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From the Library

The Warwolf by Hermann Lons

A student in a class in Idaho asked me about this book, several years ago, and I had to admit I’d never heard of it. He told me he’d read it, but it was hard to find on Amazon at a reasonable price, so he wanted to send me a copy. He did, and I set it aside for a couple weeks, thinking I’d get to it eventually. Then, I had some time one day, and sat down to check it out. I went to sleep that night at 4AM, because I couldn’t stop reading it until I was done.

This book is what I would’ve written, if I were going to write a novel, I like to think. It’s got everything that fascinates me: there’s guerrilla warfare, set in the Thirty Years War, with a local guy taking charge and gathering the people of his village into a Guerrilla Base in the woods, where the warring factions conventional forces can’t get at them easily. There’s an auxiliary of others who provide security and intelligence service to his band.

There’s even timber framing, as they build shelters in the new hide site!

If you liked Forging the Hero, and want to see it in a fictionalized narrative effect, read this fucking book!

Originally published in 1910, this book raises the ire of a lot of people, because it became extremely popular under the Nazis, who saw it as an expression of German Nationalism (which is doubly ironic, when you actually read it, since Herr Wulf was slaughtering “German” soldiers just as much as anyone else). It’s really a local nationalist story, if anything.

The reason I remembered to mention it this week, is I loaned it to one of our guys to read last week, and he brought it back yesterday, effusive with praise for how awesome it was, and how it should be required reading for anyone (and, you can find it on Amazon today for less than $15 in paperback!),

Highly recommended, x10.

The Way of the Iceman: How the Wim Hof Method Creates Radiant, Longterm Health by Wim Hof and Koen De Jong

I’ve read quite a bit about Mr. Hof over the last couple years, as guys like Paul Sharp shared articles on social media. Then, my buddy Greg Hamilton started doing ice baths this winter past, and I started looking more into it. I read Scott Carney’s book that included him doing a Kilimanjaro climb with Hof, woefully underequipped by normal standards (Hof has run up Kilimanjaro in shorts, in record breaking times, when most climbers take a week or more to ascend, and use supplemental oxygen, the lastest in snivel gear, etc)

Hof has been studied in the laboratory, and double-blind studies have been conducted on how effective his methods are for others, with glowing reports of his ability—and his students—to actually control their autonomic nervous system (which, by definition should be impossible), and deal with potential illness and injury.

So, I got this one, and his other book (that I’m currently reading). This one is pretty good. It’s a Dragon Door book, so it tends to be pretty approachable writing, with some actual actionable steps you can take to start incorporating his methods. I found that there wasn’t anything novel in his approach. It’s all variations of stuff I’ve been taught to do since I was a kid. At first, I was a little disappointed in this, since like everyone else, I’m always looking for training tips that will give me an edge I never knew about. Then, I thought about it a bit more though, and realized this was exactly what I was looking for. I’ve long had the ability, no matter how miserably cold or hot, and no matter how much I was pissed and whining about it, to simply stop worrying about it, and double my activity efficiency, under either extreme, by simply changing my breathing patterns, and forcing myself to ground-and-center, and ignore the externalities. Much like Hof describes, in cold conditions, I will actually feel myself start to warm up, as my body kicks into overdrive. The same thing has worked—albeit with somewhat less efficiency—in hot weather conditions.

So, I’m currently thinking—and plan to start trying it—that Hof’s breathing exercises, which are slightly different than the ones I’ve used for decades, may be a more effective method. I’ll try them and see how they work. If they’re better, I’ll start using them more than the ones I was taught by my grandfather, when I was a kid. Who knows, maybe I’ll become a ninja after all…..


Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling

I’ve mentioned this book a number of times over the years I’ve been writing the blog. It’s a dystopian, post-Apocalyptic alternative history novel (the first in a series) that is far from the typical “beans, bullets, and band-aids shopping list.” Without too many plot spoilers, there’s only a couple guns in this story, none of which actually kill anyone. There’s a lot of “Oh shit, we need to feed a lot of people, right now, and through the growing season into the harvest!” There’s an epic bug-out, from central Idaho, all the way to the Willamette Valley of Oregon. There’s cannibalism, and rampaging gang members. There’s a pile of interpersonal violence. There’s a former Marine Scout-Sniper (who, I’ve been told, reminds people who’ve read it, remarkably of me, even though I’m entirely too intelligent to have been a jarhead….) There’s a hippy, folk-singing Wiccan. There’s a medieval history professor.

Ultimately though, this is a novel about how important community is to survival. Fundamentally, it tells the stories of the adventures of four communities—formal and ad hoc—as they come together and deal with the scenario in their own, distinctly different, but ultimately similar ways. It’s actually a lot like the Warwolf, in that it could be said to be Forging the Hero, (among other similarities) in fictionalized narrative form, except the story begins in 1998, not in the Thirty Years War.

I love this novel. I love the whole series, but I really love the first novel. I first read it well over a decade ago, and to this day, I read it two or three times a year, at least. Literally, I cannot recommend this one enough.


Developing an Effective Pre-Disposition for Violence

(My buddy Greg Ellifritz, of Active Response Training, linked to this older article the other day. I hadn’t read this one in a while, so I went back and re-read it. I stand by the article still, so decided to use it for this week’s feature post. We’ll go back to the Off-Grid discussion next week. –JM)

Originally published 7MAY2014.

I had a student in a class recently (IIRC, it was the Iowa Combat Rifle course, but I could be mistaken), ask the very serious question, “How do we prepare mentally for the act of killing another person?” While, after giving him the tongue-in-cheek answer of “go chop people’s heads off with a pen knife?” I gave the legitimate answer that it’s a matter of overcoming cultural conditioning, it’s a question that’s been nagging at my conscience ever since.

For the most part, neither I, nor any of my friends who have been downrange, has ever voiced a concern over a reticence to drop the hammer and kill the enemy. Unfortunately, because of the prevalence of feel-good, New Age humanist bullshit in the soft sciences like psychology, there is a lot of nonsense in the world about “mankind’s natural, inherent reluctance towards intra-species killing.” All the archaeological evidence to the contrary, too many people have conflated a CULTURAL conditioning that illegitimizes interpersonal lethal violence, with a “natural” human reluctance.

Regardless of the status of the oft-voiced reluctance—inherent at the genetic level, or culturally conditioned—the fact is, it is a very real concern for a lot of people (FYI, before anyone starts citing BG SLA “Slam” Marshall, do more background research into the repudiations of his “research.”). At the risk of getting slightly side-tracked, as we all know I am wont to do, I will point out that I am an inveterate journalist. At any given time, I’ll have anywhere from six to a dozen different journals floating around. These serve as PT records, a means to record ideas I want to develop into articles for the blog, and things I’ve come across in my reading, as well as simply random thoughts that pop into my head. Once or twice a year, I’ll sit down and compile all the notes and records into a single volume, then dispose of the old, partially full journals that now are serving no purpose other than taking up valuable space on my bookshelves. This is important, because I spent much of last night and yesterday on that very task.

As I collated journal notes from a round dozen different journals, I came across an entry on the subject of this article. I am not sure when I recorded it (this particular journal actually has notes from over four years ago, so it’s been stashed away in hiding for quite some time!), or what the original source was, but…..

According to the journal entry (which I obviously agreed with, or I wouldn’t have written it down in the first place), there are six basic facets to developing a predisposition towards effective violence.


One of the first “training” lessons I ever learned was from my grandfather. While I’d like to believe he picked it up during his OSS training in WW2, I honestly never bothered asking him, so I genuinely just don’t know. I’ve since heard the same advice from dozens of different sources, have practiced it myself for well over twenty years, and have repeatedly found…it works. Not just well; it works like a Creole hooker during Mardi Gras…

That lesson was on the importance of visualization. Play the “what if” game. Not just in the context of this conversation, I play the “what if” game constantly. “What if” that car in front of me suddenly loses control and starts sliding all over the road? “What if” that dude walking into the steak house pulls out a Glock and starts shooting people? “What if” I look out my front window and see a group of jocked up dudes in black nomex in my yard? “What if” I’m driving down our road and come to a tree across the road, then gunfire starts pinging into the truck? “What if” I take a gunshot wound to the lower abdomen below my plate carrier?

The key to effective visualization of course, is REALISTIC mental images. Basing your visualization on John Woo action movie behaviors is not going to do you much good. Fortunately, if you’re reading this, there is an amazing resource just a couple mouse clicks and typing away, in the form of YouTube. Despite the noise:signal ration on YT, the fact is, there are lots of camera recordings of everything from helmet cam footage of gunfights in Iraq and Afghanistan to criminal assaults and convenience store robberies. By studying the appropriate videos, and dissecting the behaviors and movements of the key players, you can begin to form a relatively accurate mental image of what a given scenario might look like, when you experience it.

This allows you to begin formulating realistic, effective responses to those scenarios. There is ample scientific experimental, research, and anecdotal evidence out there, aptly proving that if you can create a realistic image in your head—visualization—of yourself performing certain actions in response to certain key stimuli, to your brain, it’s as if you had actually performed them. You get the benefits of the experience, without the attendant risks and costs of the experience.

Ultimately, for the inexperienced, the surest way to inculcate the ability to be extremely violent, without actually going out and beating the shit out of people…or chopping off stranger’s heads with a pen knife, is through visualization. Visualize the reticle of your optic superimposed on a bad guy’s face or chest, and “feel” your finger squeeze all the way through the trigger break. Visualize the recoil cycle of the gun, and visualize seeing the rounds impact his shirt or jacket. Visualize his face being distorted from the impact, and the violence of high-velocity blood and brain matter spray out the back of the skull.

Visualize the slight resistance and sudden give of the tip of your kabar puncturing his clothing and flesh. Visualize the warm, stickiness of blood flowing over your hand. Visualize punching a dude in the face so hard that you can “feel” his cheek bones fracture under your fist.

The catch of course, is that you have to actually visualize the entire physical performance, in all of its details, and ACCURATELY. You also have to actually be physically capable of performing the action. I don’t care how realistic your visualization is, if you’re a quadriplegic, you’re not going to be able to perform a Master-level run at the local 3-Gun match. Having the physical ability to perform the tasks, of course, requires,


You have to engage in effective training. This means learning proven, effective TTPs, and then practice them in an effective manner. Shooting Appleseed alone won’t cut it. You need to be able to shoot, but you also need to know what it feels like to run a dynamic, fast-moving break contact drill, from the way your movement patterns change when you’re kitted up, to the way it feels to twist and slam into the ground as you bound backwards while your Ranger buddy provides protective suppressive fire. Performing as the maneuver element during a Hasty Attack requires actually having trained in the task, so you know what it feels like to make that long, sprinting bound around. You need to know what it feels like to perform 3-5 second rushes and crawls through the terrain you will be visualizing that you will be performing on.

Beyond visualization, you also just have to be able to perform the tasks necessary. From throwing a rapid-fire, machine-gun barrage of punches to beat the piss out of an attacker, to executing a blistering fast drawstroke from concealment, to SEEING the front sight superimposed on the bad guy’s face. If you don’t train and learn how to actually, accurately, effectively perform any given task, all the visualization training in the world won’t do you a fuck-all bit of good.

At the same time (and you KNEW I was going to slip this in somehow….), you have to be physically fit enough to execute the violence you need to execute. Knowing HOW to crash and clinch then stab a dude in the carotid artery is not the same thing as being fast enough and strong enough to actually pull it off. Visualizing humping a 40-50 pound rucksack for 6 days straight, on less than 2 hours of sleep per night is NOT the same thing as having the physical and mental discipline and conditioning to actually pull it off.

That doesn’t mean you have to be able to pull off any given physical feat today. You just have to be trying to improve. If you are doing more today than you were yesterday, and tomorrow, you do more than you did today, you’re doing the right thing. Right?


You need to know your legitimate, honest level of skill…and your limitations. If you’ve never managed to hit an e-type silhouette at 200 meters, there’s little point in trying to project violence at 300 meters, until you improve your marksmanship abilities. If you’re a short little fat bastard who has no interest in doing PT or getting into a Jitz class, there’s even less point in planning on choking some pipe-hitting powerlifter in SWAT kit.

Be objective about your abilities, and you can limit your attempts at violence to what you are capable of.


Teach yourself to relax under stress, and you’ll be able to focus on the fundamentals of executing a particular skill set or task. Use patterned breathing. I tend to be really, really good at remaining disturbingly calm under stressful situations, because of positive self-talk (see below) and a lack of negative reinforcement (in other words, remaining calm has never caused me any harm under stress). As I’ve pointed out to people in daily life, ad nauseum, “unless you’re getting shot at, there are few things in life worth getting panicky about, and if you are getting shot at, panicking will only result in your dying, so calm the fuck down!”
In those occasional moments where I do lose my cool and start getting stressed out (truthfully, they usually only happen when HH6 is driving me absolutely, batshit fucking crazy), I generally catch myself in a hurry and calm down quickly and easily because of controlled, patterned breathing. Some instructors suggest a 4-count. Inhale for a count of four. Hold for a count of four. Exhale for a count of four. Hold for a count of four. I use seven, because at some point in my youth, my grandfather told me seven was the “magic” number (or perhaps the “magical” number, since I recall him saying something about it having had spiritual significance prior to computers….fucking weird if you ask me). All I really know is, THAT SHIT WORKS!!!


Positive self-talk, during training and daily life, will go a long way towards making you more effective in violence and in life in general. It goes right along with the visualization mentioned above. “Hey, if that car starts sliding into my lane, I’ll be fine. I can steer into the ditch and control the car, because I’ve done a lot of off-road driving, at ridiculously high speeds.” “Hey, if that dude walks in with a Glock, I know how to handle the situation, because I can draw and fire an accurate first round head shot at twice the distance between here and the front door. I do it all the time in training.” “If the cannibalistic San Franciscans start rioting in the streets and my life, or the life of my family is in danger, I can deal with it. It’s easier to shoot them effectively in the middle of the street than it was to hit that half-sized silhouette at 300 meters last weekend on the range!” “Hey, I’ve had SUT training, and my wife and I have practiced buddy team bounds using fire-and-maneuver, so if I have to fight off a home invasion by MS-13 banditos, we’ll be alright!”


Arguably tied for the most critical with visualization in developing a predisposition towards effective violence is having a positive support system, starting with—most important—a deep, legitimate belief in the righteousness of your actions and your cause. If you believe that your actions may be too aggressive, or you hold some retarded, childhood belief that only fair fights are okay, then you’re not going to be effective, because you will unconsciously hold back. On the other hand, if you KNOW, in your soul, that what you are standing up for is right, and that the actions you are taking are justified, then you won’t have any reluctance to do what needs to be done.

At the same time, after the fact, you shouldn’t have to deal with your friends and family second-guessing your actions. Sure, an honest appraisal, in the form of an AAR critique can be useful…but ultimately, if your friends and family don’t share your values….I’d suggest dumping all the fuckers and finding better people to hang out with.

This belief can be seen in elite military units (so much for Grossman’s sociopath arguments….), with a strong sense of esprit de corps. The cultivated belief system that “we’re better than everyone else, and we’re fighting for the man next to us” IS a support system that facilitates the use of effective violence. We know, at least amongst our brethren, that as long as we use it in accordance with the rules, no one is going to judge us harshly for being violent. It’s not until we start dealing with outsiders who don’t understand the culture or mindset that we start having to deal with doubters, non-believers, and second-guessing.


Ultimately, all of these—like so many things—are intertwined and synergistic. None of them work particularly well without all the other pieces in place. So, get training so you can practice effective visualization, and engage in positive self-talk. Most of all, develop a legitimate belief that you are doing the right thing.

It is my firmly held belief that the idea that humans have an inherent, genetic resistance to intra-species violence that can only be overcome with operant conditioning is a bunch of statist, mind control bullshit. If the prophets of this nonsense can convince you that you need special conditioning to be effective at violence, that can only be achieved through military or law enforcement training, first-person shooter video games, or being abused as a child, then they can facilitate your being effectively controlled, without worrying about violent revolt from the proles.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a Christian who follows the adage of “turn the other cheek.” Intra-species violence is—truthfully—one of the most natural acts of human kind. Christ may have said turn the other cheek, but I’d point out, his daddy only created you with two cheeks…..what do you do after you’ve been bitch-slapped on the other side? Same thing he did in the temple. You beat the shit out of the offenders, and drive them off with weapons.

For us heathen non-believers? The archaeological and historical record is amply clear that there is NO inherent genetic resistance to stabbing a motherfucker in the face, chopping his head off with sword or axe, or burning his house down around his ass.

If you can manage to practice the six aspects of developing a pre-disposition towards effective violence, then dropping the hammer, fist or firearm, will not be an issue when the need arises.

Going Off-Grid w/ Solar, Part 1: An Overview

Talking about solar power and off-grid utilities is a sketchy subject, even amongst people who advocate for “self-reliance,” and “liberty.” It can stoke people’s anger, very, very quickly, I’ve found. I’m not exactly sure why that is, but I suspect it’s primarily three things.

First is, it smells like patchouli and unwashed hippies. After all, it’s “green” energy, right? I mean, it’s actually not, really, but, it is often marketed that way (we’ll come back to why it actually isn’t later). And, if you’re “green,” you’re obviously a nasty-smelling, foul leftist. Everyone who is a real conservative knows that we have enough coal and oil in the United States to keep our economy going for the next 500 years, without problem (well, except for the folks in the oil industry that actually understand how oil industry economics actually work, but again, that’s irrelevant to the current conversation).

The second issue about off-grid alternative energy is, it can’t save everyone. Alternative energy production, whether wind or solar, doesn’t pencil out well, at all, on the industrial scale. It works best on the small-scale, at the individual home, and—arguably—the small village. It doesn’t work worth a shit on the city, county, state, or national level. Many people, even in the “liberty” oriented “self-reliance” communities, seem to get really pissed when someone else finds a solution that allows them to live with some semblance of modern civility and utilities, even when a storm knocks out the local power (granted, my tendency, when someone announces that the power is out, to respond with, “Really? Weird, mine isn’t.” probably doesn’t help their anger management issue…).

Finally, and I suspect this is the biggest part, even though it’s actually the easiest to remedy, is the apparent cost of alternative energy installation. There are hundreds—if not thousands—of books available, dedicated to alternative energy. There are books on system design. There are books on component selection. There are books on installation. I’ve been reading books on alternative energy for well over 20 years, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. There are thousands—probably millions—of magazine articles, website articles, and even entire websites, dedicated to alternative energy systems, covering the same array of information.

Unfortunately, one the things I’ve noticed about the media available on alternative energy is, almost exclusively, it tends to tell people how expensive alternative energy is. I’ve seen books and magazine articles, in recent months, that insist a household PV system (PV stands for Photovoltaic, the proper term for the method solar panels use to produce electrical current) will start at a minimum of $10,000. I’ve talked to people who have had PV systems installed on their homes, and they invariably have paid closer to $20,000, and those were grid-tied systems.

In our local area, there are two or three different companies that advertise locally about their solar installation services. “Cut your electric bill to nothing!” “When was the last time you had a $15 electric bill?” (The basic hook-up maintenance fee in the local area is right at $15.).

I have a cousin who used one of their services, and had their entire roof retrofitted with solar panels, in a grid-tie system, hoping to reduce their electric bill dramatically (it’s the South. It’s hotter than three feet up Satan’s asshole here, in the summer). They did. He was stoked, when he got his first electric bill, and it was $22, when it had been almost $200 the month before. On the other hand, when I asked him what his monthly payment on the PV system was, and he said $400, he got a really crestfallen look on his face, when I started laughing my ass off at him. I don’t know how long the note is, and I don’t know what the interest rate is, but in his case, solar doesn’t win, especially since, if the power goes out…his goes out too. The utility companies generally don’t allow grid-tied systems to have battery bank support, because then, if the power goes out, your system is still charged, and could—theoretically—backfeed into the system, and kill one of their linemen.

So, grid-tied solar definitely does not pencil out, at the current time. Even though it’s sometimes marketed as being “more environmental,” because it “reduces the amount of fossil fuels the power company has to burn,” this is simply untrue. The power company has to keep the generators running, because they don’t know when a whole bunch of people are going to suddenly turn on their air conditioners or video consoles, and they’re going to need a very sudden upsurge in power. It certainly doesn’t pencil out for affordability and savings for the home-owner. Even if you paid cash for the system, it’s going to take you decades to get your investment back on electric bill savings.

Well, then why use solar?


We chose an off-grid solar system for power for a couple of reasons. First of all, when it’s done right, it can actually be extremely affordable. For a rural location like ours, where the power company was going to have to install new poles and lines to reach our house, the cost of our PV system was dramatically less than what the power company wanted for the installation, and we don’t have ongoing electric bills on top of it. I’m kind of a cheap fucker. If I’m going to spend money, I want to spend it on things tangibles.

Second, we wanted reliable power. While our local utility is actually pretty decent, there have been a half-dozen outages in 2019 alone. We’ve had one, from a nearby lightning strike causing the breaker in our system to pop. While it took the utility company between 12 and 72 hours to get all the power back on, it took me 30 seconds to walk over and flip the breaker back on.

Third, we wanted resilience. Regardless of your position on Peak Oil, and other issues, the reality is, if the economy collapses—as it is showing increasing signs of doing, according to a wide range of economists with pretty solid track records, the power company isn’t going to make keeping power on to residences a priority. In the event of a CME or an EMP—both of which even the government is increasingly admitted are a matter of when, not if—the power company is going to be toast. Will a small-scale solar installation survive? Maybe, maybe not, but it damned sure has a better chance than the large utilities.

For all three of these reasons, a grid-tied system simply didn’t make sense for us.

I managed to build our system for less than $3000. It started out, when we were living in a portable shed, and building the house, with a single 210W, 12V solar panel, a cheap inverter off Amazon, three Marine/RV batteries from Wal-Mart that combined offered 330 amp hours of power, and a 700W inverted from the local parts store. The batteries were $70 each ($210). The solar panels was $105. The inverter was about $34, and the inverter was $70. We used that system for two years. At a total price of $429 (let’s round it to $450, to cover the cost of the wires and different connections I used), amortized over the 24 months we used it (I think we actually used it for 26 months, but…), our “monthly electric bill” was $17.49…the house we rented before, our monthly bill was $120 a month. So, in four months, we had broken even, and the rest was—literally—free energy, at that point.

Of course, that small of a system limited what we could run on electricity, if we didn’t want to kill the system of run out of power. In that shed, we had electric lights (and with babies in the house, we generally leave at least one light on through the night), two fans running through the day, in summer, and a smaller, 36” flat screen television and DVD player. We also charged laptops and cellphones. There were only 3-4 days, in that time frame, when I had to tell everyone to turn everything off, except the lights, because the batteries were low. In every one of those cases, I was able to hook my truck up to the battery bank, with a pair of jumper cables, and recharge the batteries, in an hour or so.

Our current system is significantly larger, but still smaller than most off-grid PV systems. We have six 240W panels, making our PV array a 1.4KW array. Most household sized units that I’ve seen are closer to 5-10KW. We have a 60amp SunnySky MPPT charge controller, an AIM 5KW inverter, and twelve 105ah Duracell AGM batteries, for a total storage capacity of 15.75KWH (105ah x 12.5V x12). Of course, since you don’t actually want to discharge the batteries past 50% capacity, really, we’re limited to roughly 7.5KWh of capacity.

The panels were purchased for something like $120/panel, for a cost of $0.50 per watt, which is, of course, significantly less expensive than the roughly $3.00 per watt of a retail price. The panels were new in the box, located via a Craigslist ad, by a friend (full disclosure: even though I was going to repay him for the cost of the panels, he ended up giving us the panels, so I actually didn’t pay for them. I’ve still included the cost of the panels in my overall cost estimates). They are manufactured by Trina Solar.

The charge controller, from SunnySky, was purchased after my previous charge controller, purchased via Amazon, for $50, turned out to not be a MPPT controller after all, and caught on fire one day, when the panels were producing more power than it could handle. Nothing better than smelling burning plastic, and looking frantically for what the source is, only to see your charge controller, right next to a bank of batteries, in flames! The SunnySky charge controller cost me something like $200, and has worked amazingly well for two years now, and has a much easier to read and understand digital display than the other piece of shit I had. The AIM inverter, even for the 5KW version, was only $400. That’s a total, so far, of $1320.

The battery bank was, by far, the single most expensive aspect of the system. After using a set of cheap Everlast Deep Cycle Marine/RV batteries for three years, including a couple of ill-advised deep discharges, we had two of the three batteries go bad. One was completely dead. It wouldn’t hold a charge over 11.2V. The other would hold a charge, but only at 12V, meaning it has lost half of its capacity (a fully, 100% charged 12V battery should actually be at 12.5-12.6V).

I contacted the local off-grid solar installer, and asked him for the price of an on-site consult. It turned out—unremarkably, given the local culture—that not only did we have a couple of mutual friends, he had actually heard of me, and was interested in looking at my system anyway. He came out, looked over the system, and declared it “good to go. I wouldn’t have done it any different, except…” he recommended a couple changes I already knew needed to be made, like getting my wiring from the battery bank to the house, either buried, or up off the ground, and that I needed to build a better structure to house my battery bank. For the record, both still need to happen…

I asked for a recommendation on higher quality batteries. Expecting him to recommend really expensive golf cart or forklift 6V batteries, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that he recommended—and used on his installs, unless the client specified something else—a simple 105ah glass mat battery by Duracell, that was available from Sam’s Club. I checked Sam’s Club, and the batteries were $179 each, plus a core charge of $10, for a total of $190. I have twelve batteries in the bank, currently. Total cost of the batteries was $2280, but I didn’t—be sure—buy them all at once. I started with four batteries, and then added two every two months, until I had ten. We used just ten for the better part of a year, before I finally went and bought two more.

So, thus far—including the cost of the panels, we’re sitting on $3600 worth of PV system. Of course, when you add in incidentals like wiring and connectors to put the system together, it’s probably closer to $3700.

That’s considerably less than the $5000 the power company wanted to extend the lines to our house, and I don’t have electric bills. For me, that was a no-brainer. We currently manage to run a 7.5 cubic foot deep freeze, lights throughout the house, a radio, the large flat screen television, a DVD player, three or four fans throughout the house in the summer, and we charge two cellphones, two laptops, four two-way radios, a shortwave radio receiver, and a few other things that escape me at the moment.

We have been using the current power system for pushing three years now. Amortized over the course of 36 months, our power “bill” comes out to $102. That’s not particularly impressive, until you start looking at the longevity of PV systems. It is currently expected that PV panels SHOULD have a working life span of 20-30 years, before there is a noticeable drop in power. Assuming we can get the expected 7-10 years of life out of the AGM batteries, versus the cheaper Everlasts that lasted three years, and absent a lightning strike that blows up the inverter or charge controller, we should get a solid four more years out of this system, without needing to spend more money on it, and probably more like another seven years. If we get the low end of seven years of life out of the batteries, we’re looking at a cost amortization of $44/month. If we get the full ten years, it drops to $30 a month.

It’s important to note that, while the AGM batteries don’t require maintenance, I do check the batteries monthly, with a voltmeter. Even after the amount of time we’ve been using this set of batteries, our batteries are still at 100%. We’re extremely careful to make sure we don’t get them below a 50% depth of discharge though. I’ve heard of people getting 15 years out of a set of batteries. While I don’t expect that, it would make me very, very happy.

Talking to friends in town, the average monthly power bill these days, in our area, is just north of $200/month. While the cost savings are nice, the bigger benefit on that front, from my perspective is, the system is already paid for. I don’t have to worry about making that bill every month.

More important to me, is the independence it offers me. One of our neighbors works for the county water department. Since we use rainwater catchment for our primary water supply, and have a composting toilet, and a greywater system, we don’t use the county water system. I was talking to that neighbor the other day though, and he mentioned that, at some point, I should expect that someone from the county was going to show up at our gate, wanting to inspect the property, for tax appraisal purposes. As he pointed out, they’ll see the place on satellite imagery. (To be clear, he’s 100% supportive of what we’re doing…and when I pointed out that if it was the Water Department that showed up, I’d know exactly who sent them, he hastened to tell me it wouldn’t be him, because he didn’t want to end up dead).

I responded that, there’s no building inspection/code enforcement in the county, so what were they going to, besides appraise it for taxes? He thought about it for a moment, and laughed. “Yeah, usually they threaten to have your power turned off, because you don’t have county water hooked up. That’s not going to work with you, is it?”


Creating our own power offers a lot of independence. Developing our own water sources (we could do a well, but while local hand dug wells usually hit water at 10-15 feet, most of the drilled wells in the area are closer to 2000’, and we’re on top of the mountain, so it might even be deeper…and that shit is expensive!), with three spring-fed ponds for back-up (our water catchment system cost me less than $500 to build, and currently holds just over 1100 gallons), increases our independence. Local monthly water bills in the county are currently running approximately $105/month, so there’s financial savings on that front as well.

Finally, we get a lot more resilience out of our system than the local utility subscribers do. Our closest neighbor is ¼ mile from us, through the woods and across a pasture. Their power goes off for at least a couple hours, every time a storm blows in (and since we’re on top of the mountain, a LOT of storms blow in, at full strength), from downed lines. They are at the end of the power line, so they are hardly a priority for repair. As I mentioned previously, our power has gone out once this year, and it was a thirty second, effortless repair for me.

If the power grids go down for a longer term, our system will not last forever, of course. Batteries go bad eventually, electronic components short out or burn out. Solar panels can catch hail stones or thrown rocks, or other flying debris, and crack or break (PV panels are actually remarkably resilient though. Ours has absorbed golf-ball sized hail with no damage at all, even when metal roofs were dinged to Hell.)

But, our system does offer a more cushioned fall. We will be able to run lights a lot longer than others will. We will be able to keep our chest freezer running longer, facilitating much easier food preservation. We will have entertainment options for the children, beyond just doing chores and homeschool work.

Sure, a gas, diesel, or propane generator would allow us to do that as well, but not for nearly as long. Sure, batteries die, and while standard truck or car batteries are not particularly convenient for off-grid power applications, they will work in the short-term, and there will be a LOT of unused car batteries available, when nobody can get fuel for their cars. Even if an ad hoc battery bank like that only lasts six months or a year, with enough salvaged batteries, that gives the system a really long lifespan, even if the Duracell batteries don’t make the 10 year expected lifespan.


We’ve been using a 5KW gas generator to to run power tools. Obviously this is not as sustainable or resilient as it could be. One of the fixes I have found is to begin switching as many tools as possible over to battery-powered tools. I was really hesitant to do this, initially, because of bad experiences in the past with battery powered tools, but I started with a couple of DeWalt cordless drills, and pretty soon found I also had a DeWalt cordless circular saw, and then a cordless Sawz-All, etc. I’ve not switched over completely yet (DeWalt doesn’t make a cordless angle grinder, that I’ve seen, and all of our power tools are DeWalt, except for a single Milwaukee hammer drill, and one Milwaukee circular saw that I’ve owned for twenty years.) I’ve been using the cordless tools an increasing amount, over the last two years, and have fallen in love with them. While I used my standard DeWalt circular saw for most of the work building our house, I don’t think I’ve pulled it out a half-dozen times since, for various projects, reaching for the cordless saw instead.

The battery pack tools are convenient, because I can charge them off the household electrical system quickly and easily, if not efficiently (think about it…the solar panels are charging batteries, which provide power to the house…which is being used to charge batteries. A better system would be to hook a PV panel directly to the batteries to charge them somehow. Unfortunately, I’m not smart enough to figure out how to do that….


There are a number of things I’ve done “wrong” in developing our off-grid solar power system, according to the prevailing wisdom. Most obvious is, “don’t mix old batteries and new batteries.” Well, that’s fine, if you can pony up the money for all your batteries at once, or if you never have to expand the system’s storage capacity, but for the rest of us, it’s kind of a necessity. What I’ve found seems to work though is to simply check the status of the older batteries, before adding a new battery. If your old batteries are still capable of 95% or more of their new capacity, you’re probably okay adding new batteries to the bank, without worrying that it’s going to kill your new batteries.

I “fucked up” by purchasing “cheap” components, like the inverter and charge controller, that were Made in China. As I mention in the new Rifle book (shipping starts next week, for those who have pre-ordered, see the “Campfire Chat” article for this week), I see a lot of people who seem to use their rifle accessories as status symbols. “Oh, I’d never buy anything less than a US Optics/Scmidt & Bender for my rifle! Anything less is Made in China crap!” Never mind the fact that the photo they show of their rifle makes it abundantly clear the rifle is not used for regular, realistic training, but is a much-beloved safe queen. I see the same thing happening in solar discussions. “Oh, if you don’t spend at least $3000 on your Trace Inverter, you’re going to hate it, and your house will burn down.

Do you get what you pay for? Within reason, generally yes. Sure, a Trace Pure Sine Wave inverter would probably produce a slightly better form of electrical current than the AIMS modified Sine Wave inverter I have. Is the difference worth $2600? I don’t know, but it’s not to me. We manage to run a lot of electronics, on our modified sine wave electricity, that the conventional wisdom says we shouldn’t be able to, with no problems. I’d rather spend that $2600 on something else. Fortunately, I live in a place where off-grid living still generally means “no electricity or running water,” so even having a solar system is unique enough that I don’t need to “brag” about it. I don’t need to use my PV array as a status symbol. Hell, I built my house by hand, using traditional building methods. That’s bragging rights enough, as far as my neighbors seem to be concerned (we’ve had neighbors we don’t know, show up asking if they can check out the house, because they heard about it from someone).

I am going to expand the system. I have several more of the Trina Solar panels in storage under the house. My plan is to build a second, slightly smaller system, independent of the house system. I will put the freezer on the second system, and add a ductless “mini split” air conditioner to the house. A 24,000 BTU system can be found for around $1000 brand new, and I’ve got a local friend who got his used for less than $500. The cool thing about the mini-split is that they use considerably less power than a standard A/C, and the start up for the compressor is capacitated somehow, so it’s not a sudden surge that kills the batteries and overstresses the system. My family—and myself—will be grateful for the cool air, in another month, when night time temperatures are in the upper 80s, and humidity is at 90%.

The best part of switching the freezer to the new system will be the ability to put a regular refrigerator on the current system. We’ve been using a propane refrigerator for a couple of years now, because everything I had read claimed they were super efficient, and the most economical way to run a refrigerator off-grid. Unfortunately, they actually blow through a LOT of propane, and the local propane company won’t deliver to our house, because of the access road condition.

So, since we can’t get a 500 or 1000 gallon tank filled, we use several 100# tanks to fuel the cookstove in the kitchen, and 20# tanks to fuel the refrigerator. Our refrigerator—a deluxe side-by-side model from a RV—is reputed to be one of the better versions, but it only gets about 8 days out of a 20# tank of propane. I can currently refill a 20# propane tank for around $15, but when I have to do that four times a month, that starts adding up in a hurry. It would be more economical, as far as I can tell, to add a couple of panels to the array, pushing it up to a 2KW system, and a couple more batteries, and just use a regular electric refrigerator. Considering I can buy a used high-efficiency base model refrigerator for a couple of hundred dollars, and the propane fridge cost me $1300—and an eight hour round trip drive—it ends up penciling out better to just run the electric fridge, after expanding the current system. Now, if I could just convince someone to buy the propane fridge off me…..

A lot of solar “experts” insist that, for a household sized system, running a 12v system is uneconomical. They all recommend stepping up to a 24 or 48 volt system. We started out with the 12v system, because we were running such as small system. While I might get some more economy out of the 24 or 48v system, I can’t complain about the 12v system, and I already had the components. I may try 24 or 48V for the secondary system, for the freezer and A/C, but I really haven’t decided yet.


Ultimately, I highly recommend going off-grid solar, if you live in a rural environment that makes it plausible. You’re probably not going to get to install and use an off-grid PV system in the middle of a city or a subdivision. In that case, I think a PV generator, with a single panel or two, and a couple of deep cycle batteries, that will keep your essentials running for a while, in the case of a mid-term power outage is a really solid idea. To me, it makes far more sense than a loud diesel or gas generator. Especially in a situation like a Hurricane Katrina situation, where you might want to keep stuff running in your house, without enticing looters, the silence of the solar generator offers some significant advantages.

Designing a PV system can really be accomplished two ways. The first—textbook—method, is to conduct an energy audit of what your current electric uses are, and then build a system to suit that, possibly with some oversize percentage built in, in case you need it later. This is also the most expensive way to design the system, outside of simply paying an outside contractor to come in and do it for you.

This method wouldn’t work for us, because we didn’t know what our usage was going to be. We knew we were giving up a lot of modern electronics—well, we thought we were—to go off-grid, and so we weren’t able to determine any sort of accurate figure.

We used what I call the “ol’ broke hippy” method of designing the system. We bought what we could afford, when we could afford it. When we had enough to cobble a small system together, we did. We used that, until we determined we needed to expand the system, then we added what we needed to get the desired expansion. This allowed us to take our time purchasing components, looking for the best prices and best components. There is a great book, available from Real Goods Solar, called “The New Independent Home,” by Michael Potts. It’s a series of case studies, from the 1970s-1990s, of folks who built off-the-grid houses and homesteads, using different methods and approaches. I read the original edition of the book in the late 1990s, when I was in the Army, and loved it. The newest edition adds the “New” to the title, and is even better. Be forewarned though, most of the people he discusses are very….well….”earthy” would be a good way to describe it…. (Books are the only thing I’ve ever actually bought from Real Goods, strangely. They offer a lot of really cool off-grid stuff…)

From the Library

I’ve only got a couple of books this week.

A Great State: Aftermath

This is the second book by Ms. Gallagher, in her A Great State series, titled The Aftermath. Same characters, trying to make it in a harsh environment, in a world turned harsher than they expected. Not going to lie, there’s a couple of bad guy characters this time that are pretty over-the-top, but considering part of it is set in Portland, Oregon, and PDX is full of over-the-top characters, even now, it’s not too bad.

Best part of the book is the ending. I don’t want to ruin it with a spoiler, but let’s just say, Ms. Gallagher gets it. Sometimes, the people you would least expect to do so, actually have the werewithal to go stone cold bad motherfucker when you get them pissed off or scared enough.

I’m really excited to see book three in this series, and I look forward to her future writing efforts. Definitely recommended, again!

Retroculture: Taking America Back by William S. Lind

I was pretty hesitant to read this. I’m obviously familiar with the author, due to his 4GW theories, many of which I find ridiculously shortsighted. I suspect, in many ways, Mr. Lind would consider me one of those undesirables from whom he’d like to see America taken back.

While much of the “Take America Back” belief system seems to be predicated on the idea of some sort of General American WASP culture, circa 1954, my people were never part of that culture, even though I’ve had European descended ancestors in this country since before it was a country. So, for a number of reasons, I suspected it just wasn’t going to be my thing.

I was pleasantly surprised. While I think some of the ideas Mr. Lind suggests for the future are–again—shortsighted, overall I was pleasantly surprised by the book. He agrees with me that a focus on local efforts to retain or regain your traditional cultural values is critical, and if some people find the best way for them to focus on that is dressing like it’s 1954—or 1854 for that matter—and listening to period music, and writing period music, who am I to judge them? Hell, I live in a house that would not really stand out (well, other than that metal roof) in much of 14th Century England, and have been known to walk around in a kilt. I’m not judging that.

A side benefit of it was his mention of the allure of classical music. I’ve long been a fan of classical music—at least since junior high band classes—and go through phases, every five or six years, where I forego all other music, in favor of classical pieces, for a number of weeks. His mention of it hastened by return to it this cycle. I’ve been enjoying a great deal of Tchaikovsy, Chopin, and Brahms lately, both at home and in the truck. My kids on the other hand, are not so enthused. To quote my oldest daughter, “Daddy, I like the music with words!” To their credit, after the first day, they quit whining and I actually caught her humming along with a piece the other day, so….


Retrotopia by John Michael Greer

Discussing Lind’s book reminded me of this one, that I read earlier this year. This approaches the same general subject, this time in fiction form, from basically the entire opposite direction. For readers that aren’t familiar with him, Mr. Greer is the former archdruid of one of the American Orders of Druids. He generally writes on the subject of Peak Oil, Imperial life cycles and declines—particularly our current one—and environmental issues related to both. He is also the editor/author and chief potentate of the now-defunct The Archdruid Reports blog, and the current Ecosophia blog. While I’m sure his environmental leanings will turn off some of my readers, even more likely to appall them are his books on magic and occultism, which are at least as educational and enlightening as his more mundane works. He takes a very logical, rational approach to the discussion of both the history and practice of magic and the occult in America (well, rational may be a subjective term in this case. If you’re a fundamentalist Protestant and believe “magic=Satanism,” you may not find it rational at all).

Retrotopia however has nothing at all to do with magic, in that sense. Instead, it is Greer’s version of a possible future in which these United States have Balkanized, but instead of going 1990s Yugoslavia, have mostly separated peacefully—with the normal bit of geopolitical militarism that arises between neighboring political states, of course. Retrotopia is set in the Upper Midwest, largely as I recall, in the old Rust Belt area of Ohio and Pennsylvania (shit, I think…Now I have to re-read it!). For a variety of reasons, including but not limited to, Mr. Lind’s longing for the nostalgia of the 1950s, that portion of the formerly united States, has returned to a smaller, slower, more relaxed way of living. It is Mr. Greer’s way of illustrating that the collapse—that is inevitable, really—can still result in an enjoyable lifestyle and culture, if more people would simply embrace the simpler pleasures, and deal with the situation like mature adults, instead of like the spoiled children too many “adult” Americans react like when told they cannot have anything their heart desires.

No, Samantha, you cannot have a goddamned unicorn, and it doesn’t matter how much money you make. They’re just not around anymore. I recommend it, but with the caveat about the above warnings. If you are the type of person who believes POTUS is going to fix all of our problems, and MAGA, because “deus vult!” you may not like this one too much. If that’s you, and you have any sort of heart condition, you may actually end up stroking out over parts of it.

Campfire Chat

(I have been in town all day, helping a member of the clan get some storm damage debris cleared from his house for the insurance fuckers to come assess the damage. I decided to go ahead and stay in town and get tomorrow’s posts out of the way. That way, all I have to do tomorrow is take care of book orders and emails. So, you get Mountain Guerrilla Monday a day early.

Read to the bottom for an update on the new rifle book which will soon be in your hands, if you’ve pre-ordered.)



So what is your preference in tourniquets: C-A-T Gen7s, SOTT-Ws, or the RMTs? Is there a need to diversify or is going all with one brand okay?

Other than the fact that I personally hate the SOFT-T, I don’t have a preference. I’ve got a pile of CAT-T and I’ve got a pile of the RMT/TX2. I don’t think it matters all that much. You could argue that the biomechanics of applying them are enough different that it might cause an issue under stress, but I think those arguments are generally bullshit, assuming you actually train and practice with them.


To cover food for my walking needs I carry a tub of those survival tabs ( my bag and I keep one stashed behind the seat in my truck. Something like 240 calories a tab and you eat 12 of them a day. They have a long shelf life and the 15 day ‘tub’ is about the size of a medium gatorade bottle and weighs a couple pounds. Is it fun to eat the same thing for 4 days? Nope. Will it replace every single calorie you need in a stress situation? Nope. Did it get my ass back to a ranger station when I broke an axle in the high sierras on my ole Willys wagon and had to walk? Yup. Eating the same thing ‘kinda’ sux, but eating nothing and dragging ass completely sux.

Shit! I’ve got a tub of those sitting around somewhere in storage! I tried a couple of them, just to check the taste. It was nasty, so I tossed them in a storage tub somewhere, probably five or six years ago, and haven’t seen them since, I don’t think. I should dig them out and re-assess.

I suspect, for a short duration emergency, like your hike to the Ranger Station, they’re probably adequate. Of course, depending on how long that walk took, you might have made it just as well without any emergency food… For a long-duration movement, over hundreds of miles, over weeks or months, I suspect those are not going to be anywhere near adequate, even as an “emergency” ration for when you cannot find real food.

Probably alright to shove in a “get home from work” bag. I don’t know that I’d bother with them on something like a cross-country road trip. I suspect the weight and space would be better used for something more functionally healthy.


I am reminded of some years back, of a unit which allowed .22 caliber pellets being loaded into a .223 Remington rifle case and fired using primer only. At the time, it was used for target practice but I wonder if this would serve as a .22 pellet rifle. It would be a single shot proposition of course with autoloaders.

I’ve heard of this, although I’ve never actually met anyone who has ever admitted to being in a unit that allowed this, let alone encouraged this. Rick Tserches (I think that was his last name) of the “Ranger Digest” booklets, that you used to find in the PX, had a section in one of those where he claimed doing this would allow you to forage rabbits and shit in the field, but again, I don’t know anyone who actually admits to having tried it, and it doesn’t seem like you’d get much range or accuracy out of it. I’d bet it wouldn’t even be comparable to a decent Daisy BB Gun. I don’t know. I suppose a guy could try. I’d rather just carry an extra .22 pistol and hundred rounds of .22LR. I KNOW what I can do with that.


The survival gun battery debate goes way back. At least folks now acknowledge the 5.56 is a viable choice. The issue of quality control. Practically every gun mfg has had issues, at one time or another, so I wouldn’t just mother-fuck Bushys by themselves. Practically any weapon you care to mention has had lemons come out of the factory; some more than others. The point being, a good gunsmith inspection should always be done as soon as possible, and get rid of any problem weapons. I’ve had good Bushys, I’ve had bad ones. I’ve had good FN/PSA, I’ve had bad ones. QC is often a moving target, when demand goes up.

There’s a lot of “virtue signaling” that goes on in the gun culture, whether it’s the training industry, the preparedness community, or the Fudd Hunting Club. One of the things I noted about this, in the new book (see below for an update), is that everybody wants to badmouth anything that’s not as expensive or “cool” as what they have, but as soon as someone else, who spent more on their gear, starts doing that, the first guy gets just as pissed and defensive.

No, I wouldn’t buy another Bushmaster. If somebody showed up on my range with one that worked though? I wouldn’t tell them it was a piece of shit, and they were going to die, because they didn’t have a Colt or DD or Noveske, a Knight’s or Hodge gun though. Is there a better chance of getting a lemon if you buy a Bushmaster than if you buy one of the above? Sure. Of course. That doesn’t mean every one is going to be a piece of shit. Are you playing the odds if you buy a Bushmaster? Sure, probably. I’m not a gambler, so I’d wait and spend a little more money, in order to stack the odds in my favor, but if someone wants an AR15, and they decide they want it “right fucking now,” and that’s all they can afford right fucking now, by all means, go with it. Worst case scenario, you can sell it, or start dropping money to upgrade and fix the shortcomings.


Much has been written about survival food gathering. Most of it is bullshit. Mosby is one of very few that actually goes back to what pioneers and explorers did, which leads me to believe it actually works. Or if you want to go back further, research what the local Indian tribes did, as Ragnar suggested. Carrying a corn or oatmeal mix, and jerky, is a much more sustainable plan, than all your freeze-dried stuff.

Fuck yes it is! Hell, corn isn’t particularly difficult to grow, in most of the US, and you can jerk dog and cat meat, if it comes down to it. Oats are—supposedly—more difficult to grow than corn, but are easier to grow than wheat, and hell, my ancestors managed to grow that shit in the Highlands of Scotland, so….. I can’t grow a freeze-dried ice cream sandwich, and while you can purchase a home-scale freeze-drier, they’re stupid expensive…especially compared to a simple dehydrator—that you could build from scraps for free—and don’t run without a power source.


As for E&Eing with a family group; that’s a tough one. But again, looking at our ancestors, you can see what families did, as they moved across country, looking for work during the Depression. Vehicles became homes and the journey was an extended camping trip. Stops were made long enough to earn food and supplies. Taking regular vacations like this would prepare you for hard times. It’s just what everyone did when I was a kid.

That methodology goes back further than the Depression. Hell, that’s fundamentally what the westward expansion pioneers did. It’s fundamentally “migratory living 101.” There’s a lot of new evidence coming to light, thanks to anthro studies, archeology, and even Permaculture, that most “hunter-gatherers” were not randomly gathering shit they found in the woods or jungle, but were cultivating sources that were already there, to encourage them to grow. That way, next time they cycled back through the area, there’d be more of it to eat.

I suspect, if folks would spend more time tent camping in established campgrounds, on their vacations, instead of hanging out isolated in hotel rooms, so they got to meet other folks from various places, it would make it a lot easier, if you got in a pinch, to recall someone in the local area, that might be able to provide some food in exchange for some labor. Done often enough, you’ll start seeing the same families over and over, and building relationships with them so even more trust can be built.


Wow, this went really into left field. BACK to the question: M1A (2 of them) and if your domicile indicates social work at <300 yds. M4orgery. (2 of them). a 12 ga. shotgun )) buck and/or 1 Buck. And a side arm of course… . large capacity 9mm though me preference is .45 ACP… just fine with 230 gr. fatboys. I’ve heard its done quite well. WW1, WW2, Korea, Viet Nam. Still does.

Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah. Okay.


Mr. Mosby, I am most thankful for your review of my book. You have given me a boost as I hit the finish line on the third in the series and am bogged down by details and delays. Contact me personally and it would be my honor to send you an autographed copy of the second in the series.
Much appreciation, Shelby Gallagher

Boom! I will email, but I went ahead and read the second book too, so no need for the free copy. Equally as good as the first, and I loved the way you ended the second book. Good to see that you recognize even shitheads can sometimes redeem themselves, when the situation gets desperate enough. I look forward to reading the third one!


I’ve been considering the problem of moving with kids and supplies for a while as the daughters have midgets of their own. Plus I’m not as young and spry as I’d like to think that I am.

I came upon a possible solution on Indiegogo where a company is doing a startup on a thing called a PolyMule. Basically it’s a two wheel cart that looks like a smaller version of the old Mormon carts. The nice thing is that it breaks down and packs up small so that it could be carried on a trip and then setup to haul the load if things go south. It’s other nice feature is that it has what they call “Uphill Assist”, which basically allows you to set the wheels so they only turn one way so that it doesn’t roll back down the hill you’ve just lugged it up.

I would think that looking it over a person that was somewhat handy with tools could probably create something fairly close to fit their needs. It’s designed for off-road use, but would still probably require a trail or semi-open country.

Seems like it could be a good thing to throw extra gear, food, and kids on to travel a little farther faster. It’s not so important that you couldn’t ditch it if need be.

We’ve got a two-wheeled garden cart along the same lines. Ours isn’t collapsible, but I think you’re certainly right, that something like that, especially if you could collapse it enough to stow it out of the way, would be pretty handy. Obviously, it worked for the Mormons. I know that, using ours, I can carry about three times the payload I can get into a wheelbarrow, and it’s considerably easier to handle. Ours isn’t even a particularly robust version. One of these days I’m going to put my recently developed woodworking skills to use and build a really nice one.


I’m starting to notice certain people of certain character that take this shit seriously have similar libraries. . . . A former SOF captain turned pastor is another who comes to mind.

He retired as a major, not a captain. And yeah, funny how that works, isn’t it?


Regarding the tourniquets, even though I usually don’t carry them on my person, I bought a set after the gym teacher at my school told me about the time a student put his hand through some plate glass and nearly bled to death. There was also a friend of mine that stabbed herself with a branch while through-hiking… long story short, I don’t plan for combat situations like you all do, but emergency medical supplies are still handy things to keep around.

Actually, now that my parents are older I have considered getting a surplus AED, especially for when my dad and I are out in the boonies. For those that don’t know, you generally have an hour to get someone to advanced medical care, and with our lot that’s not always a possibility.

Yeah, it’s amazing to some people how frequently we end up actually using our EDC medical stuff. Especially if you’ve carried a gun for any length of time, and got to the point where you’ve started wondering why you even bother….start carrying medical gear as well, and you’ll find yourself using that shit all the time. For awhile, I was deploying my truck medical bag at least twice a month. I’ve used my EDC med kit a number of times, and the one time I needed it and didn’t have it, I ended up getting a $1800 hospital bill for a blood test series, after assisting a seizure victim that left me coated, up to my elbows, in his blood (he bounced his head off a shelf when he went down. I was working on stabilizing him when an off-duty RN showed up. I asked her for further guidance, and she said, “You’re doing great. Just don’t let him get up.” I proceeded to get a twenty minute jiujitsu session in, against a dude who had 50# on me—and it wasn’t all fat—with an altered mental status. In case you don’t know, even minor head wounds bleed like a stuck pig…)

And, while I don’t carry an AED in my truck bag, I’ve also considered getting one for the house, just for when guests are visiting who don’t live as healthy as we do. Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out how that will work with the PV system.


The way any suggestion of first aid stuff triggers people will never cease to kick over my giggle box. It’s a very similar reaction to any talk about fitness.

As the saying from back home goes, “The hit dog yelps.”



Potentially stupid question – do riots have any place in a Maoist style insurrection? I personally think they might – provided that the underground/guerrillas are inciting them and not necessarily taking part in them.

Yes. Hell, most Communist uprisings have been initiated by pissed off college students. They’re not running off to the jungle to start living in the bush until they’ve fucked up their abilities to live in the urban areas. That’s what drives me batshit crazy when I hear people dismissing the current drive towards Socialist insurrection amongst millenials, as “Meh, they’re just a bunch of spoiled rich college kids!” Motherfucker, so were the college kids that started the Bolshevik revolution!


I have another one for you.  I recently returned from South Africa where I learned how dangerous it has become for whites.  My buddy and I were told not to walk the streets during the daytime let alone at night (Johannesburg).  You don’t hear much about it from our news but white farmers and their families are being slaughtered at astonishing rates.  Even politicians openly  talk about killing whites.

It appears the criminal element are using the tactics of overwhelming their victims by sheer numbers.  Recently a large group of  immigrants in Ireland used this tactic to harass the inhabitants of a small town .  The police would not do anything for fear of being called racist. 

Based upon your training and experience,  what is the best way to prepare for something like this?  What should we be thinking about and preparing for?

Short, semi-humorous intent answer? Lots of sprints incorporated into your PT.

Somewhat longerresponse? Don’t go the places where you’re warned not to go. If it’s local, and there are no warnings, don’t go places you don’t fit in, or can’t make yourself fit in. In the case of a small town being overrun? Start fertilizing the community garden, assuming you can get away with it…


I live among the Tarahumara Indians.  The staple of their diet is pinole. They usually drink it with water rather than trying to swallow dry powder.  In fact they even have special verb (loka) for the act of drinking Pinole.

Once many years ago preparing for a trip I mixed up a batch of Pinole with sugar and cinnamon. That was ok for the first day, but by the second and third days I could hardly stand the thought of drinking any more.  If you are in a situation where you will be eating Pinole alone for multiple meals it is better to leave it plain.

Well prepared Pinole should not cause stomach cramps. The best way to toast the corn is in a pot of hot sand. It also really helps if you use a flint corn bred for making Pinole, rather than a dent corn. The Tara have a special pot with the opening on the side that is used for parching corn.  We routinely put several tablespoons or more into a glass of water or milk.  Our Tarahumara neighbors also often drink it in coffee.

When traveling the back country I use the Sawyer Squeeze filter.  In my saddle bag I keep a bag of Pinole. At meal times I filter into a stainless steel cup and then add 1/4 to 1/3 cup Pinole.  It is an easy nearly indestructible meal that is light weight, easy to pack and cheap.

Thanks for writing your blog.  I really appreciate it.  I recently ordered your pistol book, but haven’t gotten it yet.  Our mail often takes months to arrive because somebody has to go get it in the city. There is no mail service here.

Fucking awesome email. Sometimes it amazes me how far the Internet allows us to reach. I’ve only done the rockahominy thing for a couple days at a time. I can see how the sugar and cinnamon mix would get old in a hurry, for sure. If I remember my reading correctly, the more common way in the SE Highlands was to use a bit of salt mixed in, if anything.

An alternative, I’ve been considering is Scots-ground oats. It was the staple equivalent for travel in the Highlands of Scotland, and other places in Europe, and it’s easier to grow most places, than wheat. At worst, it offers a little variety to the rockahominy, for roughly the same weight (and if you do manage to forage some wild berries and such, berries mixed in oatmeal is far, far better than plain oatmeal.

To be clear, the rockahominy didn’t cause stomach cramps. Eating too much of it dry, then trying to soak it, in my stomach, did. I’ve heard of cooking it as a porridge first, and it is more palatable, and digestible. The eating it dry thing was something I recalled reading, as a way to consume it on the run—say being chased by a band of Shawnee, and not having time to stop. Dude tosses a handful in his mouth, mid-stride, as he’s approaching a creek. Stops, drinks his fill from the creek, and keeps going, with his Pioneer Energy Drink providing a boost of energy.


Thank you so much for your insights based upon your vast training and experience.  I have all of your books.  They are well worth the investment. 

I was wondering what your thoughts are on “Rules Of Engagement” in SHTF/WROL?  Also, what types of “trade craft” must we learn to deal with situations in the future?

Short answer, it depends on the scenario, and what you can get away with, both legally and morally. Long answer probably demands an article all its own.


I’ve noticed a lot of discussion in different venues, both online and off, recently about suppressors, in light of POTUS making a comment that could be construed as indicating a desire to ban them.

I’m well aware of the legislative status of suppressors, and the supposed difficulties that would present to POTUS banning them by decree. I’m also well aware of the fact that neither this President, nor the several preceding him, have evidenced much interest in being concerned with whether what they were doing was strictly legal or constitutional.

I will say, so much for POTUS championing the Hearing Protection Act as a campaign promise, huh?

The real reason I’m commenting on it is because there’s a whole lot of “virtue signaling” in the gun community, and the topic of suppressors is one area where it comes to light. Anytime anyone—pro or anti-gun—mentions the word “silencer,” self-proclaimed firearms experts like to dogpile them, because, “They’re suppressors, not silencers. They don’t silence the gunshot!”

You know how you can tell somebody isn’t as educated about a topic as they want to think they are?

When they try to correct someone, and they’re the ones who are factually wrong.

Point the first: legally, the devices are referred to as “silencers” in statute and code. Now, that could be chalked up to the ignorance of politicians and bureaucrats, and I wouldn’t even argue with you. But….

Point the second: The dude who invented and patented the very first “suppressor” was a fellow named Hiram Maxim (If you’re a gun “expert,” you might be aware of him because of his invention of the Maxim machinegun). Well, in the patent application for his “suppressor,” you know what he called it? I’ll give you a hint: It fucking wasn’t “suppressor.” In fact, it was a “silencer.”

Now, I’ve shot a lot of different weapons with a lot of different “suppressors”/silencers on them. I will acknowledge that they do not, in fact, “silence” the weapon. They certainly don’t “silence” the weapon if you are standing next to the shooter, on the range.

But….and this is an important point, that a significant portion of the current generation of “suppressor” owners and “experts” don’t get….instead of standing on the range next to your buddy firing his .300BLK, with a SilencerCo can and subsonic ammunition….I want you to stand in the next door neighbor’s living kitchen, and have your buddy fire a couple rounds, while he’s standing in your bedroom. You know what you’re going to hear? Fuck all. At best, you MIGHT think you heard him drop a book on the floor.

Now, let’s change it again. Let’s take it back outside. I want you to stand downrange, at the 100 yard line. You can stand 20 or 30 yards to the side, for the sake of safety. Now, have your buddy shoot a target that is at the 100 yard line. This works particularly well if you have something fleshlike for a target. Maybe use something like a big fat pork roast or something. Have your buddy use night-vision, and an IR laser, so you don’t know when he’s going to fire. You’ll hear more than you did in the bedroom, but not much. Now, carry on a conversation with three other people, also standing on the same line, and see how much you hear of his shot.

You should also try both of these with a suppressed .45ACP, using 230 grain rounds as well…and, for that matter, a .22LR with subsonic rounds.

Do they actually “silence” the gunshot? No, not really. Are they as quiet as Hollywood makes them out to be? No, of course not. Hell, if Hollywood got everything right, as an SF guy, I’d have a 12 inch dick, and bench press 500 pounds. A good one though will go an awfully long way towards achieving that, and if you use them in some applications, from a functional perspective, yes, they do silence the report from potential witnesses (and okay, I do have a 12 inch dick…..well, no, not really. Shit). More importantly, from both a legislative perspective, and a technical patent perspective, yes, in fact, they ARE “silencers.” Arguing otherwise does nothing but make you look like a fucking ignorant asshole.


My buddy John Myers mentioned me in an excellent article over at ZeroGov the other day. In it he mentioned an article I sent him, from Defense Review, by retired SF soldier Jeff Gurwitch. While Jeff has certainly written some stuff I disagreed with, most of his stuff is what I would expect. Solid, legitimate information, focusing on fundamental skills of killing bad guys with guns.

John and I have gone back-and-forth, via email, text message, and face-to-face, on the wisdom of purchasing “mid-grade” optics, such as the Vortex Strike Eagle 1-8x that I currently use, and the Burris MTAC that I used for a long time, and still have on several rifles. Myers took the common approach in the training community that, they’re not worth it, because they’re pieces of shit, and just won’t hold up. I took the approach that, they were what I could afford, and I found enough good reviews that I was willing to chance it to test them, and they’ve both been excellent optics for me.

Interestingly, in the article I texted to John, Gurwitch discussed the trend he noticed, while deployed, for more and more SF guys to use LPVO (low-power variable optics) on their work guns. While most guys would like to have a $1000+ optic on their work rifle, if the .gov isn’t paying for them, and the unit isn’t paying for them, they’re coming out of pocket. A SF NCO, with a wife, an ex-wife, and three or four kids to support, isn’t making a whole lot of money. Granted, if dude is broke, it’s because he’s not being intelligent in his spending, but he ain’t rich, by anyone’s standards. So, dropping $1000 on an optic—even if it’s a game-changer and might save your life or the life of a teammate—may not be a very realistic option, when that $1000 could be used to pay for Suzie’s new braces, or groceries.

Jeff goes on to point out that, “Well, despite what many might think of “budget optics”, the bottom line is that if they work well and prove to be reliable, then why not. After using these optics in matches and training, these guys obviously have confidence in them. During my last tour, we had one guy run a Strike Eagle 1-6x. I’ve also seen mid-ranged priced Primary Arms and Burris scopes in the field. If they had the option between a Strike Eagle and Razors being given out, I’m sure they’d all opt for Razors.

But alas, like many civilian shooters, many of these guys are family men, or they have other financial commitments, leaving them only so much money from their paychecks left to spend on gear. While seeing Vortex Strike Eagles being used in combat might make some “tactical experts” gasp in disbelief, the fact is, they’re working well, and have earned the trust of the guys using them down range.”

In the section on optics in the new rifle book, I included a discussion of this subject, and why I feel comfortable suggesting these optics, despite the naysaying of “tactical experts” with their “Internet Commando Tab.” I pointed out that, a lot a people seem to want to use the cost of their weapon or accessories, as a form of virtue signaling. “If you didn’t spend $XXX on your LPVO, you’re obviously not serious about gunfighting, and I know so, because I spent twice that on my LPVO!

I don’t frequent forums much online anymore. Some of that is because I have limited internet access, once or twice a week, and I have better things to do with that time, but a big part of it was shit like that. There’s few things as infuriating as trying to answer a question for someone seeking valid guidance, and having some fuckwad pipe in and tell him your advice is obviously wrong, because you didn’t spend enough money on your optic. Especially, when said “Commando” then goes on to post a photograph of his rifle, with the described optic mounted, and there is nary a scratch to be found anywhere on it.

Motherfucker, please. Granted, dude doesn’t know me or my background and experience. I get that. But….anyone who’s ever been in a class with me will tell you, my rifle is beat to fuck and back. Seriously. Remember that really ugly chick in high school? The one everybody said must’ve fell out of the ugly tree, and faceplanted on every single branch on the way to the ground? That bitch is a supermodel next to my gun. Not just the Krylon is worn off over large portions of the gun, but the anodizing on the aluminum is worn off. Yes, there are shiny, silver worn spots on my rifle…lots of them. The paint overspray on my barrel, under the handguards? Long gone, and replaced by a healthy coat of rust where the heat has cooked off the metal’s protection.

If you’re going to claim that your optic is demonstrably better than mine—more robust—don’t back it up with a picture that looks like the gun just walked out the door of the gun shop. Show me a rifle that’s been used, in serious, difficult training, under all kinds of weather conditions. Why? Because my “piece of shit” “budget” model, made in China optics? They have survived that shit, and are still functioning extremely well.

Would I like to have a Nightforce, a USOptics, or a Schmidt & Bender on my go-to rifle? Fuck yes. Of course I would. You know what my wife would do, if I showed up with the mail, and there was a NF optic in there? Me either, but I can assure you it wouldn’t be good, and would probably involve me waking up missing body parts.

Is my wife less serious about those guys about preparedness? Please. The woman hauls cooking, drinking, and cleaning water in five gallon buckets. She shits in a five-gallon bucket. She spends hours of her day, in all kinds of weather, kneeling in the garden, digging in the dirt. She gets out there every week and shoots with the rest of the crew. She hits Crossfit regularly. She’s about as serious as you can get. She’s damned sure more serious than some schmuck, sitting on his computer, living in suburbia, with his 72 hours of freeze-dried meals, in the air conditioning, in with no plan for what to do when the freeze-dried Mountain House runs out, and hasn’t ever shot more than ten rounds at a time through his gun, off a bench, under the shade of the range pavilion.

Quit virtue signaling with how much your stuff cost, and start virtue signaling with how much you’re training. Showing off your jewelry is just….very feminine (to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with being feminine. I like feminine. My wife is feminine. My daughters are feminine. I love them. I just don’t dig dudes who are acting feminine.).

Does that mean I’m going to go out and replace my optics with TruGlo optics from the Sporting Goods Section at WalMart? Fuck no. See the above statement about Bushmasters and gambling.

Are you taking a gamble by purchasing a less expensive MTAC or Strike Eagle? Sure. But, the odds are actually in your favor that it will turn out to be a decent optic, contrary to the ranting of Internet Commandos who use their rifles solely for masturbatory purposes. Fuck those guys.


Finally, an update on the Rifle Book. It is off to the printers on Wednesday. If you still want to pre-order, I suggest doing so now. I will be pulling it off the store sale page, so I don’t get further bogged down with back orders, and it won’t be available from Lulu, until I’ve fulfilled the pre-orders. Guys, this is almost 500 pages long. There’s a lot of information in there. I’m pretty happy with it. I think—I hope—I’m getting better at this with each book, and each book is providing more and more information. This one is the best so far of the technical manuals.

I expect it back from the printer by the first of next week, and will start shipping as soon as it arrives. I know that’s a day or two later than promised, and I apologize. It is probably going to take me a couple days to get them all packaged and shipped out as well.

Campfire Chat

What is the make and model of that drone?

Honestly? I don’t know. I know the kid well enough that, when I’m ready to actually look at purchasing one, I can say, “Hey, remember that drone you demoed in the parking lot that day? I want one.” I will make it a point however, next time I am in that area, to stop in and find out, even though I’m not looking at one too hard, for quite a while yet.


Hi! I’m a long time fan and I’ve got The Reluctant Partisan, but I’d like to get your opinion on something.

I currently have 2 AK-47’S , an SKS, a K98 Mauser, and a Remington 870.
I recently got some extra cash and I’m torn between getting a SCARS 20S in .308 or a Bushmaster AR-15 in 5.56.

What would you suggest?

As I mentioned in the email response to this enquiry, I haven’t priced a SCAR in a while. If I was going to get another .308 semi-auto (some readers may be surprised to know that we actually do own a Springfield M1A Squad-Scout….), it would be some variant of the M110, and I’d probably end up getting it in 6.5 Creedmoor. I don’t have a LOT of experience with the 6.5, but the few times I have shot it, it was pretty slick at 1000+ yards. I can get hits with a .308 at 1000, but it’s work. The 6.5 actually made me look good doing it, it was so convenient.

On the other hand, the only way I would own a Bushmaster these days, is if someone GAVE it to me, and even then, I’d probably tear it down, check the specs on the lower, and rebuild it completely. If you’ve got a Bushy and it runs like a raped ape, great! I’ve seen Bushies that were great guns. On the other hand, I’ve also seen Bushmasters that were epic pieces of shit, wouldn’t cycle a full magazine without more malfunctions than not, and were so out-of-spec, when checked, that it’s a miracle the fucking guns didn’t explode in the shooter’s hands. Unfortunately, I’ve seen far more of those than the previous.

If the choice is legitimately the SCAR v. the Bushmaster, I’d probably go with the SCAR just because I trust FN more than I trust Bushmaster (who I actually thought was out-of-business anyway. Didn’t Wyndham take over the Bushmaster machinery?). That having been said, if I was in that boat, and could afford the SCAR, I’d probably drop the money on a really nice AR-variant instead. What I’d be most likely to do though, is buy something good, if not great, like a Colt, and then drop the money to set it up how I wanted it, before dumping all the rest of the money available into magazines and ammunition for it.

While I live in an area where 5.56 is not only legal to hunt all of the available big game, and will reliably drop all of the big game, given adequate marksmanship, I have also lived in a place where it was neither legal nor morally conscionable to hunt most big game with the caliber. For a general preparedness rifle, I might look at a .308, because it can cover both anti-personnel and opportunistic game harvesting, if I still lived in the Rockies. On the other hand, the commenter noted that they have the K98, which should be more than adequate for hunting needs, so I might consider sticking to just the AR for anti-personnel/protection applications.

Hey pal, so I saw your call for questions on your last email and I have had one for awhile now. Since it’s summer, the wife has a tendency to want to do some travel/vacation type road trips. During these excursions I have a tendency to pack a little heavy (rifle, plate carrier, food, water etc.)…

The scenario above has pretty much been bugging me since last summer.  The wife and I and 3 kids took a trip to Gatlenburg, TN from the area north of Milwaukee.  Our one way was about 700 miles.  Due to some logistics challenges we had to drive separately; the 13 and 16 year old girls rode with my wife and had a 3 hour lead on us. I had my 11 year old boy.

A good part of my trip had me thinking about the worst case scenario: the cars break down, the balloon goes up, and we need to try to get home.  Oh, and we are separated…

I was kicking myself the entire time about being under prepared; despite having both Reluctant Partisan books, Forging the Hero, Pastor Joe’s teachings and some other books read and use as a base to prepare.

So I started a working list from the ground up; ALICE ruck and LBE gear, water, water filter, long gun, Gadsen Dynamics Chest Rig, sleep system, extra socks, mole skin….  The list goes on and on. 

I’ve acted on it too, gathered it up, it’s ready for that next trip. I have enough practiced outdoor skills, and enough gear, that an overland trip would at least be conceivable.

But keeping on the above, I’m having a hard time solving for the issue of food. 

I can lose some weight.  My son can’t lose much weight before he’d be in rough shape, just trying to walk home. 

Here are the options I came up with (from easiest to hardest):

1. Carry food

2. Cache (that’s probably more challenging that just a #2, but it’s at least feasible)

3. Scavenge/Beg (and maybe get shot for looting)

4. Fish

5. Hunt

6. Trap

Typical preparation mentality tells us not to depend on Hunt, Fish, or Trap. It seems to me that past even 200 or so miles my son is going to be having trouble, and might well be dead by 300 miles…

Given some of your travel, and the large overland gap you might encounter; how have you solved for this? 

Thank you for your time.  I hope the issue with your family medical challenge goes well.
I’m never going to be mistaken for “The Great White Hunter.” I’ve hunted, and done alright. I’ve guided hunters in two major hunting states where big game hunting requires licensed guiding. Last year, I harvested two deer, out of the eight I had tags for (in my defense, I don’t “hunt,” which I’ll discuss below. I harvest, opportunistically). One of those was from inside the house, shooting out the kitchen window, and the other was while I was sitting on the front porch, so….take this with those qualifications in mind…

Solutions that we’ve worked out, to one degree or another.

1) Carrying food, as you mentioned, is limited by realistic payload weights. Sure, I can throw on a 65# ruck and do a conditioning road march, and I can probably throw on a ruck twice that weight, as I’ve done in the past, and move long distances, if I’m willing to trade speed. But…unlike when I was a young soldier in my 20s, I will likely not be trying to get home with a rifle squad of Rangers, also in their twenties, or an ODA of SF guys in our 20s and 30s. Instead, it will be with a wife in her 30s, and three children, only one of whom can carry a load any distance, and that only a light load (oldest kid weighs right at 80 pounds. Granted, she’s lean and fit and strong for her age and size, but 25% of her bodyweight is still only 20#. Since she already carries a small pack with survival gear in it, that doesn’t leave much room for foodstuffs…

Another of those kids is less than a year old, and not yet ambulatory. So that means, either my wife or myself is carrying him, unless he’s in a stroller….

So, when it comes to carried foodstuffs for that scenario, my solution is, lots of rice and lots of oatmeal (I don’t eat beans). Five dry pounds of rice will go a LONG way…add another five dry pounds of oatmeal, and while they are hardly a full meal, they will provide a lot of base calories. I also started last year, producing “rockahominy.” For those unaware of it, rockahominy is the old mountain equivalent of the Southwest’s “pinole.” It is simply dried feed corn that has been parched in an oven, or in my case, in a cast iron pan, on the woodstove. It is then ground into meal, and blended with seasonings or flavorings.

Depending on the seasonings used, it usually tastes either like Corn Nuts, or like popcorn. Traditionally, it was apparently mixed with either a small amount of salt, or a small amount of raw cane sugar. I use the latter. The kids LOVE it. I like it. The wife’s attitude is, “Eh…It’s okay. I’ll eat it if I’m hungry.” The cool thing about rockahominy is, a single tablespoon, eaten dry, and then followed by drinking water, will absorb the water, and expand in your stomach. It provides a much more sated feeling than other options, tastes better than most, and will go a LONG way (seriously. I ate two tablespoons one day, and ended up curled up sick, thinking my stomach was going to explode, for most of a night…). If a person was traveling by himself, two pounds of rockahominy, and two pounds of jerked meat would last a LONG lot of traveling, all by themselves.

2) Caches might work, if it’s a route you travel frequently and regularly, and you had hide sites where you could emplace the caches that would be safe…I’ve written about caches in the past on this blog. It’s certainly something to look into, even just for extra stores around your local area. If you have a bug-out location far from home, I would certainly emplace caches along my PACE routes…

3) Scavenging and Begging are contentious issues. Most people in the preparedness community have the firmly ensconced idea that “I can only prepare for my people.” That’s not wrong, but then there’s the other side that points out “Charity is the Lord’s work,” and they intend to be ready to help folks that genuinely need it. So…I don’t know. Our plans involve having materials to help the people we know that don’t prepare, for whatever reason, but those plans also require them working to earn their keep, so…I think, far better than “begging” is the idea of being prepared to offer to work for a meal. This was, apparently (I don’t know, since I wasn’t born yet), pretty common in rural areas during the Depression, and it’s certainly been common in other eras, around the world.

As far as scavenging, I suspect it could go two ways. In the first, once people start recognizing that Big Uncle ain’t coming to save them, any unsecured resources in a community are probably going to get snatched up and secured pretty quick, under lock-and-key, and probably armed guard.

On the other hand, depending on the nature of the scenario, and how quickly it takes people to recognize what is going on, there may be a lot of unsecured resources, for quite some time. Since the vast, vast, vast majority of people in this country, even amongst the “prepared,” suffer an amazing amount of Normalcy Bias, I suspect the latter to be the case for quite some time.

Then, it’s a matter of defining “scavenging” versus “stealing” in your own mind and morals. As far as the risk of getting shot. If you’ve got a wife and a kid, both of whom can shoot, I’d be thinking of setting up an overwatch element while I went in to look for shit, and trusting them to not let me get caught by surprise….In the commenter’s case, there’s no reason, at all, that an 11 year old boy, and two teenage girls, and a wife, couldn’t put themselves to very good use as a security element…

3) Foraging: I’m going to include hunting, fishing, and trapping all under this category.

First, plain foraging, as we usually use the word today, generally refers to edible wild and feral plants. I’ve done quite a bit of survival training in my life, both in and out of the military. The best training I’ve had was outside of the military, in this context. The universal edibility test was probably the single most useful aspect of military wild edible training I received. I’ve done “wild edible walks” in the Rockies, the Ozarks, the Smoky Mountains, the Adirondacks, and Alaska. I’ve got a pretty good grasp of wild edibles.

We also encourage the growth of wild edibles on our property, and in fact, about 7/8 of our “lawn” is actually useful forage plants, including anything from clover to two different varieties of plaintain, gobs of yarrow, and others. We have cattails growing in two of our three ponds, that I refuse to do away with, etc….

Here’s what I’ve learned about wild edible plants: They’re seasoning, for the most part. Sure, you might stumble across a horde of wild fruit or berries or nuts. Acorns can be leached and ground into a reasonably palatable flour substitute. Chicory makes a horrid tasting coffee substitute (full disclosure, I hate coffee, so I’m probably a poor judge of that…), but generally speaking, you’re not going to gather enough wild edibles to make a respectable meal. Even most “hunter-gatherers” did a lot more of what we do on our place, where they note the locations of useful plants, and then encourage them to grow more and more, so “gathering” is really gathering, and not “randomly wandering around in the woods looking for something yummy.”

So, by all means learn and know your wild edible plants, especially in your home area (and some of them grow pretty much every-fucking-where in the continental US). Start adding some into salads or soups or stews. Learn to look for them when you go on hikes with family. Hell, look for them in people’s lawns as you walk down the street. You might be surprised (although I’d be hesitant to eat anything out of the lawn of someone I don’t know, for fear of what kind of shit they put in their yard…)

Fishing is a pretty good survival food-procurement tactic. With a trotline or two, it’s pretty easy to gather in quite a bit of protein, without wasting much energy, and without worrying about being exposed for any great length of time. We did a lot of trot-lining as a kid (I don’t even know if it’s still legal…good thing I have a couple of ponds stocked with fish so I can teach my kids…), and growing up in a family with five kids, it was a big help. I carry a handline set-up in one of my rucks, but honestly, it’s mostly to set up trotlines or juglines.

Trapping is, to me, a no-brainer for “Get Home” food procurement. Not heavy-duty, hardcore Furbearer market trapping, but catching small animals that can be harvested quickly, cooked quickly, and eaten in one meal, by a couple of people.

There are lists out there (Bruce “Buckshot” Hemming’s “Survival Trapping Guide” should be in every prepper’s library) of what a person needs, trap wise, to make a go of trapping in a grid-down scenario. Some are designed to make a living off bartering the pelts and meat of the trapped game. Others are designed to give you an idea of how to set up a trapline to feed your family (Regardless of what you think of him, Ragnar Benson’s book “Survival Poaching” was, in my opinion, one of his better books, and I’m not ashamed to admit I learned quite a few tricks from it, as well as having my awareness expanded in ways I hadn’t considered, when I read it the first time, back in the 90s, after finding it in the post library one day…).

My “Get Home” trapping kit is pretty simple. I’ve got a dozen pre-made wire snares of differing sizes, and a dozen of the big “rat traps.” They’re exactly like the wooden and coil spring mouse traps you use in your house, but they’re significantly larger, since they’re designed for rats, instead of mice.

Why rat traps? Well, first, because I will definitely eat a rat, if it’s that or starve. Clean them, cook them thoroughly, and ignore the fact of what you’re eating, and you’ll be fine. Hell, I’ve eaten worse. More importantly, I carry them because they are lightweight, and make a dandy squirrel trap, if you wire a couple of them to a tree, and bait them with a bit of peanut butter. I’ve actually put six of them on the same tree before, and caught six squirrels by morning. Chipmunks will also fall victim, and I may have caught a bird or two before…

I can set up a dozen rat traps in less than fifteen minutes, wiring them to trees and baiting them. If I do that during a security check, before or after moving the family into a RON site, I can also set snares out on any likely looking trails, and the whole shebang will generally take me less than 30 minutes, unless the place is just crawling with rabbit trails. I don’t do a lot of prep work for my snares though. I usually just hang them, and secure them to a heavy drag of some sort, and then use whatever broken, fallen debris is nearby to modify the trail in order to channel stuff into the snares. Generally, setting a snare takes me about two minutes….and if it takes me much longer than that, in my experience, I’m wasting my time, because I won’t catch anything anyway. The sub-2:00 minute sets though, tend to be pretty successful for me.

Hunting. As I mentioned above, I’m not a “hunter.” I simply do not see the allure in going out, before daylight, in the cold, to go sit in a tree stand and freeze my ass off, hoping to get a deer. For me, going out in the dark, to move around in the woods is called “training.” I’ve also got livestock at home, so I don’t “NEED” to fill my freezer with me, because they’re all already full.
As such, hunting for me is opportunistic. Since I’ve always got a pistol on, and I’ve generally—especially in the truck or around the farm—got a rifle within a step or two, if I happen to see a deer, and it happens to be in season, I’ll take the shot. Otherwise, I’ve got far more efficient uses of my time and energy.

That having been said, for me, hunting on the “get home” journey is pretty much the same thing, with an important caveat: If I shoot a deer, now I’ve got meat that I can’t let go to waste…so now, I’ve got to kill a couple of days processing that meat and smoking and drying it…which delays my return home.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t take advantage of the opportunity, but I’d definitely think a moment or two before I took the shot… Rabbits and other small game though…it would depend entirely on the security situation. I’m not going to carry a bow or a crossbow with me just to silently harvest game, but if I think I can take a single shot safely, I’m going to take it.

One of the truisms about survival hunting is one I think is greatly overhyped. That is, “everyone will be hunting, and the game will be depleted quickly. It happened in the Great Depression.”

Yes, and no.

Yes, there are significantly more deer today than there were in the Great Depression. There are also significantly more deer today than there were by 1900, thirty years before the Great Depression. It had little to do with “Joe Public” and his hunting prowess, and a whole lot to do with market hunting. Certainly, people hunting for sustenance during the ‘30s didn’t particularly help deer population numbers, since most of the people who were hunting were probably significantly more familiar with both deer habits, and their local hunting grounds than most modern folks—including avid hunters—are, but…the devastation of wild game in the US had, again, little to do with sustenance hunting, and a LOT to do with market hunting.

That’s not to say market hunting won’t make a comeback after a collapse. It probably will, but there’s a couple of caveats to that, as well, in my mind.

a) The average recreational hunter today is not some good ol’ boy, living out in the country. The average recreational hunter today lives in a subdivision, and has a 9-5 middle-class job that allows him to afford the ATVs, UTVs, a gun for each species he hunts, game cameras, and the vacation time to take off during hunting season.
b) In many parts of the country, the average recreational hunter is either hunting on public ground—state and national forest or BLM ground—or has a hunting lease that allows him to hunt on private, deeded property. He doesn’t get the opportunity to really KNOW the ground, as much as he might like to think he does.

c) Despite all the technological marvels available to the modern hunter, the average recreational hunter does not fill even one tag most years. Sure, some of that is because they’re holding out for a “trophy buck,” but based on numbers from different state game commissions, combined with talking to a LOT of people (an incredibly scientific basis, I know…), I remain convinced that somewhere in the vicinity of 95% of recreational hunters do not fill a tag three years out of five. Now, they’re suddenly going to become Peter Capstick, when they are starving, scared, and desperate? Sure they are.
d) Even among my very rural neighbors, most don’t own enough land to hunt on their own property. So, while they tend to live closer to where they hunt, and so get to hunt during the week during hunting season, and can scout better before season, since they can get out there after work, they still don’t tend to be particularly great at it. We have one group of neighbors, there’s about six adult men and two adult women of the group that actively hunt. They’ve all lived in the area their entire lives (I went to school with a couple of them). They spend their entire year reading hunting magazines, watching hunting shows on television, and talking about and planning their hunts. Last year, between them, they harvested three deer…

The thing is, most people don’t think about the fact that—especially with whitetails—the best place to hunt them isn’t in the woods. It’s on the edge of cultivated fields. So, now, the grid is down, society is collapsing around you, and all these people are suddenly going to start hanging out…with guns…on the edges of farms? Sounds like a damned good way to cull the population issue quickly.

So no, I don’t think the deer are all going to vanish in the first weeks of a situation. Number one, most people are actually really shitty hunters anyway, and number two, the places they are most likely to actually find deer are also the places they are most likely to get shot as a result of being there. I guarantee that farmer, who drives a tractor or pickup around those fields everyday, is going to notice an out-of-place bush a lot sooner, even though he’s walking now, than you are to notice him slipping along the margins of his field.

That aside, if I WAS planning on actively hunting big game for food, either for a “get home” scenario, or for general sustenance in the area around our farm, I’d be running night vision, IR lasers, and suppressors on the hunting guns. I’d hunt in buddy teams, and I’d only take head shots.

That way, once the shot was taken, one guy can go to work field dressing, while the other pulls security, and they can both get it off site and to a hide site faster, to finish the processing. This, not so much because I’d be worried about the starving masses showing up, but because I wouldn’t want the farmer who’s field I just shot the deer out of, to come shoot me.


That response ended up going way out into left field, but hopefully it answered the question somewhat…

Yes, I said I was going to have a regular article this week. Last week’s issue ended up taking longer to get resolved than expected though, so I had to put it off. I’m going to work on that article, and a write up on our solar power system in the coming week, so, hopefully…..

From the Library

The Great State: The Divide by Shelby Gallagher
So, I’m not much of a fan of typical “Prepper Porn” fiction these days. Too often, it’s the same old rehash of the same tired tropes. Someone mentioned this one in passing to me recently, and insisted I really needed to read it.

I’m really glad I did. The protagonist is not your typical middle-class white male (not that there’s anything wrong with being a middle class white male, but at this stage, having that as the protagonist of your prepper novel is….overworn…), but a divorced single mom. She’s not apparently independently wealthy, and has bills to pay and a kid to support, with a shit head ex-husband who makes lots of excuses for why he can’t make his child support payment, etc…

She works for the state government, and still manages to recognize what’s happening around her, and does the best she can to be prepared for it.

I was surprised that I actually really did like this story. I definitely recommend it. Especially if you, like me, are that typical middle-class white male. I would say “have your wife read it. Have your girlfriends read it. Have your daughters read it.” But honestly? Especially if you’re a dude? Read it.

I don’t know if Ms. Gallagher is a reader here, but I can hope, and if so, thank you.

Survival Poaching by Ragnar Benson

Ragnar Benson, for those late to the game, was kind of one of the granddaddies of survivalist writing back in the 80s. I read a lot of his stuff in High School, although I didn’t come across this one until I was in the Army, when I happened to find it at the Post Library one day. Since I was familiar with the author, and the title sounded interesting, I checked it out and read it. Even by then, some of the technical stuff was obsolete, but I got a lot of value out of it. In fact, I ended up ordering a copy, and while I’ve given them away since, I’ve managed to have copy ever since.

Some of the stuff in it, regarding hunting, won’t be novel or new to any country kid that grew up before the turn of the millenium, but some of it will be, and for urban dwellers, he’s got some pretty solid ideas on stocking the larder with protein, when you cannot go to the grocery store anymore, even if it’s still open, and you’re just broke as fuck.

Buckshot’s Survival Trapping Guide by Bruce Buckshot Hemming

Mr. Hemming has apparently written, or co-written a couple of post-apocalyptic prepper novels as well. I don’t remember when or where, or from whom I first heard about this book. I just heard that it was a really solid look at realistic trapping, so I grabbed a copy, some time ago (I’m pretty sure I’ve had a copy for at least the better part of a decade). The author apparently makes all or some of his wintertime income from trapping, in farm country, in the Midwest.

He’s got recommendations for lists of what traps and baits and accouterments you will need, for different levels of trapping goals. He’s got different ideas from a lot of trappers on what works and what doesn’t, based on his personal experiences ( I have a copy of the Alaska Trappers’ Association manual too, and probably a dozen other trapping books from various regions and eras…yeah, he’s a little contrarian…). It’s a good book, and has good advice, based on my relatively limited experience (I’ve trapped some, but I’ve never been a trapper, if you can discern the difference). His bucket trap set is fucking brilliant, in my opinion, and I’ve told myself for years that I was going to start using it. Unfortunately, I always end up finding a use for the buckets before I ever get to use it for trapping. This is one of those books, I recommend getting it NOW, and reading it NOW, so you can start preparing for next trapping season. If this book doesn’t make you WANT to run a trapline—at least a small one—well….thar’s somet’in’ ain’ rat wit’ chu, son…