Letter Re: Military Installations as a Factor in Retreat Location Selection

Hey, I just wanted to write in to comment on what seems to me like a missing element in your survival location analysis. Military installations across the United States are presumably not all evenly distributed, and the presence of these bases not only affects your location in the event of a NBC scenario, but if the Schumer] really hits the fan, even well disciplined American servicemen and women will attempt to ensure their own survival even at the cost of local civilians. Now I assume that it would take a world ending event for our military to act in that fashion, but it is within the realm of possibility. So the nature of the military bases is relevant beyond their status as nuclear targets. That is to say, Air Force bases and Navy installations pose a substantially smaller threat of local domination than do Army bases. Again, this is not to say this is likely at all, just that is possible. Further, the size of the base and its local inventories become relevant should they attempt to dominate the local area. I’m sure that there are other insights to be contributed by others more knowledgeable, but I figured it was worth sparking the discussion. Thanks so much. – J.D.

Letter Re: HK91 Magazines Inferior for Barter

Military surplus HK91 alloy magazines have been available for several years in the $1-to-$3 price range. It seems to me that the only people who should buy them are HK rifle owners who own less than 50 magazines. Before buying HK magazines as barter items, consider that the market has already been flooded with far more than are needed for the limited number of existing rifles. The German military torched most of their rifles, but sold most of the magazines. Other mags (such as for AR-15) may be great future demand, but I would not bet on the HK. – Mr. Bravo

JWR Replies: Yep, you are probably right: AR-15s are far more commonplace than HK91s (and their clones.) But don’t forget that a CETME rifle can also use HK91 magazines, and CETME owners are notoriously frugal individuals ), so chances are that they will only have four or five magazines on hand. Like everyone else WTSHTF they will suddenly want to own 25 or more magazines. Perhaps $50 is not too much to gamble with, for a potentially valuable barter commodity.

Another practical use for HK91 alloy magazines? Here is a trick that I leaned from Mr. Tango: Because of their light weight, an alloy HK91 magazine positioned top-end-up in tightly-fitting ammo pouch makes an ideal “speed” ammo holder for reloading bolt action rifles, particularly if you clip a few coils off of their magazine springs. BTW, if those mags are going to be held in double magazine pouches, tape them together with duck tape so that they don’t rattle together. Note that it is important that you always use tightly-fitting mag pouches. If they don’t fit tightly, then build up the exterior dimension of the magazine(s) with cardboard and duct tape until they do fit tightly in their pouches. (If the mags wobble in the pouches, it will be difficult to get a “purchase” to strip off the cartridges into your hand.)

Note from JWR

A reminder that we are still accepting entries for Round 2 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The writer of the best article will win a four day course certificate at Front Sight. (An up to $2,000 value!)  The deadline for entries is the last day of January, 2006.

Odds ‘n Sods

I just noticed that our compadre “Warlord” over at the Alpha-Rubicon site posted a very handy article last year about how to construct a “fan in a can” for a home fallout
shelter. See: http://www.alpharubicon.com/basicnbc/safefanwar.htm

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Noah Schactman at the Defense Tech blog mentioned an interesting briefing that is available in PDF about some recent non-lethal weapon developments:
http://www.smallwars.quantico.usmc.mil/programs/NLW/JNLWPRefBook_feb2004.pdf  Ya gotta love those caltrops!

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The folks at the AUSurvivalist site (in Australia) have some interesting documents available for free download. See:

The Memsahib’s Quote of the Day

"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." – Luke 2:10-1, KJV

Note from JWR

I wish the readers of SurvivalBlog a Joyful Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Savior. I also wish a Festive Hanukkah to our Jewish readers.  Thank you for your great letters and contributed articles, and your loyal patronage of our advertisers. Special thanks to the 28 readers that have made 10 Cent Challenge blog support contributions in recent weeks. I especially appreciate this because I know that funds are tight for many people this time of year. Have a safe, happy, and healthy Aught Six. 

Letter Re: Okay, You Have Moved to Your New Survival Retreat Home. What’s Next?

Many people are strategically relocating, getting settled into their new homes, preparing for the economic crash, and war that is surely coming. As the gent from Argentina said with hindsight: "more food" and trade goods. In addition to obtaining the obvious water, food, seeds, preparing the ground for a large garden, and protection there are some additional things all of us need to consider. Remember you are simply investing in your future. Here is my list:

* Get to know the old timers, people who are active but advanced in years. Go visit them. Have them to your home. Ask a question or two to open conversation, then shut up, and let them talk. They know who can be trusted and who cannot be trusted.
* If you want to know about a builders, plumbers, electricians, road graders or handy men, families by name, wife beaters and child molesters, ask an old timer. You will soon learn who is trustworthy and who is not. Remember, you are information gathering. Your views are not important. Ask the question and then shut up. Listen to the old timers.
* Search the local and county newspaper stacks for the names of people who were arrested and charged with a crime. You will have to be alert for these individuals as we enter into hard times.
* Identify local politicians and enforcement people with the I am God attitude. Identify their shooters. Remember most of these people have not prepared. Some you will be able to bribe, others, oh well.
* Buy more open pollinated seeds than you think you will need.
* Buy more ammunition. If this thing lasts 3-to-5 years, followed by a war you will be glad that you did.
* Buy reloading capabilities and dies. Buy lead bullet casting capabilities. Buy more powder, primers and bullets.
* Buy more clothes than you think you need.
* Buy more canned food than you think you need to last at least three years.
* Buy more gardening and mechanics tools than you think you need.
* Buy socks, shoes and boots.
* Buy local and regional maps.
* Collect telephone books for use as toilet paper.

I have another e-mail in progress that will discuss issues of war.- M.L.T.

Two Letters Re: Which Rifle and Caliber is the Best for TEOTWAWKI?

G’day from Down Under.
In you post on the TEOTWAWKI rifles, you mentioned .303s. While the rifles are plentiful, robust and inexpensive, the ammo is becoming very hard to find and expensive. Example, Winchester 303 SP is $ 48 AUD per box of 20 here. Good ex-military ball is about $80 to $100 per 100 (if you can find it) and will be at least 30 years old.
The Ishapore Mk.2s are a much better bet, cost about the same, and take 7.62 [mm NATO]. Or perhaps, one of the ex-Israeli [K98] Mausers [chambered] in .308?
However, I personally feel that the best rifle would be one of those Savage Model 24s, preferably the 24C. The choice of a shotgun or rifle barrel with the flick of a switch. Or any reliable .22 LR or .22 Winchester Magnum rimfire. This is not intended to fight with, more a foraging tool, to put food in the pot. Think about it: If you had to walk (worst case scenario) to your retreat, what would you take? Grab a brick of 22 LR. Weigh it. Now grab 500 rds of .223 or 7.62mm NATO. weigh that. I used to be able to walk miles with a MAG-58 [belt-fed 7.62mm NATO MMG] and 800 rds, plus the other 50 or so KGs, but I was a lot younger and fitter then. Now the lack of a good self loader in .223, and the rest of the platoon for back-up, has lead me to think that maybe a good 22 Mag or LR, and trying to avoid trouble, might be the way to go. JMHO, YMMV. Merry Christmas. Cheers, – Dave.


Can you please address your preference of the L1A1 over the more common metric FALs? I settled on the metric version mainly because it is generally more common, has better parts availability, cheaper and easier to find magazines, overall less expensive and just as reliable. I do add a FSE oversize mag release and a Israeli forward assist (FA) charging handle along with necessary bolt carrier modification to all my metric FALs. What am I missing by not going with the L1A1? Thanks, – C.W.

JWR Replies:  I believe that there are several distinct advantages to having an “inch pattern” (L1A1) instead of one of the metric measurement FN-FALs. These advantages include:

1.) The ability to use inch OR metric magazines.  If you have a metric FAL, you are limited to using only metric magazines.  But if you have an inch receiver rifle you can use both inch and metric mags.  (The latter wobble a bit when used in an L1A1, but they still feed reliably.)

2.) Inch magazines are sturdier than metric magazines, because they are heavier gauge steel. And if they ever do get dented, L1A1 magazines can be repaired with a mandrel block, but metric mags cannot.  (If you lay an inch mag and a metric mag side by side, you will notice that the floorplate retaining tabs on a metric magazine are turned inward, whereas they are turned outward on an inch mag. Hence there is no way for a metric magazine to accept a dent-removing mandrel.)

3.)  A larger safety selector switch that you can’t miss with your thumb.

4.) A larger, ambidextrous magazine release.  (Unlike the tiny mag release on the metric FAL, which is designed for the convenience of right handers.)

5.)  A sturdy folding charging handle is standard.  If you’ve ever tripped and fallen while carrying a metric FAL, you’ll appreciate this feature.  There is nothing quite like taking a blow  from metric charging handle to the solar plexus!

6.) Sturdier and less reflective stock furniture. The British Maranyl pebble grain black plastic furniture is practically bomb proof.

7.) Buttplates that come in a wide range of thicknesses, to accommodate shooters of various heights. Proper stock length usually means more accurate shooting.

8.) Better rear sights. OBTW, the inch pattern “Hythe” dual-aperture variant is a great sight with the versatility needed for long range shooting, close quarters combat, and night shooting. I have Hythe sights on four of the five L1A1s at the Rawles Ranch.  (The fifth rifle is a metric Para Model (folding stock) FAL “L1A1 wannabe” on which I had the receiver re-cut by Rich Saunders at Century Gun Works to accept inch magazines.)

9.) An integral winter trigger arrangement that is always stowed and available in the pistol grip.  (One downside is that L1A1s don’t have the “in the grip” miniature cleaning kit found on metric FALs.)

10.)  A slightly more efficient flash hider. (I’ve viewed a video of a nighttime test that was filmed by a SurvivalBlog reader, using identical ammo, and the difference was apparent.)

11.) Specially-designed “Sand Cut” bolts and bolt carriers, designed to operate more reliably in grungy environments.

In summary: Yes, the parts and magazines for inch pattern L1As are slightly more expensive, but the advantages that I just related more than compensate for the greater expense.

For those of you that presently own metric FALs, I suggest that you keep them and just improve them a bit:  For example, I recommend retrofitting them with inch pattern magazine releases and selector switches.  And unless you have one of the excellent Israeli-style forward assist charging handles, you should also consider retrofitting with an inch-style folding charging handle. 

All of the aforementioned parts are available from The FALFiles Marketplace. (See: http://www.falfiles.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?s=&forumid=11 )

Letter Re: The Ubiquity of the M1911 in the U.S.

Dear Mr. Rawles,
With respect to the great sidearm debate, I suspect that a much underrated feature of the M1911 family lies in the ubiquity of the family. As a disclaimer, I should note that I am an unabashed, though not uncritical, fan of the 1911 design.
I am much inclined to believe that the Schumer and the fan will become commingled in my lifetime. Assuming that they do, the ballistic superiority of a round may become less relevant than the availability of spare parts, ammunition, and expertise for keeping the gun functioning. When you start to think of these factors, the superiority of the M1911 proclaims itself.
With respect to the availability of ammunition, I believe that the .45 ACP and the [9mm] parabellum are equivalent. This factor, however, militates against the use of flavor-of-the-month (though possibly ballistically superior) rounds such as 10MM, .357 Sig, and .40 [S&W]. My father has frequently said that you can’t depend on a weapon for which you can’t find ammo in the boonies of East Texas. When you get to that point, you are left with only two real choices in pistol calibers.
The availability of spare parts distinguishes the M1911 from all comers. The CONUS “installed base” for 1911s is in the millions. I am given to understand that a total of 20 manufacturers currently produce M1911s. Because of this breadth of install base, the local gunsmith keeps enough parts in stock to perform any repairs that I need. Even if his stock runs dry, there are M1911s salted away in places that you never expect, all of which may be cannibalized to provide my 1911 with some part or another in a pinch. There is a great deal to be said for the fact that my next-door-neighbor has one, one of my coworkers has one, another coworker has 3, my financial advisor has one, all of the guys that sell guns to me carry them for self defense, my best friend from college carries one, my best friend from grad school carries one, and his roommate keeps one. Ubiquity means that somebody probably has a spare recoil spring. If the Schumer and the fan become commingled, I may need that spring. I bought a 1911 for cash once because I knew that, even if it didn’t fire, the parts were worth more than I was paying.
Let us now talk about expertise. Again, there are more people in the world who have had to disassemble and diagnose a 1911 than have had to perform these operations on a Glock. If my 1911 becomes unhappy, that base of knowledge may be incredibly valuable to me. I have addressed a pragmatic set of concerns for logistically grim world. I don’t carry 1911s because of these grim concerns, but I do think that they should legitimately inform the discussion among your readers.  My best regards and a Merry Christmas, – K.A.D.

Odds ‘n Sods

The latest statistics on annual state population increases were just released. I see that Nevada has been named the top gainer this year, yet again. Doubtless, a lot of that is attributable to folks fleeing California’s taxes, smog, crime, traffic and idiotic civilian disarmament laws. Sadly, the influx of liberal Californians is gradually turning Nevada into another California. See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/22/AR2005122200268_pf.html

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Our British cousins will be feeling the screws turned yet a bit tighter, starting in Aught Six. The latest outrage to freedom is total surveillance of private automobile movements, with a huge database that will be maintained for at least two years:  See: http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/transport/article334686.ece   Perhaps they ought to be honest and simply rename the place Airstrip One. (George Orwell was right!)

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We’ve made a few additions to the SurvivalBlog Glossary.

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The enrollment deadline to buy a Front Sight $1,200 Lifetime Challenge First Family Membership has been to extended to December 31st. Naish Piazza says this will be the last extension. In my opinion, it is a great deal that you should seriously consider. A First Family Membership makes a great Christmas gift, for those of you that were late doing your shopping.

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Kudos to #1 Son, who created new navigation buttons for our web page top bar that are faster to load.  That will be good news to the SurvivalBlog readers that, like us, live out in the dial-up connection hinterboonies.  

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Such a deal: Tapco is selling batches of 50 HK91 alloy 20 round mags for $50. See: http://www.tapco.com/product_information.asp?number=MAG3004&back=yes Even if a few turn out to be dented, that is still a fantastic price. At that price, I might buy 50 just for barter,

Survivalist Skills–Secondary Skills from Your Day Job, by Rourke

In our modern world, jobs are incredibly and increasingly specialized. Many of us have jobs that may be of little use if TSHTF and society collapses. As many of us may have to look for another way to make a buck, or perhaps more accurately to trade or barter with, consider bettering yourself by attaining a high level of proficiency in at least one secondary survival skill (the more the better).
I have listed below a few useful to survival skills, or secondary occupations that you can learn quite a bit about if you just treat it like a hobby, or a self improvement course. Along with having some informational materials, some experience, the expectation is you would also have at least the basic tools (power and hand tools and library of reference information) of the trade(s) you choose.
This also makes the point for a group working together as a team. Even the biggest Jack or Jill of all trades (which many survivalists are), would be hard pressed to really know the entire list below and have enough basic tools or supplies to do each and every on this things well. Just like with most teams, people have to play different positions well for the team to be a winner.

Alternate Energy – biogas, bio diesel, alcohol, steam power, solar cells, windmills, etc.
Ammunition Reloading Equipment & Supplies (gun repair & maintenance)
Childcare – baby sitting, preschool
Computers – may be impossible to get parts, chips in particular, but can keep them running by cannibalizing…
Construction – rough construction of homes, poles barns, etc.
Butchering – cutting and curing of meats, sausage making
Candle making – including soy based, bees wax
Dental – hygiene, dentistry, oral surgery
Electric supply & repair – home electric system design/repair, off grid
Electronics – repair of as many electronic gadgets as possible
Engine repair & maintenance. Auto, truck, tractor, small motor
Fire fighting – rescue operations in all conditions
Fishing – netting, multiple lines, trolling, ice fishing
Ham radio – this is its own category since it requires a specific license. (Now issued at three different levels)
Herbs – alternate medicine, nutrition
Home schooling – teaching supplies, text books, etc.
Hunting – trapping, snares, training hunting dogs
Farming – crops – small scale farming many crops, large scale gardening or greenhousing
Farming – livestock – chickens, rabbits, goats, bees, fish farming, turkey, hogs
Food canning & dehydration – pressure canning, dehydration of fruits and meats
HVAC – heating, venting, air conditioning and ventilation systems
Leatherwork – tanning to punching and sewing
Lumberjack – from falling trees through saw milling
Masonry – concrete flatwork, brick making, brick laying, poured walls
Medical – from EMT to MD, from bandages to surgery
Metal Working and welding
Mid wife – child birth is its own part of medicine
Plumbing – well, septic, indoor plumbing, outdoor plumbing, water filters, pumps
Security – systems, knowledge of tactics military and/or police
Seed Bank – storage of seeds for growing, hybrids, and open pollinated (heirloom)
Sewing – clothing making and repair, spinning, knitting, making cloth
Soap making – and all the things you will have to make from animals and plants
Survival Skills – wilderness skills in particular, living off the rough land
Veterinary Sciences – animal care, breeding
Wood working – everything beyond roughing; trim, cabinets, furniture

This of course is not a complete list. Looking down the curriculum of a trade school or technical college would be another good thing to do. Consider taking up at least one as a hobby or for self improvement. -Rourke  (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/survivalretreat)

JWR Adds:
I’d recommend adding the following to Rourke’s list:

Blacksmithing – Invaluable for repairs and fabrication of metal tools and parts
Machining – Important for fabricating metal parts
Welding and Torch Cutting– Absolutely invaluable for repairs and fabrication of metal parts

Rourke’s article indirectly raises the issue of retreat group dynamics and the vagaries of human nature. I’ve seen some mistakes made when assembling retreat groups, most notably:

1.) Groups that end up with preponderance of doctors, lawyers, or firemen.  This typically happens because a group founder recruits members from his close circle of friends–who all happen to be in the same profession or trade. This results in a group that lacks a good balance of skills.

2.) Groups that lack cohesive leadership. These generally turn into either philosophical debating societies or groups that spend most of their time arguing the finer points of Roberts Rules of Order. In either case, nothing gets done.

3.) Groups with either no discretionary money, or too much discretionary money.  These both lead to absurdities. In the case of the former: Groups that don’t have time to train together because the members are all working six days a week at minimum wage jobs. In the case of the latter: A group of mostly rich lawyers with an elaborate five year food supply and a bunch of expensive guns that they’ve never zeroed. Because they feel logistically “prepared” they don’t bother with tactical training or to practice traditional skills. God forbid they should get their hands dirty.

4.) Groups that are have no religious common ground, or groups with so many shared common beliefs that they become dogmatic and intolerant of anyone who doesn’t share their precise views on eschatology.

Letter Re: Fire Hose Outdoor Clothing, and FMJ vs. Hollow Points?

Dear James,
Recently I received an interesting catalog in the mail. It’s from the Duluth Trading Company, and they manufacture rugged outdoor clothing made of fire hose material. http://www.DuluthTrading.com I have not tried any of their products yet, however, I plan to in the future and just wanted to share it with you and your readers for your and their consideration.

I have a question for you too, if you don’t mind. Why is a FMJ round more desirable in combat than a Soft Point? My reasoning is that Soft Point ammo expands more, and creates a larger wound channel than a FMJ. That has been my observation on deer taken with a .30-06 150 grain Winchester Silver Tip, for example. Thank you.
Merry Christmas to you and Yours – D.O.T.

JWR Replies: In essence, I’m a believer for full metal jacket (FMJ) ammunition for rifles, and premium jacketed hollow point (JHP) ammunition for most handguns.  Hollow points are important for handguns because with their relatively low power (compared to rifles), you need all of the expansion that you can get.  FMJs are important for rifles because you never know when you will be up against an opponent that is wearing body armor (it is increasingly popular with gang members) or that is shooting at you from behind light cover.

Letter Re: .45 ACP Stopping Power and the M1911

Mr. Rawles,
First, I must say that greatly appreciate your website and the expertise that you share. I am 21, and am trying to lead getting my family and close friends prepared logistically for whatever may be coming down in the future. Your information and suggestions are a time/money saver (and likely eventually a life saver.) “Patriots” is an invaluable resource, and more can always be gleaned every time it is read. Thank you!
I wanted to comment on the 45 ACP post from Dec. 20. I generally shy away from handgun discussions because handguns are a mediocre weapon, and the discussions are predictable. In my opinion, the Army Aviators story about the stopping power of a .45 is really inconsequential. If he really did hit the enemy with all 29 rounds, then he didn’t hit him COM. The 3 rounds of 45 ACP and the previous damage from the 9mm is what dropped him. He wasn’t dropped because the .45 is a “super death ray gun”, but is likely because of 3 aimed shots to a vital area. To say the 3 aimed .45 slugs is better than 29 aimed 9mm slugs is not accurate. To say that 3 aimed .45 slugs is better that 29 not-aimed shots would be more accurate. It’s just a thought, because I don’t want to criticize, and I admire his brave service in the army.
I appreciate and understand the fondness of the ‘Warhorse’ (I won’t say ‘old’ Warhorse. I have completed several KT Ordnance “80% Complete” Model 1911s with great success. (See: http://www.ktordnance.com/kto/index.php ) Although the process is very rewarding, I learned that my taste for expensive parts (Smith&Alexander; Ed Brown beavertails, sears, hammers, triggers; Kart barrels; Caspian slides…oh it goes on) can really add up. There can be a lot said for understanding a weapons mechanism and operation, and the 80% project is a good way to understand the basics. I was continually humbled by the vastness of experience needed to successfully do this as a profession.
For someone considering a 80% [KT Ordnance] ‘build’, I would say to set a budget and not exceed it. A good 3 inch group gun can be put together for $500-$600, and that is all that is really needed. A 1911 that shoots 1 inch or less is wonderful, but reliability is second to none! I now prefer the ‘abomination’ called the Glock. With a capacity of 13+1 .45 ACPs, it puts the odds back in the wielders favor. The price is usually half that of a comparable ‘value’ 1911.
‘A 9mm might expand but a 45 won’t shrink’. True, however there are good reasons for having a 9mm in a one’s cache. First, it is so common. Ammunition is cheap. There are loads available that have more foot-pounds energy than .45 ACP hardball (but comparing premium self defense loads to UMC ball isn’t exactly a fair comparison). The 9mm trumps the .38 Special snubby, especially if you look at the Glock 26. The G26 is 10+1(compared to 5 shots in a snub nose), accepts high caps., and the 9mm is more powerful than the 38. The 9mm may be more lady friendly, although the .45 is mild enough to shoot that really anyone should be able to feel comfortable with it(the .45 is much more mild than the 40 S&W which many female police officers must shoot, once a year typically). Capacity is some what important, although familiarity with tactical and emergency reloads is equally as important. I did some 1911 work for a ex-SWAT and nationally known 3-gun guy, and he now prefers a Glock 17 (9mm) because of it’s capacity and his accomplished skill with the sidearm he shoots 20,000 rounds a year with. It really shouldn’t be the first choice if there is a .45 or 10mm available, but it was also provide valuable ‘wampum’ to a post collapse situation (like in your novel with the trade of the Browning Hi-Power for the horse!) Once again, a hearty thanks for your website and book. Sincerely, – The Legend