Note from JWR

Today we present another entry in Round 2 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The writer of the best article 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.

Discipline and Balance by Hamilton Tyler

There is always talk about the ‘survivalist mindset’ and how important it is to anyone who is going to prepare themselves and their family for whatever crisis they foresee. Some people get this mindset from previous experience (like Katrina survivors who we can hope will become advocates of personal preparedness), others from their religious convictions (Mormons, awaiting the Tribulation, etc), others get this mindset from objectively viewing world events and decide the world is risky place, and many others get this mindset from other places. All of these people, however, have at least one thing in common in their survival mindset – the need for discipline and balance.
As anyone who has prepared, or is preparing, for uncertainty can tell you, there are a lot of things to do. There are things to be bought, mapped, planned, diagrammed, learned, prepared, tuned-up, sharpened, sighted-in, oiled, cleaned, built, dug and stored. There is, it seems, no end to the things to be done. The one thing more than anything else that will get these things done is discipline – the discipline to stockpile food when the supermarkets are full, the discipline to store ammo when the stores are open, the discipline to save money when you’ve just gotten a raise, etc. However, discipline without balance is almost as bad for your plans as no discipline at all.
In good times, when we have our jobs, heat in our house, water in our taps, food in our cupboards and gas in our cars it is incredibly easy to slack off or even ignore our plans to prepare. And when a blizzard or hurricane shows up and knocks out the power, the pumps and the petrol we start kicking ourselves for not keeping up on our preparations…and then the lights get turned back on and we go right back to neglecting our plans for ‘next time’. I’m sure we all know someone who says he’s going to be prepared for the next hurricane or tornado or whatever. He buys a case of bottled water, maybe he gets some food, and a few weeks later he’s the owner of a shiny new pistol. And then he starts tapering off… He buys a little food one month and then does nothing for six months, after that time he might buy some batteries and flashlights and then he seems to lose interest and nothing more becomes of his great plan and desire to be prepared. The intentions were good, but the follow through was weak. This is a classic example of a lack of discipline.
Balance, the other important aspect of the mindset, is completely absent in the person who goes in the opposite direction than the one just described. He sells the jet skis, liquidates his investments, builds a concrete bunker, wears camo every day, spray paints his truck in a camo pattern, eats MREs for breakfast and has no time for anyone who isn’t in 100% agreement with him on his timetable for ‘the big one’. His wife is ready to leave him, his kids are embarrassed by him, his boss has put him on notice, the people in town call him ‘that crazy survivalist guy’ and his friends don’t know what to do with him. If the disaster he’s preparing for does happen he’ll probably come out fine, but if it doesn’t he’s going to be a lonely, miserable, tragic figure. Classic example of discipline, but no balance.
How does a person achieve the discipline and balance to prepare for an uncertain future while still maintaining a comfortable present? For each person it’s different. The easiest way to is to ask yourself if, in a future crisis will you be glad you did whatever it is you’re doing at this moment. Two years from now when the power is out and the blizzard is raging will you be glad you spent $35 on new computer games or will you be glad you spent it on 5-gallon drums of kerosene? In a year from now when travel is restricted due to bird flu concerns will you be glad you spent $150 on designer running shoes or will you be glad you spent it on canned food and bottled water? I’d say it’s a safe bet that as people were standing on roofs waiting for help after Katrina none of them were thinking “Man, I’m glad I spent $700 on SuperBowl tickets and didn’t waste it on gasoline and a generator.” Discipline is being able to stay focused on the ‘big picture’ – being prepared – even while the everyday world provides you with limitless distractions and reasons to not prepare.
On the other side of the coin, you have to have enough balance to sometimes decide that, yes, you’re going to spend $20 on a movie, popcorn and drink simply because you want to. Or you’ll compromise and see the movie for ten bucks, skip the snacks, and take the remaining ten dollars and squirrel away some D batteries or a couple gallons of white gas. That’s the sort of compromise that is a win-win situation… you still move forward in your preparations but you still have a pleasant and happy life outside of your survivalist interests. A good sense of balance will keep you from sacrificing your present happiness for future security. You could probably use the words ‘balance’ and ‘judgment’ interchangeably in this example. Do you have the good judgment to know when you should live it up a little and when you should knuckle down and get busy? There is nothing wrong with ‘splurging’ every once in a while as long as it isn’t at the expense of other things we should be doing. All work and no play does make Jack a dull boy, but then again Jack was never preparing for the end of the world as we know it. There is a middle ground where you can still have a good time without being neglectful of your plans to prepare, finding exactly where that middle ground is will make your life much easier.
Discipline keeps you on track, it keeps you focused, and it keeps you always moving forward towards your preparedness goals. Balance keeps you from losing sight of everything other than your preparedness goals. It makes you stop from time to time to enjoy what you’ve got going on in your life, now, in the present. Balance keeps you from sacrificing the good times to prepare for the bad times. In a nutshell, balance is what keeps you from ‘going too far’ or ‘over the top.’
If you can balance your ‘civilian life’ with your ‘survivalist life’ in this manner, not neglecting either one but not sacrificing one for the other, then you’ll have developed the discipline and balance to keep both lives stable and on-track. If your big disaster occurs, you’re ready for it and if it doesn’t occur you won’t be moaning about how you wasted opportunities and time that you’ll never get back.

Rourke on The Survival Retreat Condo Development Concept

When most people think of a “condo”, they usually picture a flat or apartment in a high rise. Think instead of a more rural a recreational condo like a multi-family mountain ski chalet or some vacation condos on the beach or lakeside. Now consider the possibility of putting such a condo development in some rural rolling hills countryside adjacent to some farm land and combining the concept of a recreational retreat with a survival retreat. In this way, your survival retreat becomes a group endeavor, which offers several cost-saving advantages, establishes clear rights and responsibilities, and, also importantly, an operating system of government.
Survivalists tend to be individualists, thus they are going to want their own space at least some extent, be it a room or a complete townhouse. Condominium law clearly provides for private space and public space, which are clearly defined in writing with rules, financial responsibilities, and penalties included. The condominium association, which enforces these rules and manages the public areas, is a democratic system of government elected by the owners. Also, new condominium laws have allowed for even more flexibility; say each unit also gets a private amount of garden space on common land, a private locker in the main shed, two parking spaces, etc. It is limited largely by imagination of the developer and then the association.
Remember, it is of course cheaper to built multi-tenant buildings than separate houses for many reasons. Savings can be expanded by including common heat for at least common areas, building a highly efficient earth bermed design, or heating common areas with a wood fired outdoor system running hydronic heat (i.e. ). Consider sharing a $25,000 2.2 KW solar panel system or a 3 KW or larger windmill (i.e. ) which chares a large battery bank system that serves everyone. If you don’t use electricity to heat or heat water, for the stove, for the dish washing, air conditioning, or for the clothes dryer (use gas, propane, wood, or other sources instead) you really don’t need that much power. Most electronics don’t draw that much, and to be even more efficient, you could wire some special outlets for straight DC if you can get the voltages correct for what you are trying to run (TV, computer). Better to get a large generator and a backup than one for each unit, and to standardize on fuel, and buy in bulk. These shared costs can be very clearly divided among condo owners, even with meters installed, if need be, to be completely fair. If individual members want more, then they can buy more for their condo unit. The point is, it creates a system of working together and sharing costs, while still allowing people to have their own private supplies in their own private spaces. IMHO this is why communes don’t work, and why condos are growing in popularity. In a condo system, you are held accountable for what you must give to the group, but beyond that, if you want your part of it to be nicer, that’s fine. Inequality in your own unit is up to you, and you are the master of that space, though you owe some service for the common good. This creates a workable, fair, balanced system subject to review by an elected association.
Now imagine the aspects of defense. You have the chance to set up communication, surveillance, and command systems to be in place from the start. Defense really takes several persons to do effectively, and a condo development with multiple units, with many families working together, gives you the people power to pull from and create an effective defense, not to mention an entire cohesive, and extremely self-reliant micro community.
Common areas can include common buildings for storage, maybe a green house, swimming pool, fishing pond, a farming operation, or how about a mess hall, a large commercial style kitchen that can feed everyone. One person can cook for 2 or 20 in just a fraction more time if you have the supplies and equipment. (This also frees up people to do other things.) Consider a walk-in deep freezer, and a food storage system everyone shares. Ideally, most owners would want the flexibility each unit having its own kitchenette, but cost will dictate whether this is set up more like a large house with many bed and bathroom units (more like a dorm, bed & breakfast, or hotel) or more like a group of apartments or town houses with some common areas also.
All too often in survivalism, you have one spouse that is into it far more than the other. This is where making the condo survival retreat into a recreational complex is a great way to justify the cost. Personally, it would be ideal if the condo association owned a large amount of farm land and either had a farming operation going, or worked with a local farmer to do that so food production capability, and food storage was always in a ready state. Put in a fish pond, chicken coop, bee hives, and have small animal herds you can grow quickly if you need to with plenty of feed in silos (which can also make great observation or defensive positions too). For the “city folk”, such a rural retreat offers all the outdoor stuff, camping, hiking, hunting, working on the farm, ATVs, fishing, (if up north – snowmobiling, cross country skiing, show shoeing, etc.). Remember paint ball is a great way for your group to get to know each other and train. Thus the condo serves many purposes; recreation, piece of mind, and a real estate investment (though there would no doubt be some rules as to sale or transfer of interest). Consider it if you are planning a survival retreat with others. – Rourke  ( )

Letter Re: Why Hollow Points For Barter?

I read today your recommendation to stock hollowpoint pistol calibers for barter. Why, exactly? I typically have been buying and storing inexpensive but name brand ammo for barter purposes, and usually in solids – 158gr .38, 230 grain .45 ACP, etc. I also use this sort of ammo for practice, and save the high performance ammo for defensive use.  Thanks for your time, – Flighter

JWR Replies:  I anticipate that only half of my post-TEOTWAWKI customers will be knowledgeable about guns.  To the uneducated, hollow-points seem tremendously more deadly than full metal jacketed or soft led loads.  So, with that in mind, when I buy extra ammo for barter, I tend to buy hollow-points. This same reasoning even goes for .22 rimfire hollow-points! Yes, I know that they don’t expand appreciably more than lead round nose. But my potential barter customers will think that hollow-points are “better” so they will give me more for them in trade. It sounds silly, but I see this sort of thing go on with know-nothing customers at gun shows all the time.(I’ve been renting tables at gun shows for almost 20 years.)

Letter Re: Geysers in Kingfisher, Oklahoma and the New Madrid Fault

I just watched the video of the geysers in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. Just downright amazing what I saw. No, not the geysers ….. the people and what they said:
Newsgirl …… “Something never seen here before and will never be seen again.” ???
Lady on the street …. “I’m just concerned that it may pollute our water supply.”
Newsgirl … ” State officials say that fast moving natural gas underground is forced into pushing upwards.”
Newsgirl ….. “State officials are trying to determine what the source of the natural gas is.”
Do any of these people have any clue what pre-earthquake symptoms are?
Apparently not or at least they’re not bringing it to the attention of the public. Personally, If I saw this occurring around me, I would rapidly either leave immediately or become very uneasy about staying. Whew! Better there than here, huh?
A last comment. It was part of the seven states report. (on the Tennessee side) All seven states concurrently and independently ran reviews and investigations on the possibility of another occurrence of the great Memphis quake. Eventually, all the states found out that all of the other six states had performed essentially the same review. Amazingly all seven had essentially arrived at the same conclusion. If I lived in Kingfisher, Oklahoma, I’d be leaving con mucho rapidemente.
Regards, – The Army Aviator

Jim’s Quote of the Day

"To be ignorant and simple now–not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground–would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered." – C.S. Lewis

Note from JWR

Today, I’m catching up on replying to some older e-mails that included multiple questions. Because of time constraints, those are the ones that end up at the bottom of my “to do” list.  So if you’d like to see your questions answered  promptly, please limit your question e-mails to a single subject. Thanks!

“Doug Carlton” on Rifle Slings

You’re correct in that you should use whatever sling works for you, and if you’re still using that old M60 sling set-up that you used to use “back in the day” works for you, great. Sling technology and technique has come along way since then though. Single point, two point, and triple point slings are now available that make it generally better to use the sling than the archaic idea of “no slings on patrol”. There’s too many out there to bother naming, and all have strengths and weaknesses, but when sling shopping, look for a sling that does what you want it to do. For you, the M60 sling does what you want, that’s fine. I prefer a sling that keeps the gun in a specific position and orientation for transitions to my sidearm, and for other things like operating equipment, driving, opening doors and admin use, but still keeps the rifle exactly in
the same spot, with the same side against my body, and does so comfortably. Of the slings out there, most are a variation on the theme. Single point slings attach the rifle to you at one point on the weapon. This arrangement can be anything from a loop, to a snap link [rock climbing carabiner] running through the stock of your M4 and attached to your body armor, to far more complicated stuff.
Two point slings, like the M60 you use, or the Israeli, and most other “tactical slings” are like this. I use the Israeli sling and it’s a good, effective and simple device. The sling is a very long strap. The strap is adjustable, and there’s also a Fastex-type buckle that you use to shorten it a specific amount. The slack when the buckle is connected is equipped with velcro and stays secure and out of the way. This way the rifle can be slung over your head and shoulder, more comfortably and more securely, but the
simple release of the Fastex buckle will allow you the extra length needed to use the rifle with no problems. It has both hooks and para cord for attachment. There is a compartment that you can keep earplugs in. The Israeli sling does everything fairly well, and some things quite well, though it’s slower to employ in some cases. As an all-purpose, general use sling for doing other things while remaining armed and able to fight quickly, it’s one of the best I’ve run across. Not what I prefer to use if I know I’m going to fight, but it’s what I prefer to use if I just need to have a long gun with me.
Other tactical slings get more complicated in use, but are better for fighting than the Israeli sling. These slings seem to most novices and many old-timers;) as contraptions that you don’t need, but properly employed are quite useful. The British SA-80 sling is slightly over-complicated for what it does, but it and most other tactical slings work all abut the same. Some are just simpler to figure out. Some guns, like the older HK roller-delayed based line, actually have a third mounting point for special sling. If you have a weapon so equipped, then full advantage should be taken.
Which sling is the right one for you to use is a matter of what you want that sling to do for you. The Israeli sling is pretty hard to beat for most general use though. I’d take it over most of the “tactical” slings for everyday use in 95% of the situations you’d encounter in real life. If you have to lug a rifle around with you and still live your life, it’s just the ticket. Which is why the Israelis designed it that way. – “Doug Carlton”

JWR: Adds:  Some of you that have read my novel “Patriots” may recognize “Doug Carlton.” Like a lot of the other characters in the book, “Doug” was based on a real-life friend of mine, that I’ve known since college.  We went through ROTC together. “Doug” later went on to be a distinguished U.S. Army helicopter pilot.  He now works in the transportation industry on the East Coast.

Senator Frist Urges Full $7.1 Billion Funding to Fight the Asian Avian Flu

I found the following at the CongressDaily ( web site. Excerpting briefly from their story: “President Bush’s request for more than $7 billion in emergency funding to prepare for a possible outbreak of avian flu “had better pass” before Congress adjourns for the year, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist [who is also a medical doctor] , R-Tenn., declared Sunday.  “We need to be prepared,” Frist said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” adding, “I’m very hopeful that we will invest $7.1 billion to look at prevention, to look at care, to look at treatment.” The measure might be attached to the fiscal 2006 Defense appropriations bill, although some House conservatives are insisting that the $7 billion be offset.

Fears of a pandemic have increased as a virus infecting millions of birds has spread throughout Asia and parts of Europe. The so-called bird flu has not yet appeared in the United States or spread from person to person abroad, but officials worry that it could mutate and become highly contagious because humans have no immunity to it. Frist said the spending request is only a fraction of an estimated $675 billion hit that the U.S. economy could take, with possibly two million dying from bird flu and up to 90 million sickened. “I don’t think it’s going to happen right now or tomorrow,” Frist said. “But if it does happen, it’s devastating.”

Letter Re: Questions on Sambucol, EMP-Proof Vehicles, Food Storage, Real Estate, Barter Guns and Ammo, and SAR-8 Rifles

Mr. Rawles:

I have some questions for you: [JWR’s replies are in line, in bold]

1.) Regarding the Sambucol products.
–Does this product have any preventative component or do you only take it when symptoms occur?

Take it only immediately after symptoms occur.

–How many 7.8 oz. bottles do you recommend for storage for a family or families in a homestead?

We are a family of five, and I bought six bottles.  But we plan to be living in isolated self-quaratine, here in the boonies.  And BTW, half of what I bought was intended charity.  For those of you that are not self-employed or otherwise don’t anticipate being able to live in self-quarantine, you should probably buy a larger quantity.

2.) Regarding discussion on G.O.O.D. vehicles.
–I reviewed all the articles and posts and it appears that the consensus is that pre-1993 vehicles offer the best EMP protection. Do you have any new info or insights on this subject.

Pre-1993 is a fairly safe bet for diesel engines, but not for gasoline engines, which started “going electronic” in the late 1970s. Unless you are quite familiar with car engines, you really need to consult with a mechanic from a dealership for the particular manufacturer of your vehicle to be certain that any particular make/model/year has a traditional rotor/points/condenser ignition system and that it has traditional carburetion rather than electronically-controlled fuel injection.  BTW, many gas-powered engines from the 1980s and 1990s can be retrofitted with a traditional ignition system. Again, you need to ask someone with expertise to ascertain the details. Alternatively, you can buy one or more spare identical electronic ignition system CPUs from wrecking yards to store in metal cans. (Faraday protection.)

3.) Regarding storage foods
–What percentage of MRE’s and freeze-drieds do you recommend?

That depends on your circumstances.  For someone that lives at their intended retreat year-round, as much as 90% of their storage food should be in bulk containers such as five gallon pails.  But for someone that plans to “Get out of Dodge” (G.O.O.D.) at the 11th hour, perhaps as much as 25% of your food should be divided equally between freeze dried and MREs. (And of course nearly all of the bulk storage food should be pre-positioned at your retreat.)  See my Links page for recommended vendors.  If you buy your storage food from any of them, please mention where you got the recommendation. (Many of them are SurvivalBlog advertisers–or they should be.)

–Are there any other types of storage foods that you would suggest?

Don’t overlook stocking up larger quantities of the wet-packed canned foods that you use on a regular basis.   Yes, they are fairly bulky, heavy, and need to be rotated frequently, but “per dollar” they are a fairly efficient use of household funds for storage foods.

Also consider the new retort packaged foods (such as stews. These are quite convenient. There are also a surprising number of canned foods that have switched to pull top lids in the last couple of years. OBTW, mark the date of purchase with a Sharpie pen on ALL storage foods, so that you can rotate them consistently.

4.) Regarding the Housing Bubble and Real Estate
–If the bubble is to burst in 2006 wouldn’t that lead to much lower real estate prices? Therefore would it be prudent to wait for this before purchasing land for a homestead/retreat? Or should we not concern ourselves with what the market is doing?

I am of the opinion that the biggest declines in house prices will occur in urban and suburban real estate.  Productive farm land will probably only go down slightly, since it has been depressed (in terms of its real value) for decades. And houses on 5 to 40 acres in choice retreat locales might actually go up in price, as yuppies flee the cities in opening stages of the next depression.  IMHO, you can’t go wrong buying a house on a 40 acre parcel with productive soil and spring-fed water and that is situated in a lightly populated region well removed from the major population centers.  The downside risk is minimal.

5.) Regarding barter guns and ammo
–In a post TEOTWAWKI barter economy which do you think will be more in demand-shotguns or pistols? Could you please give us your reasoning on this?

Both will be in demand, but it primarily will be pistols will be sought by untrained suburban know-nothings.  (Shotguns are much more effective!)  So if you are buying for barter, buy large caliber (.40 S&W or .45 ACP) used Glocks, SIGs, or Berettas, and/or American-made (preferably Colt) stainless steel auto pistols. If you are buying with the intent of being able to arm your neighbors for mutual defense, then buy used Remington or Mossberg 12 gauge riotguns.

–You have highly recommended the .308 Winchester caliber for the MBR but what exact specifications [of ammunition] (manufacturer, grain, FMJ/JHP) do you suggest we purchase?

For self defense, I recommend that you buy 80% full metal jacket (“ball”) ammunition, 10% match, and 10% pointed soft point soft nose. For barter, buy mainly hollow point common caliber pistol ammunition and .22 Long Rifle rimfire ammunition–again, hollow points.

6.) I have been considering purchasing a Springfield SAR-8 rifle chambered in .308.
A.) What is your opinion on the SAR-8 as a MBR?

The SAR-8 (Springfield Armory’s clone of the HK91) are well made (much better than the CETME).  Their only serious shortcoming is that they lack a flash hider. Be advised that if you replace the original pseudo flash hider with a real one, that it must be a U.S.-made part, since the 1989 ban (still in effect) requires that the rifle retain 10 U.S. made parts.

If you can afford it, buy an original HK91 rather than a SAR-8.  Magazines (they both use the same type) are currently cheap and plentiful, so buy a pile of them.  (Something like 50+ of the West German alloy magazines. They can be had for as little as $2.50 each from mail order firms like Cheaper Than Dirt.)

B.) The iron sights on this weapon do not have tritium; do you suggest I have it installed? Or have a scope mounted?

I’d recommend that you get  a tritium-lit scope (preferably a Trijicon brand) on a quick-detachable claw mount. Tritium iron sights are available for the HK91/SAR-8 but they would be redundant to a tritium-lit scope. If you decide to NOT get a scope, then it is worth the money to buy tritium element sights.

3.) What type and brand of scopes do you like? 

For purely long range work, most of the Leupold or Nikon mil-dot scopes are excellent.  For the best “all around” scope, I prefer the Trijicon AGOGs.

7.) I am planning on purchasing a quantity of gold; do you recommend bullion or gold coins? – Dr Sidney Zweibel, Columbia P&S

IMO, bullion gold (bars) are only for the super-wealthy.  Because it requires assay before resale, I don’t consider bullion gold appropriate for most survivalists. As previously stated in my SurvivalBlog writings and in my novel Patriots, gold is too compact a form of wealth for barter purposes.  Buy one $1,000 face value bag of 90% (pre-1965) silver dimes or quarters for each family member for barter before you move on to buying gold. Then buy your gold in the form of 1 ounce Krugerrands or Canadian Maple Leafs, since those have the lowest premium (dealer’s profit, per coin.) Avoid the Chinese Pandas.  There are far too many of those being counterfeited! For our readers overseas, buy whatever coins are the most recognizable locally. (e.g. Australian Koalas, British Sovereigns, Swiss Vrenellis, et cetera.)

Letter Re: Guidelines on Storage of Various Supplies?

I would like to know:  Some things should be stored at “0” degrees. Other things at “70” degrees. Some can tolerate light, some requires dark.(Some medicines, batteries, et cetera.) Anything you could mention would help on this subject. THANKS, VERY MUCH. Survival Minded, – Brother Slim

JWR Replies:  I see a FAQ coming!  I’m sure that a number of SurvivalBlog readers will have a lot to add to this (and please do!), but here is a list of guidelines, for starters:

1.) Gardening seed should be stored in the dark, above freezing, in low humidity. The refrigerator is ideal. Seal them in Mason jars or in Ziplock bags to protect them from humidity.

2.) Most herbs, batteries, liquid medicines, liquid/caplet vitamins, and chemical light sticks are also best stored in the refrigerator.

3.) Most medicines and vitamin powders and tablets are best stored in the freezer.

4.) Most storage foods should stored in the dark, in the coolest (but not ever below freezing) part of your house.

5.) Ammunition should be stored in sealed ammo cans. Tupperware will also suffice. It stores longest below 80 degrees, so don’t store it in an attic. Ammo should never be stored in the same room as oil, solvents, bore cleaner, or paints, since the fumes from these will deaden primers.  For the same reason, if you keep any guns loaded, that ammunition should used up in target practice once every 18 months (or less), and replaced with fresh ammunition that has been stored in sealed ammo cans.

6.) Liquid fuels of all descriptions should be stored in sealed containers, in a cool, dark place, the appropriate stabilizer added. Heat, moisture, and the opportunity to evaporate are what will shorten the storage life for liquid fuels.

7.) Matches should be stored in tupperware-type containers to protect them from humidity.  Resist the urge to store them in Mason type jars.  (Glass makes nasty shrapnel–and it would indeed be just that if the matches were ever ignited by heat or friction and there was no place for the resulting gasses to escape.)

8.) Paper products and ladies’ supplies should be protected from humidity, but heat is generally not a problem. Keep them out of direct light.

9.) Do not store any flammables beyond your immediate needs in your house, barn. or garage. You should construct a dedicated “paint shed.”  OBTW, for the foregoing, I don’t class standard ammunition a “flammable.”  Keep it close at hand, but hidden from burglars.

Letter Re: Copper Pennies for Barter?

I was checking the prices on base metals today and saw that copper is at $2.10 a pound. Pre-1982 pennies are 95% copper, and 153 of them make a pound of copper. Any thoughts to using pre-1982 U.S. pennies as barter in addition to silver? If nothing else, I’ve been saving my pre-82 pennies for a few years. I have a few pounds worth. It’s not something I’m ‘stockpiling’ by any means, but every time I check my change I look for the 1981 (and earlier) pennies as well as the pre-65 dimes and quarters. It’s also a slight moral booster, considering it’s few and far between that I find a pre-1965 anything. OBTW: Silver took a nose dive the past few days, so if any readers missed the boat this would be the time to climb on board. – Prometheus.

JWR Replies: You are correct that pre-1982 pennies are 95% copper.  (The later ones are zinc tokens that are just flashed with copper.) It has been said that “silver is the poor man’s gold.”  So I suppose that by the same token (pardon the pun) copper is the starving man’s silver. However, per dollar value, pennies are extremely heavy and bulky. I guess that it wouldn’t hurt to have a few rolls of pre-1982 pennies on hand to make “change” for junk silver barter transactions.  But from a practical standpoint, at current copper prices it is hardly worth your time to sort out the pre-1982 pennies. At this juncture I should mention that there is apocryphal story about a church minister living in Germany in the 1920s–during the Weimar Republic mass inflation. During the mass inflation, he saved all of the copper pfennings from the donation plate.He eventually filled a disused bathtub with them.  When the D-Mark paper money was finally totally repudiated (used for kindling), he and his family were able to eat and had extra for charity, due to his foresight. I think that it would take similarly traumatic times before pre-1982 pennies ever become an “investment.”

Note from JWR

If you are on friendly terms with any dealers in preparedness/self-sufficiency products, or realtors in retreat country, please encourage them to advertise on SurvivalBlog.

Letter Re: Re-Engining an Older Ford Pickup with a Diesel Engine?

One of my long term goals is to own a diesel pickup. A mechanic friend of mine down in California, a true Ford guy all the way thru would say that the time tested and proven International engine used in the the Ford pickups was the most reliable–with the Cummins running a very close second (It should be noted Ford owns a controlling interest in Cummins and Ford does/has used Cummins in several of their industrial projects, including farm equipment and heavy duty trucks). I don’t know all the details but I will say that from my own experience the Ford/International trucks, namely the 6.9 liter of the 1980s was a long-lived engine. I once was at a Ford dealership in southern California when a fellow brought in a 1986 F-250 non-turbo 6.9 liter diesel to ‘trade-up’ to a more modern pickup (this was in 2000). His truck, which he claimed had never gone thru a rebuild, had just had regular maintenance had 688,000 miles on the odometer!
The guys at the dealership were astonished and even mentioned contacting the corporate headquarters to use his story as an example of Ford reliability. I myself own a 1973 1 ton GMC with the very reliable 454 gas engine and I have given serious thought to pulling that out and sticking in a 6.5 Diesel. I would more than likely go from my present 9-10 MPG to 15-17 (even with a 3 speed turbo 400 tranny behind it.) If there are any folks out their giving this consideration (those of us with older pickups) they may want to consider this as an option and if they are running an older 3 speed like a turbo 400 or Ford C-6 and they want better highway performance, look into ‘Gear Vendors’ over/under drive. See: This, I’m told, will turn that old tranny into a real highway cruiser. Story has it that the guys on the hot rod circuit and at the drag strip swear by ‘Gear Vendors’, they are rated at handling 1,200+ horse power! Hope this helps someone that is hanging onto there old pickup but wants the reliability and performance of the newer rigs. Thanks, – Jason in North Idaho

JWR Replies: If your 1973 Ford still has a rust-free body, then it may be worth doing. To achieve full reliability on a truck that old will probably require a lot more work than just re-engining. Read: extensive and expensive.  (For instance: a new wiring harness, rebuilding both differentials, a new drive shaft or at least new U-joints, re-arching the springs, considerable other suspension work, possible steering work, new master cylinder, new radiator, et cetera.) When all is said and done, you might be better off finding another 1 ton 4WD that was built in the the early to mid-1990s with a dead engine as your starting point. Rebuilding a 10 to 15 year old vehicle is a much less daunting task that rebuilding one that is 32 years old! Once a rig is more than 25 years old, it generally requires a true “zero time” rebuild.  Again, that is extensive and expensive. In the interim, you can use your running 1973 until the project on the “new” pickup is done, and then sell it off. Just my $0.10 worth–“your mileage may vary.” (YMMV.)