Hardening Up Your Retreat by Robert Henry

In previous articles, I talked about what exactly is needed to stop different types of projectiles to include lists of materials and the thicknesses needed to achieve the desired protection. Here, I’m going to talk about some specific items you should give consideration to protecting at your retreat.
Yep, your gonna need a lot of sandbags. No way around that. Some things we can get creative with, some we cannot.
Let’s start close to home. If your house is not of the construction that will stop bullets, and you intend to live at that house after TSHTF, then we have some work to do.
At a minimum, I would sandbag to the height of the windowsill of each window for all windows that you could shoot out of. Furthermore, I would sandbag the width of the window plus 1 or 2 sandbags wide and an additional 4 or 5 higher than the sill (on the sides you widened. If you windows are lower, you’ll be squatting or kneeling if you have to shoot out of them anyway. If time and the situation permits, and they haven’t already been shot out, you should attempt to open the window before shooting out of it. Remember though, you don’t want to stick your weapon THROUGH the window. Actually, keeping a good distance BACK from the window would be helpful in many ways–it will lessen the flash and smoke seen from your shot, the shadow should help conceal you, you will be less “framed” than standing directly in the window, and the angles will work to your advantage as far as being able to see more from further back.
Let me explain that angles thing a bit. Think about when your driving down the highway. A big rig is going slow in front of you and you want to pass. You get right on his tail and try to look around to see if it’s clear to pass- you can’t see much can you? So you drop back 20 or 30 yards, nudge over just a bit and you can see clearly. It’s the same way working with angles in houses. This is also great for clearing rooms also, but that’s another article.
If you have the will and inclination, and your floor can handle the weight, you might opt to build a 3 or 4 bag high wall around on the INSIDE of the house. Why the inside? Surprise. If you stack 3 or 4 sandbags high on the outside of the house, this will just encourage someone to shoot higher and to expect return fire from you. If it’s INSIDE the house, no one will know from outside.
Can your floor handle it? On a “slab at grade” style house, most definitely. On a house with a basement, you’d have to check. What your looking for is the size of the floor joists, how far apart they are, and is their any bridging (little brace looking thingees between the joists). With this info, you can go to the local library or Lowe’s and check a book on carpentry. Any decent carpentry book with have tables with allowable floor joist sizes and “live” and “dead” loads for each. You need to know this ahead of time if you intend to sandbag later. You can always reinforce the joists if you know ahead of time.
What other things around your retreat should you plan to “harden?”
How about any above ground fuel storage. Namely liquid propane (LP) gas tanks. When you get one, have them install it a good stand off distance from your structure for this reason. Yes, it will cost you some extra money in the distance of the line, but it’s better than blowing up your house isn’t it? You could sandbag your fuel tanks or if they are a permanent fixture, you could also pour a rectangle footing around the outside of it, and build block walls around it. Be sure to use rebar and fill EVERY cell with grout mix. Be sure the block wall goes higher than the top of the tank. You could make this decorative with a tin roof.
Any building housing critical infrastructure should be hardened. A small shed containing a well pump should be hardened for ballistic protection as well as EMP protection as well. The same goes for your generator building.
Any exposed hose bib that could be used for fighting fires should be protected as well.
All observation posts (OPs) and trenches should be hardened either by the use of sandbags, packed earth or permanent construction with concrete and rebar.
Communications and medical buildings should be protected at least to the level of a four high sandbag retaining wall.
Any critical equipment such as well pumps, generators, radios, should be double sandbagged if possible.
If you have the idea that your retreat is going to look like a firebase after TSHTF, then you are on the right track.

Letter Re: Priority of Training?

I noted your recent reply to someone regarding medical training and thought I’d drop you an email.  For a point of reference I’ll first state that I’m a paramedic by trade.  Knowing all people won’t be able to take advantage of the class you reference I would suggest if people are interested in learning basic CPR and first aid courses I would highly recommend they contact their local EMS offices.  This is especially true in the rural setting as many smaller services offer courses at very low cost.  For those that may have a little time on their hands they may want to see if their local EMS stations offer an EMT-Basic course, several community colleges also offer these courses in the evening.  It should be noted just like anything else some instructors are better than others so ask around if you can. 
One thing people should consider is if they can achieve an EMT-Basic state certification many rural EMS system have first responders that provide assistance within their systems.  That is to say they will often provide a first responder with a pager, basic bandaging supplies, oxygen tanks and some of the accompanying equipment to respond to emergencies and provide first response assistance.  I’m sure most people can see the benefit in this as they receive experience and equipment all for the cost of their time helping others when their available and if SHTF you’ve got some equipment that you can use for your own purposes.
For those that don’t have that kind of time available I would suggest reading material.  Look for an  EMT-Basic book to start off with and then move on to EMT-Paramedic materials.  Two well known instructional EMS material providers are printed by Bryan Bledsoe or Mosby with various authors.  Another good book that covers variety of subjects is the Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook, but some knowledge of the basics is suggested for this book. Hope this information provides to be useful.- J.S.

Odds ‘n Sods:

The American auto making giant General Motors has launched a big advertising campaign to promote E85 ethanol-compatible cars and trucks. See: http://www.gm.com/company/onlygm/livegreengoyellow/index.html They could have ramped up production of Flexible Fuel vehicles a decade ago. Oh well, at least they are dong something now. We have a Flexible Fuel Ford Explorer here at the Rawles Ranch. If the gasoline companies would just get busy and distribute E85 outside of the Midwest, we would be able to run our Explorer on something other than gas.

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SurvivalBlog reader Warhawke recommends “The Law ” by Bastiat. (I also highly recommend it. It is ground truth.) The text is available at: the Von Mises Institute web site: See: http://www.mises.org/story/2060

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Now key players in Norway (the largest oil producer in Europe) are leaning toward opening an oil bourse denominated in Euros. Hmmmm… See: http://www.energybulletin.net/13081.html

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A portent of things to come? The BBC reports: “India seals off   bird flu town.” See: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4739800.stm

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

“Chances are, if you’re ever going to be involved in a home defense situation with a shotgun, you’ll be in your birthday-suit. So unless you’ve got ammunition Velcroed to your a**, all the extra ammunition you’ll have will be on the gun.” – Greg Hamilton, Self Defense Instructor March, 1999

Note from JWR:

Don’t forget to send your entries for Round 3 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The writer of the best contest entry will win a four day course certificate at Front Sight. (An up to $2,000 value!)  The deadline for entries for Round 3 is the last day of March, 2006. We’ve already had plenty of motivational pieces submitted.  Please keep your contest entries focused on practical skillsThanks!

A “Must Read” Article From France On Iran

The Laboratoire européen d’Anticipation Politique Europe 2020, LEAP/E2020, just posted a “must read” article. The article begins: “The Laboratoire européen d’Anticipation Politique Europe 2020 now estimates to over 80% the probability that the week of March 20-26, 2006 will be the beginning of the most significant political crisis the world has known since the Fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, together with an economic and financial crisis of a scope comparable with that of 1929…” See: http://www.europe2020.org/en/section_global/150206.htm

Two Letters Re: Recommendations for Night Vision Goggles?

Fellow SurvivalBlog Readers:  
JWR is dead-on regarding his advice on NVGs or NVDs. I accumulated 11,000+ first pilot time and started out flying with
AN/PVS-5s. The ANVIS you are flying with are great for aviation or driving but suck for ground pounding. I like my nostalgic PVS-5s with the cut away for peripheral vision improvement but upgraded them to Gen3 tubes thru Ed Wilcox, Wilcox Engineering and Research: http://www.wilcoxeng-res.com/. A good, fair and highly qualified man to deal with.
For ground pounding, in addition to a dedicated NV weapon sight, I settled for a PVS-14D 72 line pair monocular from NVEC (Complete with data sheet, of course.). With the adjustable gain, I have the best of vision utilizing both eyes, one aided and one unaided. BUT you just can’t drive or fly with only one eye. 🙂
Since 1999, my favorite page, the most knowledgeable and filled with people like Lanny Leonard who actually like to help people is: http://nightvisiononline.com/index.cgi. If you want to learn about NV devices, here’s the place. No pushy sales and no pushy adds. Just NV talk and lots of good experience that rubs off. Hope this helps. Best Regards,- The Army Aviator


Hello James,
In my limited experience with NVGs, I have noticed lots of differences. You do not want to save money on these if you take home defense seriously. I personally think you are wasting your money on a Generation 1.
1). The intensifier tubes have a “shelf life”. Buying new is important if you can afford it. As you previously recommended, buying a scope rather than a pair of binocs is a must. Seeing your “threat” does nothing when you can’t even focus on your sights.
2). Pay attention to the field of view, minimum focus distance, etc…. I don’t know about you, but I would sure like to be able to see what is 20′-70′ away from me and make an assessment, some optics don’t focus on items closer than 50 yards!!!
3). Illuminators are a dead giveaway to someone else with NVGs. It is like the “raccoon” eye effect you mentioned, except in this case, it’s like turning on a flashing neon light pointing at you. This is true for Lasers as well. Also, it is my understanding that illuminators can cause burn on the intensifier tubes. My knowledge is limited, but I think this was true on all but the latest patented NVGs. Also, do some research. Do not take your recently purchased NV item and peer out the glass in your home or vehicle. In certain instances, (i.e.- illuminators), this can cause permanent intensifier burn out. I try to be careful with purchases that cost over $700,…hope this information is accurate and may save you the unknown danger to your potential lifeline!
4). There are many options with optics now. I personally am intrigued by ATN Corporation’s Day/Night Scope System. With a simple twist, you remove the NV system and the main body of the scope system stays mounted and keeps Zero! How cool is that? Kills two birds with one stone, Hence helping justify the expense, (at least to the Mrs., ha ha).
As as a side note, these products may be useful in obtaining game, (legally of course) or for that matter, protecting your heard of livestock from coyotes or similar predators. In my state, there is no clause against night vision as long as it does not “project a beam or ray of light”, (i.e.- such as a laser or a NVG illuminator). Food for thought. – The Wanderer

JWR Replies: Thanks for your comments gents. In addition to the The Army Aviator’s recommendation for Wilson Engineering and Research, as previously mentioned, three night vision gear vendors that I personally know and trust are JRH Enterprises, Ready Made Resources, and STANO Components, Inc. 

A “Must Read” Article From France On Iran

The Laboratoire européen d’Anticipation Politique Europe 2020, LEAP/E2020, just posted a “must read” article. The article begins: “The Laboratoire européen d’Anticipation Politique Europe 2020 now estimates to over 80% the probability that the week of March 20-26, 2006 will be the beginning of the most significant political crisis the world has known since the Fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, together with an economic and financial crisis of a scope comparable with that of 1929…” See: http://www.europe2020.org/en/section_global/150206.htm

Letter Re: Rifle Recommendations for Canada

Regarding [military surplus] Ishapore SMLE .308 bolt acton rifles, I bought a few of these a while back on a “buy ten for” deal. A buddy and I both sprung for five of them to get 10 of these and we paid a ridiculously low price… something like $69 each plus shipping and tax.
Anyway, I gave one to my dad and my uncle and kept the best of the lot for myself.
These are some of the finest bolt action rifles we have ever used. They all had decent two stage triggers. Each came with a 10 round box mag, and I ordered a few extras. (The extra magazines were $35 each!)
This is a very accurate rifle, though a little heavy as it came out of the box.
My dad took all the wood coverings off the barrel, the bayonet lug and front sight off and it lightened the rifle by about 3 pounds.
We had a heckuva time getting a scope mount to work and ended up milling our on as the ones we bought would not hold sight after about 10 shots.
The “redneck engineered” version we made is dog ugly, but you could drive a truck over it and it would not come off.
This his and my uncles favorite truck and hunting gun now, as they don’t mind beating it up, but know it will still shoot every time.
I have shot mine at the range and consistently shot 1-inch groups at 100 yards with open sights.
Even my Sako M995 Kevlar wiz bang super accurate .300 Win Mag doesn’t shoot much better.
Most of the “goodness” is in the trigger. It really does have an excellent trigger.
If folks get one of the yellow sheet wholesale gun mags like Shotgun News, they will find lots of dealers selling Ishapore .308s cheap… maybe not as cheap as the ones I bought, as they had just come out and folks hadn’t yet realized that they were diamonds in the rough. – Mel

The Self-Suffcient Retreat, and “Working the Kinks Out”

I’m often asked about the ideal location for a retreat. Every locale has its pros and cons. But in general any area that is well removed from major population centers and that has fertile soil, a long growing season, and plentiful water should give you far better chances of pulling through that the average urbanite or suburbanite. A more overriding concern is what you do with your retreat, and how soon you get it truly “squared away.” Having one or two years of food storage is commendable, but in the event of a full scale TEOTWAWKI, what will you do once you’ve consumed your larder? Similarly, merely owning survival gear and knowing how to use it are two different things. (This encapsulates my oft-quoted “Gadgets Versus Skills” argument.)

You’ve heard me preach on the importance of pre-positioning the vast majority of your logistics and living at your retreat full time. The latter is crucial not just for security of your stored logistics, but also so that you can make your retreat truly self-suffcient. By being there year-round, you will have the opportunity to plant perennial crops (such as berry bushes), to tend fruit and nut trees, to learn the habits of the local wild game, and to build up your flocks of small livestock. Building your practical skills inventory is just as important–if not more important–than building your larder. You can only do that if you are there to do it. If circumstances dictate that you can’t live at your retreat year-round, then hopefully there is some other member of your retreat group that can–perhaps someone that is retired or self-employed. There is also nothing quite like living at a retreat year round to insure that you “work the kinks out” of everything from your water system and wood stove to your photovoltaic power system. Any such difficulties would be mere inconveniences if encountered today, but could be positively tragic if you wait and discover them after TSHTF, when luxuries like “mail order” and “the hardware store” are just memories. You will only know for certain if you live the life.

Letter Re: Priority of Training?

Mr. Rawles:
After reading your novel [Patriots], I realize that I’ve lot to learn to get truly prepared. I’m especially worried about the Asian [Avian] flu. If a human-compatible form of it hits nationwide, I think that things are gonna come positively unglued in the big cities. (Just like the picture of the collapsing infrastructure that you painted in your novel.) We are living in a house of cards. The interdependencies are so far-reaching that they make the prospect of a collapse frightening. I’m getting my “beans bullets and band aids” lined up quickly, but what about training? What’s the most important class/course to take first? How about old timey farming knowledge? Thank you, H.L. in Knoxville

JWR Replies: I recommend that you take advantage of free local classes first. Take the American Red Cross First Aid and CPR classes. Don’t overlook free classes offered by your local ham radio club. The wealth of experience offered by those “Elmers” is phenomenal. Seek out other elders in your community for “old timey” skills like do-it-yourself canning. If you want to learn how to live through a depression or a banking panic, there is nothing quite like learning from someone that has already lived through one. Sadly, there are a lot of old folks that have been “warehoused” in retirement homes that would be happy to share what they know.

If you are worried about societal unrest and looting, then it essential to get top rate firearms training from a shooting school like Gunsite, Front Sight, or Thunder Ranch. (Even if you are prior military service, you’ll learn more in just a few days there than you learned from years of military service.)

Once you have acquired proficiency at your tactical skills, seek out some advanced medical training. If possible, make plans to attend one of the specialized Tactical Lifesaver Courses. The next will be held on April 15-16, 2006, in Douglas, Georgia. A Iraq war vet Physician’s Assistant (PA) will teach you a lot of skills that the American Red Cross doesn’t. (Such as: how to prep an intravenous infusion, how to insert and orthopharyngeal airway, wound debridement, suturing, how to treat a sucking chest wound, and much more.)  Don’t neglect taking this course. See: http://www.survivalreportblog.com/Tactical_Lifesaver_Course.html

Letter Re: Recommendations for Night Vision Goggles?

Mr. Rawles,
I wanted to say I enjoy your blog very much and look forward to it everyday. I am happy to contribute to your 10 Cent Challenge. Regarding your 20 February post on NVGs, I’ve looked at a few web sites just to see what is available. I have never actually put one of these models on so I may be out to lunch but it seems that most of the NVGs are built to cover your whole eye, allowing no peripheral vision, amplified or otherwise. I am currently an F-16 pilot in the Air Force and we fly quite a bit with NVGs. Our NVGs do not cover the entire eye and are more like a set of binoculars (without the amplification) positioned in front of the eyes. This is gives us the ability to glance down into the cockpit (a must in order to kill and not be killed) and have peripheral vision (though it is not amplified by NVGs of course). 40 degrees of NVG vision is not a lot and is akin to looking through a toilet paper tube. Having the ability to glance down at your weapon or detect movement out of the corner of your eye (movement, even at night, is best seen with your peripheral) is priceless. Once again, maybe I am wrong about the way they sit on your eyes but it not, then it is definitely something to think about. I would rather have 40 degrees of night vision and and still able to look down and have peripheral vision versus 40 degrees of night vision and nothing else. Once again thanks for putting such a great blog together. – Sterno

JWR Replies: Many thanks for your input. In my experience, the requirements for NVGs in ground combat are much different than for use in a cockpit. The biggest tradeoff is peripheral vision versus the risk of “raccoon eyes.” Let me explain: If you have the goggles set forward on a typical helmet mount to allow peripheral vision then they cast a bright glow on your face. This glow can be seen by someone in front of you for well in excess of 50 feet without NVGs, and for hundreds of yards with NVGs. That is one of the reasons that I prefer either NV weapons sights or NV monoculars with rubber eye cups (with the folding flap that opens only after your have pressed it to your face. To a bad guy in the distance, using any sort NV device without an eyecup looks like like you are shining a flashlight in your face.

Jim’s Quote of the Day

"How a politician stands on the Second Amendment tells you how he or she views you as an individual… as a trustworthy and productive citizen, or as part of an unruly crowd that needs to be lorded over, controlled, supervised, and taken care of." – Texas State Rep. Suzanna Gratia-Hupp

Letter Re: All-Wire Rabbit Hutches

Mr. and Mrs. Rawles,
I’m immensely enjoying your Blog. Thank you for the time and effort you place into your blog. I was reading into the archives trying to catch up and in the August 8th replies you had a reference to the wooden cages. One way that will help mitigate the problem of chewing and weakening of the wooden structure of the cages. You can use metal corner bead over the edges of the exposed wood inside the cage. It would be better as you stated to use all wire cages, they are by far the best. But the truth is that some people will use wood because they can’t afford wire, they have the wood already or because it how their father and his father did. Just a thought. All the best, – C.K.

The Memsahib Replies: When we first got rabbits, we got a bunch of free wooden hutches. We planned to upgrade to wire cages as money allowed. We up graded a lot sooner than planned because we discovered porcupines in Idaho have a special fondness for wood legs on hutches because of the minerals that soak into the wood from the rabbit urine. Of course upgrading isn’t always possible. Thanks for the good suggestions.