March 30, 2015

A Reader Sends: AR-15 vs. AK-47

One of my readers sent me an email that contained a link to the following article:

Why You Should Abandon the AR-15

For the record, AR vs. AK arguments are gayer than a bag of dicks.  Both go bang, and both throw a piece of copper-jacketed lead down range that you don't wish to get hit with. With all the other things to talk about in the "prepper blogsphere", yet another jackass has to keep beating that one dead horse.

It's as bad as the whole Baofeng HT thing.

It's way past time to shoot the whole argument with a .308, .30-06, or 8mm Mauser and move on.

March 17, 2015



When I started writing this, I was reading an article in the Westchester County, NY Journal News. It disclosed how the local governments in the area were not cooperating with FEMA by not providing data needed for the re-certification of the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant emergency plan. The consequence was that the plant owner, Entergy Nuclear Northeast, and FEMA would invoke the Reagan-era Presidential Executive Order 12657 that lets FEMA and Entergy create evacuation plans without any input from the locals, and later bill the locals for the cost. Executive order 12657, interestingly enough, came about from New York State’s refusal to participate in the emergency planning for the Shoreham (Long Island) Nuke Plant in the late 1980s. According to the story, New York State hired former FEMA Director James Witt to analyze the current Indian Point plans. Witt concluded that the plans were ineffective. As a result, the four counties in the Indian Point Emergency Planning Zone (Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, and Orange) refused to state that the plans were workable and up-to-date. One county, Westchester, has also refused to let FEMA officials have access to county records that would "allow" FEMA to rubber-stamp the plan as workable.

This story provides a good lesson for the survivalist. Only YOU can be responsible for your own safety and preparedness. While the county, local and federal officials in Southeast New York (mostly Liberal Democrats) played games with each other, the people who live near Indian Point remained without an effective emergency plan. Should something happen those people will be absolutely screwed save for the few who had the foresight to make their own plans. Proper planning prevents pitifully poor performance. Unfortunately, many often overlook the planning aspect of their survival preparations. I have met some otherwise very intelligent individuals whose planning never went beyond "If the shit hits the fan I’m heading for the hills." While "bugging out" can be a viable strategy in many instances, the espousal of "crisis relocation" by government planners will ensure that in a disaster situation there will be large amounts of sheeple on the road with nowhere to go. If you think rush hour is bad, just wait.

The first step for the survivalist is to perform a hazard analysis of his locale. This should focus on his locale's disaster history, frequency of severe weather, geography, and proximity to high-risk areas. The following questions should be asked:

  • History:
    Has the locale experienced past disasters?

  • Weather Patterns:
    Is the locale prone to severe weather?
    What are the prevailing wind patterns in case of nuclear fallout or a hazardous materials incident?

  • Location:
    What is the geography of the locale?
    Is the locale near the coast or a river?
    Is the locale near a fault line or active volcano?
    Is the locale urban or rural?
    How large or vital is the locale?
    Is the locale a seat of government?

  • Proximity to High-Risk Areas:
    Are any major cities or industries located nearby?
    How are the ethnic/race relations in the locale?
    Is the locale near a major military installation?
    Do major highways or pipelines pass through the locale?

By and large, the most likely problem you will have to contend with regardless of where you live is a natural disaster of some sort possibly compounded by government incompetence. Think Hurricane Katrina. Every locale has its own particular quirks. If you have been living in your locale long enough, you remember all the times things became interesting. If you are a recent arrival, you can find some long-time resident to give you a local history lesson, or check the newspaper archives at your local library. Natural disasters and severe weather occur just about everywhere, and it’s just a matter of knowing whether you will have to eventually deal with earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, floods, or whatever.

Generally speaking, you are best situated to deal with a natural disaster in a rural area of a predominately Republican state, although rural areas tend towards Republican attitudes even in Democrat states. The worst place to be in a natural disaster would be an urban area in a Democrat state (as many residents of New Orleans can attest). This alone should be enough for any of you living in a big city to relocate to greener pastures.  Ideally you want an area where people have an attitude of “Leave me the hell alone and I'll do the same for you.”

Behind natural disasters, urban areas and transportation corridors will next need to be concerned about hazardous materials (hazmat) incidents. You will be interested in when that railroad tank car, tractor-trailer, or pool supply store has an accident or fire, and whether or not that smoke plume is going to become a concern. The wind speed and direction will become very important to you. Whereas in a rural natural disaster a properly equipped and sturdily built homestead along with the proper attitude will see you through all but the very worst natural disaster without necessitating a bug-out, you may have to temporarily relocate in a hazmat incident in order to avoid breathing that smoke plume going your way. Plan accordingly.

I'm going to talk about one survival situation that is very controversial and receives a lot of play in survivalist circles, and that is the possibility of a totalitarian government tyranny in the United States. I concur that certain actions taken by recent previous administrations certainly point in that direction. I have also noticed that the demographic of individuals who become concerned about this changes with whatever political party is currently in charge.

During the Clinton administration, there was an increase in unorganized militia units whose members were politically right leaning, and it was they who decried the unconstitutional acts of the administration. When the Republicans held the executive branch, the cries of alarm were taken up by left-wing activists. With the Democrats back in the White House the Republicans are now becoming political activists and taking up the cause of fighting totalitarianism in the government. Being a libertarian I have found this circus to be quite entertaining over the past twenty years. Political cartoonist Matt Bors1 coined the term Partisan Civil Liberties Disorder which is when an individual only cares about the nasty stuff a government is doing when his or her political party is not in power.

When Timothy McVeigh allegedly bombed a Federal Building in Oklahoma back in 1994, I watched all the unorganized militia groups vehemently disavow him and in many cases shut down completely in fear of being harassed or arrested by the Feds. Despite my distaste for their political views, I must say from a philosophical warrior standpoint I have far more respect for the left-wing protesters who aren't afraid to get pepper sprayed, have their heads busted by riot cops, and get hauled off to jail fighting for what they believe in.

I don't know for certain whether it's a statement of belief that political issues will eventually resolve in a peaceful manner or simple apathy that the increasing number of disaffected Americans haven't resorted to armed revolution in response to increasing government totalitarianism. I do concur with survivalist fiction writer John Titor2 that all most Americans are really interested in is maintaining the status quo, won't act in a manner that endangers it, and that the people with the most to lose if the status quo changes should be considered the least trustworthy. With that said I feel that a more likely scenario would be a slow gradual collapse much like what Ayn Rand wrote about in Atlas Shrugged. Should you feel that the totalitarian Amerika scenario is a likely prospect, the most important thing you will need to figure out is, as John Ross said so eloquently in Unintended Consequences, “when the state is standing by the van with the handcuffs out.” Until that time occurs, I advise readers of that slant that the soapbox and ballot box come before the bullet box.

The big question all survivalists have to answer is "When should I bug out?" Only you can answer that question based on your survival plans and current situation. When I’m asked that question by novice survivalists, my immediate answer is "Now." If you feel that where you are living right now could become so dangerous that you would rather flee your home than ride it out there, then you should move to a potentially safer location. If you cannot maintain a resilient sustainable lifestyle at your current residence, then you should move to where you can. If you have a job that entails a long commute into the city via public transportation, you should try to find something closer to home. Like everything else in life, you will probably wind up working out some form of compromise. Anything you can do however, to improve your self-reliance, preparedness, and resilient sustainable lifestyle is a step in the right direction.

However during certain contingencies, you may have to temporarily leave your primary residence for an alternate location. A severe natural disaster may damage your residence enough to make it uninhabitable, or a severe hazmat incident may make your neighborhood too dangerous to be in. Rural residents fare better in both contingencies mentioned. Disaster response entities in rural areas generally acknowledge the sustainability and resiliency of the people in their area, as country folk are usually prepared to handle situations that leave urban dwellers in dire straits. Severe hazmat incidents are for the most part an urban problem unless there is a nearby interstate highway, railroad, or industrial park.

You will be making extensive use of maps. A good set of maps is probably one of the most important tools any survivalist could own. Having the ideal number of maps can get to be an investment, especially considering one state topographic atlas can cost $20. You should start by concentrating on your local region first, as you’ll first be doing a hazard analysis. Then expand to areas you find yourself in regularly. If you are bugging out to another region, you will want the appropriate maps for that area as well. Ideally you should have the following for every area of operation:

  • 7.5 minute series USGS Topographic Maps of your area, and adjacent maps. These are the basic essential maps you should get first.

  • Road maps for every state you may find yourself in

  • DeLorme3 topographic atlas for your state, and neighboring states. I highly recommend these maps.

  • Street maps for your town/county and surrounding ones. You can often get these for free from local businesses or your town hall/county office building.

There is one thing about maps to be aware of: Sometimes what is on them doesn’t correspond with the real world. Roads are always being worked on, and the one that appears to go from point A to point B may be washed-out as a result of a storm last year, or turned into a dead-end because some local big-shot didn’t want all the through-traffic on "his" street.

When planning routes, always confirm that they will work by making a practice run. Ideally, you should have at least three different routes thought out. This way if one becomes impassible, you still have at least two others to use. Natural disasters can flood out roads and bridges. A hazmat accident on the highway can not only block the road, but also the areas around and downwind from it. You might have to go way around the problem area. In a case like that, detailed street and road maps will help you get home.

The new generation of mobile GPS units with mapping and route generation capabilities have helped me out immensely since I first started using them. These devices will not only show your location, but also generate a set of travel directions to whatever location you desire either by the fastest or shortest route, and can help you detour around problems you encounter while traveling. I would suggesting having one for your vehicle. The better ones also feature a database of gas stations, parks, campgrounds, retail outlets, and other locations of interest and will show you what is near your location, any other given location, or along your route.

Besides side roads that may get you to the same place as your primary route, you may find other byways that may come in handy. You may need to get off a highway by means other than the normal exit. You may have to travel via an alternative route such as a railroad, rail-trail, or utility right-of-way. There may be a railroad right of way that will get you out of the city, or an abandoned rail line that has been turned into a rail trail for joggers and bicyclists. A utility company right-of-way for high-tension lines may have a dirt road on it for service vehicles.

In a survival situation, you may need a temporary secure place for you and your vehicle while bugging out to your retreat, so you will also look for potentially useful structures that you may use as emergency shelter. There might be an abandoned gas station on a side road that is part of your secondary bug-out route, or a public works shed that doesn’t seem to get visited too often. It doesn’t matter if your routes go through an urban, suburban, or rural area. You will find these things.

There is one warning on railroad right-of-ways that I have to share with you. Stay well away from the tracks. If you get surprised by a train you will lose the encounter! Even if you don't get hit by a train, the railroad will arrest you for trespassing. Many railways do have enough space off to one side of the right-of-way for a vehicle to go down them. Obviously abandoned railways are a different matter, and the local information you’ve collected will help you best judge that.

If you do not have an extensive knowledge of your area, navigation of terrain becomes an arduous task during difficult times. Start acquiring area knowledge by studying maps of your locale. You should have a DeLorme atlas for every state in your area of operations, and USGS 7.5 minute topographic maps for the territory your group lives/travels in. Study the maps and look for interesting places to check out, such as old railroad rights-of-way (which often become rail trails), hiking trails, parks, state hunting land, old roads, and other natural features that look interesting. Once you have found some spots, go on an adventure and check them out. One cool and interesting hobby that perfectly ties into this area exploration is Geocaching4. Besides acquiring first-hand area knowledge you cannot get by any other means, getting out and walking or bicycle riding is an inexpensive way of getting into and staying in shape. Having twenty extra pounds of unnecessary dunlap and considering walks to the refrigerator as your daily exercise routine will not cut it.

A lot has been said about alternative methods of transportation, and my recommendation is a bicycle. It represents an order of the magnitude faster speed than walking, and requires no fuel other than what you eat. In some areas, a bike is more efficient and effective than a car. You can get a decent mountain bike for less than $300 at any department or sporting goods store. There are also auxiliary motor units that can be fitted on a bicycle such as the Omni Insturments EROS Bicycle Electrification System5 and The Slipstream made by Convergence Tech6. An electric-assisted bicycle and a bike trailer would make an excellent combination. Also, and this should go without saying, the one absolutely necessary accessory you need for your bike is a small repair kit that fits in a bag that you can mount to the handlebars or frame.

One of the most ignored issues of survivalism is the period after TEOTWAWKI. People will want to rebuild, and the time to think about that process is now. An irksome trend I have noticed on survivalist forums is the lack of foresight when it comes to dealing with the so-called post-TEOTWAWKI period. Users seem to be all ready with stockpiles of guns and ammo to take on the zombie hordes, but have put little thought into the reconstruction. This is quite evident when discussions of silver and gold stockpiling come up. Many users sarcastically state that they will be stockpiling lead as their precious metal.

Kurt Saxon, whom many consider the father of the survivalist movement (or at least its patron saint), emphatically advocated an emphasis on small-scale cottage industries that could be used to establish a robust sustainable lifestyle in a suitable area that would enable an individual to successfully deal with all sorts of contingencies and disasters. As a result of this common sense philosophy towards survivalism, Kurt gets a bad rap from the fantasy types for whom this approach isn't sexy enough.

As a part of a self-reliant and prepared lifestyle, you need a profession, or at least an enjoyable hobby, that will continue to be useful after TEOTWAWKI. Someone once told me regarding jobs and work, “If it's something you would enjoy enough to do for free, then you'll make a million dollars with it.” You could take the attitude that it is simply a job, but since you have to be there 40+ hours a week, you should be doing something you find enjoyable. Even if you have gone Galt and are denying your mind to the current society of parasites, you should find something mundane that is tolerable if not enjoyable.

After the dust has cleared, there will be a lot of infrastructure in need of restoration, repair, and reclamation. Hobbies such as ham radio, computers, electronics, welding, and metalworking are very useful as they can give you important skills for the reconstruction. Medical skills will also be important. As an added bonus they are in heavy demand at present and in the foreseeable future. People will still need products and service, and that need will open up opportunities for many different cottage industries.

Many survivalists have been noting the locations of forgotten or abandoned infrastructure that can reclaimed and re-purposed after the collapse. This is a worthwhile endeavor. You might also be able to preserve these places against the ravages of time so that they will remain viable.

Once you are settled into your permanent location and established a viable trade, you should then stockpile the necessary items for your avocation. The amount of the stockpile should be enough for you to last through the reset and recovery period until you are able to reestablish a supply chain or find alternative post-TEOTWAWKI sources for what you need.

March 13, 2015

Tools Of the Trade

The best part about Middle School and High School was the shop classes. A room full of power tools, raw materials, and a teacher eager to show you how to put the two together to make stuff. The geeks in the computer room couldn't understand why youdys were getting your hands dirty with the “stupid people”, and the motor-heads in the shop class were wondering what the fuck some nerd from the computer room was doing in the metal shop. Being a modern technological survivalist you ignored them all.

My friend Paul came up from New York City sometime in the seventh grade. I remember our English teacher blowing a fit at the class over some minor issue and seeing him with a bemused look on his face. He was from “The City” and had seen it all before. Compared to the times he had to fight off muggers while walking to and from his old school, a screaming English teacher was entertainment. We were probably the only two in the class who weren't quivering.

Paul was into Ninjitsu. Yea, well it was the 1980s and who wasn't into ninja stuff back in those days with all the movies coming out. Ninja weapons were readily available at flea markets and variety stores of the era, but the cost was prohibitive to our meager budgets and most proprietors weren't going to sell to teenagers lest they invoke the wrath of the law. What was available were our dads' basement workshops where we found you can do a lot with little more than a hacksaw, tin snips, files, and a bench grinder while working from pictures in the books you found in the martial arts section of Waldenbooks at the local shopping mall. We made numchucks and throwing stars that were at least of the same quality as the stuff the flea market at the Baldwin Place Mall sold. Fun times.

Harry, another high school friend and co-conspirator of mine, was into lock picking. Locksmithing tools were available via mail order from places that advertised in Survive and Soldier of Fortune magazines (two must-reads for modern technological survivalists of that era), but thanks to a writer going under the alias “Eddie the Wire” and a publisher called Loompanics you could pick up flat metal stock at the local hobby or hardware store and whip out a functional set of picks for about a tenth of the cost with the same set of tools I used a few years earlier during my ninja weapon phase of my interesting youth. Loompanics now exists only in the memories of technological survivalists old enough to have been there, done that. Fortunately another publisher picked up Eddie's informative work.

Phone phreaking during the mid and late 1980s was hobby that used yet another set of technological skills; this time electronics. Personal computers (and computer hacking) were also coming into vogue at the same time, and basic electronics knowledge was necessary to fix your equipment back then. We all got our ham tickets. Tell someone you're a ham radio operator and you have an automatic excuse for just about any type of weird electronics.

Going over to yet another aspect of modern technological survivalist craft, I had read an article in SWAT magazine (another one old-school types will remember) about a guy who makes his own tactical gear out of materials he finds in the fabric section of Wal-Mart and at fabric stores such as Jo-Anns. With some basic sewing tools and skills you would have picked up at home economics class in middle school (if you went to school the same time I did), he made all sorts of interesting accessories for his Class III weaponry.

After a few classes in leather work, metal shop, and electronics you soon learn that with a good set of tools and the right knowledge you can either modify common off-the-shelf equipment for your specific needs or custom make something for a fraction of what it would normally cost you. This is really the ultimate in survival skills: being able to make your own stuff, and understanding how things work.

The primitive living types are on the right track, but as Wildflower and Jim Teff (two of the most skilled survivalists I've met during my long strange trip here) were fond of saying, “You don't have to make it using stone tools and your bare hands. Use whatever works!” This means any technique from cave-man times right up to the present is valid and should be fully employed whenever feasible. Towards that end, I think the “back to the earth” survivalist types have done serious damage to the movement as a whole. I see the proverbial “forces of evil” using modern technology so if we want to have countermeasures we need to be up to speed as well. End rant.

Probably the closest equivalent to the modern-day technological survivalist would be the Ninja of medieval Japan. In addition to being skilled field operatives, they made a lot of their gear by modifying common items. Tools and raw materials will always be available, and the skill sets required to use both are easily acquired by those willing to put in the effort. Imagine being able to walk into a Wal-Mart, a Radio Shack, and a Home Depot, making a few innocuous purchases, going home, and changing into a real-world version of Batman. Comic book allegories side, it is entirely possible to outfit yourself from common consumer-level off the shelf items.

I was shopping at a couple retail chain stores one night, and decided to try an experiment. I wanted to see if it was possible for a modern-day operative to equip his or her self with gear purchased from common nationwide department and home improvement stores in true Poor Man's James Bond1 fashion. These places are known to cater to the lowest common denominator with both their customers and their employees. Their marketing is aimed at the general dumb Amerikan sheeple consumer. I expected this experiment to be a bit of a challenge based on what I know about these places, and I was a bit surprised to find out it wasn't as hard as I originally thought.

Just what can you find at retail establishments? For starters, you can acquire the ingredients to make one of the holy grails of my youth: black powder. You can buy Pyrodex muzzle-loading propellant (aka “synthetic black powder”) right from the sporting goods section of Wal-Mart, but nothing provides a greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction than rolling your own. Go right over to the garden section of any decent hardware or agricultural supply store. You will find something labeled “Garden Sulfur”. It is 90% pure Sulfur and will work adequately for any home chemistry experiment you wish to conduct. Then look for stump remover. This is Potassium Nitrate, aka Saltpeter, and will also serve your needs adequately. Even in this day of product liability and “terrorism” concerns you can still buy the components for the planet's oldest explosive right off the shelf.

Perhaps there is hope for Amerika yet? You can actually find the components for much more powerful mixtures if you know what to look for, but I will leave it up to you to do the necessary research should you feel it necessary to do so. Home improvement and local hardware stores contain enough neat stuff for a small dedicated band of brothers (and sisters) to take over most third-world countries. I wouldn't be fond of becoming a benevolent (or even malevolent) despot and having to deal with the whining and petulant demands of an entire population of second-handers, but to each their own I guess.

That doesn't mean you'll be able to walk into a Wally-World wearing BDU pants, combat boots, and your "Kill a Commie for Mommy" t-shirt and have a friendly knowledgeable sales clerk assist you with your tradecraft shopping needs. Chances are the only reaction you'll get from the sales clerk would be a call to 911 as the news coverage of all those shopping center shootings hits his atrophied brain like a junkie's hit, and he automatically assumes the tactically-dressed gentlemen walking up to him wants to be the evening's top story on CNN. It's a brave new world out there, and the modern technological survivalist needs a different approach.

It is true that today you can pretty much order anything you want online and get it in a few days. That is all fine and good, but you are missing out on a lot by doing so and also committing a gross personal security violation by linking purchases to you. For the most part, retail purchases done with cash are totally anonymous, especially when you apply a little basic tradecraft and you remain in the sales clerk's eyes one of the faceless anonymous public that he or she deals with day in and day out. Knowing what you can find and where is handy when you need something on short notice.

You must start by knowing that unless you are one of the rare ones who is blessed with a mentor you are truly out on your own, a veritable army of one. There are web sites and books that may help you, but your preparations should truly be kept to yourself and you will have to ultimately rely on your own judgment. This is but one of the first steps on a long journey and if you cannot make the relatively simple decision of what personal equipment to purchase then you won't be of much use in the long run.

You've seen the type before. They read through hundreds of product reviews on the Internet, ask the same questions numerous times on every forum they frequent, and despite having a wealth of information available to them still cannot make a simple yes or no decision. I made a rather humorous observation at a gun show recently. There is this local survivalist whom Vivian christened “Neuro John”, a combination of his psychological condition and first name. This guy used to ask twenty questions about what survival gear to buy, dance around with the fanciest excuses to delay his purchases, and then come up with the same twenty questions again because some Mickey Mouse Rambo Ranger posted up contradictory information on a web site. We saw him at a gun show once walking around like he was on Thorazine displaying absolutely zero situational awareness of anything. While doing this he was missing all the stuff he would continually ask about. Do not be like Neuro John.

Your first task is a simple one. You are to proceed to a nearby retail chain and observe your fellow shoppers. Look at how they dress. Look at how they act. When making your acquisitions you will want to dress and act exactly like them. By doing this you will become invisible. One fashion trend that has become useful for the operative is the indoor wearing of baseball caps. Observe what your fellow shoppers wear and acquire one of the same. Local favorite professional (and college) sports teams and NASCAR are generally the most popular. Wear your baseball cap with the brim forward as they were intended to be worn. Generally speaking, the wearing of baseball caps backwards or sideways is only acceptable among certain urban youth known to have a penchant for criminal activity. This is not a group that you want to be misidentified as. Wearing the brim forward also serves a specific security and OPSEC function. With your head titled slightly downward indicative of a weakened posture that is common these days, much if not all of your face will be concealed from the ceiling-mounted surveillance cameras commonly encountered in retail establishments. Remember these four simple rules that will help you out immensely in your quest to get you kit and workshop together. Memorize and heed them well:

  • Look normal.

  • Act discrete.

  • Know the mundane purpose of your purchases.

  • Pay cash.

Adapting or “kit-bashing” your trade craft equipment will require you to receive a working education in a wide variety of fields: electronics, computers, chemistry, basic industrial shop, arts and crafts are all very useful. You will also want to acquire a working collection of tools as well. For all this you will need a place where you can meditate and work on projects unmolested. It is essential to have a space specifically set aside for working on projects. You don't want to constantly disassemble and put away a work in progress because it's dinner time and your family needs the kitchen table. The most important aspects of a workshop involve isolation and sacred space. You are setting aside a location for the specific purpose of working on projects and general contemplation. The act of going into a sacred space enables the individual to achieve a certain state of mind conducive to one's work, and be free of distractions while working. In essence one is putting aside the mundane for a period of time and entering a different state of being and a different reality.

Many artist-types and modern-day dropouts in urban areas have found inexpensive loft (or is that l0pht ) space in old factories that have been subdivided into multiple rental units. These spaces offer an inexpensive place where they can work and sometimes live. I prefer more compartmentalization and would rather keep my sleeping space and work space in separate locations. Rent the least expensive small apartment or a room where you basically keep a bed and clothes, and have the rest of your stuff at a commercial location where you can work on projects. The best cover business would be that of a consultant or artist/artisan-type. Pick something that is vague-sounding, a good explanation for having all sorts of odd stuff around, and requires no licensing from the local regime.

Those of you who already have mortgages and possibly families will probably have to settle for setting up in a basement, attic space, or backyard shed. Thanks to magazines such as Make2, the DIY handyman thing is coming back into vogue, so as long as you keep up the appearance of a simple tinkerer and keep the noise level down (No testing of home brew Acetone Peroxide and audio shock wave generators in the back yard!)3, you shouldn't attract negative attention from the neighbors. Should your workshop be at your residence, you would preferably want it in some out of the way place where a casual visitor wouldn't notice it.

Books can get to be expensive and take up a lot of space, especially when it comes to technical books. Enter used bookstores. You should put together a list of all the used bookstores within reasonable driving distance in your area and frequent them regularly. You will also find certain mail-order sources such as Lindsay Publications4 to be extremely useful. The Internet is also another source of material, and an entire library can be stuffed in PDF format on a CD-ROM or USB stick. Digging through all of the fluff on the Net to find the good stuff takes time and superb search engine skills. For those of you who are fortunate enough to find copies, the Doomsday Disks put out by Wildflower LTD contain some of the best technological survival information gleaned from the Internet.

The two essential technical books that belong on every bookshelf are the ARRL Handbook for Radio Communications and the Machinery's Handbook. One covers electronics, and the other covers machining. Both of these new will cost you about $150. Look for a used copy of an earlier edition at your local second-hand bookstore. I find used recent editions of the ARRL handbook all the time at hamfests, and towards the end of the year ham radio stores always have a clearance sale on the previous year's edition, typically offering them for 50% off regular price. The Machinery's Handbook is a little harder to come by as their users tend to hold on to them. I've seen some rather well-used 10 year-old copies still being regularly consulted in machine shops.

Going through the science/technical and computer sections of any bookstore will net you any number of books that resonate with you. When I was younger, a significant portion of my funds went towards book purchases. That was long before the Internet. A lot of techie knowledge is now available online for free download, if your Google-Fu is up to the task of finding it. This is a good thing because gives you more money for buying tools and hardware. However, if you find a book that really resonates with you, one that you know is a must-have, then support the author's efforts and buy it, even if there is an online version available or the information is available online.

There are a few books that I've found to be particularly good, and therefore worth adding to the library in physical form. The Evil Genius series of books published by McGraw Hill contain a lot of useful projects and information. Many of the titles in the series have material of direct interest. The MAKE: Projects series published by O'Reilly are another library staple. Two titles in that series that stand out are Making Things Talk and Small Form-Factor PCs.

If you live near any small to medium sized city, there is probably a plethora of local sources to check out. Back in the days before the Internet, I sat down with a copy of the local Yellow Pages to compile a list. I lived at the extreme north of the LATA, and missed some neat places in the LATA north of me before acquiring its phone books. I also learned of many cool places via word of mouth from fellow modern technological survivalists.

Yellow page-type searches are now a lot easier with the Internet, and getting a list of every Army/Navy store (or other place) within fifty miles is now a trivial task. The hard part is finding which places are good. You may find some reviews on the information superhighway, but for the most part you will have to resort to the real-world blacktop highway. So go hit the bricks and have an adventure in non-virtual reality. When compiling a local source list for future investigation, you want to look for the following in your area:

  • Army/Navy stores

  • Ag stores (ie. Agway)

  • Bookstores, especially used bookstores

  • Department stores such as Wal-Mart and Target

  • Dollar stores

  • Electronic and computer stores

  • Goodwill and Salvation Army Stores

  • Ham/CB shops

  • Hardware stores

  • Hobby/Craft stores

  • Home improvement stores (Home Depot, etc.)

  • Industrial/Electronic surplus

  • Odd lot/Job lot stores

You will also want to keep track of the following transient sources:

  • Book sales

  • Gun shows

  • Tag sales and flea markts

  • Dumpster diving

Dumpster diving is a topic that always generates some interesting discussions among technofreaks and survivalist types. Back in my younger phone phreak and survivalist days, dumpster diving was considered the way to get interesting telco documents, find interesting technology, and extend your limited budget by re-purposing a whole spectrum of cast-off items. While some people do have better “luck” with dumpster diving than others, the two major factors towards dumpster diving success are location and items of interest. Dumpster diving has better results in urban and industrial areas. Suburban areas with curbside pickup can also yield good finds. Unless you're looking in an industrial park, you are more likely to find consumer electronics and low-tech items than you would high-tech and industrial electronics. Keep your eyes open during trash day, and do research on local industrial and office parks to see if stuff you're interested in might get thrown out there.

My best sources of material have always army/navy stores, hamfests and second-hand stores such as Goodwill. I have found all sorts electronics: high-tech from hamfests, mostly low-tech from Goodwill, and occasionally some really interesting items from the army/navy stores. Rugged outdoor military surplus clothing is a staple of any army/navy store, and is not uncommon at Goodwill. Hamfests are often a good source of various tools, although when I'm in need of something specific and need it right away the local hardware and home improvement stores are very handy. Sometimes you can find surplus milsurp (and therefore mil-spec) tools at the local army/navy store. Usually it's limited to knives and multi-tools.

You will need a good set of hand tools. I recommend a country of manufacture other than China. My preference is Klein. They are still made in the USA, and can handle serious abuse. Older American-made tools found at second-hand stores are also a good option. Unless totally abused previously, they will still have many years of life left in them. Some Crescent and Craftsman tools are still made in the USA. You will have to check carefully. Kobalt is another American-made tool brand, and is available at reasonable prices. Other countries known for quality tools are Germany, Switzerland, and Japan. Taiwan might be an option as well, as often the steel is Japanese in origin.

My friend Wildflower has a different opinion on tools. He buys inexpensive tools in quantity from odd-lot/job-lot stores. While the quality may not be at the same level as Klein, it is still adequate for most purposes and price allows one to purchase extras for back-up purposes, secondary tool kits, and caching. He is also a fan of small multi-purpose tools that can fit on a key ring or in a small pouch-type kit. Besides the usual Leatherman, Gerber, SOG, et. al. multi-tools, there are numerous “no name” styles that you find at hardware, automotive and odd-lot/job-lot stores. One of the best online sources I've found for unique hand tools for small kits is County Comm5, who is the distributor of the excellent Maratac Extreme brand of tactical nylon gear.

Once you start getting together a collection of tools, you will need tool chests and tool bags to put them in. The adage that you can never have too many tools also applies to tool chests and tool bags. What you decide to use is up to you, preferably based on the practicalities of your work environment. Most beginners pick up an inexpensive tool-box on sale from Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowes, or the ever popular odd-lot/job-lot stores and start with that. When my quantity of work tools became too big to just have them loose in a backpack, I visited my local Army/Navy store and bought a milsurp canvas tool bag to put them in. Shortly thereafter the collection moved up to a larger heavy-duty plastic toolbox.

If you have very limited space at home, or do your work at a nearby hackerspace then a portable toolbox might be good for you. I recently saw a Stanley brand 46 compartment Tool Organizer XL on sale at one of the usual retail sources. It's about the size of one of those old-school catalog cases, and contains enough room for a respectable set of hand tools, spare electronics parts, and smaller works-in-progress. It would be perfect to work out of at a local hackerspace or communal workshop environment. Another neat idea for portable tool storage and transport is the Paktek Tool-Pak backpack-style tool bag. The Tool-Pak is made out of heavy duty Cordura nylon and costs as much as any other high-end backpack or tool box, but the amount of storage capacity it has is incredible. Going down in price, but not in quality, many technological enthusiasts with an adventurer slant have been extremely satisfied using the various models of utility bags made by Maratac Extreme and sold by County Comm.

Your home workshop is going to be a different story. Unless you are really limited with space, you will want your most-used tools within immediate and easy reach of your work area, and the rest conveniently stored nearby. Many techies mount a pegboard on the back of their workbench and use either j-hooks or magnetic bars to hang their commonly-used tools for easy access. The remainder of their tools are stored in nearby tool chests. Frequently-consulted technical books are also on a shelf nearby. Your workbench should be as big as your space allows. While workbenches can be purchased from the usual retail sources, they are expensive and can be built from scrounged items for much less. The easiest way is to use an old solid-core door on top of two filing cabinets of equal height. For a smaller space, old student desks or even a small kitchen table will also work well.

Going beyond a good set of hand tools, I would recommend getting a quality cordless drill, bench grinder, and Dremel Tool with every bit you could conceivably have a need for. Dremel Tools are the Swiss Army Knife of small power tools. If you are working on any electronics stuff, a good multimeter and 25-30 watt soldering iron will also be essential. Small table-top lathes have come down in price to where they are affordable to a techie on a budget, and are useful for fabricating many types of small parts. At a slightly higher cost are the combination lathe/milling machines which are even more versatile.

The Basic Plan: What to Do

A lot of beginner survivalists wonder where they should begin. I dislike giving specific how-to advice as everyone's situation is different. You really need to do your own preparedness analysis and planning based on your specific set of circumstances. If you need someone to give you a full instruction set, you aren't cut out for this sort of thing. Yet there is some utility in a general purpose plan that is applicable to 90% of all individuals and likely scenarios. With that said, here is my concept. It's based on my personal philosophy and analysis of current and past trends. If you don't like it, then don't bother with it and find another plan.
Start with the three basics as taught in Army basic training: shoot, move, and communicate. Get your defensive preparations taken care of. Put together your basic survival battery. Learn how to defend yourself against aggression. Become familiar with the area you currently live in. Get your transportation in order. Figure out where you're going to eventually relocate if you're not already in a sustainable location. Start spending time there on weekends and vacations. Acquire area knowledge of your eventual destination. If you can't live there full time then at least purchase a weekend cabin or vacation property that will eventually become a full-time residence when you are able to do the permanent move. Learn a couple viable trades that will enable you to start a business or find work so that you can participate in the local economy of your new home. Last but not least we have communications. This involves monitoring the airwaves for news and intelligence, keeping in touch with fellow survivalists, and perhaps even becoming a part of a community or regional communications network.

One of your most important activities is putting together a survivalist library. Your library serves several functions. The first is your education. As Robert A. Heinlein once said “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” Afterwards your library will serve as a reference source. It will help others learn, and could act as a knowledge base during the rebuilding if there was a serious enough Black Swan event.

Being in some ways old-school, I generally prefer paper. It requires nothing electrical to read. Paper takes up space however, and moving physical libraries is a pain. USB storage sticks and CDs take up very little space. You can carry an entire library of survivalist reference material in your pocket. You also need a computer to read it. Since I feel TEOTWAWKI has already come as a gradual Atlas Shrugged-style decline, we can safely work with the new generation of energy-efficient laptop computers working on off-grid alternative energy systems. If rugged low-cost laptops such as the XO can be developed for $100 for use by children in third-world countries, then a robust, inexpensive network infrastructure could be developed here in United States by fellow survivalists to keep everyone connected and a knowledge base available in even the worst disaster scenario.

Tools are another important thing that gets overlooked by many “expert” survivalists. Repeat after me, “You can never have too many tools.” Your tools are what you defend yourself with, communicate with your community and fellow survivalists, maintain your personal infrastructure (shelter, vehicles, et. al.), and perform your trade(s) with. Man is a tool-using species, and without tools you operate at a severe disadvantage. This is one of the reasons for adopting an anti-bug out strategy. It's impossible to move a properly stocked workshop on short notice under less than adequate circumstances with less than adequate transportation. Relocate to a sustainable area, and get yourself established in the community NOW. Do that and you'll never starve.

March 10, 2015


If you live East of the Mississippi, and particularly East of the Mississippi and North of the Mason-Dixon Line, it's time to move.  I don't care how prepared you think you are, or can get.  You have hamstrung yourself right out of the gate by living in an area with unacceptable laws and an insanely high population density.

These are the top 10 states for population density in the US.

1 New Jersey
2 Rhode Island
3 Massachusetts
4 Connecticut
5 Maryland
6 Delaware
7 New York
8 Florida
9 Pennsylvania
10 Ohio

Of those states, the only two that any prepper should remotely consider are Pennsylvania and Ohio, but they also have other issues that make them less than ideal. New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, and New York are flat out unacceptable due to the political leanings of the majority who live there. MOVE!

Here are the 10 states with the lowest population density:

41 Utah
42 Nevada
43 Nebraska
44 Idaho
45 New Mexico
46 South Dakota
47 North Dakota
48 Montana
49 Wyoming
50 Alaska

Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming are the American Redoubt.  Speaking as a recent resident of this region, I'm gonna tell you don't move here unless you know what the hell you are doing.  It's different.  If you are from anyplace else in the country you will probably not like it here.  If you are a typical Easterner, you will not like it here. Read this excellent piece at Survivalblog. If that's not your thing, Stay on I-80 or I-90, and keep going until you reach California, Oregon, or Washington. Seriously.

Here are the 10 states that were up for consideration by the Free State Project, before the (partial) membership decided on New Hampshire:

New Hampshire
North Dakota
South Dakota

I already talked about the states in The American Redoubt.  Delaware is right off the list because of its proximity to New Jersey and Maryland. New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont might be worthy of consideration, if you can't handle moving to The Redoubt.  Their proximity to New York and Massachusetts places them with one foot in the grave, and the other on a banana peel, from a sociopolitical standpoint.  However, if you can't handle living West of the Mississippi in God's Country they may work out for you.

New England preppers should read this article about one such individual who decided to set his stake in the Berkshires.  Good luck!

Then you have the Appalachian Redoubt.  This would be a better choice than staying in New England for those of you who wished to stay East of the Mississippi. Much like the Western Redoubt, don't move there unless you know what the hell you are doing and have done some research. It's different down there.
"New Yorkers like to boast that if you can survive in New York, you can survive anywhere. But if you can survive anywhere, why live in New York?" --Edward Abbey

March 9, 2015

Worland Gun Show

The Worland show was last weekend. Thanks to everyone who came out to say "Hi" and hung around a bit.  A full report will come out later.