Note From JWR:

The following non-fiction article describes an abortive grid-up bug out made by a SurvivalBlog reader, in response to several articles (thankfully erroneous) that were posted on between January 22 and January 26, 2006.  The author’s experience is not unique. Several of my friends bugged out to their retreats in late 1999, only to return to the Big City early in 2000, when Y2K turned out to be a non-event.  I also have an aquaintance–incidentally upon whom the John Thomas Rourke character in Jerry Ahern’s The Survivor paperback book series was based–who bugged out to a retreat in a remote region of Northern California immediately after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1980. He was convinced that it was the first stage of WWIII. Hindsight is indeed 20/20, and it is easy to say “He was a Chicken Little.” But the essential truth is that it is better to bug out early than it is to hesitate and be trapped in the metropolis like the sheeple. The following piece teaches some valuable lessons.

Although this was a case of  “false alarm”, it is still quite instructive.You will note that Larry mentions that he did not have room in his vehicles to bring all of his supplies with him. I cannot emphasize this enough: It is crucial to both do a “practice load” and to pre-position the majority of your supplies at your intended retreat. You may have only one trip Outta Dodge, when the balloon really does go up.

Our Grid-Up Bug Out — January 22nd Through February 4th, 2006 by Larry in Kansas

On January 22nd my wife had been on the web site and ran across the following article The article covers a nuclear attack and a financial collapse in America within 90 days. (sometime in March of 2006). This got our attention, BIG TIME. On January 25 the following article was posted on Arcticbeacon An attack was imminent in 9 days for Texas City-Houston area. On January 26 the following article was posted Houston police running nuclear disaster drills. I did my best to checkout the articles and the sources, however, I felt really pressed for time so the decision to bug out was made on January 26. I realize that this might not seem like a lot of good intel, however, since Kansas City was mentioned as a possible target and since we live close to Kansas City, so it really wasn’t that hard of a decision. Also, we have been watching the U.S. economy (see the novel by Jim Rawles Patriots), gold and silver, the stock markets, dollars and Euros ( especially dollar reserves vs. euro in other countries), oil and gas, open borders, U.S. and world politics, Iran and Syria, North Korea, etc. We went into “Condition Red”. Because the “advanced warning“ calculated the possible deed to be accomplished on February 1st or 3rd we decided to bug out to our Rally Point (RP) on the next Monday, January 30. I didn’t want us to be trapped in a major city if the balloon went up. I envisioned martial law would be used and traveling would be suspended. I also envisioned road blocks everywhere to stop any more “terrorists” still out there roaming around looking for more targets. Lots of “shoot first and don’t ask any questions.“ This also gave us time to “calmly” pack the vehicles. Even while being highly motivated, at times, we suffered from severe brain deadness. I found you really need a clear cut list of the items to take. You need to have them bagged, boxed and tagged so there is no searching and second guessing yourself. You need to know what goes where in which vehicle. I don’t like to say this but I believe thinking about this while doing it causes haste. Your lists and bug out plan(s) have to be already worked out. I can only imagine what it would have been like if the balloon had already gone up. Remember that the time you take loading your vehicle(s) only takes away your bug out time or put another way, your window of opportunity is closing.

FAMILY/FRIENDS/WORK/SCHOOL–We informed a limited number of family members and friends of the situation. We had to treat this like a medical triage situation. Certain people would be told and the decision to leave was up to them. Others would not be told since we know them and it would have opened a whole new can of worms we didn’t want or need to deal with at that time. My older son and family who lives in the fallout path east of Texas City-Houston area agreed to come to the RP. My two middle kids, 18 year old daughter and 23 year old son, live close to us and after some discussion they also agreed to go. I left the decision up to them since they are of age. Our 16 year old son didn’t have a choice. The good thing about all these family members is that they are mostly on board with the survival mindset and are aware of what is happening in the world around them. I couldn’t imagine the stress if they weren’t. Two survival friends were also informed, however, they decided they would shelter in place if the balloon went up. We wished each other the best of luck.
The previous Christmas I had given my middle kids Bug Out Bags or B.O.B.s as they are always referred to. I got lots of strange looks from them but they smiled and made me feel good. Two weeks before the Bug Out and before the articles at I was getting this uneasy feeling that they needed to have their B.O.B.s accessible and ready to go. Of course the B.O.B.s weren’t ready so I badgered them until they put them back together. It took them a week. They were ready when I called them about the Bug Out. They did really well.
We decided that a little “white lie” would be used on our employers and schools. A family illness/emergency had happened to my parents and we have to go to see them . It could possibly be a week but we’re not sure. Not very original but effective. I know it was wrong to do this, however, for the OPSEC of the bug out it was needed. This did come back to haunt my middle son. When he had gotten back from the bug out he was fired from his job. Two edged sword. He has since landed another job. This is something that everyone will have to consider for their bug out plan and whether it is a GRID-UP or GRID-DOWN bug out. Both of which are going to be totally different.

PRE-POSITIONING of SUPPLIES–We decided it was time to preposition as many supplies as possible during this time. We took most of our storage food, 1?2 of our MRE’s, 3?4 of our ammo (in military ammo cans), two rifles in cosmolene, medical supplies, 3?4 of our vitamins, miscellaneous fuels (butane, kerosene and lamp oil), shelves, all the camping equipment, reference books, extra clothes and shoes, miscellaneous house supplies, extra garden tools, TA-1 field phones and wire, kerosene heater, 3?4 of our candles and lamps and about 1?2 of our seeds. Other items we brought but didn’t put into storage was 40 gallons of treated gasoline (get the military gas cans not the plastic ones they aren‘t as tough), 30 gallons of drinking water, generator, 2 cycle weed eater, 2 cycle chain saw with extras, 2 cycle oil, two tubs of power tools and hand tools (with nails and screws), all my rifles and pistols with mags and ammo. cleaning kits and tools, weapons spare parts, 4 cases of bottled water and several food tubs. We really like those plastic tubs. To help in this effort we rented a 6’ x 12’ covered trailer. It took us a while to get it because they only had one attendant . If your going this route to transport stuff make sure you have a proper hitch (class 1, 2or3) and electrical hook ups. It makes it that much easier and saves time. Time you might not have. One other suggestion, buy a covered trailer (all metal/aluminum). Remember, it has to be sized for your vehicles towing capacity. Also paint it a subdued color. The orange and white of the trailer we had really sticks out. You don’t want people to see what you have and covering with a tarp doesn’t hide everything and you can’t lock it up. Anyway, when we got there we were the only customer, however, by the time we left there were 10 customers waiting (it took them 30 min). I tried to imagine how it would be if the balloon had already gone up and everyone was freaking out.
Since our RP is 30 minutes from the retreat and that we still don’t have a storage barn built on the retreat we rented a storage shed closer to our RP. All of our supplies were put into the storage shed. More items will be put there in the very near future

CONVOY– For the purpose of this report I will call my convoy Group 1 (Chevy 4WD with camper top and trailer, Ford Windstar and Ford Explorer (4WD) and my oldest son from down south Group 2 (Dodge mini van). Group 1 was on the road by 11 a.m. Monday, January 30 like we had planned. The trip to the RP should take 4 hours. My middle son and daughter in his van, my wife in her SUV and my step-son and I in my truck/trailer. We used FRS radios to communicate with each other. It was good practice for everyone. We had cell phones but they aren’t as handy for close communication. We had plenty of batteries for all the radios with lots of spares. Rechargeable batteries with a solar charger will be used next time. The cell phone came in handy when calling Group 2 for progress updates. I had split some of the rifles and pistols between the 3 vehicles. At the current time we traveled on “Condition yellow”. This meant all weapons were in their gun case or gun rug, locked and unloaded. If the balloon had gone up while we were on the road we would have gone to “Condition Red” and we would have locked and loaded. I don’t think the MZBs (mad zombie bikers) would have been out yet, however, you never know. As an acquaintance once told me “better safe than sorry”. Group 2 had no firearms and this greatly concerned me and there was nothing I could do about it. We prayed nothing would happen and that they would arrive at the RP safe. They arrived safe, in fact beating us to the RP.
Now, driving with the trailer was ok but it liked to skittle around a bit. Anyone who has pulled a trailer knows this. I could only travel between 55 and 65 mph. So Group 1 had to basically go as fast as me. Or, you’re only as fast as your slowest member. The trip took us 6 hours -vs.-the regular 4 hours. I believe that is because when you add more vehicles and people you will stop more often for eating, bathroom breaks, etc. Group 1 followed the primary route. This was all done on major highways through cities and towns. These are also choke points if something were to happen. I had two other routes picked out. These would have taken a lot longer but would be safer than the major refugee routes. My mistake was I only had one set of maps. I will make map sets for everyone here real soon. We also had $1,000 in cash and our barter silver. We also brought our house, property, vehicle and personal papers along in a fire proof safe. Very good things to have to prove ownership etc.
later on.

BUG OUT GEAR– Everyone in Group 1 one had their own B.O.B.s. Ours are equipped for less than a week. Along with the B.O.Bs three of us had our combat loads. These were kept close to us in the vehicles. Group 2 had no B.O.B.s or combat loads. My older son is working to put his families together.

WEAPONS and TARGET SHOOTING– We went to the retreat to get some target shooting in. I also wanted to see how the rifles (FAL, AKs, SKS, AR-180B, M1 Carbine), ammo and mags worked with sustained fire. I have to take 2 rifles to the gunsmith for adjustment. Also found out that the 20 round detachable SKS mags I had don’t work well. The only ones that did work were the original 10 round mag and 5 round detachable mags. I also spent quality time with my sons about rifle and pistol function and safety. I covered proper sight picture while acquiring targets. Everyone did well. Shot a lot of ammo.

TIME TO GO HOME– If nothing had happened by Saturday, February 4th we had decided that day would be the day we would all head back to our homes and lives. So Saturday morning we all loaded up the vehicles and said our good-byes (hugs and kisses). The trip back for Group 1 seemed to go faster. Group 2 made it back in the same amount of time it took to get there. Everyone got home safe and sound.

IN CONCLUSION–We stayed a week at the RP (hotel).The plan was, if the balloon went up, to stay there as long as the credit card would last. We would than go and gather up the supplies from the storage shed and move out to the property and set up camp. In hindsight I don’t think that was the best of plans, however, at the time it was the only plan. Now that we have pre-positioned supplies, we will go straight to the retreat. Hopefully the Powers That Be will hold off long enough so we can get the storage building built on the retreat and then the house.

I found that our Bug Out was good for the following reasons:
Got to spend a lot of quality time with the grandkids.
We all got to spend quality time with each other (kind of a mini family reunion).
Pre-positioning of supplies at the now RP #2.
The retreat is now RP #1.
Reduced our bug out time.
Everyone knows how to get to RP #1 & 2. Still need to make maps for all.
Answered some of my own question and concerns about my firearms.
Need to get more military metal gas cans.
Had good weapons familiarization “training” with most of the shooters in the family. The women didn’t shoot. They spent time visiting neighbors. (We’ll work on the shooting later).
Dealt with some retreat issues that really needed dealing with.
“Better safe than sorry” is great, however, it seemed like a toss up at times. Second guessing myself caused some hesitation about bugging out. Just have to deal with that.
Since everyone, except the children, knew this was a possible SHTF scenario everyone kept their cool and didn‘t scare the kiddies.
Reinforced the thinking that children (babies and pre-teens) have to be really kept occupied during a bug out. Everyone has to chip in and help and they did. Even the teenagers (surprising). An adult(s) needs to be a cruise director for the bug out. The little toys, games etc we bought before the bug out paid off. It would have been a long week if we hadn’t have made some plans. Not everything worked out, so, have plan B, C, D…!
This event has pushed us to get the storage shed built at the retreat ASAP.
The emotional side of the bug out is very stressful for people. As I said before, have as much of your supplies tagged and know where it all will go in your bug out vehicles. Have a plan for the GRID -UP and GRID-DOWN bugout. Remember to eat well and drink lots of fluids. Don’t forget to take your prescription meds if you have them.
Try and get at least 30 days supply of prescription meds above your usual monthly supply. More if possible. I’m researching the homeopathic way for my prescription drugs.

is very important. Everyone that is part of the bug out needs to understand this perfectly. If you have time before the bug out load your vehicles at night. If you have a garage, pull the back of the vehicle into the garage door and load from the privacy of the garage. Shop for the extra things you need anytime but load at night. Neighbors do watch what is going on and they will come ask questions. If they do just tell them your little “white lie“. Just remember that the more “white lies “ you use the harder it will be to keep up with them all. Making trips during the year will help as they will see this trip as nothing out of the norm. Wear civilian clothes. Don’t wear camos. This will scare the neighbors seeing several people next door running around in camos. Plenty of time to change later if you really need to. Once we got to the RP we had informed other family that we were on a one week vacation with the grand kids and all. That really wasn’t telling a “white lie.” I’m writing this on February 14th which is way after the fact and nothing has blown up and no one is glowing…yet. Thank God it was a false alarm this time. Everyone made it home safe and sound. The financial cost of this bug out was substantial. I won’t discuss it here because it can really vary per individual or group. All in all it was money well spent and the lessons learned are priceless.

Letter Re: Recommended Truck Modifications?

Dear Jim:
I recently purchased a 1991 Ford F350 diesel truck. I had read previously on the Blog site of your recommendations on how best to outfit G.O.O.D. vehicles. Unfortunately I have been unable to find that post. I would appreciate it if you would re-post that information. Also I have a few other questions concerning this topic if you don’t mind.

1.) What type of winch do you suggest? Manufacturer, size & power, etc.

2.) Is it necessary to EMP-proof the glow plug switch? And, if so, how is that to be done?

3.) Do you suggest light assemblies on the roof of the cab or elsewhere on the truck?

I appreciate all of your excellent knowledge. Hodu L’Yahweh ke tov, (Give thanks to Yahweh for He is good.) – Dr. Sidney Zweibel

JWR Replies:

I’m glad to hear that you bought a diesel truck. Hopefully it is a four wheel drive. Since it is a 1991 model, odds are that it does not have electronic fuel handling. (Which is a good thing, in the event of EMP.) But it is best to double check that. In answer to your questions:

1.) I generally don’t recommend electric winches. They look useful and very manly, but from a practical standpoint they usually turn into big, heavy, expensive truck ornaments that rarely get used. A power takeoff (PTO) winch is much more practical. But even those rarely get used. I have found that if and when you do need a winch, the winch will often be on the wrong end of your vehicle. (I’m reminded of the old line about the statistical chances of the peanut butter side of the bread landing face down on the carpet…) With about the same total weight and about the same expense of buying one electric winch with 75 feet of cable, you can buy the following:  4-Tow hooks (one for each bumper corner–install these only if you already have heavy duty bumpers, such as those made my Reunel), 2-Dayton come-alongs (a.k.a. ratchet cable hoists) , 2-25 foot tow chains, 1-50 foot tow strap, 1-snatch block, 2-padded tree “chokers”, 1-48 inch Sheepherder (Hi-Lift) jack, 1-Shovel, and 1-Axe).  Granted, using come-alongs is not as fast as some operations with an electric winch, but the preceding list provides much more versatility at getting your vehicle out of a ditch, as well as handling umpteen other tasks.

2.) EMP-proofing any particular model goes beyond my expertise.  It is probably best to have an experienced diesel mechanic show you how to bypass the glow plug switch with a clip lead from your battery’s positive terminal. Keep that clip lead in your glove box at all times.

3.) For day-to-day (pre-Schumer) off-road use, a couple of forward-facing roof-mounted KC lights might prove useful. One or two more, facing aft, would also be useful. Just don’t overboard. I must emphasize, however, that the only lights that I recommend adding for post-TEOTWAWKI use are infrared floodlights (such as these ones, made in Australia), for driving with your headlights off while wearing night vision goggles. (One proviso: Keep your speed down to single digits when doing so, since NVGs do not provide good depth perception! Driving in these conditions takes a lot of practice.)

Letter Re: Economic Survival on the Personal Level

Keep up the good work as always. I thought I’d share a couple of ideas that I’ve had.

A “money” emergency, ranging from losing your job temporarily to a full-scale depression is one of the most likely things to happen to all of us. I know you’ve talked about this before, but I’d like to share a few things. I would advise anyone to get at least one marketable backup skill or trade. The local community college is vast resource for learning practical skills. Here are some possibilities:
-Auto Mechanics. Think of this for self-sufficiency and employment. People gotta get to work! A couple of semesters will prepare you for an entry level job, 1-2 years to be a full-fledged mechanic. I have saved probably $10,000 over the years by working on my own vehicles.
-Welding. You can get the basics for repairs and maintenance work in one semester. Plan on 2 or 3 semesters if you want to get certified for structural or pipeline work. With our current energy situation, pipeline welders are in high demand, and can make $100K/year in some situations.
-CAD/CAM. This is operating and programming the automated equipment that manufactures virtually all machined goods and items. The class I’m in has a board full of job listings, starting at $13/hr and going up to more than $30 for experienced people. In 1-2 semesters, you could easily qualify for one of those jobs. Amazingly, my college offered this as an accelerated, full time program that only takes one semester, and available free by applying at the unemployment office. Can you believe that there were no takers?
-Music. I think this one is often overlooked. If you’re inclined in this area, think about learning an easily-transported instrument like guitar, harmonica, keyboard, etc. In hard times, people want to be cheered up. If you ever end up in a refugee camp or jail, you have immediate value to offer.
-Truck driving/equipment operating. I recently read a white paper from the grocery industry about dealing with bird flu. They cited truck drivers as one of the most critical and hard to replace resources. Getting training and upgrading your licenses seems like a good idea. From the article on Katrina evacuations, it sounds like DOT regulations would typically get relaxed in any emergency, so a basic commercial license might get you quick work, or permission to drive a bus or truck with needed relief supplies.
Your training and education are something that no economic collapse can rob you of. Even if you only take 1 class in another trade, it could mean the difference between getting hired to sweep up the floors and getting an “assistant mechanic” or other, better-paying job.
Also, working on your job and social skills is important. You should spend an hour making a new resume every few months, even if you are happy with your job. It’s a good way to see where you’re weak and think about what new skills, certifications, etc you might want for your current line of work.
Getting work in hard times means you have to hustle. I have a friend who lives in Las Vegas and has been a salesman for every imaginable product. He says that he has gotten more jobs by waiting until the end of the interview when they ask if you have any questions. He asks [presumptive] things like “Are the cokes in the hallway free, where are the time cards, what time do people start on Mondays?” He then just shows up the next day ready to start. He says that this works 9 out of 10 times for any job they need filled right now. – JN.

Odds ‘n Sods:

A “must read” article: Global Credit Ocean Dries Up by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. In this piece, Evans-Pritchard asserts that the global economy is reaching a dangerous tipping point. See:

    o o o

Some quiet Asian Avian Flu planning is going on in England. See:,,2095-2058244,00.html

   o o o

FEMA is making plans for a major earthquake on the New Madrid fault.  See:  

   o o o

A paper on the Asian Avian Flu and the Grocery Industry:

Note From JWR:

After 25 years in the mail order business, I finally got “modern” and created a web page for my mail order wares. See: Up until just recently, I only had a an e-mailable catalog.  Now I have a proper web page catalog.  I just have to remember to keep it up to date, as items come and go. As time permits, I plan to add photos of some of the more expensive items.

Thanks for all of the recent “10 Cent Challenge” contributions. My special thanks to R.M. and R.K.E., who each donated $100. I appreciate your generosity!

Letter from David In Israel Re: The Survival Mindset and the Holocaust

Last year I met with Eline Hoekstra Dresden. Among the things she gave me along with her book “Wishing Upon A Star, A Tale of the Holocaust and Hope” was a bookmark
that I will quote:

[begin quote]
During my years of public speaking, I have been asked repeatedly, “how did you live through the Holocaust?” I usually answer “I don’t really know.” However, the following list provides examples of things that worked for me (along with luck).
Tools for Survival
* Be alert, not paranoid
* Be optimistic, but realistic
* Find strength in faith (whichever)
* Recognize hidden danger
* Do not ever show weakness
* Listen to “gut” feelings
* Use humor daily
* Draw on inner strength
* Take care of your health
* Stay productive
* Don’t let your guard down
* Face danger with courage
* Share your fears with others
* do not ever give up hope
* Before going to sleep, Imagine better times.
*Keep these tools in good repair* [end quote]

One thing I’ve noticed when speaking with Shoah survivors is that they mention that the objective of the camps was to break their faith in G-d. Even now, 60 years later, I see the scars in their faith.

Letter Re: Freeze Dried Foods Versus MREs Versus Air Dried Bulk Storage Foods

I am considering making a sizable purchase from one of your advertisers. I have enjoyed your site a great deal and would value your opinion. Would you stock Mountain House foods for your own needs? I am not familiar with mountain house foods. What is your opinion of their products? How do they compare to MREs? I would like to get about a year of food put aside. I am sure you are very busy, so a detailed response is not necessary, as I said though I value your opinion. Thanks in advance, – K.

JWR Replies: Mountain House freeze dried foods are delicious and have a very long shelf life. The individually-packaged meals are the preferred foods for most backpackers because of their great taste and extremely light weight. But they do require water to reconstitute. Canned freeze dried foods are ideal for situations where you need to keep many weeks worth of food in a small space for 10 + years, and where you have water available. The advantage of MRE retort packaged entrees is that they don’t require water. However, they are both bulkier and heavier than freeze-dried. They also have only a two to five year shelf life, depending on temperature. (See MRE Information for details on MRE shelf life versus temperature.) If space and weight are not an issue, then bulk air dried foods that require cooking are far less expensive than freeze dried. (Such as five gallon buckets of wheat, rice, and beans.)  It all depends on your circumstances. If you live at your retreat full time or plan to “bug in”, then having a majority of bulk foods is obviously the way to go. But if you plan to “bug out” from an urban or suburban home, then nothing beats freeze dried foods for weight, space, and storage life.

Two Letters Re: The “Field Kit” Approach for Organization, Preparedness, and Survival, by Christian Souljer

Mr. Rawles,
Reading the great post on preparedness kits I noticed a couple things that I do differently with my vehicle. I’ve got a spare tire mounted on a homemade bracket on the front of my truck. this took an hour tops with an iron pile and a welder. It’s not meant for pushing but it sits there comfortably mounted to the existing bumper and the metal near the hood latch. I would think also that with some forethought it could be incorporated into a big frame mount push bumper. its a classic ‘country’ configuration which clears up room in your truck bed or inside the vehicle. It’s never made sense to me to mount the spare tire under the rear end of a 4WD vehicle.
This setup also lets you put your chains on the tire which makes them easy to get too and easy to lay out when the time comes. Once they are on, just wire up the extra and throw a big bungee on to take up the slack and rattle. I’ve even found that a license plate will fit inside the rim of most truck tires (15″ or larger). If you are worried about theft you can attach a padlock and/or use a big nut/bolt and lock washer which will ensure that somebody has to take the time with a wrench or tire iron to get at your spare. This is a really cheap way to save space and make your rig more functional. Thanks, – Hi-Plains Reader


Mr. Rawles,
I just read the article about field kits and have to agree with Christian Souljer. I a similar setup in the event that I can bug-out in my truck. My plan is to bug-in but if I have to leave I have 2 options to my disposal ( driving or walking ). Most of my equipment is in rubbermaid type plastic boxes and ready to go. The only thing I would suggest is have several different size tarps to go with you. When out camping using my equipment I put up tarps over the tent and kitchen area to keep the rain out, for shade, and privacy for toilet and solar shower. As far as rope goes I have one box a dedicated rope box with different lengths and types of rope. Great article and keep up the wonderful work that you do. – R.H. in Asheville, N.C.

Letter Re: Asian Avian Flu Radio Show Archives

Just got the chance to listen to some of the Ark Institute radio programming archives from this October. It might be a good idea to remind people those audio files are still there to enjoy. Still just as topical today as then. – R.S.

JWR Replies: Thanks for mentioning that. For details on how to hear the webcast archives, visit the Republic Radio web site:  The interviews that you mentioned were conducted on October 15th and October 22nd.

Letter Re: Recommendations on Body Armor?

I’d read your post in SurvivalBlog about body armor – someone had asked for some recommendations. I own a small company and my employees wear armor, I’ve worn armor for ten years… And there have been some upheavals recently that those looking to acquire used body armor need, desperately, to be aware of that weren’t addressed in your answer – which was adequate but I felt needed elaborating on – so here goes!


Both Second Chance and Point Blank are facing bankruptcy and major lawsuits associated with some of their vests – specifically the so-called 4th generation fibers known as Zylon, Second Chance used them in it’s ULTIMA, ULTIMAX and TRIFLEX series of vests and Point Blank (who also make the PACA brand vest) used them in too many products to list here – so I’ll give you the PDF link to the document on file in the current civil case against them.

I could ramble on about the foreign buyout of both companies prior to their spectacular failure rate – but it’s irrelevant to survival. So, what brand to buy?

Gee, I guess that means Safariland or ABA (American Body Armor) are safe huh?

Nope! Everybody messed up! Again, too many products to list here – here’s another link for Safariland’s vest exchange program.

I’d guess that the above manufacturers represent about 90 percent of the total law enforcement vests sold in the last ten years. They’d still own the market today, if they hadn’t gone to Zylon to try and increase flexibility in the vests.

Yes, there are other manufacturers (a couple dozen in fact), nearly all of them import their vests from our Chinese friends, few manufacturers make them here – and you can still get a quality vest WITHOUT Zylon from these guys… but you need to know more, you should understand what soft body armor can and cannot do.

The basic theory behind soft body armor is the same as a baseball glove, spread out the impact and it doesn’t do as much damage (or penetrate) Kevlar fiber has tremendous linear strength to other fibers, tightly interwoven like a trampoline, and layered, it catches the bullet, spreads out the impact and your skin is not penetrated – you go up in levels from IIa -> II -> IIIa (IIIa is the highest soft body armor rating – above that is level III and IV, hard ceramic plates)to defeat the more energetic 9mm rounds which are only a real threat for one reason, they are more pointy than other pistol rounds and FAST. Essentially, to defeat soft body armor you need to be fast and/or pointy – a 22 LR Stinger round is plenty fast, but is blunt tipped and will not penetrate even the lowest level of soft armor. The newer 17 caliber ballistic tips are a real threat to soft body armor. A 17 HMR I fired at a level II vest panel, waltzed right on through. Granted it was an old vest panel (about 8 years) but it seemed solid to me. I don’t know what energy might be left after penetration, I just wanted to know if it WOULD penetrate. Ironically, 12ga slugs and 44 Magnum rounds are so flat that even a IIa will stop them, you don’t get the higher rated soft body armor the heavy rounds – you get them to defeat 9mm subgun rounds. This logic stemmed from, I believe, the idea that you should always wear a vest that will stop the bullets you carry. And with many police agencies carrying 9mm HK-MP5 variant subguns, it spawned the popularity of the IIIa level vest. The dinky little round that FN developed for their P90 was specifically meant to defeat soft body armor – hence the near moratorium (note that they are now marketing a 16 inch barreled version of the P90 now for civilian sales) on the gun for civilian use, and the absolute moratorium on the ‘good stuff ‘ (steel tipped) and FMJ versions of their ammo. The new ammo for the gun is aluminum tipped, and deforms too easily to defeat a IIIa vest – or so I am told.

Incidentally, “NO!!!!” I will not conduct a series of tests to determine what newfangled bullets will or will not penetrate soft body armor. Hundreds of guys with more time than me have already done so. Google is not just a cute sound made by a baby. Look it up.

Things like ice picks and shanks go right through soft armor (sharp and pointy). Your vest will give you some protection against slicing damage in a knife fight, but almost none against a vigorous stab. There are a whole generation of specialized ‘stab’ rated vests that prison guards wear, although Second Chance does make a vest that has dual layers (ballistic and knife), I think they call it the Prism series.

All centerfire rifle bullets will penetrate soft body armor too. You hear/see those ‘trauma packs’ or ‘plates’ that some manufacturers put in their vest – they are NOT rated to increase the stopping power of the vest – they are to spread out potential heart stopping, or rib breaking (with accompanying lung puncture) impacts and decrease the amount of damage you might take if you get in a head on collision. Second chance used to make a hard-plate that increased your ballistic protection, they still do – but they add a LOT of weight – for about the same weight you can get a REAL ceramic plate that IS rated to stop rifle rounds.

The only thing that will reliably stop rifle rounds (most of them) is ceramic plates, commonly referred to as SAPI plates by the military. They are typically 10 inches by 12 inches (size varies with application) and slip into a carrier over your soft body armor, they are meant to be used in conjunction with the soft armor as some rifle rounds will fragment on striking the plate and the vest is supposed to catch those fragments. It is not very reassuring to know that only a 10 by 12 inch square on your torso is resistant to rifle bullets – but you shouldn’t be presenting ANY target to a looter/criminal – much less a fully exposed torso. Plates are HEAVY – not something you’d wear everyday. You are far more likely to be wearing simple soft armor in an everyday scenario, or while out working in your victory garden.

My entire point isn’t to dissuade you from buying body armor, it is to make it clear that you need to do your research before you buy – especially if you are going to buy used, or off of Ebay. You need to understand the limits of it, and find a way to make it part of your routine. Just yesterday a police officer was killed in a city south of me, I will be sending a contribution off to his widow – he was not wearing his armor when killed – although the department had issued it to him. Body armor is uncomfortable to wear, but if you do it often enough it becomes less annoying. That’s why I had some panels inserted into a levis jacket – even in a casual setting, I can have it with me without arousing suspicion (unless someone picks it up!).

Were I to make a recommendation, find a used vest that you can VERIFY was sold in the last year or two, VERIFY has no Zylon in it, and VERIFY that it has not been exposed to harsh environments. Apparently Zylon was super-sensitive to getting damp/wet, all manufacturers used to encase the panel in Gore-Tex to help with wicking away sweat, now some are encasing it in a thin rubber casing to totally exclude water dampening the Kevlar – because, YES! Even Kevlar will deteriorate with prolonged or repeated exposure to dampness/heat/sweat/bad-breath, etc… And when you get that used vest delivered, take the panels out and look at the dates or date codes listed, a LOT of used vest hawkers on the internet buy new carriers (the thing the panels go in) and the vest looks new in photos – but may contain ten year old panels. So, again, if you MUST buy used – buy from someone with a solid, honest reputation that you can VERIFY.

Soft body armor needs to be comfortable, if it’s ill-fitting you wont like wearing it, ergo, you will NOT wear it. For that reason I do not recommend EVER buying a used vest that doesn’t fit your measurements exactly. If you go to a police uniform shop, they’ll measure you for a vest, and then you’ll know the exact size front and back panels you’ll need to find in a vest. Be careful though, some uniform suppliers are ‘snooty’ – believing that only police officers and other government agents should have soft body armor (no kidding). In some states you may not legally possess body armor. I’m pretty sure New York City restricts it, as well at the PRK.

So be wary, do your homework and be patient for the right used vest to come along. For TEOTWAWKI I must say I prefer concealable body armor – what the goblins don’t know about they can’t take steps to circumvent. Make it obvious that you wear armor, and I can guarantee you a looter will stay awake nights plotting his next head shot. While you are toiling away insuring the survival of your family, they have ALL DAY to plan looting you – it’s their CHOSEN CAREER PATH.

In case you folks are wondering about the body armor I own…

1 Point Blank full vest tactical carrier (external) – with IIIa panels made by another manufacturer
2 sets of SAPI plates one level III and one level IV that fit in the above vest
2 PACA concealable IIIa vests. (kevlar only) 1 year old and 4 years old.
1 tanker style kevlar helmet
1 USGI camo pattern flak vest, five years old – fits nicely under either PACA. I’d rate it at a IIa for most applications, maybe a little less. It is, however, intimidating to wear – psychological factor is why I have it.
1 Levis denim jacket with IIa panels integral to the torso and back and upper arm. I can wear this anywhere and NOBODY knows I’m armored.

OK, so maybe I do have a bit of armor – and that’s not counting what I have for the family, maybe someday I’ll post the picture of my eight year old daughter and her somewhat large vest and AR-15.

I did manage to get hold of a few dozen “destroyed” body armor panels (for testing!), I trimmed, sandwiched and overlapped them in a few waterproof (vacuum) bags and sized them for my door and rear panels in my ’65 Landcruiser. I’d considered using lexan laminate bullet-rated plastic, but MAN is that stuff expensive!!! I didn’t pay for the ‘destroyed’ body armor panels, so it was just labor to make them. My source was a body armor representative that was swapping out vests for a couple of local departments (police departments buy new vests every five years regardless of use/wear) – this activity happens every day around the country – where do you think a lot of those used eBay vests come from? These panels are somewhat stiff given how I fastened them to one another, and are two layers thick everywhere with IIIa panels. These used vests are shipped overseas for police officers over there who cannot afford them. England is a big benefactor from this program, and many eastern bloc countries. (Was that politically correct?)

ALL that being said, body armor is something that is not only ‘nice to have’ but lends a passive safety factor to your life – you don’t have to ‘display’ it for it to be useful, and the stuff keeps you warm in the winter! I’ve had to lay prone for extended periods of time in the snow, and the armored parts of me stayed very warm, it also smoothes out the rocks that always seem to exist in any terrain that you might be called upon to go to ground on.

What do I think you should get? I think you should buy NEW – it’s somewhere between $300-500 dollars for a quality Level II these days – or you could go the used route, but I don’t think it’s worth my life to save 100 bucks… I read a passage from John Ross’s “Ross in Range” commentary area ( that says something along the lines of ‘Friends don’t let friends buy junk guns.’ – and I’d like to second that opinion but apply it to body armor. The time to find out that your body armor was just a little TOO old to stop that 9mm round going a measly 1000 f.p.s. is not when you’re wearing it. I’d also suggest reselling it every three years and using the proceeds to upgrade to the new stuff. If the political rhetoric hits the revolving finger slicer you might be faced with a few years of using the stuff – and unavailability of new replacements. The more life you have in the vest when the balloon goes up, the longer it will be useful. Or rotate the used vests (if you can afford it) to the barter goods bin (and seal them away from moisture and heat) – if you think a tanned piece of leather will be worth something in a disaster – imagine what value will be placed on any body armor you have tucked away as surplus. – J.H. in Colorado

Odds ‘n Sods:

Odds ‘n Sods:

A source for greenhouse construction kits:

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After an outbreak of H5N1 in India, the government killed all poultry within 10 kilometers of the affected town. If NAIS succeeds, our government here in the U.S. will know exactly what animals you have and where you are. If they decide to they can just come and take or kill your livestock. See:\02\26\story_26-2-2006_pg4_14

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I recently discovered that WorldNetDaily columnist Vox Day has his own blog:

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

"A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul." – Goethe

Note From JWR:

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