Letter Re: Tritium Sights and Night Vision Devices

Mr. Rawles,
First let me say that I love the blog. Also, your book (“Patriots“) is my all time favorite fictional survival book. You will have to give us an update on when the new edition with extra chapters is due out.
A little background on myself, for the past few years I have been flying helicopters in support of a military survival school in the Northwest. I average a handful of night flights each month and when we fly we use current issue NVG’s. We normally fly at 300 feet above the ground and have little to no cultural lighting (city lights) as we are over National Forest lands. For this reason I would consider the amount of light we fly with to be similar to a TEOTWAWKI scenario (no cultural lights.)
Now I would like to add some thoughts about the tritium sight thread from Monday. The benefits associated with tritium sights definitely outweigh any disadvantages. I consider your comments on tritium sights to be correct for worst case. By that I mean you would get the penlight in the face effect (we call it “raccoon eyes”) if you were operating in an unlit building, in a cave, or possibly outside on a very overcast and moonless night with no cultural background lights. Tritium sights should not be overlooked when trying to decrease your tactical profile but I personally would not excessively worry about them. Like yourself, I would use a full flap holster and that would be the extent of my mitigation. To give some perspective on light sources in a different situation, I remember flying a couple weeks ago with a full moon and having a hard time seeing an IR (infrared) strobe. And we had to request the IR strobe after being unable to identify a group in which an individual was swinging a chemical light stick attached to a 2 foot cord around in a circle. I would like to point out to your readers that wearing their own set of NVGs would give them a much greater light profile (very bright raccoon eyes) than tritium sights would. NVGs are a huge force multiplier and I don’t recommend going without them but when they are used they should primarily be used to scan and only for a short duration.
Two things that I would be more concerned about are fire and light discipline. As far as fire goes, even a fire that has no visible flames really pops out when viewed on NVG’s. That is because the goggles sensitivity peaks near the red/ IR spectrum of light. If you must have a fire, bury any left over embers and move far away when you are done. Like I said, goggles really pick up red and IR lights. Brake lights can be seen for miles and those red filters used on flashlights to read maps are almost just as bad. Get rid of the red filters and carry a blue/green filter instead. The blue/ green filter allows you to maintain your night vision while offering a slightly smaller light profile than the same flashlight in plain white.
Regards, – The Northwest Helo Pilot

Letter Re: Retreat Potential for The Eastern States and “Prudent Places USA”

Hi Jim and Memsahib:
Many people cannot possibly move west of the Mississippi. I think everyone wants to make an educated assessment of where they live in relation to preparing for whatever may happen. Regardless of the energy and thought we put into planning, there seems to be one or many things we either leave out or have not considered. For example, how many have taken into consideration if there is a germ facility or chemical weapons lab near their prized spot? There are also terrorists cells among us as well as major terrorists organizations. Knowing their targets whether they be infrastructure, military, national landmarks or vulnerable cities should be considered in our plans. I recommend that Prudent Places USA CD-ROM. It covers six main areas: Natural Disasters, Manmade Disasters, Environmental Basics, Environmental Problems, Energy, People and Places. Within these chapter headings, one has access to 69 main topics, plus additional sub-topics and maps to a county level–all 3,141 of them. Maps are very large and must be presented in CD-ROM format. If there is a safer place in your county or state these maps will point them out. The maps can be printed on transparencies and overlaid for a defining view of areas of interest. This is one of the most comprehensive accumulation of data covering almost every topic of interest for choosing a prudent place I have come across. David from Israel so eloquently illustrated the mindset of most who prepare. Generally speaking, we tend not to think of having to leave our retreat. We all should have at least two backup plans in place. Prudent Places USA is an invaluable aid in planning localities, roads, everything one can imagine and more. See: http://www.millennium-ark.net/Our_Books/PPusa/next.htm Regards, – F1

Letter Re: A SurvivalBlog Discussion Forum?

I’m interested in discussing topics with like-minded folks. If this can’t be done, do you have any favorite forums? – C.D.R.

JWR Replies: I’m sorry to report that I have neither the time nor the patience to moderate a forum. (I moderated one for Dr. Gary North back in the late 1990s, and it quickly degenerated into a “flame war”, with far more flame posts than serious posts on preparedness.)

I recommend that anyone who is interested sign up at The Claire Files and start frequenting the “Gulching/Self-Sufficiency” Forum. You might start out with a thread titled: “SurvivalBlog Readers–Check In!”

Yes, I know that there are lots of other forums out there, but the biggest advantage of The Claire Files is that you can sign up anonymously.

Note from JWR: Some Interesting Web Sites

In my most recent radio “round table” interview on pandemics, Dr. Geri Guidetti (the host) mentioned some interesting web sites:

http://www.farmersadvance.com –Some scary statistics on America’s food supply. It is no longer measured in weeks.

http://www.effectmeasure.com — Useful information on the Asian Avian Flu.(But decided leftward leaningand anti-Christian!)

http://www.fluwikie.com — More useful information on the Asian Avian Flu.

http://www.curevents.com — A general current events forum, currently with several discussions on pandemics.

http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/ — Site for the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (still more useful information on the Asian Avian Flu.)

OBTW, if you missed hearing the webcast live, you can download it post facto, by visiting the Republic Radio web site: http://www.rbnlive.com. Look for the archive of the Geri Guidetti show for Saturday, October 8th.

Letter From “Mr. Lima” Re: Retreat Potential for The Eastern States

I agree with you 100% that by far the West (Far West) is the best survival locale, but I am one of those East Coast survivors. If I really wanted to I would move West (I’m of the mindset that anyone can do anything they really want to do, they just have to WANT it bad enough), then I probably would. I won’t go into all the excuses people normally use when you tell them to relocate.

Something that ought to be considered as well is proximity to like minded friends and family members. I “could” move out West but if I did I would lose a support network that I have worked almost 20 years to develop. To go from having a reliable support network to being a lone family survivalist is a frightening thought, no matter how secure the new locale is.

Suffice it to say, everyone that cannot or will not move West (I’m reminded of the old Westerns–“Go West young man!”) absolutely must develop a working Group or network of like minded friends and family members who they can rely on when the times comes.

Also, I would prompt every survivalist on the East side of the Mississippi to work towards developing a fallout shelter. This could be as simple as a trench shelter with two 90 degree turns for entrances. Cover the trench with railroad ties, a couple of layers of plastic and 3′ feet of earth and you have a basic shelter you can improve over time.

The downsides of living on the East Coast are many–higher population, more nuclear targets, closer to seat of government, etc. It’s important also for people to realize that living away from the cities when TSHTF is more important that having 10 years of freeze dried food. No one single move can yield more towards your survival than moving away from the cities (save for accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior.)

Now is the time to cash out of homes that have appreciated in value greatly in the last couple of years. $100,000 will still buy some land and build you a modest home in most areas of the countryside, especially here in the South.

Those thinking they will just bug out at the last minute have to realize the first warning they may get is seeing the mushroom cloud over their city. – Mr. Lima

Letter Re: Retreat Potential for The Eastern States–Pennsylvania

Dear Jim,
In response to the letter from the Californian with aspirations on returning to western Pennsylvania, is he in for a shock. We have become, due to really short sighted thinking, the net importer of garbage for the east coast. Western and central Pa. have become the waste center for Maine, New York (city and state), New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire, Ohio, West Virginia, and many other locales. We put toxic waste in our soils and act like if can not see it, it will go away. Nature always bats last. The ground water and water table will become polluted beyond use when we will need it most. This waste is not limited to household garbage, but also medical waste. Have a glass of HIV, on me. Just because one does not see or smell the pollution, does not mean it is not there. I would NOT recommend Pennsylvania for this reason alone. Do not forget the close proximity to large urban areas also. I totally agree with you on anywhere past the west of Mississippi. Keep up the good work. – C.D.

Letter From “Mr. Bravo” Re: Ballistic Protection of Building Materials

Joel Skousen writes in his book “The Secure Home” that a gravel-filled wall is better than concrete, for an exterior wall or an interior safe room. While persistent impacts will drill a hole in concrete, they will have no effect on gravel, except for slight settling and spillage, generating a gap only at the very top where protection is not needed. Gravel (1/2 to 3?4 inch, presumably fragmented and not rounded pea gravel) will deflect and destroy most rounds, unlike sand, which merely slows most rounds. In his book “The Secure Home”, Skousen advises using 5/8-inch or 3?4- inch plywood sheets screwed to both sides of steel studs to contain the gravel. (Wood being essentially 2 inch gaps that are transparent to many types of rounds.) Skousen also speculates that a hollow heavy steel door could be filled with gravel. – Mr. Bravo

JWR Replies: “Skousen Walls” do work well, and I recommend them for anyone that wants to do a “Harder Homes and Gardens” upgrade to an existing wood frame house. A couple of years ago, I got a briefing and a slide show from a friend that did some actual shooting tests with up to 12 gauge slugs on dummied-up wall sections. (He expended over 400 rounds in the tests.) He proved that 3/4-inch plywood walls filled with “Three quarter minus” road rock gravel (rough crushed rock that has been screened to be 3/4-inch or smaller) works best for a Skousen Wall. And Mr. Skousen is correct that a wall filled with just small pea gravel or sand will drain like an hourglass after a number of large caliber rounds impact inside a 6″ radius.

And as for ballistically protecting doors and windows, there is no substitute for mass. As mentioned in my novel, I recommend using five stacked thicknesses of 1/4-inch steel plates. (These thinner plates are much easier and safer to maneuver for construction than a single one inch thick plate.) Yes, we are talking about a lot of weight. (See my novel Patriots for a handy formula for determining the weight of plate steel.) Hinges must be sized accordingly, so plan on using vault door hinges. BTW, the hinge support for this kind of weight, requires either a 6 inch I-beam post with an anchor bolt footing or a fully reinforced masonry wall (with a grid work of re-bar) supplemented with a 1/4 inch plate that is at least 4 inches wide, running vertically.) If you aren’t mechanically inclined and are willing to pay a bit more, you could of course also by a commercially made vault door.

Lastly, regardless of the door design that you choose, keep in mind that a “decorative” 20 inch thick masonry wall +/-6 feet forward of your front door is cheap insurance that your front door won’t come under rifle fire from looters except up close and personal. (And then they’ll probably be reluctant to subject themselves to ricochets.) BTW make sure that the wall is at least three times the width of your door. For those of you on a budget: Buy a lot of sandbags. They are sometimes available through military surplus stores, but the best way to buy them is to bid on a lot at a DRMO surplus auction. BTW, DRMO auctions are also a great place to pick up concertina wire at near scrap metal prices.

Letter Re: Sambucol (Black Elder) for Influenza

Intro From JWR: I’ve received more than 10 e-mails from folks on three continents about using elderberry extract for treating influenzas. However, I was reluctant to print any of them until now. I guess I was being overly cautious, because in the just past day I got two letters that cited clinical studies rather than hearsay:

Hello Jim,

I’ve been a believer in the effectiveness of an Israeli-made extract called “Sambucol” for a number of years. My seat-of-the-pants reaction is that it definitely does ward off colds/flu. The following is from the manufacturer:

Effect of Sambucol® on several strains of Influenza virus.
Sambucol®, a standardized extract, is a preparation based on the berries of the Black Elder, used as herbal remedy for influenza virus infections. It contains a potent antiviral compound, AntiVirin® as well as a high amount of three flavonoids (Bronnum-Hansen and Hansen, 1983.) The flavonoids are naturally occurring plant antioxidants.
Laboratory tests:
Sambucol® was shown to reduce hemagglutination and inhibited replication of human influenza virus type A, type B and animal strains from swine and turkeys in cell cultures.
Clinical Study:
A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical study was conducted during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. A significant improvement of the symptoms, including fever, was seen in 93.3% of the cases in the Sambucol® treated group within 2 days. A complete cure was achieved within 2 to 3 days in nearly 90% of the Sambucol® treated group and within at least 6 days in the placebo group. “Inhibition of Several Strains of Influenza Virus in Vitro and Reduction of Symptoms by an Elderberry Extract (Sambucus nigra L) during an Outbreak of Influenza B Panama”, Z. Zakay-Rones et al. J. Alt Compl Med 1995;1:361-369.

Second clinical study on flu
In a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study conducted in Norway, Sambucol® was shown to significantly reduce the duration of the flu by approximately four days. The use of rescue medication (pain relievers, etc.) was significantly less in the group receiving Sambucol® than in the placebo group. “Randomized study on the efficacy and safety of an oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections” Thom Erling & Therje Wollan, J. Int. Med. Res., 2004;32(2):132-140.

Sambucol has been the subject of two double-blind tests, both of which confirmed its efficacy. See:

I can also attest to its ability to stop flu in its tracks from personal experience. It works if one takes it at the first sign of flu symptoms. We also make our own elderberry extract, and it works as well. – D.M.

Another reader sent this useful link from the NIH:

Letter Re: Sources for Pre-1965 U.S. 90% Silver Coinage?

Mr. Rawles:
What is a good source for pre-1965 junk silver coins?

JWR Replies: I recommend that you call for prices from several coins shops in your local area. Because a $1,000 face value “junk silver” bag weighs 55 pounds, insured shipping is problematic. So it is advisable to buy locally, but definitely shop around for the best price! As previously mentioned, buying bags of pre-1965 dimes is best for barter. If you don’t have any nearby coins shop and don’t mind paying for the freight, contact the folks at Swiss America Trading. They are very reputable.

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

"Perhaps you’ve heard the one about the 700 firefighters from various states who volunteered to do rescue work following Hurricane Katrina? They sat in a hotel room in Atlanta for days getting sexual harassment training from Federal Emergency Management Agency officials. No joke. Note to Republicans eager to shovel new money at federal agencies: This is how government works." – Columnist Mona Charen

Note from JWR:

I’m still looking for more entries for the writing contest. The prize is a transferable four day course certificate, good for any course at Front Sight!

David in Israel on “Ant” Versus “Grasshopper” Survival Preparation Approaches

For years I have listened to survivalists of two sorts muse about the days after TEOTWAWKI. One is the “grasshopper” type, with a decked out M1A, full pack, and plans to live off of berries and venison. The “ant” on the other hand has saved up and purchased a nice cabin maybe a stock of fuel a nice 4×4 vehicle and some food storage, he likely even has a good solar or generator setup for power and light. Let’s fast forward five years… Now where are both of these people?

Grasshopper had a pack of food, a wad of cash and gold a mountain bike some camping gear, weighed himself down with a heavy rifle and lost same crossing a
river, but fortunately bugged far enough that he could find work as a migrant farm worker working for food and a place in the barn at night, he will likely not
find a better job and if wise will be happy he survived the worst. What he did avoid:
*Becoming a starving food rioter in town
*Dying in the woods when he realizes that the game is hunted out mid winter and the scurvy was kicking in
*Shot on sight for armed crossing of private or “Claimed” public lands
*Stripped of gear and turned out

What were grasshoppers plusses?
*Mobility even on plugged roads
*Mobility of mind–he is not tied [psychologically] to a location
*Can hop boxcars, cargo ships or a first class seat on a 747 and ride out to a better place

Ant lived happily off of stored food and solar electricity. Ant was a little older and stiff but the money he and wife saved by having one son who moved far away helped him afford a nice retreat. Sadly as the supplies dwindled they realized that their location while scenic was not irrigable out of their hand pump well and they had no knowledge or equipment
on how to rebuild the failed battery array to get the power back to a larger pump. Fortunately a young grasshopper fleeing agents of a new power in the adjoining country came seeking refuge after his first landlord was killed, and was able to pull a plough in exchange for a place to rest at night and a share in the crop.

What the ant did avoid:
*Raider/looters/masses of beggars
*Having the initial emergency be of the type that destroys his retreat
*Starvation after initial supplies ran out
*Stripped of home and gear, turned out

Ant’s Plusses
*Defined and recognized ownership of property
*Large stockpile of food and comforts
*No question where to go for refuge
*Coordination with neighbors and friends

Why such dark scenarios? I must point out that we are living at the pinnacle of human civilization. if we fall it is unlikely we will ever see a revival of the fine goods and selection we have now. The tents will wear out, the gadgets will get old and malfunction. You must be ready to run away possibly to the ends of the world to find a resting place. You must find a community with long reach that can help you if the move to safety is required. Realize the gear has a limited lifetime and value, be ready to dump your precious stuff for a better shot at life. (Yes this means dumping the battle rifle if it means a chance to stow away on a cargo ship to a peaceful region) Your retreat may not be the perfect place to survive,
if you must ditch it, don’t look back. Survival has much more to do with your trust in G-d and knowledge of survival than your special gear.

Consider the following improvised survival/travel kit:
*Shower liner – tent/tarp/rain gatherer/sleep-bag wrap
*Crisco and dryer hose lint – fire starter, candle/stove fuel,
*Cardboard – fuel, ground pad, wick for can stove
*Steel/aluminum cans – cookware, parts for liquid or solid fuel stoves and grilles
*New smoke detectors contain a 9VDC lithium cell which when paired with the right power LED can give months or years of short burst lighting (try using multiple LEDs in series to avoid burning them out)
*Any cheap bag or tote when put over the shoulder with a stick like a hobo is better than no pack at all
*Kitchen knives are better than no knife at all
*Disposable butane lighters are like gold
*Polar Fleece, wool, or Poly blankets can substitute for sleeping bag in a pinch.
*Water and pop bottles are valuable to keep you hydrated keep drinking water

The preceding list is to give you ideas and reassure you that while you may lose the best gear money can buy, at some point stuff is replaceable by other stuff. One location is also replaceable by another. If Arizona gets too dry go to Alaska, is Alaska too cold, sail for New Zealand, etc. Never relax and expect a retreat or pack of stuff to protect you, only G-d can do that, and there is no promise of survival to a nice 70-80 years of age anywhere in the Bible. Pack your mind with knowledge and don’t let your stuff stand in they way of your surviving.

Letter Re: Ballistic Protection of Building Materials

Mr Rawles,
I saw the letter you posted asking about the ballistic protection afforded by common building materials. I did some experimenting on this topic, testing the protection of concrete-filled blocks against a number of common calibers. You can see my findings here:
http://www.clairewolfe.com/wolfesblog/00001296.html and here: http://www.clairewolfe.com/wolfesblog/00001404.html
Even 8 inches of concrete offers only temporary protection from rifle ammunition (though it’s quite good against pistol fire.) For info on other materials, you might direct folks to: http://www.theboxotruth.com/ – Ian

Letter Re: Retreat Potential for The Eastern States–Virginia

I am getting a real education on this Blog. Thank you. We all witnessed the breakdown of civilization during the aftermath of Katrina. I disagree with the possibility of Charlottesville or anywhere near Charlottesville being any sort of safe haven in a real emergency. I-64 Leads directly to Staunton, VA. We know here that we are essentially a target for millions of uncivilized terrified people. If the east coast of VA needed to evacuate, we know the Shenandoah Valley would be inundated. And Charlottesville stomped into the ground on the way. I also know that the Lord God is our first line of defense. He will take care of his own. But our responsibility is to prepare physically while in this physical body. Somehow our family has been moved to acquire the talents and education to cover most areas of life on earth. We have ended up with military, police, RN, hunter with extensive survival knowledge, engineer, legal, preacher, mechanic etc. All immediate family. Now we really do need a place of refuge. Somehow we in Staunton feel the need to establish a place. With all it’s pitfalls, we are looking into West VA. – A.J.E.