Letter Re: Cannibal Reloading, by Mr. Yankee

Dear Jim,
I saw the article posted on SurvivalBlog about cannibalizing ammo [by Mr. Yankee). Unfortunately, that’s a really bad idea where powder and primers are concerned. Projectiles are fine, if they don’t get warped out of round or weakened by oxidation. First of all, you don’t know what powder is in the case. You can guess, but overpressure runs the risk of exploding the casing and possibly damaging the rifle (and yourself!). Second, “light” loads are more likely to explode a casing, not less. If the powder burns too fast it can spike the pressure without moving the bullet and kaboom. Busted rifle at the worst possible time. There are rounds which can be safely used with black powder, if need be. A good example is the .30-30, the .38-55, the .45-70. They don’t have much range, but they do work with old fashioned black powder and hard cast lead bullets, which are fairly easy to make if you have a bit of tin available and the proper bullet molds. Modern black powder rifles are pretty specialized and most hunters prefer to use 777 or Pyrodex since they clean up easier and are less corrosive to the barrel and less likely to explode than true black powder.

The real issues will be shortage of primers and smokeless gunpowder. This is a problem which should be resolved. Primers are sensitive to shock and handling. Decapping a primer usually sets it off so they’re a component you can’t reasonably re-use. What should happen, from a survivalist standpoint, is learn to swage bullets from lead wire and copper tubing, make primers from scratch, and draw brass cases, and someone trustworthy in each local area should have the ability to make gunpowder (at least four types: pistol, BLC-2 small rifle, H380 med rifle, Retumbo large rifle) so small arms will have supplies. Such a thing should be above government control, be easy to duplicate and simple enough to do in the kitchen or garage. I doubt its that easy, however. If it were, we’d already have hobbyists posting about it.

Ironically, the military has already asked for the design of a caseless autorifle, out of the box thinking. Prior efforts in the past were problematic since the brass extracts the heat from the chamber as well, extending the number of times the weapon can be fired before it needs to cool off. Electric ignition removes the need for a percussion cap. Without brass, ammo weighs less and costs less to make. Its all pretty interesting stuff. A scaled down .223 equivalent version or .25 cal version would be very nice for a PDW (Personal Defense Weapon = Spray and Pray SMG). Defense Review.com has articles about this subject if you want to read.

A caseless light machinegun is not really survivalist stuff at this point, but our government can do some surprising technological things, like the Internet. Humvees will run on biodiesel, as will most diesels made since 1994, per government mandate. Basic telephone service includes backup generators which keeps them running for more than a day with no outside power supply. The Viper attack helicopter is meant to be kept in a person’s garage and can be rearmed and refueled in 30 minutes by one person with minimal training. All military weapons and equipment has basic instructions printed on the side. The M-16 is made to be fired accurately by an adolescent. Stretches of the Interstate highway system are reinforced as jet bomber runways. The Oakridge Breeder Reactor is sitting on top of the largest uranium ore source on earth, the Chattanooga Shale. When the oil is gone, the USA will have most of the nuclear fuel left, turning us into our own little OPEC and able to give the finger back to the Arabs. Strength in depth is already there, despite the efforts of Big Government to hide that from you. We wanted to scare our enemies into submission by being so strong they won’t try to invade.

If it makes anyone feel better, I sincerely doubt that the Peak Oil Famine will last more than 20 years from start to finish. By that point those who were going to die will have, those parts of civilization which are practical and cheap will still be around and probably refined not to break easily. People will change to the new situation and continue living in pursuit of happiness, which doesn’t mean finding it, just pursuing it. Civilization will climb back up again and technology will continue its onward march of progress. Its just going to do this with some major societal changes, including a serious surge in farming, safely engineered crops, solar power, and trains (because they’re a cheap way to move stuff). I also think we’ll see major impedance to free movement through lack of fuel, the return of highwaymen/bandits, and the slow death of solitary country residences. Human beings are going to have to get used to living on a fraction of the energy they use now. Imagine having only 15% as much electrical power to play with, and that’s when the sun is up, and batteries at night, always in threat of wearing out due to many deep cycles and the international lead shortage.

The biggest problem of our (post cheap energy) future is water supply. That’s going to resolve itself, unfortunately. Either people who want water find a way to pump it without using petrochemicals or they move somewhere it can be had by gravity feed or rain. Water = Food = People. Lose the water, you lose the food and the population. Most of the great plains states have suffered this already. The Midwest is going to have most of the nation’s food. It also has most of its disasters (tornados, floods, blizzards, ice storms, drought, and earthquakes every 200 years). It won’t be easy living there, but most of our core midwestern population will survive. Best, – InyoKern