Jim’s Quote of the Day:

"I tell ye true, liberty is the best of all things; never live beneath the noose of a servile halter." – William Wallace, Address to the Scots, circa 1300

Note from JWR:

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Alternate Fluids for Bore Cleaning and Gun Lubrication

SurvivalBlog reader L.M. alerted me to an informative article at Armalite’s web site about how automatic transmission fluid can be used as a firearm bore cleaner, and how motor oil can be used as a gun lubricant. Even if you are committed to Break-Free and Hoppes #9 (like me), this is good to know WTSHTF and cleaning supplies get scarce. See: http://www.armalite.com/library/techNotes/tnote64.htm.

Letter Re: Road Blocks and “Spider Holes”

Hello James,
I have been thinking back upon your novel Patriots and the importance the “spider holes” played.  That sparked another memory, one of discussion some time ago in the blog about blocking roads, one gentleman even mentioned dropping a tree across his drive if necessary. What would be a good, better, best barricade of the next four,… and what else could you suggest?
1). Dropped Trees/ telephone pole, logs, et cetera
2). Large boulders, (3′ on up)
3). Posts buried but sticking up to random heights
4). Some sort of a berm or trench
In line with my first question, what is a suitable tactical layout, (i.e.- spacing) for “foxholes” [or “spider holes”] and what type of construction would you recommend? – The Wanderer

JWR Replies: I generally recommend mobile roadblocks, in all but the absolute worst case exigent circumstances. (Waves of crazed mutant cannibal zombies.)  In wooded or steep country, a D4 (or larger) Caterpillar tractor parked perpendicular to a road with its blade dropped works just dandy.  Nobody is going to be able to move it unless they have the ability start it up. BTW, a large car or truck with its tires deflated (remove the valve stems) can work nearly as well. Don’t forget that permanent road blocks work both ways. The beauty of a mobile road block is that you can still exit your property on short notice.

As for foxholes and spider holes, their spacing depends on the terrain and vegetation. In open, fairly level country, they should be spaced as much as 20 yards apart.  In densely wooded country, perhaps as little as 5 yards apart.  They should be arrayed in a “Lazy W” pattern, as shown/described in U.S. Army Field Manuals (FMs) such as Chapter 2 of FM 21-75  (See: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/army/fm/21-75/.) I describe construction techniques fox holes and spider holes (the latter are one man fox holes with camouflaged covers) in my novel Patriots.   They should be lined with plywood. BTW, don’t forget that drainage is crucial for fighting positions in all but the driest of climates.

Letter Re: How to Buy Silver?

Why [do you] recommend [serialized] 100 ounce silver bars when 90% silver coins are selling at spot and the bars are at spot plus $.30 (this is from www.cmi-gold-silver.com in Phoenix)? It seems like silver coins would be the better choice because they are cheaper and more versatile than 100 ounce bars. – Springmtnd

JWR Replies: If you can buy circulated pre-1965 U.S. silver coinage at spot, that is fantastic. Even after the recent dip, most dealers currently charge around 7 times face value ($7,000 per $1,000 face value bag.) As a point of reference, a $1,000 bag with typically worn coins contains about 715 ounces of silver. Here is the math: 715 x $9.50 per ounce = $6,792. That–or near that–is what most “storefront” (coin shop) dealers would pay, wholesale. Typically they would then re-sell it for 3% to 10% more. (Closer to the lower end of that range on half-bag or larger quantities.)

I agree that coins are more versatile that bullion bars. I only recommended 100 ounce bars for non-barter investing, because they generally carry a lower dealer premium. Coins only take up a bit more storage space, and they weigh only 10% more that bars, per dollar value. So if you have the opportunity to buy coins cheap, then go for it!  For any of you  reading this who are wondering about size and weight:  A $1,000 bag weighs around 55 pounds, and is about the size of a bowling ball. Like the 100 ounce bars, the bullion bags make great “ballast” for the bottom of a gun vault.

Two Letters Re: Changing The Retreat Locale Paradigm: Cellular Phones and Two-Way Satellite Internet Systems

Firstly let me congratulate you on taking your blog full-time. It has proved an excellent resource for myself and getting friends and family to see the benefits of preparedness. Almost as effective as your novel, in fact! I hope resources will permit me to become a contributing reader in the very near future.

A quick note on Cellular Broadband for remote locations, several companies are now offering broadband speed to cell phones or mobile devices(such as the Palm Treo or the RIM Blackberry). Several of these phones can act as a modem: by attaching the cellular phone to the computer it can act as the wireless PC card mentioned in Keith’s letter. This has two benefits: the phones often have better antennas then the PC cards(at least in my experience) and the monthly data plans for handheld devices are often cheaper than for dedicated PC cards.
The downside is that while you are away from the computer (with your cell phone) the computer is no longer online. The newest Verizon Blackberry offering has this ability, I am certain we will see many more to follow.

Having Email and Internet on one’s cell phone may seem frivolous, but I see a very real benefit in being able to receive emails and notifications about news, severe weather, etc while away from my computer. Thank you again for such an excellent resource. Sincerely, – Pat


To begin with, MOST of the sat connections are NOT for multiple people. The key is to setup a NAT/Proxy on the computer that connects to the satellite service and let it be the gateway to the net for all the other machines behind that machine.

We have used a directPC unit with 20 people getting net access via one account and machine. the business version is designed for letting lots of folks access at the same time, but the consumer units are way cheaper and the monthly charges are about $99 per month.

I am considering getting a RV unit for my search and rescue vehicle to setup mobile command posts and information units.

ALL of it costs, so take baby steps. I also have some experience with HF packet radio rigs, but they are mostly suited for sending emails, and not in great volume.

A good HF radio with a Packet TNC runs about 1000 to 2000 [baud], but can give you some email from way away places.

a combination of a sat connection along with and HF rig could be mighty handy if TEOTWAWKI materializes. – M.R.

Odds ‘n Sods:

I just learned that Ken Timmerman, my former colleague at Defense Electronics magazine, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize! See: http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2006/2/8/111611.shtml?s=ic Back in the late 1980s Ken was living in Paris and was a columnist for Defense Electronics. At the time I was an Associate Editor, and I edited some of his columns. Since he was in tight with folks in both Parisian defense and diplomatic circles (he speaks fluent French), we had some fascinating conversations and on-line chats.) In the same era, Ken edited the Middle East Defense News newsletter (a.k.a. MEDNews.) His most recent book, “Countdown to Crisis: The Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran,” was published in Aught Five. I highly recommend it.

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Doc at Big Secrets recommends this site with tons of “hands on” practical info: http://www.enterpriseworks.org/vita.asp

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Here is an Agriculture Department report on the efficacy of drilling or digging do-it-yourself water wells: http://www.fao.org/documents/show_cdr.asp?url_file=/docrep/X5567E/x5567e00.htm

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A reader pointed me to an interesting site on general survival topics: http://www.survivalmonkey.com/ It is particularly useful for its PDF files and links.

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For those of you that are into gardening and livestock, be sure to visit the Homesteading Today web site. (http://www.homesteadingtoday.com). Don’t miss their interesting discussion forums.

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There is a site with a handy graphical summary of current hacking and Internet virus threats: http://securitywizardry.com/radar.htm

Important Note from JWR:

Well, I’ve taken the plunge: I just gave my boss two months notice(Up until now, I have been working a “day job” as a full time salaried technical writer, and just blogging part time.) As of the last day of March, I will be devoting myself to writing about survival and preparedness topics and will be republishing my novel “Patriots.”

My immediate goal is to build up the number of SurvivalBlog advertisers as well as the number of  “10 Cent Challenge” contributors. If you feel convicted to do so, please pitch in your 10 cents. Thusfar, only 65 readers (out of 9000+ who read SurvivalBlog at least once a week) have ponied up 10 cents a day, or more.

More importantly, if you have any personal contacts with a company that is a potential advertiser, please ask them to get a SurvivalBlog banner ad. Our ads are very inexpensive compared to a magazine ad. (Starting at as little as $55 per month!) BTW, you can mention that our current advertisers report that their business has increased anywhere from 25% to 300% after they started running their SurvivalBlog ads.

The Big Dip Makes Silver a Screaming Buy

The big 48 cent “profit taking” drop in the spot price of silver yesterday represents a great buying opportunity. For those of you that felt that you “missed the boat” this dip is your chance to buy some silver before the bull resumes his charge. For those of you that already have a pile of silver, don’t let short term volatility like this spook you. We are in the opening stages of secular bull market in precious metals that may last a full decade. The long term charts at Kitco.com should convince you.Quit hesitating and Buy! (Yes, I mean you too, Fred.)

Letter Re: Changing The Retreat Locale Paradigm: Cellular Phones and Two-Way Satellite Internet Systems

Regarding your post on the above topics, another new satellite service of interest might be www.wildblue.com, who have been marketing themselves through rural telephone and electricity co-operatives.

As an alternative to a satellite ISP, [cellular services such as] Cingular, T-Mobile, and Verizon are beginning to offer wireless broadband services in limited areas. Cingular, for example, offers something they call BroadBandConnect, which can be added to your current account. One would then obtain a wireless PC card (modem card) and install it into your laptop or desktop(with additional hardware). For a static desktop setup, I have looked into replacing the built-in antenna on the wireless PC card with a better antenna from Wilson Antennas (www.wpsantennas.com.) All this for much less money invested in hardware and a less costly monthly fee than for satellite (about $100 in hardware and $60-70 for monthly service for the wireless broadband.) Right now these wireless services are offered in limited locations, but the networks will expand quickly, I believe. Another alternative, I’m hoping Wi-Max will begin to show up at the end of this year!!!

An additional nifty piece of equipment is a cellular docking station which allows you to connect your hardwire house phones into your cell phone and forget about a land line. To improve reception, go to Wilson Antenna and get a better antenna hookup for your cell while it’s in the docking station. Regards, – Keith

Letter Re: Lessons From The European 14th to 17th Century Plague Pandemics

I just completed reading a book entitled, “Return of the Black Death: The World’s Greatest Serial Killer” by Susan Scott and Christopher Duncan.
This book is a history of the Black Death that gripped Europe from October of 1347 through the late 1600s. The premise of the book is that the disease that caused the plague was NOT the Bubonic Plague – which is spread by rat fleas and is a bacteria – but a viral disease and a version of hemorrhagic fever possibly related to Ebola. They make the case rather convincingly based upon accounts of the course of the disease that were written at the time and on records kept by local church parishes of deaths from the plague via which they are able to follow the course of the disease in a number of small towns.
From the records it is easy to see that the disease did not spread in a manner which would be typical for a disease spread by rats and fleas, but was consistent with a disease spread by human contact. The book convinced me that their premise is correct and that we have much to fear from a possible re-emergence of this disease. At the time of its first emergence the disease took three years to kill half the population of Europe – moving at essentially a walking pace from its point of origin in Italy up through central Europe then England, Scandinavia, and finally even Iceland. Today the progress would be MUCH more rapid. The really scary part about the original Black Death is that a person is contagious for about three weeks before they even become aware that they are infected. The course of the disease is generally about 37 days. The latent period (the period where one is infected but not infectious) being about 12 days, followed by an infectious period of about 21 days which is BEFORE the first symptoms appear. Then the symptomatic period is generally one to five days before death finally occurs. The symptoms initially consist of red and/or black splotches on the chest known at the time as God’s Tokens – from the time the “Tokens”appear a person generally has about three days to live.
On your web site there is has been talk about self quarantine and what sort of time frame one would need to prepare for. This book gives a pretty good idea based on real events. First they tried 30 days and the disease still spread so, over time the quarantine period was changed to 40 days. This fits with the books view of the course of the disease – a person who is infected might not be showing any signs at 30 days so the quarantine must extend beyond that. The 40 day quarantine period was enough to stop the spread of the disease, but only in households where they already knew the disease was present. So, if someone in a house became sick with the plague the house was quarantined for 40 days from the last signs of the disease. For example, if the father becomes sick and shows signs of the plague then the house is quarantined for 40 days from his death or recovery. If anyone else becomes sick after that time – during the quarantine – the quarantine period is extended for an additional 40 days from that person’s death or recovery.
Finally, it can be seen from examples given in the book that a better self quarantine period for people trying to avoid the disease completely is something on the order of 18 months to 2 years. For example, in the town of Penrith, in England, the disease struck in September of 1597. The last recorded case of death by plague in the town from this same outbreak was in January of 1599! The population of the town was about 1350 people at the start and by the end of the epidemic about 640 people died from the black death – 48% of the town died in the epidemic! In another town named Eyam – also in England and also using the church records – the disease follows the same course, with one twist. The inhabitants of the town agreed to create their own quarantine or “cordon sanitaire” around the town and allow no-one in or out as they were the only town in the area with the plague and did not want to spread it to others. The outbreak started in the summer of 1665 and continued through the following fall and winter and re-emerged with renewed intensity during the spring and summer of 1666 until it finally burned out during that winter with the last recorded death from plague being in December 1666. The town had 350 inhabitants before the plague and 260 died of it – a death rate of 75%! The Rector of the town, who survived the epidemic, wrote the following in a letter to his father after the plague has passed: “The condition of this place hath been so dreadful that I persuade myself it exceedeth all history and example. I may truly say that our Town has become a Golgotha, a place of skulls; and had there not been a small amount of us left, we had been as Sodom and like unto Gomorrah. My ears never heard such doleful lamentations. My nose never smelt such noisome smells and my eyes never beheld such ghastly spectacles.”
I consider myself fairly knowledgeable on a lot of these things, but this book was a real eye opener on what happened during the time of the Black Death and how drastically it affected society. Another thing that I found very interesting was how quickly society recovered. However, I think that is based on the level of knowledge at the time. Virtually everyone knew how to raise their own food and specialization was not so pronounced. If the same plague were to strike today I am quite sure that our society would collapse for an extended period of time. We are much too interdependent and people do NOT have the knowledge of how everything worked as the people of that time did. I came away from reading this book with a new found desire to increase my supplies and preparedness! – Tim P.

Letter Re: Alternate Sources for Pharmaceuticals

Hello Mr. Rawles
Several years back, I would go with my church on mission trips to Northern Mexico, while there I would stop at the local Pharmacies and stock up on antibiotics. I bought several full treatment doses of Zithromycin, Cipro, and some Neosporin eye drops, and paid less than $50.00 American for all of it. It was not out of some dusty bottle off a dirty shelf, but boxed and in foil packs for long term storage in a clean modern Pharmacy with an English speaking pharmacist. They also had a more realistic shelf life than we have here in the U.S. The U.S. will allow you to bring back a three month supply for personal use and will let you import (Mail order) a three month supply for personal use. I have no interest in ordering “RED FLAG” items like narcotics, but I would like to restock my supply of antibiotics, and others may want to stock up on home meds. Do you or any fellow readers have any experience with dealing in this by mail order, and or have someone that they recommend? Thanks as always, – Rusty

A “Little Ice Age” Starting at Mid-Century?

The UPI recently ran a news story from the RussianNovosti news service about a Russian astronomer that has predicted that Earth will experience a “mini Ice Age” in the middle of this century, caused by low solar activity. See:  http://upi.com/NewsTrack/view.php?StoryID=20060207-041447-2345r. Here is an excerpt from the article: “Khabibullo Abdusamatov of the Pulkovo Astronomic Observatory in St. Petersburg said Monday that temperatures will begin falling six or seven years from now, when global warming caused by increased solar activity in the 20th century reaches its peak, RIA Novosti reported.  The coldest period will occur 15 to 20 years after a major solar output decline between 2035 and 2045, Abdusamatov said. Dramatic changes in the earth’s surface temperatures are an ordinary phenomenon, not an anomaly, he said, and result from variations in the sun’s energy output and ultraviolet radiation. The Northern Hemisphere’s most recent cool-down period occurred between 1645 and 1705. The resulting period, known as the Little Ice Age, left canals in the Netherlands frozen solid and forced people in Greenland to abandon their houses to glaciers, the scientist said.”

Letter Re: Defensive Shotguns on a Budget

The Mossberg Model 500 has some very good safety ergonomics that make it a good choice for an “under the bed” shotgun for families with children. When it is stored with the action closed on an empty chamber, it requires several steps before shooting. While it is not difficult to learn to press the action release button behind the trigger guard, rack the action, and switch off the intuitive forward/rearward safety, before shooting, it is difficult for an untrained child or a miscreant to do this.

An uninformed/untrained burglar who finds a Mossberg in this condition, and who intends to shoot it, is likely to do the following: pull the trigger. Nothing. Slide the safety forward. Nothing. Try to rack the slide. Nothing. What is easy for the informed shooter is difficult for the uninformed, making the Mossberg an ideal choice. – Mr. Bravo

JWR Replies:  It is also noteworthy that the Mossberg 500 series is a very robust design with dual slide bars. It has proven much more reliable than some more expensive models, such as the Ithaca Model 37/87 series and the finicky Remington 1100. Don’t let the low price of the Mossberg 500 dissuade you. It is like buying a Chevy instead of a Ferrari.  Both will get you from Point A to Point B. But one of them will cost you a lot more for the fancy name. In many ways, I would rather have three Mossberg 500s than one Benelli.  (And the cash outlay would be about the same, either way.)