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Mel Tappan’s Personal Survival Letter # 21

Issue No. 21

Beautiful Binoculars
by Jeff Cooper

If man’s ​ultimate weapon is his brain, his ​primary weapon must certainly be his eyesight. If he sees his adversary
before he is seen, he has won. In the days of sail, the eyes in the crow’s nest determined life or death, and in the
days of the horse, the eyes of cavalry scouts gave Hannibal and Napoleon and Lee the vital edge.

And still today, if it comes to a personal confrontation, a man can handle anything he can see- if he sees it in time.
A trained eye is more important to a boondocker than his boots or his knife or his gun, or even his stamina, and if
he can boost his eye efficiency he can double his power. And he can. For some time now we have had binoculars.

Galileo is said to have invented the telescope, and while two telescopes were fitted together in the nineteenth
century, actual binoculars as we think of them now did not come into general use until WWI. (Admiral
Rozhestvensky, who conned the Russian Fleet around the world to disaster at Tsushima in 1904, is said to have
regularly expressed annoyance by flinging his binoculars over the side.

One can imagine that he had cause for exasperation, for the essentially landlocked Russians do not take readily to
the nautical arts, but his curious use of his optics may also have been testimony about their quality, for the British
were still using monocular telescopes in the Boer War.)

For the past 65 years or so, however, all competent outdoorsmen, from field marshals to bird watchers, have come
to regard their binoculars as the first tools of their trade. To take to the field today without a good set of field
glasses is as to ride a horse without a saddle. It can be done, but a sensible person would not so choose.

The nearly universal use of glass sights on sporting rifles has set back popular understanding of these matters
somewhat, to the extent that many hunters feel that a telescope sight - especial1y a variable set on high power- can
do the work of binoculars. This is not so. The best scope there is does not and cannot provide the target definition of
even ordinary field glasses, and it is definition, ​not magnification, that matters most. I have proved this many times
to my own satisfaction,

Using 6x Bushnell “Custom Compacts” in direct competition with variable scope sights set on 8x, 9x, and 10x.
Glassing the far ridge side-by-side, the binoculars always score first. Better to hit the trail with iron sights and
binoculars than with a scoped rifle alone.
Having accepted this idea since youth, I have been somewhat surprised to find that the quality of binoculars has
improved remarkably in the last decade. I thought that today’s 7x35’s would be much the same as those used in
WWII, but such is not the case.

Many artifacts, such as guns, have declined only slightly in quality. Some, such as cars, have gone steeply downhill.
But optics have improved dramatically, and the late model field glasses are to yesteryear’s as French Roquefort is
to Danish Blue.

When an Austrian friend visited the ranch last year, he brought with him a new pair of Zeiss 10x40’s which were
most impressive- as to both quality and price. A couple of phone calls revealed that great strides had taken place in
the last ten years or so, and that all new models -of top quality- are pretty astonishing to those of us who were
accustomed to previous production. Definition, resolution, and brightness are remarkably superior. Bulk has been
sharply reduced.

And durability has been increased, at option, by the wide use of rubber outside armor and new systems for proofing
the optics against shock, water, and heat. The “pent-roof” geometry has in many cases eliminated the offsetting of
ocular and objective lenses, giving the compactness of “straight-through” tubes while retaining the advantages of
prismatic optical systems.

These new glasses are quite splendid. They are also expensive, but our sickly dollars are far better spent on things
that will last than on things that won’t. If you don’t smash it or lose it, a good pair of binoculars will last a lot
longer than you will. And it might conceivably help you to last longer than you might have lasted without it.

In order to consider the full value of the new breed, we set up a comparison of the cream- Zeiss, Leitz, Swarovski,
and Bausch & Lomb. Everybody knows that Karl Zeiss, formerly of Jena but now in free Germany, is the most
distinguished name in optics. Leitz, based in Germany but now producing in Portugal, is the originator of the
renowned Leica (Leitz + Camera).

Swarovski-with a Russian name but Austrian in locale- is a newer organization now known mainly in the US as the
maker of the superb Kahles riflescope fitted to the Mannlicher SSG. And Bausch & Lomb is the big American
name, long established and of shining reputation.

We obtained samples from each of these eminent producers, and for a while we were swimming in optical luxury.
Needless to say, all the items were very luxurious- the best that can be had. What we sought, however, was some
sort of comparison, plus a considered opinion about value.

An Arab may simply choose the product with the highest price tag and tell himself that he has thus obtained the
best, but others may wonder if the best is really enough better to be truly worth the extra money.
Before looking at each instrument in turn, let us consider the certain features which are found in various
combinations in the several designs.

Magnification, or “power”, quoted in multiples of “x”, is probably the most widely misunderstood quality of a
telescope, or a pair of telescopes. It refers to the apparent diameter of an object as viewed through the instrument,
compared to its unaided appearance. A “6x” glass, e.g., should show you an apple on a tree to be six times as wide,
or six times as high, as it appears to the naked eye.

For those innocents whose invariable doctrine is “more is better”, a 12x instrument ought to be twice as good as 6x.
Well, it may be, but not necessarily- possibly the opposite. More “x” need not affect brightness or resolution, but it
decreases field of view and increases apparent tremor. Just as the intrinsic accuracy of a rifle cannot be put to use if
its trigger action enjoins a proper squeeze, superior resolution in a glass is useless if the image is not steady enough
to reveal it.

My consultant in all this is the senior technician for a major optical firm, and is reputed to be one of the half-dozen
best men in this field in the world, and he maintains that 7x is the upper magnification limit for a hand-held glass.
(His organization, obedient to the marketing men, makes binoculars of various higher powers, but he does not
approve.) In practice it’s pretty hard to differentiate between 7x and 8x, or between 6x and 7x, but 10x you can tell.

Glasses of 10x are serviceable for stationary observation platforms where artificial support is available, but they are
at a disadvantage in the field.

The second figure in the type designator is the diameter of the clear image of the objective lens- that’s the one in
front. It is listed in millimeters, as in 7x35, 8x42, etc. Other things being equal (which they seldom are) the larger
the objective lens the better- but only up to the point where the advantage of increased light is appreciable by the

A 7x50 glass obviously affords a brighter image than an equivalent 7x35, but the difference may be hard to detect
except in dim light. Since the 7x50 must be bulkier than the 7x35, the user must decide upon the optimum balance
between handiness and night vision.

The modern techniques of lens coating, plus improvements in lens manufacture, have resulted in such improved
light transmission that small objective lenses now can do as well as their larger ancestors.

Awhile back down on the coast of Central America I saw a good illustration of this. From a shaded beach-house
deck, my host and I were studying the markings on a succession of merchant vessels (mostly Japanese) standing in
for the Gulf of Fonseca.
Using a new set of Bushnell 7x35’s, I was consistently shading my host and his older Zeiss 10x50’s. He suggested
that this might be due to individual eyesight so we traded glasses- whereupon he came out ahead. The new optics
really are better.

Field of view (properly expressed in percent of range, rather than “x feet in y yards”) is often advanced as a
desideratum, presumably the greater the better. I think the point can be overstated, for you use the center of your
field for observation, not its edges, and while a nice wide field is certainly better than a little stingy one the minor
differences in this regard between comparable instruments are not vital- or so it seemed to us.

An obvious characteristic of the new breed is the reduction in bulk made possible by the “pent-roof” system. This
may not be important to a sedentary observer but it is noticeable in vigorous fieldwork. It is especially
advantageous to a rifleman, who needs a short neck-strap and both hands free.

On the Zambezi four years ago, my partner (Dr. Albert Pauckner, of Ansbach) wore a huge pair of green, armored
binoculars reminiscent of Field Marshal Rommel. They seemed a bit much to lug around in the thorn, but when I
mentioned it he responded with some Germanic version of “If I don’t like the heat, I’ll get out of the kitchen.”

My little 6x25’s were a ​lot better for that duty, but now you can get glasses that are fully as good optically as his
were, and only a little bigger than mine.

The drawback of the pent-roof system is cost of construction (if quality is to be maintained). It is a difficult
arrangement to set up accurately, and even if you are willing to pay for it, it does not always come out right.

Armor is the other new feature, supposedly suiting these fine instruments for falling down mountains, deep water
immersion, airplane crashes, auto accidents, and driving stakes. It probably works, but I am not about to find out- at
these prices. It does ​feel good, and it is comforting to think that it is there. It necessarily adds a little to outside
dimensions, but not much. It is a good idea, but whether it is necessary depends upon how accident-prone its
utilizer may be.

The Zeiss offering was the Dialyt 8x30. Its most noticeable feature was its really serious armor. The rubber outer
covering was thick, heavily ridged, solid feeling, and green. Strong, double lens covers were affixed by the carrying
strap, fore and aft. The two tubes were “straight through” for compactness, and central focus was dispensed with,
probably in the interest of watertightness.

Individual focusing is an annoying delay which must be traded off against immersion resistance. Boat people
should take note. The optics on this unit were very clean, but laboratory-tested resolution, though good, was not
outstanding. This model Zeiss glass is obviously built for maximum durability, with other desiderata in second
place. It would seem ideal for duty with amphibious armor.
We tested two Leitz pairs, both “Trinovid” (pent-roof) and both armored, if less ostentatiously than the Zeiss. We
had one 8x32 and one 7x42. In the 8x32’s resolution was about the same as with the Zeiss, but the 7x42’s had the
best resolving power (3.3 seconds of angle) of any pent-roof glass our tester had ever tested. (He pointed out that
this might be an individually superior instrument and advised me to hang on to it if possible. Pity.)

Both Trinovids were very handsome pieces, pleasing to hand and eye. Also they were made in ​Portugal.​ (You ever
had anything made in Portugal? Be the first kid on the block!)

A minor drawback of the Leitz line is the inter-ocular compensation dial used to adjust the center-focusing glasses
for individual eye difference. It is located on the same axis as the focusing ring, and when a new man attempts to
focus he invariably runs the inter-eye ring all the way against the peg before he discovers that he is spinning the
wrong wheel. The owner learns, but this remains a one-man glass.

The Swarovski line is not pent-roof, sacrificing a degree of compactness for somewhat greater assurance of
alignment. We examined an 8x30 and the radical new 7x42 “Habicht”, both armored. (German has no general word
for “hawk”, but the short-winged air-to-air grabbers such as the goshawk are called ​Habicht.​ “Habsburg” is a
contraction of ​Habichtsburg,​ or Goshawk’s Castle.)

Both Swarovski instruments were of the same excellent quality as the other top grade glasses tested. Resolution was
between that of the Zeiss Dialyt and that of the outstanding Leitz 7x42. The Swarovski 7x42 is half again as big as
the other test glasses- compactness is not its main asset. It features a curious “art nouveau” configuration with its
soft black armor ingeniously fitted to the user’s hands. (The resultant finger grooves cause a measurable reduction
in field of view, if that matters. Nothing can be had for nothing.)

Eye relief is long, at 16.5mm, and well-suited for wearers of eyeglasses. Both Swarovskis focus up close, a feature
dear to bird watchers. The Habicht 7x42 takes the price prize, at S.R. $1046, and thus will be first choice of Rolls
Royce and Learjet owners.

Lastly we checked out the Bausch & Lomb pent-roof 7x35. This was the only unarmored unit we looked at, and the
only domestic- if “Designed in USA, built in Japan” is domestic. At S.R. $585 it is also the least costly of the set-
an armored version, when available, will run higher.

It is a nifty glass, with excellent resolution (3.7 s.o.a.), distinctly wider field than the others (8.5%), and very
compact. As the deluxe American, it is a very fine value, as it should be since it avoids the costs of European
manufacture and import restrictions. And costs aside, it holds its own in all departments except armor protection.

There is no question about the need for field glasses for anyone who takes the field, even if only as a spectator.
There may be some question about the need for really good field glasses. The good ones are indeed better, but one
may ask how much better and whether the difference is important.
It cannot be proved that a glass that is “twice as good” is twice as likely to save your life, but trying to place such
values on any sort of equipment is essentially futile. If you ask if you are well-advised to buy the best in binoculars,
the answer must always be to some extent subjective.

Binoculars have usefulness apart from their G-2 function, and this should be considered. Living in the country I use
binoculars many times a day, and usually for pleasure rather than business. Thus the satisfaction provided by the
best glass I can afford is well worth the price. People in other circumstances might not feel the same.

It is important to note that every one of the sets examined was a superb artifact, and that our points of comparison
had to be pretty picky. Each afforded an image so sharp, bright, and clear as to be almost unbelievable. The issue
remains whether or not the best is worth the cost. We feel that the more you use binoculars, the more you will
appreciate the best.

Editor’s Note: Jeff Cooper’s article on the BM-62 will appear in our next issue. We apologize for taking so long to
get the information to you, but Jeff was as determined to find out why the rifles that he tested were grouping poorly.
After much experimentation, he has come up with an answer, which was a surprise to him and will influence your
evaluation of the rifle.

Food Poisoning
by G. Richards, Ph.D., & C. Weber, R.Ph.

Food poisoning is an acute illness associated with the ingestion of contaminated food. Although it may be due to
any toxin in food, in the medical sense it is caused by the toxic by-products of food-borne bacteria and, depending
upon the type of toxic bacteria, characterized by nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, and death. Its recorded
incidence in the US is deceptively low; in fact, many cases of the “24-hour flu” are probably food poisoning.

The significance of food poisoning in a “survival situation” is great since one will be dependent upon food stores
that are months to years old, and the physical and mental stress that are bound to be present will add to the
possibility of its occurrence. Obviously, the ability to identify and treat food poisoning is very important under such

Food poisoning is actually a collective term for a number of diseases caused by different food-borne bacteria. For
our purposes we shall only describe the general types of food poisoning. I must stress that all types of food
poisoning are generally the result of lax storage methods, preparation, handling, or serving of food.
C. Botulinum

The first and the most dangerous type of food poisoning is botulism. This intoxication is the result of a poison
produced by the bacteria, ​Clostridium botulinum.​ Since the botulinum organism does not need air to live and grow
it is frequently found in underprocessed non-acid canned foods. The types of foods most responsible for this are
vegetables (18% recorded incidence of food poisoning), fruits (4%), and fish (4%).

The disease botulism is severe. Essentially the toxin causes paralysis of the muscles by blocking the transfer of
nerve impulses to the muscle. Initially, ingestion of food containing botulism toxin results in vomiting, double
vision, nausea, and abdominal distress. These symptoms develop 12-72 hours after the ingestion of toxin containing

Twenty-four hours after ingestion muscle involvement generally begins, which is indicated by marked fatigue,
painful joints, difficulty in swallowing, and eventual paralysis of the respiratory muscles and loss of the pupillary
responses of the eye. Emergency treatment measures are to remove the toxin as early as possible by emesis
(ipecac-15-20 ml. orally; apomorphine- 0.1 mg/kg subcutaneously).

This should be followed by catharsis or enema with Fleets-phospho-soda- 30-50ml., diluted 1:4. Respiratory
paralysis can only be treated supportively. Although impractical for most survival medical kits, there are three
specific botulinum antitoxins available: A, B, and E. The antitoxins produce a high percentage of side effects and
allergic reactions. These should only be administered by a competent physician.

Duration of the illness is one to ten days and 50% of the people with severe botulinum poisoning will die. Those
who survive will recover completely but with possible residual weakness extending for more than one year. Thus
the practical and preventative measure is to discard all suspect foods, especially questionable canned goods.

It should be stated here that good hygiene on the part of food handlers, proper food preparation, and careful
processing can eliminate completely your chances of coming down with this disease. The greatest potential for
botulism occurs with home prepared and home canned foods that are processed with insufficient heat treatment and
are improperly handled. Pressure canning is the only completely safe way to can low-acid foods.

From a nutritional standpoint it is often undesirable to process food to the point that all biological organisms are
destroyed. When this occurs, many vitamins and essential nutrients are lost in the “sterile” food. The current aim of
commercial food preparation and storage is to limit contamination of pathogenic organisms, which is done by a
variety of methods: heat, dehydration, freezing, freeze-drying, and chemical means.

Thus careful storage, rotation of stock, and the diligent preparation and serving of your food will reduce any
potential botulism and other food poisonings.
C. Perfringes

A less serious but possibly more prevalent type of food poisoning is due to the organism ​Clostridium perfringes.​
This organism grows well in a large number of foods. The foods most often associated with C. perfringes are meats
-especially those cooked one day and eaten the next- and frozen precooked foods. The true incidence of food
poisoning due to C. perfringes is difficult to determine since the symptoms are rarely fatal.

Thus, it is often taken for the 24-hour flu and not reported. Between 6 and 24 hours after the ingestion of
contaminated food, the symptoms of acute abdominal pain and diarrhea occur. Nausea, fever, and vomiting are rare.
The duration of the illness is usually 24 hours or less.


The third type of food poisoning is due to Staphylococcal organisms. Again, the prevalence is difficult to determine
because although the symptoms may be severe, they are very rarely fatal. The most likely source of staphylococcal
organisms is hand-prepared convenience foods which are improperly refrigerated after preparation. The foods most
often responsible are meat products (especially ham), poultry, custards, cream-filled pastries, eggs, and milk

The toxin acts on the intestine to cause vomiting and diarrhea. The symptoms which develop from one to six hours
after the ingestion of contaminated food are: severe abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating,
headache, and occasionally a fall in body temperature. The illness will last from 24-48 hours. Treatment is usually
supportive- maintenance of the patient’s fluid balance and rest.


The next type of food poisoning worthy of consideration is due to Streptococcal organisms. (The group usually
associated with food contamination is ​S. faecalis.​ ) The foods most responsible are turkey dressing, cheese,
evaporated milk, Vienna sausage, barbecued beef, and cured ham.

Two to 22 hours after the ingestion of contaminated food the following symptoms appear: diarrhea and severe
abdominal pain. Nausea and vomiting are rare. The illness has a duration of 24 hours or less. Treatment is
supportive fluid maintenance and rest.


Salmonella food poisoning is due to the organism ​Salmonella enteritidis.​ Technically, food-borne salmonella is a
food infection because you must ingest viable cells to develop the illness. The foods most responsible for this are
poultry (turkey and chicken-42% of the recorded incidence), eggs, egg products (mayonnaise), milk, meat, meat
products, cake mixes, and pre-made cookie dough.
A high percentage of infections at large banquets are due to the salmonella organism. Low stomach pH (acidic)
causes release of the endotoxin from the salmonella cells. Twelve to 24 hours after ingesting the infected food the
symptoms of nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, headache, chills, and diarrhea occur.

Infected individuals may also experience prostration, muscle weakness, faintness, restlessness, mild fever, and
drowsiness. Although most people recover within two to three days, there is a 4% mortality rate associated with
salmonella food poisoning.

Treatment is supportive- maintenance of fluid balance, rest, and possibly antibiotic treatment.​1 ​Salmonella
organisms are heat labile. Thus, cooking foods at 160 degrees F. or higher will destroy the organisms. A brine (salt
solution) concentration of greater than 9% is also bactericidal.

Since the primary source of salmonella organisms is the intestinal tract of man and animals (fecal contamination)
good sanitation is probably the best deterrent to salmonella vectors of food poisoning.

E. Coli

The final organism considered here as a causative organism of food poisoning is ​Escherichia Coli​. The types of
foods most responsible are meat, fish, poultry, rice, vegetables, baked products, milk and dairy products, cream pie,
and mashed potatoes. The E. Coli enterotoxins cause an increase in cyclic AMP (adenosine monophosphate) in the
intestinal tract, resulting in an increase in electrolyte secretion which causes fluid accumulation.

The resultant symptom is profuse watery stools resembling those of cholera victims. E. Coli is often the causative
agent of traveler’s diarrhea. Other symptoms include cramps, chills, headaches, vomiting, and aches.

The onset of symptoms is approximately 18 hours, with a duration of two days. E. Coli food poisoning is rarely
fatal. Treatment should emphasize the forcing of fluids to maintain body fluid balance. There are two toxins
produced by E. Coli. One is heat stable and resistant to mild acid.

The other toxin will be destroyed by boiling at 100 degrees C. for 15 minutes and a mild acid environment. Again,
it must be emphasized that proper sanitation is the best preventative to food poisoning. The second best measure is
to discard immediately all suspect foods or liquids.

General Prevention and What to Do During Occurrence

The foregoing discussion of food poisoning emphasizes four salient points.

1) Good sanitation, sufficient cooking, careful handling, and proper storage are the best measures for preventing
food poisoning. Being able to identify food poisoning by physical signs when you see or smell them is also a form
of prevention.

Smells indicative of food spoilage include those that are acid, sour, cheesy, putrid, rotten egg (with sulfide
spoilage), and fermented. Physical signs to watch for are bulges in cans, emulsion separation (as with mayonnaise),
and “off-flavor”.

2) If food quality is suspect at all- throw it out, especially in a survival situation. That is certainly not the time to
risk testing foods or poisoning others. Now is a good time to familiarize yourself with your survival foods and how
they appear, smell, and taste so that you will be able to tell if they are “spoiled”.

3) If you or others become ill shortly after food ingestion, determine whether it is food poisoning or not- isolate and
examine the food. This food examination and, the patient’s physical symptoms should help identify the type of
poisoning; whether it is botulism or a self-limiting food intoxication treat the disease or poisoning as described.

If you have the capability of simple clinical lab testing, food poisoned individuals will generally exhibit slight
hemoconcentrations, trace urinary protein levels, and microorganisms in the feces in addition to the abdominal and
diaphoretic symptomology described.

4) Treat the disease or poisoning supportively. Bed rest and no other foods are definitely indicated. Oral fluids, if
tolerated, should be given 12-24 hours prior to any food. Vomiting and nausea may be controlled with Compazine
(25-50mg) or Tigan (l00-200mg) every four to six hours by intramuscular or intravenous injection, oral ingestion,
or by suppository. Severe vomiting and diarrhea rapidly deplete the body fluids.

To maintain fluid balance, intravenous 5% Dextrose/water or 5% Dextrose in Ringer’s Lactate may be

administered. Oral electrolyte replacement fluids -such as Gatorade- may also be used to maintain the body’s fluid
balance. Diarrhea may be treated in the same way as vomiting or with the oral medications Lomotil​2 ​(one every four
to six hours) or imodium (two immediately, and one after each loose stool with a maximum of eight per 24 hours).

However, oral medications and suppositories are only effective if tolerated. No antibiotics are indicated in food
poisoning since food poisoning, with the exception of that caused by salmonella, is due to bacterial toxins and is not
a bacterial infection.

The Susceptibility of Freeze-dried and Dehydrated Foods

With dehydrated and freeze-dried foods, generally the moisture content is too low (approx. 2% moisture) to support
the growth of anything but molds and yeasts. However, drying is not lethal to most bacteria- they are present in a
sort of “hibernated” form and will grow quite rapidly once these foods are reconstituted and prepared.
Freeze-drying is actually one of the best known methods of preserving microorganisms. Freezing will destroy more
organisms than freeze-drying or dehydration.

Freeze-dried and dehydrated foods will support little, if any, bacterial growth during storage. The danger of
bacterial food poisoning is a concern after these foods are reconstituted. There are certain chemical changes that
freeze-dried and dehydrated foods undergo with storage.

Dried foods containing fats and oxygen tend to become rancid due to oxidation during storage. Foods containing
reducing sugars and/or a moisture content greater than 2% may undergo a browning process, which in addition to
imparting an undesirable color, also gives fruits and vegetables a bitter taste.

Other chemical changes in freeze-dried and dehydrated foods include loss of the ability to fully rehydrate,
toughness in the rehydrated cooked foods, discoloration, and loss of Vitamin C.

To maintain the optimum quality of freeze-dried and dehydrated foods, the following steps should be taken: 1)
Store food in a dry place in order to keep the moisture content as low as possible. This decreases the potential for
chemical changes and prevents surface fungal spoilage. 2) Blanch food before drying.

To decrease the chance of browning, blanch each type of vegetable separately in its own water. Dehydrated soups,
vegetables, powdered eggs, milk, and fruit juice concentrates will contain higher counts of microorganisms than
other foods.

The greatest danger of food poisoning with freeze-dried and dehydrated foods occurs after rehydration. In a
survival situation, careful handling after rehydration should be stressed. Improper storage of these foods, although
not life-threatening, as is the case with some food poisonings, can result in the deterioration of the quality of the


Practical references for your library for use during the threat of a poisoning (not just food) are the ​Merck Manual
(13th edition) and ​The Handbook of Poisoning​ (Lange, Ed., 1974).

Antibiotic treatment for salmonella infections, which are gram-negative, is usually ineffective unless specialized
antibiotics are used. If not, the course of the disease may be lengthened.

Lomotil is not safe for infants, whose stomachs should be put to rest and who should be fed a clear liquid diet for
24-48 hours. If they cannot ingest fluids by mouth, give them an IV. Dehydration is a real danger with children
because of their high ratio of body surface area to weight. When they get a fever, they can lose far more heat and
moisture than an adult. Pedialyte is an over-the-counter fluid supplement that is excellent for infants.
“Tear Gas”
Editor’s Note: Many of you have requested information on what is popularly known as “tear gas”. It’s proponents
tend to regard it as a panacea for the problem of self-defense- because it is not lethal and because in some areas
one can get a permit to carry it whereas obtaining a pistol permit is all but impossible. As is the case with most
so-called cure-alls, however, tear gas does have serious limitations.

For this reason, we thought it only fair to offer you two articles -both by law enforcement personnel- one discussing
the drawbacks of tear gas and the other telling you what you need to know if you choose to use it. Interestingly, the
authors are in complete agreement on one point- that awareness is the best weapon one can have. N. T.

How Effective Are Tearing Agents?

by Charles Avery

Editor’s Note: Charles Avery is currently an officer with the University of Washington Police Department. His first
exposure to tear gas occurred in 1973 when he joined the Sheriff’s Reserves of San Mateo County while getting his
degree in the Administration of Justice. Originally, he was sold on the use of tearing agents, but, as you will see,
experiences during eight years in the field have changed his mind. N. T.

Whenever one enters a discussion on any defensive tool or technique, one is automatically embroiled in a
controversy. The more specialized the application for defense is, the more violent the controversy seems to become.
The reason is quite simple: the more specialized the weapon or technique is, the easier it is to misunderstand or
overextend its use. Such is the case with tearing agents (Mace, ChemShield, Paralyzer, etc.).

The original non-lethal chemical weapons manufactured for distribution were Alpha Chloroacetophenone
(commonly called CN and first marketed under the trade name of Mace) and Orthochlorobenzalmalononitrile
(abbreviated as CS and marketed under a variety of names, the most popular of which is currently ChemShield).
Neither of these chemicals is a true gas; rather they are fine particles held either in a colloidal suspension or
solution, depending on the type and brand of the product.

Therefore, the term “tear gas” is not strictly proper -and will appear italicized when used- tearing agent, irritant, and
chemical agent are all more proper and descriptive. CN and CS attack and irritate the moist mucous membranes of
the body, causing tears in the eyes, runny nose, etc., and they cause a burning sensation by irritating the surface
nerves which are most plentiful in the neck, face, and genitals, and choking and coughing if inhaled. The sudden
onslaught of these sensations combined with the temporary blindness of sudden tearing sometimes cause extreme
Of the two chemicals, the CS compound is much more potent than the CN, but the CN is the more widely
distributed and was the first product to gain widespread use by the police in this country. These chemical weapons
were developed in order to give police officers an effective means for combating violence without the possibility of
injuring the violent person.

The idea was to replace the nightstick and have the entire spectrum of physical force up to the use of lethal force
covered by the use of this one weapon- at least that is what most officials wanted to do with it. Some even tried to
replace firearms with chemical agents. Obviously none of this has taken place. There is a good reason for this,
which we will cover shortly.

Much of the existing confusion concerning the use of tearing agents centers around their use by police agencies.
The critical point is the difference between the police function and self-defense, which are not synonymous. The
police function is to seek out and control violence. That is the key difference.

The police function is an offensive maneuver, not a defensive one. Reaction to personal attack is defensive and the
fact that the police must also function on this level adds to the confusion. As a citizen the normal posture is almost
always defensive; you will almost always be faced with a violent, aggressive action at close quarters in which you
are not the aggressor.

Chemical agents weren’t really designed to handle this type of situation. They were supposed to overcome violence
non-violently and, in certain situations, they perform as advertised. Those of you who can remember the turbulent
60’s remember how well the demonstrating crowds dispersed when the great clouds of tearing agent descended on

Those same chemicals are a good bid for barricaded suspects; fill up the room with ​tear gas and the suspect usually
comes out. The reputation tear gas enjoys has been built on its success as a riot control agent and neutralizer of
barricaded criminals.

In these specific situations the target is literally enveloped with irritant, quite a different proposition from squirting
it out of a small aerosol container. In the guise of a personal defense weapon, ​tear gas suffers from several

1) The delivery system lacks range. In severe wind and rain the range is measured in inches, often as little as two
feet or less. One is not likely to be attacked under those conditions since criminals tend to be fair weather and
indoor types. However, it could happen, and if ​tear gas is your primary weapon you had better know all of its

2) The active agents in the various ​tear gases are often ineffective against certain individuals, particularly those
under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs and those in high emotional states. This is more true of CN agents than
CS, but certainly mitigates the effect of all tearing agents.
3) None of the products take instantaneous effect, except to temporarily blind the assailant if squirted directly into
the eyes. The devastating disorientation and pain associated with the chemical agents under discussion are likely to
occur only when all senses are affected simultaneously and that simply doesn’t happen often unless the target is
immersed in the chemical. Since the range of the encounter is likely to be close, the lag time is often enough to
allow the attacker to grab you, a situation you had hoped to avoid in the beginning.

Then you are likely to end up grappling with a thoroughly enraged antagonist. Grappling does not necessarily
require sight or balance, the primary senses affected by ​tear gas initially. You may lose if the size/strength
advantage is not in your favor. The most effective chemical agents are obviously of dubious value at very close

4) If the encounter does require wrestling, you are going to become a victim of your own weapon. If you are
wrestling with someone who is covered with a chemical irritant, you will also be covered with the stuff before you
are done, which is a major complaint by street officers against the use of Mace.

If you use your chemical spray within about six feet, it is quite likely you will receive some splashback or chemical
“fallout”. The effect won’t be as strong as that with a direct hit, but it probably won’t be a lot of fun either.

5) Malfunctions and defects in the delivery systems are not particularly rare, especially in some of the more exotic
and complicated holder/dispensers which employ a lot of plastic parts.

6) The products do deteriorate with age and should be replaced every so often. Manufacturer expiration dates vary,
but four years seems to be the median. My department has samples tested annually and replaces the product when it
is losing strength. Our current batch is a couple years overdue but still potent, says the lab. It isn’t much of a
problem unless you want to stockpile a supply or carry the same agent for a very long time.

7) Last, but not necessarily least, the restrictions on most of these products are more stringent than for firearms. In
many jurisdictions you cannot legally carry any tear agent under any circumstances, but you can get a permit and
legally carry a firearm.

Many advocates of tearing agents seem to be pushing the product as a replacement for training with other weapons
or techniques, a bad idea at best. If the product fails you, and it certainly may, a back-up system will be necessary.
If the back-up system is good enough to stop immediately an enraged antagonist who has been liberally sprayed
with ​tear gas​, then it is the better defensive tool and ought to be used instead of the chemical.

Many street cops of my acquaintance have either dropped Mace entirely and gone back to using the baton or they
have kept the Mace for special applications only. (One very popular special use is to fill the car of an uncooperative
citizen full of chemical, which normally precludes any scuffle with the unwilling motorist and virtually guarantees
his voluntary exit from his vehicle.)
Officers who continue to use the chemicals must often supplement them with their batons. I work for a department
which forbids the use of any weapon other than Mace, except for our service revolvers. I do not carry the Mace, for
all the reasons given.

It would be poor form indeed were I to condemn the use of one weapon and leave you with no alternative form of
defense. My solution, however, may appear a step backwards to some. A citizen need not worry about public
opinion, has no minimum force mandate to follow and has virtually no need to control suspects.

Whereas the police have the duty to seek violence in order to control it, the citizen is free to avoid potentially
violent situations, and probably should. As stated before, the police mission is mainly offensive and multi-leveled;
reactive force to defend one’s life or physical well-being is not normally a police function and when it is, chemical
agents are virtually never used.

The average person on the street is in exactly the opposite position. Since you are not the aggressor in the violent
action, the creep you are facing has already demonstrated his willingness to do you harm and obviously is not
concerned in the least with your safety nor your well being. If he were, he would leave you alone. So why concern
yourself with his safety? Do what is necessary to guarantee your well-being and let him worry about his own safety.

A chemical tearing agent is an unnecessary step in the escalation of force for defense. It may even be a dangerous
step because it can waste valuable time. I recommend using something capable of stopping a determined man (or
woman) immediately and reliably.

In my experience only two categories of defensive weapons do that: bludgeons (clubs, staffs, canes- heavy ones,
nightsticks, baseball bats, and the like) and firearms, the very weapons the chemical agents sought to replace.

My recommendation is a big-bore handgun backed with proper training, since bludgeons as weapons are illegal in
many jurisdictions and are often dealt with more harshly than firearms. This does not give you license to buy a
pistol and carry it; there are legal restrictions you must adhere to, and you have the moral obligation to learn how to
use your weapon properly.

The handgun combined with proper training gives you the ability to control your immediate environment even if
you are not physically strong. You need not kill someone to prove this point, but you must be ready to shoot if the
situation demands it. The decision as to whether the conflict is going to be one of life or death is up to your
opponent, not you.

You have served notice, usually by drawing the weapon, that if the situation is pushed any further you stand ready
to terminate it. This will often preclude any further aggression.
There are a couple of admonishments that accompany this advice: (1) Anyone not properly trained with a handgun
is very likely to be a victim of his own stupidity and is statistically likely to seriously injure or kill himself or a
loved one rather than a criminal. (2) Be certain you are morally and legally correct in the use of a firearm- the
results are not reversible. (3) THINK! Remain alert and avoid the situations which have the potential for this kind
of violence whenever possible. There just isn’t any substitute for awareness and good judgment.

So You Want to Use Tear Gas

by Mike Cantrell

Editor’s Note: Michael Cantrell is a survivalist in the Los Angeles area. Formerly a fireman and police officer, he
is now the owner of Executive Protection Service, Inc. in Redondo Beach, California, and lately he has been
training several hundred students a week in the use, legal ramifications, and medical aspects of tear gas. N.T.

Recently, the topic of tear gas, or mace, has come up quite frequently and it is unusual to pick up a newspaper or
magazine from any metropolitan area and not see some controversy about different training institutions and tear gas
products. Even consumer advocate David Horowitz dedicated one of his weekly shows to this controversial issue.
Due to all of this controversy, I feel that there is a genuine need to discuss tear gas.

Since the use of tear gas is regulated at the state level, you must check with your state police or Department of
Justice about the laws governing its use in your state. Further, if your state chooses not to regulate tear gas, its cities
can impose their own rules. If your state chooses to regulate tear gas use, however, its cities cannot supersede those

In the state of California, the mere possession of any type of tear gas unit without a permit is a felony. In January of
1977, the California Department of Justice passed a law stating that any person could attend an 8-hour training
seminar instructed by a certified Department of Justice instructor and receive a certificate of training, as long as he
passed the written exam and passed the following qualifications:

A. Be at least 18 years of age.

B. Have no felony convictions.
C. Have no convictions for assault or misuse of tear gas.
D. Not be addicted to any narcotics.
After receiving the training certificate, the individual went to his or her local police department and applied for a
permit to carry tear gas. If the person met the requirements and passed computer background investigation, then he
or she could receive a permit.

Then the person had to find a Department of Justice licensed vendor from whom to purchase the CN-type tear gas.

In January of 1980, the Department of Justice reduced the training seminar to two hours and allowed a Department
of Justice certified vendor, if one was present, to issue the permit in the classroom.

The student (applicant) must have proof of identification and is still run through a police background check after
completion of the class, usually within three days. If the student provides false information, he commits perjury,
which is a felony, and since that invalidates his permit, he is guilty of another felony.

On January 13, 1980, the Department of Justice allowed CS-type tear gas to be sold to civilians, as long as they
completed the training prescribed in the California Penal Code, Section 12403.7. As a result, we have developed a
battle of the tear gas companies and products with claims being made by both sides: CN gas advocates and CS gas

The ironic point of this issue is that, in the state of California, you must attend the 2-hour prescribed course in order
to qualify to carry tear gas, which is a non-lethal weapon. Yet there is no training at all required to purchase,
possess, and use a firearm which is a lethal weapon.

There are some states in the US which have chosen not to regulate or restrict tear gas in any capacity. In the state of
Arizona, for example, you may purchase tear gas across the counter. Many other states do not address the tear gas
matter in any way; however, there are certain cities and/or states that do regulate or even forbid aerosol tear gas

In Hawaii you can purchase tear gas on several of the islands, but Honolulu forbids its sale or possession.

In the state of Washington the regulation of tear gas is of no concern, but Seattle allows none within its city limits.

The entire state of New Jersey forbids the sale and possession, as does New York City and Washington D.C.
Nevada is regulated, but you may obtain a permit to carry tear gas, such as one can in California.

Chicago allows only one brand of tear gas, which is sold almost anywhere as of April 1, 1981. This product is
ChemShield CS-type gas; however, because of the rash of crimes committed with it as soon as it became legal,
Chicago is currently trying to implement a tear gas training program similar to that in California.
All of Canada forbids tear gas, and in Mexico you’re taking a big risk if you decide to take it with you. If you do a
lot of traveling, you should check with the Justice Department of each state you are planning to visit, and if you are
planning a visit to a foreign country, contact its consulate and inquire about the rules governing tear gas.

On the topic of travel, here is something you should know regardless of which state you live in. The Department of
Transportation Hazardous Act of 1975 (FAA Regulation 121.585 and Title 49 of the US Code Section 1471 [1])
states that you cannot, at any time, under any set of circumstances, transport any aerosol canister containing any
type of hazardous gas aboard any commercial or private aircraft anywhere in the US (including baggage

Aircraft utilize recirculatory air systems and if the chemicals from a canister are released in the interior of the
pressurized cabin, everyone on the aircraft could be adversely affected, including the pilot who would be unable to
control the aircraft.

At the airport, you are not even allowed past the security check-in boarding area if you are carrying tear gas. You
must leave your tear gas in your car or wait for arriving passengers in the baggage claim area, away from the
security check area. Tear gas on any aircraft is extremely dangerous and should be left behind.

When the term CN or CS is used describing the type of tear gas, we are speaking of generic terms only and not
brand names. The active irritant agent in CN gas is ​Alpha Chloroacetophenone and in CS gas is
Orthochlorobenzalmalononitrile​. The only brand of CN gas that is legal in the state of California is ​Curb Jet
Stream 20​. The legal CS gas products are ​Chemical Defense,​ and ​Aerosol Defense​.

All other products available, such as Chemical Mace manufactured by Smith & Wesson, and Paralyzer are not
approved by the California Department of Justice for civilians. States which do not regulate tear gas allow you to
carry all brands. Again, if you are planning to carry tear gas in a state that regulates its use, make certain that you
purchase an authorized brand.

With so many different tear gas choices, you should know some facts about these gases before enrolling in a
particular institution.

The CN gas (​Curb Jet Stream 20​) contains a trichlorethane base and upon contact with the skin causes severe
irritation, burning, choking, and tearing (blinding) of the eyes. The CN gas is a very effective product. The only
drawback to ​Curb is that it does not contain as high an irritant level as the CS gas does; therefore, there is a greater
possibility that it may not function on someone under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Even with the same amount
of irritant present, both containing 1%, the CS penetrates deeper and causes a more intense burning sensation.

The most effective CS gas I have found thus far is the CS ​Chemical Shield product. ​Chemical Shield has a
non-toxic solvent and acetone base with a C0​2 ​propellant. Upon contact with the skin, the acetone and solvent
dissolve the fatty tissue that protects the nerves and acts as a catalyst for the irritant, which attacks the nerve
It also develops fumes which the assailant inhales, causing severe choking and irritation to the mucous membrane,
causing such rapid discharge of fluids that an individual has a sensation of vertigo, losing his equilibrium.

With the temporary closure of the eyelids and the inability to function, an attacker can be down for 20 to 45
minutes; obviously, this gives one enough time to escape.

All other CS tear gas products contain a mineral oil base and are somewhat slower reacting. Mineral oil base
products generally have a longer lasting effect once they take hold. Accuracy is more important with oil based

Medical aspects: with CN gas, flushing with cold water seems to offer the best relief. The CS gas is best treated by
seeking fresh air or directing a fan into the face.

When can you use the tear gas now that you have completed the course? The Department of Justice in California
says, “when you have a fear of bodily harm”, for the protection of yourself and others. This obviously reduces the
amount of escalation in any situation which may arise before you’re afforded the legal right to counterattack.

Here again, check with your state’s Department of Justice to find out when you can use tear gas in your state. With
a handgun either your life or someone else’s life must be in extreme danger before you can pull the trigger, and
once you do, that bullet is irretrievable.

If you make a mistake with a gun, you can’t very well just say you’re sorry. With tear gas, you can expect the
person to stand without any after effects within 25 to 45 minutes.

The cost of the training and different brands of tear gas range from $20 to $65 for both. The price of the canisters
are determined by brand, size, and whether it is CN or CS gas. CS products are usually more expensive. The better
the training institution is, the more it will run for the cost of training.

After all, you get what you pay for and if the instructor is knowledgeable, he should be able to teach you awareness
so that you can recognize a potential threat and avoid a conflict before it occurs. No price can be placed on your
personal safety or your family’s safety, and training in prevention could save you from a potential disaster.

Tear gas is an extremely effective, legal means of self-defense, but nothing is a substitute for self-awareness and
good common sense.
Survival Gunsmithing- Ruger Standard Auto
by J. B. Wood

The Ruger Standard .22 Auto Pistol is one of the best engineered handguns of all time, and its record of
dependability reflects the care that went into its design. The rimmed .22 Long Rifle round, with its long lead bullet,
is all wrong for a semi-auto action. In spite of this, the Ruger works, every time, and also has outstanding accuracy
and handling qualities. It’s easy to see why it was included on Mel’s original list.

As with any mechanical device, though, even a Ruger can suffer parts damage after long use. Here is the basic
replacement parts list: Firing pin, firing pin rebound spring, rebound spring support, extractor, extractor spring,
extractor plunger, recoil spring assembly, and magazine.

The firing pin and extractor are included for obvious reasons, as any steel part can be subject to crystallization after
years of use. The firing pin spring and its support, and the extractor spring and plunger are not susceptible to
breakage, but it’s possible that any coil spring can take a slight “set” in time, weakening its action. The support and
plunger are included mainly in case of loss, not breakage. Listing of the magazine is probably unnecessary, as any
serious survivalist will have several spares.

The recoil spring assembly is the only part that has some incidence of breakage. At the rear tip of the spring guide
are two “wings” which extend to each side, and these have been known to break off. This is not a serious fault, as I
have seen several guns in which one “wing” was broken, and they were still functioning perfectly. The breakage
was discovered only during takedown for cleaning or refinishing. The spring, guide, and front support come as a
self-contained unit, and this assembly is very inexpensive. You might even consider putting two of them in your kit.

Repeating the items from the basic kit, here is a more comprehensive list: Firing pin, firing pin rebound spring,
rebound spring support, extractor, extractor spring, extractor plunger, recoil spring assembly, magazine, sear,
disconnector, hammer, safety catch, sear spring, trigger spring, trigger spring plunger, trigger pivot pin, trigger pin
C-clip, magazine catch spring, grips, and grip screws (4).

The sear and hammer are insurance against the unlikely event that their engagement surfaces may chip or wear. The
sear, trigger, and magazine catch springs are just in case of age weakening- breakage is unlikely. I have never
known a trigger bar (disconnector) to break, but a very hard pull on the trigger with the safety engaged could snap
its forward post, and its upper rear surface is subject to wear.

The trigger pivot pin, trigger spring plunger, and the tiny C-clip that retains the trigger pivot pin are included in
case of loss, as making them could be tedious for the non-gunsmith. The little C-clip (Ruger calls it the “trigger pin
lock washer”) is particularly easy to lose during complete disassembly.
Of course, everyone should occasionally check grip screws for tightness, but circumstances of survival might
relegate this routine maintenance operation to low priority. If one or more screws should loosen and drop off, a full
set of spares would be better than the alternative- wrapping the grip frame with tape to keep the panels on. Since the
grips are the most fragile parts of any handgun, a spare set is always a good idea.

I have included an extra safety catch assembly on the list because of a rare problem that I’ve seen on three or four
pistols over the years. While it seldom occurs, it can happen, so this is just a little extra insurance. At the rear of the
safety button, a spring-powered ball bears on V-cuts in the frame, locking the safety into its two positions.

The button, on early guns, was rivet-jointed to the internal safety plate. Occasionally, the riveting loosened after
long use, allowing the button to turn. This misaligned the detent ball, and while the safety would still function, it
wouldn’t snap into its two positions.

Repair of this problem is not difficult, as the button can simply be re-riveted. Setting it in the exact position for
proper operation, though, is not a job for the amateur. So, just in case, it’s good to have a replacement safety unit on
hand, especially if you have a very early gun.

I haven’t seen this problem in several years, so it may be that the factory is now using a different method to anchor
the safety button on the plate. If your Ruger was purchased in recent times, you can probably drop the spare safety
from the list. You’re not likely to need it.

The Confirmed Pessimist can add a hammer strut and hammer strut pin to the list, as these two parts are under
considerable stress. However, I have never seen a single case of breakage or deformation. By the way, it is the
hammer strut that gives many people a problem during reassembly.

I don’t want to duplicate information here that’s available in my takedown books and the factory manual, but
perhaps a brief note would be in order: When you’re ready to swing the mainspring housing back into the grip
frame, be sure the hammer is in fired position, and be sure the lower tip of the hammer strut engages the cup at the
top of the hammer spring plunger. If it doesn’t, the housing can be locked in place, but the bolt can’t be pulled back.

You may have noted that a spare mainspring (hammer spring) was not included on the list. There are two reasons
for this omission. First, the mainspring, which also powers the takedown latch, has ample extra strength to allow for
any possible age weakening, and there is no danger of breakage.

Second, the strong spring assembly is retained by a lobe of the housing latch lever at the bottom, and by a cross pin
at the top. Both this pin and the lever pivot pin are heavily staked on each side to discourage disassembly.
I have taken these units apart for refinishing, and if I find reassembly difficult, I can imagine how much trouble the
non-gunsmith would have, under possibly primitive conditions. If our Confirmed Pessimist insists on covering
every possibility, then an extra mainspring housing assembly could be added to the list. Again, as with the safety, I
doubt it would ever be needed.

Most gun shops can probably supply such things as firing pins, extractors, and recoil spring units. The Ruger
factory is, of course, the ultimate source. The address is: Sturm, Ruger & Company, 1 Lacey Place, Southport, CT
06490. Be sure to direct your requests to the attention of the Parts Department. If you have the original instruction
booklet furnished with each new gun, it gives part numbers and prices. The factory will supply these booklets on
request, at no charge.

An exploded view of the Ruger Standard Auto is in the instruction booklet, and is also on page 119 of ​The Gun
Digest Book of Exploded Firearms Drawings​, Second Edition. Complete takedown and reassembly instructions can
be found on pages 361 through 367 of ​Volume I: Automatic Pistols​, in my ​Firearms Assembly/Disassembly series
of books. If these books are not at your local bookstore or gun shop, they can be ordered from DBI Books, Inc.,
One Northfield Plaza Northfield, IL 60093.

Survival Retreats

Editor’s Note: If you decide to “retreat” (a word that I dislike because it connotes defeat and withdrawal) and rent
or purchase land in a rural area, you face a series of problems- first you must find the right piece of property in the
area that is right for you, then you must turn the acreage, the outbuildings, and the house into a unit that is as
secure, productive, and conducive to self-sufficiency as possible.

To help you meet these challenges, we are beginning in this issue a series on “The Retreat”, which will include an
article by Jeff Cooper on tactical considerations; one by an architect who takes a hard look at some of the current
mushy-headed thinking about retreats and offers you some practical building and remodeling suggestion; one by an
expert in mini-farming; and several that explore alternate energy sources.

For this first article I turned to Bob McQuain, one of Mel’s closest friends and the man who found us our land here
in Rogue River. Today he owns McQuain & Co. in Grant’s Pass, a real estate firm specializing in retreat property
throughout Oregon, Washington, and northern California.
I spent several hours interviewing Bob, seeking both his professional advice and that forged out of his own
experience as a “retreater”, in the hope that the information will benefit those of you who are still thinking about
buying country property, as well as you who have already bought but are unhappy and want to sell and purchase
another piece of land. N. T.

Evaluating Retreat Property

An Interview with Bob McQuain

Q. Bob, what do you think are the most common pitfalls that people encounter in buying retreat property?

A. The two biggest problems really have nothing to do with property ​per se​. Most people are simply not prepared to
live in the country. I try to get people to spend some time in an area during different times of the year so that they
are sure that they can live with its climate, the idiosyncrasies of the people, and the quirks of the community. They
need to go through a courting period before making any final decisions.

The second problem, especially among city people, is that they try to steer their life in a completely different
direction, thinking that if they can get back to nature -and somehow go back in time- they will solve all their
problems. I see a lot of older people who are looking for their grandmother’s house because they felt secure there.

They think that if they can recreate that atmosphere, they will have the same sense of security as they had when
they visited her, but as Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again.”

Then we have what I call the “dream” problem. When people begin looking at land, without exception they all have
the same fantasy. Everyone wants at least four or five acres, pasture, some water such as a lake, a pond or a creek,
woods, and a building site high on a hill with a spectacular view.

Incidentally, such a piece of perfection will cost you dearly, if you can find it. People are often completely
impractical about a setting- they forget that the most productive land is not always the prettiest, they love the idea
of living in the country and think that they can live in anything.

They will walk into a rural house and “ooh” and “ah” about how cute and cozy it is. The low doorways, the steep,
narrow, squeaky stairs, and the footed bathtub may seem quaint at first, but they are probably an indication of a
dilapidated structure. Older homes in rural areas are very small, boxy, and functional without any extras.
Because they were not built to any code, you find what we call here, “the Oregon add-on”- you walk through the
kitchen to the bedroom to the living room to the bathroom. What I’m trying to say is that your little dream of a farm
house can turn into a depressing nightmare very quickly.

Often a husband doesn’t take his wife or children into consideration when choosing property. Initially most men
want to get their family as isolated as possible- on 20 acres way up in the woods. One of the reasons that Mel
encouraged people to live near a small community is that living in isolation is not only dangerous but also causes
severe stress.

When I first moved here, we lived a long ten miles out of town in the woods, and that became a burden for my wife
and children. They sat out there day in and day out among those dark trees with no one to talk to or see while I was
out working with people all day. I’ve seen a real estate agent take a young divorcee with two children and sell her
property 20 miles out of town.

First, she thinks, “How wonderful! No one will bother me”, and then, six months later, she is miserable. You must
use common sense. If a family is going to be working together at their place, they can live farther out, but if you are
going to be working in town, stay within a ten-mile radius of the community. You can prepare for hard times
without putting your family through undue hardships now.

Q. It seems to me that before looking for property, one should first decide if he wants to use a realtor. What are the
dangers of buying and selling without a realtor?

A. You are putting me in a difficult position but the biggest problem I’ve seen is that of misrepresentation and
ignorance on the part of the seller who bought property unbeknownst and is selling it unbeknownst. For example, a
seller may think that his fence line is his property line, when in truth the farmer next door owns the three acres this
side of it.

Also, people can live with their property so long that they become emotionally attached to it and don’t see its faults
and problems. Further, if you are unfamiliar with an area and are not familiar with its zoning requirements and land
use regulations, you can get badly hurt.

Q. What qualities should you look for in a realtor?

A. Select one on the basis of his knowledge of the area, his accreditation and his common sense. Shop around until
you find one you have rapport with, ask people in the area (preferably those whose judgment you can trust) for their
recommendations, and then use your intuition.

Once you’ve chosen a realtor, give him your confidence. Remember that a piece of property should sell itself- if
your realtor does not offer you service, you’ve gotten hold of an order taker.
Perhaps the best service that a realtor can provide is his ability to negotiate between the buyer and seller. City and
country people rub each other the wrong way, especially when they try to negotiate with one another. Don’t
underestimate the value of having a third party handle the transaction.

He can take information back and forth without transmitting the hostility between principals and he can present the
reasons why a person is making a specific offer without getting personal. When buyers and sellers negotiate their
own deals, they inevitably forget to clarify all the issues and neglect to write everything they can think of into the
transaction and the result is gross misunderstanding.

You want a realtor who is looking beyond the inundate sale to the time when that buyer may come back to his
office, saying, “I’m in trouble, I’ve got to sell this land”, and the realtor will know that the buyer will not get hurt
when he markets that property again.

One thing that many people are not aware of is the use of a buyer-broker. Technically, a real estate agent is under
contract to represent the seller if he is representing his listing or that of another company. He has a fiduciary
relationship with the seller and a moral obligation to the buyer, which is not the easiest of positions. There are
occasions when it is prudent for the buyer to pay the broker a fee to act as his agent.

This arrangement allows the broker to negotiate about price and do other things that he cannot do ethically if he is
representing the seller in a fiduciary capacity and the buyer can deduct that fee as a part of the purchasing expense
of the property. I might add that if you are working with a realtor who does not know what the term “buyer-broker”
means, I’d say, “Look around, this man is not knowledgeable enough for me.”

Q. Before we discuss the specific criteria for evaluating retreat property, what do you think about renting?

A. Obviously, it’s an excellent way to get a feel for an area without making a heavy financial commitment and for
those who must choose between putting money either into a business or a residence, I would say that they should
put their money into their business and get it established, and only then consider buying property.

Q. How should you evaluate a piece of property?

A. I break it down into two parts- an evaluation of the legal restrictions and documents pertaining to a specific piece
of property and an actual physical evaluation of the land itself. After you’ve seen a piece of land that you like, it is
pointless to spend hours walking it if its deed restrictions would make owning it impractical for you or if the
acreage is landlocked.
Zoning changes are occurring so rapidly in rural areas that you need to determine what the present limitations are
on the uses of the property. In many places, for example, the zoning requirements will not permit you to raise
swine. You may want to subdivide the land at some later date so you should know what the acreage minimums in
the area are.

Go to the planning commission, take a map and legal description of the property and find out what you can and
cannot do and also, if there are any plans for commercial developments on adjacent acreage. You don’t want your
retreat to be located next to an amusement park four years hence.

If the land is in a subdivision -and remember that all subdivisions are not rows of box-like houses, you can have one
consisting of a few ten or twenty acre mini-farms- get a copy of the subdivision requirements and restrictions. And
if you are thinking about opening a family business on the property, find out if you can get a conditional use to
operate that business even though you are in an area zoned residential or agricultural.

Q. Isn’t this area very lax in that regard?

A. Yes, but not because of the planning commissions. People are very independent here and there is no way that
officials could keep track of all the small businesses operating in these hills. Incidentally, from a survival point of
view, you definitely want an area where the people are independent and have a laissez-faire attitude.

What can be very tricky here, as well as in most other rural areas, is buying a piece of property currently zoned for
commercial use. You must see if the zoning for that use will still be permitted when the property is transferred to
the new owner.

Often, you will find grandfather’s clauses in the deed that do not pass that right on to the new owner. If such is the
case, have a clause put into your offer stating that it is conditional upon the new owner being able to use the
property for commercial purposes.

Q. What about restrictions and easements?

A. First, examine the deeds and see what liens, restrictions, and easements -both beneficial and non-beneficial- are
included. You may not believe it, but there are deed restrictions in this state that forbid the owner from serving
alcohol on the premises, and he would be breaking the law every time he drank a glass of wine. Question those
easements that are not beneficial.

If, for example, Lone Star Trucking has the right to use the road on the property so that its trucks can drive in and
remove timber, you probably don’t want the land unless that easement can be removed. You must be very careful
about easements- they can appear harmless but can be a source of aggravation and some, such as mineral
easements, can not only be a bother but also mean that someone else is pocketing money that could be yours.
If you do have a problem with mineral rights, go to a local geologist and find out what minerals are in the area and
what the likelihood is of any activity taking place in that regard on the property in question. Power, phone
company, and irrigation easements are considered beneficial to property.

Often, power company easements on property were taken years ago when the company didn’t know where it would
put lines and they have never been used. Sometimes these easements can be removed by applying directly to the
power company.

Another thing that you must verify before buying property is that you have proper access to it. You must have
verification of ingress and egress in the form of either a deeded access or recorded easement.

Here again, you must be very cautious about listening to the seller, who may have an agreement with the adjacent
owner allowing him the use of a road and assume that that right will pass automatically to the buyer of his land.

If the adjacent owner won’t grant you access, you don’t want the property, and if he will, get your right of access
written into the legal description of the property and in the deed or contract.

In most states the courts will require that adjacent property owners allow access to a landlocked piece of property;
however, going through the courts is a hassle; it’s expensive, and human nature being what it is, you will get
opposition from the old time property owners in the neighborhood.

Again, don’t take the seller’s word about the boundaries of the land- fences don’t give you a true designation of its
limits. Get the title company to provide you with a profile of the property, which will give you a map and a legal
description, and when you physically inspect the land, you can pace off the boundaries or pay a surveyor to verify
them. A formal survey is expensive and is not normally necessary, but if there is any doubt about the boundaries it
is worth the cost.

It’s impossible to go into all the details about the legal aspects of buying rural property in an article such as this
and, if you want more information, I recommend Les Scher’s ​Finding and Buying Your Place in the Country.​ When
you read it, bear in mind that he is an attorney, and in my opinion, some of his recommendations would be
offensive to the seller and incur undue expense for the buyer.

For example, Nancy, you know that if we had brought a lawyer in on your negotiations with the farmer you bought
from, he would have told Mel to take his city ways and forget the whole deal. There are means of protecting
yourself other than some of those that Scher suggests, but with that one reservation, the book is excellent.
Q. Let’s talk about the physical evaluation of land.

A. First, you should look at the topography of the land and decide if it will suit your overall plans. You need to
know the elevations on the property, its contours, how it is related to the acreage around it, and its exposure, not
only for security reasons but also so that you can determine whether or not you can raise livestock, plant a garden
and orchard, grow the crops you want, build or remodel on the site you like, etc.

Get topographical, aerial, and soil maps of the land from map stores and/or your state agricultural or forestry
departments. Check to see if the property is in a flood plain area and if it is, what this means to you in terms of
insurance costs and additional building standards.

Have soil tests made at ​a number of different locations on the land so that you know what amendments it will need
in order to produce whatever you want to grow. Those pine-covered hillsides that you like are probably void of the
nutrients needed to grow peaches and that nice, flat meadow may have been so trampled by cattle and neglected by
the previous owner that the grass is nothing more than filler for a cow’s stomachs.

Check out the micro-climates on the property. To your surprise, you may find that you can grow items thought to be
impossible to raise in the surrounding area. If you need help in this regard, ask the county extension agent to look at
the land, or better yet, get a local farmer or gardener who is up on the latest techniques to give you his advice.

Walk every inch of the property, checking it for drainage. Unfortunately, most people usually look at land during
the late spring and summer months when drainage problems don’t rear their ugly heads. If possible, look at land
during the winter when it is at its most unattractive. You don’t want to buy a piece of property and have it turn into
nothing but a big pond during the winter.

Look for bogs, marshes, and springs. Certain kinds of foliage such as swamp grass, wild roses, blackberries, and
scrub oak thrive in areas with high water tables. Make certain that the septic tank, drain field, cesspools, and
building foundations do not have surface water near them.

If you think that there may be a problem with poor drainage, call in an expert and get an estimate of the costs
involved in remedying the problem. The solution may be as simple as bringing in a load of gravel or it may involve
digging a costly system of ditches and laying two miles of drain tile. If you need to get septic approval, by the way,
you will not get it unless the property has good drainage.

The term “deeded access” means that you own that access, whereas “recorded easement” means that you merely
have the right to use the access road.

To be continued in the next issue:

What You Should Know about Water, Irrigation Systems, Wells, Septic Tanks, Houses, and Their Energy