Note from JWR:

You will notice that I’ve updated the SurvivalBlog Glossary as well as the Retreat Owners Profiles page. I have added a new profile for “Mr. & Mrs. Victor.” If you’ve never read the Profiles, please take the time to do so. They are very insightful! 

OBTW, I would greatly appreciate reading additional profiles from any SurvivalBlog readers that live overseas, or any of you that live in a severe climate or in unusual circumstances and/or who have retreats/homes with unusual architecture (straw bale, earthbag, Earthship, adobe, underground, et cetera.)  As usual, in addition to editing for spelling and grammar, I will remove all attribution and of course change locales and other potentially revealing details. If you truly “live the life”, please e-mail me your profile.

From the Memsahib: A Flock of Miniature Goats?

The looming spectre of Asian Avian Flu really has me bummed, because I am a big fan of free range poultry. Free range poultry are able to forage for much of their own food from Spring through Fall. Another big advantage is that chickens come in single family serving size. Meaning my family can eat a whole chicken for dinner and there are not a lot of leftovers to worry about. Chickens are a great way of storing family serving sized protein “on the hoof” as it were. But, free range is out of the question for me now. See my post on Tuesday, October 25, 2005. Okay, so instead of free range poultry, say you raise lambs. If you butcher one of your lambs you get lots and lots and lots of meat for future meals. Which is all fine and dandy… until the power goes out. Then all those chops in your chest freezer are in jeopardy. And it doesn’t have to be the power grid that goes down. I’m reminded of a sad tale: A contractor working in our home while we were on vacation UNPLUGGED our chest freezer so that he could use the outlet for his power tools. He forgot to plug the chest freezer power cord back in! We didn’t discover this until after we returned and found that all our elk and venison–about 400 pounds–had spoiled. So you ask “How about rabbits?” They don’t get Asian Avian Flu. They come in family serving size. You can store the meat on the hoof and just them butcher as needed. The drawback is that because rabbits are fantastic diggers, free range does not work very well. Therefore they have to be penned, and you have to provide ALL of their food.

So here is my crazy thought: Replace my free range chicken flock with a flock miniature goats! During Spring, Summer, and Fall goats can forage for their own food (unlike rabbits) . Pygmy and dwarf goats weigh about 2 pounds at birth. Miniature does can breed throughout the year, so if I let the buck and does breed at will, I ought to have a ready supply of family serving sized “chevron” throughout the year. They will be protein food storage on the hoof. Like the chickens they’ll have to be penned up every night to keep them safe from predators. They will also need special field fencing to keep them from escaping our pastures.

The real drawback with this plan is the Cute Factor. Little bucklings are 100 times cuter than any chicken. Our #2 Son is especially susceptible to the Cute Factor. With that in mind, my DH and I are going be more circumspect with the butchering to make certain that our younger children don’t associate dinner with those cute little bucklings cavorting out in the pasture!

Letter Re: Iraqi Artillery, The ARNG/USAR Talent Pool, and a Useful Intelligence

I read your added notes to the discredited letter from the returning Marine’s father and I can add one more detail. The Iraqis did have 155mm artillery in inventory and we found several South African 155 rounds in country. The South Africans had a very well developed arms industry and they made some of the best artillery and rounds available. They have some advanced 155 rounds that have a greater lethality due to the pre-formed fragments included in their design and some of these have been used/recovered in Iraq.

One of the strengths of the Army National Guard (ARNG) and U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) over active duty is that we bring a greater skill set with us when we deploy, both civilian skills and more MOS schools under our belt. I have several to include more than one Intelligence MOS. [JWR adds:  I concur wholeheartedly! The USAR and ARNG soldiers tend to be several years older–sometimes decades older–than their active duty counterparts. Those extra years almost always equate to greater depth and breadth of knowledge/experience/common sense. Many of the military intelligence soldiers that I commanded in the USAR spoke multiple languages and had earned Master’s degrees. The enlisted ranks in the active duty M.I. units just didn’t compare. BTW, I should mention that this was a humbling experience, as a young M.I. officer with just a Bachelor’s degree.]

If you have any direct contact with soldiers in country please recommend to them that they have their intel people take a look at the NGIC (National Ground Intelligence Center) website regularly. Any soldier with access to the SIPRNET [U.S. military data network for handling classified traffic] can find it and it allowed us to stay weeks ahead of emerging Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP)s. It was not uncommon to find things through NGIC weeks before higher command got the info to us through regular channels. I also found it useful to look at areas (on the NGIC site) that were outside Iraq but were dealing with Islamic fundamentalists. – Anonymous

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

“And that is called paying the Dane-geld; but we’ve proved it again and again, that if once you have paid him the Dane-geld you never get rid of the Dane.”
– Rudyard Kipling

Notice–Post Removed: From Fernando in Argentina–On Surviving Argentina’s Slow Slide Collapse

A lengthy letter from Fernando in Buenos Aires was originally posted on SurvivalBlog back on November 8th, but I just removed it.  Why?  Because Fernando just confirmed in an e-mail to me that the copyright to his article has been purchased by John, who operates Frugal Squirrel’s Forum. The letter is still available there. (See:;f=1;t=044387;p=0) OBTW, I highly recommend Frugal’s site and forums. Since I have deep respect for copyrights there are no hard feelings on my part. I trust that the folks at Frugal’s will forgive me if I in some way infringed unknowingly by posting what I was sent.

Two Letters Re: Lessons from the Big Sand Box: Firearms, Gear, and Tactics in Iraq

I have been meaning to write for a few days and thank you for posting Fernando’s observations from Argentina. I view the slow slide into economic collapse as the greatest threat and the one I am currently preparing for.

What prompts me to write now is the post (12 Nov ’05) about experience in Iraq. Having recently returned from Iraq I thought I would add some of my observations that run a bit different.

The AR pattern weapons definitely require greater maintenance but preventive maintenance will prevent problems. Five minutes a day is all it takes. The greatest handicap is the lack of penetration with the 5.56mm, for home owners it is a plus for soldiers a definite disadvantage.

M249 [SAW] is overly complex and some of the problems relate to all the add on crap like short barrels and collapsible stocks. Some soldiers try to use it as a 19 pound SMG and that is not the right application.

Our M9s [U.S. Military issue version of the Beretta M92 9mm handgun] were not functioning well and I think it relates to bad magazines. We had few in my unit and I never did any shooting with them so I have little to add.

M240 [MMG], M2 [HMG], and M14 [MBR] all are above reproach, they all work exactly as soldiers should expect, this nation owes a great thanks to John Browning and Mr. Garand, they have kept the lowly grunt a step ahead of the rest for some time now.

I have no direct experience with the M24 [U.S. Army issue sniper rifle] or M40 [U.S.M.C. issue sniper rifle] but I have always had good service out of the Remington 700. As a side note some of Carlos Hathcock’s contemporaries exceeded his number of kills, I believe two other marines had more confirmed kills and the title (in Vietnam) would go to the Army, Adelbert Waldron had 109 confirmed kills.

The MK-19 [crew-served automatic 40 mm grenade launcher] is a great weapon for the open battlefield but it has some definite limitations in the city, arming range can place friendly forces in danger and the potential for collateral damage restricts it use some.

Our new body armor is the real savior in this conflict, that and our advances in medical science. The IBA [Interceptor Body Armor] saved my hide in an unlikely way but that is another story for another day. The base armor is about six pounds (dependant on size) ant the plates are another six pounds each–one front and one back.

Thermal [sights], night vision [“Starlight” scopes] and FLIR [aircraft cameras] allow us a tremendous advantage over the enemy. Even though they have heard about our night vision gear they seem to not understand or believe it I guess. We saw the enemy move around in the dark obviously believing that if they couldn’t see us we couldn’t see them. A side benefit is that it’s monochromatic, grainy image creates a bit of psychological distance between us and the enemy. It is easier for a soldier to shoot at that green, slightly fuzzy figure. It is easier to convince yourself that what you are punching a hole in is not a real person, that it is some complex video game.

Many of the RPG rounds fired at us failed to detonate, maybe over 20% in some months. Fine system and I wish we would adopt something similar but it seems to suffer from poor quality control in it’s ammunition. Thankfully the Arabs have never developed a tradition of marksmanship. If they had the shooting skills of the Chechens we would have had some serious problems over there. So far I have not seen much that impresses me when it comes to their fighting prowess.

The indirect fire threat is, I believe, a bit overstated. We were subject to indirect fire attacks daily, sometimes several times a day. I never saw any evidence of the enemy adjusting fire and in fact I think they usually stopped dropping rounds down the tube before the first round hit. They have reason to be afraid or our counter battery radar. Rarely were friendly forces allowed to return fire (with artillery) but we always had our aviation up waiting for something like that to run down (the AC-130 is a wonder to behold), same with patrols running around. After I took a look at the data I stopped worrying about rounds landing on the FOB. Our base was several kilometers in each direction and they only seemed able to land them inside the perimeter about 60% of the time. If the first wasn’t a threat to you the next three wouldn’t cause any problems either (unless the baseplate shifted as rounds were fired). After while I stopped reacting to IDF that was not danger close with the first impact. This did cause me some trouble, some folks up the chain did not appreciate my lack of action when rounds came in.

IEDs were the big threat but thankfully they are still in the early stages of learning how to use the stuff. Not to say they aren’t having considerable success, they are, but they don’t (yet) have the sophistication that many around the world have shown. Several times they tried without success to build fuel flame expedients (FFEs) or shaped charges or explosive formed projectiles (EFPs). Once or twice they did it right but more often than not they failed. After a few failed attempts they would stop trying and go back to the basic blast type devices. Since they have a large quantity of prepared explosive devices (mines, arty rounds, gravity bombs, rocket and missile warheads) and bulk explosives they have little incentive to learn how to build better devices. With hard targets they just build them bigger. Initiating the charge is often done by cell phone and I suspect this makes it hard for the enemy to time things right, many times IEDs would detonate too soon or too late to do much damage.

Thankfully the only group in country who can fight are the Kurds and they are on our side. The Iraqi National Guard and the Iraqi Police are getting better but the turnover is high, many leave after one or two paydays and their leadership is sometimes lacking. Progress is being made but it is slow going.

I left Iraq in March so some of my experiences may be a bit dated, but that was what I saw. – Jake


And here is another, from a gent that is currently in Iraq:

Mr. Rawles–
I received the same e-mail from my old TmSgt and sent him back a few of my own observations from over here. To clarify I’ve been here as a private contractor for the last two years and used quite a few of the weapons in question. Mainly because I’ve worked mainly in Army controlled areas I wasn’t too sure how far off I was though in regards to Marine Corps armament.

I also though that the items about the SAW (M249) sounded recycled. Having carried one in the early 1990s while in the military I had come to realize their reworked improvements. I had sent him pictures from a year ago with me working in a sandstorm with one.

I don’t think I know of anyone using a pistol at all let alone commonly though I’m sure that it has happened in some instances, and the biggest problem with them is the weak magazine springs. Magazines for 92Fs built during the last 10 years for the military suffered from the lack of quality competition during the Clinton gun ban period. Even a partially loaded magazine would fail to feed after just a few days left in that state.

The 1911 is more of a status symbol over here. Not issued but captured and definitely not worn by a common soldier unless he wants to face UCMJ action. It seems that some SOF and higher up officer types do sport them though. Finding ammunition for them is hard enough that practicing to any real worth is next to impossible.

Most troops doing active patrolling and not staying inside the wire all the time have M4s. Active use of the M16 is more from the early stages of the invasion. This however is more of an Army observation of mine and caused me to hesitate when applying it to the Marine Corps. Despite this the M4s and M16s performed equally well (it has the same action anyway) and the only clear advantage of the M4 was its size.

The 5.56 round in the hands of the insurgents is more of a bugaboo to me than 7.62×39. With various ammo we consistently penetrate steel plating that stops the 7.62 cold. While the 7.62×54 penetrates as well as .308 both require specialized platforms that typical insurgents don’t carry. If I had to be shot I would prefer it to come from an AK. [JWR adds:  I’ve heard first hand that there were opiates and other drugs found when the Iraqi insurgents were cleaned out of Fallujah.]

As far as reported opiate use, its hard to imagine people that refuse nicotine, coffee, shaving, and who fast for a month every year, indulging in narcotics. Insurgents are of a more zealous bent than even your standard Iraqi. This blurb sounded almost recycled from Vietnam.

M14s can be found in M21 configuration with designated marksmen or snipers but I have seen no bulk re-issue, even with SOF.

The M240 is mounted over here but mainly because there aren’t a lot of foot patrols. In light infantry units it replaced the M60 several years ago, but again I wasn’t sure about the Marine Corps.

Baghdad insurgents are mostly Sunni, Shia leaders like Al Sadr and Al Sistani have put a tight rein on their respective militias, the Mahdi army and the Badr brigade. According to locals that I talked to, many insurgents lived in Fallujah (Sunni territory) and traveled to Baghdad’s Sunni areas to stage attacks on both Shia and Coalition forces. With the realization that they could actually come to power, the Shias are hoarding their forces for our eventual withdrawal and not getting them chewed up by the Coalition as they did in April of ’04. Still, fighting between Shias and Sunnis, while under-reported is fierce. An example, for a while Sunnis had been targeting Shia mullahs, then fourteen Sunni mullahs were kidnapped and found dead. Their discovery was reported in the news but what wasn’t added was that they had been killed via a power drill to the head. Shortly after this the Sunni leadership called for a general agreement not to target religious leadership. This was relayed to me by an Iraqi gentleman who I was working with in the Karada district of Baghdad this summer.

Checking the page I see that you’ve already made some corrections, think I’ll throw my two cents in anyway.

Take care and be safe.  – Chuck.

Letter Re: Free E-Books “Where There is No Doctor” and “Where There Is No Dentist”

Thanks for the link to Where There is No Doctor on line but did you know that Where There Is No Dentist is also on line at and over books at  The Sierra Madre newsletter is at Hope this helps and hope you never need these books. – Simon

Letter From Novelist David Crawford Re: “Lights Out” EMP E-Novel: Free Download

Dear Mr. Rawles,
Some time ago you mentioned my novel, “Lights Out”, in your blog. It was quite an honor for me to have my humble work discussed on your web site. I wanted to let you and your readers know that “Lights Out” is now finished. It can be read in its entirety at I plan to edit and improve this first draft and then to pursue publishing. Any constructive criticism and help from anyone will be gladly received at Thanks again and please keep up the fine work you are doing with your blog. Sincerely, – David Crawford

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

Dr. Rudi Gunn: “Hold on, how do I cross the border?  I never took survival training.”

Dirk Pitt: “Consider this your course, Rudi…”

Al Giordino (interrupting): “…It’s kind of pass/fail, which I was told is easier.”
– from the action-adventure film Sahara (2005)

Practical/Tactical Pre-1899 Guns Via the Web, Sans Paper Trail

I often have folks ask me where they can buy guns “without a paper trail.”  This is not a big problem for some of us: Just go to a gun show and buy only from private parties.  But this is a real dilemma for folks in those Blue States with the nasty Schumeresque gun laws. (Like “Kalifornia” and “Neu Jersey.”)  One great alternative is buying shootable cartridge guns that were made in or before 1898. These “pre-1899” guns are outside of Federal jurisdiction, and hence can be shipped across state lines without the usual FFL paperwork. (Consult your state and local laws before placing an order.) You can read my FAQ on Pre-1899 guns for some details.

One of our SurvivalBlog advertisers, The Pre-1899 Specialist has a great selection of  hand-picked and custom re-built pre-1899 rifles. Another good source is Dennis Kroh at Empire Arms, but I’ve noticed that most of his potentially practical/tactical guns sell out very quickly. For pre-1899 revolvers, try either Jim Supica, who runs The Arm Chair Gun Show  or The Pre-1899 Specialist for a smaller albeit more unusual selection.

I also occasionally notice some nice pre-1899 rifles and handguns at the Internet gun auction sites such as and For example, take a look at these current AuctionArms auctions: 

A Swedish Mauser Model 1896 (6.5 x55) made in 1898 (very rare):

A Mosin Nagant Finnish (re-work) 7.62 x 54R: 

A Model 1895 (Chilean Contract) Ludwig Loewe Mauser Model 1895 7 x57:

Although the auction prices tend to run high, if you are persistent you can find some bargains that are also Federally exempt.

“Where There is No Doctor” Now Available as a Free E-Book

In a recent evening of web surfing, I found that one of my favorite little references Where There is No Doctor by David Werner, is now available as a public domain e-book.  See:

This is a very useful no-nonsense book, written for folks living in Third World countries. It has also been translated into Spanish. Since you obviously won’t have access to e-books in the event of a power failure, I highly recommend that you pick up one or more paperback copies. See:  I should mention that the companion volume Where There is No Dentist is also highly recommended.  I’ve observed that used copies of both books are often offered for sale at or on eBay.

From WorldNetDaily: Border Sheriff Warns “We’re Overwhelmed”–So Expect Terrorist Dirty Bombs

Our friends at recently ran a chilling article in which Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez, Jr, from a Texas border county warns that  the U.S./Mexico border is a veritable sieve through which a radioactive “dirty bomb” will almost assuredly someday get through. See:

Letter from: “Doug Carlton” Re: Discrediting the Lessons from the Big Sand Box: Firearms, Gear, and Tactics in Iraq Letter

Unless you can actually verify the identity of the author of the “Firearms, Gear, and Tactics in Iraq” e-mail, then it is bogus. I’ve seen it running around the net in several incarnations with different authors attributed to it for some time now. Some reasons to believe it’s bogus without any authentication: The part about the M249 being a POS comes from an early AAR about the invasion. Some USMC units had weapons that were VERY well-used and I know a Marine that went in with his M249 held together with zip ties. The Army, with newer weapons, report no failures. The USMC has replaced the worn out POSs that should have been condemned years ago. The M249 in Marine service now works great. Go figure how a new gun will work better than one that’s deadlined. Since this gripe in the e-mail is almost a copy-paste from the original Marine AAR that I’ve read (from the USMC itself and not 18th hand in a chain e-mail) it raises a stink right off the bat on this e-mail.

The son is supposed to be in the USMC. The USMC doesn’t use the M24 sniper system. They use the M40A3. The M24 is based on a long action so it can
take the .300 WM, but the Army (which is the only service using the M24) isn’t using any in that caliber.

The new body armor isn’t six pounds. It’s more like 15–or20 if you add all the c**p. I’ve also noticed that your version has several differences than the couple that I’ve seen. Caliber and enemy weapons are referred to exactly the same, but with different calibers and even different weapons. That alone brings it’s validity into question. If it’s a real e-mail from a Marine,why has it been altered from version to version? Especially when these alterations were made to correct glaring faults in previous versions. There’s an almost endless supply of reasons to call “Bulls**t!” on this e-mail. Like most good lies, it has many truths in there to make it more believable. You can explain some of the inconsistencies with reality as the “straw view”
that a rifleman may have, or possibly seeing Army units with M14s and M24s. But when you see parts that have been obviously lifted from other sources, and seen the same basic e-mail for a couple times, with things changed, it becomes an internet urban myth. It may make for good reading if you simply WANT to believe truths/lies that support an opinion that someone might hold, but if you’re looking for truth it’s not in this e-mail. It’s like any useful observation. Once people start changing things to make it more dramatic, correct glaring flaws that
have been brought up with it in the past, or somehow show support for a particular position they have it’s worthless. Not to bust your chops, but information is useless if it’s coming from a
worthless source. Even if some of that information is good, there’s no way to trust it. – Doug Carlton

JWR Replies:  Your points are well taken.  I should have vetted the letter before posting it. I’ll leave your letter up for a couple of days as a teaching tool, along with the original post, so that readers will have a point of reference for your comments.  Then I’ll zap them so that the original letter doesn’t get taken out of context and re-posted by someone else. OBTW, I would greatly appreciate a first hand honest-to-goodness “I seen it with my own two eyes” weapons/tactics AAR from someone who is either  currently in-theater, or who has recently returned.