda, a real treat on hot desert days. Best of luck. – AVL

JWR Replies: Show extreme caution when putting dry ice in any sealed container. Use just a tiny bit, otherwise the result can be a dangerous explosion.

Odds ‘n Sods:

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Matt in Texas sent the link for this Acres USA article in PDF format on the Prehn method for spring development: Milking Water from the Hills

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Frequent content contributor M.P. sent us this one: The Case Of The Vanishing Bees–Beekeepers In 22 States Report Insects Disappearing In Huge Numbers

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“Going, going…” Rob at $49 MURS Radios tells us that his supplies of the used MURS radios that he has been selling at $49 each is dwindling fast. He reports: “I expect only another few weeks of availability at the current rate of sales. Once they are gone, that’s it. I do have a small supply of Kenwood TK-260G, 5 watts, 8 channel VHF portables (currently programmed on business itinerant frequencies) for $79 that includes the radio, antenna, good used battery, belt clip, and drop in charger.”

Notes from JWR:

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The high bid is now at $300 in the current SurvivalBlog benefit auction for a brand new Schecter “Warthog” Electric Guitar. This is an awesome guitar from Schecter’s Tempest series is decorated in a military aviation motif. It was kindly donated by Schecter Guitar Research. (Where there are some SurvivalBlog fans.) This guitar has a $729 retail value. Please tell any of your friends that are guitarists about this auction, which ends March 15th. Just e-mail me your bid. Thanks!

We are seeking additional overseas correspondents and/or Profiles for SurvivalBlog, particularly in countries with high crime rates, countries with religious persecution, and/or countries with recent insurgencies or economic troubles such as: Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Bolivia, Bosnia, Brazil, China, Columbia, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Haiti, India (preferably someone living in or near the Kashmir), Indonesia, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, New Caledonia, Nigeria, Pakistan, The Philippines, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe. Our readers would benefit from your “lessons learned” and even just hearing about your day-to-day experiences. (How you survived hyperinflation, how you’ve avoided kidnapping, your countermeasures for street crime, et cetera.) I’d also appreciate hearing from anyone that has recently lived in a high crime inner-city area in the United States.

The pay for your writing: zero.  (Well, perhaps the occasional free book or sample merchandise.) The rewards: tremendous.  You’ll know that you are helping many thousands of people gain valuable knowledge and motivation to be able to survive, if and when the First World starts to resemble the Third World. Don’t worry about your spelling or grammar. We’d like your input, even if English is not your first language. I’ll handle the editing. Thanks!

Letter Re: The Pending Federal “Assault Weapons” Ban (H.R. 1022)

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Have you read through this bill? The way things seem to be going/looking, is that 4-shot/capacity turnbolts will be all that’ll be “allowed”. Yes; I am scared. Any thoughts/comments/advice/assurances?- Ben L.

JWR Replies: The H.R. 1022 bill scares me, too. Paragraph (L) is the nasty catch-all. That paragraph leaves the determination of what constitutes an “Assault Weapons” up to the arbitrary whim of the Attorney General (AG)–a political appointee. (Remember Janet Reno?) The real weasel phrase in paragraph (L) is “…and a firearm shall not be determined to be particularly suitable for sporting purposes solely because the firearm is suitable for use in a sporting event.” That phrase is the “back door” that they leave open for banning M1As and virtually any other model that the AG deems sufficiently ugly or “evil” looking. The NRA warns us that this law would also “begin backdoor registration of guns, by requiring private sales of banned guns, frames, receivers and parts to be conducted through licensed dealers.” In case this law ever morphs into a more draconian mandatory registration or confiscation law, I recommend that all American “black gun” gun owners look seriously at buying a few “sporting” semi-auto such as a Valmet Hunter, Galil Hadar, HK SL6 (or 660), SL7 (or 770). Also consider FN-49s, which have a fixed 10 round magazine and no pistol grip. Ditto for M1 Garands, which use a 8 round en bloc clip. You should also show foresight and look beyond this particular piece of pending legislation. In the event of eventual “worst case” legislation–e.g. universal registration or confiscation of all modern firearms–you should hedge your bets by buying a few pre-1899 cartridge guns. (Such as those sold by The Pre-1899 Specialist.)

The only saving graces of the proposed ban are that it only affects new manufacture and importation. That still leaves a lot of existing (“grandfathered”) guns and full capacity magazines. If it passes, I predict that this law’s effect will be much like the 1986 machinegun freeze. And you’ve seen what has happened to the prices of Class 3 guns. The law of supply and demand is inescapable. Prices went up a lot during the 1994-to-2004 Federal ban. This time, prices will surely skyrocket even more, since this is a much wider-reaching law. My advice: Stock up, especially on magazines. Buy at least a dozen for each of your guns. Buy hundreds, if you can afford them. Again, based on the experience of the 1994-2004 ban and the 1986 Federal machinegun “freeze”, I expect magazine prices to at least triple. If you can, buy lots of extras, even for models that you don’t own, to use for barter. Buy a mix of mostly commonplace magazines (like HK91, FAL, and AR, and M14), and a few exotic ones (like Glock 33 round, Galil, SIG, Valmet, et cetera.) There may come a day when practically no amount of cash will buy you a pre-ban semi-auto or detachable magazine, but trades will still be considered.

Prices are still reasonable, because the full implications of this pending legislation have not yet registered with average American gun owner. For example, the last that I heard, TAPCO was still selling alloy 20 round HK91 magazines (that also fit CETMEs) at 50 pieces for $50. I think that in a couple of years such prices will seem like a dream. BTW, be sure to buy only factory original or original military contract magazines. Avoid all of the after-market junk.

The only other suggestion that I can make is: call, e-mail, and FAX your congressman frequently about this bill or any similar legislation. H.R. 1022 is blatantly unconstitutional legislation, plain and simple. And the only two assurances that I can make are: 1.) Regardless of whether or not this bill passes, the guns and magazines that you buy in the next six months will likely gain much more value than any money you put in the bank, and 2.) You can trust in God’s providence.

Letter Re: Stocking up on Horse Tack

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If there were an EMP event, what would be the primary mode of transportation: shank’s mare; the bicycle; horses? Likely all three would rate pretty high on the list of most likely. Accordingly, are most prepared? I would anticipate most have the necessary footwear. A bicycle would be viable for personal and logistics transport…if one has an appropriate unit and the maintenance supplies…in fact, this would be a practical way to move young children from one location to another as they already have their bikes.

But what about the eventual and likely need for horse transportation? While it may be and is very impracticable for urbanites to keep horses for post-EMP days, it is very practical for urbanites (and others) to keep and maintain a complete component of necessary equestrian tack: a saddle that fits; quality bridle and reins; halters; saddle blankets; feed sacks; leads; gun scabbards; saddlebags; etc. See, being lucky enough to ‘acquire’ a horse would be quite possible; however, ‘acquiring’ the tack/gear to outfit a mount is another story altogether. Better prepared than wondering one day why you weren’t. Anyway, just a notion. Keep up the great work from your undisclosed venue. – Matt, Somewhere South of Kentucky & North of Alabama

JWR Replies: You are right that horses will be very important, post-Crunch. So buying horse tack is a great idea, Matt! You can also consider those purchases part of your “just in case” Peak Oil insurance and just one more “tangible” investment. Just be sure to keep that leather well oiled, inspected often, and away from moisture and vermin. (Mice and rats do love to chew, and chew, and chew.) OBTW, one alternative is purchasing the biothane nylon tack that is now favored by some “endurance” riders. Regardless of what tack you select, think ahead in terms of maintaining your tack. Buy extra hardware, rolls of different widths of nylon webbing (in olive green and brown, of course) sheet leather, leather working tools, a sewing awl, spools of heavy nylon thread, Barge Cement, Shoo Goo, et cetera. Those are all available from Tandy Leather Company. I have found that slightly used tools can often be found at garage sales, flea markets, and via eBay, from people that flirted with the hobby, but gave it up when they discovered that it was too much like work. BTW, those tools and supplies could form the basis for a second “post-Crunch” source of income or barter. Also BTW, I predict that post-TEOTWAWKI there will suddenly be lots people that want to carry handguns daily, but that will be short on holsters. (Just ask the average American gun collector if he has a practical holster for each of his handguns.)

Letter Re: Leatherworking as a Post-TEOTWAWKI Occupation

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

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

Odds ‘n Sods:

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Simon M. mentioned that following Mossberg’s lead, the newly-minted “we’re conservatives, honest!” management at Smith & Wesson has jumped on the “survival kit” band wagon. They now offer “Disaster Ready” kit packaging for four variants of their Glock-like Sigma Series 9mm and .40 S& W pistols. Simon says: “I see that the kit is missing a good knife and a holster. I hope there is a good flint in the Pocket Survival Pack. Now if they did one of these [kits] based on there M&P15 (AR-15) that would be a bit better.” As previously mentioned in SurvivalBlog, S&W already offers a survival kit tailored for the Montana/Alaska/Canada “bear country” market including one of their whompin’ huge .500 revolvers.

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I’m often asked for gunsmith recommendations. One that I can recommend highly is Rich Saunders, who operates CGW in Gardnerville, Nevada. He is an awesome FAL/L1A1 gunsmith that has branched out into other gunsmithing work, including AKs. Rich has done five FAL-type rifle builds for me in the past four years. (Three L1A1s, an L2 heavy barrel, and a custom inch magazine compatible “Para“.) He does amazing work. All five of these rifles were absolutely gorgeous guns that function flawlessly. Rich also does custom coatings on firearms, and now sells knives and field gear. Highly recommended!

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Bob B. mentioned this book review of The Dangerous Book for Boys. Sounds like my childhood!

Note from JWR:

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The high bid is now at $250 in the current SurvivalBlog benefit auction for a brand new Schecter “Warthog” Electric Guitar. This is an awesome guitar from Schecter’s Tempest series is decorated in a military aviation motif. It was kindly donated by Schecter Guitar Research. (Where there are some SurvivalBlog fans.) This guitar has a $729 retail value. Please tell any of your friends that are guitarists about this auction, which ends March 15th. Just e-mail me your bid. Thanks!

Poll Results: Best Occupations for Both Before and After TEOTWAWKI

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In no particular order, the following are the first batch of responses to my poll question on the best occupations or home businesses for both before and after TEOTWAWKI:

Locksmith/Home security systems installer/repairman

Small scale vegetable gardening.
Growing herbs (medicinal)

1) Electricity:
a. Recharge batteries for folks, rebuild the bad batteries, and lots of folks don’t know squat about electricity for lighting, etc. Got several methods: Solar, miscellaneous generators powered by hand, animal, wind and even the old one lung gas engine with that darn heavy flywheel.
b. Also use the above for communications when there aren’t cell phones or twisted pair communications. HF, VHF, UHF and Wi-Fi.
c. Also for Wi-Fi between homes and towns if computers survive.
2) Maintain RVs and trailers with their associated systems: furnaces, lighting, water, pumps, et al.
3) Make more Stills like the one I have and produce nerve tonic and fuel.
4) Medical: Apply those smelly herbs I find, grow and use. Not to mention sewing up the occasional cut and tear, set the odd bone and generally try to avoid surgery (Ha!) Let’s not even talk about handling boils, although that will be around too.
5) Sorta medical: Collect, cure the Knick-Knick and sell tobacco.
6) Use my HF radios to send mail to and from families far away.
7) Make leather cups for pumps when there isn’t any molded rubber around.

Growing and maintaining quality heritage based [heirloom /non-hybrid] produce for a local farmers market but also a “seed saver” program to provide quality heritage seeds for sale or barter for future gardens.

Almost anything in the medical field: EMT, Nurse, doctor
Stay at home parent
Translator – post TEOTWAWKI, there won’t be handy computer programs to help out, and there are a lot of non-English speakers in any suburb, let alone anything larger

1. Mechanic / bodywork man. People tend to hold onto cars and equipment much longer during hard times, and fix up their existing vehicles instead of buying new.
2. Handyman – Same basic idea as above. Also lots of work installing insulation, wood stoves, energy-efficient appliances, security improvements and of course repairing damage from natural disasters.
3. Musician – The guy who can play the guitar always seems to do okay anywhere where people suffer. Whether it’s in a prison, a starving country torn up by civil war, or just a campfire with a bunch of tired cowboys, people want to be able to relax and forget about the real world for a while.

Clothes and shoe manufacturing/repair

Dentistry/Oral Surgery

Make/sell small DC generators, and use them for charging batteries for cash/barter), as shown at The

Health care (physician, nursing) is always good.

Farmer or Rancher (self-sufficient and rural)
Mechanic (keeping stuff running)
Any sort of health care provider – Doctor/Nurse/Paramedic/EMT (*the only down-side is you may get wrapped up treating endless victims though)


Leatherwork. “It is a booming business for skilled leather workers right now; people will pay ridiculously high prices for custom made goods. Being able to build and mend saddles, shoes, bags, belts, and all manner of useful items is not only a handy skill to have, but there’s decent money in it. Right now, it’s more of a luxury to most people to have leather goods custom made for them, since there are many other options on the market for our everyday needs. But once the supply of cheap garbage from China is cut off, and our technology is thrown back a couple hundred years, leather will return to its place as an essential material. And knowing how to work with leather will be a prized skill. As well as having the proper tools to do it.”

Chicken raising/breeding

Mechanic – “An automobile or aircraft mechanic (and perhaps some other similar crafts) has developed the skills to repair a number of existing devices in addition to the devices they were specifically trained on, i.e. generator/appliance repair or gunsmithing.”


Farm equipment repairman

1. Survival skills trainer/practitioner (firearms instructor, gunsmith, hunter/trapper, adventure guide, blacksmith, carpenter (if with manual tools), plumber, cooper, potter, candle maker, stonemason/bricklayer, etc.). Skills that you can use or have value in trade, and that do not depend upon electricity are definitely the most valuable of all occupations. Having an array of these skills is the very best.
2. Physician (especially general practice, surgeon, or OB-GYN)
3. Farmer/rancher
4. EMT, RN, midwife
5. Survival supplies dealer
6. Engineer (mechanical, electrical, civil, metallurgical/materials) – if practically oriented and skilled outside of the computer, and not management.
7. Electrician (power generation & distribution, communication
8. Army, Marine, or SpecOps military officer below rank of General (for both hard skills and leadership)
9. Engine repair / mechanic / machinist
10. Teacher
11. Lawyer (just kidding!)

Nurseryman with perennial food plants- berries, fruits, herbs, rhubarb, horseradish, Jerusalem artichokes, etc.

Solar power technology business

Four Letters Re: One Common Caliber for Retreat Rifles and Handguns?

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I would like to add a comment on the viability of the “same caliber pistol and rifle” concept. The .357 Magnum offers an interesting choice for a survival rifle.
In a revolver, the .357 is certainly powerful enough to be considered a defense caliber by most folks. The 16″ barreled Winchester or Marlin lever action rifles can push out a 180 grain slug at close to 2000 fps with handloads, making it usable on deer out to 150 yards or so.
Loading up light .38 special loads makes this rifle capable of taking small game without destroying all the meat.
The .357 is easy to load with tools like the Lee hand loader, and runs just fine on cast bullets. Depending on the load, you can get over 1,000 rounds of 38 Special out of a pound of powder, and store everything you need to cast and load in a 50 cal ammo can.
Depending on your needs and whether you think you’ll be spending a long time away from civilization, having an easy-to-sustain weapon for game getting and home defense could make sense.
A 10-shot lever action is certainly not a substitute for a modern battle rifle, but it’s easy to shoot and not intimidating to women and young shooters.
Just my $.02 – J.N.


Mr R
Interesting post on pistol cartridges in carbines. Since becoming a regular reader, I’ve taken up reloading. I have a couple observations about handgun & long gun combo as a novice.

The concept makes sense to me, from the versatility standpoint. When I started looking at what we had and what we might get, I settled on the .38 Special /.357 magnum revolver plus Marlin 1894 carbine combo. We already had revolvers for those cartridges. The ease of reloading and obtaining components for those calibers was attractive. The Marlin carbine is robust, easy to carry and shoot, respectably accurate up to 100 yards ( even for my middle-aged eyes, with iron peep sights) …. and Corbon manufactures a “heavy” 200 gr round designed for light game. Various powder and bullet combos coming out of the Marlin’s 18″ barrel make it a pretty decent round. As a reloading novice, I noticed that Alliant 2400 worked well for both .357 hot n’ heavy rounds, as well as for intermediate 7.62 x 39 mm rounds. Again, some commonality in supplies drew us.

As you note, a good bolt gun, or good semi-auto intermediate-cartridge gun ( AR-15, SKS ) is surely going beat a “handgun” round, but we felt that those needs could be addressed later, and they were. We got bolt guns ( CZ 527 ) that launch the 7.62 x 39mm round, enhancing the ability to use that round, and conversion uppers (Olympic Arms ) that will allow the .223 / 5.56 NATO ARs to fire the same 7.62 x 39 cartridge.

Following the “path of simplification and versatility” works well for us You are on the money again, particularly as regards 9mm / .40 S&W “long guns” Their price, versus a Marlin 94 carbine is pretty much a dead-heat. If I can effectively load .38 Special /.357 Mag, anyone can. Light loads ( .38 Special) are are great for 2″ revolvers, and the heavyweights ( .357 ) work well in medium and large frame revolvers and the Marlin. We can all handle their recoil.

Novice observation: We looked at accuracy/reliability/cost for our bolt guns, and settled on the CZ, and Savage. The Savage line (Model 110 series) has ” package guns” with low-cost scopes already aboard and bore-sighted, and they are acceptably accurate. We got very nice Bushnell 3200 Elites in both regular and Firefly reticles at (The best prices we could find, believe me) and they are as accurate as will be needed. Their 110-line has both 30.06 and .308 packages, covering the cartridges I assume most folks will have or are planning on.

Your emphasis in [your novel] “Patriots” on self-illuminating (tritium) sights and scopes is one that readers should have burned into their consciousness and purchasing plans. Batteries die. Replacement batteries may not be available, and they have to be installed, maybe under stress. Why bother [when you can get tritium lit scopes that don't need batteries]?

In a pinch, the small ( 1.5″ ) red light sticks ( try Botach Tactical ) can be carefully affixed to barrels, giving low-light capability–better than none. Luminescent paint can be applied to rear and front sights. Anything trumps nothing. I’m currently re-reading “Patriots”. Thanks for the info. Best Regards, – MurrDoc


Great subject. Anyone that desires cartridge commonality out to check out the Beretta Storm Series. Now certainly weapon choice is one of personal preference and typically based on purpose, familiarity and geographical location. If one is looking for a true defensive weapon with some crossover potential for sporting than I believe you out to at least give the Beretta CX4 Storm series a serious look. Not only does the carbine, CX4, come in three different cambers (.45, .40 and 9mm), Beretta has a matching cambered handgun. Additionally, the magazines are cross platform compatible. Yes, the .45 ACP magazine used in the CX4 carbine will also fit the Beretta’s Cougar 8045 handgun. Other positives on the CX4 would be its lightweight, easy to mount accessories, easily converted to accommodate a right or left handed shooter, easy to break for cleaning, easy for a non-armorer to remove and replace defective components. Some negatives would be trajectory, range and limited steel site adjustment capability. Semper Fi, – Richard N.


The recent “One Common Caliber for Retreat Rifles and Handguns” letter got me rethinking the ideal of caliber commonality. Not handgun and rifle in the same caliber – but the ideal of only one rifle caliber for everything. In a perfect world, this would be the most efficient use of money and time and gear redundancy. One would own one rifle caliber and one platform, say, several M1As and a boatload of .308.
But this paradigm is predicated on the assumption of unlimited amounts of inexpensive ammo, to feed the requirements of ongoing practice and training. Four years ago, this made perfect sense. Back then, I bought many cases of the Portuguese .308 milsurp at $150 a case. At that price, I could keep five cases around, and burn through a case a year for practice and training. But now, with .308 milsurp pushing a surreal $500/case – and worse, the prospect of the supply literally drying up – I’ve had to shift gears. I can no longer shoot much .308. Now, I’ve reverted to “hoard” mode in that caliber. [Even] .223 has been following a similar price trajectory.
As a result, I’ve been motivated to diversify rifle calibers, somewhat against my “caliber commonality” philosophy. For example, the AK-47 isn’t my favored platform, although I have one – but cases of 7.62×39 can be had easily for $160. So I bought five cases of that, and am looking to buy a second AK-47.
In the years ahead of perpetual wars and hence perpetual military-caliber ammo shortages, I think we need to be flexible, even at the cost of losing commonality, and accruing redundant ammo stockpiles. It’s important to have ammo, not just for a rainy day, but for the ongoing duties of practice and training. – Don in Philadelphia

JWR Replies: The current ammo shortages and the recent hefty price increases do indeed put a new spin in preparedness planning. If a large quantity of inexpensive non-corrosive ammunition in a caliber like 8×57 Mauser, 7.5 Swiss, 7.62x54R, or 7.62×39 become available, then folks should seriously consider stocking up (to the tune of several thousand rounds all at once, preferably all from the same lot), and then buying one or two guns in that caliber. These would preferably be either pre-1899 Federally exempt antiques (such as those sold by The Pre-1899 Specialist), or via in-state private party sales (sans paper trail). These rifles and their corresponding ammo would be designated for use as “secondary/training” arms. Watch for upcoming sales at the major surplus ammo dealers such as AIM Surplus, Cheaper Than Dirt, Dan’s Ammo, J&G Sales, Midway,, Natchez Shooter Supply, and The Sportsman’s Guide.

Odds ‘n Sods:

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Ralph H. pointed us to this article: Cheap solar power poised to undercut oil and gas by half

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Mike in Seattle recommended this “must read” piece at The Market Oracle: US Housing Market Crash to result in the Second Great Depression

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SurvivalBlog reader Doc Holladay notes: “A possible relocation area is the vicinity of the Big South Fork National Recreation Area in Kentucky/Tennessee. This is about as isolated as it gets east of the Big Muddy.”