Retreat Areas – State Level Data Now Available in Excel Spreadsheet Format

Very special thanks to “Wise Tioga”, who out of the goodness of his heart laboriously converted my data on 19 western states into a handy Excel (.xls format) spreadsheet. He has even added some more data on home schooling and home birth regulations. I have posted it as a sub-page to the Retreat Areas static page. (Just click on the Retreat Areas button in our home page top button bar.)

Letter Re: Earth Bag Construction

The latest Mother Earth News (#212) has an article on building a home from earth-filled bags. Looks like a cheap, fast way to build a home with good protection against attacks with weaponry. Might also be a good plan for a secondary place to serve as an emergency shelter against radiation. Or as a way to build up an existing area in a cellar as a Safe Room. – B.B. in Hawaii


Letter Re: Information on Various Fire Starters (SAs: Wilderness Survival, Primitive Skills, Fire Starting)

Been a long time reader of your site. Just wanted to drop you a note to say there is an article up on that fits Survivalblog’s content. It’s all about different methods of ignition sources that people should be aware. Good info for those building survival packs. The direct link is   Keep up the good work Jim! – J.G.

Three Letters Re: .40 S&W to 9mm Conversion Barrel for a Glock Model 23?

A question was posted on your site about the ability to use a Glock 23 with a 9mm barrel. It has been my (limited) experience that all that is needed to shoot the gun in 9mm is a replacement barrel and a 9mm magazine. I first heard of this from a friend of mine who is a part time gun writer. I was skeptical but, given the source, I gave it a try. I am not a Glock fan but my then girlfriend was. She shot her Glock 23 more as a 9mm than as a .40 because it was cheaper. In her experience the gun was fully reliable in 9mm. She used .40 for carry and in the home but most of her practice was 9mm. I would guess that in the time we were dating she fired 2,200-2,500 rounds of 9mm and only 300-350 .40. All without any failures. I believe the barrel was made by FAC (Federal Arms Corporation). To avoid any confusion she used the orange Glock magazines in 9mm so she wouldn’t confuse the 9mm mags with the .40 mags. – Jake

Hi Jim,
Enjoy the blog immensely. Read it every day. Regarding barrels for conversion from one model of Glock to another (i.e. .40 S&W model 23 to 9mm model 19), there are a number of manufacturers of barrels for such purposes. Topglock ( sells conversion barrels from several manufacturers. Federal Arms also makes them, but I don’t know if they sell directly or only through dealers. As I recall, from what I have picked up from the web, no change in slide or extractor is necessary for the conversion. The original .40 S&W mags will work for the 9mm, most of the time. But if I was going in harms’ way, I’d order the mags for the same size 9mm Glock to use in the .40 S&W.  I’m sure the staff at Topglock or Lone Wolf Distributors (
) could answer any questions people have. Thanks for the site, – Jim H.

There are barrels available to convert .40 to 9mm, but they are NOT 100% reliable. Bar-Sto and Jarvis make them
[JWR adds: So do Federal Arms and Olympic Arms], various places like Glockmeister carry them. You simply replace the barrel but use the same slide, and this is the cause for it not being 100%. There are ejector/extractor issues. These are okay to train with but not to fight with. To convert to 9mm with full Glock reliability requires you to simple swap slides with a 9mm gun. Thus the 23 can shoot both 40 stock and 9mm. The M23 frame is essentially the same as the M19, just beefed up to handle .40 cal. The downside is price, since a complete 9mm slide costs as much as the used trade-in Glock 19s now. This same “trick” is available for Beretta, SIGs and others. Drop a Beretta 92 slide on a 96 and you have a convertible gun, in fact Beretta sold this combo at one time. DO NOT take a 9mm frame and drop a .40 slide on it. It will function but it (the 9mm frame) isn’t beefed up enough to handle the .40. Almost forgot, .40 cal mags hold 9mm with no modification. Back in the High-cap magazine ban days [Sept. 1994 to Sept. 2004], you could always take a 10 round 40 cal mag and put 9mm in it to have a 12-13 round “high cap”, it functions fine in every case I have tried. HTH,  – Mike, M.D. in MO

Letter Re: Radiation Protection Factors for Dummies

Just read Radiation Protection Factors for Dummies – by L.H. on your blog. These types of articles always talk about shielding of radiation. Is there any substance that REFLECTS radiation instead of absorbing it?

JWR Replies: It has been nearly 20 years since I took the Army NBC Defense Officer’s course, so forgive me if any of the following betrays my faulty memory:  Any of the materials described will reflect or absorb alpha or beta radiation, and absorb highly energetic gamma rays. Because they are a ray (think of it as a flash from a flash bulb, or the beam from an x-ray machine), virtually nothing will reflect gamma rays. Once gamma rays have been stopped by shielding, they are no longer a threat. But the gamma ray emitter–typically a fallout dust particle, continues to emit gamma for a very long time.

Alpha radiation has a very short effective range and is rapidly attenuated by passage through the air. That makes it a non-issue for your survival planning. Beta has longer range, but just a sheet of cardboard will stop beta radiation. (Beta radiation mainly causes injury to the skin that looks much like a sunburn–commonly called “beta burns.”) It is mainly the gamma radiation that you have to worry about.  That requires a lot of thick shielding. (You need massany mass–and a lot of it!) Fallout dust itself continues to emit alpha, beta, and gamma rays for many, many months. That is why, assuming that you will be using a shielding-improved basement type shelter, that it is important to close and seal your house windows after the blast wave(s) passes. If they are shattered by the blast wave, you should cover the broken windows with sheet plastic and tape seal them before taking shelter in your basement shelter, during the brief time available in the “King’s X.” (The short period between the blast/shock wave and the time that the fallout dust begins to settle.) After shelter emergence, it is possible to decontaminate your roof and sidewalks by hosing the fallout dust away (while wearing the proper protective gear, naturlich), but it will be almost impossible to decontaminate the interior of your house if it has been coated with fallout dust. Read the book Nuclear War Survival Skills–available for free download from the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine web site, for details.

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

"One of these days, one of these (rogue) governments fabricates one or two nuclear weapons, and gives them to a terrorist group…The group brings one of these bombs into Baltimore by boat, and drives another one up to Pittsburgh. And then the message comes into the White House. Adjust your policy in the Middle East, or on Tuesday you lose Baltimore, and on Wednesday you lose Pittsburgh. Tuesday comes and we lose Baltimore. What does the U.S. do?" – Ambassador Robert Galucci, Former U.S. Arms Negotiator, Dean of Georgetown University School of Foreign Service

Note from JWR:

Don’t forget to send your entries for the SurvivalBlog writing contest. The prize is a transferable four day course certificate, good for any course at Front Sight. OBTW, I recently heard from Naish Piazza that the prices for all of the Front Sight courses will be increasing by 25% in 2006, so this will make the contest prize even more valuable–as much as $2,000 for a four day course. Oh, by the same token, you might want to buy some course certificates or a Front Sight membership to beat the price increases.  (And BTW, check out their new “Lifetime Challenge First Family Membership.”)

Please submit your non-fiction articles via e-mail by the end of November to be considered for the contest.

Heirloom/Native Seed Source

Thanks to Kirsten over at the Survival/Gulching Forum at The Claire Files for mentioning the Native Seeds/SEARCH seed bank. See: Here is a quote about their specialized heirloom seeds for desert environments:
“Today, the Native Seeds/SEARCH seed bank houses approximately 2,000 different accessions of traditional crops grown by Apache, Chemehuevi, Cocopah, Gila River Pima, Guarijio, Havasupai, Hopi, Maricopa, Mayo, Mojave, Mountain Pima, Navajo, Paiute, Puebloan, Tarahumara, Tohono O’odham and Yaqui farmers. Over one-half of the collections are comprised of the three sisters — corn, bean, and squash. An additional 48 species of crops and wild crop relatives wait in frozen storage, including amaranth, tepary bean, chile, cotton, devil’s claw, gourds, melon, sunflowers, tobacco, teosinte, watermelon and wild beans.”

David In Israel on “The Gray Man” Survival Approach

In a survival situation you must clear the military mindset from your head, since you are not backed by 300 million citizen western economy and trillions of dollars in supplies. Walking about the land with a AR-15 and BDUs could be one of the best ways to be shot on sight. To the causal observer you will be instantly branded as both clearly dangerous as well as covered in priceless gear.   What is the “gray man”? The gray man mode operates much like a spy, a recon team, or a sniper does. If the gray man is noticed he has lost much of the game. His best tactic is hiding in plain sight, while letting others be noticed. Tactically speaking, gray man is used when you are outnumbered and when a straight fight would be foolish. Dress is important, a fine suit may say rich, BDUs say maybe I may be armed, raggy means maybe I am homeless and likely desperate. Attitude is important, avoiding eye contact without being obvious is a good idea, aggressiveness will be taken as a challenge, stay cool but not so cool as to be cocky. The best gray man is exactly who people expect to see in a given setting: a UPS man in an office, or a mailman or meter reader walking through your neighborhood. Gray man works best when there are other people around to take up the attention of trouble makers. Let the hysterical woman or the angry man take the attention of the terrorist. Don’t let them even worry so much that they bother to search you. If you are carrying a weapon, then gladly surrender your wallet if asked, to avoid being searched and hence disarmed. What I am trying to get across is that in a survival situation you are not the big man, rather go to guerrilla mode wait until the battle can be fought on your terms,–sort of like when the police get a hostage taker in the middle of the night when he is less vigilant–and then escape. Assess the setting you are in. By blending in you will have a better chance of tipping the odds on a superior enemy and living to tell the story.

Letter Re: .40 S&W to 9mm Conversion Barrel for a Glock Model 23?

Mr. Rawles,
I read somewhere that there was a .40 S&W to 9mm conversion barrel for a Model 23 Glock. This would not only save me the cost of another pistol, but would give me more versatility with a pistol I am familiar and comfortable with. I assume the barrel would have to be slightly thicker in overall diameter than a standard Glock 9mm barrel to fit a 23 slide. I have been unable to find this conversion barrel. Do you know anything about it? (I realize that a 9mm magazine must also be used.) Thanks for a great web site. – C.G. in N.C.

JWR Replies: As I recall, to convert a Glock Model 23 .40 S&W to 9mm (in effect turning it into a Model 19) requires a M19 conversion barrel, a M19 slide, and even a different ejector. Magazines are not an issue. According to SurvivalBlog reader C.T., a M23 (.40 S&W) magazine will reliably feed 9mm cartridges just fine, without modification.  (Although the baseplate markings might be confusing, in the heat of battle.) Perhaps one of the SurvivalBlog readers that is a Glock aficionado can e-mail me the details on conversion barrels, and I will post them. In the interim, you might nose around a bit at my favorite Glock site: Scott Greenbaum’s Glock FAQ page:

Two Letters Re: More Web Resources on CONEXes

See these sites: (Site with some info on how containers can be used for living.)
and, (Site with interesting pictures of container conversions, including door systems.) Regards, – B.A.

You might be interested in this site about CONEX containers:  Keep up the good work! – J.F.

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

“At the end of the 17th century, Marshal Vauban, a French military engineer, developed modern fortification to its pinnacle, refining siege warfare without fundamentally altering it: ditches would be dug; walls would be protected by glacis; and bastions would enfilade an attacker. He was also a master of planning sieges themselves. Before Vauban, sieges had been somewhat slapdash operations. Vauban refined besieging to a science with a methodical process that, if uninterrupted, would break even the strongest fortifications. Examples of Vauban-style fortresses in North America include Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland, Fort Ticonderoga in New York State, and La Citadelle in Quebec City.”  – From The Wikipedia entry on “Siege”

Oil and Lubricant Storage in Retreat Planning

Several of the recent letters on barter and charity items mentioned motor oil and chain saw fuel mixing oil.  That reminded me about a subject that I’ve meant to address on the blog: key considerations of oil and lubricant storage.  It is important to think through all of your oil and lubricant needs–everything from motor oil and transmission fluid to firearms lube. Figure out what you use in a three year period, and stock up.  Then anticipate what you might need for barter and charity, and stock up even more. Because most families do not store any substantial quantity of oils and lubricants, they will make an ideal barter item in a long term Crunch.

Safe storage for your oil and lubricants is essential. I recommend that you build a separate, dedicated, locking steel storage shed to store all of your flammables. Think in terms of a stubby CONEX that is well-removed from your other retreat buildings. Aside for a very small supply for day-to-day use, nearly all of your flammables should be stored in the outside shed:  kerosene, fuel canisters (propane, stove fuel, et cetera), lighter fluid, gas cans, paint cans, bore cleaner, various automotive/tractor fluids, paint thinner, chemical degreasers, decontamination fluids, and oils of all descriptions. If you store any powder, primers, or blasting caps, or fuse in this same shed, it is important that you store them inside separate ammo cans with tight-fitting rubber seals. Otherwise, the lubricant vapors will deaden them.

For your long term “TEOTWAWKI” oil storage, I recommend that you store at least a few cases of non-detergent motor oil.  This is because detergent motor oils only store well for a couple of years.  In contrast, non-detergent motor oil store almost indefinitely. Look carefully at the label before you buy. (These days, even most inexpensive brands of motor oil contain detergents.)

For firearms lubrication, I generally prefer the Break Free CLP brand.  In a post-TEOTWAWKI environment, your guns will be your constant companions in all sorts of weather. So it is important to store gun cleaning and lubrication supplies in quantity

Important Side Note: If you live in a region with cold winters, then you will also want to store special low temperature dry film lubes such as Dri-Slide, BP-2000, or Moly-coat (molybdenum disulfide) for your firearms. Otherwise, you might have a gun literally freeze up on you. As American G.I.s in Korea found more than a half century ago, this can be more than just embarrassing when someone is shooting at you!  If the temperature drops below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, you should scrupulously de-lubricate your battle rifles (with a degreaser such as Chem Tool) and re-lubricate them with a dry film lubricant. Repeat this process whenever a weapon gets wet. (Keep in mind that rapid temperature differences will cause a rifle to “sweat”. You should probably plan to do things Alaska style and leave your rifles out in your chilly mud/coat room rather than bringing them into heated rooms. When standing LP/OP duty or patrolling, cycle your rifle’s action several times during the night to insure that the action still functions properly

Oil filters are more important to store than motor oil.  The myth of the obligatory 3,000 mile oil change has been perpetrated by the “30 minute oil change” industry, because they like to see their customers frequently. (Read: $$$) In fact, in the modern era of multi-weight detergent oils, oil changes are grossly over-done!  Unless a car engine is older and starting to grind metal, then your motor oil will usually have a much longer life than 3,000 miles. And just because motor oil is dark does not necessarily indicate that it needs to be changed. Many commercial fleet vehicles get no oils changes at all–just new filters installed, and the same oil put back in. Back in the 1980s the U.S.Army instituted the Army Oil Analysis Program (AOAP.)  Under AOAP, oil samples are periodically mailed to a centralized lab. Unless the lab detects a drop in viscosity, suspended metals particles, or contamination for any particular vehicle’s oil, they direct units to re-use the oil and merely change filters.  (By the way, this program has saved the U.S. taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in the past 20 years.)

Another tangential note: Part of keeping your hand tools in proper condition is oiling them to prevent rust.  It is a good idea to keep a steel bucket with a tight-fitting metal lid, half-filled with sand that is soaked in used motor oil   (Don’t use wood shavings or anything else that is flammable!)  After tasks like splitting wood or spading the garden, be sure brush off any clinging soil, re-sharpen your tools, and then plunge them into the oily sand and swish them around to give them light coat of oil will. This will greatly extend the serviceable life of your hand tools!

Letter Re: Insider Tip On Asian Avian Flu

Mr. Rawles:
Today one of the honchos at [name deleted], a major east coast Medical Center where my wife works told her that a epidemiology research group has finished a modeling study that predicts, based on the mutation rate of the Avian Flu, that sometime within 18 months it will become transferable in human-to-human contact. (Whereas now it goes only from birds to humans.) – "Mr. Not For Attribution"