State By State – Montana

Population: 903,000.
Population Density: 6.1 per square mile (Rank 18 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 147,000 square miles (rank 4 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $671/yr. (rank 38 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $451/yr. (rank 26 of 50).
Crime Safety Ranking: 10 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 92%.
Per capita income: $22,518 (rank 46 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 8 of 50.
Montana Agriculture reference:
Montana Crops: Potatoes, sugar beats, sorghum, alfalfa, grass hay, and grains.
Plusses: Very low crime rate! Very low population density. Minimal gun laws. Good schools. A very non-intrusive government. (For example, in the 1990s there were a few years with no daylight speed limit on most of Montana’s highways outside of city limits.) Low car insurance rates.
Minuses: Very cold winters, especially east of the Great Divide, and a short growing season. (The number of frost free days range from 139 days in Glendive to just 39 days in Ovando!) Insufficient crop diversity. Low wages. Montana’s missile fields are still in the Russian target structure.
Lower elevation areas west of the Great Divide (and upwind of the missile fields) are recommended.
Note: I probably should have given Montana a lower ranking, due to its cold climate and short growing season. However, because of Montana’s favorable gun laws, low crime rate, and light population density, I bumped it up the list.
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 2 of 19.

A Recent Relocatee to Montana Adds The Following:
Jim: I am not a religious nut when I tell you the Holy Spirit impressed my entire family we were all to leave where we lived and head to Montana. So I started visiting
the real estate web sites searching for homes that might fit our particular requirements. We arrived with a list of 46 homes in a binder sorted by area/city etc. After
spending seven days working out of the Flathead Lake / Kalispell area and looking at 28 homes we were discouraged. We looked at properties up to $450,000. Price was not the issue. The issue was being at peace with our purchase. After seven days my son in law called to say we should go up to Eureka and look at the houses we had printed out for that area. So I called a realtor’s agent and gave her a list of eighteen properties with the liberty to weed out those that she thought would not fit. We looked at eight properties and one twice.
All of the properties appeared to belong to Christians of one flavor or another. Some we met just outright stated they were believers. After leaving the realtor we discussed the merits of one property some more. It had all the things we require: five bedrooms, two for offices, 2 plus acres, multiple bug out routes, two tillable acres, about two feet of snow per year, plenty of wood nearby, a lake filled with ducks and geese. Plus we have plenty deer, elk, bears, game birds, chickens in the spring, and more available land in the general area. The growing season is 158 days. The land is sub irrigated and we have a deep thirty gallon per minute well. Water is just seven feet down. After several hours of contemplation, some prayer the Holy Spirit simply said you will be safe here. After purchasing we learned the seller failed to disclose the presence of a questionable unrecorded easement and spring. These undisclosed issues will work themselves out in time. We are about 20 miles from the Canadian Border. I am an American, so I will stay here regardless of what happens. This is a very nice home, but it may just prove to be our base camp while establishing something more remote. In the coming times of confusion, I believe that boldness, good planning, stealth and mobility will be key to retaking our nation. The wind currents are favorable to protect us from most fallout. We are situated on the edge of a valley between two mountains. I can close the roads with chain saws and some old vehicles stored nearby without trouble. The hillside provides three good LP/OP positions with places for many spider holes. Bug out into the National Forest is behind the home or down the road. The plus side of living here is that most of the people profess to be Believers without ever asking them. There are the drug pushers and users in the high school and we will gather their names for future reference. Everybody works hard at whatever they do. The down side of moving to a non-affluent area is that the people do not have the wherewithal to prepare for what is coming. Some are on welfare. So if they do not leave they will eventually become part of the problem. The only thing I will be able to help them with is seed and prayer. Unless we get a windfall my family of twelve is all I can prepare for.
I am 64 years old and splitting six cords of wood. We have sufficient food to carry us for a good while plus seed, game, and fish. We will be putting in a garden and canning vegetables and storing, smoked meats (am building a smoke house in the spring). We are putting up enough fuel to last us for at least two years. My priorities are water, food and seeds, fuel, fire heat, natural medicine, clothing, shoes, trade goods, tools, trade coins etc. We have sufficient weapons and supplies. Our choice of weapons are .45 ACP, .22, .223, .308, plus other hunting calibers. We would like to see things remain stable for two more years so I can pay this place off, but can get by if things crash ten minutes from now. All of us need to remember if we have a real financial crash as the result of any disaster, all of us will be in the same boat. This includes the bankers as well. The crash will be worldwide. We who survive the crash, food riots, anarchy, civil war and the attack on America that follows can purchase property for reasonable prices with real money. My home insurance is about $1,000 per year but my rural auto insurance just went down. License plates for vehicles twelve years and older are a onetime $76. Food costs are not too bad yet. We make a weekly trip to the larger stores in Kalispell to buy in bulk. We are filling our fuel tanks quietly. I recently learned that before 911 there were sixteen Border Patrol in the area. Now there are about seventy. They appear to have police powers twenty five miles south of the Canadian border and they act like we Americas were the enemy. Something to remember when you move close to the Canadian border.
Lord bless you and your family with happiness and joy. – M. in Montana.

Letter Re: HK-91 Magazines for CETME Rifles

Jim, just to let you know, for anyone on a budget like me, the surplus G3/HK-91 magazines for sale by Tapco function very nicely in my CETME. No hangups or malfunctions. I bought 100 of these and some require a little cleaning, but at $1.99 each they are a good bargain. With all the recent news of gun confiscation in New Orleans this may be just the “crisis” the feds are looking for to ‘slow down’ or stop entirely surplus gear. I suggest everyone buy ‘in quantity’ any firearms supplies of this nature.

JWR Replies: In case Tapco has sold out, the same alloy G3 magazines are also sold by Cheaper Than Dirt. At that price, everyone with an HK-91 or CETME should buy at least 50 of them. OBTW, one important proviso: G3/HK-91 magazines fit and function in most CETMES, but not vice versa!

Letter Re: Been There, Done That, Got the T-Shirt

I am Mr. Sierra, and yes I bought a SurvivalBlog T-Shirt… as well as survival Freeze Dried Foods and Water Barrels and Pump…so following the advice of the Blog have done that. I do have a surplus Military Winter Sleeping Bag with a Gore-tex cover. Carrying my snubbie around as a concealed carry firearm while returning a video to store etc, is
comforting, concealable, and better than my pointed index finger in my jeans pocket. 😉

One thing I read on the Blog today was about Stress Reduction [David in Israel’s article, posted on 12 Sept. ’05] which I found very helpful. On the one hand, by buying the SurvivalBlog T-shirt with Robert A. Heinlein quote of what a human being should be able to do…and I thought, one of those things, if one has a faith in the great beyond, heaven etc…is that we are all going to meet our maker someday. No matter how much we have in stock to prepare for the worst or whatever, being obsessively survival minded stresses out the spiritual sensitiveness and has the tendencies to keep us thinking we are only a human piece of meat and nothing more that needs to survive. That produces stress, and keeps are mental focus on just the physical. We are more than physical bodies and matter right? I desire to keep a balance of being able, like Heinlein, to weed a garden, program a computer, change a diaper, and shoot nine holes in a pie plate at 100 yards with my M1A, and meditate and connect with that greater source of myself to be calm and peaceful, with a clear mind and able soul. Survival and preparedness is a important factor, and we should be able to work thru most any emergency that threatens our lives, homes, and families…while connecting to that spiritual source within us that can transcend the negative evil in this world, and give us peace and happiness and thankfulness for having what we got. Great Blog! – Mr. Sierra

Letter Re: Leatherman and Craftsman Pocket Tools

Leathermans are great, but I also have two different ones from Sears Craftsman. My favorite one has its main tool as lineman’s pliers that are slip joints, replaceable screwdriver tips, and very functional wood saw (which I think is important). Their other one that I like is a vise grip style needle nose. I bought these about 3 years ago and either they stopped selling them in the People’s Republic of New York or they discontinued them all together. I wanted to buy an extra of each. BTW–your book is great, as is your website, I bought it from Fred’s M14 Stocks as well as a few copies for friends–that love it also. Will you be writing another one? – D.F

JWR Replies: All of the major U.S. made brands (like Gerber, Leatherman, and Craftsman) each have their strong points. Personally, I like the Leatherman, but some folks swear that the pliers on the Gerber Multi-Plier tools are superior. To each his own… But regardless, be sure that you get an American-made tool, since the ones made in mainland China are flimsy junk, and are made with lao gai system slave labor!

Yes, I have more book in the works. The first will be a book titled Rawles on Retreats and Relocation.That should be available for ordering in early Aught Six.

Letter Re: Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina

Dear Mr. Rawles,
I post as “Preacherman”, one of the moderators on The High Road (, a forum for firearms enthusiasts and the Second Amendment. I wanted to draw your attention to two threads I posted in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, containing “lessons learned” on the ground (I live in Louisiana). There have been many member responses, often including good points and valuable information. The threads may be found at:
There are a number of other threads in our Strategies & Tactics forum dealing with lessons learned after Katrina, particularly bug-out and survival needs. I hope you’ll find them of interest. Thank you for your interesting and informative Blog. I’ll be a regular reader! God Bless – Reverend. P., Louisiana

Letter Re: Survival Battery on a Budget

Dear Mr. Rawles,
I have followed your writings and bought your book Patriots which I have read several times. Now I am enjoying reading your blog everyday and all the profiles and exploring your links. You have lots of great ideas and have obviously spent a lot on equipment and supplies. Not everyone has many thousands of dollars every year to put into preparations, so I am wondering if you could say something about a low-cost strategy.

For example, a no-holds barred firearms battery may include (in various quantities):
* FAL .308 ( most are $1,000 – $1,500) plus 20 or more magazines, plus spare springs, extractor, firing pin, ejector, etc., plus 1,000+ rounds of ammo
* .308 bolt action such as Rem M700, plus a few extra magazine, spare parts, scope, and another 500+ rounds of .308 ammo
* 12 ga. pump shotgun such as Rem 870 Police 7-shot (about $400), plus spare parts, and 500+ slugs and shotshells
* 1911 .45 ACP (about $600), plus 10+ magazines, spare springs, extractor, firing pin, ejector, and 1,000+ rounds of ammo

On the other hand, a lower cost version might be:
* .308 bolt and scope such as a Savage 110 for less than $500, plus spare parts and 1,000 rounds of ammo
* 12 ga. “Plain Jane” Mossberg or Remington pump or double barrel coach gun (such as Stoeger) for about $250, spare parts and 500 shotshells; or even a lever action carbine such as a Winchester or Marlin in a pistol caliber (.357, .44, .45 LC)
* .357 Ruger GP100 plus 1,000 rounds of ammo, or perhaps a Hi Power clone such as from FEG, or even a Makarov (under $300)

Practically every defensive situation I can think of except all out war seems as though it could be handled primarily by the shotgun with slugs or buckshot, with a handgun for “always there” carry, and the scoped rifle for hunting and defensive beyond 50 yards. Magazines can be a huge expense so eliminating as many of those as possible would keep costs down.

Another example: I like the idea of “owning the night” in a chaotic situation. But what can those of us who cannot afford many thousands of dollars for multiple sets of night vision goggles do that would give us an advantage without all the technology?

Anyway, I would appreciate reading your thoughts along these lines. Especially if you could include the “ideal” and the “low cost alternative” for each factor you discuss in the future. Many thanks for your inspiration and ideas. You have taken a bold step to sound the warning and help others. Sincerely, – J.B.

JWR Replies:

Yes, budgets do vary. But prioritizing is the key. What is more important? That big screen HDTV or jet ski in the garage, or the lives of your wife and children? TANSTAAFL.

Your “lower cost version” battery would definitely do in pinch. As I often say, it is the man or woman behind the rifle that determines its effectiveness. In the right hands a $150 sporterized WWI vintage bolt-action Springfield or Mauser rifle is much more to be feared than a $3,000 Steyr AUG or SIG-AMT.

Regarding Handguns: You mentioned FEG Hi-Power clones and Makarovs. But for about the same amount of money you could buy a used military surplus Argentine M1911 clone (M1927 “Systema Colts”.) Do consider that .45 ACP is much superior to 9mm Parabellum or 9mm Makarov for stopping two legged predators!

Regarding Night Vision Gear: If you are on a very tight budget, think in terms of tanglefoot wire, concertina wire (sometimes available at scrap metal prices at U.S. Army DRMO auctions) and trip flares to give you an advantage in defending your retreat at night.

Regarding Magazines: I am of the firm opinion that six magazines per weapon is a bare minimum. If you can’t afford that, then perhaps you need to consider a less expensive rifle.As I pointed out in previous posts, some rifles such as Valmet .308s, Steyr AUGs, and AR-10s (from some makers) are essentially limited to accepting only very expensive OEM magazines. One reason that I like FALs and L1A1s is that the magazines can usually be found for $6 to $8 at gun shows. HK-91/CETME magazines are even less expensive than that! (See the letter on this subject in today’s blog entries.)

Regarding Lever Action Rifles/Carbines Chambered in Pistol Calibers: I do not recommend these, except perhaps as secondary small game hunting/marksmanship training guns. IMHO, they are underpowered for stopping both deer-class wild game and men. The advantage of having both a handgun and a long gun chambered in the same cartridge is far outweighed by the disadvantage of having an under-powered long gun! If you want a lever gun, I recommend that you make it a .30-30 or .45-70!

Letter Re: Diesel “Rustling” in California’s Central Valley

Mr. Rawles,
I thought you might be interested in this article from the LA Times today:,0,5207254.story?coll=la-home-business

With $3.25 per gallon diesel,we now have “fuel rustlers” stealing from ranchers. In your writings you always point out that our fuel storage tanks should be underground and the pumps disguised. Sound advice!

Letter Re: Request for Clarification Regarding Diesel Engine Invulnerability to EMP

Jim, after checking out the articles on the best transportation during EMP, I’m a little confused. I read, but may not have
understood, that the older pickups (1988) with diesel engines were best. Also that 1994 and older were best, and that
the newer trucks are protected today. Can someone help since I am looking for a diesel pickup? – G.C.

JWR Replies: Frankly, I’m also a bit befuddled by the conflicting data. Perhaps some kind soul out there that has more knowledge on the subject than I do can clarify exactly which makes/vintages of diesel engines are EMP resistant, and which are not. (I have never owned a diesel, since the exhaust fumes give the Memsahib headaches. So I’ve never studied this subject in detail.)

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

"The right of self-defense is the first law of nature; in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest possible limits. … and [when] the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, [then] liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction." – St. George Tucker, Judge of the Virginia Supreme Court 1803

Note from JWR:

Today, I’m covering Louisiana, the seventh of 19 states in my rankings of states by their retreat potential. Note that I wrote the following a year ago–long before Hurricane Katrina arrived. I certainly was right when I warned “Coastal Louisiana and +/- 50 miles inland is in the hurricane zone”–but I didn’t need to be any sort of sage with arcane knowledge to figure that out…

State By State – Louisiana

Population: 4.5 million.
Population Density: 94.2 per square mile (Rank 2 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 47,751 square miles (rank 8 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $928/yr. (rank 30 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $721/yr. (rank 2 of 50)
Crime Safety Ranking: 50 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 94%.
Per capita income: $23,090 (rank 45 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 34 of 50.
Plusses: Mild climate. Low property taxes. Firearms freedom.
Minuses: Coastal Louisiana and +/- 50 miles inland is in the hurricane zone.
Very high population density (by western U.S. standards.) Louisiana has the lowest crime safety ranking the U.S.! (New Orleans is ranked one of the least safe cities in the country: It is ranked #13 in the “Top 20 Most Dangerous Metropolitan Areas.) The second least well-educated population of any state–ranked 49 of 50. Very high car insurance rates. Extremely high home insurance rates. (Average of $721 per year. Ranks #2 in the country!) In a true TEOTWAWKI situation, folks in some rural areas may see non-Cajuns as expendable “outsiders.” High humidity (over 60% in the southern half of the state.) Low wages.
Some northern portions of the state are recommended, with strong reservations.
Note: I probably should have given Louisiana higher ranking, due to its favorable gun and tax laws and favorable climate–at least in the northern half of the state. However, its extremely high crime rate and high insurance costs pushed it far down the list.
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 18 of 19.

Zimbabwe’s Tragedy Continues

If you want to see a full scale “slow slide” economic collapse in action–one that rivals the severity of what I portrayed in my novel Patriots–then just look at modern day Zimbabwe. Comrade Mugabe and his ZANU-PF cronies have absolutely ruined a once prosperous nation. Please take the time to read the August and September letters archives at the Cathy Buckles web site. IMHO, Zimbabwe needs our prayers, and a vigorous counter-revolution!

From David in Israel Re: Survival Psychology and Stress Reduction

In my days as EMS system director I had to do quite a bit of psych and stress management on my firefighters and medics. We were living the survivalist lifestyle where every day was TEOTWAWKI for the people we responded to when we were on shift. Humans and animals share a common bond deep in our nervous system. Deep below out intellect and ego we
have two basic modes fight/flight or rest/digest. We live our whole life sliding in between these two areas. When you feel stress form being shot at by terrorists or worrying about your credit card bill the same processes take affect the sympathetic nervous tone increases adrenaline release increases, blood pressure, pulse and breathing rates all rise, pupils dilate blood flows from the digestive organs and rush to the skeletal muscles and brain. Long term living in stress causes a weakened immune system, lack of proper rest, chronic cardiac issues, digestive problems, and increased fat retention or loss. While I have had to deal with crew members who suffered from the opposite of the fight/flight symptoms it was often due to emotional stresses which lead to a chemical/neurological condition known as depression this is in my opinion the most likely problem on this end of the scale. Throwing away all feelings of bravado and coach inspired speeches depression becomes a real medical issue which the patient cannot just “snap out of” in stressful situations. Patients can endanger their teams safety by having lack of mental clarity, disregard for personal or team safety, and sometimes suicidal intentions. There are times when a person may swing between the two extremes of high and low this is known as bi-polar. The patient may seek stressful or dangerous situations and these “adrenaline junkies” if lacking basic responsibility can endanger their team.

Stress and associated adrenaline release is not caused strictly by an immediate threat in humans but can be caused by fear or dwelling on perceived future threats. One of the most powerful chronic stressors is the worry of things that the stressed person feels they have no control over. In some survival situations the loss of radio, Internet, cellular, and normal social networks is a sudden shock. Since you have no idea what is happening away from your direct area of observation the stress can be quite acute. Hindsight 20/20 will also be cause for a stress, replaying a personal failure during an incident or just the priceless item you forgot that only cost a few dollars can cause sleepless nights, you cannot relive the past, analyze for learning purposes and then drop it. In many people stress and the associated symptoms can be mediated with a proper diet including green vegetables and fiber as well as a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic rate exercise daily.

The ideal candidate for stress resistance. Studies show that people who have the following traits will be more resistant to stress disorders and depression following traumatic events. Having a functional relationship with a loving spouse and family is very important. A religious faith which recognizes the creator as having ultimate control for the best of his creatures gives meaning to the temporary suffering we may feel or see. Sense for mission and a clear purpose motivates a team even if they are not sure of all the details for tactical reasons. A healthy body supports a healthy mind. Get a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic level exercise (that means hard enough you can’t sing but easy enough that you can talk), a proper diet including green vegetables and fiber avoidance of relying on refined sugar and starch, saturated or animal fats, and processed foods to meet your energy and nutritional needs. Junk food is bad for you and will make surviving harder. Proper amounts sleep and exposure to bright light during the day keep your somatic system in check.
Kol Tov, David

Letter Re: Leatherman Wave Pocket Tools

I noticed that you asked for some input on knives. Well, I just wanted to tell you that I have been using a Leatherman Wave tool since they came out…what, six years or so?….And the last year it has been used everyday on my job as a Handyman. I just don’t know what I would do without it. It is a fine tool and knife, that will stand up to some hard use. Though I have always tried to use it within reason, and not abuse it to much (the day I tried to make it work as a small hammer, maybe was a bit over the top) it really seems to stand up to a lot of hard use. BTW, I now own two Waves and one of the new Ti Charge models, which comes with all the changeable bits. IMHO in a SHTF type situation, they will be worth their weight in gold. Now I do not care for Tim Leatherman’s politics, (he endorsed Kerry) but he does make a fine product. – Gung Ho

Letter Re: Feral Dogs, Pre- and Post-TEOTWAWKI

This link is to a newspaper story from Johnson County, Iowa, regarding a huge pack of feral dogs that is terrorizing a small town, West Liberty, about 15 miles southeast of us. Iowa City, the “capitol” of Johnson County is an extremely anti-gun, liberal town and this is an interesting battle about wild dogs, self protection, property rights etc. Thank you for everything that you write and promote.See: