Bags for Survival

13 Apr

Written by John Hertig on The Prepper Journal.

Editors Note: Another guest contribution from John Hertig to The Prepper Journal. As always, if you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and be entered into the Prepper Writing Contest with a chance to win one of three Amazon Gift Cards  with the top prize being a $300 card to purchase your own prepping supplies, then enter today!

It seems that everybody (or nearly everybody) has heard of the “BOB” or “Bug Out Bag“.  Some may have heard of other “bags” and concluded they are all the same.  They are similar, but not the same.  The “bags” we will consider are:

EDC Every Day Carry

GHB Get Home Bag

GOODGet Out of Dodge bag

BOBBug Out Bag

INCH I’m Never Coming Home bag


Survival Kit

The Rule of Threes

Whenever thinking about survival, it is good to keep the “Rule of Threes” in mind.  This is a set of guideline about what can kill you fastest, and provides a guide for the priority of survival equipment and tasks.  Simply stated, this is:

In any extreme situation, a person usually cannot survive for more than:

– 3 minutes without air (or blood circulation or with arterial bleeding)

– 3 hours without shelter

– 3 days without water (or treatment for some medical conditions)

– 3 weeks without food

Note that lack of food will kill you just as dead as lack of air; it just takes longer.  That does not mean that considering food in your survival planning or tasks should not be done, just that it should not be done first.  Also, this is not a guarantee.  Depending on conditions, these problems could kill you sooner, or even later.  Again, this is merely a guide to priorities to be used in choosing equipment and supplies in advance of need, and scheduling tasks in an emergency situation.

Note that “darkness” is not on the list as a killer, but it kind of should be.  Not because darkness itself can harm you, but not being able to see what you are doing or where you are walking can kill or harm you.  A source of light should be high in every list of survival supplies.

Survival Kits

These are designed for PERSONAL emergencies, not major disasters affecting a large number of people.  As such, they should have a significant focus on signaling for help.  With good signaling capability, usually this situation will only last for a day or two, so your primary focus is on severe bleeding and shelter, with water and other medical supplies secondary.  Food should be a distant third priority.

A survival kit can fit in your pocket if there is very little chance you’ll need it (around town), in a belt pack if you are close to civilization, or in your backpack when you are really heading into the wilds.  In addition to light and signaling, it should include something which can be used to stop severe bleeding, and a way (better is a couple of ways) to start a fire and a basic sewing kit.  As space permits, add a “space blanket” or even better “bivy”, other materials to aid in building shelter from the elements, and then water purification tablets and a container to use them in, or a container in which to boil water.  And so on, until the likely scenarios are covered, or you reach your size goals.

Every Day Carry

This is what you “Carry” on your person “Every Day”, or at least whenever you leave your house.  It is not so much a “survival kit”‘ as a “life kit” with survival applications.  For more details, see the article on EDC.

Get Home Bag

If you are at work or shopping or otherwise not at home when disaster strikes, everyone in your family should have getting home as a priority.  That is where your primary preparations, or your means of getting to your primary preparations are located.  It is also a place where your loved ones are or can be.  You may be able to get in your car and drive home, but don’t bet your life or your family’s lives on that.  The car might not work, or the roads may be jammed or the bridge might be out.  You may need to “hoof it” home, and if you are not dressed or equipped for that trek, your odds of succeeding will be lower.

In the car is a good place for your GHB.  This will contain or be with the clothing and shoes you need to walk home in the most severe conditions likely, as well as PPG (Personal Protection Gear – air filtration mask, goggles, gloves and weather specific gear), an appropriate survival kit, and to the degree practical, defensive weaponry.  The survival kit need not be heavy on signaling gear, as in a wide-spread emergency, the odds of getting help are lower then usual, and the odds of attracting predators is increased.  A key aspect of your GHB is “knowledge” – knowing several routes home from wherever you happen to be, knowing which areas to avoid (gang territory, nuclear or chemical plants, flood or fire hazards and so on) and likely “choke points” where the disaster or human action can cut off or restrict travel.

Bug Out Bag

A lot of people talk about “bugging out” if there is a disaster.  And the bag of equipment and supplies they plan to take with them is called a BOB.  The problem is that many of these people don’t know the actual definition of “bugging out”.  It was originally a military term describing what happens when a position is in danger of being overrun by the enemy.  The personnel at the position are moved from there to another position which is currently safe(r).  The key here, is not the “leaving” but the having a safer destination.  Thus a “true” BOB is designed to specifically get you from where you are bugging out from, to where you are bugging out to. You may be able to do it by vehicle, in which case you can carry a lot more stuff.  In case you can’t go by vehicle or your vehicular movement is permanently interrupted, you should have an actual BOB, usually a backpack, which you can carry as you walk to your bug out location.  Ideally, you have supplies at that location, or you can carry them in the vehicle as long as you can and hopefully not have to abandon them.  If you are limited to a BOB, you won’t be able to carry long term supplies for your new location.

Unlike a survival kit, where you tend to stay put and wait for rescue, when bugging out, you will be on the move.  You’ll need lots of energy, so food is rather more important.  “Life boat rations” or energy bars are compact, or freeze-dried meals can be tasty and light but need cooking (water boiling) capability.  Of course, you still need first aid supplies, weather appropriate clothing and the capability of making shelter when you are not moving.  And water and the capability to get more.  Probably some defensive capability is in order.  Depending on the distance you need to go, you may not be able to carry enough stuff to get there, in which case you might need the capability to scavenge abandoned supplies.  See the article on scavenging. Another option is to set up “caches” of supplies along the way.

Unless you have a stocked location to bug out to, bugging out is not a good scenario, bordering on “fleeing”.

Get Out of Dodge Bag

This is something I came up with, or perhaps saw somewhere in the past.  No matter the source, this GOOD bag is what many people really mean when they talk about BOBs.  This is what I call a bag which is designed to make “fleeing” less of a disaster.  You don’t have a place to go to, but where you are is too dangerous to stay there, so you leave and search for a safer place.  Perhaps outside the disaster area, or a cave or some place which can provide you with shelter, water and food, and some isolation from predators.  As such, the contents are oriented towards short term movement, self defense and long-term acquisition of water and food from likely areas.  It’s a BOB without a designed schedule or destination.

I’m Never Coming Home Bag

I’ve heard of these, but can’t really understand why a person would have as a primary goal, never coming home.  Unless they were trying to avoid capture by people (the government perhaps) who knew where they lived and have the resources to wait there for them for a really long time.  In every case I can conceive of, I would hope that coming home eventually would be a possibility, unless there was a high probability that home wouldn’t be there.  Basically, I’d consider it a “minimal move”, so I would concentrate on what I needed short term, and what I could not replace long term.

How Many Bags Do I Need?

Ideally, since all of these bags (should) have different goals, you would have all of them available.  You leave the house, you have your EDC.  You step away from the pavement, you have a survival kit.  Something happens while you are away from home, you have your GHB.  And if you have to leave your home, you have either a GOOD bag or BOB depending on whether you have a location to go to.  If you are running from the mob or the law, or your house is about to be destroyed, you have your INCH bag.

The problem is, there is a high degree of commonality among these, and most people can’t afford the cost of all of these, or the space to store them, or the effort to keep them stocked with fresh items.  So lets consider how to minimize those factors.  One key is modularity.  If you have the items for each facet of your bags packaged separately, you can quickly assemble the needed bag.  It is best that your GHB stays in your vehicle, completely separate from your other bags.

First of all, EDC is a no-brainer.  Unless you spend all day on the couch in your underwear, you already HAVE an EDC kit of some sort.  The trick is to optimize it, not only for your life, but for emergencies.  Next you will want a decent survival kit which will fit into any of the other bags.  Because of how basic this is to all the bags and how much trouble it would be to move it around a lot, you might want to have at least two of these, one in your GHB in the car, and one or more in the house to go into whichever other bag it is needed for.  It is most convenient if these are identical; and since signaling is not a need in any but a personal survival event, you can save money by having a separate signaling module to add for non-disaster survival scenarios.  There is no reason to have both a GOOD bag and a BOB, since they have different, mutually exclusive goals, but having the appropriate one is critical, since no matter where you are, no matter what happens, you cannot guarantee that you can stay in your home.  Nature and/or man is entirely capable of making it unlivable.  Personally, I do not bother with an INCH bag, but I do have critical stuff in my BOB just in case my home is destroyed or stripped.

Don’t forget, each of these bags is for one person or possibly one person with a small child.  Each person in your group should have as similar a setup as they can carry.  If some members of your party are significantly less able to bear a load than others, you’ll have to “spread the load”, with the people who can carry more, carrying more.  Just make sure each person has enough to get by with in case they get separated from the group.  Make sure each person (this includes you) knows how to use the stuff they are carrying.

Choosing Your Bags

There are three components of any bag.  These are the bag itself, the contents of the bag, and the knowledge and experience to use the contents of the bag.

When choosing a bag, you need to consider size, weight, durability and long term comfort.  And there is another concern.  Keep in mind that YOU have made the effort to be prepared for this disaster, but a large percentage of the people around you have not.  And some of them are eager to, and some of them feel forced to, take advantage of your preparations for their profit or their family’s needs.  Thus, you want to remain as unnoticeable as possible, having a “gray man” persona.  Any pack you choose should have dull, unobtrusive colors, with no obvious brand name marks or designs.  For in-town use, you want to use packs like “everybody else” uses, and for bigger bags for out of town travel, ones which look “distressed” (dirty, duct tape “patches”).  Camouflage and black are “dull” colors, but they, as well as military style or “tacticool” packs, tend to bring to mind “government” or military, and everybody knows those guys are loaded with cool stuff.  Obviously, don’t have anything desirable or attractive hanging on the outside.  You don’t want to be noticed, and if you are noticed, you don’t want to be an (or the most) attractive target, and if you are a target, you don’t want to appear to be worth much effort.


There are two paths to follow:  you can find a pack you like and then put into it what you can, or you can figure out what you will carry, and then choose a bag which will hold it.  Either path will force you to make compromises.  I prefer to compromise on the bag rather than the contents.  In the case of a GHB or BOB you should have a good idea how long the trek is likely to take, and this allows a decent guess at what items and how many of each should be included.  All size estimates need to be accompanied by weight estimates.

When choosing a bag, size is the first concern, and that is determined by how much stuff you need to put into the bag.  Packs often are rated in “liters” which for the metrically challenged can be estimated by dividing them by four to approximate “gallons”.  If you have a guess at the size you will need, it is best to choose a pack which is a bit bigger, because you can put nine gallons into a ten-gallon container, but you can’t put eleven gallons into that container.  However, the bigger the bag, the more stuff you will be tempted to put into it, and the more it will weigh.  Be prepared to lower your size estimate if your weight estimate gets to be too high.

And that brings up the other key concern, the weight.  A person in good physical condition and trained up for it, can probably carry a load of 25% of their body weight.  People in poor condition will be able to carry less.  Keep in mind that pretty much anybody can carry more than they should, briefly.  But can they carry it all day, for several days sequentially?  Can they hike or climb uphill?  Are they able to avoid tripping, or developing foot or ankle injuries?  Can they run short distances?  Jump over narrow obstacles?  As you can see, ideal load weight is a matter of experimentation, and the entire party should work at increasing their capabilities.  But at any point in time, there is a practical maximum weight.  When you hit that, you have to stop packing things in.  If you don’t have enough stuff, you will have to exchange things already in there for things which are lighter (and probably more expensive).

Now that you have an adequate size and not too much weight, consider the comfort.  A pack which distributes the weight and rides well will make your trek less of a torture.  For a large pack such as a GOOD, INCH and most BOBs, you will want to transfer as much of the weight as possible to your hips.  This requires an internal or hybrid frame and a padded waist belt.  External frames should be avoided; they tend to get caught on things. and usually are less comfortable.  A few BOBs and many GHBs may not be that heavy and can get away with using a smaller, frameless pack.

Frankly, if you can find a pack which meets all these criteria, durability may not be a major concern.  The longer the trek and the more rugged the terrain, the more important it becomes.  Keep an eye out for the material.  Nylon, canvas and leather are durable; plastic and cloth are not as durable.  Thick is more durable than thin.  But thick and canvas and particularly leather tends to be heavy, and every extra pound the pack weighs is a pound of stuff you can’t carry.  Thus generally, a mid-weight nylon is best.  You want it to be water proof or highly water resistant or have a water proof cover.  If not truly water proof, make sure that any contents which can be affected by getting wet are packed in water proof bags and even if the pack IS waterproof, you want your critical stuff in their own waterproof protection.

Finally, there is organization.  Having everything you need is great, but being able to find it or access it as needed can be important.  A bag which has lots of pockets may be handy, but every pocket adds more material and thus more weight.  This is a trade-off, and fewer pockets can be somewhat compensated for by intelligent packing.  If you need something quickly, you want to get right to it, and if you use something a lot, you don’t want to take everything else out to get to it.

Maintaining Your Bags

As mentioned, your GHB is best kept in your vehicle, so you will always have it with you when not at home.  Except what if you are not taking your vehicle?  That is a conundrum, and assuming you “have” to go and can’t take your car, you have three options:  risk going without it, taking it with you, or taking a subset with you in your pockets or other containers.  As for your other bag(s) and modules, you need a storage location which is readily available but not in the way, protected from casual access, where they won’t get mixed in or blocked, and are not subjected to environmental extremes.

Some things you put in your bag(s) will have expiration dates.  You need to keep a record with each bag or module stating these dates, and it is a very good idea to put in fresh things before the old ones “expire”.  This usually does not mean they become useless or dangerous, so if you happen to be a month or two late, it’s not a big deal.  But going years past the date is not wise.  Be aware of the storage conditions where you keep each bag (most particularly the trunk of your car) and its effect on the items in the bag.


Finally, do NOT take stuff out of your bags for “temporary” use.  If you take something out of one of your bags, the odds that you will remember to put it back (and replace anything partially used up) are depressingly low.  Which reminds me.  I can’t tell you how many fancy flashlights I’ve lost to battery leakage.  Keep the batteries out of your emergency gear until the emergency happens or is right around the corner, or use lithium batteries, which so far have not leaked on me.

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Introduction to Silencers – Part 2 of 2

31 Mar

Written by John Hertig on The Prepper Journal.

Editors Note: This is the second of a two-part article on silencers by John Hertig. Part 1 was posted yesterday and provides valuable information that you should know before making any decisions. And don’t forget to vote in our current Prepper Journal Writing Contest!

So Should You Get a Suppressor?

The primary advantage to a suppressor is that it reduces the sound level of each shot so as to cause less hearing damage and annoyance to others.  Using a suppressor in conjunction with hearing protection can make long, indoor shooting sessions more hearing safe and pleasant.  And reduces the hearing damage from a few indoor shots without hearing protection.  Perhaps the greatest benefit would be in hunting, where you would not need to wear hearing protection, and would have less noise to annoy the game or other people.  But there are other benefits as well.  Suppressors tend to reduce recoil, which makes the weapon easier and more pleasant to shoot, and significantly reduce muzzle blast, which can negatively affect both the shooter and those close by.  If you are shooting from the prone position, reduced muzzle blast means reduced dust problems.

And suppressors also reduce muzzle flash, which helps preserve your vision when shooting in low light.  Finally, some suppressors can change the sound of the shot so that in addition to being less loud, it is less “sharp” as well.  In Europe, suppressors are not overly regulated, and at some shooting ranges, are required equipment.

But there are negative factors, as you might expect because relatively few shooters (in the USA) have suppressors.

A major downside is that commercially made suppressors are expensive.  Because of the bureaucratic nonsense involved in getting one, the market is limited, and with the extra taxes and fees which manufacturers need to pay, they have to charge a high price to cover costs and research, which further limits the market.  A center fire rifle caliber suppressor itself will probably have a list price of $600 to $1,600.  Then there is the $200 tax and any dealer fees, and if you go that way, Trust costs.  Of course, you can cut the cost significantly by making your own suppressor; you still have to go through the bureaucratic hoops and pay the $200 tax, but any other costs are just parts and your (only you, by law) labor.  This could be under $30 dollars.  It used to be popular to sell a device which screws onto your barrel and accepts an empty two liter pop bottle.  It did not work all that well and the bottle quickly self-destructed, but it could be “enhanced” to make it work better.  I’ve also heard of a similar adapter which allows screwing on an oil filter, but I have no idea how well it works.  I’m surprised you can still get those adapters these days, but I found one place right off the bat which claims to sell them for $25 or so.  It would not be legal to add the pop bottle and put it on (or even keep it ‘near’) the gun without the tax stamp, and I think it likely would be risky (without a legal alternate use) to even possess the adapter without the tax stamp.  It probably would be better to go ahead and make a “real” suppressor as the performance would be better, it would be more durable, and the temptation to do without the tax stamp would be less.  And that would make the higher cost worthwhile.

Once you receive the suppressor, you have to be careful to treat it as required by law, including if you ever want to get rid of it.  This is one area where failing to dot all the “i”s and cross all the “t”s can have a seriously unhappy ending.  For most NFA items, you are supposed to write the BATFE if you are going to take it out of your state, but it appears that is not necessary for short term jaunts with just a suppressor. Then again, who’s definition of “short term” applies?

Many suppressors force gas back through the ejection port due to “back pressure”, which is a source of noise and will bother your eyes (unless you are smart enough to be wearing protective glasses), as well as dirty the magazine and any rounds remaining in it.  And if the suppressor screws on, some can unscrew themselves during use.  Better ones either have a locking mechanism or tighten as you fire them.  Some affect the point of aim; others not so much.

If you don’t want to mess with the BATFE or laws about suppressors, but do want to play with them, there is an interesting alternative.  Because black powder muzzle loading weapons are considered “antiques” by the BATFE and thus not under their control, at least one company will sell, through the mail, without any tax or paperwork, a black powder rifle with integrated sound reduction device.  Since it is integrated (cannot be removed and attached to a modern firearm), it is not considered a suppressor by the BATFE.  Of course, California, New Jersey and Massachusetts are raising a fuss, so if you live there, you can’t get one currently.  Illinois, New York and DC make you go through a FFL to get one, but seem to allow it currently.

(Editor’s Note: I have one and have fired it. The integrated “modifier” is a series of baffle chambers, like all suppressors, and this black powder rifle, in .50 cal, uses no wad as the wad residue will collect in the modifier and diminish its performance over time. The rounds are designed to sit on top of the compacted black powder with a cavity that is filled with the black powder when rammed home. NOT paying the $200 tax stamp and NOT doing all the required extra paperwork still brings a smile to my face.)

If cost is a problem, 22LR suppressors appear to be the least expensive option, with a list price of $200 to $500.  Or occasionally you’ll find a “1/2 price” or better sale online.  And keep an eye on the small companies; some of them are innovating like mad.  A Texas company, have “tubeless” suppressors, which mean the length (and thus the degree of quieting) can be easily changed.  .22LR for $150 and .30 (good for any .30 caliber up to 300 Win Mag and any smaller caliber) for $300.  And has the “Po Boy” line of rifle silencers for $199 each.

The Hearing Protection Act

There was a bill in Congress to remove suppressors from the NFA controls, allowing you to buy one exactly the same as buying a “regular” gun.  This bill seemed to have had a pretty good chance, being good for people’s hearing and the environment and there being insignificant history of people using silencers in crimes.  This bill died due to the Las Vegas shooting even though there was no suppressor involved directly or indirectly in that incident, since it was felt any pro-gun legislation would cause consternation amongst the feeble minded.  Never mind the angst which anti-gun legislation would force on legal gun owners.

My Investigation

The costs of suppressors and annoyance of dealing with the BATFE have dissuaded me from getting a suppressor in the past, but then I got an offer from a place which was selling a major brand at half price.  Apparently it was more the cost than the bureaucracy, and also the latest technology quickly fastens to and releases from the muzzle break rather than screwing on, so requires less fumbling and the gun does not look weird or have easily damaged threads when the suppressor is not installed.  This was enough to tempt me, but before I got all my ducks in a row, they sold out.  Thus, I decided to do in advance what I can so if I ever come across a deal like that again, I will be able to jump on it fast enough to take advantage.

First I went to a dealer I knew of right around the corner from me.  The sign said they were closed, and looking through the windows, they looked really, really closed.  This brings up an interesting point.  What if the dealer who is holding your suppressor goes out of business or loses his license?  It would likely be difficult to resolve; some people claim you own the silencer because you paid for it (keep your receipt!) and others claim that the store owns it because it has not been transferred to you yet (so you are just another creditor of the store).  Fortunately, I knew of another place (big, with a long history) a few miles away.  I got to fondle a few silencers; some of them were fairly heavy.  The guy was able to answer my questions.  Their transfer fee was $100, which included them filling out all the forms and taking the fingerprints and sending them where they need to go; there was no charge for these services if the suppressor was purchased from them.  All I would need would be the two passport style photographs (like from Walgreens) and, if a Trust were used, two copies of the Trust document.

The fellow brought up an interesting point; .30 caliber suppressors actually work pretty good on a 5.56 as well.  Neat; you can have one (heavy duty) suppressor and use it on all center fire rifles between .22 and .30 caliber.

Next I went looking for a Trust.  I didn’t really find a local gun lawyer advertised who inspired confidence.  I did find a Trust online which appears to be head and shoulders above the rest, and overcomes some of the problems with a “standard” NFA trust.  This Trust is by Jim Willi, one of the top gun trust attorneys in Texas, and I could find only positive comments about him and his Trust.  I could not understand how it could do what it says it can, so sent them an email.  I actually got a call from Mr. Willi himself, who explained how it meets the letter of the new NFA regulations encouraged by a President Obama Executive Order.  On the minus side of the new rules, the Trustees of the Trust now have to submit personal data, picture and fingerprints to the BATFE, but on the plus side, you don’t need CLEO approval any more, so your transfer can’t be blocked without cause (some CLEOs have been known to blanket refuse approval).  It is still more involved than I hoped for, but much easier than I feared.  Normally $130, it was on sale for $100.  Before buying this (or probably any) Trust, make sure you have the full legal name of all the people who will be listed in the document, your own (hopefully), at least one Successor Trustee and at least one Primary Beneficiary.  Including Secondary Beneficiaries might be a good idea in case all Primary Beneficiaries are unable to be used due to death, refusal or ineligibility.  None of these people will have access to the suppressor until you die, so they don’t need to provide any information to the BATFE, sign the trust document, or even know they are listed in the Trust.  You can also specify Co-Trustees in the original Trust, but then they will also have to send personal information, photo and fingerprints to the BATFE because they do have access to the suppressor.  Plus, they must all sign the Trust document with you, in the presence of a notary, and removing them requires the Trust to be amended.  It is easier to add or remove Co-Trustees in a separate document, and if they are added after the transfer is approved, they don’t need to submit anything to the BATFE until the next transfer is requested.  You can add non-NFA guns to the Trust, which would also remove them from probate and public records, and would be useful if you ever decided to convert a regular gun to a NFA configuration.  It might also be useful if some of the upcoming “assault weapon” legislation passes.

Now I should be ready for any future suppressor bargains.  At any future time, I can:

1) Find a desired suppressor online or at a dealer

2) Make sure the dealer (still) does transfers for a reasonable price

3) Pay for the suppressor or order it to be sent to the dealer.

4) Have the dealer fill out the NFA paper work; I sign each copy and pay any fees and provide the $200 for the tax stamp

5) Provide two copies of the Trust document and passport style photos; They take my fingerprints

6) Wait for the tax stamp to be returned (per a call from the dealer)

7) Fill out form 4473

8) Take the suppressor home

9) Add Co-Trustees as desired (tax stamp should be approved before adding new Trustees but Trustees MUST be added before they have access to the suppressor)

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Introduction to Silencers – Part 1 of 2

30 Mar

Written by John Hertig on The Prepper Journal.

Editors Note: This is the first of a two-part article on silencers by John Hertig. Part 2 will be posted tomorrow. And don’t forget to vote in our current Prepper Journal Writing Contest!

Introduction to Silencers

You’re watching a movie.  It’s dark, quiet, and the bad guy is creeping up on his victim.  He pulls out a gun and a tube which he screws onto the barrel.  He raises the gun and fires.  “Pfft”.  The victim slumps; nobody hears, nobody sees, the bad guy slips away into the shadows.  “Cool silencer” you may be thinking “Man, I’d like to get me one of them.”

First off, I’m sorry to tell you that not everything you see in the movies is 100% accurate.  In the case you just saw, the “silenced” sound you heard on the screen does not have a high degree of reality (or if you prefer, it’s a freaking lie).  “Silencer” is a LEGAL term (because it is used in the laws regulating such devices), not a technical one (which describes what they actually do).  The device in question does not “silence” the sound of the shot, it reduces it.  The technically accurate term would be “sound suppressor” or more conveniently “suppressor”, or even “muffler” or “sound moderator”.  If you continue to use the term “silencer”, everybody will know what you mean, and those with the common sense of a fruit fly will assume that the movie screen presentation of silencer  capabilities is accurate.  If you want to be thought to be “in the know”, use “suppressor”, or if you prefer, “muffler”; and those who don’t know what you are talking about can be educated.  Or maybe not, but at least the opportunity is there.

Gunshot Sound Theory

When a gun is fired, there are actually four potential sources of sound.

First, and most obvious, is the sound of the explosion which is propelling the bullet.  Explosions are loud and fairly identifiable as to location and cause.  They are loud enough to cause hearing damage to those close by, and can annoy people at some distance.  I’ll bet that the noise from guns being fired is the number one excuse used to close shooting ranges; it was for my old favorite.  Personally, I feel that if a person builds a house close to a shooting range, it’s pretty low of them to then complain about the noise, but that’s the kind of world we live in and the kind of people we are bringing up to live in it.  To paraphrase Star Trek, “the wants of the (whining) few outweigh the wants of the many”.

The purpose of a suppressor is to reduce the noise from the explosion to a level which is less harmful to anyone’s hearing and will reduce the annoyance to anyone within range.  To see how effective this might be, we need to understand how sound level is measured.  The scale used is in “decibels” or “db”.  This is a “logarithmic” measurement, where a 10 db increase in sound level means the sound INTENSITY has been multiplied by ten.  Oddly enough, to the human ear, it “sounds” only twice as loud.  The general base for human tolerance is usually considered to be 70 db, about the noise level of a vacuum cleaner.  Thus 80 db would be 10 times as intense (twice as loud), and might cause hearing damage if a person were exposed to it for eight hours.  And 90 db, from a typical gas mower, would be 100 times as intense (four times as loud), and practically guarantees some hearing damage with eight hours of exposure.  When sound level gets to 110 db, 10,000 times as intense, it can cause actual pain and damage much sooner than eight hours.  This is the level of a car horn at three feet of distance.  A sound level of 150 db can rupture eardrums.  Of course, the intensity falls off with distance, so the further away the source of sound is, the lower the sound level at the point of measurement.

How can mere noise rupture your eardrums?  Noise is energy imposed on the air; loud noise causes noticeable movement of air, and large movements of air can be heard as well as felt.  As the explosion pushes the bullet away, it is pushing the air away with equal energy.  A suppressor then attempts to “slow down” as much of this airborne energy as is practical, by making it go through a longer path and/or converting some of it to heat.  The effectiveness of a suppressor depends on many factors, but generally ranges between 15 db and 45 db, with a generally accepted industry average of 30 db.  Which is about the same reduction as is provided by typical hearing protection used (by wise people) when firing guns.  So if “raw” gunshots were, or could be, only about as loud as a vacuum cleaner, then the representation of suppressors on the silver screen might be possible.  But pretty much all gunshots are at least 140 db, with a few as high as 200 db.

So the suppressor cannot “silence’ a gunshot, or completely prevent hearing damage from the loudest gunshots.  If you are doing a lot of shooting of a loud caliber with a suppressor, particularly indoors, hearing protection is still a good idea, but for an occasional shot, a suppressor can be adequate to prevent noticeable hearing damage from all but the loudest calibers.  Note that the previous “standard of measurement” for silencers was “1 meter left of the muzzle, 1.6 meters from the ground”.  The distance from the ground was to include any ground reflection of noise at a typical standing position firing height.  The military is or will be going to a new standard which makes more sense: 6 inches from the shooters ear closest to the sound source, usually the ejection port.  This is a more useful measurement on the actual hearing safety provided by the silencer being tested; the maximum silenced sound level allowed for this measurement to be acceptable is 140 db.

Next, the bullet is ripping through the air, and the air doth protest.  In fact, if the bullet is “supersonic” (traveling faster than the speed of sound, 1,125 feet per second at room temperature), it creates a traveling mini sonic boom.  This is quite noticeable, and does define a line between bullet start and bullet end.  This noise, by itself, is not nearly as dangerous or annoying as the original explosion, but even if that explosion were completely eliminated, this sound would still be obvious.  The primary solution for this would be for the bullet to go real slow, but the slower the bullet, the less effective it would be.  So the best compromise is “subsonic” ammunition; that which travels at just less than the speed of sound.  There is still some noise of passage through the air, but no sonic boom.

In the case of ammunition which normally does not travel much faster than the speed of sound, say 1,200 fps, you can take it down to 1,000 fps (subsonic speed for a reasonable range of temperatures) and not lose all its effectiveness. In some cases, using ammunition with the heaviest bullet weight practical for that caliber is all that is needed, since the heaviest bullets tend to be the slowest version of each caliber.  But when you take a caliber like .223, which is very dependent on its speed of up to three times the speed of sound, it becomes a very anemic round indeed.  And there is another concern.  In a semi-automatic action, the forces and/or gasses produced by the explosion operate the action to chamber the next round.  Some of these subsonic loads don’t have enough oomph to do that, turning the semi-automatic into a non-ergonomic bolt-action.  And in many cases, subsonic ammunition is significantly more expensive than “normal” ammunition.  Take .223 again.  I found a subsonic round which claims to be able to operate the action of an unmodified gun.  The cost was over $50, and they did not say how many rounds were included for that price.  If fifty rounds, than that is in line with other high-end .223 ammo.  If it is the more common box size for rifle ammo of twenty, then that’s some pretty pricey shooting.  And if when they say “each” they mean each round…  Subsonic .223 which does not claim to cycle or even states it won’t cycle is in the $1 a shot range which a quality JHP or JSP round often runs, but is as much as four times the cost of the cheapest “ball” ammo of that caliber.  On the other end of the spectrum, 22 LR “match” or “target” ammunition is actually already subsonic, and there are some decent looking subsonic labeled 22LR choices which are even less expensive.

If a particular sub-sonic ammunition will not cycle the action, it is possible that the gun could be modified to work reliably with that load.  But then it might not work safely or well with other, more vigorous (normal) loads.

Speaking of the action, it is the third possible source of noise.  Usually this is not a critical factor, but I read somewhere about one machine gun about which it is claimed the action alone produces 115 db.  Fortunately, the noise produced by most actions is much more reasonable.  A revolver would have less action noise than a semi-automatic, but there is a required gap between cylinder and barrel which allows enough gas to escape that net change in noise level would not be positive.  The real way to eliminate action noise is to use a single shot, pump, lever or bolt action which could delay any noise or be worked slowly enough that the noise would be minimal.

Lastly, if the bullet impacts something solid, there will be a corresponding noise.  This can be fairly obnoxious if the impact is on a steel plate, much less loud on wood, and fairly insignificant on dirt.  Pretty much this is not a problem, unless you choose to shoot at steel targets, in which case this noise should be acceptable to you.  In any case, it should be far enough away that there is no danger of hearing damage, as well as from bullet fragments.  The only solution to target noise is to not shoot at things which make noise when hit.

Can You Get a Suppressor?

Probably, but it won’t be cheap, quick or easy.

Back in the thirties, when the country was reeling from the crime waves spawned by Prohibition, the people of the time (in particular President Franklin Roosevelt, who had just escaped an assassination attempt) attempted to get some control of the violence with the National Firearms Act.  This poorly written monstrosity imposes a statutory excise tax on the manufacture and transfer of certain firearms and mandated the registration of those firearms.  Aimed primarily at the “tommy guns” (Thompson Submachine gun AKA the “Chicago Typewriter”) and “sawed off shotguns” which were favored by the mobsters at the time, it contained the phrase “includes a muffler or silencer for any firearm whether or not such firearm is included within the foregoing definition”.  This meant that the same $200 tax stamp required for transfer of a restricted firearm like a machine gun also had to be purchased in order to transfer a suppressor, and still does.  In those days, $200 was pretty significant, over $3,600 in 2017 dollars, maybe “half the price of a Model A Ford” in those days.  Fortunately, it was an amount set in the law, and today it is annoying rather than crippling.  (HR 5103 is trying to up it to $500 with a built-in inflation increase.)

If you live in the eight states in which silencers are illegal under state law, or DC, sorry Charlie, no suppressors for you.  These states are:  Hawaii, California (of course), Illinois, Delaware, New York (also of course), Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island.  Actually, none of these is a surprise.  If you live in one of the other forty two states, check with your local laws to make sure they are no more restrictive than the state law on suppressors.  Note: Minnesotans, HF 3022 would add your state to the list of those which prohibit suppressors, as well as impose many other severe firearm restrictions.

Your next step is to find a nearby licensed dealer of suppressors (and other NFA firearms).  It has to be in the same state as your residence, and fairly close by, as you will be visiting it at least a couple of times during the process.  You are looking for a FFL (Federal Firearms License) holder who has paid a SOT (Special Occupation Tax) to become a Class 3 (can sell and transfer NFA items) or Class 2 (can make, sell and transfer NFA items) dealer.  If they don’t have a FFL and a SOT paid, they can’t (legally) sell a suppressor or transfer a suppressor to you and being caught with such an item will wreck your whole decade.

Once you find your dealer, either choose a suppressor they have in stock, or if you find one you like on the internet, arrange to have your suppressor sent to the dealer.  In either case, you will pay for the suppressor “up front”.  The dealer will provide you the forms you need to fill out and sometimes fill them out for you, needing only your signature.  For executing a suppressor transfer, the dealer will likely charge you a fee; if you buy the suppressor from them, they may or may not charge you this separate fee.  The more they do for you, the higher fee they deserve.  One copy of the forms goes to the Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) in your area.  The other two copies, with passport style photos and fingerprint cards, and the $200 transfer tax check, goes to the BATFE.  They will process it (it could take three to six months or even more) and return the tax “stamp” for that suppressor to the dealer, who will call you to let you know you can pick up your suppressor.  When you get there, you will fill a firearm transfer form just as if you were buying a gun.  The background check is performed by the BATFE, so (usually) you won’t have to go through the “instant check”.

There are three entities which can have NFA items registered to them and from what I can find out, no NFA item is ever registered to more than one entity at a time (with each change having to go through the entire transfer process and cost).

An individual is the cheapest and easiest and least subject to error, but is also the most restricted and the approval tends to take longer.  If the suppressor is licensed to you, as long as you are present, it is not a problem.  Let us say you have it at home and your wife (or any other person) is there when you leave.  If she has access to it, she could be charged with possession of an unregistered NFA item, fined, jailed and the suppressor confiscated.  To avoid this, keep it in a locked safe which NOBODY ELSE has access to (or at least nobody else who will ever be in that location).  If you want to loan it to someone else outside your presence or transfer it, the entire transfer time and process and $200 tax stamp would be required again.  And yet again when/if it is returned to you.  If you are declared temporarily or permanently unable to possess firearms, it is likely your suppressor would be confiscated.  If you die, during the time of proper probate, the executor of the estate can possess the suppressor and transfer it to the beneficiary specified in your will or by law (with the Form 5, but without the $200 tax, yay), but if probate or transfer is not (correctly) done, it could be quite unpleasant.  Furthermore, probate is a public process, so the suppressor and it’s beneficiary would be a matter of public record.

A corporation, partnership or LLC is an eligible entity as well.  These generally require yearly maintenance (such as filing federal, state and local taxes and various public information reports) and some must be renewed on a regular basis, and there is usually a fee for renewal.  Any authorized corporate officer may possess and use the suppressor, and approval is usually quicker than for an individual.  But if you don’t renew on time or otherwise dissolve the entity, the NFA items held by the entity will have to be transferred to another entity and a new $200 tax stamp for each will be required.  Unless the NFA firearms are used as part of the business, this would seem to be a poor alternative to individual ownership due to the complications if the owner(s) die or the business closes.

The last eligible entity is a NFA Trust, which like a corporation tends to have faster approval than an individual.  This has a number of advantages.  The Initial Trustee (the Settlor, the person who sets up the trust) has all the benefits of individual registration, and can add any number of Co-Trustees to the Trust who then have all the same access to the suppressor as does the Initial Trustee.  Co-Trustees can be removed if needed.  And the Settlor can set up Beneficiaries, who can inherit the Trust property, and Successor Trustees, who can take over if the Trustee and any Co-Trustees are no longer in the picture.  If you are declared unable to possess firearms, the Co-Trustees can take possession of the Trust property, and when the declaration is resolved or expired, you can get the property back.  There are only two downsides to this method.  One is cost.  A Trust is a legal contract, and lawyers are not noted for being cheap.  It may cost $500 or more, even lots more, to have a lawyer set up your Trust.  Alternatively, you can get some “do it yourself” Trusts off the internet or from some dealers for $150 or less.  The other problem is that many lawyers providing these Trusts are not experts in firearm trust law and could provide you a Trust which gets you a suppressor but fails to be fully correct, leading to you or more often a Co-Trustee not legally possessing the suppressor.  The same can be said for some of the DIY Trusts.  A properly set up Trust can make your NFA involvement much easier.  Being a Trust, the property (NFA items) possessed by the Trust does not go through probate, but directly to the Beneficiaries specified in the Trust, without the $200 transfer tax (the Form 5 is still needed), and will not be a matter of public record.

A NFA trust can contain any number of suppressors, as well as any other NFA items (such as Short Barreled Rifles) and even non-NFA firearms.  You can make your own NFA items (no full automatics though), for your own use, as long as you make application for each in advance to the BATFE, and pay the $200 manufacturing tax.

Editors Note: Be sure to read tomorrows post completing the set on silencers.

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What is an “Assault Rifle”?

27 Feb

Written by John Hertig on The Prepper Journal.

The news these days is full of the debate about assault rifles.  But what exactly are we talking about?

Many people claim that an “AR-15” is an “assault rifle”.  And they are about “half” correct, because there are three possible definitions of assault rifle:  the technical one, the legal one and the functional one.  They also think that “AR” stands for “assault rifle” or “automatic rifle”, but they are completely wrong on that.  It stands for “Armalite Rifle” after the company which invented them.

– Technically, an “assault rifle” is defined as “an intermediate-range, magazine-fed military weapon designed to be fired with two hands from the shoulder that can be set for automatic or semiautomatic fire”.  Those who don’t know what they are talking about and those who want to get rid of guns and don’t mind lying to do so, have extended this to include “or semi-automatic versions of these”.  Everyone agrees that the M-16 and the AK-47 are assault rifles.  Some people insist that the AR-15 and the semi-automatic only version of the AK-47 are also “assault rifles”.  Note that true (fully automatic) assault rifles are already very highly regulated.  None can have been manufactured for civilian use since 1986, which means the limited and dwindling supply of existing registered ones has resulted in ridiculously high prices (up to $60,000).  To get one you have to pass an extensive federal background check, pay a $200 transfer tax, and wait for many months.  And once you have one, there are restrictions on what you can do with it which do not apply to semi-automatic only firearms.

– Legal definitions are what are specified in laws which specify “assault rifles” instead of the more accurate and politically ineffective “Modern Sporting Rifles” (MSR) or the marginally accurate “assault style rifles”, and vary from Federal to State, and from State to State.  Of course, true assault rifles are already covered by the NFA (National Firearms Act of 1934), the GCA (Gun Control Act of 1968) and the FOPA (Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986), so any law about “assault rifles” only apply to the semi-automatic versions.  And these laws sometimes list specific models (such as AR-15 and AK-47) and typically (also) refer to “semi-automatic rifles which can accept a magazine removable without opening the action (or a capacity of over 10 rounds), AND have one or more ‘features’ such as a collapsible or folding stock, a thumb hole stock or pistol grip, a vertical forward grip, a bayonet lug, or a flash hider.  In other words, how it LOOKS, not how it works.  Under these laws, an AR-15 is an assault rifle, and a Mini-14 is not an assault rifle even though it does exactly the same thing; it just looks “less military” (even though it is a shrunken version of the M-14 military rifle).

Note: This is NOT an assault rifle “by definition” though the Editor would gladly take this into any combat situation against any other rifle.

Functionally, if a person uses a rifle to assault someone, it is an assault rifle.  Even if it is a single shot, black powder, muzzle loading rifle which is considered a “curio or relic”, is not regulated and can be ordered through the mail.

So an AR-15 is not an assault rifle by the original, unpoliticized technical definition, is usually an assault rifle by the legal definition, and is very seldom is an assault rifle by the functional definition.  Oh, and guess what:  No matter how any law defines “assault rifles”, there will be a way around it.  So then all semi-autos will need to be addressed.  And after they are no longer a factor, we will find that lever action rifles and pump action rifles and revolver rifles are pretty quick firing as well.  Step by step the people will be pushed further and further into being prey for anyone who wishes to subjugate them.  Just keep this in mind while we continue to discuss “assault rifles”.

Should Assault Rifles be “Banned”?

Whenever an AR-15 or other MSR is used by some fame seeking psychopath, there is a call to “ban assault rifles”.

At first glance, it would seem that the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution would prevent this.  “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”.  This was written after the United States had just rebelled against a tyrannical government to achieve freedom from the same, and was primarily intended to make sure that as a people, we would never be in a condition where we could not rebel against tyranny.

Thus, let’s dissect this.  It starts with a “justification” clause (the reason for the amendment) and ends with an “effect” clause (the purpose of the amendment).  The justification was to “ensure the security of a free (from tyranny) State (the political entity covered by the document, that is, the new United States)”  And how were they going to ensure this security?  With a “well regulated Militia”.  In those days, the militia was considered to be every able bodied white man between the ages of 18 and 45.  Under normal conditions, these people  would not be actively IN the militia, but they could be called together and trained and lead (thus well regulated) if the conditions warranted.  And the only way to practically do that was if “all” of them had their own personal arms and experience in their use.  This means arms which are at or near to the level of sophistication of those weapons likely to be used by the tyrant’s forces.  Today, the militia would include all races and probably at least some women.

Thus the “effect” clause is the most important part of the Amendment.  And the effect is a “right” and the group to whom that right applies.  The right is “to keep and bear Arms”, with Arms meaning weapons suitable for defense against a tyrant or tyrannical government.  Otherwise, the purpose of the amendment is without value.  The target group is “the people”, that is citizens of the United States.  That has been massaged to be interpreted as the subset of those people who have not proven themselves to be a danger if in possession of firearms, including released criminals and the mentally unbalanced.  If the justice system really did a reasonably effective job of rehabilitating criminals, than it seems obvious that after “paying their debt to society”, criminals would be able to restore this right, particularly those whose criminal acts were non-violent.  Under our current justice system, current restrictions on this restoration of rights can have a case about it made both ways.  As for the mentally unbalanced, they are sick and should be cured before they have ANY right which will affect the rest of society.  But without ANY valid indication of danger from a person, any restriction of gun rights appears to be prohibited (“shall not be infringed”; that is limited, undermined or encroached on).

“Arms” have always been interpreted as “personal” weapons.  I don’t imagine anyone, including the founding fathers, thought that squad or higher level weaponry (cannons in their day) would be either appropriate for individuals, or likely to be effective if used by an individual during a rebellion against tyranny.  In 1934, the violence of prohibition resulted in the first real attack on the Second Amendment, when they decided that machine guns, sawed off shotguns and rifles, and silencers were “not appropriate for civilians“.  They did not prohibit them, just regulated the heck out of them and added a ruinous tax, about half the price of a Model T car for each one transferred.  They wanted to include handguns in the law, but in the end, left them out.  Eventually, this law (NFA) was “gutted” for being unconstitutional.  Not for violating the Second Amendment, oddly enough, but the Fifth Amendment against self incrimination.  Since the weapons specified in the NFA had to be registered, and the act of registering was sometimes admission of a crime, in 1968 a new law was passed which eliminated the need for “registration”.  In fact, there was no longer ANY way to register an unregistered NFA weapon after the effective date of the GCA, making all of them which were not registered by that date, illegal.  The new law, which was approved by the court as being Constitutional, was the requirement for every transfer to go through a special class of dealers, ensuring that the new owner would be known to, and vetted by, the BATFE, the governmental agency tasked with administering federal firearms law.  To eliminate any question of self-incrimination, it was prohibited from using the information from the transfer for any criminal indictment.  With the passage of this law, any NFA weapon found in the possession of any person other than the one it was last transferred to was considered “unregistered” and resulted in $250,000 in fines and 10 years in jail for that person.

So back to the original question.  Again, we need to look at the word, “banned“, being used.  Technically, it means “prohibited, not allowed”.  This would make possession by law abiding, non-crazy people illegal, which would seem to be an easily shown violation of the Second Amendment.  Even if it could get over the hump of apparently violating the Constitution, many of these “assault rifles” are fairly high in price; often over $1000 and sometimes over $2000 or even $3000.  When you add in accessories which would become useless without the rifle, you are talking about a potentially huge hit to a person’s net worth.  Not to mention dealers and manufacturers and accessory makers and importers; an entire industry.  Taking someone’s (previously) legally owned property without just compensation would seem to be yet another Constitutional problem.  A way around this might be to “buy” them, but then you get into a mess with valuation, which is not just market value prior to the new law.  And the potential for fraud would be extreme.  There would be some people who just would not give them up, giving a healthy boost to the percentage of our population who would be criminals.

So it seems that banning assault rifles according to the actual meaning of the word “ban” would cause more problems than it could possibly solve.


So What Other Options are There? 

There actually WAS a federal “ban” implemented.  Of course, it was not REALLY a “ban”, because every existing weapon which fell under the ban could continue to be owned and used and transferred.  The law specified “no more can be made or imported except for use by the government”.  What was the impact?  On use of these weapons in criminal acts, not much, since there were so many of them and they were not used criminally that often.  Because of the complete stop to any more being produced or available, the price went up.  The law had a “sunset” clause in it, and when the specified time period had elapsed (2004), the law was not renewed.

So one option would be a similar law which “grandfathers” in existing “assault rifles”.  This would probably be even less effective than the last one, since the popularity of these rifles has exploded and there would be a huge supply still available.  I’m sure the politicians and those who hate guns (or at least gun ownership; they don’t seem to mind hiring armed guards) will celebrate this “ban” even though once again, they misuse the term and have provided no significant effect on violence.

Another option would be to add “assault rifles” to the NFA list.  I imagine the BATFE would have to get a lot bigger to handle this.  And any minor reduction in violent crime would be wildly overshadowed by the loss of effectiveness of a militia called up without most of the people having any exposure to about the most effective personal weapon.  Also it would be a major shift in the BATFE mission, since currently they administer the NFA law; and a new law covering “assault rifles” would need to be passed and put in their mission.

Controlling People Rather Than Things

Frankly, the “best” option would be to do nothing about “assault rifles”, because despite all the rhetoric, the GUN has nothing to do with these acts of violence.  If we could just look at things clearly, we could see where really effective measures could reduce these horrible acts.  First of all, quit making “gun-free zones” which are highly attractive to psychos because they may be crazy, but they are not stupid enough to ignore that if they have the only gun, they can’t be stopped.  Next, I’d guess at least half these nut-jobs do it for the fame or to “make a statement”, and if it was illegal to publish their name or picture or any information about them except in the most general, non-identifiable and derogatory terms, the number of these incidents would plummet.

But although the guns are “innocent” of these events, gun OWNERS are not without some blame, by leaving guns where psychos can get them or by selling them to those who should not have them.  It is not a huge problem, but it does happen on occasion.  Background checks on commercial sales are fairly useful, and the current methodology is moderately effective.  But it is only as effective as the databases which are used, and these need work.  There are too many cases where people who should be in the database are not, and some cases where people who should not be in the database are (leading to false rejection).  So, “fixing” the databases should be a high priority (this does not mean adding people who are not actually a danger, such as people who have someone else do their income taxes).  There are those who claim that private sales not requiring a background check is a “loophole” to the law.  As usual, these people misuse a term for their own benefit.  A “loophole” is an UNINTENTIONAL misuse of a law.  The exception of background checks on private sales is deliberately allowed in the law, because legal ownership of something includes the ability to sell it when it is no longer wanted or if money is suddenly needed.  It is not currently possible for a private seller to do a background check, and involving a FFL is difficult and often much too expensive.  Also, the checks COULD be used for an underground registration system, and that would be a problem someday (universal registration always has led to confiscation).

That being said, I would support an “instant universal background check” to include private sales IF AND ONLY IF, 1) it could be done by a private individual for free or small fee (preferably usable as a tax credit; we would be doing this for the country, not ourselves), 2) the background check was strictly on the person attempting to buy and had no indication whatsoever what gun was being purchased, 3) that any approved buyers would have their records deleted after 30 days or other reasonable time period, and 4) that any agency which maintained any records after that time period would have every employee of that agency fined, except any employee who reported the transgression would be rewarded.  Any elected official which requested or required the agency do this, would be removed from office.

Alternatively, do away with background checks and issue a “good guy” card to those who undergo a background check, top level safety training and basic firearm operation training.  This should be affordable for all, and would be confiscated if the person was shown to be dangerous.  Then any transfer would require inspection of a current card before proceeding.  Or have both systems, with the background check done for those who don’t have the card and the card used instead of the background check (like a concealed carry permit is today) for those who have it.


Basically gun control has limited effectiveness in reducing violence, because the gun is merely a tool of a violent person.  The only people who are affected by gun control laws, are those who obey the law, and don’t commit acts of violence.  And the effects on those law abiding people can be quite onerous.  Any law passed will only create more victims (who no longer can be armed) and more criminals (formerly law abiding people who rebel against the new law).  When the last gun is removed from civilian hands, violence will not cease; violent people will still have knives and baseball bats and hammers and fists.  And they have ready access to items which can cause much more damage than guns.

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Introduction to ABC and NBC Survival

1 Feb

Written by John Hertig on The Prepper Journal.

No, I’m not talking about the television networks; they can’t kill you, just dim your intelligence and contaminate you with incorrect information.  In the 50’s, the risk was from what were called Atomic, Biological and Chemical weapons, thus ABC.  During the cold war, the term changed to NBC, or Nuclear, Biological and Chemical.  This was to include “hydrogen” (“thermonuclear”, including fusion) and “neutron” (designed for maximum radiation and minimum blast) bombs with the original “atomic” (using fission only) bombs.  Nowadays, the term has been expanded to CBRNe.  This refers to “all” the current “weapons of mass destruction”, Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and sometimes “enhanced (improvised) explosive”.  I don’t know why an “improvised” explosive device is considered any worse than a military or other “dedicated” explosive device.

In a previous article (Introduction to Nuclear Survival), we discussed the “Nuclear” aspect.  This has the short term (fireball, blast and heat) aspects and the longer term (radiation and fallout) aspects.  “Radiological” is a relatively new concept dealing with the concept of a “dirty bomb“.  This is a standard explosive which is surrounded with radioactive material.  It does not have the destructive power or radiation of a nuclear explosion, but does spread radioactive material around, potentially exposing victims to the radiation, and making the area unsafe until it is cleaned up or the radioactive material decays to a safe level.

Biological weapons attempt to use disease as a weapon against a population; the agent is bacterial or viral or spores (including fungal).  The key to these is that usually there is a period of time between exposure and symptoms, and transmission across a target area is accomplished by “infection” – people with the disease unknowingly (or uncaringly) infecting other people.

Chemical weapons are another anti-personnel weapon which attempts to poison, disable or disorient a population.  This can be a single, basic chemical or a complex mix such as a nerve agent; the chemical can have been developed for non-weapon uses and just be adapted for weapon use, or it could have been developed strictly as a weapon.

Biological Weapons

As mentioned, the long term transmission of biological weapons is via infection.  An area may be contaminated by filling the air with an aerosol form, or covering it with a liquid form, but often it is more effective (and technically easier) to send infectious people into the target population.  The design of these weapons focus on the resistance of the disease agent outside of a host (to make it difficult to sanitize an affected area and infect as many “primary” hosts as possible), the lethality of the disease (maximize the percentage of victims who are disabled or die), the susceptibility to treatment or inoculation (to minimize victims being easily cured or made resistant to infection), and the length of the incubation period (a long time between exposure and symptoms to maximize the period each carrier is infectious and mobile, or a short time to make it harder to combat).

Thus, the trick is to avoid becoming infected.  This generally occurs when the disease agent (bacteria, virus or spore) enters the body, most commonly via the mouth, nose, eyes or a break in the skin.  The disease agent can be in an aerosol form which is breathed or a liquid which gets on the hands and is transferred to an opening or into a wound.  It can also be in what is eaten or drunk.  If you can prevent these common sources of infection, then it would be unlikely that you will be infected, unless someone injects you or you are in long term close contact with a carrier or their environment.  To reduce the odds of infection, use a mask over your mouth and nose which can filter out and/or kill the disease agent, goggles which seal around your eyes, and clothing which will keep the disease agent away from your skin, or at least any breaks in your skin.  Decontamination; that is safe removal and containment of the clothing upon return to a “safe” location, and cleaning any possibly exposed parts of the body, will be of great importance.

Since it is difficult to keep up avoidance of infection long term, a secondary focus is to kill the disease agent not yet (or any more) in a victim, and to quarantine those who are infected.  There are a number of ways to kill disease agents: heat, ultraviolet and disinfectants are the most common.  Victims of bacterial weapons may respond to antibiotics, but often viruses don’t have effective anti-virals.

Note that a biological product, such as Botulism toxin is NOT a Biological weapon, but a Chemical one.  A Biological weapon is one which is “alive” or at least becomes alive in the victim, and works by multiplying to the point where the victim’s system is overwhelmed.  The diseases used tend to be naturally occurring, although the weaponized ones may have been “tweaked”.

Perhaps the most noted modern biological weapon is Anthrax (Bacillus Anthracis).  Others include Smallpox (Variola major), Tularemia (Francisella tularensis), Plague (Yersinia pestis), Bunyavirus (Bunyaviridae family – Nairovirus, Phlebovirus and Hantavirus), Ebola Virus and Marburg Virus (another Hemorrhagic Fever similar to Ebola).  Some people think that influenza has potential to be “improved” into a useful weapon.

Anthrax has not only the bacteriological effects, but the bacterium is one of those which also produce toxins.  Treatment varies depending on how you were infected.  If the infection was through a wound or injection, often a long course of Ciprofloxican or a Doxycycline antibiotic will do the trick.  If spores were inhaled, that is a medical emergency which antibiotics alone may not suffice for.  There are anti-toxins being developed for cases where the toxin has been produced in the victim in quantity, but at this time these are still experimental.  Those at risk (veterinarians and other professionals who deal with animals, and the military) can get a vaccine against Anthrax.  They are also working to develop an oral vaccine which might be available more widely.  Anthrax is not as infectious as many diseases, so the optimal way of introducing it into a population is dispersing an aerosol to encourage inhalation of the agent.


Chemical Weapons

Any weaponized material which is not “alive” (or potentially alive), including substances produced by or from biological elements, is considered Chemical.  This material is finite in quantity; it does not reproduce, and works by affecting the body directly.  It can be a gas, liquid, powder or other solid form.  It can be distributed by explosion or other mechanical distribution, or it can be concealed in food or water or many other products.  Effects can be physical damage, death, incapacitation or disorientation; effects can occur ‘instantaneously’ or after a while, and can be permanent or temporary.

When developing a chemical weapon, one tends to focus not only in producing the desired effect, but the “volatility” or how stable it is.  Chemicals which are volatile (unstable) tend to “go away” or become inactive quickly, thus exhibiting low “persistence”.  This might be of interest if you plan to send personnel in shortly after the weapon.  On the other hand, if the goal is to cause as much damage as possible, high persistence would be preferable.

Harassing agents

These are substances that are not intended to kill or injure. Casualty effects are not anticipated to exceed 24 hours, nor do they often require medical attention.  These include tear agents (pain to eyes and irritation to mucous membranes), vomiting agents (produce congestion, coughing, sneezing, and eventually nausea), and malodorants (strong, unpleasant smell with powerful averse effects, such as a skunk uses.)

Incapacitating agents

These are substances that produce debilitating effects with limited probability of permanent injury or loss of life. The casualty effects typically last over 24 hours, and though medical evacuation and isolation is recommended, it is usually not required for complete recovery.  Most are psychological agents which cause mental disturbances such as delirium or hallucination.  A common example is LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide).  Tranquilizers would also be incapacitating agents, but would be other than psychological in nature.

Vomiting. Adamsite (DM) Diphenylchloroarsine (DA) Diphenylcyanoarsine (DC) Other. Agent 15. BZ. Canniboids. Fentanyls. LSD. Phenothiazines. Riot Control/Tear. Bromobenzylcyanide Chloroacetophenone. Chloropicrin. CNB – (CN in Benzene and Carbon Tetrachloride) CNC – (CN in Chloroform) CNS – (CN and Chloropicrin in Chloroform)

Harassing agents and incapacitating agents are considered NON-LETHAL weapons which are temporary in nature.  Note that they can result in the death of a small percentage of people affected due to sensitivity, other health issues or unintended consequence (a LSD victim thinking he can fly and jumping off a building).  All other chemical weapons are considered LETHAL weapons, as they are intended to produce casualties without regard to long-term consequences or loss of life; the injuries they cause require medical treatment.

Blister agents

These irritate and cause injury to the skin, as well as the eyes, or any other tissue they contact (including internal tissues if breathed).

Vesicants – These are substances that produce large fluid-filled blisters on the skin, for example, various formulas of mustard gas.

UrticantsThese are substances that produce a painful weal on the skin.  Sometimes they are called skin necrotizers.  The most common is Phosgene oxime.

Blood agents

These substances are metabolic poisons that interfere with the life-sustaining processes of the blood, such as Hydrogen cyanide or Arsine (a compound of arsenic).

Choking agents

These substances are sometime referred to as pulmonary agent or lung irritants and cause injury to the lung-blood barrier, preventing oxygen from getting into the blood.  This results in coma or death from Asphyxia (severely deficient supply of oxygen to the body).  These are commonly gasses, such as Chlorine or Phosgene.

Nerve agents

Nerve agents are substances that disrupt the chemical communications through the nervous system.  The most common method of doing this is by preventing the normal control (destruction) of unintended acetylcholine in the nerve fiber, leading to a perpetual state of excitement in the nerve.  This causes constant muscle contraction and the eventual exhaustion of the muscles leading to respiratory failure and death.  The other method is a neurotoxin, Tetrodotoxin, which blocks nerve cells from firing, preventing muscles from contracting, and again resulting in respiratory failure.


There are a number of “series” of nerve agents.  G series are high volatility agents that are typically used for a nonpersistent to semipersistent effect.  Sarin is an example of this series.  V series (VE, VG, VM, VX) have low volatility and are typically used for a persistent effect or liquid contact hazard.  GV series (GV, Novichok) have volatility between the V and G agents and are typically used for a semi-persistent to persistent effect.  These all affect acetylcholine control.  The remaining class is called T series and is related to the Tetrodotoxin in puffer fish and some other marine creatures.

For those exposed to a nerve agent which prevents acetylcholine control, the military has (or had) the NAAK (Mark 1 Nerve Agent Antidote Kit) consisting of an auto-injector of Atropine and one of pralidoxime chloride.  Each soldier had three kits, one which could be self administered, and the other two which could be buddy administered if convulsions start.  The NAAK seems to have been replaced by the ATNAA (Antidote Treatment — Nerve Agent Auto-Injector) with the same two drugs in a single injector; it appears to not be available to civilians.  However the FDA has recently approved Duodote, a similar single injector system for civilian use.  It appears to go for about $60 each at regular pharmacies, but will require a prescription.

For someone convulsing, the military is (or at least was) issued an additional injector of Diazepam known as CANA (Convulsant Antidote for Nerve Agent) to be applied after the three NAAK kits.


There is currently no (known) antidote for T series nerve agents, which means that someone who would use one of these is probably insane (since it could affect them just as badly as the enemy).

Other agents

Pretty much anything which is toxic or harmful can be used as a chemical weapon.  Consider the “acid attacks” occurring in the UK and other places.  If you ever mix bleach and another product with acid or ammonia, you will regret it (poisonous vapors will be produced).  A large dose of insulin or nicotine can be deadly.  There are plants which are poisonous, such as some species of mushroom and Nightshade (Belladonna).  And so on for a very long list.

One interesting weapon is Botulinum toxin produced by botulism bacteria.  There are several types of this; types A and B are often used medically to treat muscle spasms (or thin lips and wrinkles).  Think Botox.  Type H is the deadliest substance in the world – an injection of only 2-billionths of a gram (2 ng) can cause death to an adult. Fifty grams is enough to kill the population of planet Earth, 50 grams is 1.7 ounces is less than 4 tablespoons.  Another interesting weapon is Ricin, produced from the remains of the castor bean after producing the castor oil.  This weapon acts by preventing protein synthesis at the cellular level. This means cells slowly grind to a halt and essential operations cease, leading to cellular death.

There are various detectors for the presence of some chemical weapons.  The most reasonable tend to be badges or booklets of test papers; more extensive test kits mostly are quite expensive and have a relatively short shelf life.

How to Survive Chemical or Biological Attacks

A guaranteed way it is actually very simple in concept.  Select the people you need or want to have with you, isolate them for a month to make sure they have no diseases, and then move into an air-tight residence with a chemical/biological air filter to bring in safe air, a stock of safe food, and water purification capability.  And never open the door again.  Of course, you might see some problems with this methodology.  First of all, getting that air-tight residence will be impractical for most people due to the cost and bureaucratic impediments.  Besides, even if nobody ever has to leave, which is pretty unlikely, eventually you will run out of something critical and have to go out for supplies.  There is equipment to keep you safe “out there” and you could have an air lock and decontamination setup at the entrance to keep the residence sterile.  But let’s face it, full protection gear is not only fallible, but likely to not go over well with the rest of the public.

Practically, you want to keep your infection risks down by staying away from other people as much as you can.  And remember your PPG (personal protection gear) of mask, and if you can get away with it, goggles.  Plus, have a bunch of exam gloves for whenever you need to touch something which might be infected by the previous person who was near it (which is usually EVERYTHING).  Have hand sanitizer available in case you accidentally touch anything when not wearing gloves.  Having a decontamination system at your entrance, for you AND anything you are bringing in is a critical idea.  Keep a close ear on any unusual medical news, and at the first sign of anything potentially biological weapon related, go to your highest level of infection prevention (essentially, isolation).  And remember, insects can carry disease, so be prepared to keep them out as much as practical, and take care of any which do get in.

Biological safety can be fairly long term; you have to wait for the disease to “burn itself out”; that is, reach a condition where nobody else is contagious and every existing source of the disease is quarantined or destroyed.  Chemical safety is much shorter term, but rather more complicated.  It would be a challenge for a biological weapon to get inside your house unless you bring it in or let it in.  Chemical weapons can get inside rather more easily.  If your residence is not air tight (and the odds are that it is not), you need to have the means at hand to make it more so upon demand.  This often can be done with plastic sheeting and duct tape.  Know what needs to be sealed and have the tools and supplies right there.  A way of filtering what air does come in would be quite useful because otherwise either the weapon can get in, or you will die when all the oxygen is used up.  When you have to go out, you’ll need full protection, and your need for protection is more important than what other people think.  Be alert for violence from those who don’t have protection or are just plain nut jobs.

Basically, this level of protection consists of a CBRN rated gas mask and a suit which keeps the chemicals off your entire body, since some chemical weapons affect the skin, and others can be absorbed through the skin.  Unfortunately, some chemical weapons are designed to defeat the protections against them, so masks and suits need to be continuously improved.  Thus your CBRN mask should be new and a recent model to ensure it has the latest technology and is in a condition which is reliable and effective (that is, not “expired”).  Surplus masks may be cheap, but the odds they will protect you are not favorable.  It will probably cost you at least $200 for a good mask.  You’ll need a supply of CBRN filter canisters as well, at about $45 each and up.  How long a filter is good for is difficult to know in advance, but as an estimate, plan on getting about eight hours out of a filter.  It is best to go for a mask which uses standard 40mm NATO filter attachment; they are quick to install, easier to find, and harder to screw up.  Sometimes you can get “6-packs” at a discount.  Be aware of the expiration date of your filters.  Some people claim that they are “useless” after this date; some people claim they are still useful “for a while” if sealed, and a few filters (which use asbestos, Chromium or other harmful chemicals) might be toxic when expired.  Here is a brief comparison of some modern gas masks.

As for the suit, Lawrence Livermore labs are working on “smart” protective clothing which protects against biological weapons and senses chemical agents and increases the protection for them.  This may or may not be available now, but I’ll bet even if you could find it for sale, you would not be able to afford it.  What you might be able to get is military MOPP (Mission Oriented Protective Posture) at least level four gear (lower level gear may be cheaper, but won’t provide as much protection).  This outfit is thick and does not breathe well, which can cause you to overheat, but it does pretty much protect from chemical weapons.  I was not able to find any currently available which guaranteed to be level four or higher, so cannot comment on price or availability.  The ones I did find were in the $50 to $100 range, which seemed suspiciously low.

Furthermore, many stated they were “surplus”, and these garments seem to have a shelf life of ten years or so when sealed in a package, and only a year or two if the package seal is broken.  Even it you did find a high level outfit surplus, it might not be any good by the time you needed it.  There appears to be a better consumer option, generically known as CPO and/or CPU (Chemical Protective Outergarments or Undergarments), which seem to be of a similar level of protection to MOPP level four, and available in the $200 to $350 range for Rampart offerings.  Gore-Tex appears to have an interesting version as well, but I could not find any for sale to civilians.  These garments often don’t include gloves or foot coverings, and some don’t include head covering, so make sure you have the parts to cover these areas as well, and the appropriate materials to seal between them and the suit and the mask.  This might add $50 to $100 to your cost.  If this just won’t fit the budget, simple “impervious” chemical resistant suits, often of Tyvek, may be better than nothing and much more affordable.

There are “full encapsulation” suits which would be excellent against biological agents, but might be “eaten” by some chemical agents.  These run from under $150 (I sure would be leery of the ones in this price range) to well over $1000, plus you would need an air supply, either SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus) which would be safe but very expensive and short lived (about an hour max before the tank needs to be refilled), or PAPR (Powered Air Purifying Respirator) which would still probably add another $600 to $1000 or more to the cost of this solution.

Other Preparations for Chemical or Biological Events

Besides the stuff already mentioned specifically to deal with a chemical or biological emergency, you will want to have all the standard survival stuff.  This is because you want to be sure that your food and water is not contaminated with the weapon agent, and you want to minimize how often you have to go out among potentially infected people or areas to get necessities.  There is a high probability of random violence and looting.  Access to radio broadcasts is critical so you can find out what the status is of the attack and the response to it.  Medical supplies will likely be in short supply.  Personal hygiene supplies will be important; it would be embarrassing to defeat an enemy’s chemical or biological attack only to succumb to your own lack of hygiene.

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AR Advanced 80% Receiver Jig Comparison

11 Jan

Written by John Hertig on The Prepper Journal.

Editors Note: Another guest post from John Hertig, number 24 I believe, to The Prepper Journal. As always, if you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly receive a $25 cash award as well as be entered into the Prepper Writing Contest with a chance to win one of three Amazon Gift Cards  with the top prize being a $300 card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today!

There are many jigs to aid you in completing an 80% AR-15 (or AR-10/AR-308) receiver, with router based systems generally being preferable. One of the better examples of this style was the Easy Jig by  Then a step forward in jig technology became available from 5D tactical. This system offered much less drilling, more convenient depth setting gauges, more accurate positioning of the jig with respect to the receiver, a larger diameter, better supported end mill bit, less swapping of jig parts during the milling process and a “touch free” (the end mill bit never touches the jig) guide system. All in all it was a significant step forward in 80% jig technology, and a similarly advanced Generation 2 of the Easy Jig became available not long afterwards. As far as I know, these two are the state of the art in jigs at this instant in time (October 2017).

So which one is better? Ask and you’ll likely get one of three answers: 5D tactical, Easy Jig Gen 2, or “If you do only AR-15s then 5D else Gen 2”, and in many cases, the person responding has only used one of them, so their answer is suspect. I imagine that you can count the number of people who have used both on the thumbs of one hand, since neither one is inexpensive.  I got the 5D tactical because at that instant in time it was the only one known, but upon finding out later about the Gen 2, I thought it might address a couple of things I didn’t like about the 5D jig; those quirks were not significant enough though to justify getting yet another jig. But it annoys me when people say one or the other is better unless they have actually used both of them. I contacted 80% Arms to see if they were interested in me doing a head to head comparison, and they agreed.

I’m a fan of the Tennessee Arms brass reinforced polymer receivers but to give the jigs a real test, I got billet receivers from 80% Arms. This was because they were the only place I found which had lowers (and uppers) which matched a particular color I wanted AND could engrave them, and although the other color I use is universally available, I wanted all the test receivers to be as identical as practical to ensure the most accurate comparison. I am quite competent mechanically and have done a few 80% AR receivers using a drill press jig, an Easy Jig Gen 1 and the 5D tactical jig so far, so can be considered quite familiar with the process.

The test will be a billet receiver completed in the 5D jig immediately followed by one in the 80% Arms jig. As a final step, I have a friend who wants an AR in that non-standard color, and has not only never done an 80% before, but is completely unpracticed with anything mechanical, so I’ll have her use the “better” (in my opinion) or at least “easiest” jig to see how “idiot proof” it is.

We will use the Dewalt DWP611 trim router, as in my opinion (as well as many others); it is the best router for this task. And our cutting fluid will be Tap Magic Aluminum, because that is what I have from some people’s recommendations when I started out, and it seems to work well. There may be better choices, but as long as it is used with both jigs, should not affect the comparison.

Specification Comparison (From the Web Sites) 

5D offers free shipping on orders over $200 and so does 80% Arms. The 80% Arms Gen 2 jigs are being ordered faster than they can make them and the site says to expect three weeks between order and shipping.

Construction – Both jigs being compared have the steel side plates to better resist the guide holes being enlarged during drilling and to be as equivalent to each other as possible. If you are very skillful at hand drilling or only need to do a couple of receivers or have a drill press, you can save some money by getting the aluminum version of the 5D jig (AR-15 only). If you’re using a hand drill and are not great at keeping it absolutely perpendicular, the thicker the sidewalls, the less chance you have of drilling the holes at an angle (and messing up the side plates). The 5D walls are supposed to be 1/2″ thick and the 80% Arms walls are supposed to be 3/4″ thick. If you are still nervous, 80% Arms has a hardened steel “stabilizer” which mounts to the side plate and doubles the amount of the drill bit supported to an equivalent of 1 1/2″ thickness. These accessories cost $20 each or a set of two is $30.

Routers Supported – Both can use a quality trim router like the Dewalt. The Gen 2 has an adapter available for an additional $30 which allows use of a full size router. This would be handy if that is the router you already have (and you have a 1/4″ collet for it), but I’m wondering if it would be more difficult to use precisely. I find that hands on the trim router base gives a “better touch” than grasping full size router handles.

Universality – The 5D jig only does AR-15. There is a conversion kit for AR-308 available for $130 (on sale for $120). The Gen 2 can do both. Neither jig contacts the receiver, so should handle most of the receivers out there, although being closed ended, they may have difficulties with receivers with buffer tube sockets longer than spec.

Guide Methodology – The 5D jig has two guide pins which go into guide depressions on each side of the receiver. This could work very well, but you will have to stop milling twice to change the lengths of the pins, which confines your milling to the appropriate areas. And if you drop one of the small parts, you have to look for it, and if you can’t find it, you are at a standstill until you get it replaced. The Gen 2 has a bushing around the bit which rides on the jig; you are limited to the proper area by a pin which goes through a hole across the jig to block the bushing from going into the take-down lug pocket are, and a sub jig is screwed in place to guide milling the trigger slot.

Drilling Required – The 5D jig requires two holes to be drilled, a 3/8″ hole to depth to start the router in, and a 5/16″ hole all the way through as a pilot for the trigger slot, although using a 5/16″ hole for a 5/16″ end mill bit might be a bit tight. Since you are drilling from the top of the receiver, the drill bit can’t “walk” like it can if you drill this hole after milling out the cavity as was required when using older technology jigs, which leaves you with a notch in the side of your trigger slot.  In the 5D, the drill guide is about 3/4″ thick, so using a hand drill can still end up in the hole being at an angle and there have been reports of this happening. Unless you are really good at keeping a hand drill perpendicular, it is better to use a drill press for this hole. The Gen 2 requires only one hole to be drilled, an 11/32″ hole all the way through both to start the router in and as a trigger slot pilot. Although better than 5/16″ for starting the router bit each pass, it is a bit tighter than 3/8″. But if you used a 3/8″ pilot hole, it would be bigger than the trigger slot it is pilot for. The 80% Arms drill guide is 1 1/2″ thick, which should make it harder to screw up with a hand drill. I have not seen any reports of people’s trigger hole being messed up with this jig.

End Mill Bit – Both require using their own (or possibly each other’s) end mill, because neither uses the shank of the bit as a guide like the older technology jigs. The 5D bit tapers from the 1/4″ shaft used by trim routers to 5/16″ for the rest of the shaft to the cutting flutes to reduce flexing and improve cutting. The Gen 2 has the same sizes, but “steps” from one to the other. Either company charges $50 for the complete tool set or $40 for the end mill bit alone. A taper is intrinsically stronger than a step, but since in both jigs the bit is supported by a bearing at the router base well below the transition, that would seem to be a moot point. It is easier to correctly position the step; if you were to tighten the router collet on the tapered section, it is likely to work free and cause problems.

Unique Features – The Gen 2 has a port to which you can connect a Shop-Vac to help suck out the chips.

5D Tactical Jig – Assembly  

Assembling the 5D jig is a bit more involved than some older jigs, but not excessively so. You have to provide your own Allen wrenches (3/16 and 7/64) which some jigs come with, and you need a Phillips screwdriver. The drill guide is held to the side plates by four Phillips flat head screws. The orientation is critical, so the hole spacing is made slightly different side-to-side, preventing you from fastening it in place wrong. This can be disconcerting if you try to install it incorrectly. The pivot pin holder attaches to the front of the jig with two more of these screws. The jig panel is held to the side plates by six Allen head cap screws. There is a disc which screws into the buffer tube socket; if getting it in (or out) is a problem, screw the last two Phillips flat head screws in part way to act as a “handle”. This disc needs to be installed before inserting the receiver into the jig. The receiver is held in the jig by a pin through the pivot pin lug, a pin through the take-down pin lug, and two flat head screws through the jig end into that disk screwed into the buffer tube socket. Make sure you put the pins in before tightening the screws into the disk, or the receiver may be pulled too far to the rear for the pins to go in.  The final assembly step is to thread a long Allen head cap screw from one side plate through the other. Since both side plates are threaded, this keeps the jig from distorting when clamped in the vise. Once assembled, you can remove the receiver by removing that long screw from the bottom and the two flat head screws from the buffer tube disk. Pull the two pins and the receiver drops out. With the pins in place and the two screws tightened into the disk, the receiver does not move at all in the jig.

Note that if your buffer tube socket is longer than mil-spec, it won’t fit into the 5D jig unless you modify the jig plate. The first one I did with this jig was a Tennessee Arms Liberator, which was significantly longer than spec, so I used a 1/4″ end mill and my drill press to cut notches in each side of the end bar to allow the receiver to be installed. I can’t say for sure, but mounting the 80percentarms receiver to be used in this comparison, it appeared this receiver also might not have fit if the modification had not been done, although it looked to be real close.

The router has to be prepared as well. Remove the factory base.  Insert the end mill bit into the router and finger tighten the collet (a segmented band or sleeve put around a shaft or spindle and tightened so as to grip it) until the bit just barely slides, then push in the bit until it stops (hits the start of the taper). Pull the bit back out about a 1/16 of an inch, and tighten the collet VERY TIGHT. Use a “real” wrench rather than the short, thin one supplied with the router. Adjust the depth so that the collet is ABOVE the end of the router (so it is “inside”). Carefully slide the jig router base bearing over the end mill bit, and fasten the jig router base to the router following the instructions for your router. The Dewalt just takes 4 screws though the jig base into threaded holes in the router base. Once the router is ready, adjust the depth to the initial mark in depth gauge 1.

Install the first set of guide pins into the jig base on the router. These are the shortest ones, for milling “full length”, including the take-down pin pocket. I don’t use this, preferring to fit the upper to the lower manually using AC Delco Gear Marking compound on the take-down lug. I force the lug into the pocket as far as it will go; when I remove it, some of the yellow goo has transferred to the places in the pocket which are tight. These areas can be ground down with a Dremil tool, and the upper installed again to find where else it is tight. I repeat this sequence until the upper fits, then wipe off the remaining goo. This provides the best fit of the upper, and reduces the chances of damage to the buffer stop pin hole or the take-down pin detent hole from over enthusiastic milling. If the take-down pin pocket is not already milled at all or you don’t want to “hand fit” the upper, do use the shortest guide pins. If you don’t want to mill the take-down pin pocket, use the medium length guide pins to start.

The instructions are good, but appear to only be available on the site as both text (PDF, so you could print them out) and video.

80% Arms Gen2 Jig – Assembly  

The 80% Arms jig requires assembling as well. In fact, before you can assemble it, you have to “disassemble” it because it comes with the big parts bolted together with two bolts which you are instructed to discard. I wouldn’t toss them; but would keep them for packing away the jig later. All the assembly (and disassembly) uses the supplied (3/16″) Allen wrench.  There are two nylon tubes through the selector holes which hold the side plates securely together; the plates must be pulled apart against the friction of these tubes. I would also save these tubes for future storage of the jig.

The side plates are connected to the top plate with two cap screws each, which should not be completely tightened in order to allow final fitting. Follow the instructions to figure out which direction to mount them for the model you will be making, and make sure the directional label on each side plate matches the directional label on the top plate. The buffer tube support is screwed to the end of the top plate with two more cap screws which should also not be completely tightened. Follow the instructions to get it into the correct orientation for your model, and put the cap screws in the RECESSED holes, not the flush ones. Slide the receiver into the jig; if there is a gap between the top of the receiver and the bar across the top plate right behind the magazine well, put some layers of painter’s tape on the top of the bar to fill the gap.  Insert the appropriate set of pins through the jig and the pivot and take-down pin holes in the receiver, then get the buffer tube (Shop-Vac port) started in the buffer tube socket and screw it in only three full turns (to allow final adjustment) then tighten the two cap screws holding on the buffer tube support. Screw the long bolt though the threaded hole at the bottom of each side plate, to prevent deformation when clamping into the vise. Now follow the instructions on how to tighten the four cap screws and the buffer tube screw (using the Allen wrench through the two holes) in order to ensure the jig and receiver are assembled square to each other. The receiver should have no movement when correctly mounted in the jig.

The 80percentarms receiver just barely fits in the jig lengthwise, and in fact, some of the cerakote was scuffed and a bit even scraped off the end of my buffer tube socket due to contact with the buffer screw support.  The Tennessee Arms receiver did not fit at all. However, since the buffer tube support is bolted on, placing one or more pairs of washers between the support and the top plate should solve any reasonable length problem. Get “fancy” ones which are all the same thickness to avoid having this part at an angle to the receiver. 80% Arms also has an AR-15 only version of the Gen 2 for less money than the universal Gen 2 version. This has a fixed end bar, so probably will not allow receivers with buffer tube sockets much longer than mil-spec to be inserted. And it looks to be more difficult to modify than the 5D jig.

The last step is to install the pilot hole guide, which can only go in one way with an unmilled receiver installed, and is held in place with the last cap screw. In order to maximize the effectiveness of the Shop-Vac chip removal, use tape to close off the top half (above the jig) of the Shop-Vac port as well as all the holes in and around and between the side plates. The port requires a 1 1/4″ hose, but is male, and most hoses have a male end as well. If you have a spare or dedicated hose, you can cut off the end, or you can get a short length of 1 1/4″ hose from a bigger hardware store to connect a male hose end to the port.

As for the router setup, it is essentially the same as the 5D. The only differences are that it is easier to position the step about 1/16″ below the collet than it is the taper, and there is a centering procedure for the bearing described in the instructions which is pretty important. You will need a Phillips screwdriver and/or whatever tool is used to remove the stock router base.

One thing to be aware of: the thickness of the sidewalls pushes the overall width which needs to be in the vice to 3 1/8″, which didn’t fit into my 3″ jaw drill press vice; so I used a bench vice.

The instructions are very detailed and included in printed form in the package; the latest version is also available in PDF form on the web site. I could not find video instructions on the site, but one was done by an 80% Arms dealer at and you may be able to find others.

5D Tactical Jig – Experienced User  

Drilling the pilot holes was about the same as every other jig; just a lot fewer were required. Only two holes are needed, one 3/8″ hole to depth (which requires accurate placement of a drill stop using the built-in depth guides) and one 5/16″ trigger slot pilot hole (which needs to be prevented from drilling into the built-in trigger guard, if present). The guide for these two holes is “flush” to the jig plate, which is necessary to set the drill depth, but does not provide “enough” guide stability for the trigger pilot hole, and has no way for chips to get out except the top of the hole, which makes it a bit more difficult than jigs which have an escape hole or channel at the bottom. My 5/16″ drill (not from 5D) was long enough that even fully chucked it could ding the built-in trigger guard, so I used the 3/8″ drill stop on the 5/16″ bit as a safety. As others have reported, the hole angled to one side, meaning I’ll have a notch in the side of my trigger slot, which is primarily a cosmetic problem. Still, I strongly suggest using a drill press for this hole.

After drilling the holes, remove the four screws and pry out the hole guide (the Phillips screwdriver in the smaller hole works well).

The first pass was a surprise, both good and a bit annoying. The end mill cut like a dream, much better than my previous experience with the 1/4″ end mill in the 80% Arms Gen 1 jig, but it threw the chips EVERYWHERE! There were none in the cavity except for a few in the pilot hole. I found this intolerable, and even though it would not be a “true” comparison, I installed and used the Dewalt accessory vacuum port to keep the chips somewhat under control.  This did not cure the problem, but it did reduce the scope adequately during the passes for depth gauge one. By the time I reached the end of this depth gauge, the hole was deep enough to contain a majority of the chips, and the vacuum no longer had much effect anyway.

After several passes, I noted that the two screws holding the buffer tube disk in place had backed out some. Keep an eye on these; if they are, or work loose from the vibrations, the receiver can move in the jig, which has negative implications for the accuracy of the results.

Also, since the guide system uses two points, if you allow the router base to rotate, the end mill won’t be able to reach all the way to one side. I was standing to the side of the jig to do the milling and after a few passes, I noticed that the side wall on the side next to me was tapered, so had to go back and redo those passes. I suggest ending each pass with a complete clockwise tour around the outside of the cavity making sure the jig base plate is parallel to the sides of the jig plate, as if the base rotates, it changes the geometry of the guide system. I fought this tendency during the entire process and even then occasionally ended up with a bump on the near wall which had to be redone. The previous time I used this jig, I was standing at the buffer tube end and did not have this problem, so I suggest NOT standing to the side during milling.

When I bottomed out on depth gauge one, I would have had to change pins if I had been milling the take down lug pocket. As it was, I could continue with depth gauge two without stopping. Although the suggested depth increments worked well during depth gauge one, I found that using 1/2 mark increments was better during depth gauge two. The marks were a bit difficult to see in limited lighting.

During the depth gauge two phase of this test, the router depth stop loosened, requiring me to re-tighten it and redo some passes to even out the floor. I suggest checking the bit and depth stop tightness right before starting and when you go from depth gauge one to depth gauge two. It would not be unwise to do a final check of these again before doing the last few passes. I was astonished to find an unexpected slot along the grip lug; on measuring the cavity, I found that it was .06″ too deep. Double checking the jig depth gauge, it is correct, so either the bit slipped, the router depth slipped, or I left a gap between the router base and the edge of the jig when setting the final depth. I suggest it is always a good idea to use a digital depth gauge to check the depth of each of the last few passes before completing the pass.

I’ve always thought that using a 5/16″ guide hole for a 5/16″ mill would be a problem, but since my guide hole was off center, I could not verify that; I had to use the “tilt in” method to cut the trigger slot.

The cavity looked to be correct and the finish was very nice. Drilling the selector and pin holes with a hand drill was about the same as any other good jig. The completed receiver accepted the LPK and functioned flawlessly, and the upper fit nicely. If you do your part, this jig can produce top notch results with much less work than with an older technology jig, but it does offer you opportunities to screw things up.

80% Arms Gen 2 Jig – Experienced User  

Drilling the single pilot hole was a joy, at least relatively speaking. The guide is thick enough that it provides lots of support for keeping the drill vertical, encouraging no nicks along the sides of the trigger slot, and along with the 80% Arms length drill, makes it “impossible” to ding up any built in trigger guard. The instructions are very specific that you NOT use a cordless drill. I violated that specification shamelessly, since I have a good (powerful) cordless drill and do not have a good corded drill, and other than possibly for this use, have no interest in getting a good corded drill. My drill worked fine for me. Due to the depth of cut and risk of binding, if you don’t have a powerful cordless drill with good battery capacity, use a corded drill as specified. There is a hole on each side of the guide which aids in chip removal without sacrificing any guidance of the drill. The resulting pilot hole was dead centered in the trigger slot. Usually using a drill press for this hole is best with any jig, but in the case of this jig, it is less necessary and more difficult to do, as the higher guide might not fit, requiring you to play tricks with the table height.

Starting out, the single pilot hole is hard to find with the bit by feel; the quickest way to find it is visually; a small bright flashlight is helpful. Once you get it centered in the hole, it cuts very smoothly. And as you get deeper in the cavity, it seems to be easier to find the pilot hole, getting harder again as you near the bottom. It does not throw chips out the top like the 5D, and with the holes and slots taped up and a shop vac attached and running, the chips are fairly well controlled. Without the vac running, chips still are not much of a problem, except you do need to suck them out manually after each pass. It is wise to check after each pass and manually suck any remaining chips, particularly when using depth gauge two.

The one point guide system has no risk of changing geometry like the two point system does, but it is still a good idea to go around the outside once you think you are done milling a pass. That small circular movement methodology these advanced jigs require makes it easy to miss getting into the corner. The marks were a bit easier to read than the 5D, but the last few in the gauge did need more light to see.

As learned with the 5D jig, I checked the tightness of the bit and the depth stop when moving from gauge one to the second gauge, and I started each of the last passes and immediately checked the depth before continuing. As a result of paying close attention, no equipment dared to act up and the result was an excellent cavity, with a nice finish.

Drilling the selector and pin holes with a hand drill was a bit more stable than with the 5D jig, although there are more holes in the side plate, which can be a bit confusing. When drilling on the other side, I added the accessory stabilizer, which went on easily and did give me more support. But I had to chuck the small drill further out in order to give it enough length. The completed receiver accepted the LPK and functioned flawlessly. The quality of the results was neck and neck with the 5D jig, but I found the Gen 2 easier to use and with fewer ways to screw things up.

80% Arms Gen 2 Jig – Newbie User  

I did all the setup, but for legal reasons, the machining was done by the actual owner under my supervision, so it was not quite a true newbie experience. Since the receiver was quite hard to find in the specific color desired and extra expensive because of that, I wanted to minimize the chances of messing it up … or causing the owner annoyance.

She did quite well although was nervous as all get out. Figuring the right speed to move the router at was difficult for her. Early on, going too fast, the router jumped, and then after that, the nervousness led to slower than necessary movement for a while. Eventually the right speed was found “naturally” by getting used to the sound and feel.

I would say that someone who can follow instructions and has used a router and drill before should be able to make a good receiver without difficulty.  Without tool experience, it would be much better to have someone experienced present to explain things and nip potential mistakes in the bud.

Comparison Results  

In price, the 5D gets the nod if you are doing only AR-15s or you are doing only AR-308s. A drill press is recommended to minimize the fairly high chances of messing up the trigger slot edge. The AR-15 only Gen 2 is price competitive to the steel AR-15 only 5D, but there is no way to ever upgrade the 80% Arms version to AR-308. If it is likely you will be doing both models, the Gen 2 universal model is the price leader.

In universality, the Gen 2 has the advantage. Not only is multi-model capability built in, but the adjustments during assembly can compensate for more variances in receivers, and the bolt-on buffer screw support can be more easily made to handle buffer tube sockets longer than spec than can the solid end bar of the 5D.

As to the two guide methodologies, the 5D system works well if you do your part; however the Gen 2 system does not have problems if you don’t hold the base parallel to the jig plate, and is not subject to the risk of dropping small parts or having to change guide pins part way through the milling.

Assembly of the two jigs is roughly comparable; the 5D uses more screws and needs more tools while the Gen 2 uses less screws and one provided tool, but it does specify final adjustments not mentioned for the 5D. I’d say the defining difference is the buffer tube support. That disk the 5D uses is a bit of a pain, while the tube that the Gen 2 uses is rather more user friendly.  Setting up the router is comparable, although the Gen 2 does have a centering step which the 5D does not require.

The initial drilling of the Gen 2 is way better, only needing one hole instead of two, having more support to keep the drill perpendicular and not requiring any depth restriction (unless the drill bit is extra long). It is best to use a drill press with the 5D to drill the trigger slot pilot hole. It is unnecessary and may be difficult to use a drill press with the Gen 2, because of the height of the drill guide. Drilling the selector and pin holes was slightly easier using the Gen 2 jig, and even easier using the stabilizer block.

When you get right down to it, the milling operation and drilling the pin holes are the most important things to evaluate. And although the 5D can do a good job, it is messier than the Gen 2 and slightly more subject to error.  Adding the Dewalt Shop-Vac helped but did not come close to equaling the Gen 2 built-in port. The 5D milling process is not as continuous as the Gen 2 due to having to change guide pins part way through the process. Finally, it is easier to have the cavity too narrow with the two point guide system than it is with the one point guide system. The Gen 2 did just as good job milling, but it was less messy and provided fewer ways to screw up


It looks like (at this instant in time) these two choices are the “best” choices in jigs. The 5D works quite well, its “quirks” won’t bother some people and it is possible to overcome them.  It is not completely “idiot resistant”. The Gen 2 avoids these quirks without introducing any significant ones of its own except for the Shop-Vac port being male, and is a bit more “idiot resistant”.  So which jig is “better”?  I’d say the 80% Arms is noticeably better for most people, “better” being defined as “easier to use and harder to screw things up” because both can do an equally good job, which is better than was practical with older technology jigs. Which to choose should be based on each person’s desires and situation. Use the Comparison Results to help you decide.

Breaking News (November, 2017)  

It looks like the 5D jig is being replaced with the “Pro” version, which should probably be better than the original 5D jig since it seems to address some of the concerns I encountered without changing the good parts. And the new end mill bit system has the potential to be a significant innovation. It will be interesting to see what 80% Arms is working on.


The post AR Advanced 80% Receiver Jig Comparison appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

Introduction to Nuclear Survival

3 Jan

Written by John Hertig on The Prepper Journal.

Editors Note: Another guest post from John Hertig to The Prepper Journal. An in-depth piece on understanding this as the world deals with China’s Junk-Yard Dog for the first time as opposed to the continued appeasement of Administrations past, since 1952.

When I was growing up, nuclear war was a “real thing”.  We practiced getting under our little school desks, because they apparently had built in blast and radiation shields.  🙂  Then the Soviet Union threat “evaporated” and suddenly nuclear war was no longer a serious threat.  But now we have that lunatic in tiny North Korea making serious (nuclear) threats against the still somewhat significant United States.  And if he can’t do what he threatens today, he is working his people slavishly to be able to do it “next week”.  Hopefully the threats are a way to keep his people under control and/or extort stuff out of us, and he is not insane enough to think he could survive an attack on us (and hopefully we are willing and able to ensure he does not survive an attack on us).  And hopefully he is not insane enough to not care if he dies (we know he doesn’t care if many of his subjects die).  But that level of insanity does exist, so there is always a chance he would send nuclear bombs our way.

What if he does?  How do we survive?

If we are near enough to a blast, we won’t survive or will be in serious trouble.  How near is that?  That depends on a number of factors.  Perhaps the three most important factors are weather, the size of the bomb, and how far above ground it detonates.  “Size” is actually the explosive force, and it is measured in “kilotons”.  One kiloton is the equivalent power of 1000 tons of dynamite.  North Korea just tested a “hydrogen” bomb (“thermonuclear”, a fusion reaction instead of the fission reaction used by nuclear weapons) and claimed it was “150kt”.  For a 150kt ground burst, there will be a fireball which would tend to incinerate things within a third of a mile.  Then there will be the blast which would tend to shred or flatten things; at a mile and a half away, most common construction residential houses would still be flattened, which could injure or kill those inside.  Heat from the explosion could still cause first degree burns (think “sunburn”) five and a quarter miles away; closer, of course, there would likely be second and even third degree burns.  Then there is the light; looking at the flash of the explosion can blind you temporarily and if you are actually focused on it, perhaps permanently.  It is not that fire, blast, light and heat are missing from a non-nuclear explosion; it is that they are so much less intense.  Remember, nuclear weapons are rated in 1000’s of TONs of dynamite.  And then there is the special gift of nuclear explosions – a buffet of radiation emitted and radioactivity imposed on matter.  Fatal (for 50% of those exposed, without medical attention) radiation emitted by the blast would reach out 1.2 miles as well and dangerous amounts of radioactive particles could surf the winds much further for a period of time after the blast.  A bigger bomb would have further reaching effects of course.  China has 5mt (megaton, 1,000,000 tons of dynamite) warheads and Russia has tested a 50mt bomb, but it is to be hoped that North Korea can not achieve that level in the near future.

The military often prefers to set for an air burst, as the immediate effects have a greater range.  If high enough that the fireball does not touch the ground, there is much less fallout, since pretty much any particulates would have to come from the device itself.  The naturally radioactive isotopes would tend to get into the stratosphere rather than “falling” locally, resulting in a low intensity, long lived, worldwide problem.

Note that a nuclear explosion will produce an “EMP” (Electro Magnetic Pulse) which will bring down the electrical system and fry some electrical and electronic devices.  The higher above ground the explosion is, the wider the area affected by the EMP.


There is a difference between “radiation” and “radioactive”.  Radiation is ENERGY which is radiated (as “rays”).  X-Rays are radiation, and for that matter, so is light.  Radioactive refers to something which is emitting radiation, such as a naturally radioactive substance, or material which has had radioactivity imposed on it, such as fallout.  Much of the radiation from fallout is a combination of “alpha” and “beta” particles, and “gamma” radiation.  Alpha particles are very dangerous if the particle (an ejected helium nucleus) is breathed or eaten or gets in an open wound, but the effects from this particle can be blocked by a sheet of paper and often cannot even penetrate intact skin.  Beta particles are moderately dangerous if the particle (an ejected electron) gets inside the body, and its effects can penetrate and damage the skin if the particles are in contact with the skin for any length of time, but normal clothing will provide decent protection from beta as well as alpha particles for a while.  Gamma radiation is equally as harmful as beta, but very much more penetrating.  “Good” protection from gamma radiation is provided by 4 inches of lead, 10 inches of steel, 24 inches of concrete, 36 inches of dirt, 72 inches of water, 110 inches of wood, 5000 feet of air or some combination of materials.  This “safe” protection is computed by using the “halving thickness” of each material (how thick it has to be to cut the radiation intensity in half) between you and the radiation source, with a goal of having 10 halving thicknesses total, reducing the gamma ray intensity to a 1024th (2 to the 10th power) of its original strength.

A little radiation is considered “normal” and won’t hurt you much; typical background radiation and normal medical/dental uses on average takes 18 days off a person’s life.  Whereas a lot of radiation is bad news and the effects are short term.  We need to know how radiation levels are specified in order to understand which levels are of concern short term and which have only “minor” long term effects (increased risk of cancer).  Annoyingly, there are several different but inter-related measurements, which can be remembered by the mnemonic “READ”.  The most basic measure of Radiation is the “intensity” (number of atoms which decay in a given period of time) specified in curies (Ci, English) or becquerel (Bq, metric).  Bigger values are of more concern than smaller values, but this measurement is primarily of interest to those working with radioactive materials.  Exposure describes the amount of radiation traveling through the air, which many radiation meters are capable of measuring.  The units for exposure are the English measure roentgen (R) and the coulomb/kilogram (C/kg).  This is an instantaneous measurement; more useful is roentgen per hour.  Absorbed dose describes the amount of radiation absorbed by an object or person, with units “radiation absorbed dose” (rad) and gray (Gy).  And then there is the Dose equivalent (or effective dose) which combines the amount of radiation absorbed with the medical effects of that type of radiation. Units for dose equivalent are the “roentgen equivalent man” (rem) and sievert (Sv).  Smaller measurements are commonly displayed with a 1/1000th prefix (milli, for instance mR/h) or a 1/1,000,000th prefix (micro, for instance uSv).

When looking into radiation measurements, you are likely to run into R, rad, rem, Gy and Sv as well as /h (per hour) measurements of each of these, which can get confusing.  The ones which are displayed by your meter or dosimeter are the ones of most importance to you, of course.  The three brands of meters I have tried all have mR/h and uSv/h, which are both handy measurements and seemingly the most commonly used.  R/h is good to see how much radiation is present around you and Sv for how much you or others around you have been exposed to (your radiation exposure risk).  Here is how these measurements are related:

– rad and Gy are directly related; 1 rad = .01 Gy and 1 Gy = 100 rad

– rem and Sv are directly related; 1 rem = .01 Sv and 1 Sv = 100 rem

Beta, gamma and X-Ray radiations all do the same “base” level of damage to the human body, while neutron radiation does 10 times the damage and alpha radiation does 20 times the damage.

– For beta, gamma and X-Ray radiations, 1 rem = 1 rad and 1 Sv = 1 Gy

– For neutron radiation, 1 rem = .1 rad and 1 rad = 10 rem and 1 Sv = .1 Gy and 1 Gy = 10 Sv

– For alpha radiation, 1 rem = .05 rad and 1 rad = 20 rem and 1 Sv = .05 Gy and 1 Gy = 20 Sv

R is a measurement of radiation radiating through the air, such as gamma or X-Ray.  The other units are a measurement of absorption of radiation.  Each material absorbs radiation at a different rate, so there is not a standard conversion factor.

– In air, 1 R = .877 rad and 1 rad = 1.14 R

– In soft tissue, 1 R = usually between .92 and .96 rad

My meters also have CPM (Counts Per Minute) and CPS (Counts Per Second), which is an indication of the number of ionization events from alpha and beta particles.  A few counts per time period is better than many counts during the same time period, but there is no universal conversion to a “useful” measurement as these measurements vary based on how the instrument is calibrated.  As an example, calibrated to the commonly used Cesium 137, 120 CPM is equivalent to 1 uSv/hr.

Radiation can cause effects from unnoticeable (increased chance of cancer) through illness, severe damage to the body, and death.  A single (short term) dose of 1000 mSv (1 Sv, 100 rem) will cause radiation sickness but does not (directly) cause death (although 5% of people so exposed will develop fatal cancer later).  5 Sv or 500 rem will tend to be fatal within a month without medical care for 50% of the people so exposed, and 10 Sv or 1000 rem will often be fatal within weeks.

Surviving the explosion

Let’s face it, if you are “close” to a nuclear explosion, you are going to be dead, or probably wishing you were dead.  The only way to minimize the chances of this is to build or have built your own “bomb shelter” or have access to one.  And know far enough in advance that the blast may be coming so you can be in the shelter when the blast occurs. This is not a trivial prep, either in cost or in the amount of trouble you have to go through to get it installed.  On the plus side, even if there is never a nuclear explosion or nuclear incident, it can also protect you from violent weather, and make you and your supplies harder to find by looters, and be a bit easier to defend than the typical house.  A good “bomb shelter” is buried deep, air tight, structurally sound, has an angled entry to prevent radiation (which travels in straight lines) getting in, and a filter system to remove radioactive particles (also any chemical or biological agents) from the air.  A better bomb shelter also has a hidden second way out.  As an example, Atlas Survival Shelters have the time tested corrugated pipe shelters and some other less effective options which might be more practical for some people’s situation.

Let us say you can’t afford a bomb shelter or don’t have the ability to install a true shelter or even a hardened structure or room.  Or worse, you have a perfectly suitable bomb shelter but can’t get to it in time.  Try to put something between you and the blast and heat, preferably something which won’t collapse on you.   Since one of the best (or at least most practical things) to protect you from radiation is three feet of dirt, a nice ditch is good to dive into, or even better would be a buried culvert to keep the local fallout off of you.  If you don’t get disintegrated by the fireball or crushed by the blast or a building collapsing on you, or get a lethal dose of radiation or burned by the radiated heat, what can you to do to extend that short term survival for a useful span of time?  Advance planning will make all the difference in your chances.

Since fireball, blast and heat are fairly obvious, and you are still alive, they are no longer of primary concern (unless there are fires burning nearby or “down wind”).  Radiation and fallout are your primary concerns.  Fallout can “fall” on you, so get under cover ASAP, and remove your clothes and put them into sealed containers which are removed from living areas, then wash yourself thoroughly to get any fallout off your skin and out of your hair.  Do NOT use a conditioner on your hair, as this can bind the radioactive particles to your hair.  Treat the wash water as contaminated.  Once you have removed any fallout, check the radiation levels around you using a personal radiation detector.  One of the better choices is the NukAlert-ER, but it is pricy ($750) and has been listed as only being available for government sales since March of 2017.  If interested, contact them anyway and see if you can get on their list; occasionally they may have an extra one available.  They do have a stripped down keychain version which “chirps” to indicate the level of radiation, but the price is more affordable and it is still available for individual sales.  The company, has some good reference materials, some “old fashioned” analog radiation detection equipment, and can calibrate your radiation equipment.  Alternatively, GQ Electronics has some decent digital detectors for very nice prices.  I’ve tried the GMC-320 Plus and it is adequate and the customer service was excellent.  You can get modern meters from China well under $100, but do you really want to gamble that they will be reliable and accurate enough to help protect your life?

Remember, nuclear explosions produce EMPs, so keep your electronic meter in an EMP shielded container when not in use.  There are non-electronic radiation monitoring options as well, mostly “dosimeters” using badges or cards which show cumulative exposure.  These are not optimal, but they are fairly inexpensive and show the more important “cumulative” exposure.  Plus, they don’t need batteries and will laugh at EMPs.  Even with a good meter, having these for backup and long term monitoring is a good idea.  They don’t “turn off”, so keep them shielded (in a sealed bag in the freezer is best) until you want to start accumulating exposure.

Radiation is mindless, you can’t reason with it or trick it or bribe it.  All you can do is block it or get away from it.

Fallout Protection

Local fallout is a fairly short term problem.  The intensity goes down 90% for each time period 7 times the last one.  That is, after 7 hours, the intensity is down to 1/10 of the original intensity.  After 2 days (49 hours), the intensity will be down to 1/100th, and after 2 weeks (14 days), it will be down to 1/1000th, which would be fairly safe.

It is best to stay inside (or at least under cover) while fallout is a danger, although after 2 days, you can make brief forays if necessary.  You will want covering which will prevent any fallout from getting on your skin and block the effects of alpha and beta particles.  Coveralls might be adequate, but vinyl rain suits might be better since they can be easily washed off and cover the head.  Use duct tape to seal any gaps.  Nothing you can wear will protect you from gamma radiation, so keep your exposure time to the minimum possible and monitor the radiation levels you are being exposed to.

It is bad to get fallout on your skin, but it is really, really bad to get it in you.  A CBRN (Chemical, Biological, RADIOLOGICAL and NUCLEAR) rated gas mask would seem to be just the ticket, but there are problems.  Sure, there are a lot of surplus ones out there at quite reasonable prices.  But they are surplus for a reason.  Either they are obsolete, or defective or just so old that effectiveness is uncertain.  A good, modern mask will cost you well over $100.  Best is a mask with two (or even three) filter ports, so you can screw on a new filter before removing the old one.  Plus it will allow the greatest flexibility for use with a rifle.

But wait, the mask itself is only part of the system.  You need the CBRN filters as well; it is best get a mask which uses the NATO standard, 40mm canisters for the best variety and ease of installation.  These are not terribly expensive compared to the cost of the mask, but they do usually cost $40 and up, and you need several.  Under severe conditions, each will only last a few hours, and even “normally clean” air will use up a filter in twenty four hours.  The canisters often have an expiration date; some people claim they are good as long as they are sealed, others say toss them when expired.  I would get new filters when the old ones expired, and use the unexpired ones first (when it was most important), saving the expired ones for when I ran out of the “good” ones.

On the other hand, I would be tempted to not bother with the gas mask at all.  They are expensive, short lived, uncomfortable, difficult to use correctly (particularly under stress), limit your vision, make it difficult to communicate, prevent you from eating, and most prevent you from drinking (some have drinking tubes, and a few have drinking tubes which work well and don’t allow in contamination).  If you wear glasses, you need to make sure they fit under the mask or get a prescription insert.  The purpose of the gas mask is to keep out radioactive particles, and although nothing will do that as well as the CBRN gas mask, a standard filter mask may serve.  There are 95% masks readily available cheap (N95), but I would spend the extra time and money to get the 99% filtration masks (N99).  There are N100 (99.97% filtration) masks which might be even better, but I have not tried them.  The N ratings, as well as R and P for oil resistant versions, are the American system.  The European system is Px for filters which attach to a mask and FFPx for “one piece” masks.   P2 is rated for 94% filtration and P3 for 99.95% filtration.  As for one piece masks, FFP2 is 94% and FFP3 is 99%.  I get my FFP3 masks, made by 3M, from Israel, and they are comfortable, compact and reasonably priced.  A pair of goggles to keep the particles out of your eyes as well is a good idea.


Keep in mind that the particles filtered out are still dangerous, so the used filters should be treated appropriately.

No face mask will work with facial hair other than a mustache without dangerous leaks, so be prepared to get and maintain a close shave.

Breathing in radioactive particles is not the only way to get them into the body to wreck havoc.  If your food or water is contaminated, so are you, so keep anything you plan to eat or drink in sealed containers so no particulates can get in.  And keep it shielded from radiation at least as well as you are yourself.

Treatment of Radiation Poisoning

Too large a dose of radiation and you will be sick, suffer bodily damage or die without medical treatment, which may not be available.  What can you do to reduce the effects of the radiation dose you received?

Potassium Iodide (KI) Tablets

You’ve probably heard of these as a “cure” or “protection” for radiation.  This claim is, to be charitable, inaccurate.  This substance does serve one particular (and important) function after a nuclear explosion.

One of the byproducts of nuclear fission in an explosion are isotopes of iodine.  The thyroid gland gobbles up any iodine it can get, and having radioactive iodine in your thyroid gland is bad news.  The KI tablets, taken before the radioactive iodine can get to you, “fills up” the thyroid gland so little or no radioactive iodine can get in.  That is it.  It does not offer any protection against any other radiation or for any other organ in the body.  And there are risks involved in taking it.  But since any help is better than no help; check with your doctor to make sure your risk in taking KI is relatively low, and have it on hand.  It is available in 65mg and 130mg pills; 130mg is the daily dose for an adult and generally has a score so it can be split into two 65mg doses (for children).  It can also be taken upon notification of a nuclear accident involving fission such as the one at Chernobyl.


Tritium can be “washed” out of your system by drinking lots of water.

Baking Soda

This stuff is dirt cheap, available everywhere, and surprisingly useful for combating radiation.  To start with, it is really good to have it in the water you use to wash fallout from your skin (or your pets), as well as washing clothing and anything else which might have radioactive particles on it.  It is useful internally as well.  The kidneys are particularly susceptible to damage from uranium exposure.  Old military manuals recommended doses of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to alkalinize the urine, chemically resulting in a less toxic uranyl ion and more easily excreted uranium-carbonate complex.

Other Possibilities

There are all kinds of claims about other things to use internally or in soak baths to treat radiation poisoning.  From a medical viewpoint, here are recommended treatments for various radioactive contaminates.  Many foods and other materials show up in individual research with claimed benefits against radiation exposure, and there are even historical indications of successful treatments.  For instance, Japanese patients from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs that daily ate wakame miso soup before the explosions did not suffer the radiation effects that people who did not eat it regularly suffered.

Antibiotics and Medical Supplies

Radiation plays havoc with your immune system.  Having a stock of antibiotics on hand would be useful in combating diseases which attempt to take advantage of your reduced immune system paired with a much less hygienic environment than you are used to.  If you have a good relation with your doctor, you may be able to get prescriptions from him, or there are doctors on the internet that will consult with you and sell you a large supply appropriate for your situation.   If nothing else, many of the good general antibiotics are available from a pet fish store.  Make sure you get the pure antibiotic, not one which includes ingredients to make your fins shinier.  🙂  Most antibiotics will last much longer than their expiration date if properly stored (dark, cool, without air allowed into the container).  Military studies show that most are still useable after eleven years or more; the exception is the “cyclines” (i.e. Doxycycline) class which some sources say can turn toxic.

Of course you want to have a real good first aid kit with over the counter medications, or even an advanced medical kit.

Supplies for Nuclear Explosion Survival

Other than the stuff already discussed, normal survival supplies are in order.  After all, you will need to survive everything else a disaster can bring as well as radiation and other bomb effects.  Remember, you will want to avoid going outside (except possibly briefly) for at least two weeks, so plan for supplies accordingly.

The post Introduction to Nuclear Survival appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

Building your Food Storage

15 Dec

Written by John Hertig on The Prepper Journal.

Editors Note: Another guest post from John Hertig to The Prepper Journal. A follow-on article to his recent post on Building Water Storage Systems.  As always, if you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly receive a $25 cash award as well as be entered into the Prepper Writing Contest with a chance to win one of three Amazon Gift Cards  with the top prize being a $300 card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today!

Although the average person can survive for three weeks without food, it would be very unpleasant, and it would make it difficult if not impossible to effectively do any other survival related task.  Having food on hand for an emergency or disaster is very wise.  It is likely that the grocery stores will be stripped very quickly and not replenished until after the situation is resolved.  Although this could be a matter of a few days, it is more likely to be weeks or months or even longer.  Unless you want to be one of those rioting, looting or perhaps just starving, make sure you always have some food on hand.

How much food should you have stored up?  Ah, that is indeed the question.  Food provides 1) calories, 2) nutrients your body needs and 3) relief from hunger pains.  Calories are pretty straightforward.  2000 calories is considered a “normal” diet for the average person under standard conditions.  1200 calories is considered a “survival diet”, if you are inactive, like in a lifeboat.  800 calories is for a doctor supervised extreme weight loss diet.  On the other hand, if you are very active (as you might be in survival conditions) you might need 3000 calories a day or even more.

Choose the calorie level appropriate for each person in your group and the likely activity level, and figure out how long you want to maintain that level for.  I’d say at least a month, and a year or even more would not be too much if you can manage it, both from a cost and a storage standpoint.

Nutrition is a more difficult consideration.  Your body needs protein, vitamins and minerals, and some other stuff we don’t think of or even really know about.  And if you don’t get any fiber, it probably won’t kill you but you might wish it did.  🙂  The vitamins and minerals can be augmented with QUALITY supplements; you might as well get a few years worth.  Note that the majority of mineral supplements are what we call “rocks and rust”.  This does not mean the minerals are not there, but it does mean that they are wicked hard for the body to extract, and as you get older, the body gets continuously worse at extracting minerals.  By the time you are into middle age, you are probably getting only a few percent of the minerals these supplements provide.  You can tell these by looking at the ingredients list.  If you see a lot of words ending in “ate” (calcium carbonate) and “oxide” (ferrous oxide), you are looking at “rocks and rust” minerals.  Search and find minerals which are “chelated”; they are significantly easier for the body to extract the minerals from.  The most easily extracted minerals are in the form of “colloidal suspensions”, but these are liquid, tend to be more difficult to store and use, highly expensive and have a short shelf life.  Plus they are often “natural”, which means the balance of minerals in them is “randomized” (2% of the recommended amount of one and 2000% of another).

Protein is a simple concept, but difficult in a food storage program.  Meat is protein; storing meat is a challenge.  Meat is also a COMPLETE protein; there are vegetable sources of protein building blocks, but you have to mix and match to get complete protein.  For instance, beans and rice combinations are a staple for vegetarians, and survivalists.  It would be wise to peruse vegetarian recipe books for other combinations of vegetables which add up to complete protein.

If your body does not get enough fiber, it messes up the bowel system, leading to severe constipation.  Although some of the food storage items we will consider are high in fiber, others are seriously lacking.  Based on what you choose for your food storage plan, you might want to have some powered fiber you can add to your meals; Benefiber is a decent one.

Water First

You can plan and research food storage all you want, but before you start implementing that plan, make sure you have WATER (>>> see the article here <<<).  Water is necessary for life itself as well as the digestion and in many cases, the preparation of food.  Having three weeks of food and three days of water is a waste of more than two weeks of food.  You’ll be dead before you can eat it all (unless you can trade it to someone else for water).  So don’t start buying food until you have a water plan in place, and to the degree practical, implement both plans “together” so you won’t run out of one before the other.

Types of Food

There are many types of food, some very suitable for long term storage and others only good for a few days under the best of conditions.  And some of this food is very tasty, some barely palatable, some easy to prepare, some difficult, some healthy, some not so healthy and some downright harmful.  It is best to have as much variety as is practical for your circumstances.

– Ready to Eat

This has obvious advantages from a convenience standpoint, but tends to take up the most room and weigh a lot, be moderately high in price and of questionable palatability.  The ubiquitous MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat) is a prime example of this.  Some people call MREs “three lies for the price of one”.  Still, they have utility, when you want something meal-like you can transport or distribute, which does not require anything else.  So having a few on hand is not at all a bad idea.  I would not suggest a LOT of them though, unless you have tried them, find them palatable and adequately healthy, and have the money and storage space for them.  Generally you will want to replace them after five years or so; if you will be heavily into MREs, I suggest “rotation”, where you get in some new ones and eat the oldest ones on a regular basis even if conditions are normal.

But what about “TV Dinners”, you say?  Well, they are not quite “ready to eat”, but they can be filling, some are tasty and a few even nutritious.  And you can get them for a decent price on sale.  If you have a working freezer and microwave (or oven for the original TV Dinner, if those are even still available), they can be quite a good choice.  I stock up when they are on sale and use them regularly.  But let me suggest that to assume you will have a working freezer or microwave (or oven) during a disaster has a good chance of being a fatal assumption.  Either you won’t have them in a working condition and all that food you were counting on will spoil or be “unusable”, or you do manage to retain those appliances in working condition, but can’t prevent desperate people from knowing you have them (sound, light, smell) and they attempt to acquire it for themselves.

The other typical “ready to eat” food is known as “survival rations” or “emergency food rations”.  These are prepackaged blocks of a “bread/cake/biscuit” substance which provides a calorie specific, compact “food” source which requires minimal water to digest.  They may taste “meh”, they generally provide minimal nutrition, and they often contain things which the healthy person should be avoiding.  But again, they have their purpose, putting a survival source of calories into a package which stores and packs well, at not too ridiculous a price.  Mainstay and SOS are a couple of the major sources of these, and they are available in various sizes, usually some number of 400 calorie pieces, allowing a calorie intake suitable to the situation.  Some store in high heat ok; being designed for a lifeboat, they store in a car trunk fine.  On the other hand, they generally claim only a five year shelf life, so should be replaced that often.  Again, having a few of these is a good idea, in case you need a self contained, no preparation food option which is even smaller than MREs.


Of course, there are the “antique” survival rations which you can make yourself (using recipes from the internet).  The North American indigenous peoples often used “pemmican”, a dried mixture of meat, fat and fruit for long trips or when hunting/gathering was impractical.  Old sailors subsisted during long journeys on “hard tack” (“pilot bread”, “sea biscuit” or other less polite names).  This is a hard lump of “paste” (flour and water, dried), occasionally with salt added.  Jerky is another way to have some protein, although it does not really last that long, several months at best.  I make my own jerky, vacuum seal it, and store it in the freezer.  I expect it will last as long as the freezer works and for several months after the freezer ceases to work.

I know someone who loves Chef Boy-R-Dee pasta, cold, right out of the can, and she is still alive after years of this.  Thus, I have to reluctantly consider this also “ready to eat” food suitable for storage.  See the notes about canned food, below.

– Minimal Cooking Meals

As we see, when your stored food is necessary, there is a good chance you won’t have a microwave or stove handy, and if you do, using them can announce that you have food, so the “best” storage food is that which needs the least cooking.  There is a wide variety of “freeze dried” or “dehydrated” meals out there, often originally aimed at backpackers.  These can be very tasty, store and transport easily, and often have an advertised shelf life of twenty five years.  This makes them very attractive for a food storage program, and although pricey, there are some which are not out of reach of the common person.  There are generally two “classes” of these meals – one where you boil water, open the bag, pour in the water, close the bag and wait a specified period of time, and one where you bring water to a boil, pour in the pouch and boil it for a specified length of time.  The first one is preferable as it uses a lot less fuel and is easier to clean up after, as well “advertises” itself to the world less.  Make sure which type you are getting before paying for a lot of them.  Best is to start out with some samples, which you actually try, preferably under “representative” conditions (candle or flashlight, primitive stove).  That way you can make sure the taste is to your liking, and see how well it works for you under crisis conditions.

A way or three of cooking needs to be part of your food storage plan.  I’m partial to the classic Coleman camp stove, and the disposable gas cylinders for it are quite cheap at WalMart.  I also have an adapter which allows me to run it from a standard barbecue grill propane cylinder.  The barbecue itself should probably be avoided, as outdoor cooking produces smells which could attract unwanted attention.  I also have some of those little folding pocket stoves with the blocks of fuel, although that is strictly a last ditch option.  Some people like the cans of “Sterno”.  If you use a wood stove, you can cook on it, or if you have a lot of good sized logs cut to firewood lengths but not split, and a drill, you can make an effective “rocket” stove.  Both of these can be effective, but tend to announce their presence.  Backpacking stoves will work, and having one is not a bad idea in case you need to “bug out”, but they tend to be small and not hold much fuel, so are less than ideal for daily use.

– Canned Foods

I’m primarily focused here on food which has been commercially packaged in “tin” cans.  If you know what you are doing, you can “can” your own food, usually in glass jars (they should call it “jarring”).  But if you screw up, you can poison yourself this way.  And I don’t know how durable the glass jars are or how long the contents last.

Most commercially canned food these days has a “best by” date.  The implication is that after this date, it is inferior, and that is not totally incorrect.  But in many cases, if the can is not swollen, rusted, leaking, distorted or otherwise different from when it came from the store, it is probably still good.  Maybe it has lost some nutrition, but canned food is not known for its nutrition, so you will be supplementing it anyway, right?  I got a bunch of canned soups eighteen years ago and I still eat one on occasion with no distress and it is still tasty.

On the other hand, canned fruit, particularly pineapple which I love, has been my nemesis.  It appears that every time I go to my food storage, one has sprung a leak and gummed up everything.  It might have to do with fermentation causing gas, which applies pressure to the seams until one gives a little.  Or maybe it eats through the seal, although that would seem to be more the behavior of something acidic.  I don’t recommend storing canned fruit or anything acidic in your long term storage.  Vegetables are an option though, although personally I find the taste and appearance unpleasant in addition to the questionable nutrition value.  Where cans shine (for me, at least) is soups and meats, as well as some semi-meals such as chili and the Chef Boy-R-Dee pasta mentioned above.  Things such as beans and potatoes are good choices and I have some other “regular” vegetables even though I don’t eat them unless I have to.

The best place for your food storage cans is right in your normal cabinet or pantry.  As you get new cans, you should be eating the oldest ones, and if they are right to hand, this is much easier than remembering to go to your storage.  In particular, cans are a good way to get some protein into your storage.  Tuna is a good choice and often on sale cheap; sometimes you can find chicken on sale as well and occasionally beef.  It used to be that canned hams were easy to find at a good price, but I have not seen them lately.  And then there is “Spam”, which I have studiously avoided learning anything about.  But if you know it and like it, why not include some?

Have as much desirable canned food as you can store, and “rotate” it regularly.  Not only does it maximize the freshness of your stock, but you will be “used” to preparing and eating it, so moving to crisis mode will be less stressful.  Make sure you have a can opener or ten.  It would be distressing to have a bunch of food you could not open (although you actually can open a can without an opener if you know how ).  Canned food can be prepared with minimal cooking, or even in some cases eaten right out of the can without preparation.

– Staples

This is the “classic” storage food – things like wheat, dry beans, rice, oil, powdered milk, salt and honey/sugar.  This is the cheap way to store lots of food, but it requires real skill to make an edible meal out of it.  If you are going to go this route, make sure you learn how to cook any ingredient and try several recipes before you invest in a lot of anything.  In particular, make sure you know anything you need to do to avoid the result being harmful.  For instance, many beans, particularly red kidney beans, have toxin as a lectin or phytohemagglutinin, and need to be boiled vigorously for 15 minutes to destroy the toxin before simmering.  Fail to do this, and your delicious and “healthy” dish will bring on a violent case of  food poisoning.

The storage life of staples can be quite long.  I have cans of wheat  from the 80’s which are supposed to be good “forever”, but I haven’t bothered to find what I can do with them as is; I probably should do that sometime soon.  I do have a bicycle powered grinder to make flour out of them, and flour I DO know how to use.  Brown rice is better for you, but white rice stores better.  Much of the nutrition has been removed so the bugs won’t eat it, and it can be made into delicious and filling recipes or eaten by itself, but if you don’t supplement it with Thiamin (vitamin B1) you can come down with BeriBeri, a condition common among those who subsist mostly on white rice.


In addition to any bulk items, make sure you have things like baking powder, salt, pepper and other spices and ingredients you like or need to give the taste of your meals a boost or support a particular recipe.  Powdered eggs and butter are available, which can help.

The Mormon Church requires their members to have a year’s supply of food, and is a good source of information on staples food storage and maybe even a source for some of them.  You don’t have to be a member.  Costco or Sam’s Club are also sources of staples in bulk, but you do need to be a member.  🙂

– Other Packaged Foods

Avoid food in boxes and bags; they can become infested with bugs or penetrated by mice, and even if unmolested don’t have that long a shelf life.  If you want anything like this, store it in an additional impermeable container which can be sealed, and rotate it often.


Children and Food Storage

Children can be picky eaters, and even refuse to eat unless it is something they are used to.  Attack this on two fronts:  include some of their foods or ingredients for their foods in your plan, and try to entice them into liking other stuff in your storage plan.

Commercial Food Storage Plans

You can do your own plan, and probably will come out ahead (spend less; have the plan most suitable for you), but if you just don’t have the time or inclination, you can turn to a commercial food storage provider.  The first rule of this is, if they talk to you about “servings”, then there is a chance they are either idiots or they are trying to rip you off.  “Servings” are meaningless.  You want to know CALORIES, because that is the key measurement to ensure you have “enough” food each day.  A “serving” is in no way any kind of standard; it is whatever they decide to give you.  I’ve viewed plans which provide “12 servings” per day, that when you compute the calories, just barely comes to 800 calories, which is not a good survival target.  Some will say “oh, but we expect you to supplement our food plan with other food”.  Really; where do they expect this “other food” to come from?  Do they really think I’m going to buy their one year of one third days plan and then buy more food for the other two thirds of each day?  Or buy a “one year supply” which lasts for four months or will harm me if I try to make it last the advertised one year?

Any food storage plan which attempts to hide the calories and/or the ingredients is highly suspicious and probably should be avoided.   Any plan which claims to be good for a specified period of time needs to be carefully examined to make sure that you are getting enough calories during that period of time.

Food Replenishment

If you have access to land, it would be a good idea to have some “survival seeds” so you can start growing your own food.  Use “heirloom” seeds which reproduce themselves; “engineered” seeds may be “better”, but they tend not to reproduce themselves.

Gardening is something you should try on a small scale NOW, even if just a “patio or container garden“, so you won’t make the silliest mistakes when you can least afford to.  Get some books so you know when and how to plant each crop you are interested in, as well as care for it and harvest it.  Without land, you can still grow some things using hydroponic (soil-less gardening) techniques.  Since there is no soil, there are no nutrients for the plants, so you have to add them manually.  Again, this is not something you want to experiment with in a crisis situation.  And growing any kind of food is a long term proposition, so be sure you have other plans for the interim between planting and harvesting.

Again, with land, you can raise livestock.  Chickens are fairly small and don’t take a lot of room, but provide eggs and meat.  They are somewhat noisy, and unless confined somehow, can range far enough to be at risk or damage your crops.  Rabbits are small and quiet and more easily confined, and also provide meat as well as fur.  Goats are a step up and a way to add milk (and even cheese) to your long term diet, as well as being another source of meat.  Other animals are a possibility, but not for the casual or untrained person.

Aquaculture (fish farming) is another way of growing your own food.  This also gets exciting, as fish tend to poison their own environment so you need to change the water regularly.  This can be a challenge in a stagnant body of water.  A way to grow fish and plants in a relatively easy to conceal and maintain environment is Aquaponics, where the fish poop is converted to food for the plants and the plants purify the water for the fish.

If you have the skills and equipment, hunting can bring home the bacon or at least the venison (or rabbit, squirrel, dove, quail, etc).  Of course, there will be a lot of other people with the same idea, so this should not be a major part of your food plan.  Similarly, trapping and fishing can supplement your food supply.  And there are some edible plants you could forage for, but you need to know what you are doing IN YOUR AREA to avoid things which could harm you.

Scavenging for abandoned supplies is also a possibility, though fraught with risks.  What if it was not as “abandoned” as you thought?  And you have to risk running into other people who are desperate or psycho or looking to rob you or worse.  Although you should have the skills and tools to access abandoned supplies, you also need to focus on the skills and tools of avoiding detection.

As with water, the government may get around to handing out rations.  Make sure you are fully aware of the risks inherent in coming to the attention of the government, and to the degree practical, try not to remind them that you exist.

Disaster Food Preservation

Without refrigeration, unprocessed food tends to spoil quickly.  Investigate, gear up and practice primitive preservation techniques such as evaporation (those round stacked evaporators are toys’ the “real” ones tend to blow from the back across rather than from the bottom through), curing, root cellars and smoking.  When disaster strikes, evaluate the food you have on hand and use that which spoils quickly to eat first or preserve.  Once all the normal food is eaten, spoiled or preserved, then go to your food storage.

The post Building your Food Storage appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

Building your Water Storage

25 Nov

Written by John Hertig on The Prepper Journal.

There are many things which you may need to have if there is an emergency or disaster or social upheaval which shuts down the normal supply chain or results in chaos in the streets.  But one thing which rises near to the top is water.  You need safe water to drink, and if you don’t have any for three days, you are likely to be dead or near death.  No plan for survival is likely to be successful if you don’t arrange for an adequate supply of water.

Water has a lot of uses besides drinking and cooking.  Second most important is cleaning for hygiene and medical procedures.


It would be nice if you could arrange to have a 100,000 gallon tank of water, but even if you could physically manage that, it likely would not turn out to be practical for your survival.  Keeping that much water safe from contamination and those who are desperate to poach it for their own use is likely to prove an impractical task.

A practical water “storage” plan has four parts to be considered.

Long term water storage

Short term water storage

Non-potable water storage

Water replenishment

Long Term Water Storage

This is the most important, because it is the one which guarantees you drinkable water no matter how unexpected the situation.  It is also the most problematic because it is big and heavy and can have a fairly short lifespan.  The bigger the supply (the more gallons) the better, but the more problematic it becomes.  In deciding, balance the amount of water you need against the amount you can practically store.  Generally, one gallon per person per day is considered the “normal” requirement for drinking, cooking, and basic hygiene including brushing teeth.  In a hot climate or for people with extra needs, more may be required.  The sum of the amount for each person per day is the amount you need to plan for.  Then figure out how many days you need or can store, whichever is smaller (if you need more, think of ways you could expand your storage).  I would say two weeks would be a “minimum” if at all possible, and much more than two months will likely be a challenge.

There are a number of ways which people store water long term; the most common are pre-packaged individual serving bottles, jugs of five gallons plus or minus, or fifty gallon drums.  The individual bottles are convenient but I recommend against them.  Every bottle I’ve ever had long term eventually distorts inward.  I don’t know why this is, but I suspect that since water does not “get smaller” there is a chemical reaction going on, which I can’t imagine is good.  Or the water is “leaving” the bottle somehow.  Furthermore, you generally don’t know the quality of water they put in there to begin with.  The fifty gallon drums are a pretty good solution, except forget about moving them (they weigh over four hundred pounds each when full).  And you need some kind of pump to get the water out.  My preference is jugs of five to seven gallons, which will weigh about forty to sixty pounds each, just barely manageable for a relatively healthy person.  Smaller jugs (4 gallon, 3 gallon, 2.5 gallon and smaller) are available if you need them for non-standard handling or storage issues, but since each container costs, generally it costs “more” for a lot of small containers than a smaller number of bigger ones.  I like rectangular jugs better than round ones because they store more compactly, and often have faucets available which is so much more convenient (and less likely to spill) than trying to pour from a large jug.  Note that reusing containers which originally were used for some other material should be avoided, or at least cleaned VERY well first.  For that matter, used water containers need a thorough cleaning first as well.

Once you figure out your storage methodology, you need to actually get water into it.  The better the quality of water you start with, the longer it will last.  I prefer to use water from a professional water treatment company, so I know I am starting with the best water possible, but the price of this has skyrocketed to a dollar a gallon at the place I used to use, and they wouldn’t do a quantity discount this time.  About the least quality you want to go with is “decent” tap water if you drink it normally.  It would be a bit odd to store water for bad times you won’t drink in good times.  If you have any question at all about the biological purity of the water you are storing, putting in one teaspoon per five gallons of fresh, standard (no dye or scent or additives) household bleach can help keep biological contamination under control.

It is best to rotate “normal” (tap) water each 6 months; that may not be financially practical (or necessary) if you use the purified water.  I tried some purified water I put away eighteen years ago and it didn’t seem to bother me; although in an emergency situation I’d run it through a good water treatment before drinking it in case any of it has problems.  This is because access to medical care is likely to be limited if it turns out the water became biologically active or contaminated from reaction with the container.

Short Term Water Storage

Water bottles

This name is somewhat misleading.  It does include any non-tap water you use daily, whether bottles or purified.  But more importantly, it is water you acquire “just before” an emergency because the emergency is predicted or you think it will happen, or immediately after the emergency occurs while water is still available.  One really good option for this is an Aquapod or equivalent.  This is a bladder which you put into your tub and fill with water; it usually comes with a pump to get the water out.  Each one can hold on the order of sixty gallons; having one for each tub is a really good idea.

This also includes water you rush out to get from the store in gallon or even individual bottles, where you’ll be using the water quickly enough that any problems with the bottles undergoing chemical reactions are not significant. Use this water first, whether or not the emergency happens or is quickly resolved, because it is not stored effectively and probably will be in your way long term.

Before the event happens, water from the tap should be as good as it usually is (which may not be very good as we saw in Flint).  During and after the event, the water quality can deteriorate into non potability and you may not be informed of this.  This does not mean not to get any which you can, just don’t use it for drinking or critical cleaning without purifying it first.

 Non-Potable Water Storage

It may seem odd to store non-potable water; if you can store non-potable water, why not store potable water there instead?  But you are already storing water which is of questionable potability.  Do you have a standard (tank) water heater?  It is full of water; turn off the input valve as soon as you are aware of a problem, to avoid contaminated water getting in or any water escaping backwards.  Of course, turn off the gas or flip off the circuit breaker.  You can access this water from the cleanout valve at the bottom.  It is wise to flush out the particulates which accumulate at the bottom on a yearly basis; not only will it improve the condition of this source of water, but it will help the water heater to work better and last longer.  And of course there is the water in the tank on the back of every toilet.

In the “good old days”, a waterbed was a good way to store a bunch of water.  In order to prevent problems, you needed to keep it dosed with some blue stuff, which made it a bad idea to drink it.  For this, as for any source of non-potable or even questionable water, having water purification capability (>>> see series on water purification here <<<) is important.

Storing rain water is a good idea, unless you live in one of those places which thinks the rain on your property belongs to the government and makes “harvesting” it illegal.

A swimming pool is an ok way to store a whole bunch of water, but you need to take steps now (installing some kind of cover) to minimize contamination and evaporation after a crisis; it should also improve the pool experience under normal conditions.  Be aware that it will attract people desperate for water since it is hard to hide.  Make sure you restrict access to the degree practical, not only to protect the water, but to keep uninvited people and unsupervised kids out to comply with laws and keep lawsuits and drowning to a minimum.  A pool alarm might be a good idea, although I’ve heard that many are not reliable, either having lots of false alarms or failing to sense all intrusions.


 Water Replenishment

This hardly qualifies as “storage”, but it recognizes that storing more than a few months of water is a real challenge.  If you have a well, make sure you have a manual pump or other way to get water out of the well if there is no power available.  A stream or river, or a lake which is replenished is good to have access to; although other people can contaminate it, deliberately or accidentally, or possibly “use it up” or use it as “bait” to lure people in to be robbed or worse.  If this is part of your plans, make sure you have effective containers to transport the water from the source to where you need it.  If it is on your land, consider running piping from the water source to your house for convenience; best would be if it were buried to protect it from vandalism and freezing.

Whenever you use water, you may end up with “used” water.  This is often classified as “grey water” or “black water”.  Grey water from sinks and showers is usually not dangerous and can be used for irrigation and non-critical cleaning and can be relatively easily purified to potability.  Black water is typically from toilets or other sources of extensive contamination and generally is not practical to use for anything.  Grey water should be collected or used appropriately.

Water harvesting is a good source of water in places with a lot of rainfall.  This involves having gutters all the way around your roof, leading down into barrels or other storage tanks.  Of course, gutters are a pain to maintain, but you can keep this to a minimum by having a good gutter guard installed to keep much of the solids out of the gutter.  Of course, there are some communities which are so autocratic that they make it illegal to harvest rain water.  I probably would not live in such a place because it is unlikely that is their only problem, but if I were there, I suspect I would have gutters which just output to the ground, but with all the parts necessary to harvest that water “in storage”.  In a crisis, I’d hook it up.  If possible, I would have the storage containers buried or hidden so that not only would the chances of legal harassment be minimized, but theft of the water as well.

In a crisis, the government may “hand out” water.  This is a risky option, as governments usually don’t have your (the individual’s) best interests at heart.  If you have to leave your place where everything you have is located unprotected, go a significant distance, wait in line, and register to get some water, it seems the risk/reward ratio is not favorable to you.  Unless the distribution point is close by and there is no “tracking” of the water provided, it would be better to provide for your own water to the degree possible, and keep out of sight and under the radar.








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Assembling An AR-15 Upper

17 Oct

Written by John Hertig on The Prepper Journal.

Editors Note: Another contribution from John Hertig for The Prepper Journal.  Part of  series of articles on this subject from the author. 
Round 11 of the Prepper Writing Contest is coming THIS WEEK! 


Assembling an AR-15 Upper

In an earlier series of articles we took an in depth look at building your own AR-15.  The purpose was to provide the most legal, efficient and reasonably economical road to building a firearm.  Here we go beyond the basics, to provide some guidance on getting exactly what you want, getting the best results practical, or possibly saving even a bit more money.

Assembling an Upper

My recommendation in that series of articles was to buy a complete assembled upper.  This was because the price for a complete upper tends to be less than for the parts bought separately, and particularly because the assembly is a bit more involved and requires more tools and skills than does the lower.  But if you follow that recommendation, you pretty much have to accept someone else’s idea of what the “perfect” upper is.  Alternatively, if price is a major issue, a kit of all the parts for the upper from one source may be slightly cheaper than the same upper assembled, since paying someone to assemble the upper is unlikely to be “free”.  And then there is that small blemish on the “I built it myself” pride.   If you can find what you want as an assembled upper, and can afford it, and don’t care about complete bragging rights, and you trust who did the assembly, then an assembled upper is the way to go.  Otherwise, assembling your own may be a viable option.  Even if not, the information here will be useful if you ever want to modify your upper.


If the upper is “stripped“, then you will probably have to install a dust cover and/or forward assist (together, known as the “Upper Parts Kit”).  Installing the dust cover is fairly straightforward but does require some dexterity.  Installing the forward assist is even easier – if you have the right tools.  Otherwise, it could be a nightmare.  Here is a video.  This video is very good for the dust cover, but this minimal tools approach to the forward assist has a high likelihood of causing you distress.  At the very least, have an upper receiver block to hold the upper so it can’t move on you during the operation.  Here is a video of an easier way.  The “#3″ punches mentioned are 3/32”.  The “insert” is supposedly to “keep the upper receiver from being crushed“, but for this operation you don’t need to tighten the vice much.  If your upper receiver block came with an insert, you can use it; otherwise I wouldn’t worry about it.  For the lower punch, which just holds things in place for you, you can use a roll pin punch or pin punch or drill shank; whatever will fit tightly enough to keep the forward assist in position but can be pushed out by the pin as it is installed.  The Roll Pin Holder is ideal to get the pin started, but if you don’t have one, a pair of needle nose pliers or large tweezers will do to hold the pin until it gets started.  To drive it in, use a roll pin punch to avoid damaging the end.  If you get a prepackaged Upper Parts Kit, you may be lucky with the “C” clip already installed and the forward assist assembled.  If you need to assemble the forward assist yourself, here is a video of how that is done.

Adding the Barrel

Next is to install the barrel.  For this, you need the barrel, a nut (which one depends on what hand-guard you will be using), an upper receiver block (or a “reaction rod” AKA barrel spline rod) and vise, a bit of grease, a barrel nut wrench, a gas tube locator device if the gas tube goes through the nut, and a torque wrench.  Here is a long-winded but complete video.  The grease he suggests is very inexpensive, but you get a lot which needs to be stored, and the container is not optimal for long term storage.  I got a small can from Amazon which cost twice as much AND contained only a tenth as much as does the big tube, but is enough for dozens of builds, and the container is much smaller and better for long term storage.


Now install the gas tube and gas block.  It is easy to end up a bit off, with significant impact on the reliability of the functioning.  You often must mount the tube into the block first and then install the assembly on the barrel, but I think it is more accurate to figure out where to mount the block first, then remove it and install the tube, then finally install the whole assembly.

There is a hole in the barrel, and a hole in the gas block, and these need to be lined up accurately for the firearm to work, and work correctly.  Furthermore, this alignment, once “perfect“, needs to never move.  Some gas blocks are held in place by set screws, some by clamping around the barrel and some by pins through notches in the barrel.  I’ve not tried any clamp-on or pinned gas blocks, but the set screw ones are not completely secure without “help”.  Set screws can loosen or shift; Loc-Tite and “dimpling” the barrel can help prevent these problems.

To find out how far from the gas block stop on the barrel to mount the gas block (some are designed for a front handguard plate to go between them), take out the set screw opposite the gas hole in the gas block and put the gas block on upside down.  Find the gas hole in the barrel and center it in the set screw hole in the gas block (a pointed set screw helps get it perfect AND holds it there).  Measure (with a “feeler” gauge) the gap between the gas block and the gas block stop.  Now loosen the pointed set screw, if used, and rotate the gas block to right side up and with the feeler gauge in place, align side to side.  There are three usual ways people do this:  pencil lines (there is a slightly better way of marking the barrel at 0:44 in this video) or an alignment tool (from HB Industries or UniqueTek) are the most common.  The third method some people use is to block the chamber end with a dummy round or their finger and blow into the muzzle as they rotate the gas block listening for the “correct” sound.  Once you locate the gas block correctly, tighten the set screws to mark the barrel for the dimples (which really are not optional for set screw gas blocks).

The method of dimpling shown in the previous video just has too much chance of error for me.  I prefer another way, which is the most accurate way of locating AND dimpling the gas block.  This is using a gas block alignment and dimpling jig such as the one from BRD Engineering.  The idea is to perfectly index dimples to the gas hole, so the gas block is forced into the correct orientation and to stay there.  The BRDE gadget is too rich for my blood, though, and is only usable for some brands and models of gas blocks.  The combination of economy, versatility and accuracy which I went with was the SLR Gas Block Dimpling Jig.  Here’s how to use it.  The best drill size to use with this jig seems to be 5/32″; personally, after I get a good dimple I widen it a bit with a 15/64″ drill since my gas block screws seem to be a bit bigger than “normal”, but this is a matter of personal preference.  Also, if the barrel is not stainless steel, I use a bit of cold blue to offer the dimples some rust protection.

In the earlier video about the BRD Engineering alignment and dimpling jig, the BRDE “pinning” jig was also shown, which can provide the ultimate solidification of the gas block mount, but I did not think it was necessary for my build.  If your gas block is exposed beyond the handguard where it could get knocked or has a sight sticking up to get caught on something, pinning the gas block would be wise.

Once you have the gas block location finalized (the barrel is dimpled or has pin grooves), install the gas tube into the block.  Look through the roll pin hole and rotate the gas tube until you see the hole through the tube line up.  Note that it is VERY COMMON for people to not insert the gas tube into the gas block far enough and drive the pin in AHEAD of the tube rather than THROUGH it.  Don’t do this; this will cause you serious headaches.  Once the gas tube is correctly oriented, drive in the gas tube roll pin.

This will likely be a real pain due to the small size of the pin, the significant amount of resistance it offers and the non-linear shape of the gas block.  The hole and pin are oddly sized (0.078″); a size which is not normally included in punch sets, although 5/64″ is real close.  Much as I distrust starter (tapered) punches, in this case one is suggested, as a 5/64″ straight punch often just collapses into an “S” shape under the stress.  If you don’t have a starter punch, a regular bigger punch is strong enough to get the pin most of the way in, but getting it below the surface will be a challenge without that starter punch.  As for how to hold the gas block while driving in the pin, the way that worked for me was to open a vice far enough that the top and bottom ends of the gas block were supported, with the “fat” part in between the jaws.  I laid a strip of thick leather across the jaws to protect the finish of the gas block.  An even better way I found on my second try was to fasten the block to the barrel, and then hold the barrel in the vice (with a barrel spline rod) while installing the pin.   This time the pin went in relatively easily; perhaps because I used the pin which came with the gas block rather than the one which came with the gas tube.


With the BCG removed, put on the front hand guard plate (if you need one), then slide the gas block onto the barrel so the gas tube slides into the hole in the barrel nut, if present, and into the upper receiver.  As you tighten the set screws, wiggle the gas block to ensure the set screws are centered in the dimples.  Once the gas block is rigid, block the chamber and blow into the barrel to make sure that there is some resistance, but air does move through the gas system; then install the BCG.  With a dummy round or snap cap in the chamber, close the bolt to ensure the gas tube is aligned correctly and not too far into the receiver, then blow into the barrel to verify there is noticeably more resistance to the air than before.  If all is good, “permanently” mount the gas block by removing one set screw, applying Loc-Tite, replacing it and tightening it to spec.  Repeat for the second set screw.

Finishing the Upper

We are nearly done.  It is time to install the handguard.  The details will vary from handguard to handguard.  I prefer “free-float” handguards, and they tend to mount similarly to each other.  In most cases, their mounting device will have been installed as part of the barrel install, with any tension ring screwed fully against the receiver to be out of the way.  All that most require is either to slide the handguard over the barrel nut and insert several screws to hold it in place, or screw it over the barrel nut until the rail is in line with the one on the top of the upper receiver and screw in any locking bolt, then screw any tension ring forward against the handguard.  You may need one or more shims between the nut and the upper to ensure the handguard is correctly oriented.  My favorite system is one I got from Delta Team Tactical which not only has a barrel nut low enough that the gas tube goes right over it, but the guard uses screwed wedges, so it is super easy to get the top rail in line with the rail on the upper receiver and no shims are ever necessary.

I’ve never done a “standard” hand guard, but as I understand it, there is the delta ring assembly held on by the barrel nut.  This consists of the “weld spring”, the delta ring and a snap ring.  Then there is a cap (triangular or round) which goes between the gas block and the larger diameter part of the barrel which acts a stop for the gas block.  Then the hand guard, in two sections, is held in place between the front cap and the delta ring, with the delta ring pulled against the upper to get the hand guard sections in or out.  There is a tool available which helps depress the delta ring if this gives you a problem.

The last step is to install any muzzle device.  In order to allow you to properly orient the device, put a “crush washer” on and then screw on the device finger tight.  Using a wrench (if there are flats) or a long rod though the ports, tighten until any top ports are perpendicular, and the ports on the sides are horizontal.  Generally you want to tighten between 90 and 180 degrees from finger tight; there are shim kits available if you can’t tighten the device enough to have it correctly oriented.

Don’t forget to check your head space as described in the Assembly part of the general build series.


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