March 27, 2014


We all like guns, so here's a little more gun porn. This way, readers can become inspired to get their Type 3 FFL (only $30!), and come out of the closet as the flaming gun fags that they want to be!

Seriously though, if you're a Doomsday Prepper who is worried about the impending TEOTWAWKI WROL Zombie Apocalypse, you surf all the online forums, read a couple gun rags, and settle on a M4orgery with the required 10 pounds of accessories slapped on the Picatinny rails and a Glock. Maybe also a Remington 870 with that breacher muzzle thingy. Because that's what all the other preppers have, and if you don't have it then you'll be SOL when TSHTF. The rest of us pick up a few good solid working guns, learn a little gunsmithing, and call it good. Some of us just say “Fuck it”, get our C&R, and enjoy collecting guns.

Not that I have anything against anyone who wants to buy an AR-15, a Glock, and get on YouTube dressed like the high-speed, low-drag tactical operator they aren't. It's your money (and reputation) after all. It's just that I have to point out that 150 grains at 2700 fps is just as good as 62 grains at 3100 fps as a working gun round. Sometimes it's even better. Especially when you're living paycheck to paycheck and had to really save up in order to afford even a $200 rifle. Enough pontificating. What I really wanted to do in this article was pick up where I left off in the last post, and talk about a few more neat guns.


This is the Karabiner K-31 in 7.5x55mm Swiss. It was standard issue in the Swiss military until 1958, and used by their militia until the 1970s. The cartridge is comparable to 7.62mm NATO in capability. There are a few nice things about this rifle. They are known to be very accurate. Their straight-pull bolt action is very smooth and fast. They have a detachable box magazine. Their ammunition is still available as inexpensive, match-grade, non-corrosive surplus.

If you grabbed one of these when they first hit the surplus market, you would have paid less than $200 for the rifle. They're closer to $400 now, but it's still a good deal for a nice piece of history and an excellent working gun.

When I first started collecting guns, I came across this Mauser in a now long-defunct gun store called Old Foundry Guns in Cold Spring, NY. It turned out the Mauser was from Sweden, and the price was right, so it came home with me. Thus began my fondness for Mauser rifles in general, especially Swedish Mausers.

Swedish Mausers use a 6.5x55mm cartridge, and much like the Swiss, their surplus ammo is match-grade, and non-corrosive. Also like the Swiss, their firearms are very accurate with standard ammo. As Mauser cartridges go, the 6.5x55mm has a mild recoil. I'd say it's much like .243 Winchester. The 6.5x55mm also has a reputation of being very flat-shooting.

Swede M94

This is my favorite Swedish Mauser, the M94 Carbine.

winchester m37

No gun collection would be complete without having the humble and practical single-shot break-open shotgun. This is a 12ga Winchester Model 37. While collectors have driven up the prices for these to the point where they cease to become affordable working guns, you can still find one in decent condition for under $200 if you look around. The funny thing about it all is that the time they were intended to be the cheap poor man's working gun.


Finally, we have the current contender for the poor man's working handgun. This is the Russian Nagant M1895 in 7.62x38mmR. They are $100 shipped directly to you if you have a C&R, and ammunition is cheap.


I used to be a gun fag, but lost that status when we moved into our current home and quadrupled the number of windows in our residence. The gun collection has since decreased over the past 12 years, but as time goes on I hope to once again achieve gun fag status. Then again, it's only a hobby and the composition of many collections often changes with the owner over time as their interests evolve.

Most guys I know keep a couple guns around for “just in case”. In many instances they get rid of them when they hook up with a hot piece of ass who doesn't like them, or at the very least stick them in the back of a closet where they collect dust and cat fur for years. Then you have the guys who like to go hunting, and the survivalist types who think they need close to military-grade firepower in order to survive the zombie apocalypse. Finally you have the gun collectors who are into the hobby for any number of reasons. Mine was an interest in military history and an appreciation of things mechanical, although admittedly they are handy to have around “just in case.”

Back when I wrote my last book, I gave some opinions on guns for the modern survivalist. Not a lot has changed in four years other than prices going up and availability going down. This article is a combination of some reminiscing about the more interesting and cooler guns I've owned, and some thoughts about gun acquisitions in the current hysteria.

The popular, ubiquitous and humble .22LR cartridge has been touted by many as one of the better survivalist cartridges out there. Indeed, you can carry a thousand rounds of the stuff in your backpack without even breaking a sweat, and until the recent panic, a couple hundred bucks in Federal Reserve Notes would get you a decent rifle and a really large quantity of ammo.

Rimfire cartridges are non-reloadable for the most part. The recent panic had many .22LR shooters hitting it hard. Right now .22LR is hard to come by and expensive. Bricks of ammo normally selling for ~$20 each have been seen offered for prices approaching $100. Those of us who've been at this a while have been slowly building up our stocks a box or brick at a time over the years, and can laugh at all the Johnny-come-latelies. I would expect that if the status-quo remains the same, .22LR ammo would become cheap and available once again. However, recent events give me pause as to the actual real-world viability of .22LR in a long term grid down situation. Unless an easy method of reloading or small-scale manufacturing the stuff is developed, .22LR could go the same way as many other rimfire cartridges from the turn of the 20th Century. With that said, I've found that .22LR stores well in the long-term under semi-normal conditions so if you can find it and afford it you would be able to amass a lifetime supply of the stuff.


The first rifle I bought when I turned 18 was one of these AR-7s. Designed for use by downed aircrews, the entire rifle disassembles without any tools and fits in its buttstock. Mine functioned flawlessly with the regular magazines and liked CCI Stinger ammo the best. I soon discovered that the Ramline 25-round magazines sucked. I found the AR-7 to be minute of tin-can/squirrel accurate, which is more than adequate for a break-down .22 rifle you keep around for “just in case”. This rifle fit in with all the other stuff in an overnight bag along with a couple boxes of ammo, and was a handy companion on road trips in states where it was legal to keep a disassembled rifle locked in your trunk. The AR-7 is still being made by Henry Arms, and I believe it's legal even in places like Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts.cobray

Back in the days when bulk boxes of 9mm Parabellum reloads where as cheap as .22s, this Cobray M11 carbine was a fun little bullet hose. Despite the crude sights, it was still plenty accurate at pistol caliber carbine ranges for ventilating cans and milk jugs. Much like the AR-7, it is a simple blowback design that digested cheap FMJ and lead round-nose rounds with good reliability. It was an inexpensive shooting piece for those who wanted something bigger than a .22 to play with that unfortunately fell victim to many states' stupid “assault weapons” laws. If you live in a free state, you can probably find one at a reasonable price and they are an enjoyable range piece.

During World War II, the US made a single shot .45 pistol called Liberators for distribution to resistance forces in occupied Europe. The idea being that a partisan could trade an enemy soldier a .45 ACP round for his rifle.


I suppose this Cobray DD 2-shot .45 LC/.410 derringer would serve quite well as a modern-day Liberator pistol. Many people use these pistols as an inexpensive car-jacking deterrent, or for use against poisonous snakes while woods runnin' or working the farm. Interestingly enough, .410 shotgun shells continued to enjoy ready and inexpensive availability during the last panic.


Another war baby is the M1 Carbine. You could probably consider this one of the first PDWs as it was developed for use as a replacement for the pistol among support troops. It's compact and shoots a respectable cartridge for short-range defensive use. Due its compact size and easy handling characteristics, it was also very popular among Special Forces. This was the weapon of choice for veteran NYPD Stakeout Squad officer Jim Cirillo, considered by many to be one of America's modern-day gunfighters. He loaded it with softpoint ammo, and said out of all the weapons he used, it had 100% one-shot stops. This is also one of those military magazine-fed semi-autos that manages to get past states' stupid “assault weapons” laws.


This one is a favorite of mine. In a similar vein to the M1 Carbine, albeit cowboy-style, the .357 Mag./.38 Spc. Marlin 1984 is another one of those handy pistol caliber carbines that is great for exploding gallon milk jugs and close range defensive engagements. Many individuals who carry .38/.357 revolvers as their go-to handgun like it because they only have to carry on cartridge. Of course, being a lever-action cowboy gun it's legal pretty much everywhere, including places like Massachusetts and Illinois.

Some guns are just so damn interesting that regardless of how practical they are, they call out your name and next thing you know there's one less space in the gun safe.


Mauser and Spanish firearm fans will recognize this Destroyer Carbine in 9mm Largo. It's magazine-fed with a short, quick bolt throw, and another fun shooter. Unfortunately 9mm Largo ammo is not as common as some other rounds, but you can convert 9x23mm Winchester Magnum and .233 Remington brass to 9mm Largo and load your own.


Since I'm on the topic of Spanish guns, here's something a little more practical for the survivalist types, provided you can find one. It's a FR-8 Mauser in 7.62mm NATO. When Spain adopted the CETME assault rifle, they took their stock of large-ring Mausers and converted them to the FR-8 configuration for use by the Civil Guard and military trainees. It was also allegedly used by special operations forces due to its handy, compact design.

Fans of Jeff Cooper will recognize the FR-8 as the inspiration of the scout rifle concept he invented in the 1970s. They are pretty uncommon these days as people who buy them tend to hold onto them. Recoil with regular 7.62mm NATO rounds is a bit stout, but if you reload (and you should), then it's an easy enough matter to make a load that doesn't kick as much. With that said, having shot both an FR-8 and a Savage Scout, I've found the FR-8 to have the milder recoil.


No talk about favorite guns would be complete without the old reliable poor man's standby, the “cop thirty-eight”. My favorite is the Smith & Wesson K-Frame that's been made since the early 1900s. Thousands of these became available as surplus when police departments upgraded to automatic pistols, and even today you can find one for a couple hundred bucks in a cop shop's safe that's been carried more than it's been fired. They are cheap, reliable, accurate, and fire a decent cartridge. What more can I say? If you want the top of the line in a vintage K-Frame Smith, keep your eyes open for a Model 13.


So now that I've reminisced over some favorite guns, what would I recommend giving the current situation? If you have the cash you can pretty much still find whatever you want, and there are plenty of gun store gurus out there who will be more than happy to engage in a cash for guns arrangement with you based on their recommendations.


Although they have doubled in price over the past few months, the surplus Russian Mosin-Nagant rifles are still a good bargain. Surplus ammo is still available in quantity. This gives you a decent .30 caliber class rifle you for hunting or defensive use. Grab one and a few cases of ammo soon as much like the surplus Mausers, Enfields, SKSes, and Garands they won't be commonly and cheaply available for long.


Shotguns and their ammo continued to be available during the recent panic because no one pays attention to them. With that said, everyone should have a couple of them as they are eminently useful tools. Even Joe Biden recommends them! The differences between Mossberg, Remington, and Ithaca is the same as the differences between Ford, Chevy, and Dodge. They all work OK, and each has their aficionados. A 12 gauge loaded with 00-buckshot has a well-deserved reputation of being an effective stopper of home invasions and inducement towards finding religion.


A favorite among the more serious long-term grid down types, black powder firearms have been pretty much exempt from all the nonsense that's been going on. There are no Federal laws on antique (pre-1898) and muzzleloading firearms. They even get a free pass in states like Massachusetts. Anybody can make their own black powder, cast lead balls, and find Flint or Chert. Some people have also fabricated their own percussion caps. You can keep these classic smoke poles going in all but the absolute worst TEOTWAWKI scenarios. As a bonus, BP shooters often engage in cool historical reenactment events such as buckskinner's rendezvous whey they practice useful primitive skills and have a general good time.

March 26, 2014

Prepping in Upstate NY

For those of you who are new to The Cyberpunk Technical Journal, I'm Natty Bumpo, aka The Omega Man. It's my CB handle, and those of you who used to hang out on Channel 14 in upstate NY during the 1974 Oil Crisis might remember me. I started writing a column, “The Day After”, for Thomas Icom's 'zine Cybertek in the 1990 after having read his book Secret & Survival Radio, published by Consumertronics.
I've been into survivalist stuff since I got out of the Army in the 1970s and came across this really great newsletter called The Survivor that this guy named Kurt Saxon used to put out. Saxon printed a lot of good stuff, shitloads better than what some of the “preppers” are doing today.

So what's a survivalist? It's a guy, or gal who does things in the course of their day to day life to make sure they are prepared just in case those surprise things happen that make life difficult for a while. We make sure we have a little extra food on hand, have some tools to keep things working, maybe own some guns to hunt and protect ourselves with, and learn things that might come in handy. Most of us life in rural areas as that's the best place to be if something happens. Most of us think that some interesting times are ahead. Some of us think the interesting times are already here. Other than that we go about our business like any other person, and unless you knew us, you probably wouldn't think we're survivalists. A lot of us think all these Doomsday Preppers running around advertising themselves and buying thousands of dollars of “survival gear” are a bunch of fools. In my future articles for this magazine, I'm gonna tell you about how my friends and I do the survivalist thing. None of us have a lot of money, and none of us are into that modern prepper thing. It should be fun, and I hope you learn something.

Storing Food

I ate C-Rations in the Army, and while not horrible they weren't anything to write home about. One of younger guys who hangs out at the local gun store is in the National Guard, and he brought in some of those MREs once. I thought they tasted like shit. The gun store used to sell those dehydrated meals in a pouch that they market to backpackers. They were expensive, and the C-Rats tasted better. I see Wal-Mart has those camping meals now.

My survivalist buddies and I don't buy any of that survival or camping food. We don't have the money to buy something that tastes like cardboard and sit on it for 20 years waiting for a disaster so we can eat it. We all keep a garden of some sort, and hunt. That means canning produce and making a lot of venison jerky. Every now and then one of us goes out west on an Elk hunt and brings back plenty of meat. One family has chickens. Another has a couple of goats. Guy down the road has a farm with cows. We're not gonna starve with stuff like that.

The other thing we do is when we go grocery shopping we pick up an extra can or two of something to put in the pantry. Keep doing this, and soon enough you'll have a one year store of canned goods to keep you fed during lean times. If you have a few extra bucks at the time, you can even make a food investment and buy a case of something. A lot of survivalists I know do their grocery shopping at places like Sams and Costco so they can get a good price on cases of canned food. Around here, ShopRite has their Can-Can Sale where you can get a good deal and stock up. I remember my parents driving the hour to the nearest ShopRite so they could take advantage of the sale. They were gone from this area for a long time, but now I can drive down to Niskayuna when they have their sale to take advantage of it.

Now here is a can of one of my favorite soups that I just pulled off the shelf of the local supermarket. The “best by” date is a year and a half in the future. Other Campbell's soups had similar dates on them. I might add that the stuff inside the can is still good for some time past that date. As long as the can isn't bulging, and it doesn't smell bad when you open it, you're good to go.

I like all flavors of baked beans, but the Missus likes the Vegetarian ones the best so we get those. Like the soup, I just pulled this off the shelf of the local supermarket, and we can see that the “best by” date on this can is 2016. That's almost three years into the future! I don't know anyone who doesn't like baked beans, although I have heard some heated arguments over what flavor is best.

Those were just two examples of a whole bunch of common foods that most people like, and just about everyone will tolerate that have a pretty decent storage life. Best of all they're familiar to everyone, and don't taste like shit or cardboard like those survival foods. That's important because in a disaster people aren't going to eat strange foods, or they'll get the runs if they do.

When you combine some stockpiled canned goods along with the stuff you get out of the garden and hunt, you don't have to worry about starving, even if times get lean. And since food prices are always going up, buying extra ahead of time is always a good investment. Now let's say you get laid off. I would hope you find some work sooner than later, but if you have a year's worth of food put up you don't have to worry about going hungry for the next year. At the very least you wouldn't have to buy as much food while you're collecting unemployment or working a part-time temp job.


Most of us up here hunt. White-tail deer is the big game of choice up here, and between deer and small game if you're decent at hunting you don't have to buy much meat at the supermarket. While we do have a lot of bow-hunters most of us use a rifle or shotgun. A few of us even hunt with handguns.

Although things are pretty mellow up here for the most part, we also have guns for self-defense. Every once in a while we get some asshole downstater who comes up this way and gets stupid. That's a bad idea because at least half the county has a pistol permit and is packing.

I carried an M16 in the Army, and thought it was a piece of junk. Can't own one in this state now anyway. The .45 pistol was a different story. Liked it ever since I first picked one up and shot it. Liked it so much that at my first duty station I bought the civilian version, a Colt Mk. IV Series 70. Still have it to this day. My other handgun is a Colt Trooper in .357 Magnum that I bought used when the police departments were switching to automatics.

Around here, the two rifle calibers that see the most use around here are the .30-06 and .30-30 Winchester. A lot of people use .30-30 lever guns for hunting. My favorite rifle is an M1 Garand that I got from Uncle Sam's Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP). I usually hunt with a Winchester .30-30 that I bought at Barkers after I got out of the Army. Lot of people around here bought those SKSes in the Early 1990s. They were cheap, the ammo was cheap, and they are like a poor man's .30-30 Winchester. Now a lot of the poor hunters are buying those Mosin Nagant rifles and sporterizing them like they did with the Mausers from World War 2. That 7.62x54R Russian round is like a .30-06.

This is rifle country for big-game hunting, but there's also a lot of shotgun hunting for small game and birds. Most people I know like the Remington 870 or the Mossberg 500. If they can't afford that, they get one of those single shot NEF shotguns. For a while you could buy the Mossberg with two barrels. A long one with a choke for bird hunting, and a shorter one with sights for using slugs when deer hunting. Downstate you can only use shotguns for hunting, so they are more popular down there. The deer hunters use these scoped rifled barrels and sabot slugs for better accuracy. The shotgun is also what most folks around here use for home protection.

Everyone, and I mean everyone has a .22 rifle. I'd say the popularity contest is between the Ruger 10/22 and the Marlin Model 60. I've got an old Mossberg .22 bolt gun that's a family heirloom of sorts. Until the politicians started with the latest gun control stuff, you could buy bricks of .22 ammo anywhere real cheap. Even Wal-Mart sold 50 round boxes for a little more than a dollar apiece.

NY State just passed an assault weapons law. A few of the younger prepper types who I don't think ever served a day of their life in the military complained how they couldn't own their AR-15s any more. None of us like any gun control laws, but also none of us owned anything that was made illegal by it. A few of us own SKSes and Garands, but those have fixed magazines so they're fine. This county is still well armed so if the Taliban or the North Koreans ever invade they're gonna have a lot of pissed-off citizens taking pot-shots at them with things that shoot bigger bullets than an M-16.

Storing Stuff

A lot of us cache items on our property and in nearby public lands this way in case something happens to our house we have something left. We find all sorts of containers that work pretty well, or make our own out of PVC pipe.

I was at the local pet supply store, and saw this airtight container for pet food. It was on the expensive side, but stuff like this goes on sale when it doesn't sell. You can sometimes then get it for a decent price. I thought it might be good for a small cache if the price went down some. One guy I know has been experimenting with those large cat litter buckets that hold 40 pounds of litter. You can get them for free, and a lot of us use them for storage at home. He's been sealing the lids with different types of tape and seeing how well they stand up to being buried. I'm sure once he figures out what works best he'll tell me, and I'll pass the word along to you.

Keeping In Touch

We all have CB Radios in our cars and houses. I don't get on as much as I used to in the 1970s, but if you're in upstate NY you can always send out a break for The Omega Man on Channel 14 – AM mode. We mostly use the CB for talking during storms when the phone and electricity is out. Our local Sheriff's Office monitors Channel 9 during these times.

My buddies and I have upgraded to SSB CB radios. Most of us like the Cobra 148, and picked them up when there was still a nearby CB shop. Now you have to drive down to the TA in Fultonville to get good CB stuff. I found an old President Grant at a flea market. The guy had already did the mod to give it the extra uppers and lowers, but I stick to the legal CB channels for now.

A couple guys around here have their ham radio license, and got the big stations that talk around the world. I never had any interest in that, but they have emergency power for their radios. If I need to send a message far away, I can talk to them on the CB and they'll relay it, or just go visit them. Every survival group should have one guy or gal who is into radio, and electronics, and all that geeky stuff. We have a few.

A few guys tried to use those FRS handheld radios for hunting, and found out they don't work good in the mountains up here. They mail-ordered a few of those MURS radios, and they worked a lot better.

We all own battery-operated shortwave radios we bought from Radio Shack. Many of us strung up longwire antennas for better reception. I like the Grundig radio with the hand crank. With it, I can listen to AM broadcasts from across the Great Lakes, into New England, and down South, and listen to shortwave broadcasts from around the world. It's great for keeping up with what's going on.

That's all I'm gonna say for now. In the next issue I'll write a little more about how us survivalists up in the Adirondacks do things. If you want to write me, and I'd like to hear from you, you can do so in care of the magazine, either with email or with old-fashioned Post Office mail.

On Prepping In Amerika

When I see these yahoos on “Doomsday Preppers”, I have to resist the the urge to put a .357 round through the TV screen. By now I hope that my readers understand that the majority of guests on that show are a bunch of narcissists with more money than common sense. The reality is that most of us real survivalist-types live in less than ideal locales and consider ourselves lucky if we have two Nickels to rub together for our survivalist fund after we pay the bills, and we're not interested in showing all of TV land our stuff. When you meet a fellow survivalist, you can tell a lot about them if you keep quiet and listen to what they say (or don't say). I have found that there are three categories of survivalist types.

What I call the Category One survivalist is actually more of a conspiracy theorist. They don't have much in the way of preps, bounce around with the fanciest excuses, and are usually more interested in talking about the conspiracy theory of the month whether it's FEMA, New World Order, GMOs, or raw milk. These people are useless, and you should avoid them.

The Category Two survivalist is what many people call the Yuppie Survivalist. They usually have more money than common sense or skill set, and think they can buy their way to preparedness. Many of the guests on “Doomsday Preppers” fit this category. This is the guy who shows up to survivalist meetups with a high-end military-style semi-auto rifle, Glock pistol in a tactical holster, and a sparkling new commercial MOLLE rig that has never seen any field use. Now I'm not faulting anyone for being able to afford the good stuff, but unless they've get skills to back up the gear, they too will be useless once the shit hits the fan except for maybe resupply.

Then you have a Category Three survivalist. If you do not know this person closely, they will come across as either boring, totally batshit crazy, or one of the scariest people you've ever met. Most of the time they keep to themselves, and if you do come across an actual CAT3 survivalist, they will be either be a “friend of a friend,” or someone you meet in a slightly related venue. These people are “Grey Man” Survivalists, and they are the people you want to emulate.

Since the release of “Going Galt In the Berkshires,” we have heard from similar Grey Man survivalists who have similar experiences and arrangements. Not surprisingly, many are living in the Northeast United States, or areas other than the well-publicized “America Redoubts.”

Establishing a food reserve has been one of the easiest tasks, according to our grey readers. All who have written in use a rotating first-in-first-out system with common minimal preparation foods they already eat. They also use local sources, pay cash, and take advantage of odd-lot and dollar stores.

Guns are a popular topic, and our more established readers are going with the usual rural working guns they already hunt with. Among the newer gun owners, inexpensive milsurp weapons such as the Mosin-Nagants and Makarovs are the selections of choice. Readers who have been at it a while use older common sporting arms of American manufacture. Marlin or Winchester .30-30 Carbines and Ruger Mini-14s are very popular with .30-06 and .308 bolt guns coming in a close second. The Mosin-Nagant rifles are a popular back-up rifle among many readers, although the prices continue to go up.

When the subject of precious metals was discussed, we found that some readers have put aside a few dollars in face value of pre-1964 silver quarters, dimes, half-dollars, and dollar coins. Overall however, readers said that whatever extra money they had past their emergency cash fund went into tangibles such as food, tools, ammo, spare parts, etc.

All of our readers maintained a well-stocked workshop, and tried to fix and maintain things as best as they can on their own. To help this, they put together reference libraries and attempted to assist like-minded tradesmen when possible to get a grounding in a particular subject.

The point of all this was that the letters and emails we received were from real people who are probably no better or worse off then you are, and yet are still doing pretty well in the self-reliance and preparedness department. In short, they were accomplished real-world survivalists.

Many novice survivalists read stuff like Rawles' book Patriots, watch Doomsday Preppers, and get overwhelmed when they see these super-duper survivalist types with six-seven figures worth of preps and expensive whacked-out ideas. All of that shit is fake, people! You don't require a lot of money to get yourself together. Just work on stuff one thing at a time, pick up a few survivalist-related hobbies, keep a discreet profile, and you'll be OK.

"The Best Way to approach self-reliance in everyday life seems to be slightly less serious, more easygoing: the hobbyist's approach. You can indulge it longer without tiring of it, so you tend to learn more. You also don't worry your friends so much; I mean of course, those improvident right-hearted, wrong-headed friends who think your personal pilot-light has gone out because you intend to affect your own destiny. When you approach self-reliance as a hobby, somehow it worries the dimwits less-while teaching you more." - Dean Ing, The Chernobyl Syndrome

Going Galt In the Berkshires: One Person's Story

One might say that it was very appropriate we were meeting next to a railroad yard. CSX was busy moving cars when I showed up at the Harbor Freight in West Springfield, MA to visit a modern-day Galt's Gulch that an individual had set up hidden in the Berkshire Mountains. John (not his real name) sent an actual written letter to the newsletter's mail drop giving a little of his background and his current project. Formerly a resident of the Boston area, after reading Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged he took a long, hard look at himself and the world around him, and decided it was time to "Go Galt". After reading the letter and giving him a call, it turns out that we were already acquainted with one another from the Boston hacker scene of the late 1990s, when 2600 Magazine meetings were held at the food court of the Pru. (They are now held at MIT in the Stratton Student Center.) John now lives part-time in the Springfield area while he finishes his residence in the Berkshires. He had a few days off, and was stopping off at Harbor Freight for supplies before heading home.

When John made the decision to go Galt, his first moves were to generate a large enough amount of capital to be able to move when the opportunity presented itself, and divest himself of such material that would only load him down during the move. Selling off items that were excess to needs enabled him to initially move from an apartment to a rented room, and be able to save more money by cutting rent and utility costs. From there it was only a matter of time until a viable property became available. A former "hunting cabin" in the Berkshires went up for sale. After an inspection of the property and some haggling, he was able to buy the property outright, eliminating a mortgage. John said that the lessons learned here were to be ready for an opportunity, jump on it when it arises, and that having cash on hand makes things go a lot easier. When asked about alternative locations in a more free state such as Vermont or New Hampshire, John gave several good points as to why he chose the Berkshires:

  1. He was very familiar with the Berkshires from numerous family outings as a kid.

  2. The price for property was right.

  3. The tax burden on the property was acceptable.

  4. Firearms ownership, while not as easy as NH or VT, is still easier than on the Eastern side of the state.

  5. The property suited his needs.

  6. The opportunity was good enough to not pass up.

  7. He didn't think he'd find a another comparable property any time soon.

  8. The Berkshires were good enough for Ayn Rand's female protagonist in Atlas Shrugged.

I have been in communication with other survivalist-types who have chosen Western Massachusetts and Adirondacks in Northern New York for similar reasons. Personally not my choices, but as long as the individuals picked their respective locations in a logical manner based on their particular set of circumstances and requirements, who is anyone to argue?

Upon arriving at the location, I understood why John snapped it up when the opportunity arose. It is a spacious (roughly 12 ft. by 20 ft.) two-room cabin on the shore of a large pond (or small lake) with a year-round stream and close access to hundreds of acres of state hunting land. What was immediately apparent was that the location had access to adequate food and water. Another immediate observation was that it didn't look like much of anything. It's the type of place that hides in the noise floor. When John bought his hideaway, it had rudimentary plumbing, no electricity, no insulation, fireplace heating, a manual well pump, small wood stove, and an outhouse. While adequate for part-time summer use, the place was definitely in the "fixer-upper" category for year-round use.

When asked about his most useful tool since buying the property, his reply was his Ford pick-up truck as it would be difficult to transport building materials, tools, and supplies to the place without it. His other vehicle is a late-model Yamaha motorcycle he bought for routine local travel during good weather. When asked about tools in general he replied that his two favorite brands are Craftsman (Sears) and Harbor Freight. He purchases the later when he needs something for a one-time or infrequent use, and the former when looking for long-term frequent use tools. He also keeps an eye open for older quality (American-made) tools at tag sales and the like that he can buy used at a reasonable price. Towards that end, he told me that the late Eric Soane's books A Museum Of Early American Tools and A Reverence For Wood are very useful. For his power tools, he uses a Honda EU2000i Generator, and said that it was bullet-proof.

When asked about guns, John showed me a small but quite adequate collection of firearms, and said that his focus for the most part was acquiring reliable working guns that used common civilian ammunition. Despite Massachusetts' reputation with gun laws, he was able to acquire a Class A LTC from his town. He said that some towns in the Berkshires are easier than others, but that at the very least someone with no criminal record should be able to get an LTC for "Sporting" or "Hunting and Target Shooting" purposes. John does not carry for the most part, and was originally planning on settling for a lesser LTC permit as that would have at least enabled him to purchase and practice with his handguns. However the Class A LTC makes more options available. His collection consists of a Swiss K-31, Smith & Wesson Model 686 (.357 Mag.), Marlin M1894 (.357 Mag.), Marlin Model 60, Ruger Mark II, Mossberg 500 (12 ga.), and Marlin 336 (.30-30). He admitted the Swiss K-31 was the odd one of the lot when considering his focus, but he liked its reasonable (at the time) price, excellent accuracy, inexpensive (at the time) bulk surplus ammo, and smooth operation with the straight-pull bolt. All of his guns were purchased used from various small gun stores throughout the state. John has also been expanding into reloading and black powder firearms as time and finances permit, noting the lack of laws even in Massachusetts regarding antiques and muzzleloaders. His first acquisition towards that end was a reproduction of a Remington Model 1858 Revolver he purchased at a gun show.

Wireless phone service in the vicinity of the cabin was spotty at best. John said that under normal circumstances he would have ordered the cheapest level of POTS line from the local phone company, but the cabin was located too far away from the pole for a cheap installation. An off-the-shelf cellphone extender would increase coverage reliability, but is also out of the budget. John has been experimenting with homebrew DIY cellphone extenders as time permits. As an aside, I have heard from many survivalist-types who specifically look for places that don't have wireless phone service when choosing their Galt's Gulch location.

For off-grid communications, the cabin is equipped with a SSB CB rig and 2-meter FM ham transceiver, both operating on batteries and acquired from local hamfests. Plans are in the works to add an HF ham transceiver. John currently possesses a Technician Class Amateur Radio License, and expects to upgrade to the General Class at the next hamfest he attends. For news acquisition, John purchased a police scanner, shortwave radio, and weather-alert radio on clearance from Radio Shack.

As mentioned previously, John purchased a small Honda generator for running power tools and other AC electrical devices at the cabin. He went with the Honda EU2000i because of its reliability, long run time, and compatibility with electronics. He has been supplementing the Honda with the purchase of solar panels from Harbor Frieght, and small experimental wind generators.

Plans are in the works to also experiment with small scale water power from the property's stream. John has been focusing on DC as opposed to AC because he's found parts easier to acquire via RV and truck shops.

Lighting in the cabin is provided by a combination of modified dollar store solar-powered LED lights, candles, and oil lamps. John plans to eventually equip the cabin with 12 Volt appliances, powered by a battery bank charged with a combination of wind, solar, and hydroelectric power. The electronics in the cabin are powered by batteries. John uses rechargeables in these, and buys solar-powered battery chargers when he finds them on sale (Harbor Freight). Most of the electronics can also use external DC power, so they'll be able to connected to his DC power system when it's finished.

One item of noteworthy interest was John's library of DIY and self-reliance books. John built shelves into the wall of the cabin, and now has about 18 feet of shelf space. Most of his books were bought at used book sales held by various libraries. He also checks the offerings at used book stores whenever possible. I already mentioned Eric Sloane. Another one of his favorites is the Foxfire book series. John prefers paper to electronic books as "they don't need electricity".

Internet service at the cabin is non-existent, and there are no plans to establish it. John said he's on it enough when in hell, and has plenty to do at the cabin without it. However, john does have a Raspberry Pi hooked up to a small flatscreen monitor that he uses as an e-book reader and experimenter's tool. One of the future uses of the Pi is as a data terminal for digital amateur radio modes on HF and VHF.

At the present, John is still in the process of converting the place from a seasonal to an all-season residence. He is also exploring options for income generation in the Berkshires, with self-employment being a significant possibility. Once he's living in the cabin full time, he can then proceed with items that require regular attention such as livestock and a garden.

John has found that lack of an Internet connection at the cabin has enabled him to direct his free time towards other pursuits related to the nuts and bolts of establishing a homestead, and the acquisition of a useful skill set.

In the end, he advises, take a good look at your particular situation and figure out what would work best for you based on what other real people with situations similar to yours have discovered. If it doesn't work, then try something else. He said that since we are really in a slow decline, there is a good amount of time to get up to speed until the reset. So in the meantime, he's going to work on his place in hills, expand his skill-set in multiple directions, and in the end just be another anonymous dumb hillbilly in the sticks until the end happens.

March 25, 2014