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Campfire Chat

August 20, 2019

There weren’t many comments that warranted inclusion here, so there’s a couple from emails.


I live in NW MT, where griz and mountain lions are common.  We had a griz attack a few weeks ago, stopped by two shooters with .357 and .44 mag.  I had a mountain lion on property two weeks ago, which I frightened away with a round from my G17 (which I thankfully had on me).  Our game warden warned us to upgrade from our daily carry 9mm with the lion and bear risk in mind, and to switch from hollow points to cast bullets.  Do you have a recommendation for a handgun with the big predator threat in mind?

I had one very close encounter with a grizzly sow, at about 15 yards, who happened to have a very curious cub. I was armed with a .357 at the time, and all I remember thinking was, “This is a fucking pop gun! She’s not even gonna notice if I shoot her with this thing!”

I’ve spent a LOT of time in grizzly country, and seen a lot of grizzlies. That’s the only time I ever felt like I NEEDED my gun to deal with the situation. Of course, that was also the first time I’d ever actually seen a grizzly, outside of a zoo, and I ended up not needing to shoot her. I remain convinced that my charming personality and stunning good looks made her decide I wasn’t a threat to her baby.

So….my advice on a handgun recommendation in grizzly country is, “Carry a rifle.” Seriously. Even if it’s a little 16” .30-30. In addition to that however, I will mention something that a very experienced Alaskan outfitter told me once, “The key to stopping a griz is stopping their heart. Carry whatever you want, but make sure it’s got enough ass behind it to penetrate to the heart itself.” One of the things I discussed in Guerrilla Gunfighter 2: Preparedness Rifle and Carbine, is the fact that, where I live, 5.56 will kill anything I might need to shoot, from people to animals large and small. Since I don’t suspect in a grid-down scenario, most people are not going to be “hunting,” so much as shooting opportunistically, when it comes to wild game, I believe a general purpose rifle, that covers as many of your needs as possible is a good bet for your primary carbine or rifle. Because of my location, my M4—conveniently—fills that bill. If I still lived in the Rockies, I’d probably carry my M1A or an AR10/M110 (and, yes, I do occasionally switch out the M4 for the .30-30 or the 12-gauge slug gun, as discussed in the book.

As for cougars? Meh. I’ve seen six or seven cougars, total, in my life, and only one of them did I see long enough to shoot (To be clear, I’ve never “hunted” cougars. The one I shot was a favor for a neighbor, when he found it in his barnyard). I shot that one with a .22, and managed to kill her (if you’re gonna do that, I recommend being REALLY good at fast snap shots on moving targets. There ain’t gonna be no “double taps” or “rapid fire strings.” They move way too fast. I shot her, and then had to find her, track her visually, shoot again, etc.)


I have been trolling your site as well as others for some time scanning for insights as well as a touchstone that not everyone alive is retarded and drinking the pay ops cool-aid, so again, thank you. I have a particular issue that I feel you may have some insights into. I am prior service and currently overseas working in the ‘Stans. Along with this lifestyle comes the lack of a clan or even strong ties to return to other than prior service clan that are scattered to the corners of the globe. I am contemplating a plot of land to start to develop roots in but being overseas you can understand that this proves difficult. My question is, in my position how would you proceed as I will literally be starting from scratch? I have been scouting areas in Montana, Wyoming, Texas (where my vehicle, firearms and items reside) and parts of upstate New York. Each one provides its own unique set of issues. While several have significant tax advantages they also offer unique agricultural and environmental challenges. Perhaps I’m overthinking this and just need to pull the trigger on something or maybe I should be looking into something else entirely…Honestly any advice would be beneficial.

Dude, that’s a tough one, honestly.

How old are you? Where is your family? Parents still alive? Grandparents? Got cousins and shit? Siblings? Even if you don’t get along with them, there’s a kinship tie there. Do you still talk to any old school chums? Get along with them?

One of the conversations I had—repeatedly—with people, when I told them I was moving back to where I grew up in the South occurred when they asked if any of my people were preppers with training? I would point out that, no, not for the most part. Certainly none were on a level where I would want to go into a gunfight with them. But, as I also pointed out…I was more worried about having people I could trust. Give me a dude I know I can trust, and I can teach him to shoot, move, and communicate. Teaching those skills is a lot easier than building the kind of relationships we’re talking about…

So, recognizing that it may not fit your situation, without knowing the specifics of your situation, I would be concerned less with possible tax havens, and more with getting back to rebuilding relationships with people I already knew, and had relationships with. Granted, some of them may have turned out to be shitheads in the ensuing years, but I bet not….and certainly not all of them.


I’m reading GG v2, and noticed that you have a M1A!

Please note: I am NOT asking what rifle to replace my AR 15 with.  🙂

But IF one wanted a semi auto 308, is the M1A the way to go?

For the love of all the gods of my ancestors and yours, no!!!!

Now, I love my M1A (don’t tell anybody, though!), and I dig shooting it, and I’ve even used it for my deer rifle (once. It was way too much of a pain-in-the-ass, compared to a .30-30 or my M4).

If you feel like you NEED a .308, I’d suggest an AR10/SR25/XM110 clone. That having been said, I am going to build an XM110 next year, but I’m doing it in 6.5 Creedmore, which is what I’d actually suggest if you feel like you NEED an intermediate-long range gun.

That having been said, my M1A is the Springfield Squad-Scout, and I really do get a kick out of shooting it. Practical issues aside, there is something very nostalgic about shooting a rifle made of wood and iron, still. Maybe it’s a result of my misspent youth, reading Soldier of Fortune, Gung-Ho, New Breed, American Survival Guide, and all the other “mercenary” and survivalist magazines back in the ‘80s?


I have been told is a no go for me, as there so little sun during the winter in NW MT.  Did you get enough juice out of PV when you lived in ID?

Yes, and No. We weren’t off-grid the entire time we lived in Idaho, which was most of a decade. But, for the times we were off-grid, we did get enough, even in winter.

That having been said, there’s a very important qualifier in your question….”Did YOU get enough juice out of PV…?” WE did. We also didn’t use the battery bank for anything, at that time, except to charge a single cell-phone, to run a radio receiver a couple hours in the evenings, and for lighting. That takes a VERY small amount of electrical power…. So, it really depends on what you’re planning on running on the system. There are a lot of folks in both NW Montana, and in N Idaho, that are using Solar though….


I’ve been reading your blog for awhile now. I’m 55, have lived a sedentary lifestyle for quite awhile and it shows. Your constant harping on PT finally got through my thick skull and started eating (a little) better, riding my bike, and a little over a month ago I talked my wife into letting me get a weight set and rack so I can work out – and I have been, kind of to my surprise. So I’ve got the PT part down – finally, at least so far.

The problem is I’m not a brave person. Kind of a chicken-shit to be honest. I read the article by Matt Larsen that you talked about last Monday. In your opinion, is courage/fear control something that can be learned? If so, can you recommend some resources, either types of training or mental exercises?

“We become what we do, regularly.”

I do believe it is possible. How do you go about it? That I’m not so sure of, but I would start with intentionally putting yourself in situations that make you physically and/or mentally uncomfortable. I’m deathly afraid of heights. So, I joined the Army to jump out of airplanes and helicopters. I also rock climb and rappel. Now, I’m still scared shitless of heights….but I manage to deal with it, without completely losing my shit.

So, find something that makes you uncomfortable—or scared—and just do it. Use whatever tools you need, before hand, to build yourself up mentally for it, for now, but just commit to doing it.

For most, middle-class folks, I think the three things most accessible are going to be the three that I found worked really well for me, as I was coming up: 1) join a boxing gym. Not a “cardio boxing gym.” Find an actual boxing gym, preferably one training amateur and pro fighters, and go join (in my experience, the more Hispanics there are in the gym, the better the boxing gym is….wait, was that racist? Who cares. It’s true). Nothing will get you over your fear of interpersonal conflict faster than getting punched in the face a bunch of times by some pissed-off 16-year old Mexican kid four weight classes lighter than you (I get my ass beat regularly by the teenage Mexican kids at our gym. It’s not fun, but it is humbling). 2) If a boxing gym isn’t possible, find a good MMA gym. You’ll still probably get the opportunity to do some legit full-contact boxing and kickboxing, but more importantly, getting smothered under some big bastard, who’s got 40# of weight advantage crushing your lungs, while he’s simultaneously choking the shit out of you with his arms, is, well…fear provoking….learning to just breathe, and relax, and work through that, is extremely useful in overcoming fear, in my experience. “Shit, it can’t be worse than that fat fucker sitting on my chest choking me!” 3) Go skydiving. Seriously. I’m not telling you to become a skydiver (I’m not. I’ve skydived, but I’m not a skydiver. I fucking hate jumping. I hated jumping in the Army too.), but we are naturally wired to be terrified of heights. Developing the ability to overcome that inherent terror, is—I firmly believe—the single best thing that ever happened to me, as far as overcoming fear in any venue. You’ll never be “not scared,” no matter how many jumps you do (and if you do lose your fear, you need to stop jumping, right-the-fuck-then, because it means you’re about to do something really stupid). I’ve talked to guys with thousands of jumps logged, going back decades. Every one of them told me, “Fuck yes, I’m still scared when I go up. The day I’m not scared is the day I quit.” That’s not because they’re adrenaline junkies—well, not entirely—but because they recognize that, if they lose that fear, they’re gonna get lazy, and end up doing something stupid.

As far as individual exercises, meh. Different shit works for different people.

For me, I just start cracking jokes, and making myself laugh. Seriously. I figure, if I’m laughing, I’m not crying, right? Beyond that, “tactical breathing” is all the rage these days, for controlling the autonomic stress reaction. I learned it from my granddad when I was a kid, and then again when I was in the military, although my granddad taught it differently.

The contemporary method, at its most basic, is to simply breathe in through your nose, for a four-count (I use, “one thousand and one, one thousand and two, etc”….). Then, hold it for a four-count. Release for a four-count. Whether you need to hold the pause on the exhalation is debatable, depending on who you ask. I do, because it’s how I was originally taught, but I was also originally taught to hold a seven-count, not a four-count….The longer count, to me, seems to force you to calm the fuck down a little quicker. Your mileage may vary.


One of the things we’re talking about, on the Patreon Page today, is dealing with people showing up at your “retreat” location, looking for a place of refuge. It’s interesting to me that people are so quick to jump on the “I prepared for my immediate family. They should have had more foresight!” wagon. Sure, it’s true, they should have, but….they didn’t.

We have developed our farm as a place for multiple families to show up. Some of them have helped build our facility, and continue to do so, either with actual building help and guidance when needed, or they are the “clan-of-choice” that also comes out and trains regularly, because we all know holding the place is going to be critical.

Most of the people I expect to show up though, are those friends and family members who have said—regardless of how they try to pass it off as a joke–”Well, when the SHTF, we’re coming to your house!” Unlike most people I read and talk to, my response is always, “Well, we’re counting on it!”

After all, we’re gonna need more bodies. Whether that’s for security purposes, of putting someone in a LP/OP, with a trained buddy, or because somebody gonna hav’ to hoe d’ peas, is irrelevant. I’m certainly not going to turn my own kin away, regardless of how “silly” they may think I am, right now.

Someone sent me a biblical quote about this very topic the other day. While I’m not a Christian, I know a lot of the readers are, so it might give y’all something to meditate on….

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” –1 Timothy 5:8 (NIV)

But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (KJV)

Now, again, I’m not a Christian, a fact I’ve never hidden, so it could be argued that this is something akin to “the Devil quoting Scripture,” or that I don’t understand the context, but I would counter with, “it’s pretty fucking blatant what is being said.” Fortunately, I’m a historian, so I understand the context better than most modern Christians do. And, since I am a historian, I know how to look for secondary sources for references. If you’re looking for something to get past the initial light reading, “Oh, but it says ‘especially for their own house!’” you need to understand the construction of the “familias” in that era, wherein it was not just Dad, Mom, 2.5 kids, and the pets. It was the extended family. It was, to use the Old English phrase I used in Forging the Hero, kith-and-kin.

Here’s an additional reference discussing it: Ellicot’s Commentary. If you read the commentary for the entire chapter of 1 Timothy 5, you’ll see that Paul was discussing a lot more in this letter, than just the modern nuclear family…..

So, what are you doing to prepare for the extended clan to show up? Still wanna focus on “stuff,” or should you be focusing more on “skills” that can be used to multiply the stuff? I know my answer….


One of the things I’m doing on the Patreon page, for second tier subscribers, is going through some of my old journals, and writing commentary on some of the entries in there. This requires an explanation. I don’t record “Dear Diary, today, I did this and this and that. We went to here and there and there. I had a wonderful day.” Instead, my journals are records of my training practice, as well as ideas that come into my head for related topics. Mostly though, my journals are where I take notes on what I’ve read. Found an interesting quote in a book I’m reading? Write it down, so I can think about it later.

So, for first tier subscribers, you’ll be getting the next installment in the Survival Retreat discussion this week. For second tier subscribers, you’ll be getting the second installment in the series about actually integrating some combatives training into your training. This week is about practicing not getting knocked the fuck out…You’ll also be getting an article, much like the campfire chats, where I’ll share a quote from my journal, preparedness related, and then discuss it.

If you’re not on the Patreon page, and you’ve read this far, what are you waiting for? It’s a couple bucks a month. How long have you been reading this blog? Did you get a couple dollars a month worth of value out of it? I appreciate the support. More importantly, my wife appreciates the support. She keeps telling me about her garden seeds orders for next spring…..

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  1. LowKey permalink

    @ The Contractor with No Roots-
    I’m in essentially the same boat. 15 years on the other side of the pond; Dad died a little over a year ago, Mom been dead since I was 5. My only sib is not someone I would trust with anything. Ever.
    No close friends stateside. My wife is from overseas, so no ties in CONUS. That shit gets more unpleasant and problematic as you get older, not less. The sins of our youth come back to haunt you.

    All you can do is what we’re working on- look for a place where the values and climate suit you, then accept that when you get there you’re not likely to be as accepted when push comes to shove as locals born and raised there. Plan accordingly. At the same time do try to be respectful of them and be worthy of respect in return. With luck and effort you may make those connections. Other than that, embrace the suck. It’s still going to be better than being in an unsustainable shit hole AND not having close ties with anyone.

    Best of luck.

    PS- Sweet Saint Sadie, stay out of NY.

    • Roseman permalink

      If you are religious, joining the local church and especially the ladies auxiliary is the surest way to acclimate and be accepted into a new community..

    • Steve permalink

      I agree. Ever since the republicans (Which are really dem-lite in this state) lost control of the senate in NY, the left has made it their mission in life to race to the left of CA. Our relatives there cannot understand why, however, they’ve made it very plain to their children/our nieces & nephews, that at some point within the next ten years, they will all HAVE to move out of NY, as the establishment there has made it all but impossible for the average person to have a family in any way and financially it will be next to impossible. It’s a damn shame as we’ve had family in that state since the Dutch ran the place.

  2. aka permalink

    I spent some time in Colorado and was talking with a local who had a mountain lion hide on the wall with a small hole in it..I ask what caliber was it shot with..He stated,”a 22mag pistol,,,anything else was too heavy to lug around in the mountains..”. also small bears with a brain shot,,ymmv

  3. Bill pearce permalink

    Awesome (side note) I found a old copy of Gung Ho a while back. If you have one check out the ads in the back ~hilarious ~
    How was that shit legal? I’m still waiting for my tactical meth tabs and ninja stars.
    “Don’t show up light”

  4. Connor permalink

    For the grizzly, hard cast rounds are definitely the way to go. Buffalo Bore sells them in almost every caliber, and the 9mm page has a story of an Alaskan guide (with pictures of the skinned bear) which killed a grizzly with it! But a rifle is always better. I don’t have much grizzly in my area (Utah) but I do have extremely long ranges, would that warrant moving up in caliber (308) for a general preparedness rifle? I can make hits at a fair distance with the AR and 55gr but in that west desert 1000 yards happens fast, and I was planning on just moving up to 77gr TMK. But then again, with target discrimination issues you’ve brought up, should I even worry about it? Also, going to convince the wife I need to go skydiving now! Thanks again for all you do.

  5. Daniel permalink

    I can vouch for the “go skydiving” advice. I did and promise you’ll be a different person when you return to earth. I’d skip the kind where you’re strapped to the front of a real skydiver and pay more for the version where you leave the plane with two dudes hanging on to you. They’ll make sure you’re OK and not too terror-stricken before turning you loose before you pull the cord. The training for that experience is longer and better and it’s as close to solo as you’ll get the first time. Plus you’ll hang with some seriously experienced jumpers and learn that way. It’s worth far more than the extra cost.

    As far as the experience itself, the dreaded feeling of falling ends in less than one second. Seriously, it’s over that fast. Then it’s just really REALLY windy. The chute opening is surprisingly gentle then you’re basically on a carnival ride. The parachutes have steering controls and brakes and are a lot of fun – find the wind sock to gauge direction, figure a reasonable approach course and steer it to touchdown. Then urinate.

  6. RebJeb permalink

    NY is a hell hole, trust me. There are some good people Upstate but you are still in a collectivist, multiculti East coast version of California. Stay far, far away…

  7. BC Joy permalink

    “I have been scouting areas in Montana, Wyoming, Texas (where my vehicle, firearms and items reside) and parts of upstate New York.” ( “and parts of upstate New York”). Oh my God,,, NO,, don’t even think of ANYWHERE in NY. I live behind the enemy lines in NY,, Deep in the Adirondack Redoubt. No matter where you go in NY,,, you’re still in NY, and it sucks. If I didn’t live here, I wouldn’t live here.

  8. MoreSigmasThanYou permalink

    • In my defense, I’ve never had to shoot a grizzly. I was sharing the advice of an experienced Alaskan guide and outfitter.

      • MoreSigmasThanYou permalink

        Yeah, I kind of made that point politely in the essay I wrote that disappeared. The not so polite meme came afterward because I thought you had intentionally deleted the essay. Now I don’t believe that; because why would you delete the essay and leave the meme..

        I’ve taken classes from people who were experts in specific areas. As a rule, their expertise didn’t translate directly to things outside of their areas of specialization, and I never expected it to. Also as a rule, I respected them more when they didn’t insist that that they knew everything about everything in spite of evidence to the contrary.

        If you care about dangerous game (and I think that you don’t, but maybe I’m wrong), I can try to piece together stuff for you to read and look at.

  9. Texas Frederic Bastiat 'tex' permalink

    JM – have you ever looked into the work of Dr Zach Bush MD? as per the climate change discussion a week or so ago. His working theory is that glyphosate and other (antibiotic type herbicides that block the shikimate process of developing key amino acids) is the key cause for higher soil erosion, carbon sequestration and of course a plethora of health issues (leaky gut, toxicity overload – Parkinsons, cancer, Alzheimers. He’s also got some excellent correlative ties for gut health and the human microbiome compared to soil health and soil microbiome – both absolutely rely on bacteria exudate exchange processes to be able to do what they do. Pretty cool stuff – explains additional benefits of natural and organic farming methods, which of course you are a fan of due to the ability to have less outside inputs. His product that he sells to help with tight junctions of sells seems to be a lignate-based humic acid, for what it’s worth – which is also what helps with soil recovery from herbicide use.

  10. MoreSigmasThanYou permalink

    My 1,000 word essay citing a dozen sources is gone, but my cute meme is still here *shrugs*. Here’s the best advice:
    * Your 9mm is totally adequate but only with good shot placement.
    * 9mm 147 grain flat nose non-hollow-point non-expanding is an appropriate round.
    * If your shot placement is less than perfect, skip past all the handguns and rifles and go straight to a 12 gauge loaded with Brenneke Black Magic 3 inch Magnum 1 & 3/8 oz hardened lead Slugs.
    * Aim at the bear as soon as you see the bear. Only aim at the top tip of the bear’s nose. Do not aim at the bear’s chest.
    * Don’t shoot a bear minding its own business. Shoot the bear if it charges. Wait to shoot till the bear until it gets within about 7 yards to decrease your chance of missing.
    * Shoot the bear’s nose before it gets close enough to roll on top of you when it dies.

  11. James permalink

    Here in Central California we have unique challenges. The suburban life in a big city is surrounded by oil& gas drilling & production, orchards & farms of all sizes( carrot, honey, oranges, grapes, almond, pistachios etc) . There are jails & prisons( Corcoran etc). We have gangs, probation officers and LEO. As a healthcare professional , I carry a 12 G pump in my Jeep& occasionally.45 & 38. What Ammo do you recommend? 3 of my fellow workers have CCWs. Also what knife Can I carry under a white lab jacket or short sleeve shirt. I weigh 170 and 5 ft 9inch slender. I cannot take boxing at my age. MMA ? M 14 training from US ARMY 68-71(some M16 when recalled)

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