Letters Re: Beretta 9mm Model 92/Centurion Owners — .40 S&W Kits Now on the Market

Dear Jim,
For what it’s worth, I think your new blog is excellent and I’ve read your book Patriots numerous times. I find them both entertaining and educational at the same time.
Please continue with dispensing your knowledge to us “new guys”.

I have a question about your 08/20/05 post regarding the Beretta 92 upgrade to .40 S&W. You stated that one should have 2500 rounds or more of ammunition if this is your primary weapon. My question is this: What do you suggest as far as FMJ or Hollow Point? Should all of that be either one or the other (FMJ / HP) or if not, what percentage do you suggest of each configuration. Thanks for your insight. – D.

JWR’s Reply:
Since .40 S&W is IMO a barely adequate stopper, I recommend that you primarily buy all jacketed hollow point ammunition. If you ever get into a gunfight with looters that are wearing body armor, .40 S&W FMJ projectiles will not penetrate anyway, so there is no reason to stock anything but hollow points. (And, BTW, if you suspect an opponent is wearing a vest, take head shots!) The .40 S&W Federal Hydrashok is reportedly excellent. Perhaps some of the readers of the Blog will have other suggestions on other factory brands that feed reliably and blossom out well.

At this juncture I should mention that my usual approach with any newly-acquired handgun is is to first buy just ONE box of your proposed premium self defense ammo.Then shoot that entire box, using at least three different magazines. You will be testing both for accuracy and reliable feeding and ejection. Make sure that you shoot at least one magazine–preferably the last one, since much of your earlier testing will be for accuracy–in very rapid fire. If there is even a single failure to feed or eject then you should dispassionately move on to another brand until you find one that both functions flawlessly, and has good accuracy. Once you’ve established that, if you can afford it then buy your entire planned stock of ammunition for that pistol–all from the same lot . (Lot numbers are typically printed inside the flap of cardboard pistol ammunition boxes.) Regardless of your budget, as time goes on, you will purchase ammo from different lots. So mark the ammo cans accordingly. (Such as: “.40 S&W, Federal HP, LOT 1”) Then as you use up ammunition, expend one lot completely before you start shooting up the next lot. Be sure to confirm the point of impact (“zero”) whenever you change lots.

James –
I am concerned about your post regarding the slide change on Berettas – the 9mm has a nasty history of frames cracking at 5,000 rounds in the service – using the .40 on a 9mm pistol sounds like a guarantee of broken guns. As a measure of experience, one of my mentorees (I sat on the congressional board that selected him for attendance at USMA) who is in Iraq for his second tour, has shared stories of he and his troops plinking at the tires of a shot up truck with their 9mm Berettas. When they could get the magazines to allow the pistol to cycle upon firing, their 9mm ball rounds BOUNCED OFF THE TRUCK TIRES!!!

My advice is to sell the Berettas (isn’t that Italian for malfunction?) and buy Glocks. For $600 you get a pistol that will run – period! Why pay twice as much for a 1911 that will still need to be tweaked and fitted with additional items? (an ambidextrous safety, for example) My Kimber compact self destructed when its two piece recoil rod unscrewed and wrecked the trigger. Sure, the factory was prompt at fixing it and returning the thing, but then I had no confidence in it, so out the door it went, to fund a Glock purchase. Besides, 10 or 13 rounds of .45ACP (vs. 7-8 in a 1911) in a Glock 21 is pretty good medicine for bad circumstances. Obviously shot placement, shot placement, shot placement, however, wolves travel in packs so 13+1 is comforting to me.

I also noticed that in all of your profiles no one mentioned PT. You will be much more likely to survive an illness or the stress of TEOTWAWKI if you are in good shape. After initial defense needs, FOOD, FOOD, FOOD. MEDICINE, MEDICINE, MEDICINE. After all self-reliance stuff is secured, then maybe it is time to upgrade the C&R Mosins/Mausers to FALs? If I had to do over again and could keep my love for rifles out of the preps, I would do it that way.

I have been looking for self-winding watches for 5 years! Where are you getting yours? All that Chinamart and other stores have these days is EMP-sensitive wrist jewelry. – The Cavalryman

JWR’s Reply:

On Berettas: IIRC, slide cracking was only an issue with the early production lots of military contract 9mm M9s–all of which had their slides replaced by the factory. I have not read about any slide failures with the later 9mm models or any of the .40 S&W variants. (BTW, in fairness I should mention that it has been documented that some of the .40 S&W Glocks had their own problems, involving rear frame rails.) But I do concur with you that Glocks are “more gun for the money.” If I were to buy a .40 S&W it would most likely be a Glock Model 22 or 23. However, there are people that intensely dislike Glocks because of their lack of a manual safety. (Some even irrationally fear them, for the same reason.) For folks in those categories, I believe that a Beretta in .40 S&W is a viable alternative. OBTW, in case you are wondering, I don’t currently own any handguns chambered in either 9mm or a .40 S&W. All of the primary handguns in our family battery are .45 ACPs. We also have a variety of secondary handguns in .22 LR and various big bore revolver chamberings–the latter in deference to being in bear and wolf country.

On PT: I agree that physical condition and watching one’s weight are both very important and should not be overlooked. Coincidentally, I added a new Profile last night that specifically talks about PT. (Mr. Delta’s profile.)

On self-winding watches:
I’ve been successful at finding used self-winders on E-Bay. Used ones, (brands such as a Bulova, Caravelle–also made by the Bulova works, Benrus, and Hamilton) with scratched or cracked crystals often sell on E-Bay for under $100. Next, a quick trip to the local watch/jewelry shop for a new crystal and a cleaning, then add a “Tommy Tactical”-looking nylon band Velcro closure flap and you’ll have a relatively bomb-proof watch that should provide decades of service.

OBTW, I know nothing about the Russian self-winders that are currently on the market, so I don’t feel qualified to talk about those. Perhaps one of your fellow blog readers that has owned one for at least a year will drop me a “review” e-mail…)

Letter: Why Gold and Silver?

Thank you for your website. I am only now beginning to read through it and so far I am finding it excellent. I have been meaning to ask this survival-related question and maybe it will spark some interest on your blog: Why bother with gold and silver? As far as survival economy goes, I understand that things with intrinsic value such as fertile land, water, manpower, armamentaria , food, and medicines will be useful for trade for the simple reason that they are valuable items. Gold and Silver may be very handy if the global, stable
economy is restored since the WHOLE WORLD rarely goes into a tailspin at the same time; and the return of a stable economy will mark the return of the value of precious metals. But I can tell you that before that, maybe a dentist can find intrinsic value in gold/silver for filling cavities. But unless two people agree that your 10-dollar-gold-piece is worth anything it is almost valueless. Also, related to the above, people being people with weaknesses means that there will still be a market for ‘non-essential items’. A review of war-torn Europe after the 20th Century world wars shows that three items in particular that were the hottest black market items: alcohol, cigarettes, and chocolate! For folks like you and me who can live happily without any of the three, they are almost a source of surplus wealth! If I wanted something from you I know I’d need to fork over some service, or tool, or ammo etc. But to the ‘regular, unprepared’ population- and some will indeed survive- you could make a great friend with a litre of cognac and a box of cigars! (Based on historical example, anyway.) Anyway, I can accept that I missed the published reasons for precious metals retaining value in WTSHTF-survival-economies because I am somewhat new to the arena. But I would like to know why gold and silver are expected to remain valuable. Thanks in advance for your, and anyone else’s, time. – Dr. P.R. Ophylaxis, Athens, Greece

JWR’s Reply:

To begin, I DO NOT consider gold and silver particularly good barter items for the depths of an economic collapse. Rather, I consider them a sort of “time machine” vehicle to preserve wealth from one side of an economic collapse to the other. (Something that almost certainly no paper currency will do.) As I pointed out in the Barter Faire chapter of my novel Patriots, even small gold coins are much too compact a form of wealth for day-to-day barter transactions. however, easily recognizable silver coins (such as pre-1965 mint date U.S. 90% silver dimes and quarters) might have some utility for barter. But in the very depth of the chasm, only truly practical items like common caliber ammunition and canning lids will be in great demand as barterables. The greatest utility for gold and silver will be in the later recovery phase, and post-recover–again, as a time machine. Perhaps someday you’ll have the chance to trade a dozen one ounce Krugerrands or American Eagles for a ranch house on 40 acres.

David in Israel Comments on EMP Protection

The Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) effect was first discovered during the Starfish Prime high altitude hydrogen bomb test in 1962 where electrical systems were damaged in Hawaii, 800 miles from the blast. EMP has become the big voodoo sci-fi scare among survivalists right up there with radiation zombies on our list of expensive priorities. EMP can be combated without massive expense by using common sense and some easily made preparations. EMP is a wide spectrum short duration radio pulse generated most famously by a nuclear detonation in the atmosphere. Any conductive object is an antenna, radio waves resonating in a conductor create an electrical field and voltage and amperage are generated, just like your crystal radio set made enough electricity to actuate the earphone from the radio/electrical resonance of your long wire antenna. What is at risk? Anything with a run of metal can couple a voltage spike when exposed to EMP, simple electrical motors and radio tubes are unaffected by EMP just like static electricity would not do them any damage. The most vulnerable devices are those connected to a wire, both the power cable and the antenna both couple EMP, in fact the power cable is connected to the grid which acts as a giant antenna. What can we do? There are two options for most people: shield or divert the EMP. Shielding can be complex like wallpapering the walls, ceiling, floor, windows, and door with metal screen and grounding it making a Faraday cage. Almost no RF energy could enter or exit this room, but external antenna feeds would be required for any radio equipment. A simpler way is to remove or fold all antennas and wrap your device in aluminum foil. Shielding is fine for stored electronics but if antenna or power supply extends your protection is eliminated, if a radio device is able to receive your shielding is not effective.

Diverting or discharging EMP is how “in use” electronics are protected. EMP can be in the thousands to million volts range but its amperage is typically very low and not a health hazard. These voltages will quickly run to the closest ground when the correct equipment is used. Gas discharge dissipation eliminates high voltages by using a gas filled tube (typically neon) which once ionized conducts electricity, it is shorter to dump across the ionized gap and to ground than burning through your expensive solid state radio. A proper ground is required to be most effective a copper rod driven 6 feet into damp earth is excellent. Also very good is a cold water pipe to well or municipal water. A dissipator can be made by splitting a piece of copper tube and running your antenna line through the tube. Solder one or more neon lamps between antenna and the tubing then solder up the seam connect the tube to the cables ground jacket run an extra grounding cable. these can be placed throughout your antenna system or you can purchase higher quality factory models especially for the connection to your radio. The longer the wire or antenna the higher the risk of developing damaging voltages. Dissipation for grid power is quite easy, cheap, and readily available now. A quality surge protector is designed to protect from our common EMP problem–lightning. If you or your home has survived a near lightning strike than you have experienced something like an EMP attack!

EMP is not voodoo and like many Cold War topics it was blow out or proportion by Hollywood. While having a spare distributor with points instead of a GM High Energy Ignition (HEI) system can’t hurt (any spare is good), it may be better to have a long life burned-in HEI rig which will last much longer and keep your vehicle running over all circumstances other than a nearby nuclear strike which would likely melt your car shortly after destroying your ignition. HEI ignition is already uses high voltages and sparks, short wire runs won’t develop the energy required to burn out older heavy duty HEI systems. I make no claims on later model computer driven systems. The phone system was very EMP hardened in the old Bell system days, deregulation has likely reduced these preparations as has the Cold War threat reduction. Power grid is questionable with many miles of “antenna” ready to fry regulating components. Have no doubt that your DSL and cable modems will die a quick death, likely shoving a serious spike through your wired network, the tiny WiFi antennas with 1-2 db gain will likely survive even if the WiFi card fails so this may actually protect your laptop if it is properly surge protected again you can make dischargers for your network cable if you want to take the time. DSLAM‘s on the Telco side have no requirement to be EMP resistant, so it is likely all broadband will die after a EMP incident.

BTW, up to the old Intel 386 there was EMP hardening designed into processors I am not sure which 386 model was the last to include this feature.

Letter Re: Diesel Engine Vehicles and EMP

Great to see a real survival site on the net. One that actually provides useful and accurate info. Would rate you in the top two percent of all the sites I have looked at.
Keep up the good work. I have always been a gasoline man for vehicle power, however, I have to admit that you make a very good case for diesel in your recent blog. Will have to re-think my BOV plans. A couple of questions on Bug-out Vehicles (BOVs):

Are all diesels safe from an EMP burst? I’ve heard that only those made prior to 2000 are and that the newer ones are as bad as all the gas cars and trucks. What’s the straight scoop?
Also at what year did the gas cars and trucks go computerized and become sensitive to EMP?

Thanks and again keep up the great site. Best Regards, – J.W.S.

JWR’s Reply:

The major U.S. (Detroit, Michigan) car and truck manufacturers started using electronic (“computer”) ignition systems in or around 1975. Chrysler was the first of the Big Three manufacturers to abandon the traditional “points and condensers” for an electronic ignition. IIRC, that was in 1974. Ford and GM followed with most of their product lines in or around 1975. (The conversion in ignition systems usually took place in automobile product lines before trucks.) By 1976 or 1977, virtually all gas engine cars coming out of Detroit had electronic ignitions. The trucks had all gone electronic by 1978.

The general consensus I’ve read is that indeed, most diesel engines are immune from EMP. However, my knowledge of the latest diesel engine electronics is limited. Perhaps a reader with some first hand knowledge can fill us in. Does anyone out there work in Detroit? And, BTW, do any of you Detroit guys know what the “point of no return” year was for each of the major makers for retrofitting a gas engine to a traditional points/condenser ignition is? (I’ve been told that it is impossible for a lot of the late model engines–most notably the Dodge and Jeep engines with “selectable 4 or 8 cylinders firing” arrangements–to be retrofitted.)

Note from JWR:

Three more profiles have just been added to the Profiles Page. Read between the lines. There is some valuable FFTAGFFR there, folks!

Retreat Selection–Industry and Agriculture

I’ve had several e-mails WRT to my post on Friday (August 19) titled “Seek a Diverse Economy.” To clarify, this is important whether the scenario is mild or severe. To be suitable for a retreat, a local economy must be sufficiently diverse. It should include small scale agriculture with a wide variety of crops, and some livestock raising. As previously stated, a vegetable “truck farming” region would be ideal. Single crop regions (monoculture) make a poor second choice. Because long distance commerce may break down (due to lack of fuel or lawlessness) it might be difficult to trade locally grown wheat for vegetables from the next county, and so forth. If an area also produces grass hay, alfalfa, and timber, even better! And, as noted in previous blog posts, all crops must be grown without the aid of electrically pumped irrigation water.

A viable local industry or mining are important in the event of a “slow slide” scenario in which the power grid is intact. In the event of a deep, prolonged recession or a depression similar to the 1930s, the payroll from local industry will be important. Without it, even if families are able to feed themselves with truck farming, there won’t be sufficient cash available to pay for their mortgages (or rent), seed, tools, fuels, sundries, and property taxes. Conversely, if a community is dependent on local industry or mining and has NO agriculture, it would be a horrible place to be in the event of a long term worst-case grid-down TEOTWAWKI situation.

Letter Re: Michael Moore on Herbs

Well done, Mr. Rawles!! Excellent info. I have been involved in survival skills for the last 30 years (former U.S. Army survival instructor) and have been a student of herbal medicine and wildcrafting for many years. I have an excellent source for herbal medicine information. The web site that belongs to the herbalist Michael Moore (no, not THAT Michael Moore!) has tons of downloadable material which has an incredible amount of free herbal medicine information. I certainly hope this info may be of help to you and the survival minded community in general. Best Regards and may God bless you. – R.L.

A Few Comments On Developing Your Shooting Skills, by Christian Souljer

Most of your readers probably know most of the following by now, but for the sake of those for those who have not grown up hunting and have not had the luxury of being able to shoot often and learn the information below. Please note that my goal is not to show what I have learned, but to help those who may have missed these facts along the way to consider what they need to do in order to become more prepared:

Guns are one of the highest priorities on most survivalists’ buy lists, yet many people are not fully experienced on how they will work under field conditions. Some of us have grown up shooting and hunting all our lives. Other folks have only shot their guns once or twice and may not realize a few facts that could bring about negative consequences if they ever had to count on their firearms.

As a hunter, I work reasonably hard at becoming a good long distance shot. Over the years I meet and get to know folks from gun shows or at the local range – many of whom seem to be relatively well on their way in their preparations, I am amazed to find out how many of them have misunderstandings of “shooting skills”. For example, several people I know have multiple rifles, but have not ever fired them, yet consider them part of their “home defense arsenal”. The don’t really know if they would function or not, and what ammo will shoot well and what ammo will fail to function in the semi-automatic actions. Others, have ammo cans filled with mixed loose rounds, some may be good, some bad but all are UNTESTED but “believed to be good”.

Most folks I talk to do not understand that different types of ammunition and even different lots of the same brand ammunition can have different points of impact on their target. Some are very different points (up to 12 inches variance at a hundred yards!) – even with the same bullet weights. This can be especially true if you are comparing some of the Chinese or Russian ammo to European or US made NATO stuff. It’s a little hard to believe, but even a few ex-military guys who are used to shooting whatever they were given don’t realize this.
Other factors such as ambient temperature, barrel temperature, uphill/downhill shooing, and wind can have a big effect on bullet point of impact. The effects of all of these factors get multiplied when you are shooting long ranges. I heard another fellow say he only had short range weapons because he would only be shooting short distances (100 yards or less). If we do have to defend our home and country – we should do it at long distance if at all possible so that we can hit our targets but we cannot be hit. It is also quite important to know the distance you are trying to shoot at. If your rifle is zeroed at 100 yards (I recommend 200 yards) you will probably need to hold a little high at 300 yards. Sometimes in “big country” the distance you are shooting may be much longer or even shorter than you think and it is easy to shoot under or over your target. A range finder can be invaluable for determining the distance to your target, and therefore getting a correct aim point on your target.

In conclusion: I encourage all those who are not rifleman to get out and function test their weapons with the ammo they have on hand. Buy your ammo in bulk, getting as much as you can from the same lot. Test and know the difference between the ammo you have for each gun you own. Shoot at as long of distances that you can once you have your rifle zeroed in. Know the trajectory (the path of the bullet your shooting) at the various distances you may plan on shooting. Practice shooting close, medium and long distances and know where your bullets will hit. Shoot in the various field positions – prone, standing, seated, kneeling, etc. Know that shooting from a barrel-mounted bipod usually results in shots that hit in a different place on the target than when shooting offhand or some other standard rifleman method.

Don’t forget to check you rifle’s zero from time to time. Things can change; scopes can shift – especially when traveling bumpy roads. Even different forms of lubrication can affect your guns over time. Check how well your scope does in low light (near dawn or dusk).

Practice regularly. Test your gear and KNOW that it works. Then leave it clean, properly lubricated, and ready for use when the time comes.

Letter from G.T. Re: T.H.’s Letter on G.O.O.D. Vehicle Alternatives


Regarding driver’s licenses for weight classes: The “Class D” that T. H. refers to seems to be for a specific state – and states have all sorts of differing laws. Case in point, I’ve got a Deuce and a half [an Army surplus 2.5 ton 6×6 cargo truck] , 13,450 curb weight, and 23,450 all up. Technically, it’s under the weight limit for federal commercial vehicle ratings, so federally I don’t need a commercial license. However, living in one of the great Nanny states, I’ve had to deal with getting a Class B Non-Commercial license to drive this truck. California classifies trucks under 26,000 GVW or so as non-commercial, if they’ve got two axles. Deuce and a halfs have three axles, ergo, they’re “commercial” according to California. But fortunately since mine is registered as a “Historic Vehicle”, I’m OK with just a Class B (Commercial) Non-Commercial license. This [California axle count rule] holds true even for motor homes, and all the way down to something like a WC-63. -G.T.

JWR’s Comment: There is some good information on military surplus vehicles at the MVPA website. I also recommend Dave Uhrig’s website as a great source for vehicles.

Letter Re: Asian Avian Flu

While we all hope and pray that a human to human strain of Avian flu doesn’t happen, do not forget that the major form of transmission of this disease is between fowl.
Water fowl especially. Since chickens don’t fly very far, waterfowl seem to be the primary carriers of this flu from country to country and county to county. What that means is that should it start to spread across your country (wherever that may be) your chicken flock is at risk of getting the stuff themselves unless you plan ahead.

Chicken coops that are enclosed from other birds are a must. The use of 1/4″ hardware cloth instead of typical chicken wire is necessary [to prevent small wild bird from entering your poultry pen.] If you are range feeding your chickens you may have no choice but to pen them up away from wild birds droppings. A vaccine for chickens has been developed but I don’t know how long it will be before being available to the small “hobby” farmer.

A further note on vaccines: It was reported on CNN that a vaccine had been developed against avian flu for humans. What they aren’t telling us is that this vaccine may not even help at all if the avian flu mutates drastically into a form that passes from human to human rapidly. They are hoping that the new vaccine will give just enough immunity to drop the fatality rate from the current 80 percent. A vaccine cannot be made for something that doesn’t yet exist! – B.W.

Letter from Old Sarge Regarding Prescription Drugs

Sir : You mentioned this subject on an earlier blog post, but I think it is so important that I would like to see it addressed.

Post-TEOTWAWKI, we will probably be on our own for an extended period of time, and dependent on our knowledge and training, much of which can be garnered here at this excellent website.

My question is: how can we find out which medicines – antibiotics, pain relievers, etc., acquired legitimately of course, are appropriate to our survival situation? I understand your general provisos and accept them, but how do we “snuffys” get this info which is so critical to our survival? In my personal experience, the vast majority of medical professionals are unwilling to say much due to liability, etc.

My questions would be: Which of each Rx is recommended, how much of each, and the realistic storage life if kept cool, dark, and dry – like in a survival stash. Diagnosis and dosage can be ascertained by a survivalist pro (medically trained), or medical manual (like the Merck Manuals), or PDR, or personal experience.

I would encourage any medical pro, and I’m sure several must read this blog, to contribute to the rest of us. When it’s post-WTSHTF, we’ll be your only patients!!

Semper Fi, – Old Sarge

JWR’s Reply:
Regarding, herbal medicines, I recommend the book From The Shepherd’s Purse. Another useful resource is Michael Moore‘s website (coincidently mentioned in another letter today). Regarding prescription drugs, I concur that get every reader should get a copy of the latest edition of the Physician’s Desk Reference (PDR). A full set of the Merck Manuals is another must. OBTW, I mention several other highly recommended medical references on my Bookshelf page, including:

  • American Red Cross First Aid
  • Where There is No Doctor, by David Werner
  • Where There is No Dentist, by Murray Dickson
  • Emergency War Surgery (NATO handbook) Dr. Martin Fackler, et al.

My philosophy is to store as many medical supplies as I can afford, and, as they near their near their expiration dates to rotate them out–donating the old stocks to medical missionaries.

There are some approaches that can be taken to minimize the frequency/expense of rotation. Some items such as isopropyl alcohol and baking soda essentially have no expiration date. I tend toward the old-fashioned method of bandaging wounds–using separate gauze and bandage tape rather than modern self adhesive bandages. Since gauze stores indefinitely, all that I need to do is buy a few fresh rolls of bandage tape once every two or three years. And BTW, if you ever find a medical (ultra-cold) freezer for sale as surplus, jump on it!

I am confident that one of the several doctors that regularly read this blog will e-mail me some other references and specific recommendations on exact varieties and quantities of medications to store. (For their privacy I will of course keep their comments anonymous.)

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

"America is sliding deeper and deeper into a politically correct, scholastically indoctrinated, regulated, credentialed, homogenized and degenerate hole. If catastrophe does not interrupt this decline (as it surely will), then America shall become a land of subhuman semi-illiterates, utterly dependent on government, profoundly alienated from one another and entertained to the point of stupefaction." – J. R. Nyquist

The Pre-Test and the Ultimate Test

There may come a day when you have to put all of your training and preparations to use. That will be ultimate test of whether or not you have a true survival mindset. Do you think that you are ready for WTSHTF, physically and mentally? Assuming that you live in the suburbs, try a weekend “grid down” test with you family. This will test both your mental preparedness and how well you have prepared for the basics. Here is how it is done: Some Friday evening, unannounced, turn off your main circuit breaker and shut the valves the gas main and the water main. Leave them off until Monday morning. You might be surprised how the weekend goes. One thing that I can guarantee you: Some of the most accurate lists of logistics that you will ever compose are those written by candlelight.

Now, assuming that your weekend test goes well, extrapolate to a situation where your entire community is in the same circumstances. Then add to that some turmoil: bullets are flying and perhaps there is even the occasional stray mortar round. The recent civil wars in Kosovo and Macedonia are good points of reference.