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Mel Tappan’s Personal Survival Letter # 31

Issue No. 31- May, 1982

Investing in Firearms
by Reginald Bretnor

Editor’s note: For the past 20 to 25 years, investing in firearms -shooters and collector’s pieces alike- has been a
superb inflation hedge. During this recent economic slump, however, prices at the gun shows have softened
considerably and buyers have become pickier about both quality and price. To give you some advice on this subject
in today’s market I turned to well-known science fiction writer and avid gun collector, Reginald Bretnor, a fellow
resident of southern Oregon.

His fiction has appeared in virtually all the major science fiction magazines and in such general interest
publications as H​ arper’s and E
​ squire​. He was the author of the article on science fiction in two editions of the
Encyclopedia Britannica and, out of this field, he has published articles (mostly on public affairs and military
history) in such magazines as the ​Military Review and the L​ ibertarian Review​. He is also the author of the classic,
Decisive Warfare, A Study in Military Theory​. (Stackpole, 1969). N.T.

Any investment program must be based on assumptions about the future, and investing in firearms is no exception,
especially since the world today is in a state of violent and perilously unpredictable political and economic flux.
Therefore, in this discussion we must consider several possible scenarios, starting with those that can be classified
as “worst case”.


I think we can agree that our prime “worst case” scenario would be a sudden and disastrous all-out war -a term
implying not only nuclear, but also other superweapons- in which we and (most probably) the Russians would
either (a) mutually destroy or largely destroy each other, or (b) we alone would suffer destruction out of proportion
to that inflicted on our enemies. In either of these cases, the only firearms which will prove to have been worth their
cost, and which will stand any chance of increasing their value, will be those that shoot.

This does not mean paramilitary weapons only, whose value may very well depend not solely on what happens to
us, but also on what occurs in nations previously neutral (because people have the nasty habit of hitting at fallen
giants). It will certainly include effective sporting arms and, because sophisticated industries will be the hardest hit
and the slowest to recover in such a situation, their parts and ammunition.

Taking this as given, we can assume that any sporting or self-defense weapons (except perhaps those in totally
obsolete or very exotic calibers), and definitely including all .22s, will prove to be excellent investments, with
stocks of ammo and centerfire components and loading equipment perhaps even more important than the weapons
Cases, powder, primers, and jacketed bullets -lead bullets are another matter- will be hard to come by, and for the
non reloadable and extremely useful .22 rimfire, large stocks of ammo will be particularly valuable. Value will of
course be determined absolutely by two factors: effectiveness and availability for barter.


The next worst case scenario is one in which a government or succession of governments imposes arbitrary and
stringent anti-gun measures on the general public, the sort of thing our anti-handgun nuts are howling for, but
almost inevitably -if they ever really get started- even more repressive and all-inclusive.

Judging by the British example -one of the very worst and, because of the close analogy between our cultures, the
one most likely to influence us- we know ​exactly what would happen to legal, open-market gun values in such a
situation, even though we can probably assume that we, unlike the British, might not surrender our weapons quite
so passively.

Especially since World War II, it has been virtually impossible for the average Briton to own a pistol or a rifle*,
and he even has to have a shotgun certificate, issued at the pleasure of the police, to possess a shotgun. All breech
loading rifles and handguns had to be turned in- and that included pieces like linen-cartridge Sharps and Westley
Richards monkey tail carbines, needle-fire rifles, and weapons for which no ammunition had been made for half a

The result was that prices plummeted. The British arms auction catalogues of the ‘50s and ‘60s were filled with
splendid sporting rifles at a tiny fraction of their replacement cost, with rare revolvers and pistols at minuscule
prices, and with innumerable weapons sent over by the NRA and the US Government to help out during the Battle
of Britain.

Ordinary handguns were a dime a dozen, and many of us still remember the barrels and boxes and racks of military
and semi-military and civilian weapons our own dealers were able to buy over there for damned near nothing. Only
very fine shotguns and muzzle-loading antiques retained their value. (In Britain, new muzzle-loading replicas are
classified as firearms, and so treated.)

Bearing in mind that ​all gun prices during the ‘50s and ‘60s were much lower than they are now, the prices
breechloaders brought on the British market were still appalling. In 1958, for instance, I bought a Lancaster .500-3”
double oval-bore hammer rifle, fluid steel barrels, condition NRA excellent, cased. It cost me $60, plus shipping
and duty, and I bought it from a dealer.

You can imagine what he paid for it- and what it would bring today. It scarcely mattered how scarce a rifle or
handgun was, or of what quality. Webley-Fosbery automatic revolvers, of which there were less than 5000 made ​all
told,​ could be bought from dealers on ​this side of the water for $50 or $60, and once, from an English auction
house, I bought one of the first 50 prototype Webley .455 automatics for no more than 15 pounds.

First-quality bolt-action sporting rifles by makers like Gibbs and Rigby and Westley-Richards, custom-made,
sometimes cased, were selling for 20 to 30 pounds. And the pound, in those days, was around $2.40.
Given the same sort of anti-gun legislation here, we would not see our own guns sold at even comparable prices, for
the very simple reason that during the disarmament of the average Briton, we Americans were free to buy guns, so
that most of Britain’s guns ended up here. (Some, of course, did go to Canada, Australia, South Africa, and other
Commonwealth nations.) Today, or tomorrow, there would be almost no one to buy ours.

In short, anti-gun legislation is a direct threat to anything except black-market gun values- and not to the value of
modern guns alone, for anti-gun fanatics are not rational, and the chances are that eventually we might even see
muzzle-loaders banned.

Economic Collapse and Internal Disorder

Inflation, recession, and depression with no foreseeable end in sight do not necessarily mean that we will suffer the
economic collapse our doomsayers prophesy- but it still is a possibility we must consider. I myself cannot imagine
how any true economic collapse in the United States can occur without setting off the gravest consequences:
internal disorders, the repression that almost inevitably follows them, and if conditions become chaotic enough,
greatly heightened danger of foreign attack.

In such a situation, the same rules would pertain as in the first scenario we considered. It would not be a happy

The “More of the Same” Scenario: Continued Inflation, High Unemployment, No Economic Recovery

In order to consider where gun values would go in this situation, we must first, I think, examine how gun values are
established, and what -regardless of the economy- can cause them to rise or fall, in other words, the psychological
factors that cause people to buy guns generally and certain guns in particular. In doing so, let us arbitrarily divide
our buying into shooting guns on the one hand and collectors’ guns on the other. (The fact that there will be quite a
bit of duplication is beside the point.)

All we need to say about shooting guns is that they are purchased for eminently practical reasons: hunting, target
shooting, and self-defense- that is, survival.

Collectors’ guns are a quite different matter. Collectors of all sorts fall into three or four classes: those who
genuinely love what they collect; those who collect because certain objects assume a profoundly symbolic
significance; others who start collecting because it happens to be “trendy”, the monkey-see, monkey-do collectors;
and, finally, those who would collect anything if there is a quick buck in it. We find them all in the gun collecting
fraternity, and probably just about all of us are a little bit of each.

The enormously increased popularity of arms collecting during the past three decades has been at least partly due to
a consciousness of the extremely dangerous world in which we live, to an individual feeling of powerlessness in the
face of its dangers, and to a nostalgia for those seemingly simpler eras of our history when perils could more easily
be confronted by the individual.
This has been intensified by rising crime and more and more violent terrorism in each day’s news, and through their
exploitation by the mass media, by TV primarily, but also by newspapers, motion pictures, magazines, and books.
(A good example of a similar reaction has been the fantastic recent interest in the so-called “Oriental killing arts”-
skills difficult to acquire and of very limited military value, which render nobody bulletproof.)

How has this affected, and how will it affect gun values? Normally, these values are established by three factors:
quality of workmanship and excellence of design; rarity; and reputation or “image”.

One of the best examples, to my mind, has been the steep rise in the value of Colts and Winchesters, which has
often been out of all proportion to their actual rarity –for, after all, many of them were manufactured by the tens and
hundreds of thousands- when compared to the much smaller increase in the value not only of their competitors, but
also in that of, for example, the martial weapons of the early years of the Republic, much fewer in number, and the
mountain and plains rifles of the pre-repeater pioneers.

Why? The reason is obvious. The entertainment media have publicized them to the almost complete exclusion of
other makes of guns as far as “the winning of the West” is concerned- and by saying this I am in no way
denigrating their ​actual​ and very important role in that historical process.

Before World War II, there were really very few gun collectors in the United States. I recall no gun shows, and the
number of specialist dealers in collectors’ guns was very small. Most old Colts and Winchesters, as well as other
weapons of the post-Civil War period, were generally considered simply to be obsolete. As an example, in 1932,
when the fine old firm of Shreve & Barber in San Francisco closed its doors, I bought two guns: an
octagon-barreled Winchester ‘86, takedown, in .50-100-450 caliber, ​new​, for $7.50 and a Remington rolling block
target pistol in .44 S&W Russian, condition excellent, for $12.50.

Shortly afterwards, I bought a Winchester Schuetzen high-wall in .32-40, mint, for $10, and traded a dewat
Hotchkiss machine gun for a new 1905 Colt .45 ACP in its shoulder-stock holster. For another fifteen or twenty
dollars, I acquired a Colt Frontier Flat-Top Target, in .32-20. Consider what any one of these would be worth today.
(And, yes indeed, I ​do​ wish I still had every one of them!)

The point I want to make, however, is that even then you couldn’t buy fine Kentucky rifles, fine early US martial
arms, or fine muzzleloading target rifles for that kind of money. Their value today has not increased

I am convinced that some of the most rewarding areas of gun collecting in the immediate future, financially, will be
these early US martial and civilian arms, plains and mountain rifles, especially those made in the West,
muzzleloading target rifles, and the almost infinite variety of repeating rifles and shotguns, revolvers, and automatic
pistols produced during the tremendously inventive second half of the Nineteenth Century.

None of these were manufactured in vast quantities, and the prices at which they are still available have by no
means caught up with those of the media-image guns. Therefore, if the present economic slump continues, it seems
unlikely that their value will be gravely affected, while only the best and rarest of the presently more popular guns
will hold their value.
In such a situation, the first collectors to suffer will be those who have, either for lack of knowledge or lack of
funds, had to be satisfied with relatively common guns in more or less poor condition, and also those who have
accumulated the lower grades of commemoratives and replicas. How many of these are moving at today’s gun

It is a general rule of collecting in all fields that, in times of economic adversity, truly rare, truly great, truly
beautiful objects hold their value while inferior ones go begging. The reason is simple. Collectors who are not
experts, and who have been able to purchase only inferior specimens, will be among the first forced to sell- and
they are much more numerous than collectors who have been able to acquire the genuinely fine and rare.

So we can confidently expect that the value of fine and rare guns will be more stable than that of commoner arms,
and that this rule will hold regardless of price trends in more prosperous times. Thus, the present market value of
first-quality British and European shotguns and double rifles, especially of those not bearing such famous names as
Purdey, Boss, or Woodward, is still remarkably low- in most cases far below what it would cost to have them

Fine Damascus-barreled guns, for instance, are still being judged as shooters -which isn't how you judge, for
instance, a Paterson Colt- and, in spite of the fact that many of them are works of art, many of them can still be
bought at absurdly low prices. They have the added advantage that nobody is ever going to fake them, or make
inexpensive replicas of them. Those that exist are all there are and all there ever will be.

Hedging Your Bets

All in all, it seems to me that the safest rule for any investor in firearms today is to put his money into both
collectors’ arms and shooters, choosing the first according to their intrinsic quality and condition, as previously
outlined, and the second for their practicality in a “worst case” or “very bad case” situation.

Hints for Survivalists Unfamiliar with Firearms

The question of ​which gun can be difficult. Almost everybody has his favorites, and his reasons for preferring them.
However, in a “worst case” situation, you can answer it yourself by asking (a) how effective is the gun? (b) how
reliable is it? and (c) how simple is it to master and, if necessary, to repair? Primarily, this refers to guns as
weapons, secondarily as hunting arms.


Eminently effective close-range weapons which can also be useful for general hunting. If you intend to buy one
only, buy a good riot gun, not one of the gussied-up paramilitary types, but a standard pump gun with a riot barrel
and as capacious a magazine as you can get, preferably with rifle sights so you can shoot slugs more accurately.
Any good standard make will do, or you can buy a sporting gun with a longer barrel and have your gunsmith cut it


Very much a matter of taste and opinion. The .22 is, I think, a must. I like the Ruger 10/22, but there are any
number of other good ones, lever-actions, pumps, semi-autos.
Next, a high-powered rifle, sighted for your eyes. If your sight is defective, don’t try to get by with iron sights-
scope your piece. There are two routes to go. One is the paramilitary. In that case, you can buy one of the many
semi-auto assault rifles in calibers like .308 and .223- but don’t forget that they’re ammo-eaters.

Then there are bolt-action, lever-action, semi-auto, and even slide-action sporting rifles, or any of the many
excellent military bolt-action rifles now available. I would opt for a bolt-action piece, with the Ruger, Remington,
Winchester, or any of the good Mauser and Mauser-types high on the list.

An excellent and extremely reliable inexpensive choice would be the British Enfield, especially in its jungle carbine
configuration or sporterized. It is one of the fastest of the bolt-action militaries, and you can get 10-shot magazines.
(If you doubt its effectiveness, ask any Afghan or, if you know a good spiritualist medium, quite a number of
Russians!) In any case, caliber isn’t half as important as availability of ammo.


Here again, personal choice. For a “worst case” situation, I think I’d choose either a 1911.45 ACP or a Ruger
Security-Six in 9mm caliber, the .45 because it’s proven and because parts are more likely to be available, the
Ruger because of its advanced and very rugged design, especially where springs are concerned. .22 pistols are
handy, but the choice here isn’t as critical. The Ruger .22 auto is a good inexpensive one, and there are lots of

Burp guns

Even if they are legal semi-autos, these are ammo-hungry and of doubtful effectiveness, except in the hands of
highly-trained personnel, and in close combat situations. If you happen to live in the inner city, perhaps.

Actually, there’s one good rule that applies to all self-defense weapons, but ​especially to handguns. Your best bet is
the gun you’re most familiar with- the one you can use most effectively. Another good rule, for those unfamiliar
with firearms, is ​don’t be afraid to ask for information, help, or instruction.​ Contact your nearest NRA-affiliated

Finally, a hint from history. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police were founded (as the Northwest Mounted Police)
shortly before Custer died at the Little Big Horn. Their initial strength was around 300 men. During the ensuing
years, they policed the Western prairies and handled the Plains Indians with almost no trouble. Their strength
increased. They policed the Western Arctic and the Yukon Gold Rush. They became the Federal Police of Canada
-the FBI, the Secret Service, the Coast Guard- and (under contract) the Provincial Police of all but two or three of
Canada’s Provinces. By 1936 they numbered approximately 3000.

And in that first sixty years, shot to death by criminals or frozen to death on the trail, they lost ​forty-six​ men.

There is much to be said for rigorous, intelligent training, especially in how to ​think your way into and out of
difficult situations.

*The reader is referred to the very important study by Chief Inspector Colin Greenwood of the Yorkshire Police,
proving conclusively that gun crime has steadily increased in Britain since the anti-gun laws were passed. See ​Guns
& Ammo,​ Dec. 1972.
Winning with Weather
by M.B. Strong

Editor’s note: As Eugene A. Barron predicted in Issue No. 29, the Spring of ‘83 has been severe and erratic. Since
we do appear to be entering a period of long-term harsh weather, I thought an article discussing a few basics on
weather forecasting using simple observation techniques a good idea.

M.B. Strong is an outdoor writer living in southern Oregon, who specializes in Indian lore, muzzleloading, and
bare-hands survival.

Weather is, quite simply, the movement of warm and cold masses of air and the attendant changes in temperature,
humidity, and air pressure caused by their movement on the winds and what happens when and if they meet.
Weather forecasting is the observation of these masses, their visible cloud formations, and the causes and effects of
their passage over the earth.

Air masses are characteristic of the areas from which they come. Air from the polar areas is cold and can be dry or
wet, depending on whether it was formed over land or water. Warm air masses from the tropics are equally wet or
dry, also depending on their source.

Helped on a course by winds created from the uneven heating of the earth, these warm and cold masses seem to
seek each other out magnetically, pushing air along in front of them in the direction in which they are going;
therefore, a cold air mass has a cold front and a warm air mass has a warm front. It is along these fronts that the
observation forecaster picks up his clues as to what is coming behind. The coming together of these fronts creates
weather, even though it might not be a spectacular thunderstorm every time.

Weather in the northern hemisphere travels from west to east. Air masses born over the Equator are carried by
constant winds towards the poles, where they are cooled and sent back. These winds, however, do not blow directly
north and south, but rather easterly and westerly, driven off their courses by the earth’s rotation.

In all the world there are only three places where the wind blows vertically, appearing not to blow at all; the
Equator, Doldrums, and Horse Latitudes are a sort of “Sargasso Sea” of winds, Generally, winds from the west are
warm and dry, southwest rains bring rain, easterly winds are stormy, and northerly winds are cold.

Differences in temperature and humidity in the moving air masses and their fronts lead to the phenomenon of air
pressure. At sea level, air pressure is 14 to 15 pounds per square inch. Air pressure can be high or low, the high
generally meaning fair weather and the low indicating foul. Highs and lows have their own character, and the
rapidity of change from high to low pressure indicates the severity of the coming weather.

If you were to imagine yourself on the floor of the ocean, you would notice that the ocean is in constant motion,
like the air masses. If there is a wave passing over your head, there is naturally a great deal of water over you and
therefore a large or high amount of pressure on your head.
As the wave passes and the valley between it and the next wave passes over your head, there is less water and
therefore less pressure. Low pressure areas are relatively large and high pressure areas are smaller. Winds flow
away from the center of a high pressure area in a clockwise direction, and in a low pressure area they will flow
counterclockwise towards the center.

In a sense, a low pressure area vacuums in weather changes. Just as there are thermometers to measure
temperatures, there are barometers to measure air pressure and natural barometric signs in certain living forms as
they react to high and low pressure.

Another important factor in weather is the amount of moisture in the air. The temperature of the air is the
determining factor in how much moisture it will hold, warm air holding more. Air can, however, hold only 100%
moisture before it spills out as precipitation or rain. Humidity is registered on an instrument known as a

A common hygrometer can be made by placing two thermometers on a board side by side. Cover the base of one
with a wet cloth. Wet cloths will dry more slowly in moisture laden air as the water evaporates and cools the
surrounding air. The difference in the two thermometer readings will give you the humidity. Remember, the larger
the temperature spread, the less chance of precipitation.

Instrument readings, by the way, can be calibrated by calling the Weather Bureau and checking your readings
against theirs. Most purchasable instruments include good instructions and graphs, but it takes some practice to get
consistently accurate readings.

In observation forecasting, the leader of the natural observation areas is the sky. Full of colors, clouds, winds,
moisture, and temperature variations, it is the largest and most dependable of the weather indicators. As explained
before, weather tends to be cyclic, and much weather activity occurs before the seasonal changes, setting the pattern
for the next season’s activities. A long, cold winter is usually followed by an erratic spring and a long, hot summer.

Keeping your eyes on the skies at these times will yield some valuable information. Insects, animals, plants, rocks,
and your own instincts also react to weather changes, but on a less grand scale. In any event you will want to learn
the small indicators as well as the large, for the more information you have, the better your predictions.

The largest and most visual of the sky weather indicators are the clouds, which are formed by moisture rising from
evaporating groundwater and cooling off in the air. When the rising air becomes too cool to hold the water vapor
any more, it condenses into a cloud. Land beneath a cloud is less warm than the surrounding land and the
temperatures begin to vary, creating more clouds and more moisture changes.

Higher clouds are usually fair weather indicators, as the water has traveled a long way up. Lower clouds tend to be
heavy with moisture and quite capable of rain. The high, wispy cirri known as “Mares’ Tails” are indicators of a
large, slow-moving front with a lot of moisture. When the low, grey stratus clouds move in, there should be long,
mild rains alternating with short showers.

Cold fronts are preceded by Alto-Cumulus or “Mackerel” clouds followed by the Cumulo-Nimbus or Storm
Thunderhead, a massive anvil-shaped cloud with a dark bottom. Rains are hard and dense, sometimes violent, and
accompanied by hail, electrical activity, or snow. There are certainly many other cloud formations and
combinations, not touched on here, that can be researched.
Clouds moving in several different directions at a low level are also storm portents. If the cloud wind direction is
north to south, the rain will tend to be pushed away. If it is east to west, the rain will generally fall.

The great Storm Thunderheads are a mixture of hot and cold air, wind, moisture, and static electricity caused by the
friction of all these elements. Moisture, hurled up and down in the strong drafts, can emerge as a downpour of rain,
hailstorm, or snow, depending on the temperature and time of year. Appreciable lightning can also be the result of
the Thunderhead’s activities, as can the dreaded Cyclone. Most of the lower clouds are composed of mist and
vapor, the higher of cold ice crystals.

Even the night skies are indicators of weather. Moon cycles have been used by farmers for centuries to plant their
crops and raise their stock. Sailors have kept track of the ebb and flow of tides at night because gales coming with
the tides are more dangerous than those coming at the ebb. High and low pressure areas also make appreciable
water level changes on the ocean and indicate strong weather changes.

The face of the moon also gives its signs. There is an 85% higher chance of rain or snow during the new moon and
weather is usually drier during a full moon. If the points of the new moon look sharp and clear, it is an indication
that strong winds have cleared the high air and frost is a distinct possibility. Hogs are butchered after winter’s
second big frost during a dark moon to avoid spoilage.​1 ​If the points of the moon are hazy, the air is full of moisture.

A warm front will dull the face of the moon and rain will be the result. A halo, or ring around the moon, indicates
cirrus ice clouds. Rain and snow should follow this indication. Halos are white at the outside and red at the inside.
Unlike a Corona (also a ring, but around the sun), halos do not grow larger or smaller, but remain more or less
constant. A silver or white appearing moon is a sign of a dry and fair atmosphere, while a reddish moon indicates
that there is rain coming.

Stars have the same visibility rules as the moon. Twinkling shows that strong winds can be expected soon. A sky
bright with many stars showing clearly is a cold sky. Stars can also have halos indicating moisture-laden clouds that
will precipitate rain.

Snow signs, incidentally, are the same as rain signs with the difference that snow clouds are lighter in color. Dry
snowflakes indicate high, cold conditions and damp snowflakes show that temperatures are rising.

The next best sky indicator of weather is the sky’s colors at sunrise and sunset. The sunset sky reading is the
forecast of the next day’s weather- weather traveling, as has been stated before, from West to East. The sunrise will
show weather that has just passed.

A sunset reading showing colors of yellow, green, blue, purple, or pinkish-red will mean fair weather. A color
reading of grey means that foul weather is coming. The combining of the morning and evening sky readings and the
addition of readings of wind direction and barometric pressure should enable the observer to make a good forecast
for the day.

Halos also appear around the sun as they do the moon, indicating that light is coming through the high altitude ice
crystals of a storm center.
Another ring around the sun, the Corona, exhibits different characteristics. It is red around the outside and blue
inside and has a tendency to grow larger or smaller, unlike the steadier halo. Coronas that expand indicate that
water is evaporating and fair skies are in the offing. A contracting circle, however, indicates that moisture levels are

Another favorite sky indicator is the brilliant rainbow appearing between rain clouds and the sun. If the rainbow
appears in front of a cloud moving towards you, rain will follow it. If the rainbow appears in front of a cloud
moving past you, the rain will also pass you. If the rainbow appears before the morning sun and appears in the
West, rain will soon follow.

Red or yellow lightning is packed with dust and is not a rain indicator, but white lightning means that a rainstorm is
imminent. St. Elmo’s Fire, the eerie ball lightning that sometimes appears as a result of the discharging of
electrical energy in a storm, is a good, if unusual, sign that rain is pending.

Insects, animals, plants, and even the very rocks at our feet can also have great value to observation forecasters. The
warm and cold front areas with their high and low pressure areas and characteristic cloud and rain formation have a
profound effect on all living things, and strangely enough, some non-living objects.

Ants that would ordinarily embark on scattered trails for their good weather forays will tend to form long, straight
lines in bad weather conditions and spend much time at nest repair. Bees will exhibit similar behavior, making
straight lines home to their hives and abandoning nectar-gathering in favor of home repair. Spider’s webs, normally
taut in fair weather, will become loose and saggy as moisture picks up in a low pressure area, and the spider is
liable to leave her web and head for a nearby wall if storms are imminent.

The spider’s web is the “natural barometer” of the insect world just as the cricket is its “natural thermometer”.
Listening to the number of chirps that a cricket will make during a 15 second period and adding 37 to that number
will give you the Fahrenheit temperature. The hair on your head can also function as a “natural hygrometer”,
moisture causing straight hair to become limp and listless and curly hair to become unmanageable frizz.

During times of low pressure, all animals will hunt food harder, expecting the bad weather to cause their food to
become less available. Domestic animals will become agitated and restless. Cattle and horses will bunch together.
Goats and sheep will leave their high foraging areas and retreat to the valleys. Birds and bats will fly lower, the
lowering pressure bothering their ears.

Thinning air is also more difficult to fly in. Insects will also fly lower, forcing the insect-eaters down to their level.
Birds will tend to roost on lower branches and sometimes return to their fragile nests to protect them from the
storm. Fish will tend to stay near the surface as the changes in air pressure affect the oxygen level of the water.

Just as our hair acts as a natural hygrometer, our bodies, too, can be weather indicators. High pressure areas around
us force more oxygen into our systems. When blood sugar is high, we have more energy. High pressure tends to
give us better appetites. Our vision will seem less clear in a high pressure area as the static air is loaded with dust
particles. Approaching winds will clear the air of this dust and enable us to see farther and more clearly. As
mentioned before, the westerly winds will carry fair weather and the easterly ones will have the storms.
Odors normally suppressed by these same dust particles in the static air of a high pressure area will become more
noticeable in a low pressure area. Even hearing will change as the approaching clouds can cause an acoustical effect
in areas beneath them, giving sounds a rolling or drum-like effect.

High humidity and moisture attending the low pressure areas will cause increased aches and pains for arthritics or
those with badly healed bones, corns, or bunions. Lowered pressure and higher moisture can lead to more frequent
cases of human error, depression, or even suicide. In high temperatures people tend to be irritable, and in very high
temperatures they are enervated and listless.

Certain plants such as chickweed, wild indigo, tulips, dandelion, and pimpernel will all close as humidity rises.
Wood is also affected by lowering pressure and rising humidity, swelling with the dampness, and creaking and
groaning. Oiled wood will feel damp or slimy to the touch. Bricks and stones will tend to exude moisture when the
moisture levels reach the point where they are ready to precipitate out. Pumice block buildings have been known to
have a “sweaty” feel.

If you observe carefully, you will also detect various other signs of impending bad weather. Stringed instruments
will tend to go out of tune, humidity-loaded smoke will fall towards the ground, and burning wood will pop before
a storm. Coals will flicker also, as will candles and fueled lamps.

In all, observation forecasting is a valuable skill. Even though we may not be able to live in perfect harmony with
the weather, we can at least get a pretty good idea of what to expect so that we can better our crop yields, protect
our livestock, properly predict the bad times and the good, and achieve reasonably safe travel. Finally, take into
consideration that the larger your body of information is from all the weather indicators, the more accurate your
predictions will be.
A dark moon indicates an extended period of cold.

How to Survive the Coming Credit Crunch

by Eugene A. Barron

It has been said that learning to be a parent is a dead-end job: by the time you have acquired all of the knowledge to
handle the job by extensive experience, you are out of work. Similarly, we have all learned to handle moderate
inflation over the past 20 years, but something has happened: the situation and rules have changed. They started
changing a year ago, and those changes will endure into the indefinite future. We must all now learn to live with
high unemployment, high interest rates, continuing near double-digit inflation, and low levels of liquidity.

A look at the economic projections by the Federal Government shows an expected flat first quarter for calendar
1982, followed by a slowly improving second quarter, and a sharp upturn in the third and fourth quarters. If the
Reagan team is to avoid the loss of Senate control and a larger Democratic majority in the 1982 elections, this must
be the scenario.
The Congressional budget office is anticipating GNP, consumer income and spending, housing starts, and auto sales
all up, with unemployment flat at 92%, prices increasing at an annual rate of 6½-7½%, and business capital outlays
down. This outlook lacks credibility, since the dismal statistics each month seem to push back these projections.
These same economists have been projecting recovery for the past five months and it is still as far away as ever.

A more dispassionate view of the economy would focus on the increasing liquidity crunch, with continuing
pressure on marginal quality mortgages, commercial loans, and consumer installment contracts. Bad checks are up
substantially, while mortgage delinquencies are at a 15-year high. The bottom is dropping slowly out of the
residential real estate market, a trend that will accelerate rapidly as long-term funds become totally unavailable.

Company bankruptcies now exceed 500 per week (up more than 50% from one year ago), but the public is not
reacting. Some 1076 thrift institutions and more than 3000 commercial banks have major potential insolvency
problems, but there is no general concern. The power of Reagan euphoria is still substantial.

A realistic scenario calls for an aborted economic recovery, as the sharp decline in general revenues continues. The
high levels of volatile short-term debt in most companies (requiring continual rollover), high interest rates, and
steady borrowing by the Federal Government- the result of the Federal Reserve’s decision to opt for “monetary
restraint”, have all contributed to the destruction of the long-term private investment market.

The Fed’s tight monetary policy is worsening national and international deflationary pressures on housing and
agriculture, thrift institutions, and heavy industry, especially the automobile manufacturers. The oil glut has
lowered not only projected domestic tax income, but also Petrodollar recycling, an important source of cash inflows
for the US and LDC’s.

Thus, the debt rescheduling of these Third World countries, and even Communist bloc nations (excluding the
USSR), who cannot repay debts, poses a severe strain on international finance and the major US banks. The Polish
debt repayment by the US taxpayer is one specific result; there will be others. Watch Rumania, Brazil, Argentina,
Peru, Zaire, Turkey, and even Costa Rica, once considered an American retirement haven. “Non-performing loans”
at major US banks, due to these financially weak countries, tripled in 1981.

In fiscal 1982 the true projected total annual Federal deficit, including off-budget and various agency long-term
obligations should be in the $250 billion range; the same figure for fiscal 1983 should be well in excess of $300
billion. The Fed has continued to increase the adjusted monetary base at 6+% during a recession, while holding a
record amount of unsold Government securities, leaving them hanging over both the long- and short-term markets.
About 80% of Federal debt is less than 5 years in maturity, and nearly 50% has maturities of less than one year.

The Federal Government must refinance approximately $100 billion+ in existing securities plus an added $20
billion+ of new issues ​per month into the foreseeable future. In addition, an urgent $40 billion in state bonds, $10
billion in city bonds, and $10 billion in emergency corporate funding are pending, plus much added company
borrowing when rates decline. Total current debt levels in the US are now in excess of $5 trillion, counting all
borrowers, with forward obligations of the Federal Government another $10 trillion or more.
Total US demand for credit in fiscal 1981 was in excess of $512 billion; for fiscal 1982, it is projected at $600+
billion ($250+ billion of this represents borrowing by the Federal Government). This accelerating credit growth,
more than 20% in 2 years, is a measure of the inflation tiger whose back we are riding. Recently, the Fed, in
compliance with Public Law 96-221, reduced member bank reserves by $2 billion, but sold $3.3 billion in
government securities into the banking system, reducing net free reserves even further, making loans even more
difficult and expensive to obtain.

With anticipated fiscal 1982 Federal tax revenues down and being unwilling to monetize a large deficit, the
Administration has decided to borrow the difference, “crowding out” the private sector short- and long-term
borrowers, especially in the long-term market. This, in turn, has put added pressure on the short-term markets.

To raise additional revenue the Administration is exploring “loophole closing” and new taxes, such as increased
excise taxes (euphemistically called “user charges” by Government economists), a national value-added tax of 2%
on all purchases except food, clothing, housing, and medical expenses, and a natural gas decontrol “windfall
profits” tax, to be paid for, of course, by the consumer eventually.

Reductions in income tax deductions would include limits on interest write-offs for consumer loans, state and local
taxes, mortgages (a ceiling of $100,000), and exemption of interest on industrial revenue bonds. Reductions in the
expenditure areas of defense and Social Security have been examined and dropped because they are too hot
politically. In spite of all borrowing efforts, the Fed will probably have to monetize at least $10-12 billion of the
deficit in fiscal 1982.

Large companies are tapping all available credit sources; the $65 billion Eurodollar liquid pool was utilized by
international firms to the extent of $6.1 billion in 1981. Meanwhile, the Fed has issued $3.3 billion in new money
through its Boston branch (with some from Richmond) backed by bonds denominated in Deutschemarks and Swiss
francs under the provisions of Public Law 96-221.

This is obviously a trial balloon for the future purchase of other, less desirable, foreign bonds to “back” future
currency issues. There is nothing to stop the fed from purchasing delinquent bonds from foreign countries that
cannot meet their obligations to us. The US taxpayer will end up bailing out those banks that are unable to collect
their foreign debts. Since these bonds will not be marketable in the private sector after the Fed purchases them, they
will become a part of the adjusted monetary base, thus inflating the money supply.

The private sector has responded to tight money by increasing the velocity (speed of transactions) to all-time highs,
adding to continued inflationary pressures despite the lower levels of actual monetary increases, and decreasing
loan periods. One can only hope that a wave of major corporate and financial institution bankruptcies does not
result from the dangerous tightrope act the Administration and the Fed are following.

On March 18, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed HR 290, “reaffirming” that the full faith and
credit of the US backed all depository institution deposits. There has never been any such backing as these deposits
were insured by government agencies (FDIC, FSLIC, etc.), which had reserves of about $1.10 for each $100 on
deposit. While the Administration continues to assure the public there are no financial problems, this resolution, as
well as 96-221, are both intended solutions for bank runs and financial panic. Senate passage of a similar bill is
expected within the next several weeks.
The provisions of PL 96-221 are being implemented as large banks are acquiring weak S&Ls and smaller banks,
even across state lines. At the same time, the oil giants are acquiring not only smaller oil companies, but also
mining, mineral-processing, and alternate energy firms. The potential concentration of financial power is awesome,
resembling Japanese zaibatsus.

How Do You Counter All of These Circumstances?

In these circumstances, the individual and professional businessman must become as liquid and efficient as
possible. As I mentioned last month, improve your cash management by putting excess cash in a T-bill-only money
market fund with an average maturity level of less than 30 days. (The increased safety will only cost you 1-1½% in
yield compared with money market funds holding commercial paper, which is far riskier.)

Liquidate nearly all short-term debt by payoff or conversion to longer-term debt (even at seemingly high rates), and
convert bank credit lines into non-callable loans and place those funds into T-bill money market funds. (Remember,
banks are being squeezed, too, and may not always have all the funds they wish to lend; if you persist in rolling
over bank lines, the day may come when your bank may not be able to extend yours.)

Improve your productive equipment by eliminating older, less-efficient machines insofar as possible, and review
not only your process flow analysis procedures, but evaluate areas not normally examined, such as packaging and
shipping departments. Try to reduce waste as much as possible. Remember, a penny saved is two cents earned.

Improve inventory control methods, eliminating over-aged goods, recycling salvageable materials, and
concentrating on faster-moving lines. With sales expected to decline for most companies in spite of their best
efforts, watch inventory/sales ratios closely, as a drop in sales will boost the ratio alarmingly.

If a 1½-2 month inventory has been acceptable, consider a 30-40 day backlog, and orient your inventory more
toward raw materials than work in process or finished goods, keeping the manpower to make up the difference on
tap in the event of a large order. Expect suppliers to be squeezed, and be prepared to make some really
advantageous buys over the next six months as they make deals for ready cash.

Concentrate on a better sales effort, utilizing your most effective salesmen. Evaluate new methods of marketing,
such as sales contests. In particular, review your entire product line to decide the best combination of high-volume,
low-margin and low-volume, high-margin products to maximize profits.

Concentrate on collection of accounts receivable, as debtors will try to live off your capital or “float”. Offer above
average discounts for prompt payment, as you will effect savings with cash later, and liquidity is the name of the
game. Reduce short-term liabilities as much as possible, consistent with maintaining a strong cash position.

There will probably be many attractive-appearing merger possibilities or outright buy-outs as less well-managed
companies come up on the auction block. Avoid them, unless you are absolutely sure you can ingest them without a
significant disruption of your own operation and cash position. Now is not the time to experiment with
revolutionary, unproven products or processes, either, as funds lost in this form of speculation may not be recouped.
As a nation, we are all in for an extended period of a declining standard of living and belt-tightening. This is an
unusual financial and psychological posture for us, but those who can adapt and learn well how to handle these new
and straitened circumstances will profit to a degree not imagined. At stake is not merely survival, but real gains that
would not be available under ordinary circumstances. Those who can handle difficult times, and who can profit
from them, will do so handsomely.

Editor’s note: Eugene A. Barron is a consultant to small businesses. If you want advice concerning your particular
business situation, you may contact him at 8099 N. 63rd Ave., Longmont, CO 80501. (303-442-6254) N. T.

A Supplement on Wind- and Water-Power

Wills O’ the Wisp and Other Power Sources

by Ralph H. Burr

Editor’s note: Ralph Burr is a consultant to small energy companies and has rebuilt a waterwheel DC power plant
in Maine and has worked on wind generation in Alaska. N. T.

While wind energy is eminently practical where it can be obtained, I generally exclude its use for serious electrical
generation because so much of our geography is poorly suited to providing consistent, fast-moving air.

Why? Consider these requirements: Power generation (as electricity) does not start until winds are above 7 to 10
mph. Most locales are below that speed range much of the time. The truly suited areas are those of uncomfortably
high winds. Wind propellers must be high off the ground, away from both up- and downwind obstructions.

It takes 20 to 50 feet of elevation to avoid “boundary layer phenomenon” which causes a decrease in wind speed
and an increase in turbulence. The tower or staff and assembly must be able to withstand the high winds (optimum
speed: 25 mph) and precipitation, such as sleet, hail, etc., and achieving this is very costly.

If you have no practical alternative to installing a wind energy conversion system (known as WECS) and you ​think
you have an adequate average wind at your site, what do you do? First, you will need to conduct a “wind survey”
on the site you’ve chosen. By site, the exact location at which you would place your tower is meant. The survey is a
daily recording of the average hourly wind velocity on site. This can be done automatically, with leased equipment,
or manually, by direct observation. It should be done 24 hours a day, or at least during the time you will be awake
and during any other time of prevailing high winds.
A cheap anemometer will give an accurate enough reading. You should measure the wind speed at the height at
which you would mount the wind propeller, or tie ribbons to a tree or pole at least 50’ high, in 10’ spacing to
determine the height. Average winds should be taken for at least a year before committing to the expense of a
WECS installation. Average winds year round of 10 mph or better indicate a suitable WECS site, at the height
measured. While a local weather observer may have general data for your area, I have found a large variation due to
shielding and wind patterns for proximate sites.

This again reinforces that wind observations are only good for the site and height of measurement. Why is all this
so critical? We’re looking for the most wind energy we can get at our site. For a stream of wind across an area, we
measure the kinetic energy by E=½ pAV​3​; the Energy is half the wind density times the area intersected times the
cube of the wind velocity. All this translates to is that a 10 mph wind generates about 4.6 watts per square foot of
rotating blade area.

Assuming the result of your wind survey is favorable (or you “just have to have” a WECS) how do you find out
about the possibilities? Without endorsement, I offer these examples:

Low Voltage DC WECS System

Winco Wincharger, 12V 200 watt generator with control $600

Tower, used- local purchase (20 foot) $150

HD 125 amp/hr battery (not automotive) 2 each $195

Voltage Regulator $95

Total $1040

From this system you get about 300 to 325 kWh per year; enough to power some lights, small TV, and radio. The
kWh cost is high, but overall cost is quite low.

A domestic system, utility-capable, generating some 6000 kWh/year will cost about $16,000 to $35,000 depending
on storage capacity, with a minimum amortized cost of $.l2/kWh.

If you have a utility-compatible power generation system, you can sell your surplus power to your local power
company at a price regulated by your local PUC. This is your option by law; your local utility cannot refuse to
purchase such power if it is regulated 110V, 60 Hz AC.

Obviously, at these prices, a WECS installation is costed as a part of the retreat’s physical plant. Is there an
alternative to a WECS system? The answer is- possibly.
Water flowing in volume at essentially ground level normally requires the use of a water wheel apparatus. Water
falling from a height, especially if low in volume, indicates use of a water turbine. Anyone who has been in New
England can tell of the old factories and mills operated by water wheel and belt drives.

They supplied the North during the Civil War. A visitor to Grass Valley, California (50 miles east of Sacramento)
may have seen the old North Star Mine Power House, now a museum. In it, a 36’ diameter Pelton Wheel provides a
reminder of the potential for impulse water turbines. Both methods of generating energy are well-proven.


There are three basic ways to use a waterwheel; the undershot wheel is the earliest and least efficient of the wheels,
requiring a faster rate of flow, but no waterhead. The overshot wheel is a distinct improvement, but requires a sluice
(small aqueduct) or a penstock (pipe) coming in at least 6” over the top of the wheel. This means that there must be
a waterhead at least the height of the wheel’s diameter. The breastshot wheel is one with a formed channel around a
quarter of the wheel and a slight head of water, usually not more than half the diameter of the wheel in height.

Let’s look at the overshot wheel since it’s the most efficient, having up to a 70% theoretical efficiency. Working
with a head that ranges from barely clearing the wheel top to 30 feet above, it turns from 5 to 20 rpm.
Unfortunately, a dynamo needs 150 to 1500 rpm. This creates the need for heavy gearing (due to the high torque),
resulting in loss of energy and efficiency, and higher cost. Still it’s the best water wheel installation if you have the

Under- and breastshot wheels turn directly proportional to the rate of flow of the source water. That’s proportional,
not at the same speed.

Impulse Water Turbines

There are a number of water turbines, of which the Pelton Wheel is probably the best known. As an aside, reaction
turbines are effective, but require regulated flow- any change in flow amount or rate decreases reaction turbine
efficiency. Additionally, reaction turbines are designed for the specific application. There are no “off the shelf”
products on the market.

The impulse turbine is driven by the velocity of the supply water rather than the weight of volume. With the Pelton
Wheel, a nozzle directs the flow of source water into small buckets on the Wheel, after increasing the water
pressure and speed. The Pelton Wheel or any other impulse turbine rotates at about ½ the speed of the incoming
water. This much higher rotational speed means less gearing to drive a generator. The disadvantage inherent in an
impulse system, although small, is that the force of the water gradually wears away the nozzle and wheel buckets.

If your retreat (or other) site appears to have a satisfactory water supply, you need to perform a site analysis in the
same philosophy as the one for WECS. You need to know both the minimum (dry season) and maximum (freshet or
wet season) flows, or in the case of waterhead, the reservoir capacity in the dry season. If the head is adequate and
minimum reservoir capacity the same, you can have an impulse turbine system if the water feed is close enough.

Where you are dependent on flow, there are two ways to determine adequacy. For a river or large stream, throw a
wood chip in the main channel and time its travel for 100 feet. Do this a number of times, particularly at the dry
season. This informs you of the “worst case” power generation potential. Do not rush to construct a water-power
system without also knowing the potential for flood waters.
Even a small creek can provide an incredible amount of rushing water in flood times. You do not want to see your
carefully-constructed installation blown apart and traveling rapidly downstream! To convert the times you observed
to flow, gauge the average depth and width of the river or stream. Multiply the average cross sectional area in ft​2 ​by
the time in feet per minute to obtain the observed flow. Since water flows faster at the surface than bottom, use 85%
of the figure you get for each observation (wet season, dry season, and flood).

For a stream where the above method can’t be used, you must make a “contracting weir”. This is a partial barricade,
constructed out of 4x4’s or logs, leaving about 40% of the stream width open. Weir height must be adequate to
contain the stream, and the edges of the opening beveled downstream to reduce turbulence. The water has to spill
freely over the lip of the weir.

When the weir is built, drive a stake 4 or 5 feet upstream, with a mark or notch level with the weir sill. You may
have to dig out some stream bottom to see the mark. Measure the depth from the mark to the top of the stream flow.
Using that depth, from the following table, multiply the right hand column entry for that depth by the width of the
weir opening. This will give you the ft​3​/minute flow rate for the stream, for the time of measurement.

Stake Depth (in inches) CFM Factor

1” 0.4
5” 4.5
10” 12.7
15” 23.4
20” 35.9
25” 50.0

If the stream overflows at any time, you will need what is known as the Manning Formula (from any handbook on
hydraulics at your local library). Look up this formula before you start if you know that your site stream overflows.
You will need the friction (turbulence) factor for your estimate.

Where your supply falls from a height, you will need to measure the distance from source to use point in the
vertical. A Locke or Abney hand level, plus measuring tape or rod and a good friend, will let you measure the
vertical height either directly or incrementally.

Remember, to get meaningful data, you will need at least a year’s extremes and averages. Check your county or
state hydrologist before you start. He may already have the records you want, particularly if you are to measure a
large stream or river.

While the foregoing tasks may seem boring (particularly to read about), they are necessary and provide you with
important knowledge about your site!

Given that the results of your survey are good, the next step is to consider the available systems. You are limited by
the type of water source you have. Outside of that, personal preferences and cost considerations will determine your
To get an idea of the power generating potential of your source, plug your data into this formula: T=Q x h x E
divided by 708, where T=Output in kilowatts, Q=Rate of flow in ft​3​/minute, h-Waterhead in feet (use 1 foot for a
ground level stream), E= System efficiency (For an overshot wheel, use 45%; for a Pelton Wheel, use 60%). If you
multiply T by 7320, you’ll have an idea of the monthly output in kilowatt-hours.

To get the most effective water-power system you can, you may have to dam or divert water through a millrace.
This will probably require you to get state and county permits. Riparian water rights of downstream property
owners may limit what you can do. Each state and county has different regulations and laws.

There are a few firms making water wheels. The Campbell Water Wheel Co. of Philadelphia makes overshot
wheels to order (depending on your water head and wheel width). They will happily consult with you on your
system before you order. An English firm, Westward Mouldings of Cornwall makes fiberglass wheels shipped in
kit form. To give you an idea, a 16’, 32-bucket wheel costs about $2,400 fob Cornwall. At 10 rpm, it produces 11
kilowatts of power.

Special problems, such as slow water flow can be solved, but at greater expense, by different methods. A
“cross-flow” turbine, which would solve this problem, requires more sophisticated machinery at a higher cost.

To get an idea of the cost and complexity of water power installations, let’s look at one using Westward Moulding’s
16’ wheel: it costs around $6800 and at an average output of 6 kW, the unit pays for itself in about 5 years, if you
have to replace the tractor (or other) gearbox every two years. The example assumes a 1000 ft​3​/minute flow.

A comparable Pelton Wheel installation, with a waterhead of 180 feet and a flow of 65 ft​3​/minute will cost
approximately $7800 and will require about 5 ½ to 6 years for amortization.

Neither of the above examples takes all costs into account. A water wheel is noisy and will probably need a
separate shelter from the retreat home. A Pelton Wheel installation with a high waterhead should be offset from the
living area, as the pipe pressure is enormous. A rupture could cause chaos or even injury, particularly to children.

Children are another consideration. Any power installation is an “attractive nuisance” to the young. In building your
power plant, make it as “child-proof” as possible! Millraces, flumes, holding penstocks, dams- any one or more of
these may be necessary. They all increase the cost and are all potential hazards to children.

Do not locate a substantial dam upstream of your home if you are smack dab in the flood path! Even if your county
or state says that is the proper location, fight the decision. It’s your lives, not theirs. Most engineers and
hydrologists are eminently sensible people- but they are sometimes more concerned about adhering to regulation
than the effect on you of their regulation. ​Deja vu!​

Remember that your power plant can be the source of side benefits such as flood-control damming, fish ponds,
emergency potable water, etc. If the water source is not reliable enough for electricity generation, it may well serve
for mechanical power, driving hoists for hay, sawmills, irrigation water, and all sorts of other applications!

​ Supplement on Solar Power

In the next issue: A
The Homestead Retreat Power System, Part III
by Eric and Anne Teller
The 12-Volt Electrical System

Adequate lighting, music, and communications enhance living and in the times ahead, our living may need all the
enhancement it can get.

Having the above amenities sounds fine in armchair survival theory. And plenty of theory abounds, much of which
we’ve enthusiastically embraced ourselves. Most, unfortunately, doesn’t work, or doesn’t work too well. But we
have found a way of having our lights, and music, and communications, and much more, all based on a 12-volt
electrical system.

Why do we believe 12-volt DC power is the best for the homestead retreat? What is 12-volt electricity? What
advantages does 12-volt electricity have for the homestead retreat over any other kind of electrical energy? The
12-volt system, very basically, is battery power. It is simple, safe, reliable, economical, and available, and gives you
most of the benefits of a larger system for less time, effort, and money.

Prejudiced as we may be toward 12-volt power, it has proven itself by providing us with a successful system of
alternative energy. And that is what we’re after.

Twelve-volt DC electricity is not exactly a newcomer on the energy scene. Its extensive development and adoption
occurred in the automotive industry almost twenty years ago. Soon after, the flourishing growth and expansion of
the recreational vehicle boom spurred the innovation, design, and creation of many plug-in accessories that could be
operated directly on 12-volt power.

Then about ten years ago, solid-state electronics invaded the 12-volt scene and created a host of new possibilities
for super-efficient utilization of 12-volt electricity. Happily, for those of us who rely on 12-volt power, we are able
to capitalize on this wealth of technology and apply it to home use.

Our home stereo FM radio and cassette player is a top-line unit originally designed for car use. Its outstanding
reception and sound compares to the best in home stereo systems. My 12-volt electric chain saw sharpener is worth
its weight in gold during the fall firewood cutting season. Energy-efficient fluorescent lighting, television, CB and
shortwave radios, and a large assortment of other electrically-powered accessories are all now designed to operate
directly from 12-volt electricity with little power consumption.

One has only to look in the automotive or recreational vehicle section of common mail order catalogs such as Sears,
Wards, JC Penney, etc. to become aware of the wide variety of 12-volt appliances that are readily available. Several
alternative energy specialty shops (see source list at end of series) offer just about any other 12-volt appliance or
tool you can imagine.

We discovered 12-volt electricity on the way back from what we originally thought would be the perfect system;
namely the 120-volt DC wind generator/battery bank system. We read all the books extolling this system. We
purchased a 120-volt DC backup generator.
We located a functioning 3,000-watt wind generator complete with ninety-foot tower and set of (twenty!) batteries.
We were all but convinced this was the way to go when something caused us to step back and take one more
careful, objective look at the whole system.

We had already learned (painfully) how reality has a way of causing complex systems to fray at the ends. We had
learned that 120-volt DC power from a wind generator and set of batteries isn’t the same as 120-volt AC power
which is so common everywhere. In many applications, DC and AC power aren’t compatible, and to get from one
to the other is expensive and not always efficient or reliable. For these reasons, and others described in our last
article, we reluctantly decided to look elsewhere for a source of electrical power.

Maybe something on a more modest scale, Anne and I decided. So we began to investigate 32-volt power. It was
certainly a simpler and easier system to put together. The books spoke authoritatively about how popular 32-volt
systems had been before rural electrification took over the task of supplying 120-volt AC power to outlying farms
in all sections of the US. It sounded good, and much more reasonable than the 120-volt DC system.

We started out with two overhauled 32-volt kerosene-fueled generators and a bank of sound storage batteries
approximating 32-volts in capacity. With some searching, several boxes of light bulbs and motors were rounded
up and we tried out the system. It worked, but required constant puttering to ​keep it working. Any and all
accessories obtainable were outdated and inefficient. The best in modern technology it was not.

It was about this time that my father-in-law told me about a friend of his who enjoyed still-fishing at night.
Apparently this fellow ran a long extension cord from two light bulbs directly to his car battery to illuminate his
area of the riverbank. With some difficulty, we located a source of these 12-volt incandescent light bulbs that
looked and gave light just like everyday 120-volt AC bulbs. They worked exactly as my father-in-law had
described, except- after regular use, we frequently ended up with a dead car battery. The bulbs used up too much
battery power for use on a continual basis.

Soon afterwards, while looking through a recreational equipment catalog, I discovered some 12-volt fluorescent
fixtures. They were described as giving the same amount of light as a conventional 12-volt incandescent bulb while
using just a small fraction of the power. These fixtures proved to be a revelation in low power consumption. From
that point followed a rapid series of successful steps in building the ideal independent power system for our
homestead retreat based upon 12-volt DC electricity.

Due to its conservative size in voltage and output, the 12-volt electrical system does have definite limitations. It
specifically lacks the capability of handling high energy demands, which call for large amounts of heat or power.
Powerful electric motors, especially those which frequently cycle on and off, place too much of a burden on the
typical 12-volt system. In our case, for the occasional use of high-wattage tools or appliances, Anne and I depend
on our continuous-duty 120-volt AC generator.

The Battery Bank

The battery bank is the heart of a successful independent power system. A set of 12-volt deep-cycle lead acid
storage batteries provides a large reservoir for electricity. The electricity from a generator, wind charger, solar
panels, or some other source is stored in the batteries until it is needed at a later time.
It is important that the homestead retreater become familiar with the principles of battery operation and, especially,
battery maintenance. As with any other survival tool, batteries cannot be neglected and then be expected to perform
when needed.

The battery system provides electricity for comparatively small loads such as lights, radios, etc., which draw little
power, but over a long period of time. Therefore, automotive-type batteries are generally not suitable for a battery
bank system. They are designed to produce large amounts of current over short periods of time, and they have a
relatively limited life compared to other battery types.

Stationary-service or deep-discharge (deep cycle) batteries are the type needed for a homestead retreat power
system. The deep-discharge batteries are commonly sold for use with trolling motors, golf carts, and for general use
in recreational and emergency vehicles. In the last few years, there has been a rapid rise in the availability of this
type battery.

Stationary-service batteries are very similar to deep-discharge or deep-cycle batteries, the main difference being
that stationary-service batteries are designed for an optimal long life in a warm, vibration-free, sitting-on-a-shelf
environment. Deep-discharge batteries do not have as long a productive life, and are designed for service in more
severe environments.

Sears, Wards, JC Penney, etc., carry deep-discharge batteries. For example, JC Penney has a 12-volt deep-cycle,
105 amp hour battery priced at $90. Jim Cullen Enterprises (recommended as a source for numerous 12-volt and
related electrical supplies) offers 300 amp hour 12-volt batteries for $260 each.

Any of the above described batteries would be suitable for putting together a battery bank. A combination of four to
eight would form a reasonably-sized electrical storage unit. Checking with some of the 12-volt reference literature
in our bibliography or source list will help you determine the size battery bank needed for your own situation.

Batteries obtained for the homestead retreat power system should be identical so that each battery cell charges and
discharges at the same rate. It is vital to have enough batteries to handle the expected load at a reasonably low
discharge rate. If you don’t have enough batteries and begin drawing a heavy load, the high discharge rate can have
a detrimental effect on the batteries and thus lower their useful life.

It is extremely important to have a suitable location for the battery bank. The ideal environment includes a
temperature of 77 degrees F. Although a higher or lower temperature can be tolerated by the battery system, it will
have an adverse effect on its life and efficiency. Adequate ventilation is another condition for a safe installation.
The hydrogen gas sometimes given off during charging is highly explosive.

High-quality, deep-discharge, lead-acid batteries have a long life expectancy if carefully maintained and not
abused. Twenty to twenty-five years of useful service is not unusual. Considering the critical role of the battery
bank, it is imperative that only top-quality batteries be obtained for the homestead retreat power system. Over the
long haul, the trouble-free, dependable, quality battery will actually cost less than an inferior substitute.
The Inverter

The 12-volt inverter changes stored-up 12-volt DC electricity into 120-volt AC electricity, which is what almost all
common household appliances use. Inverters are sized according to the power output required. The major
restriction on their use is that the larger size units cause a heavy drain on the battery bank.

Therefore, it is recommended that rather than having a high output (and correspondingly expensive) inverter and
frequently draining down the battery bank, it makes more sense to run the 120-volt AC continuous-duty generator
when large amounts of this type power are needed. Examples include such tasks as operating high-wattage power
tools, washing machines, irons, etc.

As a valuable accessory to the 12-volt power system, we suggest a small inverter (from 100 to 1,000 watts in size)
for intermittent use of household appliances which are unavailable in 12-volts, and which draw less than 1,000
watts of AC electricity. Food blenders, mixers, animal clippers, etc., would be included in this category. Because
there is always some energy loss involved when using an inverter, it’s more efficient to run appliances designed
especially for 12 volts instead of inverting the power to 120 volts of AC electricity.

Inverters which we have found to be dependable and reasonably priced include the Tripp Lite solid-state inverter
which is available from most mail order companies such as Sears, Wards, etc., and the Best Inverter which is
available from Best Energy Systems, Inc., P.O. Box 280, Necedah, WI 54646. (Best Energy Systems also offers
deep-cycle batteries, battery chargers, and similar accessories.)

The Battery Charger

One more vital part of the homestead retreat power system is the battery charger, which utilizes a transformer and
rectifier to convert 120-volt AC electricity from the continuous-duty generator into 12-volt DC electricity for
storage in the battery bank. A heavy-duty, large output charger/booster is necessary in order to recharge the battery
bank in a reasonable amount of time. The typical hardware store battery charger is inadequate for charging a battery
bank with several hundred amp hours of capacity. Instead, a heavy-duty, fan-cooled, commercial garage-type or
similar high-amperage output unit is needed.

The battery charger we have used for the past several years is a commercial-type charger/booster that we purchased
from Sears. It puts out up to 80 amps for charging, and features an automatic timer plus amp meter. This unit is
currently priced at about $200. In actual practice, we charge our battery bank approximately once a week for a 4- to
8-hour period at a charging rate averaging 35 to 40 amps.

The optimum charging rate for stationary-service batteries varies from one set of batteries to another depending on
the size of the battery group. Two main points to keep in mind are: 1) do not allow the battery bank to become
completely discharged before beginning to recharge and 2) be sure not to allow the system to be charged beyond
the full-charge point. Heavy-duty commercial-type battery chargers which are suitable for recharging 12-volt
battery banks are available from Sears, Wards, JC Penney, the Best Energy Systems, Co., and Jim Cullen
With a little pre planning and coordination, the battery bank can be recharged while other high-wattage electrical
tools are used. Each week we have a “generator day” during which our continuous-duty, 120-volt AC diesel
generator is running. This is a day that I plan on working in the garage/shop, we pump water from our drilled well
into the cistern, and at the same time, Anne does the week’s washing and ironing. All the while, the battery bank is
being recharged.

Assuming that many of you wish to develop a standby alternative power system while still being connected to
commercial power sources, you might be interested in the trickle chargers which maintain battery banks in a
fully-charged condition. Just be sure the unit is powerful enough to maintain the charge for the complete battery
bank. A small car battery trickle charger will ​not​ do the job.

The 12-Volt Wind Charger

Although Anne and I do not recommend a 120-volt wind generator for the homestead retreat power system, we do
believe a 12-volt wind charger can have a definite place in a conservatively-designed electrical system.

If there is sufficient wind, the 12-volt wind charger can provide a large share, and in some cases, all of the 12-volt
power required to run 12-volt appliances and to recharge the 12-volt battery bank. Several models are available,
ranging from the well-proven 200-watt Winco model to the equally reliable 1,000-watt Dunlite and Sencenbaugh

A complete 1,000-watt wind power system will run between $2,000 and $4,000 BTC... that’s Before Tax Credit!
(Don’t forget at least 40% of this cost is deductible as a tax credit on your Federal Income Tax Return. Some states
allow additional tax credits for certain alternative energy installations.) The Winco 200-watt model is priced around

Many people might consider the 200-watt output of this unit to be marginal in terms of supplying electrical power.
However, it is worth keeping in mind that the low initial cost of this wind generator makes it conceivable to think in
terms of purchasing and installing two or even three units and using them in tandem to provide supplemental
wind-driven electrical power. Having more than one wind charger would certainly add to the overall dependability
of the system.

12-Volt Solar Electric Panels

A recent addition to the field of electricity-producing equipment, solar electric panels are marvels of simplicity. In
an almost magical transformation, direct sunlight falling upon solar cells is converted into small amounts of
electrical energy. A 12-volt array is a collection of individual solar cells fastened together to provide an electrical
output sufficient to charge 12-volt batteries. These panels are long-lived, trouble-free, and an easy add-on to the
12-volt system. Needless to say, the complete lack of moving parts insures high reliability in properly-constructed

Only within the last few years have reasonably-priced solar cells been produced on any extensive scale. Today, a
32- to 35-watt 12-volt solar electric panel costs from $375 to $450, before tax credits. Because of their cost in
relation to their low efficiency, they’re only recommended for low-voltage installations.
The quality and manufacturing consistency of solar panels as produced by Solarex and Arco is such that they are
now practical in any area where there is abundant sunshine, at least for a significant part of the year. Although
creating only small amounts of electricity, the 12-volt solar panel is a worthwhile, dependable producer of energy.
Contacts for the 12-volt solar electric (photovoltaic) panels are given in the source list.

Twelve-volt wind-power generators and solar electric panels complement one another very nicely for our particular
area. During the fall and winter months, when there is usually little sunshine due to the short daylight period and
frequent heavy cloud cover, there is ample wind

On the other hand during the lengthening days of spring and the long daylight hours of summer when we have
much less wind, the amount of bright, direct sunlight available to power solar panels is quite high. Similar patterns
occur in many areas of the US.

The Automotive Alternator

The great value of the standard 12-volt automotive alternator is its universal availability. For those of you who
decide to get started with 12-volt electricity, you already have a miniature 12-volt power system with which to
experiment. By simply adding a deep-cycle battery into your vehicle’s electrical circuitry, you will have created a
small, portable 12-volt power system.

Your existing car or truck alternator takes care of recharging the deep-cycle battery in addition to maintaining the
charge of the vehicle battery. A complete and detailed explanation of this hook-up is given in the books by Jim
Cullen and Michael Hackleman, listed in the bibliography.

Pedal Power

Considering the number of exercise bikes used throughout the nation, it makes one wonder why these stationary
bicycling machines aren’t rigged to generate some electricity as they are being pedaled. In the heyday of the bomb
shelter craze back in the 50s and 60s, several companies manufactured pedal-powered charging units connected to a
single battery for radio power.

Admittedly, it would be a little hard for Anne and me, each pedaling furiously for a couple of hours a day, to fully
charge our battery bank. However, we could certainly maintain one or two of the batteries, which would give us a
normal amount of light and critical radio communication if necessary.

Many homestead retreaters include a fallout shelter in their planning. A pedal-power unit connected to a single
battery is an ideal way to provide emergency 12-volt electrical power. A bonus is the physical exercise which is so
vital if one is forced to live in small, cramped quarters for possibly extended periods of time. If a shelter is included
in your plans, it would be provident to obtain a pedal-power electrical generating unit.
Unfortunately, there are no commercially manufactured models on the market today, as far as we know. If you are
so inclined, you should be able to construct one yourself, or you may wish to have someone fabricate it for you.
Some plans and building suggestions are outrageously inefficient and correspondingly impractical. The design
suggested in the article, “Cycle Power, Part II”, ​The Mother Earth News,​ March-April, 1981 issue, page 134, is, I
believe, a good one.

Desirable features to look for should include a moderately heavy flywheel to even out the pedaling effort and the
most direct hook-up/coupling possible between the pedals and the generator in order to reduce friction losses. A
complete book entitled ​Pedal Power by Rodale Press, 33 East Minor Street, Emmaus, PA 18049, gives many useful
ideas for pedal-power, not only for generating electricity but for grinding flour, pumping water, and operating other
tools. This book gives several additional sources for bike generator plans.

A relatively new, low rpm generator, the Thermax, available from the Thermax Corporation, 1 Mill Street,
Burlington, VT 05401, is especially designed to be utilized in pedal-power applications. Thermax Corporation also
carries a modern line of inverters, and offers a complete, although yet unproven, set of wind-power components.

Security Aspects of the 12-Volt System

Because of the numerous kinds of 12-volt lights available, it is fairly easy and not too expensive to design and
construct an independent, versatile security lighting system for the homestead retreat. Rooftop-mounted 12-volt
automotive-type spotlights which allow remote control aiming from within a building offer definite security
advantages. Permanently-mounted 12-volt flood lights can be wired to be turned on from any location in a building.

For other applications, a variety of handheld and weapon-mounted 12-volt high-power spotlights can be purchased.
The illumination available ranges from 50,000 to 300,000 candlepower! Specific sources for these portable
spotlights include Burnham Bros., P.O. Box 669, Marble Falls, TX 78654; Cabela’s, 812 13th Avenue, Sidney, NE
69162; and Nite Lite Co., P.O. Box 1, Clarksville, AR 72830.

In addition to lighting, an extensive assortment of 12-volt security alarms and sensors are available (see PS Letter
No. 15) to provide complete household protection from forced entry and/or to monitor all entries.

Other useful 12-volt security innovations are limited only by one’s imagination. Special alarm trip wires and
ultra-sensitive listening devices can be integrated into the 12-volt power system. Beyond a doubt, reliable, full-time
security systems are possible via 12-volt power.


None of us like to envision a prolonged period cut off from the outside world. But it is this prospect that propels us
into taking active responsibility to provide for our own independent, self-sufficient systems. Just as we make plans
and purchases to insure adequate food and water, and self-protection, so it follows that a realistic survival plan must
include some way of continuing the benefits of electrical power in our daily living.
If an alternative power system is established, it must be used enough to keep the components in peak condition and
to insure familiarity with the total system. This is especially important if you normally rely on
commercially-supplied electricity. If the homestead retreat alternative power system isn’t checked out on a regular
basis, it will likely be of no value when it is really needed.

The task of putting together a reliable electrical system to keep your homestead retreat functioning, no matter what,
is not impossible, or even that difficult. Just get yourself involved with the project and go ahead a step at a time.
Acquire and integrate each component with your total system one unit at a time. You’ll avoid mistakes that way,
and your understanding and appreciation of how the individual components fit with and complement one another
will grow as you go along.

Editor’s note: Because of space limitations in this issue, we will run the Teller’s source list and bibliography on
alternative power systems in the next one, along with your comments about generators.

If you are interested in discussing your specific problems in this area with the Tellers, you can write them c/o PS
Letter, P.O. Box 598, Rogue River, OR 97537. Their consulting fees are reasonable and, as you can tell from their
articles, they not only know what they are talking about but practice what they preach. N.T.

Book Review: Survivalist Directory

Last week Bruce Clayton sent me a copy of his recently completed ​Survivalist Directory and the finished product is
impressive. As Bruce says, “the ​Directory is a book and a service which provides for secure, two-way letter
exchanges between survivalists who do not know one another’s names, addresses, or phone numbers.”

I sat down intending to skim the book and became so intrigued with the bibliographies that I read all 160 of them.
The contributors are spunky and independent, the kind of people you would enjoy talking to even if they weren’t
concerned with survival.

One man describes himself as an “existentialist libertarian anesthesiologist”, another is a chemical engineer in
Texas; there is a US Army officer stationed in West Germany, a 25-year old agricultural student, etc. For those of
you who want to meet survivalists in your area or who’d like to correspond with people of similar interests, I can
think of no better way to begin than by reading the ​Directory.​ Participants are listed not only by state but also by
categories, such as “Looking for a Group to Join”, “Special Professions”, and “'Topics of Interest”.

You can order the ​Survivalist Directory from Bruce (Clayton Survival Services, P.O. Box 1411, Mariposa, CA
95338-1411) or from S.I. Equipment Ltd. (17019 Kingsview, Carson, CA 90746) for $9.95 plus $1.00 postage and
Survival Gunsmithing- Mauser-Pattern Rifles
by J.B. Wood

Mauser-pattern rifles, including the US Springfield 1903 and 1903A3, the Japanese Arisaka, and others, are mostly
based on the classic Mauser of 1898. The basic action is still made, as the Interarms Mark X. Perhaps the most
modern of the applications of the Mauser design is the excellent Ruger M77 rifle. Assuming that readers will have
the basic Mauser 98, the Ruger M77, or something in between, I’ll cover both ends of the line here. There’s enough
similarity in all of the actions that some of the points can be applied to several guns.

One of the reasons for the long success of the Mauser 98 action is that it’s a very strong and very simple design. So,
I won’t make a separate basic parts list. A complete list for the Mauser 98 should include the following: striker
(firing pin), extractor, ejector, combination bolt stop/ejector spring, striker spring, and magazine spring.

The firing pin, integral with the forward end of the striker shaft, rarely breaks. As with any firing pin, though,
there’s a chance that after years of use the point may snap off. The long Mauser extractor is tempered to be its own
spring. Breakage is not common, but there is occasional age-weakening.

There is also the possibility of chipping at the beak, in the area that contacts the cartridge rim, as this portion is very
hard. It should be noted that the standard Mauser should be loaded ​only in the magazine, and never by dropping
single rounds in the chamber. Most extractor-beak breakage occurs when the latter is done, and the bolt slammed

The ejector receives substantial repeated impact from the cartridge head each time the bolt is cycled, and breakage
does occur occasionally. The ejector and the bolt stop are powered by a single combination spring, a blade type
with two leaves. The smaller one, powering the ejector, is most likely to break in time, while the main portion has a
tendency to weaken. This complex spring would be quite difficult to make, so a spare is important.

The helical-coil striker spring will not break, but in the constantly-cocked compression of survival use, it may
weaken in time. The same reasoning applies to the zig-zag blade-type magazine spring, as the magazine is likely to
be kept fully-loaded for long periods of time. The other parts of the Model 98 are so well-designed and so strongly
made that breakage is virtually unknown.

Moving up to the present time, now, here’s the complete list for the Ruger M77 rifle: striker (firing pin) assembly,
extractor, ejector, ejector spring, and magazine spring.

The striker, its spring, and the bolt endpiece are a single unit on the M77, and while disassembly is possible, it’s
very difficult without special factory tools. So, the entire assembly is best kept in reserve, as insurance against two
possibilities: The firing pin point could break, or the striker spring could weaken from long compression. In either
case, having the complete unit will make replacement relatively simple. The firing pin assembly is not expensive,
and is not a restricted part. It must be ordered to match the caliber of your rifle, as these units are not

The extractor is the classic Mauser-type, tempered to be its own spring. I have never seen a broken M77 extractor,
but taking the long view, some age-weakening of the spring tension could be possible. Also, any hardened part,
such as the beak, is susceptible to occasional breakage in time.
Unlike its Mauser ancestor, the M77 can be single-loaded directly into the chamber without excessive extractor
stress. The ejector is a plunger-type, set into the bolt-face, and powered by a helical coil spring. Breakage of the
ejector is extremely unlikely. It is included mainly in case of loss during disassembly or reassembly. The ejector
spring could be susceptible to age-weakening, since it is compressed as long as a round is chambered.

The magazine spring is also of the classic Mauser pattern, a zig-zag blade-type. With a full magazine over long
periods of time, as is likely in survival situations, some age-weakening is possible.

If the gun has original open sights, you might want to add a front sight blade and a complete folding rear sight to
the list. Most M77 rifles I’ve noticed had a scoped mounted, as the integral Ruger base provisions make this so

Except for the magazine spring, all of the springs in the M77 are made of round wire, either helical coil or
torsion-type, and the only one that has a remote possibility of weakening or fracture would be the safety spring,
located on the left side of the trigger housing. If it should need replacement, this can be done without disassembly
of the trigger group. There is nothing in the trigger and sear assembly that is likely to need replacement.

There is only one item that is common to any rifle having a Mauser-type extractor, and this is the extractor band,
the part that retains the extractor on the bolt. In more than thirty years, I have seen only three of these broken. Still,
it is a very essential part.

Those who want to cover every possibility will want to add a spare to their lists. Like the extractor, firing pin
assembly, and magazine spring, the extractor band must be ordered to fit the particular caliber of your rifle. The
only parts on the M77 that are completely interchangeable are the ejector and its spring (and the safety spring and
sights, if they are added to the list).

If your rifle is a US Springfield, Sako, Winchester M70, Weatherby, or any of the other guns of basic Mauser type,
the similarity of the actions will allow the parts advice here to be generally used. In the ones that do not have the
Mauser-type extractor, there will be an extractor spring and plunger to be added to the list, and perhaps one or two
other parts.

In the ​Guns Digest Book of Exploded Firearms Drawings,​ Second Edition, the Mauser 98 is shown on page 276,
and the Ruger M77 is on page 110. A phantom view and an exploded view of the M77 are in the original
instruction booklet for the rifle, and the booklet is available on request from Sturm, Ruger & Co., Southport, CT
06490. This, of course, is also the address for parts. For Mauser 98 parts, there are several commercial sources. One
of the best-known is Gun Parts Corporation, West Hurley, NY 12491.

In the ​Gun Digest Book of Firearms Assembly/Disassembly, Part IV: Centerfire Rifles,​ takedown and reassembly
instructions for the Mauser 98 are on pages 185-192. The Ruger M77 instructions are on pages 290-297 in the same
volume. This book, and the exploded drawings mentioned above, are available from DBI Books, Inc., One
Northfield Plaza, Northfield, IL 60093.