Odds ‘n Sods:

The mainstream media is finally starting to pick up on the Iran nuclear threat. I’ve often said that this decade of the “Aughts” will end up looking a lot like the 1970s. The parallels have already been evident: the rising price of oil, rising commodity prices, unstable stock and currency markets, mass inflation, rising precious metals prices, and a protracted counterinsurgency campaign overseas that is causing friction with european governments. And now, heightened tensions with Iran. (Do you remember the Iran hostage crisis in the late 1970s?) Consider this FFTAGFFR, folks!

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The price of silver just took a profit-taking dip to $9.00 per troy ounce on the spot market yesterday. (Tuesday, Jan.17, 2006.) Meanwhile, gold has dipped to around $552. This could be your last good chance to buy before the bull resumes his charge. According to some analysts, the weakening dollar, the ongoing trade and budget deficits, and the nascent saber-rattling tension with Iran point to a target of $10.20 silver and $607 gold for April of 2006.  Silver is definitely the better buy of the two. Yes, it is much bulkier than gold, but it is far more likely to double in price than gold. If you have been doddling, then it is high time to call Swiss America, or one of the other reputable precious metals dealers, and stock up.

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If any of you readers have not yet visited the KT Ordnance web site, then you should.  Richard sells gunsmithing goodies with an interesting angle: He makes 80% finished rifle and pistol receivers, as well as jigs, tools, and instructional DVDs that detail how to complete them. Under the Federal law, these are NOT considered “firearms”, and can be legally completed as semi-autos by private individuals for their personal use WITHOUT completing a Form 4473!  (Consult your state and local laws before ordering.)  OBTW, Richard is currently running a special 10% off of all orders (all 80% complete frames, not just Model 1911s–but excluding jigs), just for SurvivalBlog readers. Check it out! This sale ends on January 31st.

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I recently learned that Loompanics Unlimited is going out of business.  For many years, they’ve sold an eclectic panoply of books that you can’t find anywhere else. I was sorry to hear that Mike Hoy is shutting his doors. 🙁  The only good news is that Mike is blowing out his remaining inventory at 50% off. Check out his online catalog. There are some great book titles there! 

More on Zimbabwe’s Continuing Descent Into Chaos

Don’t miss the recent letters about Zimbabwe from Cathy Buckle on her Africa’s Tears site. See: http://africantears.netfirms.com/ (In the left hand bar, click on December 2005 and January 2006 Archives.) It is sad to see a once prosperous nation slide into an economic shambles due to an incompetent and utterly corrupt communist government. Key infrastructures are crumbling, crop production is steadily declining, and the currency is still suffering from hyperinflation. Mugabe and his henchmen need to be handed one-way tickets to somewhere!

The F-22A Fighter: A 24-Year Procurement Travesty

As reported in Defense Aerospace, the U.S. Air Force recently announced: “The 1st Fighter Wing held a ceremony here today to celebrate the F-22A Raptor’s initial operational capability. The IOC declaration proves the F-22A is mission ready. The base now has 19 Raptors…”
Strike up the band! The F-22 is finally operational. First, some background; I’m very familiar with the history of this procurement. Back in July of 1987, I visited Wright-Patterson AFB to interview Colonel Fain, the System Program Office manager for what was then dubbed the “Advanced Tactical Fighter.” This interview was for a feature article in Defense Electronics magazine. (See Defense Electronics, September, 1987, p. 61.) What Col. Fain was preaching sounded like real Hotel Sierra to me. This plane, he promised, was going to be a real dandy fighter, with an awesome engine that would allow “super cruise” (the ability to fly faster than the speed of sound without afterburner), and awesome avionics. But I understood that I had to be patient…

Development on the ATF actually began way back in 1981, and the concept stage started several years before that. Assembly of the first aircraft didn’t begin until 1991. First flight of a prototype was in September of 1997. (For a timeline of ATF development, see http://www.f22fighter.com/timeline.htm) And now, 24 years later, the first squadron of F-22As has finally been declared operationally ready. A 24 year development cycle? Incredible! If the War Department had had a development cycle for major weapons systems that was that long back in the 1930s, we would still be slugging it out with the Germans in North Africa. The U.S. military procurement system has become so bureaucratically convoluted and hidebound that it barely functions. For the good of the taxpayers and especially for the sake of our troops, something has to change.

Letter Re: Assessment of Coach Guns?

In reference to your January 16th post, have hunted extensively with side-by-side (double barrel or “SxS”) shotguns throughout my life. They are my first choice for upland game and waterfowl. There are many brands of SxS shotguns. Some are valued at a price higher than most reasonably priced homes with 10 acres of ground, others are priced in a race to the bottom. I like the Spanish doubles as a mid-priced SxS. Mine have proven to be as reliable as a hammer, and have good fit for the money spent. Be warned though, double guns of all types have inflated rather dramatically in price over the last decade. Since I am not writing this for a hunting site, but rather, a survival site, I will focus on a couple things I believe relevant:
1. Ease of use. A working double (with internal, NOT external hammers) is almost as easy to get acquainted with in short-time as a single shot. The brand I have chosen for around the farm, and for 95% of my hunting, is the Ugartechea. (See: http://www.doubleshotguns.com/ugartechea.htm) A simple slide up to fire safety on the tang, double triggers (a must, in my opinion), and ejectors that will toss spent casings so quickly that one-handed reloading is a cinch, these are good quality guns that are easy to get used to using, and easy to master
for muscle memory sake. I consider the external hammers to be dangerous in the woods in a “ready to fire” mode…in a stalking scenario. In cowboy action shooting though, many folks can really make them sing. I don’t like them for my purposes.
2. Reliable. They work. I have never had a misfire, and have probably shot 100,000 shells through these over the years.
3. Easy to break-down. It is basically a 3 piece gun (not counting internal working parts), that can be disassemble into those 3 pieces in what, 5-7 seconds? Push a button on the splinter forend, pull down, then push lever to open gun as if to load…and the barrels fall into your hand. This also makes the guns a cinch to clean.
4. Value. An excellent shape Spanish double of good origin will cost $750 up. Many times, it is $1,000 up. Working value is not that of an 870. But, my doubles were bought new for slightly less than that, and, I will pass them as dead-on reliable guns to my children one day…so   they have been worth it to me.

One warning though to those who believe a double can be handed off to the little old lady down the road, who, for whatever reason…has little or no training. Shotguns of normal legal length are not the perfect solution to a “kitchen sink to backdoor” encounter. At a range of 6-10 feet it will have a spread of nearer a rifle than what we think of when
we think of shotguns. It will no doubt bore a hole in one side and out the other at that range, and is wickedly deadly, but it requires aimed fire at all ranges other than point blank—no different than a pistol. Recoil is subjective…to an extent. It can range from heavy, to extreme (on the little old lady scale) depending on chosen rounds. A 12 gauge high brass round? Even tough guys won’t shoot many in a t-shirt…and I have seen the recoil almost dislodge the shotgun from some unsuspecting folks hands. Indoors = lots of blast and noise.
Bottom line: I like the double gun, and I can make it function well in all conditions I have been in, including freezing rain that has created problems with pump guns used by friends. However, I train with these.  Without training? Well, I don’t consider that an option that makes any shooting weapon good. Grandma either learns to shoot, and shoots until a competent shootist, or, she does not get one of my guns. Hard but true.
This brings me to my final (off topic point). There seems to be a bit of fantasy floating around the community that we can have extra weapons on hand to provide the neighbors who have none—after the crunch. Have we really thought this through? Doesn’t it require us to assume that an offer to train the neighbor was made during good times, and it was refused? Then, trouble comes knocking and they see the light? We may have to do this…but it would be my absolute worst case scenario.   Frankly, it scares me. I look at it this way…if the neighbor has no guns, and no gun skills…and the bad guys come to visit…what are the odds that he / she will prevail against them? I think close to zero.
So now, if that happens, they have our neighbors house, and our rifle / shotgun?
I have made a decision only for my family: I will teach any person I trust. I will provide them with training ammo, they can train on my range on the farm, I will do whatever is necessary to get them to the level they can reach…and have done so many times. BUT, if this thing snaps and we are up against it? I will not provide a shooting weapon to someone who has no idea how to use it. Quite simply, I don’t want to face any of my weapons…and I don’t want my children facing my weapons. If you have neighbors, know them. If you can trust them, train them.  If you cannot trust them, move. Best to all, – Straightblast

JWR Replies:  I agree that doubles are a good investment.  When I was in college (in the early 1980s) I had the chance to buy a nice boxlock Greener 12 gauge ejector gun with fluid steel barrels. It even already had its chambers deepened to 2-3/4 inches. The gent was asking just $350 for it. I’m still kicking myself for not buying it.  That Greener would be at least a $2,500 gun today–possibly much more. As I wrote in my novel “Patriots”: “Hindsight is 20/20.”

Note From JWR:

Wow! 5.5 million hits and nearly 200,000 unique visits in less than six months.  Thanks for making SurvivalBlog such a great success. Please continue to spread the word!

Letter Re: Availability of Additional “Where There is No…” Series Books

Dear Mr. Rawles,
I know you are a big fan of the book Where There is no Doctor. (English International Edition by D. Werner ISBN 0-333-51651-6 Published by MacMillan), and Where There is No Dentist (by M. Dickson ISBN 9-780942-364057.) Published by Hesperian, but did you know that there are three more books in the same series that I believe would be helpful if TEOTWAWKI happens? These are:

Where There is No Psychiatrist by V. Patel ISBN 1901242757 Published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists – Survivalists are unlikely to need psychological help for mental illness from the stress but a lot of the sheeple will.

Where Women Have No Doctor by A. Burns, R. Lovich, J. Maxwell & K. Shapiro. ISBN 0-333-64933-8 Published by MacMillan – this is a health guide for women and girls to help them identify common medical problems and treatments. Covers sexual and mental health, diseases, pregnancy and childbirth, nutrition, disabilities and injuries. Uses clear simple language and hundreds of drawings.

Where There is No Vet by B. Forse ISBN 0333588991 Published by MacMillan – this should be of some help in looking after the goats et cetera.

I should say I have not yet got my copy of these three books yet. I know these book are publish by different publishers but they are all publish for TALC (http://www.talcuk.org) which is a UK charity set up to help health care in developing countries particularly Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. This link is a good source for information but may not be the best place to buy from as it is in England. I hope I have been some help and I hope that no one ever needs to use these books. Yours Sincerely, – Simon.

Letter Re: Afghanistan’s Deteriorating Security Situation and Request for Advice on Retreat Buying

Mr. Rawles,
I wanted to run a few observations of mine by you and then pose a question. I am working in Afghanistan as a security contractor. I don’t have a normal security contractor job (i.e. doing PSD work for dignitaries), and I get to see a lot more of the country, frequently by myself. I see things turning in the wrong direction here, and while we could take the upper hand again, I don’t think the powers that be will make the right decisions. The U.S. will be turning over control of the violent south and east to ISAF soon, and ISAF troops and leadership are not equal to their U.S. counterparts. 2005 was worse than 2004, and I think the trend will continue to worsen in 2006. I can’t speak with any deep authority on Iraq, but the political reality of it seems to be poor, even if the military could do the job if turned loose and properly led. In short, I think these situations will result in a black eye for the U.S., and as a result the U.S. economy could take a beating this year. This is an extreme simplification of a complicated situation.

My question is about some money that I have invested in some standard mutual funds and a few stocks. They are managed by my local Edward Jones broker, and while he urges me to keep them there, I feel the market could take a beating soon. I’ve found some land over in Montana (This parcel is 112 acres for asking price of $128,000. [When not in Afghanistan,] I live in Eastern Washington, and land there is much more expensive than I am finding in Montana) and the invested money would make a nice down payment on that land. What do you think about my fears of money in funds, and would you agree that the land might be a good move? I already have a good lay in of food, weapons, et cetera and own a fair bit of gold and silver bullion so buying property has some appeal to me right now. Any input you have would be much appreciated. Thanks very much. – J. in Afghanistan

JWR Replies: In my opinion stocks are currently seeing a brief up tick in the overall bear market that began in April of 2000.  It is essentially a sucker rally. I strongly recommend that you dump most or all of your stocks and (and stock mutual funds) and re-invest in tangibles. Which tangibles? Even at over $9+ an ounce, silver is still a relative bargain. Productive land–good farm and ranch land–is also worth buying, particularly in lightly populated regions that have plentiful water and that are well-removed from major population centers. Unlike urban and suburban real estate on the coasts and in resort regions, which is grossly inflated (read: a bubble waiting to burst), productive real estate in places like the Intermountain West is still affordable. When the real estate bubble does burst–most likely in the Spring/Summer of Aught Six–I anticipate that the over-inflated regions will suffer at least a 30% price decline, and perhaps even as much as 60% in outrageously over-priced areas like San Diego, the San Francisco peninsula, and Miami Beach. In contrast, the more affordable regions may see as little as a 10% price drop. So if buying there, your downside risk is minimal. 

Be advised that although the best real estate bargains in Montana are in the eastern half of the state, that it is also the region that is downwind of scores of nuclear ground burst targets such as Malmstrom AFB and hundreds of missiles silos. For maps of U.S. military nuclear targets, see: www.nukewatch.com/pathfinder/20053fall/page2.pdf   So unless you see a nation state nuclear exchange as only a remote possibility, then I recommend that you only buy property that is is at least 40 miles upwind of any of Montana’s nuke targets.

Take good care of yourself in Afghanistan. May God Bless You and Yours!

Letter RE: Some Points About Pistol and Rifle Magazines and Their Springs

Over the years I, like all shooters, have heard theories on magazine springs and how to treat them. A few years back I took a tour of the Sandia National Laboratories and I spoke with a metallurgist who was also a shooter and he had some noteworthy insight on the issue. As he said, “if the spring was made of the right materials and heat treated properly, leaving it loaded will not cause the spring to weaken.” Leaving a spring compressed will not weaken it, it is compressing and relieving the spring a lot that causes them to weaken through use. He added that any failings are usually due to poor materials or bad heat treating.

This is yet another reason to buy only the best. If you have magazines of questionable manufacture it may be worthwhile to stock some spare magazine springs at the very least. Wolff, Wilson and others make quality springs for this purpose.

Ever since my conversation with the man at Sandia I always got a kick out of hearing about people who rotate their magazines “so the springs can rest”. Never made sense before that, steel does not rest and recover like muscle tissue, but hearing the science behind it was an education. Same with downloading magazines a round or two. It won’t save the spring any (but it will make the bolt/slide strip the round out a bit easier but that should only be an issue if there are problems with that weapon.) If you want to rotate your magazines by running rounds through the gun that is great. Practice is never wasted and it will field test those magazines.

One more word of warning is that you should never stretch magazine springs, this is at best a short term fix. They will weaken again, even faster than before. Replace them when they go bad, don’t stretch them out in hopes they will still give good service.  – Jake at The Armory

Letter Re: Assessment of Coach Guns?

Mr. Rawles;

What do you think of the double-barrel coach gun as a weapon for less-frequent shooters? I’m thinking this might be a good choice to give to the older lady next door, or the wife who doesn’t shoot as a hobby. It’s easy to use (few controls), intimidating, and has manageable recoil, when used with the right buckshot loads and possibly a quality recoil pad. – John in California

JWR Replies:  Coach Guns (a.k.a. side-by-side double-barreled shotguns or “luparas“) are an antiquated design, but they do fill a couple of useful roles in a retreat firearms battery. Their greatest attributes are their extreme shooting longevity (there are some British side-by-side shotguns have been documented to have fired literally millions of shotgun shells), and their ability to digest loads that would cause most repeating shotguns to “hang up.”  Ancient ammo, cruddy ammo, overloads, you name it, and they will shoot it.  Secondarily, like their single-shot cousins, double barrels have far greater versatility than repeaters, because they can accept cartridge adapters and barrel inserts, such as the famous “Savage .410-ers”  and the more recently produced “Chamber Mates.” The most commonly found side-by sides–such as those used in Cowboy Action Shooting have exposed hammers, which must be manually cocked, and simple extractors rather than ejectors. The exposed hammer guns look quaint, but they are considerably slower to operate than internal hammer models with ejectors such as as the discontinued Browning B-SS (These thankfully are still widely available on the secondary market.) I strongly recommend that you look for an internal hammer model, particularly if you plan to use your coach gun for self-defense. Your primary shotgun should probably be a pump or a semi-auto. You might consider getting a coach gun as a secondary gun for self defense and for taking game. In my experience, 23-inch barrels are a good compromise between compactness and muzzle velocity/patterning.  I’d only opt for 18 or 20 inch barrels if you only want a self defense shotgun. Notably, in locales that have restrictive gun laws (such as England) , where getting permits can be difficult, a coach gun might be a viable option. (Since they are among the most likely to get permit approval.) As for the suggestion that you hand one to “the older lady next door“, I don’t think that is realistic unless you give granny a light recoil 20 gauge model with a thick recoil pad (such as a Pachmayr Decelerator or their new Ultra Soft) and a lot of training.

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

"Most people, sometime in their lives, stumble across truth. Most jump up, brush themselves off, and hurry on about their business as if nothing had happened." -Winston Churchill, 1874-1965

Note from JWR:

There are just two weeks left in Round 2 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 is the last day of January, 2006.

David in Israel on Spices and Charcoal Medicine

The original use for spices was to take out the funky flavor from spoiled food. As you remember, Columbus sailed in search of a shortcut to these spice which were considered a treasure on par with gold and jewels. Common sense will dictate how to stew, boil, or overcook foods to a safe level. Spices and salt will make this still nourishing food edible. Of course spices will be a valuable barter item if international trade is stopped.

Charcoal Medicine
Charcoal is a great first line treatment for loose stools. For example, a slice of bread burned over flame until there is just a little gray ash can be consumed along with copious amounts of water to wash it down, this dose works for most non invasive diarrheas. Diarrhea was formerly a major killer. An improvised treatment could save your life from dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.