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Mel Tappan’s Personal Survival Letter # 24

Issue No. 24

Editor’s Note: You have let us know how much you enjoyed Jeff Cooper’s article on tactics in PS Letter No. 13 and
that you wanted more on the subject. Jeff is currently working on a piece about tactical architecture and we are
fortunate that another expert on the subject has agreed to share some of his specialized knowledge with us.

The author was a field grade officer in the Army and received the Combat Infantry Badge in Korea. He served in
Vietnam and until his retirement was involved in unconventional as well as conventional warfare. He taught tactics
in the military and today he offers tactical training to select groups as his schedule permits. If you wish to contact
him, you can do so through PS Letter. N.T.

Get There First (By Knowing How to Start)


Probably everyone who has considered the matter of survival has conjured up various doomsday scenarios and
given consideration to appropriate actions on his part. I seem to get involved in numerous discussions of this sort
and invariably learn that at least some of the participants have turned, on good advice, to the Great Captains in an
effort to gain an understanding of tactics. The implication is that under generally horrific social conditions some
sort of violent action will be a recurring event and that therefore one must know the “rules of combat” in order to do

Absolute chaos may or may not lie in wait for us down the road, but large-scale violent action is an aspect of the
present, not the future, social scene. We tend to accept the idea of future violence; we make an affirmative
statement to such effect every time we augment our food supply, consider vehicle modifications, or review our
knowledge of weaponscraft. What we probably should do is accept the fact that a rioting mob in Miami or a
weekend frolic by a Houston motorcycle gang is a point on the collapse graph already passed. It might be prudent
to look beyond manipulation and consider ​employment​ of the weapons we have acquired and learned to handle.

Fascination with military history is not idle pedantry. We need to ask ourselves not, “if it happens here” or “when it
happens here”, but “it is starting to happen, what do I do?” The Great Captains apparently had something going for
them. Are there basic moves or steps and how quickly are they to be learned?

Rest easy. There are no rules. The Great Captains -the Jacksons, the Napoleons, the Rommels- were stunningly
successful because they applied knowingly or unconsciously, a mere handful of what are best termed fundamentals
and they did so by a clear and orderly manner of thinking.
Aha! We have only to study these fundamentals and be sharp enough to think clearly and we can move out into the
smoke and din with equanimity. Not quite. Catch 22 is that while we can discern similar fundamentals and thought
processes at work as far back as Alexander, none of the military greats of the past bothered to publish.

Military writers, primarily since Napoleon, in whose time the idea that warfare might be scientific began to take
hold, have long struggled to distill the actions, orders, letters, biographies, and old age reflections of assorted
military greats into some sort of concise and easily comprehended instruction.

On the whole they have done well. Although they differ in title and wording, most modern armies have some sort of
codified guidelines to assist the commander in the planning and conduct of battle. There is a danger in this

Whether termed maxims, principles, elements, or what have you, unless they are understood in themselves,
understood in relation to each other, and understood to be only concepts which give direction to one’s thinking,
they are historical trivia; if they are taught or learned as rules so that men try to fit their plans to them step by step,
they become the framework of a comedy.

The beauty of the thing is that if really understood by men trained in a few simple techniques of thinking under
stress, these principles can -through the tactics they thus help such men devise- influence the course of any combat
action from a corps level envelopment to a saloon brawl.

We can find nearly any nation’s principles of war (Uncle Sam’s term and about as good as any other) by shuffling
around their appropriate field service manuals, and every shiny American cadet has at some time or another sat in
awe of truth revealed as his ROTC or Academy instructor poured them to him.

We recognize only nine although the number varies off and on, and as I recall it took several weeks of examples,
memorization of acronyms, and testing to establish our satisfactory knowledge of them.

With those who have been denied such an experience may lie the advantage. A simple understanding of these
fundamentals in the sense that they are thought aids only and some attention to organized thinking will give one a
definite edge if he ever has to deal with the baddies.

Military history is the military profession’s necessary substitute for a laboratory. Soldiers must understand what
worked in the past and why. Principles of war, if you will, are the keys to what worked and the first of these is:


Or Movement, or Motion. The essence of it is that you put the strongest or biggest part of your force where it can
hit the other fellow at his weakest point: in the back, in the side, in the eye.
The second and equally vital principle is:


It goes along with maneuver. It is obvious that if your maneuver is not a surprise to your opponent he will shift his
force and you will fail to arrive at his weakest point because it won’t be weak anymore. No sane man is going to let
you come up on him from behind.

Incredibly, history abounds with gross failures of commanders to even attempt surprise. Usually they were lulled by
tremendous strength in their favor (and they usually took tremendous losses). This is really common sense, right?
The goons are across the street in the barber shop. Are you going to blast out the front windows with your HK and
charge right over there, or slip five guys around the block and come in from the alley?

We obtain surprise by two methods: first, we can go down that alley when the enemy, who also knows about
maneuver, is more likely to expect us to take the street on the other side and have it covered. In other words,
Surprise by good maneuver- unexpected direction, route, or point of attack. Second, we can race down the alley,
crash the back door, pop in a hand grenade, and hose down everything that moves inside. We have obtained
Surprise by ​SPEED.​

N.B. Forrest (one of the greatest of the Captains, read him with reverence) summed it up in the statement from
which we take the title of this piece: “I always got there first with the most men.” What he omitted was that he
always got them in their rear area, railroad yards, strung out along a route, or eating breakfast around the local
church yard.

So SPEED is the best way to gain Surprise and both are ​vital​ to Maneuver.

Third is:

Offensive Action

Some like to call it initiative. Frederick the Great called it Daring or Audacity. Translate any way you like, the
message is​: Do something to the enemy​. Make him react constantly to what you are doing to him. It is like having
the football- that’s the only time you can make any points.

If we have Maneuver, Surprise (via Speed), and Offensive Action under control we can quickly pick up on the
remaining five or six, for although essential to successful fighting, these principles are really corollaries to the first
three. Thus,

There must be a clearly defined and tangible goal towards which your action is oriented. We don’t attack at dawn
for God and Country but to wipe out the force holding Jenkin’s Ferry. Possession of Jenkin’s Ferry may be good for
God and Country but just now we want to get across the river.

Therefore it makes sense to attack the ferry. We can plot it on our map, hit it with our mortars, and have enough
men to take it in thirty minutes if we start now to move them around through the woods while the mortars are at
work. An objective is a sensible reason for doing something; doing it contributes to the higher goal, the entire force
can orient on it, and it is within our force capability.

Economy of Force (or Distribution)

Use your force to the best advantage. We don’t take the mortar through the woods, it pins the enemy down while
we advance our main force rapidly through the woods. It means always consider what you need and what you don’t
need. Really, you see, you want to keep things…

Clear, short orders that the men can understand and remember. Simple routes for the maneuver force. Only one
ferry to capture. Most men are afraid before battle. They will be brave if they have a leader with an uncluttered
mind showing them where to go: “Crank ‘em up, number 3 and 4 on me, trail left, move out!” “Marines, follow
me!” And this thought leads us to…

Chain of Command

There can only be one man at the top responsible for everything the force does or doesn’t do. A chain of leadership
goes steadily down the line until the last able man can command himself. If you know what it means when
somebody gripes, “Hey, we got too many chiefs” or “Who in hell is in charge here?”, you understand Chain of


We don’t plan to be surprised and we will prevent it as a matter of course if the enemy is busy ducking the attack
we launched first. Security results from Objective, Maneuver, and Surprise/Speed.

A boxer seldom has a jab for a KO punch. We put our main effort, the bulk of our strength, into that punch we
throw at the enemy’s weak point. Notice how this ties into Economy of Force.

That’s all there is. Ulysses S. Grant may have summed it up when he casually remarked that “The art of war is
simple enough; just find your enemy, hurt him as badly as you can as often as you can and keep moving along.”

But how did Grant think about things? The famous photo of him taken during the Civil War shows a clean-shaven,
surprisingly young looking little man leaning against a tree. He looks without expression at a group of men seated
on a bench. He is an enigma. The most common of men, yet in his early 40’s coming out of nowhere to command a
gigantic army and defeat one of the Great Captains.

We don’t know how he thought, but his surviving orders give us a clue. He must have thought like he spoke (his
orders are excellent): clearly, logically, and rapidly. The ability to think in this manner is not a gift. It is something
one learns through study and hones through practice.

Since the fantasies of J.R. Tolkien are ever popular, perhaps we can use a ring and riddle of our own. Let us
consider the ODA ring: a way of solving tactical problems that always brings us back to the starting point ready to
go again. The 0 stands for the first phase of our thinking. We think ​all about and ​only about our Objective: what
have we been directed to do or what have we decided needs to be done.

Simultaneously, it stands for Observation. We gather all the information we can about the terrain, weather, enemy
forces, and our forces from whatever sources are available: patrols, spies, published data, maps and photos, status
reports, our own prior knowledge of the area, etc.

Using the basics of the enemy force and terrain, we list briefly (my first sergeant would have said “dream up”) all
the possible ways of maneuvering against his weakest point. We consider each way we might be able to do it,
saying to ourselves, “now if I do this, how many ways does the enemy have to screw me up?” One of our schemes
will surface as the most likely to succeed.

We have just finished phase one and slipped quietly into ​D for Decision.​
We have just thought out a scheme of Maneuver. Now we plan exactly how we are going to do it. This should be
written out. Here is how:

1. Situation as we see it, pertaining to the enemy, our own force and any friendlies in the area who may help us or
be affected by our plans.

2. Mission. We announce our objective.

3. Execution. We write down our scheme of maneuver and briefly say what each part of our force is going to do.

4. Support. We specify when, where, how we will feed and supply our force: one canteen and a cold ration per man,
two bandoliers of 7.62 ball and six grenades per man. Ammo truck is there by the barn and the aid station is in the
high school gym.

5. Signal and Command. We issue any changes in radio data we need to, announce visual signals, and the password.
We state where we will be. We will be where we think we need to be in order to keep the maneuver force moving
and to control the action.

N.B. Forrest is supposed to have given the following order somewhere in Tennessee. I doubt it, but it illustrates the
above and also brings home the fact that when your plan is finished it becomes your order as soon as you tell it to
your men. “1) The Yankees are coming down this here road towards us. 2) We’re gonna fight them. 3) Everybody
hide in these woods and when they get here we’ll light into them from both sides. When I whistle you-all come out
hard. Ride like hell and fight like sons of bitches. 4) After we finish, we eat. 5) I’ll be on yonder hill watching.”
This is amusing but it makes the point well.

The only thing left to do now is to complete the Action by seeing to it that the order is carried out. If it is, you will
destroy your enemy and be back observing the new situation that your success has brought about. The ODA Ring is
ready to help you again.

You worry about this, you say? You can’t think quickly enough to do all of this under stress? Go over it again.
Nowhere does it say anything about fast thinking. Think logically -put together the information you have- compare
each thing you can do against ways the enemy can block you. The best thing for you to do will be clear to you and
you will have just made a decision.

By thinking about each alternative separately you have kept your mind clear and uncluttered. The speed comes
from getting information to think with early, by practicing this system until it becomes natural and thus faster (you
will no longer think about thinking).
Your plan becomes an order whenever you want it to and you insure that your Action is rapid. You make your plan
surprise the enemy because you lead with a sense of the Objective, of initiative through a good Chain of Command.
How you handle the Action phase is what leadership is really all about and that is a different subject.

Everyone is familiar with the Patton movie and, through it, some of his colorful speeches. Better watch it every
time it’s on the late show. He was perhaps, a little strange, but he was an aggressive forceful commander who could
handle all three ODA phases.

He was the only senior American general in World War II who demonstrated that he really understood all of the
fundamentals in their true meaning- particularly Maneuver. Look closely next time at his hands during the opening
speech sequence of the movie. Did you ever see so many rings?


Willoughby, Charles A. ​Maneuver in War.​ Military Service Publishing Company, Harrisburg, PA, 1939. The
principles of war as listed and named above are discussed at length although poorly.

Dupoy, R.E. & T..N. ​Encyclopedia of Military History.​ Harper & Row, New York, 1970.

Rommel, Irwin. ​Infantrie Greift An​. Germany, 1937. Published in English as ​Attacks by Athens Press, Vienna, VA,

Yale, White, and vonManteuffel. ​Alternatives to Armageddon​. Rutgers University Press, 1970.

The emphasis, by implication, in these two volumes is on speed, surprise, and maneuver.

Wyeth, J. A. ​That Devil Forrest.​ Harper & Brothers, New York, 1959. Originally published 1899 under title. ​Life of
General Nathan Bedford Forrest.​ Publisher unknown.

Product Review: The Streamlight Flashlight and the Cyalume Light Stick
by R. Reardon, PS Letter staff member

Since at least half of our time is spent in the absence of sunlight, man has devoted a great deal of effort to the
creation of various systems of artificial light. Unfortunately for the survivalist, most of these systems presuppose
the existence of public power and have not been very portable. Until recently, there has been little economic
incentive to develop a really high-tech, self-contained, portable lighting system.
“Wait a minute”, you say, “I have some wonderful Aladdin lamps and two 55 gallon drums of kerosene in the
garage.” Well, that’s fine, but what are you going to do when you face a sudden tactical situation in which you want
lots of light directed “right there... not yet... NOW!!!”? Turn on your Aladdin lamp or reach for that anemic
flashlight you’ve got laying around somewhere?

Or perhaps you find yourself in a situation in which you don’t necessarily want lots of light “right there, right now”
but you want a little light, a cool light, or even one that does not burn any oxygen. There are two products on the
market which, when combined, can fill both these roles- the “Streamlight” flashlight and the “Cyalume” chemical
light stick.

The Streamlight is an easily rechargeable quartz-halogen flashlight which is available in the following models: the
SL-15 (10.75” long), SL-20 (12” long), SL-35 (16½” long), and the SL-40 (not a flashlight per se but a handheld
lantern). The model number indicates light output in thousands of candlepower and available power in the NiCad
battery pack. The SL-20 and 35 have straight tube type bodies constructed of aluminum alloy while the SL-15 is
made of plastic.

The SL-15, 20, and 35 produce a tight beam of light which is devoid of any of the dark spots or holes normally
found in the center of regular flashlight beams. ​These lights are extremely bright! For example, while driving at
night, I can shine my SL-20 through my windshield at the ground immediately in front of my car and see the bright
spot of the beam clearly over the light produced by my headlight. If I am using the SL-20, enough light is reflected
back at ​100 yards​ from an IPSC target to identify and hit it with iron sights. Try that with your Kel-Lite.

If your SL-15 is fully charged, you can get 20-30,000 cp from it by inserting the appropriate bulb; however, the
manufacturer does not recommend this procedure because the heat produced by these bulbs will melt the 15’s
plastic body. Except for this limitation, bulbs can be freely interchanged between lights, although the individual
chargers cannot, due to their varying charge rates.

You can charge the larger lights in the smaller chargers, but ​don’t charge the smaller lights on the larger chargers.
In short, to recharge your Streamlight, you simply drop it into the charger- either 120v AC or 12v DC- and forget it.
No messing with batteries, taking things apart, or worrying about overcharging.

Another advantage to the Streamlight is that it will continue to perform admirably if you find yourself fishing at the
local nuclear reactor one evening and drop it into the cooling tank. Be sure to dry the flashlight out when you get
home and do not make dunking your SL a regular practice. The Streamlight was, after all, designed as a law
enforcement tool and not for underwater use.

So much for the good about the Streamlight. What about the bad? Friends and clients of mine have now gone
through about 30 SL-20’s and we have had a few problems with the AC chargers -two stopped working- and two
flashlights had sets of batteries that required replacement. If this happens, you can replace the battery pack with
regular batteries.
The light output will be greatly reduced, resembling an ordinary flashlight; not great, but better than nothing.
Streamlight dealers usually replace and repair with no questions, no charge. Other than that I see four areas in
which the operator should take care. The first lies in understanding the decay curve of NiCad batteries.

With a conventional battery, the power output lessens in close relationship to the remaining available power, i.e.,
the light gets dimmer as the charge is used so that if the light is half as bright as it was when you first turned it on,
you have used roughly half of your available power.

A NiCad runs out of juice in a manner parallel to a car running out of gas- it will run nearly full bore until the very
end of its charge at which time it dies very quickly (in a matter of seconds if you hit the curve just right). Keep it

The next problem lies in charging the unit in the field. One way to get around this is to carry several battery packs
with you and charge them when you get a chance, which is not a satisfactory solution for the long haul. Freedom
Pax (P.0. Box 729, Grants Pass, OR 97526) has a solar charging unit specifically for the Streamlight under
development that appears promising and as soon as it is perfected, we will let PS Letter readers know.

Unless weight is your primary consideration, I recommend that you stay away from the SL-15 because of its plastic
construction. The SL-35 is a hassle to lug around since it is just big enough to be awkward to carry and handle, but
of the three, it is the superior cudgel. Considering durability, weight, size, brightness, interchangeability of bulbs,
and handiness for use with the pistol, I recommend the SL-20.

The final problem with the Streamlight is that it is often too bright for the job at hand. If you are changing a tire, it
will wreck your night vision if you shine it at anything close to you; It is not the sort of thing you would want to use
casually. That’s where the Cyalume comes into the picture.

The Cyalume chemical light stick consists of a 6” x 9/16” translucent tube filled with a binary chemical
combination, with a small glass ampule inside containing the catalyst. When the plastic tube is bent, the glass
ampule inside breaks, allowing the two chemicals to mix. This union produces an eerie green light, lasting well
over seven hours, that is bright enough to read by, illuminate a room, upset a first generation Starlight scope, etc.
The whole package comes sealed in a foil wrapper.

I really have no complaints about the Cyalume. I have put them in the freezer overnight, then activated them and
they work fine. The factory claims the shelf life is over four years. Of course, we have no way of verifying this but
the statement seems reasonable. Cyalume light sticks are a blessing on camping trips, after hours auto repair on the
highway, and any time you need light to work by without a lot of hassle, fumes, or power. They are perfect for
fallout shelters.
The Cyalume is available in two models: the 30-minute high intensity light and the 12-hour general purpose one. In
my opinion, you should stay away from the 30-minute model (which actually lasts for seven hours) for it does not
produce significantly brighter light and it is more expensive ($1.87 vs. $1.70 at Freedom Pax’ prices). Incidentally,
if you don’t want the light from the Cyalume before it burns out, you can simply put it in a box, wrap it in cloth,

Since they are lightweight, compact, and easy to store, I’d buy a couple of hundred 12-hour general purpose
Cyalumes. Not only are they extremely useful tools but in a survival situation they will no doubt bring a high price.

Cyalume sticks are available from hardware and sporting goods stores and Streamlights are generally available only
from police supply stores; however, Freedom Pax (P.O. Box 729, Grants Pass, OR 97526. Telephone:
503-582-1222) is offering PS Letter subscribers a special price on both the SL-20 and Cyalumes. The SL-20
normally retails for$100.00 but they will sell it for $80.00.

Specify whether you want the AC or DC charger with your order. If you want both, there is an additional $15
charge. The prices from Freedom Pax on the Cyalumes (retail $2.00 each) are $1.70, $1.50 each for ten or more,
and $1.30 each for fifty or more. Add $2.00 to your order to cover UPS shipping. Be sure to mention that you are a
PS Letter subscriber.

Editor’s Note: Grant Manning of Radio West has just developed a solar battery charger that will charge C, D, and
AA Ni-Cad batteries. Because of the cost of solar cells it is expensive ($100) but, like all Radio West products, is
fairly priced. We will publish additional details in a later issue of PS Letter, but if you can’t wait to buy one,
contact Grant at Radio West (2015 S. Escondido Blvd., Escondido, CA 92025, 714-741-2891). NT.

Editor’s Note: Because many of you have requested information on basic meat hunting techniques, I asked Jeff
Cooper, who has hunted throughout the world, to depart a bit from his usual subject matter and to write an article
for those of us who are novice hunters but would like to try taking a deer, elk, etc. before our lives may depend on
it. In Part I Jeff quite rightly discusses the importance of meat in man’s diet.

You will be reading a great deal about food gathering and food producing techniques in upcoming issues of PS
Letter since only those who can provide their own food will be able to protect themselves from the increasing food
shortages, skyrocketing prices, and deteriorating quality of commercially processed food that will inevitably
accompany the move from inflation into hyperinflation during this decade. N.T.
Meat Hunting
by Jeff Cooper

Regardless of how the fact may repugn some people, meat is the only complete food for man- it is the only thing he
can survive on exclusively. Provided that it is fresh and only lightly cooked, meat alone will keep a man alive and
well indefinitely, as Viljalmar Stefanson proved with his own body on a seven-year experiment in the arctic.

But meat is a luxury that our overpopulated planet cannot afford. Even before we began our catastrophic
overbreeding, there was rarely enough to go around. Grain is much more economical, and if it is adequately
supplemented it will suffice, so bread was indeed the staff of life until modern times. In the Middle Ages the
peasantry ate bread and the nobility ate meat, whenever possible, and one could tell who was which at a glance-
clothes, manners, speech, and calluses aside.

Any African hunter can tell you what ​nyama means. It means all the heart can desire. Rich, red, nourishing,
satisfying, strengthening, bodybuilding, disease-defying ​nyama​. Meat! A successful hunting camp in the Africa that
was (and which still exists in pockets) was a place of joy, where all hands and hangers-on could stuff themselves to
repletion with pure, fresh protein.

When dried, salted, pickled, or otherwise preserved, meat loses much of its nourishment. Salt beef, bacon, biltong,
sausage, and spam are all tasty and useful, but they cannot provide proper balance. The lack of fresh meat causes
scurvy, one of the nastiest afflictions known to man. It can be averted by fresh fruits and vegetables, too, but such
are no easier to store than fresh meat.

Meat is a rather civilized luxury. Primitive hunters could only survive in small bands, and not always then. It is the
modern rifle that freed the Bantu from the specter of ​kwashiorkor,​ their word for the symptoms of protein
starvation. Only since the Industrial Revolution has our culture been able to produce meat for millions, and if it
breaks down that production will cease. Too many people and too little meat is a grim prospect. The Maori in New
Zealand and the Caribs in the West Indies met that problem head-on, but we hope it won’t come to that again.

If our present way of life is seriously disrupted, meat will become a rarity once more. Wild animals will not breed
for our benefit, as do domestic cattle, and we can depend upon game only as long as our numbers are few. A skilled
hunter can indeed live off the land, but not if other people beat him to it. Under the right circumstances it is
certainly possible to feed yourself with your rifle, but the circumstances must be right and you must know what you
are doing.

With very few exceptions, all fresh meat is edible, and usually salubrious. Taboos are very powerful, particularly
among unworldly people, but there is nothing nutritionally wrong with the flesh of cats, dogs, horses, or people.
Jews and Moslems may not eat pork- probable evidence of prehistoric epidemics of trichinosis. Most western
American Indians may not eat fish or reptiles.
Native Amazonians may not eat mammals- except for monkeys and man. Hindus may eat no flesh at all. And so on.
But the sophisticate knows that it is all good, and one man’s taboo may be another’s salvation, as we discovered on
the upper Balsas where the locals refused to eat the meat of the iguana, which was therefore plentiful as well as

Consider the exceptions. The meat of very large animals, such as elephants and whales, can be too fibrous for
mastication unless ground or cooked to mush. Any beast tastes of what it eats, so the meat of carrion-feeders may
be unpalatable. (Though not always. Witness the lobster.) A bear or a duck that has been feeding on fish will taste
fishy. There is nothing wrong with that but it is unattractive to most people.

The waterbuck puzzled me for many years- Selous dined on it regularly while Hemingway declared it inedible.
When I finally got the chance to try it I found it tough but tasty, which leads me to believe that certain types of
water plants on which the animal may feed from time to time must taint its flesh.

The liver of certain marine mammals can overdose you with Vitamin A, but this must be considered a rare problem.

An exclusive diet of rabbit can lead to “rabbit starvation”, a fat deficiency.

Certain ocean fish, including the barracuda, can produce a powerful toxin in their muscle tissues under certain
poorly understood conditions, but such conditions are uncommon. (I ate a great many barracuda before being told
that it was chancy.)

There is no need to avoid the flesh of venomous animals, since the venom is active when injected rather than
ingested. (Rattlesnake venom is structurally akin to egg white.)

We may conclude that inedible flesh is a great rarity. Some meats are certainly tastier than others, but they are all

The main problem with undomesticated meat is that it tends to be both tough and dry. A domesticated animal, like a
domesticated man, is soft, tender, and tasteless. Wild beasts live by their muscles, and those muscles are hard and
lean. This calls for a bit of knowledge on the part of the cook, but it by no means renders game inferior as food.

The “wild” taste of game is simply enhanced flavor. It disturbs those who just don’t like meat flavor and want their
burgers to taste like ketchup, but for others it is all addiction. Every time we dine on venison I see why people need
steak sauce to get their beef off its knees. To each his own, of course.
But few places offer enough deer to feed the family all year. Perhaps Germany. Perhaps Alaska. In Southwest
Africa you might make it on springbok, and probably you could do likewise on kudu and impala in corners of the
Transvaal, but are not going to do this in the US of A, legally or otherwise.

In a time of troubles there may be very little law or law enforcement, but let no one think that that means unlimited
hunting. I suspect that the woods people themselves will become the strictest game wardens as soon as they realize
that game conservation has become, for them, a matter of survival.

Up until WWI a warden was entitled to shoot a poacher out of hand in much of Europe. At such time as “retreaters”
come to see themselves as permanent settlers that policy may return. So much for “Survival Poaching”.

The principle is that game must be harvested with great care. Only animals which are superfluous to the breeding
cycle may be taken, and, when taken, they must be utilized completely. The first time I saw a moose tidied up in the
Yukon this was made very clear. The only parts of that hefty beast that were thrown away were the spine, pelvis,
and lungs. Waste may not yet be a crime, but it is always a sin.

The prudent hunter takes only what he needs. He does not shoot what he cannot eat. The butchery of a big animal is
a big job, and it must be done immediately or the meat will spoil. Cold weather may retard spoilage, but if a big
carcass is allowed to freeze before evisceration and skinning the task will become impractical.

It is important to think carefully about the proper treatment of the carcass before pressing the trigger. Innocents may
cry, “This is an emergency. Forget the consequences!” but that attitude will not do for more than a few trials. Far
more than the pampered urbanite, the woods runner must think about tomorrow.

A largish animal (deer, antelope, burro, hog, bear) will provide a lot of protein for the expenditure of one round, but
small game has the advantage of providing single meals with little butchering and no waste. Small game is harder to
cook well than large, since it is usually tough and rubbery, but this problem can be solved with skill and a bit of
experience. Don’t try to toast it as you would a filet or beef, or you may wear out your masseters. Slow stewing (in
milk, if possible) is a superior tenderizer.

Game cookery is a hobby in itself, and many books are devoted to it. The dean of survival dining, in North America
at least, is Bradford Angier. “Don’t leave home without him.”

Freshly killed meat of almost any kind is tough -with certain notable exceptions- one reason why nineteenth century
country folk sliced their meat thin and fried it black. If you eat beef the same day you kill it that is one way you can
make it chewable, and if you don’t eat it pretty soon you will lose it, barring refrigeration.
Other solutions are long boiling, pit roasting, and grinding. There was a hand-operated meat grinder in every
kitchen in my childhood, and no country place should be without one.

In very cold climates, meat is easier to handle. Pioneers in the Rockies normally waited until the hard cold set in
late in November, and then killed several elk, each to be quartered and hung up before dark. By morning the
venison would be hard as rock, and would keep all winter if not warmed by direct sunlight.

As needed, a frozen quarter would be brought indoors and placed on sawhorses, open end to the fire, and well back.
It would thus thaw gradually as needed -in a dwelling warmed only by the kitchen fire.

While half-grown or barely adult beasts are usually the most toothsome, this is not invariable. Certainly one should
not shoot a large animal if a smaller one will suffice, but this may not always be a matter of meat quality. The best
deer I ever tasted was a grizzled old whitetail, well past his prime, and an enormous bull eland -a solitary “blue”-
furnished the finest ​tournedos​ I have ever tasted, on the very day he was shot.

Aging of meat, when it can be properly done, is a good idea but it is not always necessary. I do not know why this
is so: I only recount what I know to be the facts. A clean kill, without excitement or shock, may produce better
meat, but the matter is still open for discussion.

One must bear in mind that the flesh of a starving animal provides almost no nourishment. Pioneers who were
driven by starvation to kill their equally famished domestic animals discovered this, as did the Donner Party.

“Variety meats”, mainly the liver and kidneys, are tender as they come and need no grading. They must not be
aged, as they lose savour with each passing hour. Liver is especially nourishing, and it can be toasted on the spot- or
eaten raw if hunger is imperative.

Housewives who do not cultivate a taste for liver in their families are cheating their near and dear. All variety meats
toughen with cooking. They should never be boiled or stewed, just lightly seared in the animal’s own fat with a bit
of salt.

The heart must not be overcooked. It can be very tough if improperly prepared, so consult your cookbook. Zebra
heart, grilled in strips on the spot and basted with a little of the enclosing fat, is absolutely delicious, leading me to
the notion that this may also be true of horses, mules, and burros.
And blood must not be overlooked by hungry people, especially those with children. Meat broths are vastly
enriched by adding an equal part of fresh blood. Stewart White tells us of desperate and dying adventurers reviving
themselves almost at once with a concoction of buffalo marrow boiled to liquid and then doubled with fresh buffalo

The meat hunter is traditionally scorned by the trophy hunter, but a really good meat hunter hunts with exemplary
care and, operating within sensible bounds, probably does less rather than more damage to the game. He takes only
what he needs, and takes it evenly so as not to upset breeding balance. By choice he takes young bulls and barren
cows, which practice actually improves herd populations.

The two prime concerns of the meat hunter are spoilage and accessibility. To kill an animal that cannot be retrieved
or cannot be butchered promptly is to fail, so the hunter avoids both swamps and precipices. Since he is not looking
for wary old bulls, this is not as much of a problem as it might seem.

The meat hunter shoots surgically, since he must not tear up good meat with his shot, and an instant kill means
better venison. He shoots from short range -the shorter the better- and he shoots once per carcass. He knows his
land, he knows his game, and he knows his weapon.

Basic Tools
Editor’s Note: With this three part article on knives, we begin a series about basic tools, a subject of high interest
to most of you, according to your questionnaire responses. Charles Avery, who wrote one of our articles on “Tear
Gas” in PS Letter No. 21, is a knife buff who has worked with several custom knife makers in designing knives to
his specifications. N.T.

Knives, Part 1
What to Look For, How to Choose, What I Chose
by Charles Avery

If you own a sturdy, well-designed knife you have the most versatile tool man has yet devised for survival. So many
writers make a big deal about knives as combat weapons because that sells articles, but they totally ignore the
strongest point for owning a knife: its unsurpassed versatility as an implement of survival.
In this three-part series I will cover the characteristics of good knives, how to choose a good one for your purpose,
mention some good makers, tell you how to care for your knife, what accessories you’ll need, and finally, give you
a more detailed description of the tactical role of a good knife for the survivalist.

Regardless of the design and purpose of the knife you choose, quality knives have certain characteristics which
distinguish them from the run of the mill stuff. All knives are used to cut. Any metal will take an edge, but cheap or
improperly tempered steel will not stay sharp for very long.

Good edge holding qualities require properly tempered steel with a high carbon content and good quality. The
harder a steel is the longer it will hold an edge, but a point of diminishing returns is reached. Harder steels do hold a
better edge than softer blades, but the harder the blade is the more difficult it is to sharpen and often it is more
brittle. A balance of edge holding, hardness, and ductility must be struck.

I once owned a straight razor which had the very finest edge imaginable, but the steel was so brittle it shattered like
glass when I dropped it. A razor is great for the rather delicate task of shaving when the only factor is the sharpness.
Knives will see much harder use, so some of that “razor’s edge” is traded for a more durable blade. Good knives
will bend and flex before they break.

In buying a weapon or tool for survival it is foolish not to buy the best you can afford: your life is at stake. You do
NOT have to spend $500 to $1,000 for a fancy custom knife, but you must be critical of the knives you are
considering and choose the one you are ​CERTAIN won’t fail you at an inopportune moment. Quality is rarely hard
to spot if you take the time to look and compare.

In the space I have available I can do no more than touch briefly on the highlights of knife evaluation. I strongly
recommend that you read a couple of books on knives (Sid Latham’s ​Knives and Knifemakers is a good place to
start) and then spend a few hours at a knife show. You’ll learn a lot more at the show than from anywhere else.

As with fine clothes, class shows: a good knife looks good. The lines and designs are clean and uncluttered, and the
knife gives an impression of proportion and quality. The grind lines on the blade are sharp, tapers are smooth and
even (with your fingers you can feel flaws that your eye may not be able to detect). One side of the blade should be
a mirror image of the other; in fact, the whole knife should be symmetrical. The handle, hilt, and blade should flow

To evaluate these characteristics pick up the knife and look straight into the point under strong light (preferably
sunlight because it shows flaws much more readily than artificial light). Any divergence should be quite apparent.
The blade should be well polished.
This is not just for looks. Steel tends to fracture along scratches and rough blades rust more readily than the smooth
surfaces of polished ones. All the parts of the knife should mate perfectly with no looseness or flaws in bonding.
Under hard use parts which don’t fit to the closest possible tolerances will begin working against each other,
resulting in an unserviceable piece of junk.

In fixed blade knives the most critical area for fit is the hilt/blade or tang/handle. If solder was used to secure the
hilt, there should be no pin holes or bubbles, the solder should look as smooth and polished as the steel or brass
around it. If the epoxy bonding method was used, the mating should be invisible or a fine, nearly invisible hairline.

In a folding knife the most critical area is the blade fit to the back spring and the bolsters. When you hold a folding
knife by the handle, there should be little or no movement when the blade is pushed side to side or pulled up against
the spring. There is usually some movement, there has to be so you can open the knife, but there shouldn’t be very
much at all. Last, but not least, the design features should be considered.

The design traits of a knife can be likened to the personality of a human and choosing a knife is a little like
choosing a spouse- the choice is invariably made by subjective emotional appeal. It is impossible at our current
level of technology to have somebody custom build you a mate, but if you know what you want in a knife it
certainly isn’t hard to find a pro to build it for you. Knowing what you need is the hard part.

The most exciting knives are those intended for the highly specialized task of fighting and they are as different from
utility knives as professional warriors are from the rest of society. Those features which make a devastating weapon
in close quarters fighting are very likely to make the same knife next to useless as a tool.

The reverse is not necessarily true. If you know the purpose for the features from both categories and fully
understand how to use your knife you can choose features from both categories and make a knife which is very
effective as both a tool and a weapon. However, you must know exactly what you need and be willing to make
some small compromises along the way.

If you are a purist you are going to need three or more specialized knives to make you happy, if you are a realist
you may get along very well with two or even just one. Before you try to choose a knife, write down what you
intend to use it for and then decide on your priorities in function: this will usually show you how many and what
kind of knives you will need.

The following comparison of features should go a long way in helping you make your decisions; had someone
written them down before it would have saved me a great deal of time and money. For the “survivalist”' I think
there are only two classes of knives seriously considered: fighters and general utility models.
The most obvious difference between the two is their purpose. Combat knives are for killing and maiming people,
while the basic hunting knife is intended for a variety of jobs like skinning, slicing meat, cutting string, sharpening
sticks, etc. The blade of a fighting knife must be long enough to reach a vital organ or artery from almost any angle.

Virtually all the prime targets in the human body are protected by bone and are as deep in the body as anatomy
allows, which is further complicated by the fact that most people wear clothes of varying thickness and toughness.
Penetration to those vital targets requires the blade to be a minimum of four inches long.

The longer the blade the more substantial a reach advantage it gives its wielder, so it is not unusual to find combat
knives with blades up to 10 inches long, but beyond about 8 inches, knives get harder to carry. For utility chores
depth of penetration is not necessary and very often undesirable, thus a blade of 4 inches or less is most often used
on working knives.

The point of the fighting blade is designed for thrusting and is usually directly at the centerline of the blade and
handle. This puts the strength and weight of the entire knife directly behind the thrust. It also forces the knife in line
with the wrist and forearm to prevent wrist injury and adds the impetus of the arm and shoulder to the force of the

Furthermore, it gives the best tactile index of point placement. Any design which places the point in proper
alignment is as useful in combat as any other. Virtually all modern combat designs have either a full double edge or
the back edge sharpened a couple of inches along the point to allow back cuts and to ease penetration.

In-line points and double edges tend to dig and gouge, so the working knives usually have the point swept above
the center of the blade to prevent accidental puncturing of intestines or glands when cleaning animals and to allow
more even, smooth cutting strokes.

At approximately the halfway point of the knife there is usually a guard or hilt of some sort. On most fighting knife
designs the guard is fairly large with double quillons (T-shaped extensions on the hilt). The fighting knives have
quillons to arrest the forward impetus of the hand if a thrust meets a solid obstruction like bone, buckle, or wallet.

In bygone days the large double quillons were used to trap or deflect an opponent’s blade, but with the advent of
bows and crossbows the quillons were found useless for deflecting projectiles. No great strides have been made
since that discovery, quillons don’t deflect bullets very well either, so quillons have been getting proportionately
smaller throughout history and someday will probably disappear.

On utility knives the hand is kept off of the blade by a very small single quillon, a proper handle design which make
quillons unnecessary or by using a choil (cut-out just in front of the handle).
The most arcane feature of a knife, particularly when it is used as a weapon, is its “feel”. A lot of things contribute
to the feel: handle size and shape, weight, but more than anything it is the balance. The relative weight of the blade
and handle create balance. The very best skinning knives are balanced on the middle finger in a normal hold. If the
knife slips during delicate work, the point and edge pull away from the work, preventing a ruined trophy or tainted
meat caused by a pierced organ.

Knives which are butt heavy are awkward in a fight. The point always tends higher than aimed in a thrust, the edge
pulls away from cuts and slashes, and the knife is set back in the hand, away from the index finger and thumb,
diminishing control and maneuverability. Some fellows like that kind of balance because it gives a very solid feel,
but most experts like combat knives which balance at the hilt or index finger because it vastly improves speed of
handling in most of the approved modern knife fighting techniques.

In the days when edged weapons were king, it was rare to find an example which was not blade heavy: that is, the
balance was more towards the point. Of course in those days parrying and blocking were accomplished with some
sort of shield or left-hand dagger. The techniques used were mostly heavy overhand or side blows to penetrate
armor and a lot of fighting was done on horseback, where a long blade was really helpful in reaching ground troops
or an enemy half a horse length away.

It was not unusual to encounter swords with 42-inch blades and a dagger with a massive 15-inch blade would seem
small and light by comparison, but today it is a short sword. Bows, crossbows, and guns changed all that as well.
Armor and shields which would stop projectiles were too heavy, so heavy armor was eventually discarded.

Then the big weapons weren’t needed, so they shrunk in size. The process continues, as I will cover in the last
section of the series under the tactical niche for knives.

More than any other tool or weapon, knives are judged by their feel and we don’t all like the same thing- our
choices in knives will prove that. No factory knife met my specific needs, so I gave my specs to Harv Draper: a
knife that would work as well in a fight as it did in the kitchen. It sounded like a late night ad on TV: cut, rip, slash,
chop, dice, slice, and never need sharpening.

I was told it would take three knives to fill the demands and for two years we argued hack and forth about design
and compromise. The end product is a 1 ½-inch wide, 8-inch bladed Bowie made out of 440C. It is heavy enough
for chopping, but light enough for fine work (about 12 oz.). The quillons are designed as a second handle so I can
“choke up” on the back of the blade for better control.
In the normal hold it is balanced on my index finger. It is the one knife I’ll keep in my pack or on my belt and I
don’t feel I made any compromise, but then again I forgot to mention I always carry a 3-inch pocket knife.

A well-designed knife is the only tool you need for survival in a hostile environment: you can make life very
bearable with just the one tool, but I think you’re better off with two: a good pocket knife and a sturdy sheath knife.
It seems to be very nearly the perfect combination for almost any situation and no compromise is necessary if you
choose well.

A good folder is possibly the very best utility knife available because it is compact, handy, and easily carried. You
would be very hard-put to find a working rancher, farmer, or anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors without a
pocketknife. That is a very high recommendation to own one if you don’t already. The assembly line methods used
in producing the factory folders allow the use of necessary hand fitting while maintaining high production output
and lower consumer costs.

A good factory folder will cost anywhere from $20 to $150 (average $30 to $60), a custom handmade folder will
start at around $200 and go to $500 or more (average cost is around $350 for good ones). The custom folder may be
better than factory but I don’t see $300 difference between them. If you’ve got money to burn and you want a
custom-made folder you will likely he happy with it, but if you just want a very serviceable, useful tool at a good
price, I rate Schrade-Walden as a best buy.

I think that Puma is probably the finest folding knife produced by a factory, but the price is a bit high. I have also
owned and used products from J.A. Henckels, Gerber, S&W, Case, Buck, and Kabar (they are listed in order of

Next​: The Makers

Spirulina: The Ultimate Survival Food?

By G. Richards

Editor’s Note: During the past year we have been deluged with literature about “Spirulina”- the wonder food. For
those of you who are unfamiliar with it, Spirulina is algae and the idea is that you mix it with water or juice and
voila!, you have a complete meal in a glass. One man who phoned me to tout the stuff said that this food had
transformed his life. “Do you realize how much time you waste eating?”
“But I like to eat”, I said, which plunged him into silence. When he told me that Spirulina tasted just like liquid
chlorophyll, I knew that it was not for me, but thought that the product might have a place in survival food storage
programs and deserved an unbiased review by a professional. N. T.

Because scientists foresaw, in the early 1920’s, that the world would be facing massive food shortages during the
latter part of this century, many advocated the cultivation of rapidly generating unicellular microorganisms (algae,
bacteria, yeasts, and fungi) as a possible source of protein. Interest in this unconventional food source heightened
during the 1960’s-70’s, when strains of bacteria and yeasts were isolated that could grow by biodegradation on
many kinds of industrial waste and hydrocarbons.

Since then much research has been done, weighing the nutritional against the toxic effects of single-celled protein
(SCP) foods and examining new processing methods to increase production feasibility. One recently marketed SCP
product, Spirulina algae, has been highly recommended as a survival food, food supplement, and “high energy”

The photo-plankton organism, Spirulina Maxima, is a blue-green algae. Its name is derived from the spiral-shaped
cells which are also its units of structure. Each “corkscrew” shaped unit is approximately 230-300 micrometers in
length and capable of photosynthetic reactions.

Although various chemical analyses report the presence of many nutritive constituents in Spirulina, many of these
components are not available for digestion in man. Since Spirulina is of plant origin, and because man does not
digest cellulose, many of the amino acids, vitamins, lipids, and calorie-associated carbohydrates that are advertised
as being in it are actually retained in the cellulose cell walls. These cell walls are not digested, and must be
disrupted in a special food-processing step in order for Spirulina to attain a truly positive nutritional value.

Is Spirulina a feasible survival food for man?

At present, the answer is no. This is due to (a) cost, (b) nutrition factors, and (c) toxicity factors.

Cost: In our area of the southwest, Spirulina is available in powder and tablet form. The cost for a 1-lb. canister of
powder is $31.95. Compare this to $1.99/lb. beef roast, $7.50/lb. freeze-dried rib eye steak, $3.00/lb. soybean meal,
or $3.29/lb. canned ham. Better protein foods are available at a cheaper price than commercially processed

Nutritional Factors: An inherent problem with Spirulina (and other types of SCP foods) is the radical food
processing that must be done to enhance its palatability and make the nutrients available to the human digestive
In addition, Spirulina does not offer vitamins, calories, or sulfur-containing amino acids in enough quantity to
provide a balanced diet by itself. It has moderate amounts of Vitamin A, B2, and C, high amounts of B12, but poor
concentrations of B1​ and
​ B6.

Although Spirulina does contain adequate amounts of the essential amino acids except for those containing sulfur
(cystine and methionine), its protein index does not compare favorably to that of cow’s milk, egg, beef, soya meal,
and ground nut meal. Simply put, Spirulina is ​not the best source of protein currently available, contrary to the
claims made in some ads.

Those who expect to live primarily on Spirulina, or Spirulina alone, should augment their survival diets with
additional foods and make certain that their diet contains adequate bulk, since people who have been on low residue
diets lose so much muscle tone that they cannot move food through the alimentary canal in a normal fashion.

Toxicity factors: Though Spirulina is reported to be a dietary staple in isolated locales of the Chad Republic, there
are also medical records describing the non-nutritive effects of Spirulina ingestion. This algae contains high
concentrations of nucleic acids, which may be broken down in man to uric acid. When large amounts of nucleic
acids are ingested, subsequent high uric acid blood levels may precipitate arthritic and kidney illnesses.

Unfortunately, most projects for the production of novel protein sources have met with unforeseen toxicity
problems in man, for example, the discovery of aflatoxins which are carcinogens, in the processing of peanuts. The
toxins in soybeans, a part of our diet in many forms, are another example. Before processing, the soybean contains
several harmful factors (trypsin inhibitor, hemagglutin, and goiterogenic agent) which might prove significant if
one’s diet was composed primarily of unprocessed soybeans.

If you plan to utilize Spirulina as the mainstay in your “survival food” program, I highly recommend that you wait
to do so until more toxicity tests have been run and even more important, that you and your family use it for a week
or so before laying in a supply. Many people simply cannot accustom themselves to its flavor and consistency.

Spirulina does have some use for the survivalist- as a rapidly grown, directly utilized animal feed. Since many types
of livestock are able to digest plant cell walls (cellulose), Spirulina grown in a protected greenhouse collecting tank
might provide a renewable means of animal nutrition when other grains are out of the question. Should you attempt
cultivating Spirulina as an animal feed supplement, the most extensive algae collection in the US is at Indiana
Cultures at one time were available for a small fee. Indiana University, Collections, Dept. of Botany, Bloomington,
IN 47401. Bear in mind, too, that Spirulina requires long periods of sunlight or artificial illumination and that the
water in which it grows must be alkaline (pH 9.5-10) and contain a high mineral/salt concentration (primarily
sodium bicarbonate and bicarbonate ion). If you want additional information on Spirulina or single-celled protein
food sources, the following will help you:

Cooney, C.L., et. al. ​Advances in Food Research.​ 26:1-52. 1980.

Davis, P., ed. ​Single Cell Protein.​ Academic Press, London, NW1, 1974.

Kihlberg, R. Ann. Rev. ​Microbiology.​ 26:427-466. 1972.

Lipinsky, E.S., et. al. ​CRC Crit. Rev. Food Technology​. 1:581-618. 1970.

Litchfield, 1.11. ​Food Technology.​ 31:5, 176-179. 1977.

Snyder, H.E. ​Advances in Food Research​. 18:85-140. 1970.

Precautions for a Prospector

by Jeff Cooper

We had a customer here at Gunsite not long ago who carne to us for training in the use of his personal sidearms.
This is certainly not unusual and we were able to put him through our regular course instruction with no difficulty.
It turned out, however, that he was a rather special case in that his way of life was not that of the housewife or
stockbroker or policeman whom we ordinarily encounter. This man is a prospector, and he makes his living
wandering in the hills and forests and canyons of the Great West using his professional skill to determine likely
sites for mineral exploration.
He moves from site to site in a camper-bodied pick-up, with a cross-country motor bike for use in places where the
terrain permits. He works alone and is aware that certain other people who wander the woods may not view his
property and/or person with proper respect. Therefore, in addition to his training with the sidearm, he wanted advice
on the subject of weaponry in general, as applied to a person in his position.

We certainly do not claim to have all the answers but we can collect quite a lot of experience into a fairly small
compass and are able to put our heads together on questions like this with some expectation of arriving at useful
conclusions. Our client in this case had decided upon certain procedures and methods which we found to be
dubious, and we went over the matter at some length.

Our first conclusion was that since the camper had to be left unguarded for long periods of time, it would be foolish
to leave anything in it that would invite looters- most especially firearms. This meant that no sort of strongbox or
weapon safe locked inside the camper could be considered secure.

A camper parked in a lonely spot can be attacked at leisure, and with a crowbar, a sledgehammer, and some
ingenuity anyone can eventually solve any sort of lock box. And since there is nothing to prevent a vandal from
carting off the equipment in his car there is no safe way to store weapons in the camper.

In the past our client had been in the habit of carrying his sidearm in a closed sheepskin case in the packsaddle of
his motorbike and leaving his rifle and shotgun locked in his car. Our advice was that he carry the pistol in a
satisfactorily secure holster ​on his person and that he take the rifle with him. Obviously he would not normally wish
to pack a rifle all day long in his hands and we did not suggest this.

We did advise him to take his rifle in a secure case some hundreds of yards from his base and to conceal it in a
cache from which it could not be seen from the camper itself. We then advised him always to park his car
somewhere within view of a prominent lookout- a hill or a tree or a simple rise in the ground which would enable
him to observe his base from outside rifle range before he approached it. Upon his return after a day’s work, his
procedure should be to observe his car with binoculars, carefully, and then come back into camp with both rifle and
pistol available.

This system would allow him to wander the woods regardless of whether he left his motorbike or was moving on
foot. The important thing about a sidearm is that it is always at your side, and that no matter what circumstances
you may encounter, the weapon is ready to hand. We felt that he would rarely need a rifle while actually

If he is confronted while conducting his explorations he will be satisfactorily armed. (And now that he is reasonably
well-trained, he should be able to manage any ordinary confrontation in the boondocks.) When he returns to his car,
he will be in a position to see if all is well.
He will be able to tell by careful observation whether the car has been damaged or interfered with during his
absence, and if he finds evidence that anyone is at his camp, or around his camp, or has been to his camp, he can
then shift over to Condition Orange and move in on his base with a good rifle in his hands. There will be no way for
bandits or prowlers to take him unawares and no way for them to pilfer his weapons and use them against him.

This is a simple drill which ought to serve to put our client completely at ease from now on. Not everyone is a
prospector, but quite a number of people have the problem of moving into the woods, parking their base of supplies
with their car, and then wandering away from that car. A routine of the type we describe should take care of normal
circumstances of this kind.

The Gold Commission is a Congressional commission that was formed to study the pros and cons involved in this
country’s returning to some sort of gold standard. As you know, this is an extremely complex issue and one that
deserves a fair, impartial, and extensive hearing. What has happened, however, is that the Commission has been
loaded with anti-gold members, the hearings have been delayed and the press and public have been barred from the
few proceedings that have occurred. Take a few minutes and write your Congressman, urging that the hearings be
made open and public.

Survival Gunsmithing- Marlin Model 39A Rifle

by J.B. Wood

The Marlin .22 lever action rifle had its beginning in 1897, and although there were minor changes in 1938 and
1939, today’s Model 39A is virtually the same gun, inside. The gun is one of the few .22 rifles of today having
internal parts of solid steel, rather than the formed sheet-steel stuff that most everyone uses now. This, along with
its good basic design, makes it a very strong and reliable piece.
For this reason, the basic parts list will be quite brief: Firing pin, extractor, ejector, ejector spring, and inner
magazine tube (complete).

The firing pin of the Model 39A is not prone to breakage, but if this does occur, its odd shape would make it a
difficult part to reproduce. The same comment would apply to the extractor, and there is an important difference to
note here: Early production guns will have an extractor with a large block at the rear, while later guns will have this
part formed from strip steel, tempered after shaping.

This ​is Marlin’s single concession to modern methods in the 39A, and I’ll have to admit that the new type seems to
last just as well as the difficult-to-make solid-base type. The new type extractor will work in the older guns, so
don’t be alarmed if your replacement spares don’t look like the original.

The ejector and its spring sustain repeated impact and compression, respectively, and these are fairly small parts
which would be difficult to make. The inner magazine tube is included in case of damage or loss. If the tube is bent,
even slightly, during hurried reloading or in some other accident, the gun is out of business as a repeater. It is
sometimes possible to straighten a bent magazine tube, but it’s not easy.

Loss of the magazine tube can occur when the gun is carried unloaded, as the tube locking pin has very little tension
to keep it in its locking channel when the magazine is empty. For the spare, I mean the complete unit, which
includes the knob, lock pin, tube, spring, and follower.

The long-term comprehensive list should include the following: Firing pin, extractor, ejector, ejector spring, inner
magazine tube, cartridge cutoff, cartridge guide spring, lever tension spring, cartridge stop spring, cartridge guide
spring screw, cartridge cutoff spring screw, lever tension spring screw, rear sight, and sight elevator.

The cartridge cutoff, which releases each round onto the carrier as the action closes, is tempered to be its own
spring, and is flexed each time the action is cycled. It is a formed blade spring, and reproduction would be next to
impossible in a survival situation. Its screw is included because these are occasionally stripped during tightening,
the threads in the cut-off being somewhat harder than those on the screw. Also, since this screw enters from outside
the receiver, there is the chance of its loosening and being lost.

The cartridge guide spring, located just above the chamber, could be covered by the same comments. It is a simple
angled blade, but the problem would be the threaded hole, as it is mounted in the same way as the cutoff. The guide
spring screw is included for the same reasons.
The lever tension spring is a blade-type with a hard-to-make shape, and its screw is also external. The gun will
operate without this spring, but the lever will drop down if not held in the closed position. Again, this spring is
flexed each time the action is cycled, and blade springs as a class are not as durable as round-wire types.

The cartridge stop and it's spring, another blade type, will be found only on the earlier guns, located in a recess
inside the right wall of the receiver. The cartridge stop holds the round on the carrier during the bolt-opening stroke,
even if the gun is inverted. The Marlin people decided a while back that few shooters would be firing the gun
upside-down, so this feature was eliminated. If your gun is an early one, you may want to keep this spring on your

The front sight of the 39A is very sturdy, and is mounted with two screws, so it’s not likely to be damaged or lost.
For this reason, it was not included on the list. The rear sight, though, is a simple spring-dovetail type with an
elevator slot, and in rough usage it is easily damaged or broken. Loss of the elevator is not uncommon, and two or
three spares of this inexpensive part could be recommended.

And now, as has become our custom, a few items for the Confirmed Pessimist, who wants to cover every
eventuality. The hammer spring is a helical coil, with ample tension to allow for age-setting, but there is a remote
possibility that one might someday weaken or break. The trigger spring and carrier rocker spring are round-wire
types, and the same comments will apply. Generally speaking, it’s not a bad idea to have spares of every spring in
any gun, but I doubt that these three will ever be needed.

Another item that might be considered is a spare breechblock (“bolt”). These never break, but there is one area
where long, hard usage could cause enough wear that a problem could develop. An extension from the underside of
the bolt contacts the upper arm of the lever, and it is this engagement that locks the action in place when the lever is
closed. Excessive wear at this point can keep the bolt from closing tightly, and this excess headspace can cause

While the wear will likely be on both the bolt extension and the lever arm, a new bolt will have extra dimensions at
the contact point, and this will take up most of the play. The bolt is a “restricted” item, sold only to gunsmiths, so
you’ll have to have your local shop order it for you. The cost will be around $15.

An exploded view of the Marlin 39A is on page 271 of ​The Gun Digest Book of Exploded Firearms Drawings,​
Second Edition. Complete takedown and reassembly instructions are on pages 199 through 205 of ​Volume III:
Rimfire Rifles,​ in my ​Firearms Assembly/Disassembly series. Both books, if not available locally, can be ordered
from DBI Books, Inc., One Northfield Plaza, Northfield, IL 60093.