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Personal Survival Letter # 17

Issue No. 17

Communications and Monitoring for the Survivalist, Part II

by Mel Tappan

A Review of Shortwave Communications Receivers

by Grant Manning, Mel Tappan, and Nancy Tappan

Editor’s Note: About a year ago, when Mel first began researching this article on survival communications, one of
the people he contacted was Grant Manning of Radio West. Familiarity bred respect, and the more that Mel talked
to Grant the more impressed he was with his honesty and expertise, so it seemed natural that I turn to Grant for
help in finishing this piece. Not only did he furnish the technical data below, but during several lengthy phone
conversations, he patiently answered my interminable questions.

Just as Mel’s did, Grant’s interest in communications began with a desire to be on radio and to learn professional
technique by listening to trained announcers across the country. At the age of 14, he built his first receiver and he
has been involved with building and modifying communications gear ever since.

Today he owns Radio West, which is, as he says, “a small company run by radio listeners for radio listeners”. It is
the only store in the world devoted entirely to shortwave equipment.

Before beginning the following, I would suggest that you re-read Mel’s introductory article in Issue No. 15. You
may also find it helpful to buy Radio Shack’s unabridged “Dictionary of Electronics” ($6.95) and, if you want to
delve more deeply into the subject, go to your local “ham” store and ask for a copy of William Orr’s outstanding
“Radio Handbook” (Howard W. Sams, Indianapolis, IN, $19.50). N.T.

Small Portables

Sony ICF-7600
Size: 7” W x 4 ½” H x 1 ¼” D (approx.)
Bands: MW (540-1600 kHz), FM (76-108 MHz), SW-1 (3.9- 4.0 MHz), SW-2 (5.95-6.20 MHz), SW-3 (9.50-9.80
MHz), SW-4 (11.70-12.00 MHz), SW-5 (15.10-15.50 MHz).
Power: 4 AA cells, 25 m.a. nominal volume.
Features: A slide rule type dial, built-in whip for SW and ferrite bar for MW. Additional antenna can be connected
for use on SW. Recorder, earphone, and DC input jacks.
Price: $140.00
Grundig Yachtboy 100/120
Size: 8 ½” W x 5 ¼” H x 1¾” D (approx.)
Bands: LW (150-260 kHz), MW (510-1600 kHz), FM, SW-1 (5.9-6.3 MHz), SW-2 (7.0-7.4 MHz), SW-3 (9.4-10.0
MHz), SW-4 (11.6-12.3 MHz), SW-5 (15.0-15.7 MHz), SW-6 (17.6-18A MHz).
Power: 5 AA cells, 25 m.a. at nominal volume.
Features: “Yachtboy 120” has a 24-hour military LCD clock, requires separate clock battery, has alarm option. It
has DC and earphone jacks, plus a built-in whip antenna for SW, ferrite loop for MW/LW. A separate additional
antenna can be used for SW.
Price: Yachtboy 100- $150.00, Yachtboy 120- $190.00

As we went to press, Panasonic announced that it is producing the RF-085, an AM, FM, and SW portable that
should be comparable to the ICF-7600 and the Yachtboy. In the next issue of PS Letter, Grant Manning will review
this set.

Under survival conditions, neither of these portables should be your only shortwave radio or your only backup.
They are the smallest of the so-called “entertainment” shortwave sets- those built for mass-market appeal rather
than quality.

If you need a tiny, light, easily-stored shortwave that can pull in the strongest signals, the Sony ICF-7600 and the
Grundig Yachtboy 100/120 are your best bets; however, they cannot compare to the larger portables in stability,
sensitivity, or selectivity.

Because these are single conversion radios, they are relatively simple in design and not a lot can go wrong with
them, but the price you pay for this plus is imaging (set generated signals), squeals, etc.

The ICF-7600 is the set you’ve seen in those full-page color ads showing an impeccably tailored businessman
sitting in his hotel room in Peking, monitoring the Voice of America and is the radio most responsible for the
current popular interest in shortwave listening.

It is extremely easy to operate but its biggest advantage is compactness- in your hands it feels like a package of 5x7
index cards. For this reason, it is ideal for use while traveling now or for storing in a small emergency pack.

The Yachtboy is slightly larger than the ICF-7600 and provides better shortwave coverage, giving you more for
your money. Otherwise it is virtually identical to the Sony.

Larger Portables

Panasonic RF-2200
Size: 12 ½” W x 7 ½” H x 4” D
Bands: MW (530-1600 kHz), FM (88-108 MHz), SW-1 (4-8 kHz), SW-2 (8-12 MHz), SW-3 (12-16 MHz), SW-4
(16-20 MHz), SW-5 (20-24 MHz), SW-6 (24-28 MHz).
Power: 4 D cells, 55 m.a. nominal volume. Built-in AC supply.
Features: Set has a slide rule dial (dial moves), plus is equipped with a calibrated bandspread, with which it is
possible to get within 5 kHz (or better) of a desired frequency. It has dual speed tuning controls, RF gain, BFO, dial
lights. Antennas: Whip for SW, rotatable ferrite bar for AM and external antenna terminals.
Price: $160.00
Sony ICF-5900-W
Size: 8 ½” W x 8 ¾” H x 3 ¾” D (approx.)
Bands: MW (530-1600 kHz), FM (88-108 MHz), SW-1 (4-10 MHz), SW-2 (12-20 MHz), SW-3 (20-28 MHz)
Power: 3 D cells and included AC adapter. 45 m.a. at nominal volume.
Features: Slide rule dial (dial moves) plus calibrated bandspread, with which it’s possible to get within 5 kHz or
better of a desired frequency. It has a built-in whip for SW and ferrite bar for AM, plus external antenna terminals.
Also; bass/treble controls, BFO/AFC, DC in, timer, earphone, tape, and MPX (multiplex) out jacks.
Price: (As modified for better selectivity) $165.00.

Panasonic RF-2900
Size: 14” W x 10” H x 5” D
Bands: MW (530-1600 kHz), FM (88-108 MHz), SW-1 (3.2-8 MHz), SW-2 (8-16 MHz), SW-3 (16-30 MHz).
Power: 6 D cells, built-in AC supply, 200 m.a. (250 with lights) nominal volume. (60 m.a. without digital lights)
Features: Drum dial with digital display. Controls: Volume, bass, treble, BFO, RF gain, SW calibrator (this is to
zero the display against WWV), two-speed tuning dial. Antennas: built-in whip for SW, ferrite bar for MW,
external antenna connections. Jacks: external speaker, MPX, recorder, and AC in.
Price: $245.00, $95.00 for filter, or $340.00.

If you want to hear some of the harder to get shortwave broadcasts, you will need, as a minimum, one of these three
portables, which, while still classed as “entertainment” shortwaves, use a double-conversion system and, for that
reason, offer much better reception of smaller stations and SSB, an obvious need in the survival context.

Our choice for the best all-round compromise -if price is a factor and you can only afford one radio- is the
Panasonic RF-2900, but only as modified by Radio West, which adds a mechanical Collins IF filter that gives you
better separation stations, thereby allowing you to hear weaker ones and, when in use, increases the set’s sensitivity.
Without this modification the selectivity of the RF-2900 is not as good as that of the Sony ICF-5900 W.

The big advantage of the 2900 over either the RF-2200 or the Sony ICF-5900-W is that it has digital frequency
which, as Mel mentioned in Issue No. 15, is by far the most accurate method of tuning in a given station- a crucial
requirement under survival conditions.

In addition, it is much easier to tune a set with digital readout, especially for someone inexperienced with radio
gear- again a distinct advantage to the survivalist. The 2900 is a sturdy set, not easily tipped over, with grab bars on
each side to protect the dials if it should meet with an accident.

The 5900-W and the RF-2200 have virtually identical schematics, they are both economical to operate, and the
5900 in particular has good audio quality for a radio its size. The one that’s best for you is strictly a matter of
personal taste.

The only thing that I don’t like about the 5900 is that it tips over far too easily- my clumsiness and its square shape
are a bad combination. Also, its AC adapter cord is fragile, but either set would be an excellent backup to your
primary monitor.
Sony CRF-320 and CRF-1
(See PS Letter No. 1 for a discussion of CRF-320 features.)
Base Price: CRF-320- $1480.00, CRF-1- $1250.00

When Issue No. 1 of PS Letter appeared, we reviewed the Sony CRF receiver which was then the only portable
offering both communications quality performance and digital frequency readout. The CRF-320 is still a fine radio,
but due to advances in technology, it is not in a class with the newer Yaesu or the Kenwood as a general coverage

If you already own one of these sets, by all means make use of it and hang on to your repair manual, for Grant tells
me that he has been waiting for over a year for Sony to send him some.

At 29 lbs., the 320 is, as Grant says, a “truly behemoth portable", weighing more than three times the RF-2900- the
heaviest of the other portables discussed. If you envision having to carry your radio and additional gear any
appreciable distance, this could be a real disadvantage.

The 320’s successor, the CRF-l, as modified by Radio West, will perform on a level with the Kenwood or Yaesu; in
fact, it has the same circuitry as these sets and the same filter system as the Kenwood. It even weighs about the
same as the R-l000 and is only slightly larger.

If you care to spend $1505 ($1250 base price plus $255 for modifications), you will have the ultimate in an
entertainment portable and one that is also an excellent general coverage communications receiver. Other than its
cost, it's only other drawbacks are that it eats D cells, just like the CRF-320, and it is very hard to find.

General Coverage Communications Receivers

For the main shortwave set at your retreat you should have, if possible, a general coverage communications
receiver. These radios differ from the “entertainment portables” that we’ve been discussing previously, in that they
cover the entire spectrum of MW (AM) and SW frequencies continuously in 30 bands. They do not cover FM,
which should be of no significance under a survival situation.

The sensitivity, stability, and selectivity of these sets is greater than that of the entertainment portables and, as you
might expect, they are more expensive (except for the Sony’s). But if you want to pull in hard-to-reach stations
such as Radio Afghanistan, listen to military and government frequencies, and to hams throughout the world, you
will need one of these sets.

It is precisely this kind of information that will be most valuable to you now, in a crisis environment and in a
post-crash world. You can hear the BBC on most shortwave sets but you cannot copy “Sky-king” broadcasts
(SAC’s “flying command post”) on any but the most sensitive ones.

All of the sets discussed below, with the right accessories, meet the criteria Mel set forth in Issue No. 15. They are
considered lab-grade equipment even though they are in the medium price range for shortwave receivers. In the
more expensive sets you are paying for refinements and gadgets that are meaningless in the survival context.
Yaesu FRG-7
Size: 13 ¾” W x 11” H x 7” D (approx.)
Coverage: 500 kHz-30 MHz in 30 bands.
Power: Current drain is 90 m.a. with dial lamps off. Has external DC input, 8 internal D cells, plus a built-in AC

Features: Band switch, pre-selector, synthesizer control (MHz knob) fine tuning, volume. AM/SSB, RF attenuator,
step tone control, dial lamps, recorder out, earphone out. Frequency readout is an analog dial accurate to within 5
Base Price: (new, with quality ceramic IF filter already installed) $370.00.

The Yaesu FRG-7 is a basic, rugged “classic” set -the Volkswagen of general coverage receivers- and is in use
throughout the world. As modified by Radio West and with the addition of the optional digital readout (a must for
survival purposes), the FRG-7 is probably the best all-round compromise available since it can do double-duty as
both a base station and a portable at your retreat.

As it comes from the factory, it lacks selectivity and poor alignment makes performance mediocre. Radio West
sells the set for $370, and this price includes realignment and a new IF filter. Although Radio West sells an internal
frequency display for $115, this replaces the analog kHz dial, whereas the outboard digital readout does not.

For survival purposes the outboard display is obviously preferable since you can still tune in the set if the LED’s
fail. The outboard digital readout comes in a metal box, 6” x 6 ½” x 1 ¾”, that plugs into the rear of the receiver
and sits atop it ($140), and for an additional $95 you can get the same 2.9 Collins filter with amplification that gives
the RF-2900 greater selectivity. For $675 you can get a full feature model with VLF added (5 kHz-500 kHz), the
digital option, and 2.9 filter.

There are three vintages of the FRG-7 around- the first has no fine tuning controls and the dial has no backlight, the
second and third have tuning controls and there are very minor audio changes in each model. If you are fortunate
enough to have one of these sets or to find one on the used market, where they sell for $200-$250, and have it
modified, you will be the owner of a first-rate receiver at a bargain price.

Incidentally, Sears used to sell a much better looking version of the FRG-7, and you may be able to find one
languishing on a shelf in a local store, possibly marked down for clearance.

The FRG-7 is the only general-purpose receiver with a built-in battery box- it has eight internal D cells, but for
some reason, these cannot be shipped from Japan in the radio. Radio West installs them before they sell the set but
other stores may not.

This provision makes the FRG-7 truly portable and also enables you to have uninterrupted reception if you are
using the AC supply and have a power failure, at which time the set switches automatically to DC.
There are no major disadvantages to the FRG-7 that I can see. Having to mount the outboard readout on the set is
an inconvenience; without the readout, the set is more difficult to operate than either the Kenwood R-l000 or the
FRG-7700. It is bulkier and is not at all pretty- but then neither is a Volkswagen.

Kenwood R-1000
Size: l2 ¾” W x 4 ½” H x 8 ½” D (approx.)
Coverage: 200 kHz- 30 MHz in 30 bands.
Power: AC or 12V-DC @ 700 m.a. with the optional DC kit.
Features: Built-in 12 hour clock/timer, an IF noise blanker, three possible AM selectivity positions (modified), and
an RF attenuator.
Base Price: $445.00

Yaesu FRG-7700
Size: 13 ¼” W x 5” H x 9” D (approx.)
Coverage: 150 kHz- 30 MHz continuously in 30 bands.
Power: AC or 12V-DC @ 700 m.a. with optional DC kit.
Features: Three front panel selectivity options, and a built-in 12 hour clock/timer, “MHz” control has “HAM”
frequencies already detented, clock has a “snooze” alarm, fast-slow AGC switch from front panel, and a true IF
noise blanker.
Base Price: $540.00

The Kenwood R-1000 and Yaesu FRG-7700 are almost identical and have the same circuitry. With full-blown
modifications they will outperform the FRG-7. In order to get premium performance out of the Kenwood, Radio
West installs three Collins filters, pushing the base price of $445 to $700 and to correct the worst problem of the
FRG-7700 -selectivity- they install two filters, bringing its price to $730.

The FRG-7700 has a few more features than the R-l000, including a l2-channel memory option with an AA battery
backup, so the memory won’t be lost if the power fails. This allows you to find 12 pre-selected stations of your
choice very quickly- a device that could be useful in a stress situation, particularly if time is a factor. Although
Yaesu advertises that the 7700 comes with a DC option, Grant tells me that no one has yet to see one in this
country, but that he can supply one suitable to the radio.

The Kenwood does come with its own optional DC kit; like the 7700, its power requirement is high- about six times
that of the FRG-7. The Kenwood is the lightest, most compact, and easiest to operate of the three general purpose
receivers we’ve discussed.

I must confess to being partial to it for I am one of those people who do not have an affinity for knobs and dials,
and its simplicity and elegant appearance gave me the courage to learn to operate the half-dozen or so radios that
Mel had around the house.
All of the receivers discussed above are quality radios and you can determine which ones best suit your needs by
comparing the features listed here and, if possible, by looking over the individual sets and playing with them. Bear
in mind that for our purposes such things as ease of operation, size, and the preferences of other family members or
your retreat group have an importance that a non-survivalist DX-er would consider trivial.

If your budget is limited to $250, the unequivocal choice for you is the RF-2900, but if you have more to spend,
choose one or a combination of any of the above sets, as long as one of them has digital readout. Personally, I
would have LED on both my base station and my backup- once you’ve used it, you’ll never want to use an analog
dial again, unless, of course, you like to fiddle with dials.

You are probably wondering why we have not mentioned some of the more familiar brand names. The answer is
simple: their poor quality. The well-known Radio Shack DX-160, along with the Lafayette BCR-l and the Kenwood
R-300, which are basically the same as the 160, are single conversion sets that the Sony 5900-W puts to shame.
Radio Shack’s 300 and 320 are also mediocre.

Unfortunately, the specifications for the Radio Shack products are meaningless as stated, and the company’s quality
control is terrible. Other poor sets are the Drake SSR-1, Standard Radio’s C6500, the Magnavox receiver, and the
one sold by Montgomery Ward. The famous Zenith Transoceanic, which was state-of-the-art for its type when it
first appeared in the 1950’s, is now highly overrated, its performance eclipsed by -you guessed it- the 5900-W.

Some of the European sets, such as those made by Grundig, are fine receivers, but since shortwave is used primarily
for entertainment, not communication purposes on the Continent, they are built with a different end in mind.

In a communications receiver, you are concerned with hearing the signal, not the fidelity of it, whereas the opposite
is true on an entertainment set. If you want to hear beautiful sound from a portable, listen to a shortwave music
broadcast on a Grundig but don’t think that you can have this audio quality and first-rate sensitivity in the same set.

Last, but far from least, stay away from those beguiling bargains at your corner drugstore or discount house. Most
of these sets are so poor that you can’t even find a frequency on them- regardless of what their specs claim. As in
most aspects of the survival equation, there are no cut-rate solutions.

In the next issue of PS Letter, Grant Manning discusses which accessories you should buy with your receiver and
gives you some tips for successful shortwave listening. He asked me to tell you the following: “The more I got into
this subject, the more I realized could be covered.

Since it would be impossible to cover everything in these articles, please feel free to write or call with any specific
questions, and if you are in our area, stop by and see us. We have data sheets available on all equipment, plus a
catalog for the asking. When writing or calling, please mention PS Letter. Radio West, 2015 S. Escondido Blvd.,
Escondido, CA 92025. (714) 741-2891.”
Heads Up!
by Jeff Cooper

As Lee said to Jackson after Fredericksburg, “It is a good thing war is so horrible, General. Otherwise, we would
enjoy it too much.” This is a very penetrating remark, and it was no less true in 1862 than it is today. Men like to
fight, but the results of fighting are horrifying, depressing, and destructive.

Thus any moderately civilized man will ordinarily reject fighting if he can, but nearly always hold in the back of his
mind the thought that if it is forced upon him he will carry it out- not only to the best of his ability, but also with a
certain enthusiasm. No sane man will invoke horror, but almost any sane man can say, “If I have no choice I may at
least get what I can out of this experience, even if the zest is in no way commensurate with the disaster.”

Thus we find the Walter Mittys of this world, who daydream about the flying of shot and shell and heroic exploits
carried with calm detachment and admirable efficiency.

Almost all young, untried men who have never “seen the elephant” are torn by doubts as to their capacity to
measure up to stress when it lands in their laps. In general they may expect they will do very well, because men
usually do. There are exceptions, of course, but they are rarer than the left-liberal press would have us believe.

Any discussion of tactical principles begins with the assumption that there is going to be a fight, exactly as any
discussion of surgery begins with the assumption that somebody is going to have to be cut on. Readers of this
journal are willing to accept the premise that fighting does exist, and, moreover, that it may, under some
circumstances, involve them.

We can tell them that if this assumption is true, and a fight does eventually occur, (1) the results will be shocking
and (2) the experience will probably be very stimulating. This is by no means an incitement to violence, but simply
a flat statement of fact as observed over the decades.

To state that the object of fighting is winning would seem obtuse, except for the fact that, in recent times, a good
many people seem to have lost sight of its truth. (The classic example, of course, is Viet Nam. If you don’t intend to
win, don’t fight. But if you do choose to fight, make winning your exclusive objective until the fight is over.)

The private person who arms himself must remember that he will most likely be fighting as an individual when the
flag flies. The chances of his standing shoulder to shoulder with five, or ten, or fifty, close friends, strongly
motivated and properly armed to confront the foe is very, very unlikely.

Therefore the individual can have only one objective in fighting and that is the destruction of his personal adversary
or adversaries. He will not have the dubious luxury of giving orders, taking cover, obtaining fire superiority,
moving to “close with the enemy”. He will simply have to shoot to hit and to make every shot count.

I am assuming that I am speaking to decent people in these pages and therefore there will be no question of their
initiating violent action against anyone else, but rather in their taking proper remedial action if someone instigates
violence against them.

This of course means that their strategic position will be defensive, even though they may and probably should turn
defense into offense if the opportunity presents itself after the opening of hostilities. From this it follows that the
overwhelming priority in the individual book of tactics is the first principle of personal defense- and that is
As von Clausewitz tells us, “Everything is very simple in war but the simplest thing is difficult.” Difficulties
accumulate and produce a friction which no man can imagine who has not experienced it.

Just so. Good tactics are almost invariably simple tactics, but in “the bright face of danger” even the simplest thing
may become extraordinarily difficult to execute. This is one of the few advantages that a defensive posture may
have over the attack. The defender has -or should have- a well conceived plan for all foreseeable contingencies, and
have quite a good idea of just how his responses are to be executed.

The attacker, while he has initiative, still has to leap more or less into the dark and improvise his action as it
develops. This is why in all violent action it is absolutely vital to discover what is going on as it happens- if
possible, before it happens. For example, if you are established in your “retreat” and your son suddenly tells you,
“Dad, there are three jeeps coming across the north meadow. I think they’ve cut the fence”, you have ​won​ the fight.

If, on the other hand, you look up from your desk and see two men standing in the door of your office with
shotguns, you have ​lost​ that fight. In neither case will your tactics matter very much.

Therefore it is obvious that awareness, the by-product of alertness, is the first principle of any sort of fighting, and
especially so in the case of the man alone.

Consider the medieval stronghold, sitting there on the hilltop, surrounded by its palisade and armed guards. It seems
to be the very definition of security in a dark time. And so it was- but only if its master followed very important
rules of alertness. He rarely slept in the same room twice in succession.

He never maintained consistent hours for sleep and wakefulness. At any time of day or night, rain or shine, he could
be expected suddenly to appear- fully armed and accompanied by his tall, strong sons. Only so could he be
reasonably sure of opening his eyes when he lay him down to sleep. This is not a cheerful picture but, as we noted,
fighting is not a cheerful subject.

Eric Hartmann, the world’s foremost air-to-air fighting man, has stated that in his opinion 80% of his victims never
knew he was in the same sky with them. When he came in from his first contact with the famed allied Mustang
fighter, he was asked if the performance of this renowned airplane was as good as its reputation. His answer was, “I
couldn’t say. None of the four I got today was on full-throttle.”

Air-to-air combat in the days of piston-engined aircraft had much in common with man-against-man combat on the
ground today. The way to win is to know that there is going to be a fight before it happens. Once you know that,
“your strength is as the strength of ten” because you can dictate the conditions of the conflict.

There are no set rules or drills which will enable you always to know about aggressive action directed toward you
before it starts. What can help you, however, is the understanding of the need to know it. A good fighting man has a
very suspicious mind. Sometimes his actions seem furtive, or even neurotic, to a person who doesn’t understand his

I recall an occasion when I had just returned from a rather difficult overseas assignment and my wife and daughter
both commented about my attitude. They noted that I always knew exactly what was behind me and took nothing
for granted. That was not fear but rather a prudent attitude- a course of behavior by which to eliminate fear.
I’m embarrassed to say that that attitude wears off after a while even though we realize we should not let it do so.
The fact remains that good fighting men are very ​careful men. Note particularly how many of the great fighting
men of World War II survived even the most fearful campaigns. Neither Lou Diamond nor Chesty Puller, nor
George Patton, nor Erwin Rommel, nor Rudel, nor Hartmann was killed in action. The careless men died first.

So work out your G2 system. It is the most important single element of your defensive posture. Once you know
what to expect, your skill at arms and your skillful use of ground and cover will work for you. If you don’t know
you’re in trouble, no amount of ability on your part will save you.

Survival Wheels
by Rick Fines

Tires and Suspension Systems

As of press time the Federal government has instituted a new tire quality grading system. These standards relate,
for the most part, to projected tire life in normal use. While they do not have as direct a bearing on survival use as
we might suggest, they will be reviewed in detail in the near future. R.F.

It’s tempting -and totally wrong- to talk about tires as a single subject, simply because that’s the way we notice
them. The fact of the matter is that tires are one component of the suspension system. The other parts which act
directly in concert with tires are the wheels, shock absorbers, springs, ball joints, tie rod ends, and an assortment of
rubber bushings. Problems in the various components of the suspension system are often overlooked when tires are
replaced, because tire problems are highly visible.

Tracking down other difficulties can involve some degree of skill, as well as getting dirty. Since skill is at a
premium, and very few people with skill have any desire to get dirty, it’s important that we understand how all the
suspension components work together to accomplish their job. Failure to do so will amount to a great deal of
wasted tire life, and can amount to walking instead of riding.

When tires and new vehicles are but a credit card away, perhaps the details are not all that important. The way
things have been going these past few months, it should be apparent that survival skills may be of critical
importance a bit sooner than we would like to think.

There’s one suspension component we did not mention initially, for two reasons. One is that it’s so important it
deserves to be singled out. The second is that it’s free. The component is air. Sad to say, most tires are not junked
because they wore out in service, but because they were damaged and failed due to neglected inflation pressures.

Damage done to tires through underinflation not only leads to premature tire failure, but to accelerated wear on
every other suspension component. Inflation to higher than normal pressures can cause excessive wear to the tread
center, but is not as harmful to other components as underinflation.
The damage from running low tire pressures becomes a sort of chicken-egg question, as the less than obvious
excessive wear to ball joints and other steering hardware comes back to haunt new tires mounted to replace
premature failures. Even if the new rubber is properly inflated, it will not last as long as it should, due to concealed
damage in other areas.

The way to deal with inflation is to know exactly what your tire pressures are supposed to be. Consult your vehicle
owner’s manual or shop manual. Do not ask Leroy at the gas station or a bored clerk in the tire department of your
local discount emporium. As a historian would put it, go to original source material. Use the information compiled
by the engineers who designed your vehicle. Note that most manuals suggest slightly different pressures for varying
vehicle loads. For our purposes, it’s far better to be at the high end of the suggested range than at the low end.

Obviously, it’s impossible to monitor tire pressures without an instrument to measure them. While most of us
would not think of putting a five-buck, used scope on a rifle which cost us several hundred dollars, we do
something equally as foolish with our tires.

The mangled, banged-up tire gauges that flop around in the dirt on the end of service station hoses are about as
accurate as government economists. For less than ten dollars, buy a good inflation gauge and keep it in your
vehicle. Treat the gauge as an important piece of equipment- not as another piece of trash in the glove box.

This business of proper and exact tire inflation probably sounds a bit pompous, and a lot less than important in the
real world. For commuting and highway driving on smooth roads, where fuel and tires and complete vehicles may
be replaced on nothing more than whim, it is. In a survival context, it’s imperative. We will not be dealing with
smooth roads, and any replacement tires will be acquired from our own storage or salvage.

Tire Selection

In normal operations, the factors we consider in making intelligent tire selection include the following:

1. Vehicle gross weight/towed load.

2. Will vehicle be operated on long hauls or short runs?

3. Weather extremes, i.e. will snow and ice be a factor?

4. How long will the tire last?

5. What sort of roads will be encountered, i.e. smooth concrete, or unimproved roads and trails?

6. Appearance.

7. Price.

Some of the selection factors are obvious, others are not.

To get a start at intelligent selection, we should carefully consider what sort of service survival use entails.
High-speed highway running will not be a factor. Ride quality will be of little importance. Even long tread life
measured in tens of thousands of miles will not be a big part of selection.
As we have previously discussed at length, vehicles used in a retreat situation will not rack up mileage very rapidly.
Appearance is a very important consideration to the crowd who pay extra for raised white “Desert Dog” letters on
their Blazer tires, but we could care less.

Important considerations will be related to questions of vehicle gross weights and road conditions. In the area of
light truck tire selection, it’s particularly important to specify tires of the highest possible load range rating,
compatible with your standard rim size. Some tires which will fit light trucks -and are sold for that application- are
nothing more than passenger car tires designed to operate under much lighter load conditions.

Before going into more detail, we should take the time to explain the term “load range”. For many years, the
relative qualities of tires were expressed by describing the number of plies of fabric in the tire carcass. As tire
construction techniques and materials improved in the 1940’s and 50’s, a term called “ply rated” came into use.
This term described tires which had fewer plies than were the previous custom for particular applications, but were
equally strong.

A common use of this terminology was to describe a “4-ply rated” tire for use on a 1955 Buick, which in fact was
only a 2-ply tire. The 2-ply tire, with a “4-ply rating” was a better tire than the old style, due to synthetic cords
rather than cotton, and its ability to dissipate heat better due to thinner construction. The new system of rating was
determined by marketing people to be easier to implement than educating the consumer in new construction

The “ply rating” system worked reasonably well, but was abused here and there by tire merchants, i.e. most any
2-ply tire was automatically given a 4-ply “rating”. The next generation of tire construction came about in the late
1960’s and 70’s. Steel belts, radial plies, and great strides in rubber compounding made all the ply-ply rating jargon
as obsolete as brass headlamps. The result is the term “1oad range”.

For those of us who still think in terms of “ply rating”, the following information is of use:

Load Range: A B C D E F

Replaces Ply Rating: 2 4 6 8 10 12

For those of us who own trucks with ten or more wheels, that say Peterbilt or Kenworth on the nose, ratings above
“D” will be of interest; otherwise the lower ranges will be the ones we are concerned with for light trucks and other
survival machines.

While tires of the lightest load range may actually fit the rims for some light trucks, remember that they are not
made to bear the loads imposed by a loaded truck. They will provide a very good “soft” ride, but the same ride
quality may be experienced by using only old, worn-out tires. In any event, ride quality is not a consideration in
survival use.

Tires made to carry a light to moderate load on smooth roads are lightly constructed and designed to flex readily, so
that road shocks caused by pavement irregularities are not transmitted to the driver’s backside. Installing the same
tires on a light truck carrying a load on a rough road would result in quick tire failure due to excessive sidewall
Note that a tire which blows out under such circumstances can not be described as worn out- the proper term is
“failed”, to describe a tire which comes apart under otherwise normal circumstances.

At this point, the question of “custom” wheels often comes up, usually from a man who would like very much for
you to spend several hundred dollars for a set of custom wheels to accommodate a set of tires that make your
machine look like a roller skate mounted on four doughnuts. Don’t buy them.

Stay with the largest, factory-suggested, specified tire size for your particular machine. So-called custom wheels
vary in quality from absolute trash to a few good offerings. Note that the very best steel custom wheels are usually
dimensional duplicates of factory wheels and offer nothing unique other than appearance and high price.

Under no circumstances should you consider a “mag” or alloy rim of any sort. In the event you strike a rock with an
alloy wheel, it often cracks or splits. Steel wheels bend, but seldom shed pieces.

Custom wheels made to accommodate fat tires have to make some compromises, since the engineers who designed
the machines to which they are bolted seldom anticipate their creations being turned into kiddie rides for
man-children. It’s no great trick to get a saw and whack away some fender sheet metal to clear trick tires.

It is, however, a problem to get vastly oversized rubber to clear suspension components and not reduce
vehicle-turning radius. The wheel makers get around that problem in several ways- all of them bad. The first is to
move the center, or spider, of the wheel away from the center of the rim, so that more of the fat tire protrudes from
under the fender well than faces toward the inside. The second way is to sell spacers in conjunction with
aftermarket wheels.

These clever gadgets are bolted into place as a regular wheel might be, then the wheel and tire are mounted on top
of the spacer. The combination allows clearance for the big wheels and fat tires and widens the track, or overall
width, of the vehicle. In the gibberish of the chrome-plated, trick-truck crowd, the vehicle looks “real mean”.

In the more precise terminology of an engineer, the result is vastly increased stress on wheel bearings, front
spindles, and rear axles due to adverse changes in suspension geometry and asymmetrical distribution of shock
impact loads. In simple terms, the whole damned thing might fall apart under severe use. That sort of thing does not
mean a great deal to the parking lot Jeep crowd, but it does to you.

Doughnut tires also have another fringe benefit in that they give far more problems with shake and shimmy than
standard equipment. Again, a so-called fix is offered to crutch up the problem. Called a steering shock damper, this
device in essence is a shock absorber. One end is attached to a bracket with a pivot, which in turn is bolted to the
front axle. The other end is similarly attached to the steering tie rod.

The intention is to dampen shake and oscillation induced by the oversize tires and wheels. It does help, and the
surprising thing is that it is not at all a bad device. The damper does save some deterioration of steering
components. I see nothing at all bad in using a damper, provided that it is not used in conjunction with silly tires
and wheels.

Note that the huge tires are marketed for two reasons. One is visual and serves to make a sort of mechanical
caricature of the machine on which the tires are mounted. The second -and advertised- purpose is to make sensible
vehicles driven by totally inexperienced drivers supposedly capable of motoring into all manner of foolish places.
Such absurdity is fine in the hobby realm, but we are not involved in a hobby.
The question of tire construction is of great interest to the people who design tires and write ad copy to sell them,
but of surprisingly little interest to us. One of the few items which have improved in quality and durability with the
passage of time is the tire. Unlike firearms, advances in technology and manufacturing methods have given us a
product far more durable than what was available a decade ago. When selecting tires, load range is of far more
importance to you than brand name or construction details.

To Be Continued in Issue No. 18

The Survival Gunsmith

By J.B. Wood

At the end of the last column we were talking about bench vises, and I want to add one item before that subject is
closed. Contradicting my own advice, I bought a “cheapie” vise a few days ago. Wait, now- it’s not entirely a
contradiction. I’m still recommending that you buy a high-quality item for your main work center. The one I bought
is a special-purpose type, with twin rotating jaws, and it’s a smaller size.

Also, it has a lever-actuated rubber vacuum base which will cling solidly to any slick flat surface, such as an auto
body or the tailgate of a pickup truck. The vise was made in Taiwan for the K-Mart stores, and the cost is around
six dollars. You can probably find its equivalent at a discount store in your area. I doubt that it would take long and
heavy use, but in some situations it could be extremely handy.

Also, before we get into the fitting tools, I’ll mention another screwdriver set, one that some of you may already
have. It’s made by the Chapman Manufacturing Company, and comes in a steel case that measures only 4 ½ x 6 x 1
1/8 inches, with a hard plastic liner that has recesses for each component. There are 14 interchangeable bits in
various sizes, including two Phillips bits.

There is also a small Allen bit which fits a set screw in the handle, in case you want to lock the extension shaft in
place. This .050 Allen bit also happens to be exactly the right size to fit the standard trigger shoe retaining screws.
All of the regular bits for slotted screws are hollow ground, giving the straight-sided slot fit that is essential on gun
screws. In addition to the items listed above, this kit has a reversible ratchet for use as an offset screwdriver, or
when extra torque is needed.

Other bits can be ordered, including other Allen sizes, even metric, for just 60 cents per bit. An excellent instruction
booklet is packed with each kit, with details on proper screwdriver use. The price for the kit, No. 9600, is just
$l7.25 plus $1.50 postage, and it’s well worth it. The address is: Chapman Manufacturing Company, Route 17,
Durham, CT 06422.

During talks with Mel from time to time, I became “educated” in regard to the facilities that some survivalists will
have at their disposal. While a few may have only subsistence-level camping setups, many will have power
generating capabilities. For those who do have a generator, it would be well to add at least two power tools to your
shop: A basic electric drill and one of the Dremel Moto-Tools with a variety of bits and attachments.
Among the Dremel accessories, be sure to include a mandrel which will accept cutting discs. You can get these
from any Dremel dealer, or, in larger quantities, from any dental supply house. The Dremel Company offers several
models in the Moto-Tool, but the most durable and most useful are the Model 380, with integral speed control, and
the Model 232, with a flexible cable hand piece. When using any power tool, always wear eye protection.
Ophthalmologists are scarce in the outback.

As mentioned in the last column, some replacement parts require slight fitting, or at least deburring, to function
properly. If the part is super-hard, this will have to be done with the Dremel, or by hand with a stone. Even if you
have electric power, an assortment of stones in varying grades would be a good idea, as in final fitting it’s easy to
take off too much with the power tool.

If the part is not extremely hard, a set of good files will do the job. Brownell’s offers a nice set of small needle files,
12 shapes, for $23.95. Add their large “Magicut” file at $4.20 and a No. 2 narrow pillar file at $6.30, and you can
handle any part-fitting job. With proper care, these files will last a very long time.

An essential accessory for this care is a file cleaner, for $3.10, also from Brownell’s. There is one important
instruction regarding the use of a file: Never drag it back over the surface- lift it at the end of the stroke. Work
slowly and carefully, trying the part in its place in the gun frequently.

There is one tool which you may need in certain jobs that should be included, and this is an inexpensive item that
can be purchased at a local hardware store: A good quality hacksaw. Remember, too, to get a supply of extra blades
in various tooth sizes.

Among other uses, I can think of one situation in which the saw would be invaluable. If a shotgun muzzle were
clogged with mud or snow, and burst, a few minutes with a hacksaw and file would fix it. You’d lose the choke and
the front sight, but the gun would still be useable.

If there is a chance that a telescopic sight used on one rifle might have to be switched to another, you may want to
consider adding an optical collimator to your outfit. With three expandable arbors, the Bushnell collimator will
cover guns from .22 to .45 caliber. The instrument is about $50, and the arbors are around $10 each. Depending on
the calibers you have, you may not need all three.

For those who are unfamiliar with the collimator, here’s a brief description of how it works: The arbor of the proper
size is inserted in the bore at the muzzle, and the collimator is clamped onto the arbor. Looking through the scope,
you then adjust the scope reticle to match the center mark in the collimator. This won’t completely sight in a
rifle/scope combination, but it will put you on target without firing a shot, leaving only the fine adjustments to be

This will save a lot of cartridges, an important factor in the survival context. Brownell’s has the Bushnell
“Bore-Sighter”, and it can also be found at the larger gun shops. For further information on it, write directly to
Bushnell Optical Company, 2828 East Foothill Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91107.

Another accessory that may be an essential item for some readers is the Lewis Lead Remover. If your battery
includes a revolver, this tool should be in your shop. This especially applies if you plan to use any appreciable
quantity of pure lead or lead alloy bullets. Perhaps you may even be planning to cast your own, if you have
reloading equipment.
In firing non-jacketed rounds through any revolver, some buildup of lead in the cone of the barrel is inevitable. If
this is allowed to accumulate indefinitely, it can have an effect on pressure, accuracy, and even the rotation of the

The Lewis tool will effectively clear away all lead buildup, and it’s easy to use and inexpensive. Brownell’s has it
in one caliber for $9.75, and other caliber adapters are available separately. The brass screen “patches” are $190 per
package of 10, and I would suggest a supply of extras. The same advice applies to the rubber tip that backs up the
patch, as these will wear after long use.

A kit for both calibers, .38 and .45, is $16.75. The .45 tip is used for .44 as well. As a look through the Brownell’s
and B-Square catalogues will show you, the tool list could be extended much further. For basic purposes, though,
this is far enough. The individual will have to decide how deeply he wants to go into this thing, and stock his
workbench accordingly.

Among those reading this will be a great number who simply want to keep their own guns working, and a few who
may decide to become the “gunsmith” for their own and neighboring groups. It’s worth noting that in a situation of
extreme social unrest, the gunsmith will be a very important person.

Before I wind up the column for this issue and leave the tools to concentrate on parts replacement on individual
guns, I have a few safety points to pass along. I’ve already noted that eye protection should be worn when using
power tools, but I think this should be extended to nearly all bench work. Tool tips can shatter, throwing small
metal chips back toward the face. Springs and spring-propelled small parts can fly out.

If you wear regular eyeglasses, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. I know of a case in which a small
grindstone shattered, and a chip hit the cheek below the glasses, bounced against the inside of the lens, and
rebounded into the eye. So, wear a set of closed protective goggles. If you wear glasses, the goggles are made to fit
over them. They are very inexpensive, and their protection is priceless, when you consider the possible alternative.

When using any relatively sharp tool, such as a small drift punch or a screwdriver, do not push with force or strike
the tool toward the other hand, the leg, or any other part of the body. In survival conditions, cuts or puncture
wounds can lead to complications that range from simple infection to tetanus. If a tight screw or pin requires force,
clamp the assembly in a padded vise.

One tip for freeing a stuck screw: Set a well-fitted screwdriver in the screw slot, and tap the screwdriver handle
with a small hammer, straight down. Take care, though, not to strike so hard that the screw head is deformed or

Safe handling of pliers is something I’ve never seen mentioned, but there is one way they can really hurt you. If you
are gripping a part very tightly, with the hand completely covering the pliers, take care that the flesh at the base of
the index finger is kept clear of the joint or hinge of the pliers. If the pliers should slip off the part, the joint can give
that pad of skin a nasty pinch, usually raising a blood blister.

A coarse file can make a vicious gouge if it slips, and can also abrade the hand using it if the filing takes awhile. To
prevent the latter, obtain some file handles, or wrap the tail of the file with cloth or tape. Keep the other hand clear
when using a hacksaw, too, for obvious reasons.
Always clamp the item to be filed or sawed in a vise. Never try to hold it with the other hand. Aside from the
obvious danger of sharp tools, be careful of sharp edges and points on gun parts and springs. Beware of
spring-powered assemblies. I’ve never had a semi-auto bolt or slide close on my finger, but I’ve heard it’s quite

To those accustomed to working with tools, the warnings above may seem very elementary. I’m assuming, though,
that a number of readers are not only unfamiliar with tools, but may be quite awkward with them. If you’re in that
group, don’t be too apprehensive. Just work slowly and carefully, and you’ll get it done. In the next column, I’ll
start on the individual guns, covering the replacement parts that you are most likely to need.

My appreciation to all of you who wrote and called me to express your regrets about Mel. As I’m sure many of you
know, PS Letter was a labor of love to him and the fact that you have found his work so helpful has been a source
of comfort to those of us who knew how hard he worked to make the newsletter meaningful. Eventually I hope to
write each of you personally but until then, thank you. N.T.

Radiation Detection Devices

by Bruce D. Clayton, Ph. D.

When I wrote ​Life After Doomsday, I was not entirely satisfied with my treatment of fallout and nuclear accident
radiation detection devices. From my studies I knew which kinds and levels of radiation a survivalist might need to
measure; but I had a difficult time translating these requirements into specific items of equipment. There were
several reasons for this.

One was that most radiological equipment manufactured today is intended for use in X-ray rooms and laboratories,
and is so sensitive that it will be overloaded and useless in a nuclear attack. Another problem was salesmen who
were absolutely ignorant of nuclear fallout radiation, yet always maintained that some instrument in their line was
just what I needed. One look at the product specifications was enough to show me that their interest was in my
money, not my survival. They would have cheerfully charged me $1000 and sent me away with utterly useless

In disgust, I sent the book to press containing only general recommendations for radiation detection equipment, and
I convinced the publisher to include the building plans for the Kearny Fallout Meter as an appendix. That way, I
thought, anyone with a copy of the book could build a fallout meter of his own, even at the last minute if necessary.
My readers were covered, but I was left with an unsatisfied desire to explore the subject in greater detail.

That desire has now been fulfilled. A few weeks ago I got together with Bill Schoenbart, who is a PS Letter
subscriber and the general manager of Nuclear Emergency Services (NES, P.O. Box 25101, Portland, OR 97225).
Bill is also a representative of the Dosimeter Corporation of America, one of the biggest manufacturers of radiation
safety equipment in the country. I described to Bill the kinds of equipment I felt survivalists should own, and he
brought me several examples of his product line for my examination.
The one piece of equipment which a nuclear war survivalist absolutely must own is a high-range survey meter
sensitive to gamma radiation. This is a handheld portable meter designed to measure rates of radiation exposure
intense enough to overwhelm typical hospital and laboratory meters. (It is extremely important to avoid such an
overload because sensitive laboratory meters may give erroneously low readings if exposed to high amounts of

Note that this must be a rate meter, calibrated in Rads/hour, not a simple Geiger counter. With such a meter you can
detect the arrival of dangerous fallout, measure the radiation decay accurately over time to predict the length of
your stay in the shelter, and finally determine when it is safe to go outside again. There are four immediate sources
from which a PS Letter reader can obtain a meter which will fulfill this role.

Undoubtedly the best approach is to order one of Bill Schoenbart’s high-range gamma survey meters. These meters
are factory-new, precisely calibrated instruments which you can trust without any nagging doubts about their
reliability. He sells one (Model 3010) which measures gamma rate of exposure in the ranges 00.5 R/hr, 0-5 R/hr,
0-50 R/hr, and 0-500 R/hr. The high range on this meter is sufficient to measure extremely high gamma dose rates...
entirely adequate for the nuclear war context.

If this meter overloads at 500+ R/hr you will be lethally irradiated within minutes unless you seek immediate
shelter. (Radiation levels this high will only occur within 30 miles or so of ground-blasted missile silos and will
persist for only a few hours after the explosion.)

The lowest range measured by the meter is just right for determining when the radiation dose rate outside the
shelter has fallen off to 0.25 R/hr (250 mR/hr), which is the maximum “safe” rate the human body can endure
steadily in a nuclear war setting. Note that this rate is still high enough to overload most laboratory meters. The
Model 3010 is mounted in a sturdy metal case and runs on a single D-cell flashlight battery. It sells for $275.

In ​Life After Doomsday I described a surplus high-range Civil Defense radiation meter which I recommended. This
meter is a plastic handheld unit with three ranges of sensitivity: 0-0.5 R/h, 0-5 R/hr, and 0-50 R/hr. A typical meter
is old and somewhat the worse for wear. In the first printing of the book I listed the source as C&H Sales (2176 E.
Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91107) where the meter was offered for the incredible price of $10 (yes, ten dollars).
They now charge $15. In the second printing of the book I changed the recommended source to Survival, Inc.,
reflecting the fact that Bill Pier had purchased a shipment of the meters from C&H.

Before recommending these surplus meters, I visited C&H and purchased four meters from their display room. I
also ordered three more by mail. I tested all seven for sensitivity to a gamma radiation source and they ALL
worked. I was delighted. Unfortunately, the experience of others has not been so uniform. Bill Pier tells me that the
meters he received were mostly faulty. To cover his overhead and the expenditure on faulty meters, he has had to
raise the price to $80.

Pier supplies the required two D-cells and the 22.5V battery with the meter, and tests the unit before shipping. If
you prefer the untested $15 version provided by C&H, I’d suggest that you visit their store in person and take some
batteries along. Each meter has a “circuit test” button so you can evaluate its condition on the spot before you buy.
(The 22.5V battery is a Mallory M-215 or the equivalent, stocked by Radio Shack.)

This brings us to the Kearny Fallout Meter, or KFM, the homemade high-range survey meter I described in
appendix G of ​Life After Doomsday.​ A creation of Cresson Kearny at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the KFM is
an accurate and dependable radiation meter which anyone can build in a few hours from materials found around the
Basically the KFM is a soup can containing a suspended pair of aluminum foil leaves, charged with static
electricity. The static charge holds the foil leaves apart in mid-air. Gamma radiation degrades the static charge and
allows the leaves to approach one another slowly. By measuring the distance between the leaves at regular times,
the user can determine the amount of gamma radiation in the environment.

Kearny and his staff went to a lot of trouble developing this device, and were very frustrated when the government
made only 25 copies of the finished report available to the public through the National Technical Information
Service (NTIS). The report contains several life-size templates without which the meter can’t be built.

Xerox copies of the templates are slightly distorted in size and produce meters which are inaccurate, so copying the
report doesn’t help. NTIS also sells a microfilm version of the report, but obviously that is useless for practical
purposes, too. This is why I persuaded Paladin Press to reprint the full KFM instructions as an appendix in ​Life
After Doomsday.​ Normally I frown on people who sell reprints of government documents, but in this case it seemed

The KFM instructions cover both construction and use. They are clear and very detailed. Anyone who is
accustomed to following exact instructions can go into the kitchen and build this meter in a couple of hours. No
technical expertise is required. (In field tests, a machinist and his family constructed several working meters in an
afternoon. A college professor, less accustomed to following directions, built a meter that failed to function.

The KFM has several disadvantages. Probably the worst one is the question of how much faith the average person
can have in a homemade device. It doesn’t do you much good to build a meter that you won’t trust. Another
disadvantage is the meter’s sensitivity to humidity. It must be used in a dry environment. In a humid basement or
fallout shelter this requirement forces you to use a “dry bucket”, which makes reading the meter an awkward

On the other hand, the KFM has three indisputable advantages. First, the meter can be constructed at home even
after the war has begun. Second, it requires no batteries. Finally the KFM is immune to the electromagnetic pulse
(EMP) of a high-altitude nuclear explosion, which may well destroy the electronic workings of more sophisticated
radiation meters. This is a very important fact which is not often recognized. Incidentally, this is also a reason why
metal-cased instruments are more reliable than plastic ones. The metal box helps protect the electronics inside from
the EMP.

So, there are your four sources of a high-range radiation meter: Schoenbart, C&H Sales, Survival, Inc., and the
KFM. If it were up to me, I would tell you to spend the $275 and get Bill Schoenbart’s meter. Why economize on
something like this unless you absolutely must?

Once you have taken care of the high-range survey meter, there are several additional radiation detection
instruments which may be of use to you. Among these are low-level gamma and beta survey meters, dosimeters,
and radiation alarms.

A low-range survey meter may be rendered useless in a fallout context because of its extremely high sensitivity, but
it can be very comforting under other circumstances. A low-range meter is excellent for helping you decontaminate
people, animals, and food since it can register the presence of extremely small amounts of radiation... such as that
from a single fallout grain.
This can be important because fallout grains allowed to remain in contact with the skin soon produce runny open
sores called “beta burns”. The skin burns are not serious unless they become infected. They do not hurt and they
eventually heal without noticeable scarring, but it’s nice to detect the fallout grains early and scrub them off the
skin before the damage is done. The low-range meter helps.

Bill Schoenbart offers two low-range survey meters, one of which is a little more useful (and more expensive) than
the other. The less expensive version is Model 3700, which sells for $250.00. This meter has a gamma probe, and
reads dose rates in the ranges 0-0.5, 0-5, and 0-50 mR/hr (where 1000 mR = 1R). You can see that this meter is far
more sensitive than those discussed above.

The more expensive version (Model 3007, $455) incorporates the same meter, but comes with detachable probes.
One of these detects alpha, beta, and gamma radiation (all three at once). The other may be used for beta and
gamma, or it can be made to detect gamma alone. That alpha-beta-gamma probe is perfect for maximum success in
finding fallout particles on a person’s body.

Both models run on a pair of standard D-cells, with an expected battery life of 100 hours. An optional headset is
available ($30) which lets you hear the detected gamma rays as “clicks”. This is an excellent way to locate a tiny
fallout grain in someone’s hair or clothing. You move the probe around until the clicking reaches a peak... and
you’ve located the radioactive material. You don’t even have to look at the meter in the process.

My personal opinion is that the more elaborate set is the better choice, simply because it is beta radiation which
produces the skin burns and the economical meter detects only gamma rays. It will be comforting to be able to
detect directly the beta radiation during decontamination of yourself and your loved ones. Those beta burns are not
very pretty.

The next category of defection equipment is that of dosimeters. A dosimeter is a small pen-like device which
records the actual radiation dose accumulated by the wearer. Inside a dosimeter is an electrically charged quartz
fiber which slowly moves across a scale in response to gamma rays. You can examine the scale at any time by
holding the dosimeter up to the light and looking through it like a small telescope.

When the dosimeter is fully charged the scale reads zero, but as the wearer is exposed to gamma rays during the
course of the day (or week) the fiber climbs the scale to show the total dose that wearer has received since the last
recharging. Dosimeters are generally regarded as holding their charge well enough to give accurate readings for
periods of up to a week, after which the user should make a note of the reading and then recharge the dosimeter.

That brings us to an essential accessory: the dosimeter charger. This is a small plastic box about four inches square,
on the face of which is a small socket and a zeroing knob. To recharge the dosimeter you simply press one end
down into the socket. An internal light in the recharger lets you view the internal scale while you turn the
zero-adjust knob to line up the quartz fiber on the zero end of the scale. The whole process takes about five seconds
and draws only a tiny amount of energy from the recharger’s single D-cell. (Inside the box is an extra light bulb,
too, in case the recharger’s internal lamp burns out.)

Bill Schoenbart charges $82 for a high-range dosimeter (Model 686, 0-00 R), which is the variety I recommend for
the nuclear war survivalist. He also sells a 0-200 mR dosimeter (Model 862, $63.25), but I can see very little
practical use for it in a fallout situation. The dosimeter charger is Model 909 ($82.50) and works for both
dosimeters. One charger is sufficient for any number of dosimeters, incidentally.
Because of their resemblance to pens, many people wear dosimeters clipped to their shirts (in the pocket) but this
could be a fatal mistake. In order to accurately reflect a person’s accumulated whole-body exposure, the dosimeter
should be worn at the waist, clipped to the belt.

This is especially vital with small children, whose bodies are closer to the ground (and to the grounded fallout
grains) than their parents’ bodies are. Under identical circumstances, a crawling infant can receive over 50 times the
radiation dose experienced by his standing parents simply because of his nearness to the ground. (These warnings
do not apply within a shelter unless you have been tracking in a lot of fallout.)

Finally we come to radiation alarms. These are radiation detection devices which sound an audible alarm of some
kind to you. Schoenbart sells a $137.50 radiation alarm warning device (RAW-2, Model 3005), which is the size of
a deck of cards and is intended for personal wear like a dosimeter. It has no controls except for an on-off switch,
and it works by sending audible clicks to a tiny earphone (Like one for a transistor radio).

In his brochure, he describes this device in terms sure to be appreciated by PS Letter readers... mentioning that it
leaves your eyes and your hands free while on “security patrol”, and only the wearer can hear it. It runs on a single
9-volt transistor battery with an expected life of 300 hours (1ess if it is doing a lot of clicking!).

There are other “alarms” which you should know about, too. Although Bill does not regularly carry it, he can order
Dosimeter Corporation’s “Gamma Alarm” (Model 3090, about $900.00), which sets off a siren and a flashing red
light at any pre-selected radiation level between 1 mR/hr and 100 R/hr. (This combines the features of a high-range
and a low-range meter, although it does not adequately replace either item.)

It can be used as a remote meter, too, with probes on cables up to 100 feet long. This allows you to use two or more
probes... one to measure radiation levels inside the shelter, and one to measure levels outside safely. (For best
results, tape the outside probe to a pole or tripod standing alone in the middle of the yard, and position it exactly
three feet above the ground.)

The Gamma Alarm is sensitive enough that it might also be useful to people living near nuclear power plants. Think
of it as a nuclear “smoke detector”. If that plant starts to leak radioactive material in the middle of the night, the
alarm will blast you out of bed with its horn and give you a direct reading of the radiation level.

It can be run on house current as well as optional (recommended) batteries, so you can plug it in, set it for
maximum sensitivity, and forget it. Obviously, the same technique can be used to alert your family members to the
arrival of the first hint of fallout during an attack.

Since you may have seen it in ​Popular Electronics recently, I’d like to provide a brief discussion of the RED-1
gamma counter kit offered by Radiation Monitoring Devices (44 Hunt Street, Watertown, MA 02172). This is a
build-it-yourself gamma counter with an internal timer, 3-digit display, and a “clicking” speaker. The kit sells for
$130 with all hardware and components.
The RED-1 is actually a pretty sophisticated piece of equipment, and could be used as a radiation alarm if you were
expecting trouble. The counter runs on batteries (four AA penlight cells plus a 9-volt transistor battery) and has
only about a 24-hour useful life before needing new ones, so you wouldn’t want to run it all the time.

It could be used to detect the arrival of the fallout after an attack, however. Just set it to click and keep an ear open
while you make your last-minute preparations.

On the debit side is the fact that this kit is not an easy one to build... only experienced digital electronics buffs
should attempt it. I found it unexpectedly difficult to assemble, mainly because of the unenlightened instructions.
One step read “Make front panel connections.” Sounds easy, right? There were over eighty soldered connections to
make in an area the size of a playing card.

Once assembled, however, it worked like a charm. I would recommend it to those of you who enjoy tracing circuit
diagrams, possibly for interfacing to a security system or microcomputer. The rest of you had better stay away from

Before closing, there are two more products offered by Bill Schoenbart which need some comment. If you get in
touch with him, you will see them in his brochure. The first is the decontamination kit, and the second is his nuclear
target and fallout danger areas map.

The decontamination kit is a Dosimeter Corporation product consisting of a white plastic suit (with hood), and lots
of pre-moistened sponges and towelettes. The suit is functionally indistinguishable from a rain suit, and
serves only to keep radioactive material (fallout) away from your skin. It is a crude defense against beta burns only,
and provides no protection from gamma rays at all.

Many people want to buy a “radiation suit” thinking that it will armor them against the gamma rays... and that could
be a fatal mistake. My impression is that $59.50 is a little steep for a rain suit, dust filter, gloves, shoe covers, and
glorified wet-wipes. You can put the same outfit together at the hardware store for about half the price. On the other
hand, as Bill points out, most people probably won’t go to the trouble of assembling their own outfit when they can
buy a convenient kit like this.

As for the fallout and target map, if you own a copy of ​Life After Doomsday you already have better information.
The map is based on the same civil defense sources I used for my target list, but it is inferior in two ways. First, I
incorporated some more up-to-date targets in the list, such as various missile radar stations and nuclear command
centers, which do not appear on Bill’s map. Second, the map does not distinguish among first, second, and third
priority targets as I did in ​Life After Doomsday​. Such information is vital for retreat planning purposes.

So far my only real criticism of the map has been that the information is incomplete. There is another objection,
however, which involves the fallout zones shown on the map. The author of the map (an anonymous friend of
Bill’s) chose to delineate the fallout zones by drawing 50-mile circles around each of the targets. This is totally

I went to a lot of effort to pioneer a useful fallout danger-area prediction technique for survivalists (​Life After
Doomsday, Ch​ apter 3), which I strongly advise you to use. In most cases, the fallout from a nuclear explosion will
travel no more than 15 miles or so upwind, and 300 or more miles downwind. A fifty-mile circle just doesn’t cut it.
In summary:

1. To be ready for a nuclear war fallout emergency, you MUST obtain some kind of high-range gamma survey
meter. Your life isn’t worth two cents without it. You can get one for any price from $275 down to nothing,
literally, so you have no excuse to put it off until it’s too late. Make it an absolute priority to get one of these
meters. Put some replacement alkaline batteries in the refrigerator, too.

2. For bodily decontamination, a beta-reading low-range survey meter is an excellent aid. It is not essential, and it is
expensive, but if you had seen the color slides of beta burns which I have seen, you wouldn’t hesitate. Imagine your
child smeared with strawberry jam all over his eyelids and ears, around his neck, under his arms, in his crotch, and
between his fingers and toes, and you’ll get the general idea. A beta-reading meter can help avoid that, as well as
the subsequent infections.

3. A high-range dosimeter for each member of the family is a very comforting accessory. It takes all the mystery
(and a lot of the terror) out of radiation exposure. You can take one look at the dosimeter and know the person’s
exact radiation dose... both for planning and for medical purposes. This is largely a psychological aid in preventing
panic, but it could keep you from making a fatal exposure error, too.

4. A radiation alarm, either portable or fixed, is a device which many people will want to buy. It isn’t essential, but
it can be very useful under the right circumstances.

One last comment. As with all survivalist preparations, it is better to be a year too soon than a day too late. Envision
yourself describing to your family all the nifty dosimeters you almost bought... while the fallout descends outside.
Do it now.