Note from JWR:

Today, I’m covering Nebraska, the ninth of 19 western states in my rankings of states by their retreat potential.

State By State – Nebraska

Population: 1.7 million.
Population Density: 21.9 per square mile (Rank 12 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 77,355 square miles (rank 15 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $649/yr. (rank 42 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $499/yr. (rank 18 of 50).
Crime Safety Ranking: 12 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 64%.
Per capita income: $27,630 (rank 26 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 5 of 50.
Plusses: Low crime rate.
Minuses: Tornado prone (ranked #4 out of top 20 States). Few local firewood sources.
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 11 of 19.

VHF Marine Band and Out of Band (“Freeband”) CB Radio Modifications

Proviso: The following is for informational purposes only. Do not modify radios as described unless it is a dire emergency. (FCC regulations do not permit out of band transmissions except under emergency situations.)

One aspect of preparedness that is often overlooked is secure radio communications. As I’ve mentioned in some of my previous blog posts, buying a pair of VHF Marine Band radios makes sense if you live in an area that is both inland from the coast and away from the Great Lakes. You will essentially have a band all to yourself. Another approach to increasing communications security is modifying CB radios to transmit just above or just below the designated Citizen’s Band.(The so-called “Freeband”.) Although your transmissions will still be vulnerable to interception with any scanner, they will not be noticed by anyone that has a standard (unmodified) CB radio. Freeband modification was very popular in the U.S. back in the late 1970s and early 1980s when Citizen’s Band was very crowded. It also had some popularity in Australia.

The earliest CB radios used crystals. In those days you could order specially cut “bastard” crystals to give your the ability to transmit out of band. But very few of those radios are still on the market. Then along came the early synthesized CBs. These could be modified for freeband by clipping wires or soldering-in a few jumpers. (Some modifications were very clever. In one instance a panel light switch became a freeband toggle so that the freeband modification was un-noticeable to the casual observer.) The latest production CBs are also synthesized, but have virtually all of their frequency-setting electronics burned onto a chip. So those are not easily modified for freeband.

Many of the early synthesized CBs from the 1970s/1980s “golden age” of CB radio are suitable for out of band modification. One of the most popular of these is the Cobra 148GTL. (BTW, lots of other Courier, Galaxy, GE, Midland, Realistic (Radio Shack), Uniden, and President brand CBs from the same era can be similarly modified.) There is a lot of information on the WWW if you look around. Books like the CB Hacker’s Guide also describe these mods in detail. You will occasionally find a CB that has already been modified up for sale on eBay. But to be sure that a freeband mod is done right, your best bet is to find a standard Cobra 148GTL (or similar) with “low hours” and do the modification yourself.

In closing, I need this admonition: Do not be tempted to install a linear amplifier for illegal transmission in excess of five watts. That would be like waving a red flag to the FCC. Remember: “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.”

Letter from “Doug Carlton” Re: Budget Survival Firearms

Hi Jim,
On Survival battery on a budget: It doesn’t really matter what you have as long as it is of good quality and you know how to use it. For instance, an M1 Garand is certainly a viable rifle, especially in areas where others may not be legal, but it may not be the best rifle for me. For others it might be the best choice over anything else. The key reason is training. My father (drafted for the Korean War in the 50’s) would be much better off with an M1 Garand than a FAL. Why? Because he knows it inside and out. The same goes for many folks that have military experience. If I were to choose a 5.56mm, it would be an AR-15 platform, not because it’s the best rifle ever made, but because after ten years in the Army it’s an extension of myself. Training and experience is the key. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, you’re better off buying a cheaper gun and spending money on training, than buying an expensive gun and shooting it from the bench once or twice a year. Gizmos, gadgets, and dollars do not make up for skill. Only skill matters. Get professional training from one of the many instructors that teach carbine or rifle classes. Which brings me to J.B.’s question on night vision, etc. Training is again the key. It doesn’t matter if you have NVG’s if you can’t use them effectively. It takes training, and a lot of it to really use the potential of night vision systems. Don’t fall into the expensive trap of buying a night scope and thinking you “own the night.” The scope is just a tool. You have to know how to use the tool effectively. Now night is just another environment. Since it can be half the day or longer farther north, it’s pretty important to know how to operate at night. Again, training is the key. The only way to get good at night is to train at it. You won’t make up for lack of training, by buying gadgets. Training at night will put you ahead of those that don’t when you’re in that environment. Too many people get hooked on the gear and ignore training. Your brain is your primary survival tool. – “Doug Carlton”

Letter Re: Firearms Laws as Criteria for Retreat Location Selection

Mr. Rawles,
I see that when evaluating retreat locations you consider the state’s gun laws. It appears that the more favorable the gun laws, the better the state as a potential retreat. Your site seems concerned primarily with the “SHTF” or “TEOTWAWKI” scenarios. Should either of these come to pass, I don’t see where gun laws would matter one way or the other. Who’s going to enforce them? Regards, – J.G.

JWR Replies:
I strongly disagree. You still have to live and to train/practice with firearms somewhere in the interim. Why subject yourself to living under bad laws? And what if things deteriorate in a “slow slide” scenario a la the U.S. in the 1930s, or Zimbabwe in the present day? Think about it: In both cases–still a viable government to contend with. So gun laws do matter. If you live in a state that isn’t gun friendly, then I strongly recommend that you vote with your feet! Refer to my previous posts and Boston’s Gun Bible for details on the various state gun laws.

Note from JWR:

Today, I’m covering Montana, the eighth of 19 western states in my rankings of states by their retreat potential.

State By State – Montana

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

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

Letter Re: HK-91 Magazines for CETME Rifles

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

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

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

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

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

Letter Re: Leatherman and Craftsman Pocket Tools

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

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

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

Letter Re: Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina

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

Letter Re: Survival Battery on a Budget

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

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

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

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

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

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

JWR Replies:

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

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

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

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

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

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