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Mel Tappan’s Personal Survival Letter # 36

Issue No. 36- October 1982

Mass Evacuation: Rx for Chaos?

by Reginald Bretnor

It is difficult, especially at this time, to estimate how present Federal plans for the evacuation of urban centers in the
event of nuclear war will affect survivalists. Basically, as they have been announced, these plans appear to call for
the sudden removal of (virtually) entire city populations to “host counties”. (I say “appear to” because press
accounts I have seen have been singularly short on details- even very important details such as how the evacuees
are to be fed, what medical facilities are contemplated, and exactly who will provide shelter and various necessary
services for them.)

There seems to be a belief among the authorities concerned that crash evacuations can be successfully carried out
without intensive and prolonged CD preparations- preparations now conspicuous by their absence; and one cannot
help but wonder whether this has its origin in that divorcement from reality characteristic of so many bureaucracies.
Thus, as far back as 1961, when the world’s nuclear arsenal was far smaller than it is today, think-tanker Herman
Kahn wrote,​1

... While a few American cities such as New York may take days to evacuate, ​most American cities could be
evacuated in a few hours if the proper preparations have been made​. (Italics mine.)

He did not tell us what the “proper preparations” were; nor, I imagine, had he ever been caught for half an
afternoon in a normal Los Angeles traffic jam, nor on one of San Francisco’s bridges after a big rig had jack-knifed.

The first and most important question one is tempted to ask about any crash evacuation program is: Why?

FEMA,​2 ​I am sure, would tell us: ​To save lives​.

This, certainly, is a praiseworthy goal- but is it, everything considered, a realistic one? Or is it one arrived at by
well-meaning but ill-informed and confused functionaries with too imperfect an understanding of how a nuclear
(read: nuclear-chemical-biological) war will probably be fought?

The survival of the nation as a living entity in such a war will depend critically on the survival of undamaged
communities and uninjured individuals- in short, on the survival of sane, productive islands of law and order and
decency, areas to which the wounded can turn for help, the hungry for food, the dying at least for consolation.
Our crash evacuation planners seemingly either have not taken this into consideration, or understand neither the
extreme military vulnerability of suddenly moved masses of people, nor what such masses can do to those areas on
which a recuperating nation will be forced to depend. When I read our local newspaper’s account of evacuation
plans for Oregon, I might as well have been reading Mommy’s plans to take her cub scouts to summer camp.

It takes intensive organization to move anything even as well-prepared and well-disciplined as an infantry division
long distances by highway ​reliably​. (If you don’t believe it, read the Staff Officers Field Manual.) Dumping the
Inner City on I-5, or any other road, is going to be an entirely different kettle of fish.

Let’s look at some of the difficulties. The main problems that must haunt any mass evacuation program are:

1. Our urban populations are not well-trained troops. They unfortunately contain a great many people who, for one
reason or another, are disaffected -often to the point of psychosis- sometimes organized, and frequently a bit too
well-armed for comfort.​3 ​Among these we can number ordinary criminals, subversives,
semi-criminal/semi-subversive “nut groups”, drug addicts and pushers, and assorted weirdos. In addition, there are
a great many who are innocuous enough, but who would come apart under stress.

2. Vehicles available for the evacuation would, of necessity, include a vast variety of cars and trucks in sad states of
disrepair- that would blow tires, burn out engines, and otherwise impede the flow of traffic.

3. In many areas, the populations of “host counties” could not, realistically, be expected to welcome their deluge of
guests, especially if these came from high-crime urban areas, or from areas with histories of ethnic conflict, or
where potential ethnic Fifth Columns are believed to exist.

4. Any crash evacuation, even if carried out before an actual nuclear attack, would be overshadowed by the
imminent threat of such an attack. This would be inescapable and unforgettable. It would aggravate such problems
as what to do with prison populations, with people in mental institutions, with hospital patients, and the infirm.

5. Any such mass population movement would (depending on the road system and the nature of the terrain) be
vulnerable not only to direct enemy attack, but to subversive sabotage, especially against bottlenecks- bridges,
overpasses, cliffs, and overhangs that could be brought down to block highways, etc.

6. Adequate fuel supplies would have to be ensured for evacuating vehicles before starting and en route.

7. Facilities and equipment would have to be prepared for the ​immediate clearing of breakdowns and accidents-
difficult even on freeways, much more so on secondary roads.

These will be the major problems of the initial movement. If the evacuation is successfully accomplished, there still
will be a host of others: shelter, supplies of all sorts (water especially), sanitation and waste disposal, disease
prevention and medical care, and -perhaps most important- keeping the peace.
Civil conflict at a time when the United States may be fighting for its life (and ours) is not something to be desired,
and it is easy enough to envision a situation where normal methods of law enforcement -including a declaration of
martial law- will prove ineffective.

The evacuation program, at least as it has been reported in the media, does not appear to be based on any realistic
understanding of what it takes to keep a great nation healthy and functioning, on the relationships between industry
and agriculture, transport, and distribution.

Perhaps this is at least in part a result of our national failure to understand what happened at Hiroshima and
Nagasaki. This was more than the detonation of the two first nuclear weapons: it was a military quantum jump,
demanding not only strategic and tactical rethinking, but also ​the redesigning of the United States​.

All along the historic curve of weapons development, the curve describing greater firepower and increased range,
the response -often tragically delayed, but still inevitable- has been a simple one: ​disperse and take cover​. I have
seen photographs, taken during the first days of World War I, showing mounted German officers advancing among
troops literally shoulder-to-shoulder. Within weeks, of course, the mounts were gone and the troops were in
trenches and dugouts. World War II saw an even greater thinning out and a more intelligent use of individual cover.
But while troops learned the lesson, nations did not.

After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we should immediately have applied the same principle to our industries and our
population. Instead, because it was easier and economically profitable, we actually continued to centralize both,
letting our tremendously vulnerable metropolitan centers -Los Angeles is a prime example- grow without restraint,
and actually subsidizing the movement of masses of people from rural to urban areas (witness the post-war
movement of southern blacks from the newly-mechanized cotton fields to the cities of the East, Midwest, and
West.) In other words, instead of thinking in terms of hard military realities, we thought in ad men’s slogans.
Mutual deterrence​ is probably the outstanding example.

We have yet to reverse this trend. A few days ago, I read a UPI story that began:

“By the year 2000, enough newcomers will have moved to Southern California to create a new city the size of Los
Angeles, regional planners said in a new growth forecast. The planners expect that three million more people will
have settled in the area in the next 18 years, mostly in Los Angeles and north Orange County…”

Crash evacuation programs are a substitute, and not a very good one, for the dispersal we should have started
engineering thirty-five years ago; and, even though it’s a bit late in the day, this is where any new, comprehensive
CD program ought to start. It will be interesting to see whether the present administration’s recently announced
plan to give the United States the ability to win a protracted nuclear war will take it into consideration.

Evacuation and the Survivalist

One trouble with a great many evaluations of the probable effect of an all-out nuclear war is that they tend to be too
superficial. For instance, the Russians -who are actively planning for such a war- have used the argument that, in
World War II, they took extremely heavy military and civilian casualties -I have seen the figure put as high as thirty
percent of the population- and still came out on top again.
They ignore the fact that, in that war, they never fought alone, and they neglect to mention that the casualties were
spread out over four years. Taking comparable casualties, human or industrial, in a matter of hours, or days, or
weeks, would be a horse of quite a different color. Even a first-rate infantry division generally cannot take
casualties of this order in, say, a twenty-four or forty-eight hour period, retain full discipline and organization, and
come back fighting.

Therefore, can we reasonably expect such a comeback from any comparably hard hit civilian area, especially if
there are no undamaged areas to fall back on for the sort of assistance available to the bombed cities of World War

We can thank our stars that, at long last, the nature of Russian preparations for war and of the Communist threat are
being appreciated. However, we as yet do not know in detail what plans our government has in mind to counter
this, especially where Civil Defense is concerned, and until we do, it scarcely helps to speculate on what they may

Certainly, the evacuation plans already published do complicate the scene for survivalists, for it is one thing to plan
a family shelter in what was to have been a remote and thinly-populated area, and then find that it is scheduled to
receive several times its former population from an urban area of a very different character.

Basically, it seems to me that survivalists generally cannot afford to take too optimistic a view of (a) the ability of
society to survive nuclear war ​as a fully functioning entity,​ or (b) the immediate recuperative powers of society in
such a situation, or (c) the ability of constituted authority to maintain order and contend with the innumerable
problems that would inevitably arise.

There can be no complete substitute for self-reliance.

We can hope for the best: that measures will be taken to institute a coherent, well-planned and generously-funded
CD system; that they will be taken in time; and that the too-long-delayed decentralization we so badly need will
also be initiated.

But survivalists should base their planning on the possibility that little of this will be accomplished, and that
whatever plans they have made for themselves and their families may be abruptly and thoroughly disrupted.

How can this be done? By following the developing picture of governmental planning as closely as possible, and by
modifying plans as contingencies dictate.​4

How else?
Herman Kahn, ​On Thermonuclear War​, Princeton, 1961.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, established during the Carter Administration.
I have seen the statement in one article, that “no firearms will be permitted in host areas”. This would appear to
imply that, either along the evacuation routes or at destination, ​all vehicles will be searched- and, considering the
known level of “Inner City” armament alone, they would have to be. As to the practicality of such an operation,
especially under crash conditions, I shall not comment.
As a first step call, your local FEMA office and obtain copies of the evacuation plans for your area.
National Survival Game: More than a Game, Part I
by Alexander Jason

Editor’s note: Alec Jason is an international security consultant with wide military, law enforcement, and security
experience. His articles on Passive Intrusion Deterrence and Intrusion Detection Alarms appeared in PS Letter
Nos. 13, 14, and 15. N. T.

It was my first night patrol. I was leading my three-man unit down a dirt road. We knew the enemy had a base
nearby, and we hoped they would have a fire or be using flashlights so we could locate them and wipe them out. I
felt pretty good; we were well-equipped and our morale was high. We were ready for some action.

It was quiet in the woods. The moon was out and the air was still. We were walking slowly and very quietly, all our
senses on full alert. Without the slightest warning, I heard a shot and felt a hit in my chest. Then quickly another,
and another. They were hitting us from both sides of the road.

I was hit three times in less than one second. I heard my buddies groan as they were hit. I wanted to return fire but I
could not see anyone in the deep shadow of the trees on either side of me. They kept up their fire until we had to
run as fast as we could in full, disgraceful retreat.

I, of course, lived through that ambush. My survival was due to the fact that I was hit with BB’s, not bullets. We
were all about fourteen years old and just playing a game. But although it was “just a game”, I learned many
valuable things.

One of them was that you don’t walk down a sandy dirt road at night in the moonlight. If there is an area with
shadow and moonlit sections, you must use the shadow. It was a simple lesson which I have never forgotten and
one which may have saved me from the real thing a few times.

My purpose in recounting this is to explain why I became highly interested when I heard about something called the
“National Survival Game”. The Game is played not with good ol’ BB guns but with a special pistol which fires
paint pellets.

The pistol (called a “Nel-Spot”) was originally designed for marking trees in a forest, or marking cattle and such
things. It was not at all intended to be used to shoot people but, as one can readily imagine, it quickly became
obvious to some adventurous types that the Nel-Spot could be plenty of fun as an instrument of war games.

In New Hampshire, a fellow named Bob Gurnsey and his friends, Charles Gaines and Hayes Noel, organized the
first games using the Nel-Spot pistol. These three men ran around in the woods stalking and shooting each other
until they developed a real game similar to the old “capture the flag” game. It quickly became so popular that
Gurnsey and his friends realized the potential involved and decided to organize the game nationally.
One big obstacle was the manufacturer of the Nel-Spot pistol. When the company heard that the men wanted to use
the pistol to shoot people, it was not at all interested in cooperating. But Gurnsey was finally able to convince the
management that there is a “safe and sane” use for the pistols and he obtained a $1.5 million liability insurance
policy to allay their fears further.

Gurnsey and his friends formed the National Survival Game, Inc. to set up “affiliates” throughout the country. The
corporation sells the pistols, paint pellets, goggles, and other items. It also provides the rules and regulations and the
important structure within which sanctioned regional, state, and national championship matches can be held, similar
to the way that IPSC oversees combat shooting matches.

While there are several variations of the Game, the basic version is this: The field is divided into four quadrants;
red, blue, yellow, and green. In each quadrant there are placed in plain view, in one location, a sufficient number of
flags (one for each player). If there are four players in a game, there are four green flags at the green quadrant’s flag
station; four blue flags at the blue quadrant’s flag station; and so on. The player’s objective is to make his way to
each flag station, grab one of the flags and then get back to the home base without getting shot. If you get shot, you
are out of the game.

While you can buy your own pistol (about $150), most players prefer to rent theirs. For about $35 you get the
pistol, goggles, compass, and all the other items required, as well as the services of the judges. A good game will
have about 12 players, although a game can be played with from two to twenty players. There are both individual
and team games, as well as “bounty games” in which a certain amount is paid into a kitty by each player, and then
that money is won by the player who “kills” all the others or each player is paid a certain amount for each kill.
(Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?)

The players all start with a map of the field showing the boundaries and the location of all flag stations. Each player
is also given a compass, along with his pistol and safety goggles. The rules are very strict concerning what
equipment a player can use, as the game is designed to test one’s ability to use his stealth, cunning, land navigation,
and primal survival skills. The attraction of the game lies in its competitive challenge of the individual players- not
of someone’s ability to purchase or invent fancy equipment.

Before anyone dismisses the Game as just a “game”, bear in mind that very similar such games are used very
successfully by the military and by law enforcement (the Secret Service plays them quite regularly). The value of
the Game is considerable, and it is much more than simply “good, clean, outdoor fun”- especially for the
survivalist. The skills one develops -the wariness and cunning- are directly applicable to real life (and death)
situations. It is, as they used to say in the Army, “good training”.

I am now in the process of organizing Games in the San Francisco Bay Area. (If any readers have or know of any
20+ acre, wooded or semi-wooded plots of land within 40 miles of San Francisco, which could be used for a Game,
please contact me) In the second half of this article, I will tell you what it’s like to play the Game.
For more information on the Game, write:

National Survival Game, Inc.

P.O. Box 364
New London, NH 03257

In the San Francisco Bay Area:

P.O. Box 375
Pinole, CA 94564
Ph. 415-724-1003

To be continued

Economic Update
by Eugene A. Barron

Mid-August saw an amazing flurry of activity on Wall Street, in which prices of stocks and bonds jumped
dramatically on unprecedented volume. This activity, initiated by the major mutual and pension funds, continued
into the following week, when the small investor began to plunge in large volume.

By the time you read this article, it is probable the markets should be in retreat, also on similar heavy volume. This
1929-style market activity is very questionable; one could ask: who was selling the second week? The major funds
with a profit? If the markets do, in fact, weaken sharply from these interim highs, some embarrassing queries
should be made.

The reason for suspicion is clear: the economic fundamentals offer no hope at all that there is any imminent
turnaround. Far from it; the information available is not only very gloomy at present, but recovery is probably more
than six months away, which makes any optimism at this time premature. Interest rates are down, as predicted, to
accomplish the necessary heavy Treasury refunding and new funding, still underway, and to create a benign
emotional climate for the November elections.
Interestingly, the expected timing for this orchestration should have been immediately after Labor Day. The
possibility now exists that the current euphoria cannot be sustained until the first Tuesday in November. A collapse
of the markets back into the doldrums within the next 60 days would be disastrous for the Republicans, producing a
Democratic sweep. A cynic might think that this has been planned, resulting in a legislative straitjacket for Mr.
Reagan in the last half of his one term.

Look at the facts. Interest rates are down, but the Fed has removed excess reserves from the banking system, trying
to control growth of the money supply and allay fears of renewed inflation. Thus, there is still little money for
lending, especially for businesses. Retail sales are down (-1.3% in July), inventories up (+0.3% in July), auto sales
are the lowest in 25 years, and housing sales are off 27% from one year ago.

Experts estimate there are at least 5 million “willing sellers” who cannot afford to put their houses on the market,
because to do so at today’s prices would leave them with a net capital loss and a large mortgage balance to pay off
out of other resources. At the same time, consumer prices continue to climb, up 0.6% in July, a total of 6.5% in the
past year. The Sindlinger Organization places the true inflation rate at 15+%.

So the consumer is not leading the way out of the recession with heavy spending, as expected by the
Administration. And why should he or she? The much-heralded tax relief has not put any real increase in
purchasing power in the pocket of the average consumer, but merely reduced the rate at which his or her total tax
bill (Federal, state, and local income, sales, property, etc.) has increased. In 1983, the Congress, hard-pressed to
solve the ever-escalating Social Security demand for funds, will enact a major increase in both the FICA tax rate
and the base to which it applies.

Our investigations show that those consumers with a few more dollars in their possession are very careful in their
expenditures, preferring in the main to pay off debts and reliquify their cash position rather than undertake new
expenditures or future financial obligations. And we have strong evidence that the majority of consumers for the
past 2 ½ years have been selling investments to meet expenses, rather than investing. The decline in the average
standard of living and increased tax take is beggaring the consumer.

Businesses are not doing any better. Tight for funds, they are trying to maintain low inventories with the result that
factory orders continue to decline. Durable goods orders are off 12+% from one year ago. Companies are also
scavenging, selling off excess inventories and unneeded equipment and other items for much-needed cash. There is
currently very little optimism in the business community.

What about the banks? Well, there are now 277 on the endangered list, up 60 from 2 years ago, and Penn Square
was not on the list! Banks and S&L’s are so desperate for cash that they are offering up to 25% discounts on older,
low-rate mortgages for immediate cash payoffs. They report few takers.

The outlook for the next six months is not good; weakness is too widespread. No entities have strong financial
reserves, and the Fed cannot create them without igniting fears of runaway inflation. Meantime, the enormous debt
burden will require not only a rollover of $100+ billion per month into the foreseeable future, but an average debt
sale required to keep all levels of government solvent and reliquify consumers and businesses will exceed $125
billion per month.
In any economy, these sums stagger the imagination, for there is no way to accomplish this without massive
reinflation, which will come when the fiction of Reaganomics and supply-side economics is totally abandoned. An
attempt to continue the present game of forcing interest rates down while restricting bank reserves cannot continue
to work.

The recently-passed tax increase has added to consumer pessimism, and the confidence level is at its lowest since
Mr. Reagan took office. If patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, then the loyalty test is the last resort of a
President forcing an unwelcome bill through the Congress.

As Johnny Johnson has noted in the ​Daily News Digest​, if a $99 billion tax increase is needed to insure economic
recovery, why not a $300 billion tax increase in the next year, covering the projected 1983 total Federal deficit? Not
only will the tax increase retard economic recovery, the 10% withholding on interest and dividends will insure a
cutback in investments by consumers.

Mr. Reagan is trying to work his way out of huge projected Federal deficits by a “quick fix” approach, similar to
that favored by his predecessors. John Kennedy sold off much-needed strategic stockpile items for pennies on the
dollar, items that must now be replaced at great cost. LBJ, Nixon, and Carter used one-time accelerated tax
payments, moving up scheduled revenues, to solve the problem. Mr. Reagan is selling off surplus Federal land, not,
as hoped, the result of realization that the Federal Government has no business being the largest landowner in the
country, but merely to raise funds.

The President has fallen already into the specious trap that reasons that inflation is the result of “inflationary
psychology”, and not massive government deficits which are monetized. If he really believes this, then he must
calculate the enormous psychological damage done by the tax bill. Interestingly, the voters do not blame Mr.
Reagan, but his advisors and the Congressmen who voted for the bill. The voters are angry with the incumbents, the
incumbents with the party, and the party with the White House. It should be an interesting election campaign this
with everyone blaming someone else.

Outside of the US, the continuing liquidity crunch is preventing any chance of economic recovery, and not just in
Third World countries. West Germany has had one major firm declare bankruptcy, and another will probably
announce before this article is printed. Dome Petroleum should bring down several major Canadian banks in its
death throes.

Meanwhile, Canadian personal and corporate bankruptcies are at a 50-year high, just as in the US. Mexico, despite
the recent “financial fix”, is facing a high level of potential internal violence as its economy deteriorates, and a
military coup is very possible. Worldwide depressed economic conditions and unemployment continue unabated. If
major foreign banks, which have borrowed heavily from their US counterparts, start a chain-collapse, American
international banks will have a difficult time staying afloat.
The problem of huge debt management is one that has not been successfully solved by the Federal Reserve or this
Administration, and it is doubtful that anything short of a massive outright debt repudiation or inflation of the
money supply to the point that debt is insignificant will be successful. Unfortunately, it appears to be too late for a
100% gold coin exchange standard, the only honest gold standard. Instead, be prepared to deal with continued

Remember: there will be no economic recovery until the current unwarranted optimism is totally destroyed. When
important spokesmen start voicing gloom and disaster, the turnaround is imminent. Unfortunately, we are still far
from this psychological watershed with the current whistling in the dark. Keep your financial reserves in
Government securities. Forays into seemingly-attractive high-yielding or high-profit investments could prove very
costly in the near term.

The money crunch continues, and will become worse; recovery of the economy should not occur until late in the
second quarter of 1983, the result of present and planned tax increases. Between now and then, expect to be
surprised irregularly at the announcements of forced mergers or bankruptcies of major companies and financial
institutions. Above all, stay liquid. Cash is still king, and safety of investments is more important than yield at
present. There will be ample time to move to inflation hedges later.

The Chipmunk
by John B. Del Savio

Editor’s note: Formerly a white hunter in Africa, John B. (Jay) Del Savio is a freelance writer specializing in the
outdoors and big-game hunting. He has personally watched the Chipmunk develop from a twinkle in the eye of Jin
Thompson to a production rifle. If I wanted to buy a very nice Christmas gift for an eight-year-old boy who yearned
for his own .22, I’d select the Chipmunk for the reasons Jay mentions. N.T.

Jim Thompson, formerly of California Arms, Los Angeles, CA, has just come out with a newly-designed sub-sized
bolt-action single-shot .22 rimfire that he manufactures from his gun works in Medford, Oregon. The Chipmunk, as
it is called, is basically a single-shot .22 training rifle, scaled down to an overall size of 31 inches and weighing a
feathery 2 ½ pounds.

It should prove to be an ideal choice for survival purposes, or for teaching youngsters the fundamentals of shooting.
As a foraging tool, the Chipmunk fits handily into a pack basket or backpack with room to spare. It can be stashed
in a gun vault or cached away on your retreat property with a few boxes of ammunition, should you feel the need
for a lightweight no-nonsense game getter that is easier to master than a .22 handgun.

Thompson has set out to produce a reliable and rugged top quality product, and I feel he hit the mark with his
Chipmunk .22 rifle. The 16 ½” tapered barrel with integral ramp front sight is just over the legal limit, and is the
minimum length at which a 22 reaches its maximum efficiency.
The barrel is manufactured by E.R. Shaw of Bridgeville, PA, from 1137 carbon steel and is button rifled with a
right hand twist of 1-16. The six lands and grooves mike out at .217 for the bore and .222 for the groove diameter.
The tensile strength of the steel can withstand 65-70,000 psi. It is blued in Portland and then assembled at the
Chipmunk factory.

The oil-finished Monte Carlo stocks are cut from American walnut in Northern California and shipped,
semi-inletted, to the Oregon plant where they are completed and fitted to the barreled-action. The wood to metal fit
is on a par with higher quality rifles.

The action itself is a one-piece design and both the bolt handle and cocking knob are milled of stainless steel.
Situated on the rear bridge of the receiver is a Thompson-designed large aperture peep sight that is not only rugged,
but surprisingly accurate, judging from the numerous targets shot and trials afield.

Being a single-shot .22, the Chipmunk accepts all brands and lengths of rimfire fodder including shorts, longs, and
long rifles. Our initial tests (over 1,000 rds.) were done using Remington standard velocity Mohawk ammo, and not
once did we experience a misfire or hangfire.

I prefer the solid, slower-moving 40-grain bullets for small game, as they don’t damage meat as badly with body
shots as do the higher velocity hollow points. They grouped well under an inch at 50 yards, and a silver dollar
would cover a five-shot group from the bench at 75 yards- more than enough accuracy for a rifleman to take
squirrels, rabbit, and grouse with head shots at reasonable killing ranges.

Stepping up to the higher velocity CCI Stingers, Mini-Mags, Winchester, and Remington High-Speed or Super-X’s,
we found almost no measurable difference in accuracy- the Chipmunk consistently grouped under an inch at 50
yards. Using CCI Mini-Mag shot cartridges, the Chipmunk produced patterns that should take any snake or rodent
out to seven yards.

Thompson tells me that he is thinking of coming out with a .22 Magnum version of the Chipmunk, and he is adding
a scope mount to the line in the near future. A rig like that would certainly get my nod for taking larger game, even
up to deer with properly-placed shots, or for more accurate shooting should you require tack-hole performance.

The Chipmunk is slated to retail a wee bit over $125, and is worth the money. For further details write directly to
Jim Thompson, c/o Chipmunk Mfg. Co., 114 East Jackson, Medford, OR 97501.
The Decker Rifle Vise
by Joel S. Brodkey

Editor’s note: Joel Brodkey is a reserve law enforcement officer in Douglas County, Nevada, a freelance writer,
and part-owner of a survival consulting firm, Outdoor Ventures Limited (P.O. Box 1867, Gardnerville, NV 89410,
702-782-3751). He has taught English and Social Studies, been a guest-instructor at API, and for 8 ½ years was a
sergeant on a police force in Southern California.

When looking for someone to write a series on reloading for PS Letter, Joel seemed a natural since, as he says, “I
started reloading before I learned to drive.” That series will begin in Volume IV. N.T.

Many years ago, I discovered that I had inherited from my father a certain pleasure and aptitude for making things
by hand- from small “do-it-yourself” carpentry projects like bookshelves and shooting boxes, to hand-wrapping
fishing rod blanks and making packboards and camping accessories while in the Boy Scouts. Over the years, while
I did obtain more sophisticated tools and tackled increasingly larger and more difficult projects, the one thing I
always seemed to lack was a helper or assistant.

Sure, I was occasionally able to “Tom Sawyer” a friend into lending a hand, or used the old “Hey mom, I need ya to
hold something” trick, but for the most part I was on my own. Additionally, because my parents were always
apartment-dwellers, I never had access to a real workshop, with power tools and benches. Using hand tools and
makeshift benches worked out okay, but the lack of precision in my work was certainly evident if you looked

A few years back, the Black and Decker Co. introduced a product which they called the “Workmate”. The unit is
essentially a portable, folding workbench and vise, capable of holding lumber or other building materials solidly
while you work on them. The unit is quite handy, weighing about 40 lbs., and folding relatively flat for storage, yet
able to hold odd-shaped pieces at two different levels when extended.

I immediately purchased one, and discovered the helper I never had; one who never complained, took coffee
breaks, offered advice, nor demanded a higher hourly wage. Not only were my projects much easier to complete,
but the quality of the work was much improved and less time was used. The Workmate provided a far steadier and
more secure means of holding materials than did my lap, tabletops, porch steps, or pickup truck tailgates.

What does all of this have to do with the Decker Rifle Vise? Well, although I was smart enough to recognize the
value of the Workmate, I was not clever enough to realize that I needed something similar when working on my
rifles and shotguns.

I can’t even begin to estimate the number of burred screw heads or scratches in wood and metal that were the result
of trying to balance a long-gun between my knees for cleaning, mounting a scope, or just tightening screws. Fred
Decker’s Rifle Vise solves those problems, and many more as well. I now have another assistant to help me out
when working on my firearms, one which gets along quite nicely with my Workmate too.
As you can see from the photo, the Decker Rifle Vise is a means of holding your rifle or shotgun (or even just the
stock or barrel) securely while you work on them. Any task from simple cleaning or mounting a scope to more
involved gunsmithing can be accomplished without fear of having your guns shift, fall, or slide away from you.
Now that I have one, it is hard to imagine how I managed all of these past years without the unit.

The Rifle Vise consists of an 8” x 30” particle-board base, to which fittings of 1 ½” softwood are attached.
Depending on the wood, the unit will weigh between 17 and 19 lbs., and is approximately 8” high. The front cradle
or forend rest is well-padded and covered with naugahyde, as are the rear stock rest and vise plates, so the stock or
forend cannot be scratched or marred. A permanently attached C-clamp is used to hold the stock in the rear of the
rest, and its padded face is 3” square and can rotate to fit various contours.

The vise can admit stocks up to about 2 ½” thick. In practice, the forend of the gun is placed solidly in the front
rest, and the belly of the stock is positioned firmly on the rear rest, while the buttstock is secured by the C-clamp
vise. A rifle or shotgun can also be inverted and held upside down to allow you access to stock screws, trigger
adjustment screws, or the bottom of the stock for installing sling swivels, touching up the finish, or repairs.

The Decker Rifle Vise is made in either left- or right-hand configurations, and the forend cradle is available in both
a standard width for most rifles and shotguns, and a wide 3 ½” size for benchrest guns. As an additional bonus, the
rear vise assembly can be easily removed from the base, and with the substitution of sandbags, the unit instantly
becomes a portable shooting rest.

Although the Decker Rifle Vise could be easily affixed to a workbench on a permanent basis, that would certainly
restrict its versatility. I would recommend that you utilize C-clamps to secure the unit onto your bench, so that it
can be moved about at will. Remember the Black and Decker Workmate? The Decker Rifle Vise can be
conveniently clamped to its top, and in that position, can be moved about as you wish for full access to your

When used in conjunction with the Workmate, the Decker Rifle Vise becomes a most excellent portable shooting
bench. Not only can it be used at a range to sight-in scopes or test handloads, but both units are readily transported
in the trunk of your vehicle to the field, where they are quickly set up into a bench for varmint shooting or other
long-range rifle practice.

For those of you who don’t have access to a public range with bench rests, or who prefer not to go to a public
facility, the Decker Rifle Vise and Workmate combo can turn any safe shooting area into your own private range.
The only other things you need are a folding camp stool, your spotting scope, target stands, and targets.

One of the most neglected aspects of shooting is the proper cleaning of your firearms. I perhaps tend to overdo it,
but I ALWAYS clean each firearm I use as soon as possible after shooting it. I firmly believe that the accuracy
potential and service life of my weapons are greatly increased if they are kept clean, well-lubricated, and free from
powder and bullet fouling.
The chore of gun cleaning is made a great deal easier and less time consuming by using the Decker Rifle Vise to
hold your firearms, and you will be able to do a more thorough job as well.

Both benchrest and varmint shooters, the two groups who seem to be the most concerned about accuracy,
frequently clean their rifles during the course of a match or while in the field hunting, and the Decker Rifle Vise,
being so easily portable, certainly can facilitate that task.

As a survivalist, you can realize many advantages from owning a Decker Rifle Vise. First of all, if it’s easier for
you to clean and maintain your firearms, there is a far better probability that they will not suffer breakdowns, either
from broken or lost parts (which can happen all too easily if screws are not kept snugged down), or the buildup of
dirt and residue.

By keeping your weapons well-lubricated and oiled, you safeguard them from the gradual ravages of rust and

If repairs do become necessary (and if you have the needed spare parts as recommended by J.B. Wood in the
“Survival Gunsmithing” column), the Decker Rifle Vise enables you to complete them without having to find a
“helper” or chance a botched job because the firearm slips or tips at the wrong time.

Hopefully, using the unit as a shooting rest will encourage you to do more shooting. Sighting-in scopes, testing and
developing handloads, long-range rifle practice, or varmint hunting will all make you more familiar and skilled with
your firearm.

The $34.95 cost of the Decker Rifle Vise is money well spent. By using the unit to do some of your own
gunsmithing work, you will quickly save more than the purchase price.

For example, most gun shops charge about $18.50 to mount and bore-sight a scope on a rifle already drilled and
tapped for the mount base. The job is really quite simple to do yourself, and only two mounting jobs will cost more
than the Decker Vise.

By the way, once the scopes are mounted, the Decker Rifle Vise is the perfect means of holding the rifle steady
while you bore-sight it, either with an optical collimator or by the old-fashioned method of centering a target in the
bore and adjusting the scope’s crosshairs to center the target.

I suppose that it is difficult to hide my enthusiasm for the Decker Rifle Vise. As I mentioned earlier, now that I own
one, it is hard to imagine how I got along without one before. I urge you to get one also. For a complete brochure
and ordering information, contact: Decker Shooting Products, 1729 Laguna Ave., Schofield, WI 54476. (715)
Ing’s Things- Trade Goods: Cheap Today. Expensive Tomorrow?

Proper storage is essential: always store plastic and rubber materials in a cool, dark place.

Gloves: All sorts; throw-away plastic, heavy leather, thin leather, cotton, nylon, wool.

Baggies: All kinds and sizes, from flimsy produce bags to heavy-duty appliance and furniture covers.

Poly Sheeting: Rolls of polyethylene, four-mil or heavier.

Duct tape: This stuff has held our race cars together after foolish arguments with wet hay bales! Emergency
upholstering, weatherproofing, bellows pumps, clothing repair, etc.

Cordage: 2-lb. to 30-lb. test nylon fishing line, wire, tow rope, waxed linen, parachute cord, cable.

Nails: Include double-heads and broadhead roofing nails.

Salt: For pickling too…

Telescopes: Crucial for cross-country jaunts, a small cheap model might bring a high barter-price.

12-volt lights: Never junk out any vehicle without saving every 12-volt bulb you can. Most are easily removed.

Teeth in your Pocket

by Dean Ing

Food grinders are ‘must’ items when it’s time to grind cornmeal, leached acorns, tough meat, or nuts (for oil,
perhaps), in a long-term survival situation. For a denture-wearer, a broke plate could literally be deadly without a
grinder. The short life-span of some Indians was partly due to health problems after their teeth deteriorated from the
grit in their stone-ground foods. We’ve seen skulls of people who died young, with teeth completely worn down
from grit.

The trouble is that hand-grinders are so outlandishly shaped! The crank is big. So is the clamp, which isn’t a ‘must’
for your purpose. For our solution, we chose an aluminum-bodied unit for light weight, and we cut the unwieldy
clamp off with a hacksaw, because you can hold the throat of the grinder in one hand, while you grind with the

Then we made a T-handle to replace the long one that came with the grinder. Note that the T-handle is short enough
to fit down the throat of the grinder for, easy carrying. Any handyman can braze one for you. It should be sturdy,
preferably of mild steel. Our modified grinder weighs a pound and will fit in a pocket, though this one usually rests
in a bicycle survival kit. Once or twice a year it goes into a backpack.
Vintage VW’s: Long-Term Support, Part II
by Rick Fines

Engine Compartment

Step one is to keep this place clean. Besides the fact that filthy engines are difficult and unpleasant to work on,
remember that VW engines are cooled with air. A thick blanket of oil and grime is a very effective insulator and
does nothing for engine life expectancy. The best way to keep the engine clean is to soak it with an aerosol solvent
(Gunk and STP brands are good) applied to a warm engine, top and bottom, and ​ hosed off after five or ten minutes
soak time.

Since the majority of “engine” problems turn out to be electrical, pay attention to these parts first.

Take a look at the rear of the generator. The brushes and brush holders are visible, as is the commutator, at the rear
of the unit. If you want to be thorough, remove the brushes and do a quick polish on the commutator with a strip of
320-grit emery paper. Use the WD-40 again and flush out any dirt or carbon dust, then wipe the commutator with a
clean cloth.

If the commutator is rough, pull the generator and send it to a good shop for repair. If not, replace the brushes. If
they are worn to less than about 60% of their original length, invest about $8.00 in new ones. Replace the $20
voltage regulator when brushes are replaced. Both components should be good for around 50,000 reliable miles,
and require about a half-hour to change.

Whenever the generator sees 100,000 miles, it’s time to send the unit to the shop. The commutator will surely need
to be turned by then, so that the rough surface will not eat new brushes as fast as you stuff them in. The bushings
which support the armature should be replaced, or at least lubricated with a high drop point grease.

At the 100,000 mile mark, repeat the exercise with the starter motor.

Failure to follow up on the 50,000/100,000 mile generator service could not only cause the generator to quit
genning, but could cause it to lock up tight, due to seized bearings. Note that if the generator belt goes astray, or the
generator seizes, you are in a world of hurt. If the generator dash warning light comes on, stop and investigate ​at

If the generator is turning, but producing no current, you may continue, in daylight, for a good many miles before
the battery is incapable of furnishing sufficient power to spark the plugs. If the generator has seized, you have not
only lost generating capability, but also engine cooling.

The engine cooling fan, concealed beneath that big, black sheet metal shroud, is bolted to the front of the generator.
If the generator is locked up and you elect to continue, you’ll not be worried long. The engine will self-destruct
from overheating in very short order.
Whenever oil is changed, get the WD-40 and clean cloth out again. Remove the distributor cap, spray it well, and
wipe thoroughly. Do the same with the rotor. Check and set the point gap, and lube the distributor cam with cam
lube. Change points every other oil change.

At each oil change, check tightness of the spark plugs, and be most careful. Note that the cylinder heads are
aluminum and the steel male threads on the plugs will gleefully strip the female aluminum threads in the heads if
the plugs are overtightened. On the other hand, if plugs are correctly tightened, it will be a matter of a few months
before the differential coefficients of expansion cause the plugs to loosen.

The best way to install plugs and tighten them in aluminum heads is first to spray the threads with WD-40, or lube
them with a drop of engine oil from the dipstick. Always insert and start the plugs by hand. When gripping the
ratchet handle to tighten them, take a short hold; that is, grasp the extension and ratchet drive end in your fist and
pull the plug tight.

DO NOT center the tool with one hand, then use your free hand with all your might on the pulling end. You may
have an “expert” who will tell you otherwise, but ask him if he will repair the cylinder head you will eventually

Next item on the list is the plug wires and the rubber boots on the spark plug end of the conductors. Obviously, if
the wires are brittle, cracked, or damaged, they must be replaced. Not so obviously, they may look fine, but still be

To find out, wait until dark and start the engine. As your eyes adjust, you’ll be able to see clearly any bright
blue-white arcing which indicates that insulation has failed. Depending on the humidity, sharp eyes will notice
some minor leakage and fuzzy blue tracking, even with new wires.

The rubber boots are not just dust covers, but are an important part of the engine cooling system. If the boots are
missing or worn, cooling air will leak through the plug holes before cooling the cylinder banks.

Plug wires and boots should be good for several years, or at least 40,000 miles.

An important point to be addressed in the engine space/fuel system is critical and dangerous in the extreme. Note
that fuel lines on VW Beetles, Things, and older transporters depend on elasticity and friction to hold them in place
on carburetor, fuel pump, and fuel line fittings. As long as the fuel lines are fresh and “1ive”, the elastomers retain
their memory and grip and seal well.

As the fuel lines age and become cracked and hardened, fuel may start to leak. If the leaks occur at the fittings
beneath the fuel tank, (accessible by loosening the retaining bolts in the trunk and lifting the tank, or by removing a
wheel and peering into the space above the pan and behind the front axle) the result could be constant fuel loss.
If, as is likely due to heat under the engine cover, the leaks occur at the fuel pump or carburetor, the results can be
spectacular. At the least, bring your marshmallows.

After the leaking fuel ignites, note that the fire will be fueled by gasoline, which will continue to pump and burn
either until you notice you have four wheels turning and your tail burning, or until fuel in the carb is depleted, the
lines are burned through, and the engine dies. Having seen a number of burned VW’s -and several burning- it’s
amazing how much flammable material is in a VW engine compartment.

There is a cheap, simple way to make this problem disappear. Invest about $3 in small hose clamps and perhaps $5
in new, correct-size VW fuel line. Replace the flex lines and secure the connections with hose clamps. Now you can
leave the marshmallows at home.

Another fire hazard point is the Phillips-head screw in the top center of the fuel pump. This screw secures the top
cover in place, and provides access to a small final fuel filter screen. After a while, this screw can loosen and cause
a dangerous fuel leak. Check it when you change oil.

A great deal of ink over the years has been devoted to VW valve adjustments. The logic is that if valve clearances
tighten to the point that there is no “clearance”, the valve cannot fully close. Hot exhaust gas will rush past the
slightly open valve and cause a power loss. In a short time, the valve will burn.

While the logic is quite correct, I suspect that overzealous and inept tinkering with valves has caused more damage
and burned valves than has benign neglect. Combined with the constant possibility of incorrect adjustment, note
that thread wear on adjustment lock nuts and screws, combined with buggering of nuts and screw slots, can lead to
creeping, floating adjustments.

The ​correct way to set VW valves requires that the engine be dead cold, i.e. cooled out overnight. Remove the
valve covers and observe the valve rocker arms. Place a socket or wrench on the generator pulley nut, and pull. The
engine will turn as you watch the rocker arms go up and down. The rocker shaft runs the length of each head, and
four rocker arms pivot from the shaft.

One end of the rocker arm features a convex indentation which mates with a steel rod, about ¼-inch in diameter.
The other end of the rocker arm is flat, and pushes against the flat end of the valve stem, which is surrounded by the
concentric valve spring. The gap between the valve stem and the rocker arm is critical, and variable via an
adjustment screw and lock nut.

As you rotate the engine, you will note that the valve spring compresses a good bit, then extends to full length and
remains so for a fraction of a revolution. At this point, with the spring fully extended, check the gap. Use one hand
to push the rocker arm back against the pushrod. With the other hand, insert a feeler gauge into the gap.
If, for example, you have a 1973 Thing, the manual will specify a gap of .006 inch. I personally set mine at .010,
but would not suggest anything sloppier. To change the setting, use the correct metric box wrench to loosen the
lock nuts, and a proper screwdriver to move the adjustment screw. When you have achieved a snug, sliding fit,
tighten the lock nut, double-check the clearance, and move on.

After you set a few of them properly, practice clicking the rocker arms back and forth to become accustomed to
what the gap “feels” like. Once you have made the adjustments correctly and locked them in place, there’s no
reason they should change unless the engine is badly overheated and parts warp. In any event, drop the valve covers
every other oil change and make the “feel” test for clearance. If necessary, adjust the valves, but only if necessary.

After the adjustment is complete, throw away the valve cover gaskets and thoroughly clean the covers. If parts of
the old gasket stick to the covers, use a putty knife to remove them. To keep the new gasket in place while you
wiggle the covers into position, apply non-hardening Permatex to the valve cover side ​only​.

Be aware that, for reasons of practicality, few shops can afford the time to cool the engine completely, as is
necessary for correct adjustment. (Some VW factory manuals show a large fan used to promote quick engine
cooling.) Because the heads and crankcase are aluminum alloy, and cylinder barrels, studs, and pushrods are steel,
differential coefficients of expansion make accurate adjustments impossible unless all parts are stabilized at room

If the engine is hot, parts are simply too hot to handle. Adjusting valves on a “partially” hot engine will yield only
an inaccurate adjustment. That only leaves dead cold, which results in precise adjustment and no hand and arm

If you perceive that a hammer mechanic got to the valve adjustments before you, invest in new rocker arms,
adjustment screws, and lock nuts.

Make certain you have proper tools to do the job, and do the job well.

If a valve does warp, burn, or fail -as will eventually happen- on a well-maintained engine, the failure will likely
take place well past the 100,000 mile mark. The initial perception will be that of a constant miss at all engine
speeds. If the miss cannot be traced to bad plugs, distributor cap, or wires, a compression test will determine which
cylinder is sick.

If one hole shows about 20 or more psi less than the other three, it’s time to pull the heads and go for a valve grind.
If the engine is high time, i.e. headed for the 100,000 mile mark, you may consider a major overhaul.

Note that tight, new valves in a worn engine will impose heavy stresses on marginal parts deep in the engine. The
best bet is to overhaul, but if the engine was in seemingly good order other than compression, it’s common to wring
another 20,000 or more “free” miles from a carefully-operated VW engine.

If you detect a dead hole on your compression check, and neglect it, the engine will make up your mind for you.
The good cylinders will work much harder, and run much hotter, to make up for the sleeping cylinder. The result
will be severe overheating, warping, bearing failure, and heavy damage.
As a final comment on engine-room basics, check to see if your machine is fitted with a small, in-line clear plastic
fuel filter. Most come from the factory with the filter installed in the line between the firewall and the fuel pump. If
yours is not so equipped, you may obtain one for a few dollars from a dealer or parts store.

Replace it at least once a year. Break the flex line between the firewall and the fuel pump, and secure the
connections with hose clamps. Most of the filters are marked with an arrow which shows something like “to
engine-”. For proper filtration, install the filter correctly.


Up to now, we have discussed attention to factory stock components. Now, on to some modifications.

One useful mod involves what is known as a sand seal for the crankcase, where the driveshaft comes through the
end. On factory engines, the sealing function is accomplished by what amounts to threads on the shaft. When the
engine is running and oil would otherwise seep from around the shaft, the threads act as a slinger to auger the oil
back from whence it came.

In normal conditions, this simple concept works well. In heavy sand, the slinger has the unfortunate ability to auger
sand into the crankcase along with oil. Most VW repair shops can fit a variety of sand seals for probably less than
$100. Do it.

For our purposes, the “hot” distributors, oversized carburetors, and trick exhaust systems are far more trouble than
they are worth.

The next area of consideration is the suspension system, wheels, and tires. To illustrate how NOT to do the job, we
will consider the experiences of the owner of a ‘73 Thing.

Against the advice of this writer, the owner obtained a set of vastly-oversized wide rims. Spacer plates to permit the
tires to clear the body were fitted, as well as a set of homemade fenders to cover the elephantine rubber. In addition,
the torsion bars were adjusted to provide additional ground clearance, and rear “helper” springs were installed for
some obscure reason. Other systems were essentially stock.

The man’s experiences were as follows:

1. Alloy oversized rims cracked due to encounters with rocks. Damage repaired by heliarc welding.

2. Man was cautioned that he was overdriving the machine off-road; that is, driving too fast to avoid sudden
problems or concealed hazards. About an hour later, he topped an unexpected crest, sailed like an eagle, and landed
like a ruptured duck. Driver suffered minor injuries; severe damage to front sheetmetal of vehicle.
3. Due to heavy stresses on the rear suspension due to asymmetrical load distribution, the metal arms which tie the
independent drive shafts to the torsion bar carriers cracked and nearly failed -twice- in the field. Replacement parts
were not cheap, and the work was not fun.

4. While the machine handled seemingly well on city streets at low speeds, all other handling qualities were as
unpredictable as Billy Carter, and as dangerous as his brother. Some time after the owner was so informed, he
rounded a downhill highway bend at about 45 mph; a normally safe speed for conditions.

He made a minor evasive move to avoid hitting a stone in the road and totally lost control. The VW swerved across
three lanes of traffic, struck a stone embankment and overturned. The driver and two passengers were uninjured. A
third passenger was hospitalized for a week before he left intensive-care. The VW was not badly damaged and was
put back in service.

5. (More!) On a trip to Baja, California, one of the new rear suspension arms failed totally. The owner and his party
walked. The vehicle rested, and presumably still does, in Baja.

As a study in contrasts, this writer’s VW Thing, bought at about the same time, is totally stock except for a sand
seal. It has been used at least as hard as the machine which now serves as a home for stray Mexican lizards. In the
course of 100,000+ miles, nothing has failed suddenly.

The engine has never been apart and seems capable of running a good bit longer. Replacement parts have been
confined to perishable items like tires, shocks, plugs, etc. Care of the Thing has been very good, but frankly not
textbook meticulous. The results speak for themselves.

As a matter of observation, do not presume that a VW engine running well at 100,000 miles will last “forever”. It
assuredly will not. When operating in the six-figure mileage range, no matter how good the engine sounds, you are
on borrowed time. The engine MAY continue to run well for a few tens of thousands of miles, or may suddenly
decide to take retirement.

The Homestead Retreat Water/Sewage System, Part III

by Eric and Anne Teller

Getting water into a dwelling is but half the project (or problem). Although most of us give a long sigh of relief
when we’ve accomplished that somewhat horrendous task, another endeavor often underestimated and
unappreciated in magnitude lies ahead. And that is getting waste water out without creating problems for oneself or
the nearby environment.
If gray water and sewage waste disposal systems aren’t adequately designed and constructed to insure their
successful operation year after year, the water so ambitiously brought into the house will stay around to plague you.
Anne and I have seen too many situations where the best plans, even when followed in strict accordance to all
required codes and the highest levels of technology, still failed miserably in their actual performance.

What happens when a sewage system fails? The consequences often pass away downriver (literally or figuratively),
and go unnoticed and unmeasured. Of more immediate and stressful concern may be the ever-growing dank patches
of lawn, garden, or field pocked with foul-smelling, fly-infested shallow pools of household drain water or, even
worse, backed-up liquid from the sewage system.

Or perhaps the homestead retreater realizes too late that sewage effluent is seeping into his nearby pond- the same
pond which is one of his backup sources for refilling the cistern or for watering the garden. For those retreating in
the northern latitudes or at high elevations, there’s the all too common predicament of having a septic tank plugged
full or completely frozen-up in the middle of winter, necessitating a miserable and potentially expensive job if it’s
even possible to do anything before spring.

It is sad but true that many well-intentioned systems, which have been expensively executed and laboriously carried
out under sometimes very difficult conditions, prove to be dismal failures in disposing of household water and
sewage wastes. Perhaps this stems from our simplistic American tendency to flush our waste out through large
pipes into the nearest waterway whereby it leaves the immediate area. Serious survivalist retreaters can’t afford to
be so short sighted.

Reliability = Two Separate Systems

Time after time, we have found that simplicity is one of the key features of any fail-safe and successful system and
that includes water/sewage disposal. In the past, we have built two of our own sewage systems and reconditioned
another existing one. From this and from the careful study of others’ situations and experiences, we’ve learned what
works and what doesn’t work in a variety of climates and soil conditions.

When we started work on our own homestead retreat, we knew that we wanted maximum dependability under all
conditions and situations. This led us to design two separate water/waste disposal systems; one for gray water and
another for sewage waste.

A principal advantage of separate systems is the lack of complexity. Properly installed, maintenance requirements
are much less. Simplicity fosters reliability. And if there should ever be any sort of breakdown, it is usually
something easily repaired. Even in a moderately severe climate and a heavy clay soil type such as ours, the separate
systems allow for the safe disposal of water-borne household wastes without contaminating any part of our
The Toilet Sewage System

Our sewage system is designed to handle concentrated amounts of waste material containing pathogenic organisms,
accompanied by small amounts of liquid. A septic tank with toilet waste and very small quantities of water entering
into it requires much less frequent pumping out than a typical system where all household water and sewage
drainage wastes go into the same tank and distribution field.

With a dual system such as we’re recommending, a septic tank can go for literally decades without being touched-
depending, of course, on the number of persons using it and if the tank is properly “working”.

This tank, which receives the material from the toilet fixture, can be designed to operate like the traditional septic
tank, but requires much less in the way of a drain field. Where very poor drainage conditions exist, the septic tank
could function as a large holding tank, which would be emptied periodically. In our own case, for maximum
efficiency and reliability, we designed our tank to perform both functions.

Although it basically works as a septic tank with a connected drainage field, it is also large enough so that the
tankful of effluent, along with the accumulated sludge, can be stored and then periodically pumped out and used as
agricultural fertilizer on homestead fields. (Although not a very appealing thought, nutrient-rich fertilizer from the
tank could be a valuable resource in times of shortages.) The Chinese have been following this practice for

The Low Water Flush Toilet

The success of the above-described installation depends upon the use of a low water toilet. There are many
alternatives to the traditional many-gallon flush toilet and we have investigated most of them, from the
old-fashioned outhouse to the high-tech, push-button incineration unit. Only one of them, the low water flush toilet,
combines the high standards of hygienic cleanliness and biological safety with long-term, low-maintenance
dependability which we personally prefer and recommend to others.

The obvious advantages of an indoor toilet with a proper water seal are such that they should not need enumeration.
Certain rustic types might consider such niceties unnecessary, but then Anne and I haven’t seen any of these
individuals living a successful homestead retreat existence either; especially not in the northern half of this

We believe the answer to a dependable homestead retreat sewage system is the low water flush toilet of which
several models are available. (We have a Flush-O-Matic toilet and are very satisfied with it. It is manufactured by
Sanitation Equipment Ltd., 1081 Alness Street, Downsview, Ontario, Canada M3J 2J1, phone 416-61-2560.
Another highly-recommended unit is the Mansfield Model 910 toilet. Their address is Mansfield Sanitary, Inc.,
150-T First Street, Perrysville, OH 44864.)

The noteworthy feature of such devices is that they provide for the removal of toilet wastes with a minimum
amount of water. Each flush requires only ONE PINT to a little over a QUART (!) depending upon the amount and
the type of the material to be removed. These units duplicate the odor-free sealed advantages of the conventional
flush toilet with none of the attendant and wasteful misuse of water.
The only disadvantage involves the necessity of locating the unit very near the septic or holding tank to allow for
direct discharge into said tank. However, the system can be readily integrated into any bathroom arrangement with
just a little attention to toilet location priorities. The unit can be operated independent of a pressurized water supply
by manually pouring water into the toilet bowl each time it is used, or it can be flushed and refilled automatically
from a pressurized water line or via a gravity water system.

Despite the relative simplicity of our indoor plumbing arrangement, we felt it provident to have a backup system.
Septic tanks have been known to freeze up, septic lines can plug up at the most inopportune times, and even a
simple mechanical device can break, rendering a unit inoperable. As a result, we designed and added two back-up
systems which, after extensive use and evaluation, have proven to be very practical and completely dependable. We
will discuss these in a future article on the alternative toilet.

The Gray Water System

The gray water system we recommend is designed to handle the bulk volume of waste water containing relatively
few pollutants or harmful bacterial organisms. (Be aware that excessive food wastes in sink drainage water can
provide a potentially troublesome growth medium for bacterial proliferation. See additional discussion further on.)
By designing a large-sized, primary drainage field to deal with the significant volume of relatively harmless gray
water coming through, the potential for serious contamination of surface areas is reduced to a minimum.

To insure the long-term successful operation of a gray water drainage system, one or two special fixtures are
recommended. Even if household members use biodegradable soaps and are scrupulously careful to avoid washing
food, and particularly fat particles, down sink drains, a simple grease trap should be installed under the kitchen sink
(available from plumbing supply houses) to trap any undesirable materials that do get washed down the drain.

However, if significant amounts of food particles, soaps, and detergents are drained into the gray water disposal
system, or if a large group is regularly using the system, a grease and soap interceptor should be installed in the
drainage line. (Information on a unique, Canadian-manufactured grease and soap interceptor is available from the
importer, Lemings Inc., Box 15, Mongo, Indiana 46771.)

Finally, if the gray water system is regularly subjected to large additions of water-borne soap and food wastes (such
as in the case of a homestead retreat dairy, where large quantities of milk utensils are daily rinsed and washed), a
double-chambered septic tank connected to a drain field of adequate size would be the best guarantee that the gray
water drainage system would continue to function successfully for an infinite period.

Gray water disposal can be a major or a minor problem, depending on the habits and diet of household residents. It
could be obvious to the careful reader that the system we’ve outlined here does not make provision for the
sink-installed garbage disposal unit. And we would hope that the homestead retreater would be sufficiently aware
of the ecological consequences of this unit to know that kitchen wastes are best composted for the garden or
We cannot overstate the case for being extremely careful about what one flushes down the drain if one wishes to
have a successfully operating leach field system. If, out of ignorance or indifference, quantities of milk, animal fat
residues, etc., and/or large quantities of strong bacteria-killing disinfectants are poured into this system, even a
septic/settling tank provision may prove inadequate. It’s well to remember that at the very time when survival might
become a critical issue, a plugged-up drain field could make a nightmare out of daily household routine.

We must admit, there is the disadvantage of the extra cost and effort needed for two separate water and sewage
disposal systems, especially if narrow and rigid codes must be followed. In many eases, local codes may not even
provide for a low water septic system and separate gray water drainage.

Dealing with these regulations can be a real problem in terms of designing a system that you feel is best versus
what the local code says or what the local sanitarian believes is best. This, unfortunately, is an individual matter
which must be dealt with. It’s another case where tact coupled with knowledge of your subject can be more than
slightly helpful. (We strongly recommend you study some of the bibliography selections.)

Local officials can sometimes be an asset, especially if the person involved is truly knowledgeable and of a helpful
personality. The principles are very basic; be wary of those who make the subject esoteric or complex. Water still
runs downhill and likely will for some time to come.

Heavy clays do not absorb water well, sand and gravel soils do. Also, remember that a system designed to operate
in southern California or the foothills of Tennessee will not even begin to compare with a similar installation in the
mountains of Colorado or northern Michigan.

Make A Map!

One final responsibility the homestead retreater has is to keep track of the location, depth, etc. of all components of
his water and sewage disposal systems. It happens time and time again that an additional building project a few
years down the road damages a well-planned and carefully-designed system which was covered up and forgotten.

A simple map with carefully measured dimensions noted and filed away in a safe place can insure that such
problems don’t occur. Then, too, if there is ever any trouble with the system, or if the sludge in a tank needs
pumping out, you know where to find the various components. Even when construction is totally contracted to
outside help, you should oversee and carefully keep track of all aspects of the project.

In attempting to summarize all the things we’ve discussed in this three-part series, we feel compelled to draw
attention to the importance of an adequately-sized water storage system integrated with the homestead retreat living
quarters, along with a fail-safe means of disposing of that water after it has been used.
The main point in setting up all these systems is to make it possible to carry out the tasks of daily living with no
extra difficulty or inconvenience, even under survival conditions. The value of a practical and efficient water and
sewage system to both the physical and mental well-being of the persons in that homestead retreat household will
be manyfold.


Anderson, Keith E., ​Water Well Handbook,​ Rolla, Missouri, Missouri Well and Pump Contractors Assoc., Inc.,

Dooley, Louise, “Rainwater Cisterns”, ​Organic Gardening​, 25:5:141, May, 1978.

King, F.H., ​Farmers of Forty Centuries​, Emmaus, PA: Organic Gardening Press, no date.

Krehbiel, Edwin, “You’re Sure of a Water Supply with a Cistern Patio”, ​Popular Science​, 214:125, April, 1979.

Manual of Individual Water Supply Systems,​ (Public Health Service Publication No. 24, US Department of Health,
Education, and Welfare, Washington, DC), 1962.

Manual of Septic Tank Practice​, (US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Washington, DC), 1963.

Pacey, Arnold, ​Hand-pump Maintenance,​ (Intermediate Technology Publications Ltd., London, England), 1977.

Private Water Systems,​ Midwest Plan Service, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa), 1968.

Sanitation Manual for Isolated Regions​, (published by The Department of National Health and Welfare, Canada),

SmallWater Supplies​, (Bulletin No. 10, The Ross Institute, London, England), 1967.

Stop the Five Gallon Flush!​, (Minimum Cost Housing Studies of McGill University, Montreal, Canada), 1973.

Wagner, E.G. and Lanoix, J.N., ​Water Supply for Rural Areas and Small Communities​, Geneva, Switzerland,
World Health Organization, 1959.

Warshall, Peter, ​Septic Tank Practices​, Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1979.

Water Supply Sources for the Farmstead and Rural Home,​ (US Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC),

Well Drilling Operations​, (Departments of the Army and the Air Force, Technical Manual No. 5-297, Air Force
Manual No. 85-23, Washington, DC), 1965.