Which .308 Battle Rifle?

I often have folks e-mail to ask me which is the best all-around rifle for retreat defense. The following may sound a bit like a proverbial Chevy versus Ford rant, but here goes…

To begin, let me state that I firmly believe that .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO is insufficient for self defense. That cartridge was designed specifically for killing woodchucks–not men. It does well at wounding men, which is fine for military organizations. (An incapacitating wound removes three enemy soldiers from the battlefield–the wounded soldier plus two stretcher bearers.) But the last thing that I would ever want to do post-TEOTWAWKI is wound a looter. I want them 100% RBCed, and I want to insure a less than 0.001% probability that they are going to crawl off and snipe at me and my family for the next day or two.

For serious social engineering, .308 Winchester/7.62mm NATO will do the job. It is also a fine deer hunting cartridge. Which .308? In essence, I consider M1As, HK-91s, FALs, L1A1s, and modern AR-10s all functionally equivalent. All four are quite suitable for retreat defense. However, pre-ban HKs are currently way over-priced, and M1A parts and spare magazines have become much too expensive! Meanwhile, most AR-10s use very expensive magazines. (Note: A couple of AR-10 manufacturer have cleverly introduced variants that use FAL magazines. That is the ideal type to buy if you decide to opt for AR-10s.)

Three years ago, I sold all five of the M1As from my family battery and replaced them with five L1A1s and a Para FAL that had been converted to take inch pattern (L1A1) magazines. FWIW, I was an dyed-in-the-wool M1A owner from 1978 to 2002. I switched to L1A1s because of the profusion of inexpensive L1A1 magazines and spare parts. I had 47 spare M1A magazines and nearly one complete spare parts kit. Propitiously, I sold off all those M1A magazines shortly before the 1994 ban expired, for $30 to $45 each. (Some of them were still in original U.S.G.I. wrappers.) Now, for less money than I realized from the sale of my M1As and their accessories, I have 138 spare magazines and four complete L1A1 spare parts sets, plus scopes for all six of my L1A1s. To borrow the modern parlance, the decision was a “no brainer.” Most of my L1A1s are built on pre-ban receivers. IMHO, L1A1s and FALs are the clear choice in today’s market. See The FALFiles for sources. IMO, Century Gun Works (CGW) of Gardnerville, Nevada custom builds the very best FALs and L1As. If you have a FAL or L1A1 kit, then Rich Saunders at CGW is the gent to build it for you. The quality of work at CGW is followed very closely behind by T. Mark Graham of Arizona Response Systems. Mark is also a great gunsmith. I had Mark convert a couple of pre-ban SAR-48s to inch pattern specifications for me. Of the large scale production FAL clones, I think that D.S. Arms rifles are hard to beat. See my FAL FAQ for additional details about FALs and L1A1s.

After all that talk about FALs and L1A1s, you may wonder why I showed HK-91s as a “group standard” in my novel Patriots. Ironically, I’ve actually never owned an HK-91. However, several of my friends have, and swear by them. I portrayed them as standard partly in an attempt to make the novel appear less U.S.-centric. (At the time I would have otherwise touted the M1A.)

To re-iterate: I consider the L1A1, FAL, HK-91, M1A, and the new production AR-10 variants all roughly comparable in terms of reliability and putting lead down range. Here are my quick and dirty comparisons of all four rifles:

The M1A has an edge in accuracy–at least the more expensive match grade models. (But the charging handle is on the wrong side except if you are a lefty.)
The HK-91 has an edge in reliability. (But it has inferior ergonomics and it’s action doesn’t lock open after the last round in a magazine is fired.)
The AR-10 has an edge in light weight. (But it shares the AR-15’s filthy gas system design.)
The FAL has the best ergonomics, and is currently the most reasonably priced.

At the time that I wrote the first draft of the novel. (the winter of 1990/1991), M1As and HKs were both roughly $700 and FALs were $2,200. (The FAL clones hadn’t yet hit the U.S. market.) If I were writing the novel today, I’d definitely pick the L1A1 to portray as group standard.

I prefer L1A1s over FALs because of their sturdier Maranyl stock furniture, bigger selector switches and magazine releases, their folding charging handles, and most importantly their ability to accept BOTH inch and metric magazines. (Tactically, that is an advantage, as the Brits found when they invaded the Falklands.) YMMV, but I do think that “inch is best.” And if you live in a State that borders Canada, I consider inch guns absolutely the way to go. (Since inch pattern spares and accessories are likely to drift across the border WTSHTF.)

OBTW, if you don’t yet have a copy, I strongly recommend that you buy yourself the latest edition of “Boston’s Gun Bible.” Among other topics, Boston goes into great detail about weighing the merits of various battle rifles. My review of Boston’s Gun Bible is included in my Bookshelf page.

One closing note: If practicable and affordable, arm all of the defenders of your retreat with the same model and caliber of rifle, for three reasons:

Commonality of spare magazines
Commonality of training (Any group/family member can pick up any rifle and know how to use it–although its “zero” will probably be slightly different)
Commonality of spare parts


The Housing Bubble

I’m sure that you’ve read about the bubble in residential real estate prices, most noticeably on the coasts in the U.S.. (There are similar bubbles in Oz and England, both of which have already seen their peaks. Far too many people have over-extended their finances buying houses. In fact, up to 35% of the houses being sold in some markets are being bought purely on speculation, with the goal of “flipping” them within six months to take advantage of the rising market. This is making some speculators a lot of quick money, for now. But at some point the music will stop and there will be lot of speculators caught without a chair.

Most people don’t realize the full implications of the housing bubble. The over-inflation of house prices is keeping the consumer economy afloat. People are “taking equity out of their houses” to pay for geegaws and electronic gadgets. When the bubble bursts it will at the very least throw the American economy into a recession, and possibly a depression. For background, read Gary North‘s recent Reality Check article titled: MOM, APPLE PIE, AND HOUSING BUBBLES. (Issue #472, on August 12, 2005.) Also read the piece titled Don’t Let Me Burst Your (Housing) Bubble by Steven Greenhut, a senior editorial writer and columnist for The Orange County Register.

When the bubble does burst, watch out. Things could get ugly. I predict that people that are caught “upside down” in their mortgages will just turn in the keys at the bank and walk away from their houses. This has happened before–most notably in Texas in the 1980s when the Houston Oil Boom fell apart and took the real estate market for the region with it.

My advice: Sell any rental or non-retreat vacation houses that you own. Take your profit now. It is better to be a year too early than a day too late. Keep that money on the sidelines, with at least a portion of it in precious metals. Then after the bubble bursts, you’ll have the chance to step in with cash and buy at perhaps as low as 40 cents on the dollar versus the currently over-inflated prices. When you eventually do decide to buy, concentrate on productive farm land in a lightly populated rural region. (See my previous posts for guidelines on the best type of property to buy.)



G.O.O.D. Vehicle Advice

If you can afford it, buy yourself a Crew Cab 4WD pickup in an earth tone color. A crew cab is the best of both worlds–room for extra passengers like a Suburban, plus lots of cargo room in the cargo bed.) Buy a diesel if you can stand the smell. (I’ll discuss alternative fuels in upcoming blog posts.) You should plan on either buying a low mileage rig that 1 to 5 years old, or buy an older one and have it fully restored/modified. Either way, the total cost will be about the same when all is said and done. I actually prefer the new Dodge engines/power trains, but long term parts availability in the event of TEOTWAWKI could be problematic since there are 20+ Fords and Chevys on the road for every Dodge. So it is probably better to go for the Ford F250 or F350 or one of the equivalent Chevy 2500 HD (Heavy Duty) series pickups.

Buy a low profile camper shell that can be removed quickly in a pinch. Winches front and back may look cool, but for the weight and expense they really aren’t worth it! You are better off spending some money on heavy duty front and rear bumpers. (Reunel is a good brand). Recommended bumper mods: large crash bars in the front, a removable cable cutter post that is as tall as your truck’s cab, and 10+ heavy duty towing attachment J hooks (front and rear center and all four corners.) Buy two or three heavy duty Dayton come-alongs (ratchet cable hoists), and a couple of 48″ Hi-Lift jacks. Carry two spare tires on rims. That, plus shovels, pick, axe, a couple of heavy duty tow chains, some shorter “tree wrapper” choker chains, and a pair of American-made 36″ bolt cutters will get you through virtually any obstacle, given enough time.

Also get the rig set up with range tanks and a tow package. Determine the amount of fuel required to get to your retreat using the slowest possible route with a maximum load of gear. Add 10% to that figure for good measure, and be sure to always have that amount of fuel on hand. Regardless of the fuel capacity of your rig, buy at least 6 additional jerry cans to keep at home. (First consult you local fire code regulations.) Keep those cans filled with fuel and rotate them regularly. Even if you don’t need it to G.O.O.D., this extra fuel will be useful for barter or charity. An aside; I have a friend named John who installed a custom 120 gallon fuel tank in the bed of his 4WD Ford F250 that already had two fuel tanks of its own. Talk about range!

If you are worried about EMP, do some research before you buy your next vehicle. Some models that are less than 10 years old can be retrofitted with a traditional carburetor and spark coil/condenser ignition system. This is an expensive proposition, but it will leave you with a rig that is virtually invulnerable to EMP.

Most importantly: pre-position the vast majority of your gear, guns, and groceries at your retreat! Make sure to store plenty of fuel there. Buy a utility trailer, but leave it at your retreat to use for wood and hay hauling, or in case you need to bug out a second time. You may have only one trip out of the Big City, and messing with a trailer in heavy traffic or on snowy/muddy roads could lead to your own personal disaster within a disaster.)

If there won’t be somebody who is extremely trustworthy living at your retreat all the times to secure it, buy a 24’+ CONEX steel shipping container, and have a extra lock shroud flange welded on. Ideally, your trailer should be custom built (or re-built) to use very the same rims and tires as used on your primary vehicle. That way with two spare tires carried on your vehicle and one more carried on the front of your trailer you will have three spares available for either your trailer or your pickup. If you end up getting a good-sized CONEX, you should be able to leave the trailer in the front, ready to roll out.

BTW, with the recent spike in fuel prices, this is probably a great time to twist the arm of your local car dealership for a discount price on one of their used 4WD pickups. Presently, anything that gets less than 15 miles per gallon is a slow seller. Before you visit any car dealership, do you homework about exactly what you want to buy. Get savvy on current values at Edmunds.(A great site with “blue book” type calculators that take into account all the options.) Once at the dealership, solicit their “best possible price,” and then tell them that you you’ll think about it, and then walk toward the door. Don’t be surprised if you get intercepted and offered an even lower price. I predict that once gas passes the $3.00 per gallon mark, dealers will probably be willing to their sell fuel-inefficient rigs at near cost, just to get them off their lots.



Letter from “Doug Carlton” Re: The Trouble With Caretakers

Jim:
One thing that I wanted to mention about your caretaker/renter post: In many states, if you charge any form of rent, then that person is a renter and has all the legal rights of such under the law. For any of your readers that are considering such an arrangement, I’d recommend they check with a lawyer that knows the rental law of their retreat’s area before going such a route. Laws differ greatly from state to state. One possible route is to provide a separate residence for the caretaker (like a small cabin, whatever) with defined boundaries, then an employment agreement to take care of the rest of the property. Even if no rent is being charged, the exchange of housing for labor may constitute rent, again depending on the state. Another thing is there has to be a plan on what to do with the caretaker post-TEOTWAWKI. Are they going to be gone, there, or what? What are they planning? That their entire clan should stay there? That maybe if you show up, you don’t need to be there? Even if they are a relative, this should be thought out well in advance. – “Doug Carlton”

[JWR’s note: Some of the readers of my novel will remember the Doug Carlton character. Yes, it is the pseudonym of a real life individual that I have known since college. He is a former U.S. Army aviator, now working in the transportation industry on the East Coast. Well, at least its a “Red” State.]



Jim’s Quote of the Day:

“It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were.
And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened. But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed
with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning
back only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.”

“What are we holding on to, Sam?”

“That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.”

– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings


On Climate and Growing Season

“Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.”
– Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

When starting your search for a retreat location, concentrate on “dry land farming” regions, and of those, the ones that specialize in truck farming. Dry land farming regions are where crops can be grown with seasonal rains and are not dependent on electrically pumped irrigation water. Remember that when grid down, the areas in the West that were originally desert will revert to desert, in a hurry! Even an area that might otherwise look good for a retreat at present may be uninhabitable if and when the grid down era begins.

Elevation and exposure are both critical factors. By concentrating on properties at low elevation and with a southern exposure, you will greatly extend your growing season. A growing season that is 30 or 40 days shorter might seem trivial now, but WTSHTF it will be incredibly important. Do a detailed study of both the regional climate and the microclimates in the counties that you are considering for retreats. See City-Data.com for detailed temperature, rainfall, and snowfall data for most locales with a population of 5,000 or more. By the way, there are lots of other interesting statistics there too, such as median age, education levels, and so forth.

In many parts of the country, the reverse side of a ridge (northern facing) can be snow-bound for an extra three months of each year! So be willing to pay a little more for a piece of land with an unobstructed southern exposure.

Environmental scientists can’t seem to agree whether or not the much-touted Global Warming is actually in progress. A minority of scientists have asserted that we might actually be in a cooling trend or perhaps even on the cusp of another “Little Ice Age.” If there is a large volcanic eruption or a comet or meteor strike, there could be some profound climate effects. This is a good reason to have at least two years of food storage. Even the best gardener in the world will not be able to feed their family if there are killing frosts in every month of the year for a couple of years. You might consider making preparations for the remote chance of sudden climate change. I even had one late friend who lived in the Philippines who had a large stock of cold weather gear!

For researching rainfall, population data, tax information, and so forth, a very useful resource is the Home Fair web site.



From The Memsahib: The Doom and Gloom Rule

I have observed that my husband and his male friends like to spend quite a lot of time discussing what we call “Doom and Gloom.” They talk about the falling value of the U.S. dollar, the threat of dirty bombs, the immorality of popular culture, uncontrolled immigration, hyperinflation, and the like. They actually seem to be enjoying themselves as they discuss the collapse of western civilization and the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI). In fact, talking about it somehow seems to bond them. And I have even observed doom and gloom conversations lifting their spirits.

Naturally, Jim wants to discuss these topics with me as well. But conversations about the aforesaid topics only serve to depress me. I have been told by other women that doom and gloom conversations depress them as well. In some cases it has stressed the wife so much it has affected her health. Yes, really!

When Jim talks doom and gloom his perspective is from a national or even world wide one. But, when he mentions the falling value of the dollar I immediately think of my elderly aunts who are on a fixed incomes. What will they do? When he mentions dirty bombs I immediately worry about the safety of my siblings who live in a major metropolitan area. When he talks about the immorality of popular culture I think of my nieces and nephews who attend public schools. I’m sure that you get the idea. With every doom and gloom subject my mind immediately jumps to beloved family members who will be sure to suffer when things get bad.

To Jim, doom and gloom topics are abstract ideas. To me (and I suspect to other women also) doom and gloom is very personal. Because of our differences we have come up with the Doom and Gloom Rule which is: That there will be no mention of gloomy topics after 8 p.m. at night. With this rule there is enough time between the depressing conversations and bedtime. There is enough time for my mind to focus on other things and my depressed mood to lift before going to sleep. Before we instituted the Doom and Gloom Rule, I had difficulty getting to sleep, and/or had bad dreams.

For you husbands out there, please keep in mind that a woman’s mind is wet-wired very different than yours. You may be barraging your wife with just too much doom and gloom. She finds it depressing rather than enlightening. Be sensitive to her feelings and you will be more likely to have a wife who will be a partner in your survival preparations.



Letter: Regarding Rhodesian Ridgebacks

Hi Jim,

Well, as requested, I’ll give a bit of a review of the Rhodesian Ridgeback dog breed – since it’s the one breed I’ve settled on.

I’ve had two Ridgebacks so far, both females, and both were spayed. The first one was a first generation working Ridgeback – Red Mahogany color, 128# – exceptionally muscular dog. Muscular to the point of having a veterinarian that I took her to insist that she must have “undescended testicles” – otherwise there was no other explanation for the build. Well, she didn’t have those, but her sire and dam were big, tough dogs, 150# and 120#, respectively. Both from Bophuthatswana area, and both were originally from the South African area, all the way back in their lineage. The second one I have now is a pound rescue – approximately 90#, Brindle in color. (Standard colors for Rhodesian Ridgebacks are the Mahogany colorations – both red and “champagne”, but historically, Ridgebacks are known to have been brindle, black and tan, black, red mahogany, brown, etc. At times, even to the present day, you’ll see these colors.) With regard to their coat, they’re a short coated, low shedding rate dog. Ideal for grassy areas, or areas that have brambles. [JWR adds: And of course they have the distinctive “ridge” of fur on their spines that has the hair running with the grain in the opposite direction as the rest of their fur. Hence the name Ridgeback.]

As to demeanour – they’re an independent dog, not given to slavish obeying of commands. Somewhat of a primitive dog (they’ll dig hides under rocks, logs, etc., and lay up in them), they have a very attuned notion of “pack”. At least more so than some other breeds I’ve been around, like Yellow Labradors. If a pack member is missing, the Ridgeback gets more worried than many other breeds – I’d put it as being more loyal than some other breeds. They’re friendly to people that aren’t from their “pack” – as long as they’ve been brought up that way. If they’re brought up more or less isolated, they will defend their territory quite vociferously. One interesting thing though – the ones I’ve been around have been more or less “heelers” – they approach from the back, baying, and nip at the heels of intruders. They’re not prone to making frontal attacks. Just from the history of the breed, I’d hazard a guess that this has been bred into them. Dogs that performed frontal attacks on lions probably didn’t make it much further into the deep end of the gene pool. They’re not great at obeying commands – this is not a breed that will pay much attention to more than the basic commands –anything past “sit, stay, heel, down, halt, come” will probably take a while to sink in – and plenty of reinforcement. Even though the first female I had actually did figure out many more commands than those few listed above. A classic Ridgeback behaviour is related to fetching the balls that are thrown for them – first time, ok, second time, ok, third time, ball is ignored. The attitude seems to be that they get disgusted with bringing back a perfectly good ball that the dimwit human keeps throwing away.

If brought up with children, they make outstanding protectors. Good ranch dogs, and a great breed to have in an isolated area. They’re classed as “gaze” or sight hounds too – so be prepared to have them chase various varmints. Terrifically fast sprinters, but not good long distance runners (nor are any dog breeds for that matter) but they’re also cat-like in the amount of sleep they demand – more like some hounds in that way. In relations with other pets, the Ridgebacks I’ve seen and had, have figured out that everything within X boundary, is a pack member. Even if it’s a really strange looking animal…birds, cats, reptiles, all are considered okay after a while. But as for anything not known or recognized — “Katie bar the door!”

The Ridgeback is a breed that needs a firm hand – you can’t let them think they’re the alpha. Being pack oriented, they really need a clear understanding of who is boss.

The last thing I’d mention is that they’re a relatively silent dog – not given to pointless barking. If they’re barking, best go check it out – something’s up.

Well, in any case, I’m sold on the breed, and I’ll have them ’till the day I check out. – G.T.

JWR’s Reply:

The only other thing that I’d like to add to G.T.’s well-informed observations is that Ridgebacks have an amazing propensity toward climbing. I think that they are the most tree-climbing prone breed on the planet. If you build your Ridgeback a dog house it will probably spend as much time on top of the house as it will inside it.



From David: SurvivalBlog’s American Expatriate Correspondent in Israel (First Article in a Series)

The first topics that come to mind are European survival and poverty, and Arab/Jewish poverty survival. We must work down to the basics of the survival pyramid and forego the
night vision goggle and satellite phone fantasies until we cover our basics… …like staying fed and housed! Not so romantic, but I don’t know how to to stir fry an image converter tube.

I suppose I should first enlighten you to my personal survivalist philosophy. I started out as a survivalist while living in a rural area outside Portland, Oregon in high school spending summers and weekends either working at the Army/Navy store or out shooting at the range or backpacking into the woods. I went to college part time and was a camping, fishing, and hunting salesman taking off summers to work for forest service fire crew and volunteering for fire department the rest of the year. After four years I went to firefighting and paramedic school in Bend [Oregon] and lived in Sisters [Oregon] working as a Firefighter/EMT to pay for school. After 3-1/2 years there I married my wife and returned to the Willamette Valley, wasting 2 years as a telco DSL NetOps center manager then quitting to be a Portland firefighter/paramedic. It was there that I really started to figure out my Jewish identity which I had dropped out of after Bar Mitzvah at age 13. After about a year I took a job running the EMS system of most of an eastern Oregon county, I finally bought my real survival retreat in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, had all of my gear and a budget to support more. Once there, I realized a major miscalculation–my wife and I are Jewish…

This is a major complication in a survival scenario. I was spending every third week (worked 2 weeks on 1 off) in Portland to be around my Orthodox Jewish community. The real problem was I didn’t fit in. Making the move to a rural community with no outsiders sounds fine to somebody who has lived there forever but often outsiders have one possible social “in” in a small town, namely the church. Without any kind of “in” and maybe even a big “out” (we keep kosher which precludes eating food from non kosher sources except in starvation situations) being unable to dine at the homes of our neighbors; our survival chances once the neighbors became stressed by trouble was just not as good. Never any anti-Semitism; just that without belonging to the social fabric we would need to be much more of an island than others when it came to neighborly favors in tough times. Our first experience with having a practical retreat had failed miserably and we returned to Portland for this as well as work-related issues. After trying to set up a .com during the bust and finish a Economics degree we decided partly for religious reasons and partly because of survivalist motivation that it was time to move to Israel.

Our first move was to an absorption center, basically a government cheap apartment complex subsidized until we found a place to live. After three months of bad ventilation and mold (in a stone structure mold can cause serious respiratory problems) we moved to our current residence in the west bank. The average response I would expect after reading the foregoing is how could a survivalist move to the West Bank? To survive you need a community. (Being a lone survivalist is dangerous and difficult.) I currently live with the cream of the Israeli crop, motivated and serious about their own survival as well as the survival of Jews everywhere.

The first settlers of Israel were said to be farmers with rifles on their backs, turning a desert into green, the future produce and flower grower for most of Europe. Sadly the grandchildren of these pioneers have lost much of this drive and have been weakened by their taste of American style greed and prosperity when they profited from the 1990’s tech boom (Israel’s economy is mostly high tech, military, and aerospace). Affluence after many rough years often leads to a spoiled generation. A spoiled pampered younger generation has trouble dealing with difficulty. The West Bank and Gaza were slightly different re-conquered after 19 years of Egyptian and Jordanian occupation these lands were much less settled than the northern coastal areas near Tel-Aviv or Haifa. Being unsettled weeds out the timid who moved to larger cities and left the more motivated–both Zionist and/or religious.

Back to survival: Live in a community which has your values and ideals this is one way to help you have a happier and simpler life. Choosing a community is almost as careful a selection as choosing your spouse. Choose wrong and prepare to lose a fortune and be miserable for many years. We chose a community for its high percentage of Americans as well as for its involvement in protecting itself through volunteer rescue and anti-terror teams but most importantly because we felt at home and accepted by the community. A community takes care of its own members first.

Depending on what happens with Gaza and Shomron (Samaria) which is on top of my priorities, I may be able to generate a few posts for you in the next three weeks until the Elul Zman where I will be back in Yeshiva.

All the Best,

Kol Tov
David



Jim’s Quote of the Day:

“Something happens when an individual owns his home or business. He or she will always invest more sweat, longer hours and greater creativity to develop and care for something he owns than he will for any government-inspired project supposedly engineered for the greater social good… The desire to improve oneself and one’s family’s lot, to make life
better for one’s children, to strive for a higher standard of living, is universal and God-given. It is honorable. It is not greed.” – Rush Limbaugh, The Limbaugh Letter, 1993



Note from Jim:

SurvivalBlog is now just one week old. We’ve already had 4,700+ unique blog accesses and more than 108,000 page hits. Therefore, I surmise that we must be doing something right. If you find this blog useful and informative, then please help spread the word! Please send a brief e-mail, BCCed to the folks on your personal e-mail list.

This blog and the associated FAQs are available free of charge. But the only way that I can afford to keep up this level of effort is if we increase readership and thus attract some more advertisers. I greatly appreciate your help!



Safety in Numbers

If you are setting up a remote retreat you should definitely plan ahead to double up or even triple up with other capable families to provide security, as described in my novel Patriots. The manpower required for 24 hour, 7 day a week, 360 degree security should things go truly “worst case” with a complete breakdown of law and order is tremendous. One family with just two adults on its own cannot both provide security and handle the many chores required to operate a self-sufficient retreat–particularly in summer and fall with gardening and food storage tasks. The physical and emotional toll of manning 12-on/12-off security shifts would bring a single family to the breaking point in just a few weeks. (As a former U.S. Army officer, I can personally attest to the terrible drain that continuous operations create–even on physically fit soldiers that averaged 21.5 years old.) Any lesser security will leave your retreat vulnerable to being overrun.

In the event of TEOTWAWKI, I predict that the dilemma for many will be: “Either we have insufficient security and we eat, or we have full security and we starve.” Thus, manning an isolated retreat will take a bare minimum of four adults, and ideally six. (Typically, three couples, plus their kids.) This will mean buying a five to eight bedroom house with a full basement. In Utah, this type of house is termed a “Mormon bunker.” One alternative is to buy a pair of homes on contiguous parcels with direct lines of sight to each other and that could both be over-watched by a single listening post/observation post (LP/OP). One approach to defending an isolated retreat in a “worst case” is described in my novel Patriots and will be discussed in detail in a subsequent blog posts.



Living There–or 11th Hour Get Out of Dodge

One dilemma often faced by would-be retreat owners is that they are chained to the Big City because of work or family obligations. Ideally, you should live at your retreat year-round. It will give you crucial experience in gardening and animal husbandry. And of course you will be there to keep an eye on things. One crucial intangible benefit to living at your retreat year round is that you become a “neighbor.” If you don’t move in full-time you simply won’t be considered a neighbor. This can take years. Building neighborly relationships may be crucial WTSHTF. You do not want to be seen as the expendable newcomer.

In some potential situations you won’t have the opportunity to Get Out of Dodge (G.O.O.D.) until it is too late. The following advice is for those of you that plan to take that gamble:
It is essential to pre-position the vast majority of your logistics at your retreat. Circumstances may dictate that you only can make only one trip to your retreat before roads are unusable or unsafe to use. It would be tragic to have to pick and choose the portions of your gear to take for that one trip. Show prudence and foresight: pre-position most of your gear! Incidentally, it is wise to do a “test load” once every two years to insure that those items that you keep in your home will fit in your vehicle(s) for that one trip.

Plan multiple routes using secondary roads in case the freeways are clogged, roadblocks have been set up, or bridges are washed out or intentionally demolished. Have a Plan A, B, C, and D for getting to your retreat. The latter may be on mountain bikes or on foot! Pack your G.O.O.D. backpacks for each family member accordingly. (See the “Shank’s Mare” chapter of my novel Patriots for ideas on what you should pack.)

If family or work circumstances dictate that you can’t live at your retreat year round, then at least look local. If your retreat is across a state line then carry the driver’s license of the State where you have your retreat (with the town nearest your retreat listed as your home address), and get dual registration for all of your G.O.O.D. vehicles. The latter is so that you can get past roadblocks. (If things get really bad, there will be roadblocks–either official, quasi-official, or impromptu.You will want to be able to have documentation to prove that you are headed home to your retreat rather than just another refugee from The Big City. Paying a little extra each year for dual registration could save your life.



The Trouble With Caretakers

So are you “stuck” in the Big City? You make a great salary and can afford to buy a retreat, but you can’t telecommute. Finding a trustworthy caretaker for a retreat can be problematic. I have one close friend who has a large, very elaborately prepared retreat in the Inland Northwest: A big house, shop, springs, ponds, a year round creek with a micro-hydro generator, photovoltaics, diesel and gas storage, you name it. My friend found a man from the local church who agreed to be a renter/caretaker. He charged him just a nominal sum for rent, with the understanding that the difference would be made up in the effort required to keep up the property. Just watering and pruning the dozens of fruit and nut trees is a big chore.

He has had a live-in caretaker for four years. There was some confusion at first about whether the caretaker was a renter, with a renter’s expectations of privacy, or a house sitter, with no expectation of privacy. Late in the first year of their arrangement, the caretaker insisted that the owner give six months notice before taking a two-week vacation at his own retreat! This may sound comical, but it really happened. Finally, a year later, after eliminating the rent entirely, the owner came to an agreement whereby he can use his retreat with just 30-day notice. Don’t make the same mistake. Instead, make each party’s rights and responsibilities perfectly clear from the outset. And do not confuse the renter versus employee relationships. Your caretaker must be entirely one or the other, or you are bound to have difficulties.

When selecting a caretaker, it is important to find someone committed to staying long-term, someone of like faith that you can trust with certainty, and someone who has practical skills and who is not afraid to get his hands dirty or paint-stained.



Commercial Storage

One compromise approach is to leave you retreat house unoccupied and rent a commercial storage space in the town nearest your retreat. I have one friend who leaves his retreat cabin virtually empty. All that he keeps stored there is some second-hand furniture, four cords of firewood (in a locked shed) and a pair of underground gas and diesel tanks, which have their filler and dispenser necks camouflaged by a rusting clothes dryer and water heater–part of a junk pile. He rents a 12 foot x 25 foot commercial storage space that is crammed full of all of his gear. His plan is to bug out at the 11th hour, and then use his 4WD pickup and his 5 foot x10 foot box trailer to hastily move his gear to his retreat. This constitutes pitiful operational security (OPSEC), but it is better than leaving his valuable gear unattended and vulnerable to burglary. I should also mention that it makes it difficult to practice using his gear, or to rotate his storage food or to establish a garden and livestock between now and TEOTWAWKI. I just hope that he gets to his house before some armed squatters do!