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Mel Tappan’s Personal Survival Letter # 11

Issue No. 11

Storing Fuel- The Right Way

by Bill Pier

Even before the current threat of a shortage, long-term storage of fuel has been a primary concern to serious
survivalists. As services break down, petroleum-based fuels will be among the first items to disappear. Combine
this with the expected loss of electrical power service and the unprepared will soon be faced with a myriad of
useless vehicles, tools, household appliances, water pumps, and other electrical and motorized scrap. To protect
yourself from this calamity, you must go to the trouble and expense of storing large quantities of a number of fuels
for long periods of time.

What kinds of fuel and how much to store will depend on your individual plans. Besides gasoline for the family car,
you will probably consider fuel for generators, kerosene for lamps and heaters, heating oil, and diesel for the
tractor. As in all your survival planning, that important question of how long the crisis will last is the measuring

If, like many of us, you see years of disruption you will need much more fuel than those who foolishly think that it
will only be an inconvenience of two or three months. In any case, with a time expectancy and the consumption
rates of your assorted fuel burners, you can calculate how many gallons of the individual fuels you will need.

Tanks for Storage

You basically have two choices when it comes to tanks for your fuel storage: metal or fiberglass. Metal tanks have
been used since day one for below and above ground storage of fuels.

They are durable, not easily punctured, and with proper wrapping and coating metal tanks will last 10 years or more
below ground. Above ground, they are still the most widely used for bulk storage. However, due to their
corrosion-free durability and ease of installation, fiberglass (also known as poly-glass) tanks are now used in over
80% of all new gas stations built. Fiberglass tanks have in-ground life expectancies of 30 years or more.

In checking prices and availability of tanks, I found that metal tanks are much more reasonable in sizes up to about
2000 gallons. After that fiberglass tends to become more economical. For instance, you can buy a good 12 gauge
metal tank for well under $200 while a like-size fiberglass tank will cost over $500. In tanks of larger sizes, the
basic costs grow much closer together and by the time you figure added transportation, installation, and
deterioration costs, the fiberglass tanks become the better buy.

To save shipping costs, it is best to buy your tanks close to home. For those who live in the country, your local
Grange Co-op is probably the best place to obtain metal tanks up to 1000 gallons. For those who do not have access
to a Grange, you will need to contact a local fuel distributor, not a gas station, for information about tank
availability. He is also the one you will need to see about large gas purchases so be very nice to him.
Fiberglass tanks are not always easy to find- the manufacturers do not seem to run ads in the yellow pages. If, after
asking all around, you cannot find a local dealer for fiberglass tanks, I have found a reliable source, Century
Fiberglass Inc., with a good distributor network and five plants across the United States. They can be reached by
calling 714-630-0012 or writing them at 1145 Red Gum Street, Anaheim, CA 90806, and asking for your nearest

Where to Put Your Tank

I feel that unless you expect to move a tank, all fuel storage should be below ground. Even those 500-gallon tanks
will do the job better if placed so the top of the tank is at least 4 feet below ground level. With your tank at that
level, you will never need to worry about high-end burn off, evaporation, or the constant expansion and contraction
of the fuel and tank.

If your property has a good slope, you might think about placing the tank up the hill and have the hose and nozzle
below the lowest point in the tank. Then you can remove your fuel through gravity flow without a need for any
pump. One important thing to remember if you choose this idea is that you will need to provide access for the
pumper to fill your tank.

If you must store your fuel above ground you need to protect it as much as possible from sun and heat. Some
methods are to paint the tanks silver, wrap them in insulation with a reflective silver exterior, or build a shelter
around the tanks on a maximum of three sides leaving space for airflow at top and bottom. Another point of
survival is not to have the above ground tanks near your house- can you imagine what a tracer round would do to a
500-gallon tank of gasoline that was backed up against your house, garage, or barn?

Installing Underground Tanks

As Rick Fines points out in his article, it can be a real disaster to have one of your carefully-planned fuel tanks leak.
The resulting loss through contamination or seepage cannot be replaced during an emergency. Therefore much care
should be taken when installing underground tanks- even 55-gallon drums.

No matter which type of tanks you are going to use, the first thing you need to do is check the integrity of the tank.
Just because a tank is new does not mean it does not leak.

Tanks are made, handled, and shipped by human beings and they do make mistakes. A small leak can be easily
fixed while the tank is still above ground, but can be almost impossible to fix if the tank is buried and full of 6000
gallons of gas. There are two good ways to check for leaks. First, you can just fill tank with water and look for
leaks- this works fine for small tanks, up to 500 gallons, but it is not practical for large tanks.

After the tank is checked out be sure to allow it to thoroughly dry before refilling with fuel. For checking larger
tanks you need a pressure gauge and a pump. You test the tank by filling to 5 psi with the pump and then watching
the gauge for a couple of hours to see that it does not go down.

If the pressure drops you have a leak somewhere and you better fix it before going any further. Tanks over 2000
gallons should be pressure checked after they are properly positioned in their hole but before backfilling as noted
If your tank is metal, the next step is messy but necessary. You will want to wrap your tank with a well-tarred
protective wrapper. This can usually be obtained from the supplier of your tank.

If they cannot help, my next suggestion is to call your local natural gas company and ask their installation
department where they obtain their supplies for wrapping their pipes. Be sure to cover all your tank- an uncovered
area courts corrosion and electrolysis which will greatly shorten tank life.

Some people think that all it takes to install tanks underground is a backhoe to dig the hole and a dozer to push the
dirt back in. According to professional tank installers, however, there is really a better way to go. The hole should
be five feet deeper, two feet wider and two feet longer than the maximum outside dimensions of your tank.

A 12” bed of ¼” pea gravel is placed in the bottom of the hole and the tank is carefully lowered in. Position and
level the tank and then shovel pea gravel under the curves or ribs of the tank to provide firm support.

Layers of pea gravel 12” to 18” deep are then added and tamped down -be sure not to use a metal tamping rod if
you are installing fiberglass tanks- until you are within 12” of final grade. Finish with ¼” crushed stone and a final
layer of soil to complete installation.

With your tanks so installed you will be able to run heavy equipment across the tanks, have no worry about ground
shift damage, and know that since there is no contact with the soil even a metal tank will last longer. One point I
think is self-evident but could be embarrassing if forgotten is that all fittings should be installed and tested before
the tank is completely buried.

I do not have room in this article to talk about correct installation of fittings, types of hoses, nozzles, and filters to
be used. Your tank supplier or fuel supplier should be able to help you with these items. One thing I will mention is
to avoid any copper pipe or fittings anywhere in your fuel installation.

Copper contamination is one of the major problems in fuel storage and unless your fuel is treated with some metal
deactivator such as Ethyl Corporation’s MDA-series additive you could ruin your stored fuel by exposure to copper
pipes and fittings. MDA additive is available from Ethyl Corporation in 5-gallon containers -enough to do 150,000
gallons of gasoline- or in smaller quantities as one of the ingredients of Gas Saver from SI.

A last survival note on equipment is to be sure you have an extra hand-operated pump available or at least the parts
to rebuild your pump. I would hate to see you digging down and cutting a hole in your tank so you could bucket the
fuel out because your pump broke down.

Problems of Fuel in Storage

Without going into all the details that I have researched out through my talks with oil people and reading test
reports, please take my word that, except for kerosene, none of the basic fuels store well for long periods of time.

Fuel oil, diesel, jet fuels, all grades of auto gasoline, and aviation gas are subject to one or more of the following
problems: formation of gums, formation of peroxides, high end burn off, and decomposition of antiknock
compounds. The more exotic the fuel, the quicker the deterioration- and heat is the greatest catalyst for accelerating
the process.
The formation of gum in fuel reduces performance, but more importantly, plugs up filters and carburetors- and if
the gums are heavy enough actually damages pistons, valves, and spark plugs. The formation of peroxides, while
not as noticeable -that is, they do not clog up the works-, are more damaging to engine efficiency and life and
cannot be filtered out. High-end burn off is the loss of the butane added to gasoline to make starting easier and in
some cases even possible. Anti-knock decomposition is usually only important in higher grades of gasoline.

Luckily for the survivalist, all these problems can be solved. The high-end burn off is eliminated by proper
underground storage or through the use of a high-quality and unfortunately expensive vapor recovery system. The
other three problems can be retarded through the use of an antioxidant consisting of mixed-butylphenols. The one
that I am most familiar with comes from the Ethyl Corporation and is called 733.

When added to stored fuels at the rate of 1 ounce for each 100 gallons of stored fuel, 733 will greatly reduce gum
and peroxide formation and retard decomposition of anti-knock compounds. In underground storage this means that
auto gasoline will store from three to five years and No. 2 Diesel will store four to seven years.

Another good property of 733 is that it will store indefinitely when kept in an airtight container. A call to any of
Ethyl Corporation’s eleven offices across the nation will get you information brochures and information on where
to buy 733 in 55-gallon drums.

Some Other Thoughts and Suggestions

I have enjoyed researching this article. Along the way I have found some interesting facts that might be of help to
our subscribers.

1. If possible, buy your gasoline for storage in the winter months. During the winter, oil companies add extra butane
to their gasolines for easier starts. During the summer months, they are required by some states -California being
the toughest- to limit the amount of butane added to keep down the air pollution. By buying during the winter
months you will have more high-end to lose and still be able to start your vehicles.

2. Most fuel distributors know nothing about storage of gasoline for long periods of time. All fuels are
manufactured to be bought and used in two to six months. Oil companies add just enough antioxidants and metal
deactivators to keep their fuel stable for about one year.

They do not consider that someone would want to store it for five years. I receive many calls from customers who
are asking about Gas Saver and mention that their fuel suppliers know nothing about a fuel additive that adds
storage life.

3. Finding someone to sell you fuel in large quantities may be hard. With distributors cutting back to their regular
customers, you will probably have to look around for one who is willing even can take on a new customer.

However, some are willing to work around the restrictions by noting on their books that they are selling it to some
station that has either gone out of business or has greatly reduced their business, and really selling it to you.

4. Fuel storage is a good investment. In the last year fuel prices have gone up over 30% and, according to even the
government, the end is not in sight. Therefore, if you put your money into fuel now, you will not only protect
yourself for the future, but make more on your investment than if you had in a bank or even perhaps in gold.
Choosing a “Survival Rifle”
by Jeff Cooper

The proper selection of firearms for a hideaway or retreat must be influenced by considerations which are as much
subjective as otherwise. Many who feel that they can avoid a problem by moving away from it will not be inclined
to think about weapons at all. On the other hand, reality would indicate that a person living apart from others ought
to have some means of making his will effective in the face of superior numbers of intruders, should they happen
upon him. This means firearms.

In earlier ages three men had the measure of one, regardless of equipment, but today a good man -well-instructed
and well-equipped- can cast a much larger shadow than formerly. Firearms, once thought to be the essential
equalizer, are now felt to be “elitist” by those who do not wish to take the trouble to understand them. However that
may be, a man alone is justified in feeling safer if he is properly armed.

The educated consensus seems to be that under circumstances of isolated defense, nothing quite matches the
shotgun. Certainly, if one were suddenly to find his farmyard filled with hostile and unsanitary goblins, a shotgun
would be a great comfort. But the question we are addressing now is whether or not the rifle has a proper place in
this hypothetical situation. The shotgun certainly has power. The pistol has convenience and speed. The rifle, on the
other hand, has reach. The question is whether or not reach is of essential value to the survivalist.

Generally speaking, personal defense is a short-range proposition. The farther your assailant is from you, the less
dangerous he is- most of the time. Most of the time, the only person you need fear is one who is quite close to you,
and under those circumstances the reaching power of the rifle would seem superfluous. However, without going
into excessive detail, we can postulate situations in which an isolated homeowner might have legal and moral
reason to keep his visitors quite some distance away from his household. If the situation is really serious, his answer
to this will have to be a rifle.

The study of rifles is excessively complicated. I have been endeavoring to set up a satisfactory curriculum in
general rifle marksmanship for over a year now and I am not yet satisfied at the present result. One can teach
addition, or subtraction, or algebra, or geometry, or calculus, but a course in general mathematics compressed into
one semester is another matter. Similarly one could teach rifle construction, or caliber designation, or telescope
sights, or firing positions, without too much trouble, but to teach “the rifle” is a large order.

However, the “survivalist” is presumed not to be a hobbyist or a specialist. He is not expected to be a target
competitor nor a sport hunter. We think of him as a person who is not predominantly interested in weaponry, but
feels that he should have the right equipment for a generalized problem. If this is true we can avoid a certain
amount of esoterica and get to fundamentals.

Let us start with the .22. I think it likely that the .22 rimfire rifle is probably the most useful firearm that the
survivalist will find. It is simple, easy to use, readily available, and uses ammunition that can be stored in vast
quantities without great expense. It will do a great number of things and it is especially useful in bringing down
small animals for the pot.

Additionally, it can account for very large animals upon occasion, and it will serve its turn as a personal defense
weapon, if skillfully used, in emergencies. Many qualified people might claim that one needs no more than a .22 if
survival is his principle objective. On the other hand, the .22 begins to look feeble as the winds rise and the wolves
howl. As civilization falters and hazards increase, we will very likely wish for something more.
The centerfire rifle is an impressive instrument- in its good examples. In this age of electronics, jet power, and
weapons of mass destruction, the potential of the rifle has been largely forgotten. Yet it is easy to take a novice out
to the field and show him in a very short time that a good rifle, in good hands, is a formidable weapon indeed. A
good centerfire rifle will drop a horse with one shot, smash an engine block, bring down an airplane, and drop a
human adversary at any distance at which you can see him clearly. It won’t do these things by itself, but properly
used it will do them, and more.

A good rifleman -properly situated and properly motivated- is an insurmountable problem for anything short of a
rifle company. As to that, I know of one rifle company that was stopped cold for two hours by one rifleman, and
those who know the apocryphal tale ​Brown on Resolution will recall that case in which one lone man with a rifle
halted repairs on a cruiser and thus won a naval campaign. Much as we may dislike the thought of ultimate social
confrontation, the rifle is there and it will do the job if it is fully understood.

For purposes of this discussion, I will categorize the centerfire rifle four ways. This is just one of many systems but
it will serve in reference to the matter of survival. Let us call centerfire rifles (a) sporting rifles, (b) battle rifles, (c)
assault rifles (Sturmgewehre), and (d) carbines.

The sporting rifle is the queen of weapons- in its best examples. A sporter is conceived as a hunting instrument,
intended to bring down game animals of various sizes, at various ranges, in the hands of a sportsman who is
sufficiently instructed to use it properly. A good sporting rifle is a lovely thing, and those of us who have used one
for long tend to regard it as the ultimate personal weapon. It is handy, convenient, accurate, and powerful. Its
intended quarry is the deer, the moose, the antelope, or the lion. However, in the face of human enemies it does not
lose its value. “Sporting rifle” and “hunting rifle” are terms which are generally interchangeable.

Whatever the designation, however, such a piece is not intended as a defense instrument, but rather something a
man picks up when his intention is to initiate hostilities. On the other hand, one can envision situations in which
strategic defense may best be implemented by tactical offense. This might be especially true in a case of a rural
individual who found himself beset by a group of intruders.

Obviously no one man nor his family can stand against a large, well-armed, and determined military force. If big
brother is coming after you with the army, it hardly matters what sort of defense weapon you choose. But, if a small
group of hoods -sufficient, say, to occupy one automobile or pick-up truck- offers aggression to a rancher, he may
very well be able to put a stop to their activities all by himself.

For this reason, my choice tends to drift back to the sporting rifle when I think of a proper weapon with which to
maintain order in a rural setting. Its ease of handling and “practical accuracy” surpass most of the battle rifles or
assault guns that we might otherwise choose.

About the only shortcoming of the sporting rifle as a ranch defense piece is its limited continuity of fire. The trend
toward very large cartridges has brought with it a corresponding decrease in the average capacity of sporting rifle

Many are now limited to four rounds, and some to three. This is not an overwhelming drawback, but it is annoying
to realize that one may have to keep stuffing new rounds into the breech if a multiple target problem presents itself.
Here at Gunsite we are currently experimenting with the adaptation of the 20-round M-14 magazine to the
Argentine Mauser action. If this marriage can be consummated, the result may be a very attractive item. Quickly
replaceable 10- or 20-round magazines turn the bolt-action sporting rifle into a more powerful instrument for the
personal solution of long-distance problems.

Almost any reasonably robust centerfire cartridge, from 6mm on up, will do nicely for the survival rifle. My own
choice is the .308 (7.62mm NATO) cartridge. This is not because it has any particular magic but it is ​there and it is
thoroughly understood. It is widely obtainable and it is easy to reload with a good assortment of .30 caliber bullets.
It is certainly not better than the great .30-06 or .270, but it is more commonly encountered and can be used in a
greater variety of actions. It will most certainly suffice for any social problem which may arise.

Generally speaking, I stay away from (1) the miniature cartridges (.222, .223, etc.), (2) the slow-coach cartridges
(.30-30, .45-70, etc.), and (3) the magnums, with their very large belted cases. The high-velocity, high-pressure,
hard-kicking magnums will do nothing for you (in a social context) that a .308 won’t, and they are more difficult to
manage, reduce magazine capacity, and increase necessary action length. The injunctions are not serious, however.
If I had to protect myself with a M-94 Winchester, I could probably do it almost as well as I could with more
sophisticated machinery.

The generality of today’s sporting rifles and their inception is the battle rifles of yesterday. The great battle rifles at
the turn of the century were the Mauser, the Krag, the Springfield, and the various approximations on this same
order. They were used throughout the world at a time at which individual soldiers were considered to be the
decisive employers of lethal force in the world’s armies. The Boer War was probably the high-water mark of the
battle rifle, and in it individual soldiers and groups conducted personal actions against enemy formations which
were decisive.

Several unfortunate British units were stacked up much like cordwood by the Mauser rifles of the South Africans.
These were bolt-action, five-shot, magazine rifles capable of delivering a lethal blow as far away as a man can
clearly be seen. When used in the mass and fired by formations, they could deliver effective punishment at
enormous distances.

That’s the reason for those amazing sights that you may still see on such pieces, graduated to as far as 3000 meters.
It was never intended that an individual soldier could hit an individual antagonist at any such distance, but a rifle
company, deployed upon a hill and firing at the direction of a senior NCO, could place a great deal of fire on a
patch the size of a tennis court- way out at the end of the landscape.

These Mauser rifles and their descendants became modified into the sporting rifles of the 20’s, and they are still
with us in this form. The great change in battle rifles to take place in the 20th century was the shift from
manually-operated repeating rifles to semi-automatic (or “self-loading”) machines.

The first and greatest of these was the illustrious US M1 rifle (Garand). While it is probably true that the battles of
World War II were not decided by the presence of this mighty instrument, it was there to be used should the
occasion arise. A truly outstanding arm, it has not been surpassed since.

In modern armies, the major element of force is supplied by supporting weapons such as artillery, air, armor, and
the like. The individual soldier is no longer expected to do a great deal of killing, but rather to locate the enemy and
call for support. This means that, in general, modern military rifles are not perhaps as suitable for the individual
householder defending himself against intruders as they are for armies, whose main power is the result of electronic
The soldier, when beset, can call for an airstrike, mortars, tanks, or shellfire. The householder has no such reserve,
but must handle his problem himself. Therefore, the instrument best suited for him is very likely not the standard
issue weapon of the modern soldier.

The new generation of Sturmgewehre are in general clumsy, heavy, difficult to control, and equipped with bad
sights and bad triggers. In their military guise, they nearly all sport the full-automatic option- which is probably a
mistake. Those which are available to the householder will not, in the US, include the full-auto feature, but this
makes very little difference in the overall usefulness of the arm.

When students enroll for rifle instruction with a modern assault gun, such as the FN, the SIG, or the G3, I am
usually prepared for less achievement than if they had showed up with a sporting rifle. Those who report with an
“intermediate battle rifle”, such as the Ml, the MlA, or the BM59, will generally do better, but the people who ring
the bell usually use a sporter.

We have made no mention up to now of the matter of personal skill. Clearly, a good shot occupies a tactical niche
different from that of a duffer. A superb rifle shot, armed with a suitable weapon and a modest supply of
ammunition, is a very serious obstacle to anyone who wishes him harm. On the other hand, a dozen or so fumblers
will not be able to do very much in their own interest, no matter what weapons they carry. Any shot is most
effective when it hits.

While it is true that people can be scared, bullets arriving in one’s vicinity are not nearly as impressive as bullets
which strike a man down every time they land. The rifle naturally shows off best in the hands of an expert
marksman. Its essential advantages drop off quickly as the skill level decreases. The overwhelming differential in
the case of one man alone remains what it always has been- skill.

A number of “carbines” are evident throughout the world today and one might well ask if they have a valid position
in the arsenal of a person seeking personal defense in an isolated area. A carbine may be defined as a sort of “junior
rifle”. It is always smaller and shorter than the normal rifle and in many cases it takes a less powerful cartridge. It
is important to note this distinction because where the size of the weapon is reduced without reducing its power to
any important extent, its usefulness remains more or less the same, depending upon the somewhat greater skill
necessary to handle it well.

If, on the other hand, the power of the weapon is reduced along with its size, its potential in a strife situation is
naturally decreased. A carbine taking the .308 cartridge is only slightly less efficient than a rifle for the same round,
but the various .223’s and reduced-capacity .30 caliber carbines we see around serve primarily to give a false sense
of security to those who carry them.

In my own opinion the low-power carbine is essentially a defense instrument for a housewife who is not primarily a
combatant. For a woman alone to find her front yard suddenly inhabited by a bunch of unsavory characters bent on
mischief is a frightening experience.

It is considerably less frightening if she has within easy reach a small, handy carbine, preferably semi-automatic
and preferably holding a large supply of ammunition. Any shooting that occurs will be simple in the technical
sense, but the volume of fire necessary may be large. For this reason I think that the .30 US carbine, as well as the
various semi-automatic rifles taking the modern .223 cartridge are at their best as “ranch defense guns”.
I conclude that probably the best choice for the individual protecting himself alone in a remote area remains a fairly
conservative bolt-action rifle in .308 or similar caliber mounted with a proper optical sight and tuned and sighted to
the taste of the individual owner. A man armed with such a piece and determined to assert his rights cannot be
approached without his permission- except by a tank. And the penalty for ignoring his instructions may very well
be terminal.

The rapid-fire, high capacity, semi-automatic rifle will also serve, but it will ordinarily be the second choice of a
man who understands weaponry. If several people are involved in the problem, a diversification might improve
matters by providing volume of fire in one defensive zone and precision fire in another.

I do not think that the semi-automatic rifle offers decisive tactical superiority over the bolt-action if the marksman
knows how to operate the bolt. I do however feel that a large magazine capacity might be a great comfort. Few
bolt-action rifles of today afford such a luxury. A man well-trained on a military bolt-action rifle is delighted to be
issued a self-loader, not because of the rapidity of fire it affords, but because of its continuity of fire.

As to “accuracy”, almost any serviceable rifle will shoot better than the man behind it. This does not mean that we
do not look for accuracy in our weapons and ammunition, because every little advantage we may be able to achieve
will be a help; but it does mean that we should not make major decisions based upon very minor useful increments
of accuracy. A good sporting rifle may or may not be more accurate, intrinsically, than its military counterpart, but
it will almost certainly be easier to use and thus afford more practical accuracy to the shooter.

In such discussions as this, I return to my daughter’s haughty dictum, “Daddy, if I can see it, I can hit it.” With a
good shot, using a good rifle, this is almost literally true. Consequently, a good rifle –well-tuned and sighted- may
certainly be considered an essential to a survival situation, but only as long as the individual concerned has the
necessary talent in its use. The combination might make all the difference.

The Management of Snakebite under Long-Term Survival Conditions

By Mel Tappan

Of the serious medical emergencies likely to occur under survival conditions at the retreat, quite a few will be
beyond the capabilities of even the most skilled layman: heart attack, stroke (CVA), many degenerative diseases,
and most surgical procedures. At least two potentially life-threatening occurrences which are apt to be common
under survival conditions, however, can be managed successfully more often than not by a well-trained and
well-equipped survivalist: poisoning and snakebite.

In PS Letters No. 4 and 5, we discussed at some length the procedures for dealing with the ingestion of toxic
substances and, fortunately, those techniques can be applied almost as well at the retreat ass they can in a hospital
emergency room. Unfortunately, the methods for dealing with snakebite are neither as simple nor as clear-cut, but
they can be learned if there is sufficient motivation.
There are two problems involved. First, laymen are normally only exposed to first-aid measures- they are only told
what to do while transporting the victim to professional medical care. That is certainly proper so long as such
medical care is available, but when it is not, the treatment recommended may prove inadequate.

(I would like to emphasize at this point that the information contained in this article is only meant to be applied
when competent medical care is completely unavailable for an extended period of time, and should never be
attempted by an unqualified person when there is a more viable alternative.) Second, there is little consensus
among authorities regarding the most successful therapy.

Before considering specific methods of treatment, perhaps we should first inquire into the reasons why snakebite is
likely to be a common medical emergency after the collapse. Presently there are only about 7,000 poisonous
snakebite in the United States annually, and only about one dozen of these result in fatality- although quite a few
more involve amputation. On that basis the incidence and risk appear minimal. In Central and South America
however, the bite-rate and the death rate almost coincide, and in Asia there are more than 40,000 deaths from
snakebite annually.

These figures do not indicate that snakes in those regions are more aggressive or more lethal, but rather that more
people work longer hours in the fields close to snakes and they have little access to medical facilities- both of which
circumstances are likely to occur in this country in the aftermath of a holocaust.

Further, although we only have four poisonous snakes in the US: the rattlesnake, the cottonmouth, the copperhead,
and the coral; there are 30 species and 67 subspecies of the rattlesnake alone, and one or more of the poisonous
varieties inhabits virtually every area of the country.

All except the coral are “pit vipers” which share three notable characteristics: 1. vertically split pupils similar to the
eye of a cat, 2. flat heads wider than the neck, 3. heat sensitive “pits” located between each eye and nostril. The
coral greatly resembles the harmless king snake except that its snout is always black and its yellow rings always
separate the black and red ones. (A popular jingle in coral snake country is “Red next to yellow can kill a fellow”.)
The appearance of all poisonous snakes in your region should be learned carefully so that if you are ever bitten you
will be able to determine the kind of snake involved.

That could be a particularly important factor in treatment since the venom of some snakes works on the blood
(hemotoxic), others work on the nervous system (neurotoxic) and one, that of the eastern diamondback, is an
especially potent combination of both.

Incidentally, the same eastern diamondback is far and away the most dangerous of all the poisonous snakes in the
United States. It is diurnal-active both day and night-, its venom is particularly virulent, and it is likely to inject as
much as 500 to 1,000 milligrams of its poison into your system compared with only one to 50 milligrams of poison
from the others.

Also, the eastern diamondback venom is three times as deadly as that of the western diamondback. The eastern
viper is also a fairly aggressive snake, and capable of striking even during the winter months when its indicated
internal temperature is below freezing.
The western diamondback is somewhat more aggressive but its bite is considerably less dangerous. The
cottonmouth may be the likeliest of all our poisonous snakes to strike. It tends to hold its ground even when
attacked and it moves holding its head and the upper part of its body at a 45-degree angle to the earth, giving it very
rapid striking capability. It is also fond of water and a strong swimmer. It can, and frequently does, strike while
fully submerged.

The coral snake is certainly the least aggressive of our poisonous species and will normally retreat if given the
opportunity. In fact, it seldom bites unless intentionally harassed, startled, or cornered. Unlike the other three
poisonous varieties, the coral has short, fixed fangs and injects its venom with a chewing motion.

The bite itself is often not visible to the naked eye and approximately 50% of the coral’s bites are fatal if untreated.
Symptoms from coral bites often do not appear until it is too late to commence successful therapy.

Currently, the greatest likelihood of poisonous snakebite occurs between the months of April and October, peaking
in July and August. Statistically, most bites occur between 9AM and 9PM, especially between the hours of 3PM
and 6PM. Twenty percent of the bites occur in the victim’s own yard, 8% on the farm or ranch and 8% near water.

As is the case with most medical emergencies, the best treatment for snakebite is prevention, and there are a
number of things one can do to help avoid the problem. Since most poisonous snakebites occur on the foot and
ankle or else on the hands, especially near the thumb and index finger, it makes sense to give these areas some
protection in snake country.

Snake-proof boots and leggings such as the Bottes Sauvage and other models offered by Gokeys (84 S. Wabasha
St., St. Paul, MN 55107, telephone: (612) 292-3911) are good insurance, and heavy leather gloves may offer some
protection to the hands.

Even more important, of course, is your own awareness. You must learn to watch where you step, and it’s a good
idea to beat the ground ahead of you with a stick as you move. Never reach where you cannot see.

Especially, do not put your hands into holes, or crevices, or on rocks above eye level. Many poisonous varieties are
active at night and for that reason, if not for others, you should always carry a flashlight whenever you are out of
doors after sundown.

When you are on the water, keep away from brush near the shore and other areas of poor visibility. Always keep
your face away from places likely to contain snakes. Poisonous snakebites on the face, head, and in the groin are
extremely difficult to treat successfully.

Lack of awareness and going barefoot are undoubtedly the two leading factors in becoming a snakebite victim.
Ignorance, however, is probably in third place. Bear in mind that many of the old wive’s tales about snakes simply
are not true. Rattlesnakes, for example, seldom rattle before they strike, most poisonous snakes can strike without
first being coiled, and any given snake may not retreat when you advance.

Statistically, at present, the worst snakebite rates in the United States are in North Carolina, Arkansas, Texas,
Georgia, Florida, and Alabama. The worst death rates occur in Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina,
and Texas.
Methods of Treatment

Hollywood and the television industry deserve a great deal of credit for the pervasive misinformation about dealing
with snakebite. In the screen epics, pioneers, Indian fighters, and mountain men all usually employ the same basic
approach: take a long pull at the conveniently provided pint of whiskey (after spitting out the cork), strip off your
belt and cinch it tightly above the wound as a tourniquet, pour a little whiskey on the knife blade and wound, make
a couple of deep cuts into the fang marks, suck out a few mouthfuls of blood, rinse the mouth with whiskey, and
take another long pull, pour a little more on the wound, and wrap it with a dirty bandanna, finally pulling the knot
tight with your teeth.

The belt tourniquet, apparently, was then left in place indefinitely and the pint was finished before resuming the
day’s normal activities. In real life, if you didn’t die from that procedure, you would almost certainly be a candidate
for amputation.

Thirty-odd years ago when I was a Boy Scout, the prescribed technique was a tourniquet, released every 15
minutes, placed between the bite and the heart, an “X” cut ¼” deep into each fang mark, followed by suction with
whatever means was available. Giving tea as a stimulant was acceptable and transport of the victim to a medical
facility was imperative.

Somewhere along the line it was discovered that the risk to major blood vessels and muscle groups from the deep
“X” cut was substantial and the instructions changed, recommending a single cut parallel to the major vessels, 1/8”
deep, connecting the two fang marks. Everything else remained the same.

A few years ago the first-aid in vogue required cooling the bite and a wide area surrounding it with cold water, ice,
or a chemical cold pack and immediate transport of the victim to a medical facility. This approach was based on the
fact that heat normally accelerates and cold normally retards chemical reactions.

The increased necessity for amputations in cases employing this technique led to the discovery that chilling a
snake-bitten area actually augments, instead of slowing, the action of snake venom and it often causes gangrene to
develop, particularly in the extremities. Similarly, the tourniquet was discarded when it was discovered that
loosening it in the prescribed manner frequently caused shock, and applying it too tightly, as laymen almost always
do, led to gangrene and amputation.

In 1978, the National Academy of Sciences met to consider various alternative measures of first-aid to snakebite
victims. The approach which they adopted is now available from the American Red Cross; however, it is simply
first-aid, presupposing the availability within a reasonable period of time (about two hours) of professional medical

Whatever the viability of the Academy’s solution, it does not solve the problem in those circumstances
contemplated by survivalists. A recent technique developed by the University of Texas Medical Branch, Division of
Plastic Surgery, however, may do just that.

Until a paper describing the procedure appeared in the ​Annals of Surgery​, Volume 179, No. 5, May, 1974 (available
as a reprint from the University of Texas Medical Branch, Division of Plastic Surgery, Galveston, Texas 77550),
the predominate hospital therapy for poisonous snakebite centered around the use of polyvalent antivenin, together
with certain other supportive techniques based on a battery of laboratory studies which include prothrombin time,
partial thromboplastin time, serum fibrinogen level, and platelet count.
The problem with this approach for survivalists is twofold. First, antivenin has to be refrigerated and it has an
extremely short shelf life. Secondly, there is an extremely high incidence of allergic reaction (approaching 50%)
and it is a dangerous therapy even under hospital conditions.

Few medical facilities will administer the antivenin without a test for allergic reaction and the test itself has been
shown to sensitize many patients. The risk of anaphylactic shock and consequent death from the serum is

It is certainly not the procedure of choice for the layman, especially in view of the fact that many victims of
snakebite have not even been envenomated for a variety of reasons: the snake was a non-poisonous variety, the
strike was not synchronized with the ejection of venom, the envenomation was minimal or diluted.

Although there are a number of symptoms which may accompany potentially serious poisonous snakebite, such as
nausea, giddiness, and vomiting, none is even relatively constant, with the possible exception of pain in the bite
area, and even that is not conclusive.

The researchers at the University of Texas, however, noted two significant factors. First, the envenomated
subcutaneous tissue becomes hemorrhagic and visually discolored. Second, the bulk of deposited venom remains in
the area of the bite and a mechanical removal of the tissue containing the injected venom, within a reasonable
length of time, can aid in eliminating the venomous toxicity. Their procedure is relatively simple, although it will
require the development of some basic surgical skills.

A flap of skin encircling the wound approximately one inch from the fang marks is lifted and all of the hemorrhagic
tissue -easily visible beneath- is excised (cut out) or curetted (scraped out). If this approach can be accomplished
within an hour of envenomation, usually no further treatment is required, except suturing the skin flap, in order to
deal with the toxic substance injected into the body.

Because of the considerable risk of infection involved in any snakebite, poisonous or otherwise, a broad spectrum
antibiotic is also usually administered. Where available, treatment for tetanus should be considered, as it would be
in the case of any deep puncture wound.

Simple as this technique sounds, it will require the mastery of several skills for those of us who are not physicians.
Nevertheless, I believe that any properly motivated survivalist with average intelligence and motor abilities can
learn to perform these procedures, given proper instructions.

To that end, I highly recommend to you a slender volume by Thomas F. Nealon, Jr., M.D. called ​Fundamental
Skills in Surgery​, second edition, published by W.B. Saunders, Co., Philadelphia. (As we go to press, I have
discovered that a newly revised edition has just been released.)

This little book is used by medical students throughout the country as an adjunct to their basic courses in surgery. It
is written simply in plain language and it begins with a discussion of basic surgical instruments, progresses to such
fundamentals as scrubbing up, how to suture a wound, making an incision, and the like, right on up to more
complicated thoracic and abdominal surgery. I consider it an indispensable part of a survivalist’s medical library.

I have neither the competence nor the space here to discuss the recommended management procedure in detail;
however, I would like to suggest some priorities and a medical kit designed for the field management of poisonous
snakebite under survival conditions.
First, either kill or get away from the snake because it can continue to inflict serious wounds. If you have a gun
available, use it in preference to a stick or a rock because doing so requires less exertion and also because it is more
certain. I have seen several snakes “return to life” after supposedly being beaten to death.

Next, sit down, if possible, with a back support such as a tree or a large rock, then apply a wide constrictive band
(not a tourniquet) between the wound and your heart. You should be able to slip your index finger inside the band
easily.) Do not release the band for at least one hour, unless there is a notable reduction in swelling, because of the
possibility of inducing shock.

Under no circumstances apply any cooling to the wound area and ingest no stimulants such as tea or coffee and no
depressants such as alcohol. Also, do not tamper with the blood sugar level by eating sugar or candy bars. Scrub the
wound area thoroughly, preferably with an antiseptic detergent such as Hibiclens, Phisoderm, or the like.

Alcohol, Zephiran, iodine, or Betadine will do if that’s all you have. Irrigate the wound area with sterile saline
solution, if available, apply local anesthetic such as xylocaine or lidocaine by subcutaneous injection (2 or 3 cc. is
enough) around the wound. Using a number 15 scalpel, make a shallow incision about the size of a silver dollar
around the fang marks, always keeping a distance of at least one-centimeter from the wound.

Then with tissue forceps lift the skin flap. The envenomated area beneath the skin will be clearly visible and
delineated. Depending upon your skill, either excise or curette all of the hemorrhagic, discolored tissue including
muscle tissue but excluding blood vessels.

Again, flood the area with sterile saline solution. Replace the skin flap and suture in place. Silk suture is the easiest
for laymen to work with; however, nylon is less likely to cause infection and other secondary medical problems.
Except on the face, 30 will probably be your best bet.

Unless you are more skillful than I am, a curved cutting needle held in a needle holder will produce the best results.
Suture from the skin flap to the surrounding skin area. If you are inexperienced, use only a surgeon’s knot to tie off
the suture. Again flood the area with sterile saline solution and cleanse with an antiseptic solution. Bind the wound
as recommended in ​Fundamental Skills in Surgery.​

Remember that snake fangs are likely to carry into the wound serious infection. You should, therefore, administer a
broad spectrum antibiotic. If you are not sensitive to penicillin, oral ampicillin might be a good choice, otherwise
consider vibraramycin, which is a good all-round choice for survivalists because of its shelf life and the fact that it
need be taken only once a day instead of three or four times as similar drugs must be.

If you opt for tetracyclines, remember that they are ineffective in the presence of most dairy products so avoid milk,
cheese, and similar dietary items while taking them, as well as calcium dietary supplements.

In normal times, skilled medical professionals have several alternatives available to them in the management of
poisonous snakebite and I would certainly not presume to argue with their judgments. Under survival conditions,
however, the technique outlined above seems the most viable as given in full detail in the medical journal article to
which I have referred.

For my own purposes, I intend to be prepared to employ this procedure and I have made up a small medical kit for
that specific purpose. It is housed in an L.L. Bean (Freeport, ME 04033, telephone (207) 865-3111) belt pack and it
includes the following:
A. One 4-oz. bottle (plastic) Hibiclens (Stewart Pharmacy) for cleansing wound site.
B. 2 ounces 1 to 2% solution xylocaine (lidocaine) local anesthetic.
C. Two 3cc. syringes (sterile) with No. 25 needles for administering anesthetic.
D. One 500cc. plastic bag (sterile) saline irrigation solution.
E. Two pair sterile surgical gloves (disposable).
F. One No. 3 scalpel handle and two No. 15 sterile scalpel blades (disposable).
G. One dozen 3x3 sterile sponges (gauze pads).
H. Three packages each 30 and 50 nylon suture with attached curved cutting needles.
I. One stainless steel needle holder and cutting scissors.
J. One pair skin forceps or babcock forceps.
K. One constricting band (or 18-inch length surgical tubing, if you know how to use it properly).
L. One roll 1” adhesive tape.
M. One hemostat.

I have also included one of the ubiquitous Cutter snakebite kits, about the size of a human thumb, which contains
three rubber suction cups, a constricting band, antiseptic solution, and a lance for those situations where
self-administration of the excision technique is not feasible.

Researchers report that approximately 50% of poisonous snake venom can be removed by the cut and suck
technique if it is begun within three minutes of envenomation. Success with that procedure after 30 minutes is

In my opinion, the risks of snakebite under survival conditions are sufficiently great that learning these basic
surgical procedures is worthwhile. In any event, the risk of gunshot wound, ax wound, and various puncture
wounds are great enough that at least the suture technique and surgical debridement must be accomplished. The
snakebite management techniques discussed here are only a step away.

Snakebite, especially in the case of adults, can probably be avoided in most circumstances, but learning the
management of that medical emergency will give you an unqualified edge in any survival situation.

Choosing Your Personal Survival Battery

by Mel Tappan

No rational person would expect a physician to publish a list of drugs for self-administration “to promote health and
cure disease”, or a lawyer to issue a checklist of things to do to prevent legal problems, or even a hardware store
owner to provide a recommended inventory of parts needed to build a house. Yet virtually every mail brings me
several requests for “a complete list of necessary survival guns”, “a minimum battery of survival guns”, or, worst of
all, “the one gun I should buy for survival”.

Lists are often useful guidelines when properly prepared and employed, but they may also be deceptive. There are
simply too many variables involved in the critical matter of choosing the guns that may be necessary to keep you
alive for any responsible person who understands the problem to undertake such a task without appending a good
many qualifications. I wrote a 480-page book on the subject and if I could have covered the material adequately
more succinctly, I would have done so.
Judging from my mail, however, there are those among you who have not seen ​Survival Guns;​ or, having seen it,
have not read it, or else you have no interest in guns, believe you won’t need them, or else think I am
unsympathetic to the problems involved in securing an adequate battery on limited funds. For those, as well as for
all of you who want a condensed checklist to make sure that you haven’t overlooked anything important, I have
prepared this article.

Perhaps the most useful way to go about determining the guns you should own in preparation for long-term survival
is to regard them simply as tools for solving specific problems. Only you, of course, can finally decide on the
problems you expect these tools to help you solve, but I can suggest four broad categories which you should
consider and recommend the specific arms best suited to the requirements that you establish.

I. Defense against violence from armed or otherwise dangerous human beings.

I place this prospect in the premier position on this list for two reasons. First, a high level of violence is a logical
expectation in the aftermath of a catastrophe, based on both the history of such events and common sense
knowledge of human behavior.

Second, -and regardless of personal predictions or wishful thinking- if such widespread violence does occur and
you are not prepared to cope with it, any other survival preparations you may have made -coins, food, woodstoves,
or the like- become totally superfluous.

Since hunting arms are not the most efficient means of protecting yourself and your family from attack and since
violent attack -regardless of how unlikely it may seem to you now- is apt to prove fatal if it occurs under survival
circumstances, I suggest that your first priority be defensive weapons.

II. Defense against dangerous animals.

Here, I am not talking primarily about aggressive bears or wounded elk in the bush, although wild animal attacks
could become a factor of concern in some areas, given the general chaos of a post-holocaust world. I would be more
concerned about large farm animals, feral animals, rabid animals, and, because of the difficulty in getting
professional medical care, poisonous snakes.

Having now spent two years at our ranch/retreat, I cannot overemphasize these problems. If you choose to raise
even a few head of cattle for beef or just keep a milk cow, you will soon learn to respect the power of animals
weighing over a thousand pounds. Even though they are not normally aggressive (except bulls), cattle are easily
upset, and whether they trample you from evil intent or just because they are frightened, the result is the same.

Further, all large animals are potentially dangerous during mating season. They are completely unpredictable and
may attempt to mount human beings, especially those with whom they are familiar. My secretary had the point
graphically illustrated about a year ago when a friend’s pet white-tailed deer suddenly attacked her mistress, during

Even our playful young milk cow, which has become a family pet, poses some real hazards. When she decides to
frolic and you become the object of her playful attention, her 1470 pounds can crush you against the stall or pin you
to the ground as she rolls happily over some of your favorite parts.

I strongly suggest that you never work with large animals such as cattle or horses unless you are adequately armed.
Since you will normally need your hands free, a powerful sidearm is indicated.
Feral animals are also a problem even now -particularly packs of wild dogs- and that is a situation which is likely to
increase alarmingly after the collapse when the 100 million or so pets that can no longer be cared for sweep over
the countryside in search of food. Since we have been at the ranch, I have faced a wild dog pack. Had I been
unarmed I would be dead.

Rabid animals, especially raccoons, rodents, and foxes, are an increasing menace in rural areas and even the least
imposing of them becomes insanely aggressive in the throes of the disease. Nothing more than a scratch is likely to
prove fatal in the survival context, since effective rabies treatment requires modern hospital facilities and a complex
serum which has but a short shelf life.

The only realistic protection requires going armed. The carriers are usually small and the danger exists only at close
range, so virtually any reliable firearm -pistol, shotgun, or rifle- in almost any caliber from .22 on up will serve.

III. Predator and pest control.

One of the most commonly overlooked requirements for arms at the retreat is in the area of predator and pest
control, although few who have spent time at a retreat or on a working farm/ranch will dispute the fact that daily
routine requires more shooting for these purposes than any other- presently.

When calves or baby lambs appear in the spring, so usually do the coyotes. I have seen gestating cows that have
been killed in pasture by coyotes, with their partially born calves half-eaten by these marauding wild dogs. Foxes
are also a problem in some parts of the country and a weasel can decimate a hen house in a single evening even
when not hungry. They seem to kill just for the excitement of it.

Rodents are notorious disease carriers, gophers can destroy your entire garden, ground squirrels will make short
work of livestock and chicken feed, feral cats will remove every game bird from your property, crows will destroy
your seed corn. The list is almost endless. Depending upon your area and terrain you may need a scope-sighted, flat
shooting centerfire varmint rifle, a combination rifle/shotgun, or both to keep these destructive creatures under

IV. Food gathering.

Most who write about guns for survival consider only hunting arms or at least give them primary consideration. I
place them last because I believe that the common myth of “living off the land in the wilderness” in the aftermath
of a disaster is largely an illusion. In the first place, large game is relatively scarce even now and it is not
well-distributed throughout the country.

Further, competition for game under survival conditions will probably be considerably greater than it is now,
placing even further pressure on already marginal herds. Finally, only a handful of people I’ve ever known
-including some highly skilled sport hunters- could actually subsist and feed their families over a reasonable period
of time from their gleans in the woods, assuming conditions no worse than those presently obtaining.

Storing food, raising domestic animals, trapping, and agriculture are all more realistic responses to long-term food
requirements than hunting. That is not to say, however, that owning hunting guns and planning to hunt are useless.
Far from it. An occasional deer, elk, or bear would certainly be a welcome addition to most survivalists’ diets and a
broad variety of small game ranging from frogs to rabbits and squirrels would be a reasonable expectation in most
good retreat areas.
What I am saying is that hunting should be regarded as a useful adjunct to one’s main food supply and not as a
substitute for it. Hunting guns, therefore, should be regarded as desirable, but less critical than defensive weapons.
Locating your retreat in a good game area will, of course, improve your chances somewhat in this regard as will
providing browse, cover, and woodlands on your own property if you have enough land.

The fact remains, however, that it is a good deal easier and more reasonable to try killing a deer with an assault rifle
than to confront half a dozen armed looters with nothing more than a bolt-action sporter.

Guns as Tools

I. Defense.

Out to 40 yards or so, a properly loaded shotgun is your surest defensive weapon- and a pistol, your most
convenient. Beyond 150 yards a scoped, bolt-action rifle would doubtless provide the greatest practical accuracy-
and at that range you would have the time to employ it.

But in that middle ground where you are apt to encounter multiple armed assailants close enough that even average
marksmen are a serious threat, nothing else even comes close to the effectiveness of a good semi-automatic fighting
rifle, such as the HK-91, properly sighted.

That same weapon, scoped by means of a quick-detachable mount and equipped with a good trigger, will also serve
anti-sniper functions to extreme ranges. If need be, it will put food on the table, and in calibers such as .308 or
.30-06, a rifle of this sort is the most versatile single weapon you can acquire. It is with such an arm that your
battery should begin.

A good bolt-action sporter in the same caliber would be a useful adjunct, but it will not take the place of a proper
fighting rifle. To believe otherwise is errant nonsense that could cost you your life. The speed difference is critical.
I have been shooting bolt rifles since I was six –uncomfortably close to 40 years. I can fire a controlled but not
precisely aimed shot every second. With the semi-auto that same shot per second cadence allows ample sighting
time to produce a certain hit with each trigger squeeze.

Even in well-designed fighting rifles or carbines such as the AR-180, the .223 does not offer the same level of
versatility as the .30’s. It has neither the range, certain stopping power, or penetration required in a bottom line
defense caliber and it is unsuitable for hunting. It is a useful caliber to incorporate in a fully-developed survival
battery, but it should not be chosen as the cornerstone of one’s defensive weaponry.

All factors considered -including cost- my first choice in this category would be the HK-91. The least expensive
selection that should be considered for a main defensive rifle is the .30-06 Garand presently being offered by
various firms to police officers for about $140, in excellent condition. The ‘06 cartridge has been out of service as a
US military cartridge for so long, however, that fresh supplies of surplus ball ammunition are seemingly impossible
to come by.

Also, the 8-round en bloc clip loading is a handicap. For these reasons I would recommend that the Garand be
converted to .308 caliber (it can be done inexpensively with a navy sleeve), shortened, and adapted for use with
20-round M-14 magazines. Choate Machine & Tool Co. (Box 218, Bald Knob, AR 72010) can either do the work
or recommend someone who can, if they are backlogged.
BM-59’s, SIG AMT’s, and most other satisfactory Sturmgewehre are now either unobtainable or priced in the
stratosphere. The M1-A, as currently manufactured, would be a distant last choice, and then only in match or heavy
match grade with GI parts substituted for all critical cast substitutes now being used.

To be continued…

In the next issue we will consider primary handguns, shotguns, and rimfires as well as examine sample batteries in
three categories: bare bones, moderate, and superlative.

Subscription Prices Going Up

As the end of the first twelve issues of PS Letter draws near, the editors are faced with the fact that we must raise
our prices to stay around for another twelve. Each edition of PS Letter takes 48 double-spaced manuscript pages-
this compares with 16 pages to do a twice a month letter such as the ​Ruff Times​.

Add to that the great costs and time of research to give you factual and unbiased articles, the increased cost of
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Starting with Issue No. 13, a subscription for twelve PS Letters will cost $125.00.

For those who renew at this time before we send out personal renewal notices, we are offering a special price. You
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Please do not delay.​ As soon as Issue No. 12 is sent out, we will begin to send out the renewal notices for those
ending with Issue No. 12.

Survival Wheels
by Rick Fines

I hate to begin a column with advice about what not to do; yet circumstances sometimes so dictate. Since I last
discussed the disadvantages of “home brew” motor fuels in contrast with the very real advantages of simply storing
commercial fuels, the popular press has devoted yet more ink to the do-it-yourself fuel refinery concept. Many
readers still perceive this idea as a simple answer to a complex problem. Like most such pipe dreams, this one does
not work well in practice.

Do not conclude that it can’t be done; there are all manner of Tom Swift projects that can be accomplished. For
example, a very talented engineer named Volmer Jensen will sell you plans for a fine amphibious aircraft, and the
Experimental Aircraft Association will send you information on where to obtain components and how to get the
finished airplane certificated. A look through any boating publication will reveal that it’s possible to build large
yachts in your backyard with very impressive capabilities.
If you wish to devote enough time and money, there is virtually nothing that cannot be accomplished by one
talented person with copious amounts of leisure. In most cases, there are no real savings in money involved;
particularly if one values his time at even a nominal hourly rate. The people who start and finish these projects
seldom do so to save a few bucks- the projects are undertaken because of the very real pleasures and feelings of
accomplishment which devolve from their successful completion.

The point of this discussion is that I want you all to take a very careful inventory of your attitudes toward these
hobby projects. I’m afraid that many readers confuse entertaining mechanical accomplishments with practical ideas
which may be applied to survival.

The fact of the matter is that, in a retreat environment, you will have a very full day -every day- tending to the
necessities of food, shelter, and clothing. You will have no time to waste on clever re-inventions of the wheel,
motor fuel, or anything else. You will be concerned with the very real application of skills relating to home building
and maintenance, agriculture, mechanics, electricity, and a host of other skills with which -if you are honest with
yourself- you may have only a theoretical acquaintance.

I keep stressing the term “simple” and it would seem to be a succinct one. Perhaps the term “quick” should be
added. When it comes to tools, fuels, and other survival necessities, we seem to be sidetracked all too often by the
frontier mystique.

There are those who suggest that the only way to survive in a retreat situation is to run about in full Davy Crockett
drag and eat nuts and berries. If you do not prepare properly, you may well be reduced to such an absurd
eventuality. It is far simpler to accumulate storable food, reasonable quantities of motor fuel, and tools now, when
they are available.

The term “quick” now comes into play. Most of us remember when gasoline was about 35 cents a gallon in early
1973. A bit later in the same year, the prices more than doubled and at times many of us could not buy the stuff for
any amount of money. The same thing could -and probably will- happen again.

If it does, you will not have the time to get your Frontier Blacksmith act together. Make arrangements NOW to
assure a reasonable supply of the items you will need. Do not agonize and theorize until you have no options. (See
Bill Pier’s article on gas storage on page 1.)

We have discussed fuel storage in some detail, but some readers ask what might happen if fuel were totally
unavailable for a period of perhaps ten years. The realistic answer is that there is a limit to how much you can
prepare, how much you can store, and how long you can cannibalize to keep things rolling.

If our society suffers a total breakdown of all production and distribution for a period of five years or more, you
will probably have to learn to do without mechanized transport of any sort. The exact length of time you will be
able to depend on your cars and trucks will, obviously, depend on the preparations you have made.

At this point, it’s time to be honest with yourself again. Most of you are probably not equipped to evacuate a city
and live out of a reasonable survival vehicle for the period of days that an evacuation to a retreat site might take. (If
reaching your retreat site takes more than seven hours now, you are not planning very well.) If you are ill-prepared
to deal with a problem of several days duration, I suggest that you resolve that situation before you become unduly
concerned about other events for which you are totally unprepared.
If you still feel that you must build a miniature refinery in your backyard, read all the articles you can find on the
subject. Go out and price the pieces of equipment that are necessary to produce and store usable quantities of
alcohol. From time to time, people have suggested that creating a production and storage facility is somehow less
expensive than installing a gasoline storage tank.

Remember that as alcohol is produced, it too must be stored. The nature of the process is such that one cannot
produce small quantities on demand. In addition to the same storage facilities required by gasoline, you will also
have to install process tanks, plumbing, filters, and a host of other hardware.

The next thing to worry about is what you plan to use to convert to alcohol. To make the stuff in the hundreds of
gallons, it is necessary to have a good raw material. Grain or corn work well, but we are not talking of a few
bushels- we are talking about the yield from several acres that would be better used in food production.

A fallacy often put forth in the discussion of alcohol involves what must be done to a gasoline engine to permit it to
burn alcohol. One of the clichés is that one must merely “widen” or open up the fuel lines; presumably to supply a
greater volume of fuel to the carburetor. The fact of the matter is that the standard fuel lines on all gasoline engines
are more than sufficient to deliver far more fuel to the carb than is necessary for normal operations.

A host of modifications and adjustments are actually necessary to permit the use of alcohol; most of which render
the engine unsuitable for use with gasoline. You may also find that constant tinkering would be required to keep the
engine happy with the variable product you might brew.

This whole debate becomes far less important when we realize how little we will be driving in a retreat situation
when no commercial fuel supplies are available. Mileage for drivers in normal circumstances now averages around
12,000 miles per year in most locations. That works out to about 1,000 gallons per year for a typical American
barge, burning gasoline at 12 miles per gallon. If we use a figure of 24 miles per gallon for a VW-type machine, a
1,000-gallon fuel reserve would be good for two full years of normal driving.

If our world deteriorates to the point that no fuel supplies are commercially available, it follows that you are not
going to be commuting to work or to school, shopping centers, theaters, or too much of anywhere. If we can agree
that we will do only perhaps a third as much driving as under normal circumstances, our 1,000 gallon stored fuel
reserve is good for three years for an American full-size car, and as much as six years for a small vehicle. Since it is
very likely that you will drive even less than the figure we’re using, it’s easy to see that a modest supply of fuel
may last for a very extended dry spell.

For those who envision a 1,000-gallon fuel reserve as something of a monumental tank farm, such is not the case.
To put the size of a 1,000-gallon tank in perspective, it is a typical quantity of fuel to be stored above ground on a
small farm. Most homes heated with fuel oil use tanks of 250 or 500 gallons to supply a residential oil furnace.

The cost of a 1,000 gallon tank with stand, hoses, valves, and other hardware might vary a good deal, depending on
whether you buy the tank new or used, provide an existing concrete pad on which to install it, etc. However, if you
budget $1,000 for fuel storage you should plan to have a very proper setup.

If you want to go with less elaborate facilities -which are also more portable- you may simply buy 55-gallon drums
and a portable drum pump. A good pump and a quantity of new drums suitable for fuel storage should cost you
something less than half the tariff for a permanent installation. In terms of which to buy, I would suggest the drums
as a better bet than the seemingly more substantial permanent tank.
Beyond the question of portability is the problem of contamination. If your 1,000-gallon tank somehow became
punctured or polluted with dirt or water, the situation could become quite a problem. With drums, you are likely to
lose only about 50 gallons of fuel rather than have your entire supply hazarded.

A standard item of stowage on any survival vehicle is likely to be a five-gallon “jerry” can for supplemental fuel
while running. Since they all look alike, logic would lead one to believe that buying and using such a commonplace
item should entail no particular problems. Not so.

There are a great many very cheap cans on the market that either leak or contain no internal vent to make pouring
simple. At times, lots of cans made for the US military -but rejected for one reason or another- reach the market.
The problem is generally leakage.

I wish I could refer you to a brand name on which you might depend, but the cans are seldom branded. The best bet
of all is to court the favor of a friend in a National Guard or regular military unit and promote the liberation of some
military cans. Short of “borrowing” from Uncle Sam, the next best idea is to avoid the discount store specials and
buy only from a good supplier.

Before you decide to depend on the cans you obtain from any source, make certain that they do not leak and that
you have a serviceable spout which will enter your fuel tank. Fuel stowed on board is of little use if you have no
convenient way to get it from the storage can to the tank.

I believe we have covered the subject of fuel storage, as well as fuel selection, reasonably well. For those of you
who still believe that homebrew alcohol is the way to go, I have a suggestion: Get out your yellow pages and look
up a chemical supply house. If you live in a major city, Van Waters & Rogers will do nicely. Pay them a visit and
buy about ten gallons of pure commercial denatured alcohol. Drain the fuel tank on your car, pour the stuff in and
see how well things work. Just don’t get too far from home while you experiment.

The next topic of discussion concerns a product I believe we can recommend. Most of you are by now familiar with
the VW Rabbit. After the normal teething troubles to be expected with any totally new design, VW’s new product
has become a very reliable machine with some potential as a survival vehicle. Like the older beetle, the Rabbit is
very good off the road for a machine with only two driven wheels. The front-wheel drive is particularly effective in
snow and mud which cause conventional American machines to slide about helplessly.

Several other factors have recently come into play which make the Rabbit a machine to at least look at if you must
buy “new” equipment. The first is that Rabbit production now comes from a plant here in the United States. The
immediate effect is that prices of the Rabbit will be influenced less by the continuing decline of the dollar than was
the case when the cars all came from Wolfsburg.

The second is that VW may now produce a light pickup with an integral body/chassis/cab structure without paying
the American 25% truck import duty. (All the Chevrolet LUV, Ford Courier, Datsun, and Toyota light trucks reach
this country with no cargo boxes. The boxes are fabricated in the US and installed here to allow the manufacturers
to document enough “American” content to avoid the duty.)

I have never suggested that any of the “mini” trucks were a very good bet for survival use. The engineering is all
quite dated and none of the machines is completely satisfactory. The new truck VW plans to introduce will provide
better off-road ability, better weight distribution, and good reliability.
Combined with VW’s habit of doing as good a job as anyone in the industry with replacement parts, the concept is
not just “nifty” -it’s one we should take a good look at as soon as a test machine might be available.

Another new machine you might have some interest in is the new Chevrolet LUV four-wheel drive pickup. Fuel
economy is far better than that offered in the Blazer-type machines, but there are some serious reservations to be
considered if you are thinking of this truck as a survival vehicle.

While the running gear seems to be well done, the LUV has a habit of running very hot, even in street trim. The
basic engine/cooling system design combined with the smog system has made the LUV less than an inspiring
highway truck. I’m afraid the tendency to overheat causes me to rule out this otherwise interesting machine as a
survival vehicle.

A number of readers have asked about motorcycles and larger trail bikes following our recent discussion of the
Moped concept as a supplemental survival machine. (See PS Letter No. 7.) In the Moped evaluation, we touched on
the fact that a large trail bike is something of a lethal weapon pointed at the rider. A person not experienced in
off-road operation of a heavy bike in the 250cc-class or bigger is likely to get hurt. In a survival situation with no
emergency room to patch things up, the risks are obvious.

However, there is one good compromise machine which offers far more versatility than the Moped at very little
additional cost-the Hodaka. Hodaka has been around for a number of years, with a very small but excellent product
line. Their older trail bikes were 90cc, and now range up to 125cc.

They are light, as well constructed as any competitive product, and offer as much power as might ever be useful in
a survival situation. Unlike the big 250’s, the Hodaka is very stingy with fuel. The machine was intended originally
as a sporting machine for desert exploration, rather than a snorting racer like the big Husqvarnas and other thirsty

Ordinarily, I would tend to favor a Honda product because of superior parts availability, but the Honda four-stroke
machines are unnecessarily more complicated than the simple two-stroke Hodaka. If you feel that you would like
some good basic transport with more capability than the Moped, by all means consider a Hodaka.

When it comes to full-size motorcycles for highway use, they make little sense in a survival context. The really big
(500-1200cc) road machines consume nearly as much fuel as a small car, with no carrying capacity and no potential
as shelter from inclement weather.

If, however, your personal plans, for some combination of reasons, require a highway motorcycle, the very best
machine available is the BMW R50 or R60. Both of these machines have recently given way to flashier models, but
they were produced until just a few years ago.

The BMW is shaft driven, very quiet, and as reliable as any motorcycle can ever be made to be. Another BMW bike
available until the late 60’s was the R695. It’s likewise an excellent machine, but as the “hot rod” of the line, it’s
more finicky about fuel than the R50 or R60.

The old BMW’s were known as about the only motorcycle which could be counted on to go almost as many miles
between overhauls as an automobile. The machines are superbly constructed and likely to last a very, very long
The current BMW offerings are probably the best new equipment available for any price, but they are not as suited
to our purposes as the earlier models. The new machines are as much the creations of ad executives aping Japanese
styling and chrome as they are the result of sound product engineering.

Some time back, we promised to discuss the employment of ex-military trucks in the survival role. The trucks are
excellent for most purposes, and the prices for some rather elaborate equipment can be very reasonable. It is
possible, for example, to acquire a 2 ½-ton M35A2 Diesel 6x6 truck with backup spares, manuals, 1 ½-ton cargo
trailer and new tires for far less than the price of a new Blazer.

The GI truck will probably date from the late sixties, but mileage will be low and the machine will appear identical
to the iron parked at your local National Guard armory. Next month’s column will describe the current military
M151 “Jeep”, the 1 ¼ -ton M715 Weapons Carrier, the M35 series of 2 ½-ton machines, and the 5-ton 6x6 trucks.

While we will discuss sources of both trucks and equipment in detail next month, I’ll end this column by telling you
why the supply of US surplus trucks has become very tight. The tremendous numbers of machines we poured into
Asia during the closing months of the late war, as well as the planeloads donated to Israel in recent years have
depleted stocks that would ordinarily have found their way onto the surplus market. While the giveaways are
irritating, the worst is yet to come.

At bases in California and Nevada, there are literally hundreds of trucks in excellent condition, with mileage
readings ranging from literally zero up to something less than 5,000. Some of these machines came from long-term
storage at the USMC facility at Dagget, California. They were transferred from storage for use at certain USAF and
USN bases to be expended as targets on bombing arid artillery ranges. In some cases, the trucks consigned as
targets happen to be newer and in far better condition than the duty vehicles in use at the same installations.

A senior noncom at Nellis Air Force Base told me that the military attitude was that the paperwork involved in
disposing of the machinery at public auction was so complex that destroying the machines was less costly (?!). His
opinion was confirmed in a discussion I had with a Captain at China Lake Naval Weapons Center.

Despite the government’s curious attitude about letting us buy the machines our dollars bought in the first place, I’ll
try to give you an idea of how to get hold of the trucks the government has not yet managed to blow up.