Sie sind auf Seite 1von 21

Mel Tappan’s Personal Survival Letter # 3

Issue No. 3- December 1977

Some Thoughts on Retreating

by Mel Tappan

The concept most fundamental to long-term disaster preparedness is retreating: having a safe place to go in order to
avoid the concentrated violence destined to erupt in the cities- a place where, in addition to owning greater safety
during the crisis interval, one can reasonably expect to generate subsistence for an indefinite period thereafter. Yet
few of the survival oriented people with whom I come in contact have even developed a workable retreat plan, and
fewer still actually have such a place ready to be occupied when needed.

In some cases, a lack of commitment to the need for extensive survival preparations lies at the root of the problem,
but that is by no means always true. I am personally acquainted with a large number of serious survivalists who
have not yet taken the first step toward establishing a retreat, even though their preparedness programs are
otherwise comprehensive.

There are, of course, emotional factors involved in retreating which other aspects of survival preparation do not
engender. It’s one thing to buy a gun or two and some storable food; quite another to completely restructure one’s
entire mode of living. Still, it is far more reasonable to plan the details of a new lifestyle carefully in advance than
to be thrust into whatever niche chance may offer when the crisis arrives.

If, then, lack of motivation and emotional resistance account together for only a small part of the reluctance to
develop retreat plans evidenced by so many survivalists, we must seek further for another- and perhaps, more
obvious cause. In my opinion, we need not look beyond the present inadequacy of current survival literature which
tends to confuse the romance of woodcraft, nomadics, and homesteading with the hard realities of disaster survival.

Establishing and moving to a retreat is serious business. It involves extensive, informed planning tailored to the
precise needs of the people who will use it; and the serious, objective problems which must be resolved in making
such an arrangement viable under crisis conditions are enormous. For these reasons, most people realize that they
need mature professional assistance. Yet the hackneyed retreat alternatives so shallowly conceived and so tirelessly
repeated by the few writers on the subject are, upon careful examination, either simplistic, unworkable, or of
severely limited value in the real world.

Some of them have transient appeal, in a Walter Mitty sort of way, and they can spark some remarkably interesting
table conversation. Who among us has never dreamed of sailing off to exotic climes, leaving the humdrum world
behind; who doesn’t cherish a secret longing for a hideaway back of beyond- a rough hewn cabin snug against the
winter, smoke curling from a stone chimney…?

These things have an archetypical appeal and they are exciting to contemplate- so long as your commitment does
not go beyond talking and wool gathering. Only in the rarest of circumstances, however, could a thoughtful,
practical, reasonably prudent individual be expected to stake his life and that of his family on any one of them.
Once you have reached the point where you feel that preparedness is no longer academic, and you have a growing
apprehensive awareness that the time grows short for you to relocate away from the areas of greatest danger, it
becomes increasingly easy to see the shortcomings of the traditional retreat alternatives.

The seagoing approach, for example, is simply out of the question for more than a minuscule few seasoned blue
water expedition sailors; the land mobile techniques so widely touted by at least one writer are patently
irresponsible (as last month’s “Survival Wheels” column clearly illustrates); isolated wilderness retreats are
virtually indefensible by an average family.

Group retreats sound good in theory, but once you begin investigating actual examples, serious problems become
apparent. There are too many rules and regulations, or too few; there is great difficulty in getting a good balance of
needed skills in the group since awareness of the need for retreating does not even roughly coincide with a
cross-section of occupations in a balanced community (too many doctors and lawyers, for example, and not enough
plumbers, electricians, or carpenters).

Further, I am sorry to say, many group retreats appear to be nothing more than promotional schemes, and quite a
large number seem to have been set up by persons who might be classified technically as “whacko”. Often these
communal arrangements make no provision for permanent dwellings of any kind, and concern for privacy within
the group is customarily given scant attention.

Whether Utopias or group retreats, artificial communities have a tendency not to work out. Since few, if any of
them, allow occupancy now, you would have no way of knowing whether they were viable until the convening of
the crisis- and then it would be too late.

To ice the matter, most of these cliché retreat alternatives require crystal ball timing. Since they are generally such
an extreme departure from conventional life patterns, one would hardly choose to activate his retreat plan a moment
sooner than necessary.

Who would willingly elect, before circumstances forced him, to start blundering through the bush for months on
end in a flimsy motorhome, popping its staples with every mile, towing a reluctant trailer containing all his
possessions? Who would choose to live aboard a cramped sailboat with three kids and a pregnant wife even a week
longer than he had to? Yet those who delay seeking their retreats until the crisis strikes may never reach them.

Some months ago, my wife, Nancy, and I reluctantly concluded that remaining in a city like Los Angeles was no
longer prudent. All of the necessary requisites for a monetary collapse were then in place and the odds favoring the
sudden occurrence of that event have recently passed the 50% mark and are rising.

The rapid build-up in Soviet civil defense preparedness coupled with the determined destruction of our own also
influenced our decision, as did our perception of President Carter as a frustrated egotist growing increasingly
desperate and, perhaps, unstable in the face of mounting evidence exposing his incompetence.

Were it not for the imponderable element that Carter’s presence in the White House introduces into the equation of
world stability, we might have stayed in the city a few months longer, debating the relative merits of creating a
group retreat of our own.

We were not quite ready to leave, either emotionally or objectively, but the probability of Carter’s lighting a fuse
instead of a candle loomed too large for us to regard city dwelling any longer as merely a calculated risk. We had
become sufficiently motivated to stop theorizing about retreating and deal with the realities of it.
Not that there hadn’t been some progress toward a workable retreat plan over the years since we had first decided
that it would someday become necessary. Our initial response to the realization that a social upheaval was coming
seems incredibly naive, in retrospect, but since many of you may just now be traveling that same path, you may
find a brief look at our early machinations helpful.

We liked our home, located in a “safe” residential area of the city, and we set about developing a two-pronged
approach to remain there. First we would make our house as secure as possible with locks, alarms, grillwork on the
windows, attack dogs, and weaponry.

Then for “plan B” to be implemented in the unlikely event that violence encroached too vigorously on our
neighborhood, we would have a few acres in the country with an A-frame on it where we could go to wait out the
restoration of order with some comfort and a greater measure of security.

We found what seemed an idyllic setting for our retreat less than three hours drive from Los Angeles, complete
with a view, building site, two springs, a handsome grove of oak trees, and an attractive shopping center nearby.

Fortunately, we chanced to revisit the property on a weekend, having made arrangements with the real estate agent
to meet us there to write up an offer.

Although the sign at the entrance to this bit of unspoiled wilderness read “private property”, campers and dirt bikes
were sprawled about the landscape in considerable numbers. We later discovered that the nearby lake was a staging
area for rambles by one of the more illustrious motorcycle gangs.

If that were not enough, parachutists from the Marine base a few miles away began landing all around us as we
stood listening to the realtor’s plans to hire a caretaker to “keep out the riff-raff”. It seems that these paratroops held
maneuvers on the property from time to time, and our salesman pointed out how “secure” the property would be in
troubled times with a military post so near. We suddenly remembered urgent business in Los Angeles and left,
never to return. Less than a year later the entire area was burned over by a forest fire.

Despite the shock of that near disastrous land purchase, we continued for more than a year to search for a suitable
retreat in Southern California. This desire to retain territorial ties is often so strong that it is frequently the chief
stumbling block to the development of a practical retreat plan.

You have family, friends, business associations, or you simply like the place where you have chosen to live, and
unless you can implement a disciplined, objective approach to establishing a retreat where it belongs instead of
where you would like it to be, there is a high probability that you may be planted where you are now rooted.

Reluctantly, we abandoned the possibility of finding a suitable retreat site in Southern California. Like the Eastern
seaboard, the population density is simply too great, there are too many potential nuclear targets and even
apparently isolated areas are too close to too many highly mobile people to remain secluded for long under crisis

Instead of continuing to seek our preconceived notion of what we desired in a retreat, we decided to draw up
detailed guidelines for a personal haven based on our analysis of what the coming holocaust is apt to be like and the
functions that a retreat would have to fulfill under those conditions.

Such a list of criteria, if carefully drawn, will simplify your task greatly, if for no other reason than the fact that it
will eliminate at least 90% of the possible locations for a retreat that you will tend to think of first.
Further, you are much more likely to act on the plan that follows from these guidelines since it will reflect your own
concerns, your own solutions, and presumably overcome any reluctance you might have to engage in such a major
undertaking based on nothing more than emotional preferences or someone else’s hastily conceived checklist.

Although the criteria you establish should reflect your personal requirements in the greatest possible detail, there
are also a number of objective considerations which must be taken into account because they are common to
virtually any catastrophic occurrence having long-term consequences. One of these is the probability of concerted,
widespread violence which may last for a protracted period at a relatively high level.

Now, there are some writers in the field who completely discount the possibility of violence occurring in the
aftermath of massive socio-economic breakdown and one prominent newsletter pundit urges, for whatever reason,
that you take no steps to protect yourself against that eventuality. None of us knows, of course, exactly what is
going to occur, but of all the possible scenarios, unrestrained violence and looting seems the most probable.

How anyone could view the results of recent power outages in New York City and elsewhere without reaching that
conclusion is simply beyond my ken. The social and racial tensions alone in this country bid fair to explode under
the best of circumstances.

It should be obvious that mass hysteria and unbridled fear stemming from a crisis of this sort will not have a
calming effect upon the hatred and fragmentation that already exist. In addition to the violence prone, there will
also be the element of normally decent people who didn’t prepare and who will try to take what they need to keep
themselves and their families alive by whatever means necessary.

When the food stores are empty, the fires will begin. Arson seems to be one of the commonest accompaniments to
riots and it is unreasonable to believe that firemen and police will be reporting for duty to protect your home when
they could be fleeing the cities with their families- especially since there will be no money with which to pay them
for their services.

Logically, those who have survived the first hours or days of the holocaust in the cities will begin to flee -if they
have not already done so- when the public water supply and sanitation facilities fail and disease begins to become a
factor. Small, isolated farms will become targets for looters and the hoards pouring out of metropolitan areas will
probably converge on known food producing areas, such as the Central Valley of California, for example, or
established resorts where it may be presumed that the affluent have vacation homes stocked with food and supplies.

Assuming that you have made reasonable preparations to live self-sufficiently, the greatest single danger to your
survival when the crisis strikes will be your proximity to concentrated masses of system-dependent people.
Remaining in a city is totally out of the question and even living in a relatively out of the way place in an area of
high overall population density is extremely hazardous.

New York State, New England, and Pennsylvania, for example, contain some lovely rural sites that might appear
suitable for retreats at first glance, but they could all be overrun by fleeing mobs and bands of looters within hours.
A major factor in your location of a retreat, then, ought to be population density. Not only should your chosen site
be at least a tank of gasoline away from major metropolitan areas, but the ambient population should be low as
Nuclear power plants in the vicinity of your proposed retreat also pose an unnecessary risk. As Paul Ehrlich points
out in his book, ​The End of Affluence,​ such a facility merely abandoned and not properly shut down could detonate,
spreading radioactive material for miles. Known earthquake, flood, and landslide country should be avoided for
obvious reasons and heavily forested areas should be regarded with great caution.
Forest fires in many such locations are a considerable danger even in ordinary times from natural causes. During a
crisis, when there is no one to put them out, that danger could be multiplied many times over, particularly when you
consider that the woods are likely to be filled with refugees from the cities- many of whom may be less than expert
in handling wilderness campfires.

Nearby military bases or National Guard armories could also pose some significant problems. Even if the troops
stationed there did not decide to expropriate the supplies of those living in the vicinity, you might expect the bases
to be looted sooner or later and few retreats would be proof against attacks with armored vehicles, flamethrowers,
and grenades.

Whatever your view of the possibility of nuclear war, it seems foolish to me to ignore potential target areas and
fallout patterns in selecting a retreat site. If you are going to the considerable trouble and expense of establishing a
retreat in the first place, you may as well have one that is secure against as many perils as possible.

In that connection, I suggest that you obtain a copy of the Analyses of Effects of Limited Nuclear Warfare prepared
for the Subcommittee on Arms Control of the COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE US SENATE
(SEP 1975). It pinpoints the presumed targets in the United States and projects fallout patterns based on prevailing
winds and other meteorological factors.

These generalized criteria, coupled with your own personal requirements and such other considerations as
reasonable climate, factors suitable to agriculture, the availability of some hunting, fishing, and trapping will
narrow your search for a geographical area in which to locate your retreat considerably, but one major question
remains: do you attempt to go it alone in complete isolation or do you join with others who share your concerns?

The question almost answers itself -at least partially- because regardless of where you choose to locate, there is no
retreat site in the continental United States where you could be certain of living in total isolation, completely
undetected. Certainly there are places where the odds of discovery would be greatly in your favor, but if you should
be stumbled upon by looters, remote from any possible aid, the superior force would almost certainly prevail.

Further, if your security were to depend on remaining undiscovered for an extended period of time, the hardships
and limitations placed upon you would be enormous. For one thing, raising animals for food would be virtually
impossible and even cultivating a garden conveniently near would be a hazard. The emotional strain of keeping
constantly quiet and hidden would also be burdensome to most.

For these reasons, and many others that become obvious when you think seriously about the problems of
establishing an isolated, single family retreat, one is tempted either to opt for a group retreat -despite their obvious
shortcomings- or else remain paralyzed from indecision, doing nothing as time runs out. I explored the possibility
of setting up my own group haven, but the organizational problems, expense, and -most of all- the time involved
were more than I cared to undertake.

A word of warning might be in order here. Be very cautious of following some survivalist Pied Piper and joining
his “exclusive” group retreat, especially if you are planning to rely on his presumably extensive knowledge to
supplant your own, or if you are counting on his charisma to hold that group of relative strangers together.

Even if your survival savant actually turns up at the retreat when the bell rings (I know of one such chap who has
several small “personal” group retreats set up- rather widely separated by geography), he is mortal and he could trip
over his beard and break his neck on the first day out. In the alternative, he may remain healthy, but you might
discover that his supposed expertise is largely self-proclaimed.
Although the problems I observed with existing group retreats invalidated them from practical consideration so far
as I was concerned, I remained convinced that only a community of reasonable size with a balance of vital skills
would be both workable for the long term and proof against attack by the determined bands of well organized
looters which seem bound to emerge from the crisis period.

The empirical answer to this dilemma, which the theoreticians seem to have missed, is obvious: an already existing,
functioning community in which the balance of skills, social interplay, and other essential factors have been
established pragmatically. A small town.

Not just any small town will do however. It should meet the stringent requirements for any good retreat and offer
certain advantages of flexibility as well. Next month, we will consider this concept in detail and offer you some
specific guidelines for finding your own retreat community.

Survival Wheels
by Ross Lee

One of the luxuries of the philosopher is the privilege to express himself in very pure terms, but most of us realize
that even the greatest ideas must at times be tempered with compromises imposed by reality. Those of you who
read last month’s column recall that this writer’s preferences in survival vehicles run toward equipment built from
about 1955 to around 1967. In the pre-smog, pre-Nader era, light trucks were simpler, more reliable, and far easier
to maintain with basic tools and skills.

However, we must also realize that probably the majority of our readers simply do not have the very considerable
amount of time necessary to track down a suitable “vintage” machine and to reconstruct it properly. Accordingly,
we are going to tell you exactly what to order from the factory in terms of new equipment which will provide the
best possible compromise between the simplicity inherent in older machines and the practicality of more rapid

Before getting into the specifications, we’re going to discuss the role the new car agency salesman will play in your
purchase. If you are not very careful, you will be sold a vehicle. The last possible thing that you will need is a
salesman. What you require is an order taker who will willingly order exactly what you tell him to.

Remember that the salesman will try very hard to sell you what he has in stock at his dealership. He does not
generally get paid until you take delivery; he therefore does not want to place a factory order unless you absolutely
insist. To get what you must have, chances are almost certain that you will need to place what amounts to a very
complicated factory order, and wait for a period of months for your truck to appear.

When you begin to discuss heavy-duty suspension options, heavier-than-normal electrical systems, insulation
packages, and other things that are simply not part of the vehicles dealers order for their stock, the salesman will
likely begin to shift uneasily about in his white shoes and sagely try to convince you that what he has is in some
mysterious way really “better” for you than what you require.

Another popular ploy is that “the factory isn’t accepting orders for that right now”. Don’t you believe it. The
factories will build any combination listed in their options book which is legal to sell to the public. Some
combinations which are seldom ordered simply take longer to get.
I think it safe to presume that not one of our readers would permit a salesman from a surgical supply house to open
his chest and perform a coronary bypass procedure. Such a suggestion is absurd. But, for some reason, we have
been conditioned over the past 50 or so years to believe that employment on the sales floor of an auto dealership
confers honorary degrees in engineering and accountancy.

Since we know that few auto salesmen possess such credentials -honorary or otherwise- you must know what you
want and insist upon getting it from the start. On your first visit to the dealership, pick up the brochures on the
series vehicle you are interested in. There are generally two levels of promotional literature.

One type will show the vehicle bedazzled with chrome and gadgetry and covered with pretty people. The next
series -which you will likely have to ask for- will consist of specifications on engines, transmissions, gross weight
ratings, ratios, and other important information. After you have interpolated the information in the specification
brochure to your particular needs, you will be ready to sit down with an order taker. At that point, the salesman will
most likely have nothing more than an order form and a 29-cent ballpoint in front of him.

Insist that each item you specify be identified with the factory option number from the salesman’s bound option
book and that each number be entered very legibly. All too often, the order for your machine is treated with the
seriousness of a grocery list. Usually, the salesman counts on a diligent clerk or the factory’s computer to sort out
his mess. If you can’t read each and every item on the order the day it is made out, your chance of using the order
as a lever to force correction of an incorrect item on the finished vehicle is about nil.

The salesman will probably be put off by your attitude, but remember that it is your money -and a great deal of it-
that is being spent. Long after the salesman has been forgotten you will be living with your purchase, so do it your
way from shopping to delivery.

As a model of what to specify in your order, we will use a new Ford F-250 series van. The guidelines are applicable
to either a pickup or a van, as well as to other makes. Ford is the choice in this class of machine because the front
suspension is a good bit more rugged than the competition and because Ford happens to be the only van maker
which uses a frame under its bodies. I recommend a van over a pickup because you can literally live out of a van
much more readily than a pickup with a shell. A pickup

with a cumbersome, top-heavy box of a camper is great for fun, but not much for survival use. A van may also be
locked more securely than even a pickup with a light shell. If you must haul cumbersome loads, the pickup is the
obvious choice; but consider your choice carefully.

Starting with the simplest considerations, notice that Ford offers an F150​, a​ n F250, and F350 window van. The
F150 should not be considered. It is essentially a passenger car with a large body. The rear axle is not equipped
with full-floating bearings and the engine -as is the case with all light trucks with gross weights less than 6,000
pounds- is saddled with the same smog impedimenta as an automobile. The F350 is the top of the line, but is a bit
heavier than really needed. The F250 is what we would call, in the old terminology, the ¾-ton machine.

Ford offers a series of engines ranging from a truly excellent 300-cubic inch six up to a V8 of 460 cubes. Ford’s six
is not simply an auto engine stuffed into a truck; it was actually designed for truck operation. With positive valve
rotators, seven main bearings, and excellent low speed torque characteristics, the six is a fine choice with more than
enough power for any reasonable application. The six offers better service access than any of the V8’s.

In terms of fuel consumption, figure on about ten miles per gallon no matter which engine you choose or what the
salesman tells you. If for some reason you must have a V8, you had just as well order the 460. All are equally
serviceable and equally hard to work on. Unless you plan to tow a large trailer -which we strongly suggest that you
do not consider- the six is the choice. The next item to order is the auxiliary fuel tank. With main and auxiliary
tanks full, fuel capacity is 40 gallons.
As you will recall from last month’s column, manual transmissions are the preferred choice for a survival machine.
However, for a variety of reasons ranging from “I just can't drive the damn thing” to physical inconveniences which
render some of us incapable of operating a clutch, an automatic may be required.
If, for whatever reason, you must have an automatic, be sure to order it with an optional externally mounted
transmission oil cooler. The greatest enemy of any automatic transmission is heat. In the circumstances under which
a survival vehicle is likely to be operated, with a good deal of low-speed lugging over poor or unimproved roads,
much more heat will be generated than in normal driving.

Do not let the salesman talk you into letting the dealer install the cooler in his own shop. The dealer’s people may
or may not install a proper cooler and they may or may not install it properly. The same advice applies to many
other accessories. Whenever possible, make certain they are factory parts installed at the factory. There is nothing
to stop a dealer from motoring down to the local discount store and picking up something that will somehow fit and
charging you for factory fitted equipment.

When you get to the cooling system, specify the heaviest radiator available. The cost is low and the advantages

Modern power steering is about as reliable as can be- but it can still break. If a belt goes, you can be stopped dead
for however long it takes to change it. If something inside the power steering pump or the steering gear itself
decides to give up, you may find yourself walking. If at all possible, order your truck without power steering. If it
isn’t there, it can’t break. Steering effort on modern manual steering setups isn’t at all bad- try one before you
decide to buy power steering.

Air conditioning is an option which until the middle 50’s we managed to live without. Do not consider ordering air
conditioning on a survival machine. Besides a maze of gadgetry under the hood which greatly complicates engine
servicing, the risk of electrical malfunction or disabling mechanical failure far outweighs any advantages.

The electrical system should be specified with the heaviest alternator and battery available. In the case of the Ford,
a 90-amp alternator is available. This is a situation in which the salesman will try to convince you that you don’t
need such electrical capacity in a vehicle which is equipped with few power accessories.

His point has some merit, but not enough to carry. At any given power output, the heavier alternator will be running
a bit cooler than a smaller one and be less likely to fail. In the event you later elect to install an off-road lighting
array, you will need the capacity. Do not specify the maintenance-free battery option. The “sealed” batteries are
perfectly serviceable, but obviously impossible to check with a hydrometer.

If you at some later date need to charge the battery, you will be unable to readily determine its state of charge. Ford
does not offer a dual battery option in the vans, but dual batteries can of course be fitted. Dual batteries offer the
ability to run, for example, a scanner or other radios while the vehicle is parked and the engine shut off. If the state
of charge of one battery becomes low, you may switch to the other to make certain that you get started. After the
engine is running, switch to the low battery to bring it back to full charge.

One item which is not critical, but is recommended is the insulation package. Ford offers two- a floor/roof group
and a “Deluxe” package which also insulates the side walls. Besides the obvious advantages in cold weather, the
insulation package makes the machine a good bit quieter, which in turn makes the truck less tiring to drive. (Very
few salesmen are aware of the fact that two packages are offered.)

A heater is standard, but a total of three options is offered. The standard heater seems more than sufficient. The
auxiliary heater should not be specified, as the requisite plumbing offers the coolant all manner of places to leak.
Always avoid hoses and connections which can cause you to pump your coolant into the dirt. Heater cores
themselves can also leak and cause quite a mess.

For a good many years, gasoline-fired heaters under the brand names of Southwind, Hades, and others have been
available as aftermarket items. Many people have bought them, but I don’t recommend that you do. The thought of
gasoline plumbing inside the passenger compartment is more hazardous than I have the nerve to live with.

Be certain to specify the heavy-duty suspension package. The salesman will tell you that the “computer” will select
the correct springs. Tell the salesman that you will do the selecting. Ordinarily, the HD suspension package is
associated with trailer towing, but considering that a survival vehicle may well spend a lot of time on rough or
washboard roads, the heavy suspension is a good option. Ride on smooth roads will be a little rougher than with the
standard marshmallow springing, but nothing to be concerned about. The truck will also handle a good bit better
with the stiffer suspension.

Self-adjusting power brakes are standard- no decision need be made in this area.

Be certain to order the window van. The ability to see is so important that it need not be discussed. Be certain not to
order any windows which swing out. The hardware is less than durable; the vibration imposed by rough roads can
disassemble the latches very quickly. The same caution applies to brands other than Ford. GM products use a series
of induction spot welds which simply come undone if the vehicle is driven over rough roads with the windows
swung out.

The last area to be considered is color and trim options. Remember that not only do you want to be inconspicuous,
you also want your machine to be concealable. If it becomes necessary to park or remain overnight, any bright
reflective parts or conspicuous colors can betray your location and perhaps attract unwanted visitors. Accordingly,
order your truck with painted bumpers, painted rather than plated mirrors, and no chrome moldings on the body.

The paint should be a solid color in an earth tone or medium green. Do not choose a metallic color. The only
remaining reflective surface will be glass. If you’re serious about concealment, a supply of masking tape may be
combined with ordinary brown grocery sacks to cover glass area while the vehicle is parked. A good coat of dust
combined with taped over glass will make for almost perfect invisibility at night.

The same steps combined with some artfully placed brush will accomplish almost the same thing during the day.
Remember that the real enemy is reflected light from glass and chrome. In open country, a vehicle with the sun
glinting off an exposed windshield can announce its presence long before its form may be distinguished from its

As a closing comment on the basics of buying a new machine, please don’t get the idea that we are totally down on
people who earn their living selling cars. The fact that these people do work for a living means that they deserve our

The problem lies in the fact that they have been exposed to the same conditioning as the rest of us- they have no
idea what a survival vehicle must do. Most cars and trucks sold for day-to-day use may be equipped in any number
of indifferent fashions and cause problems for no one.

An ill-equipped survival machine can cause literally terminal problems for its owner. The average salesman sells
what is on his sales floor and generally faces problems no more controversial than convincing someone that a red
car will serve his needs just as well as a blue car. Remember that your situation is far different- do not walk in
asking for a ¾-ton truck and walk out with a Pinto because the salesman convinced you it was somehow “better”.
Next month we will present, in detail, the basic requisites for rebuilding an older vehicle into a zero-time survival

Survival Guns Update- Sturmgewehre, Part Two

By Mel Tappan

In the first issue of PS ​Letter, I suggested that a .308 battle rifle should be the cornerstone of a serious survival
battery and briefly reviewed one of the two models most readily available in the US at present. This month, I would
like to discuss the other -Springfield Armory’s M1-A- as well as an interesting, low-cost conversion of the Garand.

Sometime during, or shortly after World War II, a significant number of our ranking military brass were stricken
with the curious notion that individual infantry weapons ought to be capable of fully automatic fire. In order to
implement this concept, we developed -and induced our NATO allies to accept as standard- the 7.62 NATO round
(.308 Winchester). It duplicates the service ballistics of the .30-06 in a slightly shorter case with a thicker rim better
suited for use in automatic weapons. Shortly thereafter, we produced the M-14 rifle in which to fire it.

Almost from the day of its inception, the M-14 has been surrounded by controversy and, although it is still in use by
most of our NATO troops, manufacture of the rifle has been discontinued. I will not bore you with the history of its
demise except to say that, in my opinion, the M-14 was an excellent service rifle, all things considered, and
substantially better than the M-16’s which we are currently issuing to our troops.

The basic problem, I think, with the M-14 was simply that it was capable of selective fire and, in the full auto mode,
it was very difficult to handle. I have never known anyone who used one to complain about the rifle when fired
semi-auto- except of course for the weight- and no one has ever produced a rifle light enough to satisfy a foot

The M1-A is essentially an M-14 without selective fire capability. Most of them, in fact, are assembled from GI
parts, except that the receivers are machined from investment castings of 8620 alloy instead of forgings and they
are originally manufactured without provision for the selective fire switch.

Beyond this point, it is difficult to generalize about the M1-A because so many versions of it exist, assembled by
more than one maker and, if I am to believe those who write to me, the quality control varies greatly from one
individual specimen to another.

A large quantity of GI parts and virtually all of the M-14 tooling were originally sold to a firm in Texas which also
acquired the name “Springfield Armory” after that military installation was closed. I have only seen and fired two
examples of the Texas M1-A’s, but from that experience and what I have been able to find out from M1-A buffs,
these rifles are generally conceded to be among the very best of the breed. Certainly the ones I handled were
superior arms in every regard from finish to function.

Several hundred generally similar rifles called the Mark IV were also assembled by AR-Sales in California and
some of them appear excellent. The receivers are slightly different from those produced by the current Springfield
Armory, however, and though their appearance is good, I have been unable to learn the details of their manufacture
since they are no longer being produced.

One of the PS Letter staff members owns one of the AR’s and reports favorably on its performance. All of the parts
in his rifle except the receiver are GI, including the chrome lined barrel (which makes maintenance considerably
less of a chore than it might be).
In 1975, Reese Surplus Industries of Illinois acquired the Springfield Armory, and, to the best of my knowledge,
they now produce all of the M1-A’s currently offered for sale. It is about these rifles that most of the present
controversy centers.

For some time I have heard allegations of poor quality control from within the industry and from readers of my
book. I have heard tales of two groove Springfield barrels being used on standard issue grade models, welded
Garand receivers, inferior parts of new manufacture instead of surplus military, and even one report of a rifle being
delivered with a completely unchambered barrel.

I have had extensive experience with one match grade and one heavy barrel match grade rifle as well as limited
exposure to three standard issue grade and two other match grades. I found all of the standards somewhat rough but
serviceable, all of the match grades very accurate and the heavy barrel match grade outstanding.

Two of the match grades were very tightly chambered, unusually sensitive to changes in bullet weight, and
dependent on perfect ammunition for reliable functioning. In brief firing tests of the standard grades, none of them
could be counted on to feed reliably an entire 20-round magazine of factory sporting type ammunition with exposed
lead tips.

Functioning of my two rifles (match and heavy match) has been flawless regardless of ammunition make or bullet
weight for almost 1000 rounds each, after an initial break-in period of 100 rounds each. Because of the gas-operated
action, however, frequent cleaning of the bore, chamber, gas sleeve, and piston are necessary to maintain reliability
and accuracy. (Remember to leave the chamber bone dry after cleaning, since even a trace of lubrication can cause
setback, increasing the strain on both brass and breechblock.

The M1-A’s were developed primarily as target rifles for civilian participation in military rifle matches and their
accuracy can be of a very high order. The first group I fired from the bench with my heavy barrel match grade,
using a lot of US Military National Match ammunition, went into 7/8” at 100 yards. Subsequent testing with
handloads produced groups as small as ½” with 42.7gr. of 4895 and a 168gr. rebated boat tail bullet.

Felt recoil is very light and my wife finds the M1-A even less taxing in that regard than the HK-91, although I
believe that is due to increased dwell time of the gas operated action.

The flash suppressor is exceptionally effective, but its three-inch length coupled to the 22” barrel makes the Ml-A
somewhat more awkward in some circumstances than the HK or the BM-59. For offhand shooting or sustained fire
from a bipod however, the balance is excellent. Surplus M-14 20-round magazines can be bought inexpensively
(about $5.00 each) as can most spare parts.

Plastic stocks are available as M-14 surplus from various sources but the M1-A’s are regularly supplied with GI
surplus walnut, new Springfield Armory beech, or walnut, at the buyer's option. All use GI hardware including a
shoulder rest butt plate, beneath which there is a recess in the butt stock for GI bore cleaning equipment (not
furnished). The handguard is made of walnut colored fiberglass.

Triggers on the Ml-A are of the typical two-stage military design, but they can be set up for a reasonably crisp
four-pound pull in the final stage and overtravel, though present, is not excessive. Sights on the match versions are
too tight for my taste in practical use and should be opened up with the handy tool sold by Brownell’s for the
purpose. Adjustments for windage and elevation are made simply by rotating two knobs and each click moves the
point of bullet impact one inch for each 100 yards of range to the target.
Considering the generally satisfactory performance and uncommon accuracy I have experienced with my two test
rifles, I called the factory in Illinois to inquire about the reason for some of the unfavorable comments which are
rife about Springfield’s quality control.

One of the owners freely admitted that there had been some problems shortly after they acquired the company,
particularly in the area of roughly chambered and otherwise poor quality barrels. He did not discount the fact that
an unchambered barrel might have gotten through at that time.

He stated that two groove Springfield barrels had never been used, however, and offered to remedy any legitimate
complaints at the factory. He went on to say that he believes part of the problem may stem from a general
unfamiliarity with rifles of this type by some of the buyers, citing the fact that some ersatz BM-59’s and other
similar pieces built on welded Garand receivers had been sent to them for repairs by owners who believed their
pieces to be M1-A’s.

Finally, he confirmed that the factory is running low on some GI parts and is now making their own. Upon request,
however, for an additional charge, rifles will be built with GI parts, except for barrels in the heavy match grade.

Suggested list prices are: Standard Issue Grade- $375, Match Grade- $518, Heavy Barrel Match Grade- $568. If
you choose an Ml-A for your survival battery, I suggest that you order it with GI parts and only in one of the two
match grades. (Weight difference between the two is only about 8 oz. and the increase is at the muzzle where it is
an aid in steady holding.)

Certainly the most economical means of equipping yourself with a serviceable .308 assault rifle -if you have a
decent Garand in your rack- is the excellent conversion offered by Garth Choate, resident machine tool genius of
Bald Knob, Arkansas, fellow survivalist, and manufacturer of S.W.A.T. shotgun magazine extensions and the
Mini-14 front sight/flash hider assemblies. Garth takes the reliable but heavy, awkward, en block clip-loaded 30-06
Garand and turns it into an equally reliable but light, handy, detachable-magazine .308 that I would trust without

The basic transformation employs a Navy sleeve for rechambering and all stock and metal work necessary to
employ surplus M-14 magazines, including the substitution of an M-14 trigger group. Cost is less than $150 and, as
is usual with Garth, the workmanship is superb. In fact, the parkerizing done on mine is superior to anything I have
seen, including National Match rifles and General Staff pistols.

For a few dollars more, Garth will trim the barrel, operating rod and other related parts so that the overall length
does not exceed 42 inches with a 20-inch barrel. He can then install a flash suppressor of his own manufacture and
you will have a kissing cousin to the BM-59- with the added advantage of being able to use inexpensive magazines.

In the course of making the alterations my trigger pull was reduced to the crispest 3 ½ pounds I have ever felt on a
semi-automatic rifle action. Feeding and functioning were perfect with a variety of ammunition, and while the M7
½ is not tuned for target work, silhouettes are easy game to at least 500 yards. (I was unable to try farther because
of range restrictions.) Sights are unaltered from the Garand and although shortening the barrel does reduce the
radius somewhat, they are perfectly adequate for their intended purpose.

Although certainly not excessive nor more than that from an unaltered Garand, recoil from the M7 ½ is somewhat
sharper than from either the HK-91 or the M1-A.

If your funds are severely limited but you want a completely reliable battle rifle, if you need an especially light and
compact piece, or if you simply prefer the old warhorse Garand action to stamped parts and plastic, the M7½ should
certainly fill your needs. The only problem I can see is that Garth Choate is booked for these conversions until well
into 1978 and you may not feel that it is prudent to wait that long to acquire your primary defensive weapon.
Special needs often prompt special solutions, however, and you may want to discuss yours with Garth regardless of
the announced time schedule. ​Please do not send your rifle for conversion before making an appointment. ​For
further information contact: Garth Choate, Choate Machine & Tool Co., Bald Knob, AR 72010, (501) 724-3138.

Leaving aside the M7 ½ for the moment because of its limited availability, it seems in order to make some direct
comparisons between the HK-91 and the Springfield Armory M1-A.

If I could have but one .30 caliber Sturmgewehre and I had to choose between these two, I would opt for the HK-91
with standard and collapsible stocks because of its great flexibility, its exceptional reliability under adverse
circumstances, and its relative ease of repair. I am by no means certain, however, that it would be the best choice
for everyone reading these lines.

The 91 has certain characteristics which some knowledgeable experts, whose opinion I respect, consider serious
flaws. For example, Jeff Cooper points out that the action does not lock open after the last shot is fired and he
comments that guns which don't inform you that they are empty can get you killed.

Whenever I am shooting, regardless of the pressure or circumstances, I count my shots. It is virtually a compulsion.
I cannot even hear gunshots without counting. Until Jeff brought the point up, it never really occurred to me that
everyone didn’t count. With me, it is as automatic as remembering what cards have been played is to a tournament
bridge player. Now, unless I am farther along toward a psychotic episode than I suspect, there must be quite a few
other shooters who count as I do, without effort, with total accuracy and regardless of circumstances.

If so, the 91’s lack of visual indication that the magazine is empty may be an advantage, particularly in close
encounters. Imagine how embarrassing it might be covering two or three looters with but a single round in your
gun, to have to reason with one of them and then have your action lock open.

Further, it's just good practice in a firefight to insert a fresh magazine whenever there is a lull in the action so that
you don’t run dry at a critical moment. Still, Jeff is a seasoned combat veteran not given to foolishness, and if this
feature bothers him, it is worth giving serious consideration- unless, of course, like me, you are a compulsive

Others have objected to the fact that you cannot chamber a round silently in the 91 and be certain that the action is
locked into battery. That is true, but then I know of no other assault rifle in which it is not equally true and, besides,
if trouble is sufficiently imminent for you to have your rifle in your hands, it should be fully loaded. (The same
goes for rifles kept in your ready rack.)

The sights are less than perfect on the HK and Jeff is even contemplating removing his in favor of a Williams
aperture- if one can be found to fit it. I simply opened the “200” and “400” holes with Brownell’s sight broaching
tool. When my rifle is sighted in for 260 yards with 150 gr. ball through the “200” peep, I am on at 500 through the
“400” window. I can then aim point blank at a silhouette to three hundred yards with the first aperture, and from
300 to 500 with the second. Beyond 500 yards without optical sights, I expect to miss a lot.

On the positive side, the HK-91 will function reliably with marginal ammunition or foreign matter better than
anything else I know and it will continue to fire several times longer without cleaning than the M1-A or any other
gas operated rifle that I am familiar with. Further, the frequent cleanings of the M1-A must be accomplished from
the muzzle- a practice not designed to maintain gilt edged accuracy even when performed carefully. The 91 can be
cleaned from the breech.
Either rifle can be efficiently mounted with a scope- if you want a glass sight on a piece of this kind. It is far less
expensive with the M1-A, but considerably more convenient with the HK. Either the GI service mount or the
Leatherwood ART can be used on the former, but presently only the inordinately expensive HK mount with the
Zeiss scope will fit the 91. It can, however, be instantly removed and replaced without losing zero, and the optics
are superb.

The M1-A is recommended for use only with US military ammunition and bullet weights not to exceed 175 gr. The
same is true of the polygon barreled version of the HK but the standard cut rifled barrel will handle weights up to
and including 200 gr. (Incidentally, for reasons too lengthy to discuss here, I do not recommend the polygon barrel
version of the 91 nor can I endorse the HK-93 in .223 cal.).

Further, small base RCBS dies are a necessity for good functioning reloads in many -if not most- Ml-A’s, and
although they are desirable to use when assembling any ammunition intended for autoloading actions, my 91’s have
worked reliably with several rounds of handloads that were neck-sized only.

Spare parts are cheaper for the M1-A as are surplus accessories- when you can find them. (I’ve searched the surplus
ads relentlessly for more than a year trying to find a bipod- unsuccessfully.) But fewer parts are likely to be needed
to maintain a 91 and its range of accessories is considerably more extensive. The availability of the .22LR
conversion unit alone might be a deciding factor for some.

Finally, there are some rather adjunctive matters that should be weighed in choosing between the two pieces. The
Ml-A is somewhat more fragile in the face of abuse and it is subject to inadvertent damage by such unexpected
things as pulling the trigger when the action is locked open on an empty magazine. In contrast, the 91 is rather up
front about its shortcomings. It is so simple in design that you can assess it -warts and all- in a few minutes

There are no hidden Rube Goldberg accommodations in order to avoid infringing some civilian patent. In short, I
would have no quarrel with an experienced rifleman who chose an M1-A, so long as he understood the delicacies
and maintenance involved in Garand, M-14 type actions, and provided also that he could examine the actual rifle he
was to buy in order to make certain that it contained no ersatz parts and was assembled with good quality control.
Others, I think would be better served by the less expensive HK-91- especially if they spent the difference on
practice ammunition or taking Jeff Cooper’s course in practical shooting.

Next month’s Survival Guns Update​: 223 Battle Rifles

Principles of Pistol Sighting

By Jeff Cooper

In general, pistols meet three requirements: personal defense, pot shooting, and target shooting. In the survival
context we need consider only the first two. While a lot of defensive action takes place at just outside arm’s length,
the majority of defensive shots are sighted, or would be more effective if they were. All pot shooting is sighted. So
we have sights on our pistols. You may have seen pistols without sights. You may have seen a car without a reverse
gear, too. Even if you don’t think you’ll need them, you’d better have them.

The sights on a pistol function on a different principle from those on a rifle. Non-telescopic rifle sights may be set
far enough apart so that front and rear lie at significantly different distances from the eye. The farther they lie apart
-the greater the “sight radius”- the more precise may be the alignment they afford. However, the greater the sight
radius the less it becomes possible to focus on both sights at once.
Therefore the aperture rifle sight is better than the open rifle sight since the latter requires a short radius, with the
notch set well forward on the barrel, while the former allows the ring to be set close to the eye, to be looked
through r​ ather than ​at. W
​ ith a well-designed aperture rifle sight -large diameter, thin ring- you may disregard the
rear sight as long as you are looking through it.

With pistol sights all is different. The sights are necessarily close together and held farther from the eye than the
distance between them. Their geometric efficiency is low but they lie in nearly a single focal plane. While they do
not afford great optical precision and practical pistol shooting rarely demands it- they do provide satisfactory and
almost instantaneous ​verification ​of alignment.

This point is most important. A correct firing stroke -from leather to line-up- aligns the pistol reflexively, once it is
neurologically programmed. The sights are not used to align the weapon; rather they are used to verify an alignment
already achieved by means of a trained presentation. Your mind does not command, “Up. Right. Down a hair. A
hair left. Now that's about right. Squeeze!” It simply says, “OK, go!” This is called Flash Alignment, and it works
beautifully once it is understood.

I was amused a few years back to hear of an FBI instructor who dismissed the modern API technique because it is
entirely sighted. “What do you do in the dark, where most fights occur?” Not having been to school, he didn’t know
that a good stroke works just as well in the dark as in daylight, since, as it is perfected, verification becomes so
automatic as to be almost unconscious. You always seek it, but if the lights go out you go ahead anyway, and if you
have done your exercises you hit.

These instructions apply to defensive shooting. Hitting a squirrel in a tree in the head is another matter. If you have
developed a sound stroke, however, you will have little trouble with the slow target alignment used for the pot shot.

Pistol sights must be zeroed, just as rifle sights, to bring the mean point of impact into coincidence with the sight
line. In general, subsonics should be zeroed for dead center at 50 meters, printing about 1 ½” high at 25; and
supersonics at 100, printing about 2 ½” high at 50.

Naturally this is facilitated by adjustable sights, and most quality handguns are so equipped, but fixed sights are
always more durable, as well as being much less expensive. It’s a nuisance to zero fixed sights, but once they are
set they stay there. In apparent contradiction, I rather favor fixed sights for full duty, but all but one of my own
pistols have adjustable sights.

Both front and rear sights on any practical weapon should be dehorned. Sharp corners tear hands, clothes, and
holsters, and should not be found on the exterior surface of any hand tool. Unfortunately neither gunmakers nor
gunsmiths agree with me in this, and bloody hands are commonplace on the practice range, as are perforated sport
coats on peace officers.

The front sight must be neither ramped -neither undercut nor vertical- and the wings of the rear sight face must be
smoothly rounded, both laterally and longitudinally. A proper rear sight presents a plain flat surface to the eye,
without shelves, recesses or steps.

I prefer black-on-black, but many people do very well with colors. My new pistol from the Columbia Conference
has a red insert in the front ramp, which is pretty but does not improve either my speed or my precision. If a shooter
thinks contrasting colors help his shooting, however, they just may. One thing does seem certain- white-on-white or
grey-on-grey sights are not good. If you have such, best touch them up with enamel or nail polish.
Much work has been done on so-called “night sights” for pistols, following the perfectly sound notion that most
pistol confrontation occurs in dim light. Those systems I have evaluated do not impress me, so far. It is easy to
demonstrate that, using the right technique, you can hit reliably in very dim light with the sights that you use in
broad daylight.

When light becomes so poor that you can no longer identify your target you obviously may not shoot. At the very
narrow lower limit of shootable light certain kinds of illuminated or light-gathering sights can actually help, but this
is not a fair trade for the efficiency they usually lose in broad daylight. At such time as a really compact, really
reliable, coaxial laser beam pistol projector may be perfected, this will doubtless change.

If there is one thing that is most vital about pistolcraft it is concentration on the front sight. When the bugle sounds
the charge in your mind, you think FRONT SIGHT as your piece lines up.

Don’t think about your target; think about your front sight. Concentrate on it, and focus on it. In any action, live or
simulated, there is an overwhelming tendency to focus on your target. Surmount it! This is quite literally a matter of
life or death, and we demonstrate it convincingly to our students in the “fun house”.

A pistol is primarily a defensive instrument, for use in unexpected encounters with armed men at short range. It can,
however, be used quite efficiently to put meat on the table. To go hunting intentionally with a pistol is a somewhat
esoteric enterprise, probably beyond the interests of the survivalist.

However, the same handiness that makes the handgun the ideal device for instantaneous defensive reaction suits it
well to the sort of fleeting target of opportunity that may be encountered by anyone doing ordinary chores around a
retreat. The pistol rides on your belt as you cut wood or till the soil. The rifle at the house, or even in the truck, may
be out of reach when you spook a rabbit in your cabbages or a feral hog in your corn.

This aspect of the survivalist’s pistol opens the subject of glass sights for hunting handguns, since we mainly agree
that a scope is nearly always the best sight for a hunting rifle.

My personal view is that a telescope is definitely useful on a .22 pistol (rimfire, that is) but much less so on a
centerfire. On any sizable target your problem is not seeing it but holding and squeezing properly. At ranges at
which you need optical help you can’t hold well enough to hit reliably with a handgun- or at least I can’t. (I confess
that reading some of my gunwriting friends humbles me very much. “A” is dead certain on jackrabbits at 350. “B”
can hit 20 aspirin tablets with twenty shots at 100- every time. “C’s” wife can hit a golf ball ten straight at 200.
Marvelous! My competition record is pretty fair, but I guess I must have been competing against cripples.)

A telescope is much slower to use on a pistol than on a rifle, since its “light pencil” (the rearward extension of the
optical cylinder in which the pupil must be located in order to pick up the target image) is not locatable by the
tactile reference of a buttstock. You must hunt around a bit to get your eye into that light pencil, and in so doing
you may lose track of your target.

A rifle scope can be lightning quick -in skilled hands- but a pistol scope is basically slow. This is no great matter
with a .22, which is not intended to be a lifesaver, but it could be serious in a dual-purpose weapon. The Ruger .22
“Camp Gun” is essentially a substitute for a .22 rifle, justified by compactness and surrendering only minimal loss
of practical accuracy, but a scoped .44 Magnum is more of a stunt; over-specialized, expensive, clumsy, bulky, and
Letter from the Editor
We are sorry that Issue No. 3 is late but several of our editors have been out of the country and any issue that has
more than one piece by M.T. is bound to be tardy, he is such a slow writer. For greater production ease, future
numbers will be mailed in the middle of the month instead of the first.

We continue to receive letters about the AMT Hardballer, Detonics .45, Star PD, and other relatively new .45
pistols and we are now completing tests for an in-depth report. We strongly urge that you wait for that report before
you buy because some of these items are proving to be at least disappointing if not dangerous.

Several readers have inquired about the possibility of our offering the Bearcat B210 scanner as a monthly special
and, in fact, we had planned to do so, but the factory wholesale price of $249.50 quoted to us, although a substantial
saving over the retail list of $315, is no better than some mail order companies are now advertising.

Since we could save you no money over other sources, we decided not to make the offering. If you are interested in
buying a B210 -and it is one of the very best scanners available- check the ads in Shotgun News.

The recent 17% price increase imposed by the syndicate on rough (uncut) diamonds has prompted a spate of new
inquiries on the wisdom of investing in diamonds as a means of preserving wealth through the collapse. We are
preparing an article on the subject for PS Letter subscribers, but until it appears, we feel obligated to warn our
readers that buying diamonds for investment is a professional’s game, and the ​current crop of hastily introduced
newsletters on diamonds as well as the self-styled advisers (who also just happen to sell stones) should be
approached with great caution.

A “good” 1 ct. gem now costs from $1500 to $4000 and the latter could be the better buy, yet a $100 diamond from
a cutter in Belgium is often priced at $300 or more in the average retail store- quite a premium for the convenience
and permanence which fine gems can offer. There is a way to participate in the spectacular performance of
diamonds, but it takes more than casual knowledge. We will give you the information necessary within the next few

Arthur Burns is scheduled to leave the Federal Reserve Board in January and although I’ve never regarded him as a
true fiscal conservative he has been a distinct impediment to the unrestrained currency expansion that Carter wants.
With the economy broadening the base of its decline after the first of the year, you can expect the Administration to
crank up the printing presses to make up for lost time as soon as Burns’ restraining influence is out of the way.

We should begin to feel the renewed inflation pressure with a vengeance by late March or April. Expect some bank
failures of note by June.

Now is the time to get your economic house in order. By mid-year you may have more than your wallet to worry

Unless there are significant changes that I do not now foresee, I consider the economy and US currency to be on
borrowed time after August 1. I hope I am significantly premature, but I would be distinctly uneasy if the bulk of
my survival/retreat preparations were not completed by that time. ​Happy New Year, M ​ .T.
Water Preparedness
By Bill Pier

An acute need for a constant supply of potable water makes that a prime concern for all of us who consider the
realm of physical survival. You certainly have read any number of articles on the subject and you could be
depressed with the thought of reading one more. But you may find this article refreshingly different. I will touch on
basics only to lead you away from false security or to expose dangerous, prevalent myths. While some of the
information may make you uncomfortable, it is aimed at giving you concrete ideas for securing your water source.

In modern America, it is difficult to remember that all water is not potable- we are programmed to turn on the tap
and drink without a thought. Travelers to other countries, especially south of the border or in Asia, may be more
nearly aware of the dangers. But once home, the idea of impure water seems so remote that it is soon forgotten. A
survivalist must condition himself to realize that this ideal situation can quickly disappear in case of even a minor

The breakdown of water treatment, sanitation, and garbage collection will turn cities and even some small towns
into cesspools of pollution, typhoid, cholera, dysentery, and other water-borne diseases. In the country, although the
process will be slower, accumulation of trash, lack of honey dippers, loss of insect control, and the breakdown of
power and other services will eventually cause grave problems.

There are three occasions when you will find good water difficult to come by: 1) Outdoor Survival- where you may
be lost in the woods, have escaped from your home in the city on foot, or are driven from your retreat; 2)
Short-term Emergencies- these are minor, and sometimes not so minor, disruptions such as earthquakes, floods, or
localized riots, that last up to 30 days; 3) Long-term Emergencies -the killers- major war, breakdown of society,

Outdoor Survival

There is no use competing with the good material available from competent sources in this field. I suggest you
make sure you have in your library at least the following guides to wilderness survival: ​Outdoor Survival Skills,
Larry Olsen, BYU Press, Provo, UT

​ ichard Graves, Schocken Books, 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016; ​Skills for Taming
84602; ​Bush craft. R
the Wilds, B​ rad Angier, Simon & Schuster, 630 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10020. If you want more information in
this area, you should consider taking one of the quality in-the-field survival courses offered across the country.

Minor Emergencies

As grim as it may sound, this is the only type of emergency I can even consider you surviving if you insist on
staying in or near a major city. Even then, a disruption that would take 30 days to correct -that is, everything back
to pre-emergency conditions- would tend to be of such major proportions, that the resulting chaos would include
heavy looting, loss of major services, and probably temporary breakdown of police and fire protection. In that case,
your city home may become untenable. However, since many short-term emergencies are taking place, it is wise to
prepare your home for them, regardless of where it is.

Science tells us that we can get by with about a pint of water a day. While this may be true if you could spend the
whole emergency at home in bed, experience, such as the 1948 siege of Jerusalem, has shown that two gallons a
day is a more realistic minimum. I have never found a reasonable way to store a year’s supply of water in a city
home or apartment in a manner that would guarantee its safety.
Therefore, I suggest you concentrate on providing an absolute minimum water supply of one-week (15 gallons) per
person. A more appropriate amount would be a 30-day (60 gallons) supply, and it would be hard to see how you
could store too much water. You can do this best in NEW, clean five-gallon plastic buckets or 55-gallon plastic
drums, each with an airtight lid.

Please do not economize yourself to death (even if one major newsletter seemed to say it was OK) by using any old
plastic container that you find around the house. Many household products are deadly and it is almost impossible to
clean a petroleum-based product out of a plastic container. It could be even more dangerous to use such a container
when you have no idea of what was in it before.

Your water can be prepared for storage by adding either about ½ tablespoon of household bleach or tincture of
iodine (in tropical or lush semi tropical areas, it is better to use the iodine as chlorine has not proved as effective) to
each five gallons of storage.

Even after taking these precautions, let me remind you that all water that is used for drinking, cooking, or in any
way consumed -that includes brushing your teeth- should be run through a good water purifier, the use of which we
will consider later in the article. I have used water which has been prepared and stored by this method for seven
years. Although it tasted flat, it was free of fungus and visible bacterial growth.

While discussing the area of minor emergencies, I would like to correct two errors that are often repeated about
water preparedness. First is the instruction that in case of any emergency, “immediately fill bathtubs and sinks with
Now, this may be valid if you have the proper equipment to treat and purify water; it is counterproductive if you do
not. Often in a disaster such as earthquakes, tornadoes or bombings, the water mains are ruptured and the water is

Therefore, if you open a faucet in your home, you force this contamination into your domestic system and ruin the
40 to 50 gallons of good clean water that is always available. The best course is to immediately turn off the water at
the meter and turn it back on only after you are assured that the mains are secure.

The second error is to consider your swimming ​pool as anything but a secondary source. Depending on it as a
primary supply could be disastrous. Just as with water mains, swimming pools are prone to rupture. Before you say
“but my pool is above ground”, be warned that such pools also have been damaged by major quakes and storms.

Major Emergencies

No major emergency -that is one sufficiently prolonged to change our very life styles- would allow you more than a
lucky chance of surviving in or near a large city. Therefore, these suggestions are for those living in a small town
retreat. (See Mel Tappan’s article on retreats for a definition of the correct place for a retreat.)

Even if you live on a farm with its own water supply, it is possible that you could be cut off from any water other
than that which you have stored in or near your house. Therefore, it is important to prepare as outlined for a
short-term emergency. Sixty gallons of water per person provides a month’s protection and is a good minimum to
Next you must provide a reliable, INDEPENDENT water source. That does not mean just a well with an electric
pump, it means a water source that in no way depends on any power source that could be cut off and you have
maximum control over its continued availability. Year round artesian wells, springs, and larger streams and rivers
are of course excellent sources.

A hint here is to be sure they are really year round and not just winter and spring sources. Many people have
purchased land with running springs and streams in April and ended up with dry beds in August and September.

Also consider that small streams can be easily polluted or diverted if you do not control the headwaters. Does that
mean to ignore them? Of course not, just be aware of the problems.

One water source that is available to almost anyone with rural land is the well. Most farms have been supplied from
time onward by the simple method of getting it out of a hole in the ground. Modern technology has made it quite
easy, although expensive, to have any number of good wells dug on your land. I suggest that you have a minimum
of two wells; both should be deep enough to hit reliable, clean water.

Shallow wells are less expensive to dig, but can go dry under drought conditions. One well will be used for
everyday household needs and the other can either be capped or better yet equipped with a quality hand pump for
emergency use. This also protects against the consequences of a collapse of one well.

Now seems like the proper tune to talk a little about pumps. Obviously, for everyday use while electricity is
abundant, the electric pump is a good investment and is what I have on my own well. However, in a time of
emergency, the well can become useless unless you have a generator and a large quantity of fuel or a standby
manual pump.

There are many thoughts as to the wisdom of depending at all on a generator. My feelings are that they are a good
idea and I am purchasing one for my ranch. However, since the crisis may last longer than my fuel, I am also
planning to have a manual pump available to convert one of the wells to hand operation.

Some care must be made in selecting a hand pump. Problems occur when people buy pumps that are not compatible
with their wells. First, the pump may not have the fittings to hook onto existing casing, or second, the pump may be
incapable of lifting water from the depth of the well.

Either can make the pump useless if not discovered before it is needed, but can be eliminated by careful planning
now. Further information on quality hand pumps can be received from a nearby rural pump specialist or by mail
from Baker Mfg., Evansville, WI.

There are a number of other considerations that follow. Bringing water from the source to your living area,
irrigation for farming, using windmills for pumps, etc. But these are peripheral to our main concern of a secure
water source.

If you need information on these and other water related subjects, the following books are a good place to start: ​The
Complete and Illustrated First Time Farmer’s Guide, ​Bill Kaysing, Simon & Schuster; ​Mother Earth News
Handbook of Home-made Power. ​M.E.N., Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10019.

The next part of this series will deal with practical water purification methods and equipment for the survivalist.
If you took a cue from PS Letter No. 1 and acquired one of the now discontinued High Standard 10-B fighting
shotguns before they all disappeared from dealers’ shelves, you may be interested in enhancing its efficiency by
means of several recommended accessories and modifications before they too disappear.

First, you should order the specially adapted Kel-Lite flashlight designed to fit the mounting bracket of the 10-B.
When properly attached, the light casts its beam where a buckshot pattern will center at close range, and special
buffering springs protect the internal components -especially the bulb- from recoil damage.

Survival, Inc. has bought up the factory’s remaining supply of these heavy-duty lights with attached mounting
brackets, and since the gun is out of production, these are probably the last of the lights as well. If you want one,
order it from SI, 24206 Crenshaw Blvd., Torrance, CA 90505, $39.95 ppd.

Next, send ​your 10-B to Garth Choate (Box 218, Bald Knob, AR 72010) for a magazine extension which will
increase its capacity from five to eight rounds. All shotguns are slow and clumsy to reload, so I consider this a
necessary modification. Before you send your gun, however, make an appointment with Choate. They are usually
booked months ahead for this job.

Finally, Milt Sparks, the wizard leathersmith from Idaho (Box 7, Idaho City, ID 83631) has figured out a way to
mount a Cold Comfort ammo carrier on the 10B to supply nine extra rounds. A welt has been added to the basic
design for positive retention of the shells, since they should be inserted upside down so that they will be in proper
position for convenient reloading when the gun is inverted to expose the loading port. Price is $20.00 + 1.00
postage to PS Letter subscribers ONLY (Normally $25.00). M.T.