Food ramblings

Originally published at Notes from the bunker…. You can comment here or there.

Its just an opinion, but I think the sign that you’ve ‘matured’, as far as preparedness goes, is when you stop with the guns, ammo and camo and start focusing just as intently on food.

After action reports from various disasters show that, by a rather large margin, far more food is consumed than ammo. Oh, sure…theres parts of the world where it may be the opposite, but I’d say that most disasters in the US will require far less ammo than they will food. Ammo and guns are an absolute necessity, no two ways about it, but I use food every day…guns, not so much.

It seems like when you mention ‘food storage’ most people have the idea of either sacks of grain piled to the rafters, or images of people huddled around a tiny fire eating cold Spaghetti-O’s out of a can while casting furtive glances into the gloom. As is usually the case, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

I’ve mentioned this before but I’ll mention it again – for us, food goes into one of three categories: long, mid, short/immediate – term. Long term foods are things like dry pack foods from the Mormon cannery, freeze drieds, bulk wheat/rice/corn, and MREs…things that will last at least ten years. (The MRE’s are kind of on the cusp of that. I know you’ve eaten sixty year old MRE’s with no problem, but I figure after about ten years its time to trade em off for fresh ones.) These are foods that are packaged in #10 cans, heavy foil with oxygen removed, etc.

Mid-term foods are things that’ll keep for at least a couple years like most wet canned goods, pouch foods, soup/cake/stew/sauce/drink mixes, jarred food and home canned food. These things, stored in the classic ‘cool, dry place’ (read: dry basement) will last at least a few years. If you hunt around on the interweb you can find studies of hundred-year-old canned food that was analyzed and found to be edible, although the nutritional value had degraded considerably. The folks at the universities in Utah have quite the food storage studies department and they have some fascinating research into the topic.

Short term foods are things that might last more than a year but you probably want to use them before then. These would be things packaged in boxes, cellophane, or things that have fairly short shelf lives. Good examples would be pasta, crackers, ramen (yes, it can go bad), things that go stale or rancid without an airtight package.

Now, if you think about that you’ll notice that basically everything will last at least a year. Some will last for 30+ years, some will last ten years, some will last three years, but none of it will become garbage in less than a year. Why is this important? Its important because it means that you can have the oft-touted ‘years supply of food’ without too much effort or concern about waste. Short of fresh veggies, fruits, dairy and meat, everything you throw into your shopping cart at the supermarket will last at least one year. This means that there really is no reason to put off stocking up on food if you’ve ever thought that it would be a good idea but you didn’t relish the thought of eating ‘survival food’. (Techincally, all food is survival food because if you don’t eat, you don’t survive.)

Theres very little out there that you cant have in a form that will last at least a year. Almost all vegetables and fruits are available either dried, freezedried or canned (although, strangely, the only canned onions I can find are little pearl onions. Go figure. And none of my canning books talk much about canning yellow onions. Guess I just have to dry them.). Many meats are available canned and if theres one you particularly like that isn’t, you can always can it yourself. About the only difficult one is cheese and other dairy products. Dehydrated eggs work just fine and Ive had no bad experiences with them. Dried whole milk is available, as is low fat, but the Parmalat UHT milk has a shelf life that comes close to one year. (Its actually dated less than a year, but that’s a suggestion more than a hard-n-fast rule.) Canned cheddar/white cheeses are available from specialty outlets but I have not found much in the way of other cheeses. (There is a place that’s selling freeze dried mozzarella and Im very curious to try that out.)

Theres really very, very little you would have to ‘give up’ in terms of foods that you would be unable to store. All of our food storage is based on foods that can be stored without refrigeration. Sure, we have a freezer full of meat and other goodies but we’re quite aware of the transitory nature of power to keep a freezer going. Even with a generator youre not really going to find it practical to keep a freezer going for a year. For a short term power outage we’d be fine but long term….not so much. Hence the copious amount of canning jars and lids that we keep around…worst case scenario all that meat gets canned for later consumption. However, if your idea of a crisis is one that doesn’t necessarily involve a prolonged power outage, stocking up the freezer makes a great deal of sense. (What sort of crisis doesn’t have a power outage? A bout of unemployment or underemployment springs to mind. But wont they turn off the power when you cant pay the bill? Sure…but, you can pay the bill because youre not buying nearly the amount of expensive groceries you used to – theyre already on hand socked away in the freezer.)

Even if you don’t believe that someday your local supermarket is going to be stripped to the shelves and food will be unavailable, theres still plenty of reasons to at least have a few weeks of food on hand. None of us would disagree that right now the economy is looking pretty sorry, right? Even if your job is secure theres still a chance that while you wont lose your job you could wind up having hours cut back…or benefits reduced…and that difference in income has to be made up somewhere. Not having to worry about where the next meal is coming from can be quite a luxury and one less thing to burden to deal with when your financial back is against the wall.

One other thing that is really, really going to make your life easier in terms of food storage is the one that probably strikes fear into the hearts of many – learn to cook. You don’t have to learn to cook everything, just learn to cook the stuff you like. Experiment a little in the kitchen…see what you can make that you like and what recipes can be modified to fit your projected supplies of stored food. There are plenty of food storage cookbooks out there and some excellent websites. My absolute favorite has been Safely Gathered In but there are more and more out there waiting to be discovered.

So the point of this post? That theres really no excuse for not stocking up. There’s two ways to do it….the way I do it is I simply figure out what I need, go out, and get a couple cases of it…canned tomatoes this week, soup the next, rice after that, etc, etc.. But the other, more gradual, method is simply buy more of what you usually buy….four cans of fruit cocktail rather than two, two jugs of cooking oil rather than one, six cans of vegetables rather than three, etc, etc. That’s probably the least expensive and least ‘extreme’ way of doing things. The great thing about it is that you already know that what youre buying is something you’ll eat because you were going to buy some anyway. If you manage to stick with it and go about it in a somewhat organized fashion you’ll have a reassuringly large amount of food in no time and even if the world doesn’t end you’ve probably saved yourself time and money anyway by having bought it when it was cheaper. In terms of making your dollar go further, it really does pay to shop around and clip coupons. I have yet to find a supermarket that doesn’t have a little sales flyer at the door telling you whats on special that week. Read those things carefully. Don’t be tempted to buy something you don’t need simply because its on sale – that’s a rookie mistake. Often a supermarket will have some sort of ridiculous promotion on some items to ‘celebrate’ a holiday, season, sporting event, new store opening, etc, and if you look around you can often find one of your target items are extremely good prices. When that happens, go long.

In the years I’ve been interested in preparedness nothing has given me more satisfaction than knowing that I had enough food on hand to get through just about any crisis. Yeah, its nice to look upon the guns and ammo and feel the glow of ‘beating them to the punch’ before they pass more absurd laws but the food never fails to give me an even warmer and more secure feeling. I highly recommend it, especially nowadays.

Thoughtful readership

Originally published at Notes from the bunker…. You can comment here or there.

I got a very thoughtful letter in the mail today, along with a generous gift, from someone who stops by here and reads my ‘brain droppings’ (As Geo. Carlin would describe them) and wanted to give an ‘attaboy’. That was just darn thoughtful and I appreciate it.

I pretty much write for myself. I write about what I’m interested in, in regards to preparedness, and I enjoy having an outlet for those opinions and a way to interact with other like-minded individuals. My goal has never been to make a ‘career’ out of this sort of thing (not that theres anything wrong with that. I think making a career out of writing is practically a dream job…right up there with being a stress tester for Victoria’s Secret)…its just something I like doing and that gives me some satisfaction. This is why if someone takes offense with something I say, I’m not terribly concerned. By and large, Im not writing anything here to try to appeal to an audience…I just write what I like and if folks like it or dislike it, well, thats fine too. Im no expert, leading authority, or knowledgeable source…I’m just a guy with some opinions, an internet connection and a slightly out-of-the-ordinary perspective on things. A nice by-product of that is that since Im not really too concerned with who I offend I can be as honest as I want without worrying about ‘revenue loss’. So, lucky you, the unvarnished truth as I see it is what you can look forward to.

I enjoy writing and I especially enjoy the challenge of conveying an idea as precisely and accurately as I can using what I know of the English language. Sometimes, in my humble opinion, I write some pretty darn good stuff. Other times…well…me not write so goodly.

But…it’s something I enjoy and if you agree or disagree with the things I say at least we both get something out of the deal – you get some entertainment and I get a soapbox. Win-win all around, that. Of course, if you take away something more than just entertainment, then I’m very flattered and more than a little pleased.

I’m not fishing for compliments here or anything like that. I just figured that I never really addressed why this blog is here and this seemed like a good moment to expand on that a bit.

And, again, thank you to those of you, today and previously, who have contributed their ideas, comments and,yes, money towards things here. It’s a nice shot in the arm to get that kind of support from time to time.

Okay, enough touchy-feely. Time to man up and clean some guns!


Originally published at Notes from the bunker…. You can comment here or there.

By now the blogosphere is stirred up with reports, links, rumours, speculation and outright tinfoil-hattery regarding the arrest of memebers of the “Hutaree” militia. I find it that one of the charges listed in one of the articles was ‘teaching the use of explosives”…when did that become illegal?

Im going to be the first to say that I have not looked into this very deeply and only know what I see reported in the media (with its usual biases). But…it looks like these guys stepped on their own dicks in getting ready for the apocalypse. They foresaw an event, prepared for it and when it started dragging its feet in getting there they decided to meet it halfway. Bad, bad, bad.

Interestingly, this has happened on an international scale. Let me tell you about the secret stay-behind armies of the free world.

After WW2 many countries saw the handwriting on the bullet-pocked walls and thought that someday, maybe sooner maybe later, the communists would roll across Europe and start the push towards global domination. What could be done to prevent such things? Well, the usual diplomacy and military options were of course available, but someone thought that there should be plans for a resistance…governments in exile…caches of weapons for freedom fighters…that sort of thing. And thus just about every country in Europe created secret armies of personnel whose job was to form underground resistance movements when the communists took over. Safe house were established, arms were cached, shadowy parallel governments were formed, etc. And for a number of years these secret armies-in-waiting did just that – they waited. The years went by and practices became policies, secret treaties were formed, and eventually all of these separate stay-behind armies started to coalesce under a somewhat unified political structure – NATO. Amazingly, it was all kept pretty quiet. Until someone stepped on their own dick. Notably, the Italian version of the stay-behind army, dubbed Operation Gladio, decided that rather than wait for Italy to fall under communist rule they might take a proactive role and start ‘removing’ communist troublemakers preemptively…perhaps even foment some communist activities to get the ball rolling. And these guys eventually got found out…and when they did, it unraveled in a pretty spectacular way. Suddenly every nation in Europe was discovering there were secret military organizations within their borders setting up to fight WW3 when the communists took over.

You can read the details, with its bizarre conections to the Nazis, over at wiki.

What do these two have in common? Well, both had ideas and fears about what would happen in the future regarding political climates and both, in preparing against them, wound up getting impatient and trying to instigate them and speed up the timetable. And, as a result, both got knocked down into the dirt. Theres a couple lessons in there and I’ll leave it to you to figure out what they are.

The Obama maneuver

Originally published at Notes from the bunker…. You can comment here or there.

I really have no intention of talking about the health care fiasco in any real detail. It’s a bad idea, its going to cause huge problems, and in the end it’ll be a ‘cure’ that was worse than the ailment. That’s pretty much as far as Im going to go with that. Its being beaten to death in other blogs, and I’m just not interested in flogging a horse that’s already left the station.

However, what I am going to go on about isn’t the health care bill per se but rather how it was campaigned and what that campaign means to us. (And by ‘us’ I mean me and the missus but also those who share some of the same values and ideas as we do.)

I have no doubt, none whatsoever, that the recent ‘success’ of health care legislation will embolden Democrats and others into attempting to pass legislation that was previously ‘unpassable’. They (the Democrats) will regard their ‘success’ with health care as proof that even the most contentious and politically-charged legislation can be brought to pass if they adopt a scorched earth policy, circle their wagons, shoot the wounded, and twist enough arms. For me, I think this portends a new campaign in regards to gun control.

The Obama administration has not made it a secret that the assault weapons ban should be reinstated (with no sunset clause, Im sure) and that that darn ‘gunshow loophole’ needs to be closed. But Democrats were dodging, ducking and avoiding the issue like Bill Clinton at a NOW fundraiser and for that time we were ‘safe’. Tip O’Neil famously described Social Secuirty as the ‘third rail’ of politics – you touch it, you die. For the last few years gun control has been that third rail and though it wasn’t enough to outright kill a political career it certainly still had enough juice to jolt the hell out of it…maybe fatally, maybe not. But, just the same, no one wanted to touch it and find out if their rubber soled shoes were working.

But, the paradigm has changed. We’ve seen that even on a bill so distasteful the Democrats couldn’t even get all their own people on board with it there was enough will, determination and political suicidal fanaticism to spend every bit of political capital to get it passed. In the end, after all the incredible contortions, bribes, threats, procedural sleight-of-hand, name-calling, party-changing, pork distribution, kickbacks and bare knuckle brawling…..they won.

Imagine how that must have seemed to those involved. They must have gone home that night and, after climbing into their coffins to avoid the dawn, had the sudden realization that if they could pass this bloated injustice they could, utilizing the same schemes, pass anything. What a heady moment that must have been…like suddenly discovering how to make fire by rubbing two sticks together over a mound of unspent bailout funds. If they could rally the troops, muster enough backbone and disregard the cost they could pass whatever they wanted. Gun control? Global warming? Estate taxes? Alien amnesty? The sky’s the limit.

At the moment, I think the only thing holding these weasels in check is that theyre waiting to see the casualty list from this last battle…even weasels have a survival instinct. I guarantee you that right now Democrat strategists are working on ways to mitigate any fallout that may taint re-election chances. You’re going to see some awesomely impressive propaganda as November approaches. When November rolls around there will be intense scrutiny at the election results. They’ll want to see if people did, in fact, ‘remember in November’ and that more than anything else will affect their future plans to use these tactics again. However, once the election season is over, and if they retain their strength and numbers, the Democrats will have no reason to not employ the same tactics for whatever their noble cause du jour is. In fact, if anything, they’ll be more eager since they’ll have an entire two years for the public to quiet down before the next election…not the politically dangerous brief span of now until November.

I forget who it was during the American revolution who, after winning a battle at a tremendous and bloody cost, said that any more such victories would cost them the war. I very much like to think this is the victory that will prove so expensive it costs them the war. Unfortunately, people have short memories in the time it takes for elections to roll around again. It’ll be up to the angered citizens to not lose that anger and sense of outrage, perhaps even nurture it and remind others whose outrage has flagged, until the elections in November. I dislike predicting the future but I would hazard a guess that this years elections will have a fairly strong turnout. I think the political dormancy of the average voter has come to an end and we’re going to see, for who knows how long, a more politically charged climate than we have seen in quite a while…on both sides. Partisanship seems to have sailed, leaving only partisans behind.


Originally published at Notes from the bunker…. You can comment here or there.

Another one of those questions that pops up from time to time – do revolvers have any place in the grand scheme of things.

It’s just my opinion, but in a word: yes.

Right now someone, somewhere is hitting the ‘reply’ button getting ready to tell me how if revolvers are so damn good how come they haven’t been issued as standard military sidearms since WW2? (And, yes, I know revolvers were issued to pilots in Vietnam and other groups since then.) Check that finger, mate. Let’s hash this out a bit.

The suitability of the revolver depends on what you are tasking it with. Parachuting into Magadishu to rescue shot-down pilots? Probably not the best choice. Fly fishing in Montana bear country? Good choice. See how the anticipated use can determine suitability?

Personally, I like revolvers. I usually shoot them better than autos. However, nine times out of ten I carry an auto. I try not to let my personal preferences trump good reasoning.

Revolvers have a lot going against them. If they break, replacement parts usually require the services of a gunsmith whereas most autos (esp. the newer ones) simply require a parts swapout. Firepower, in this case meaning rounds fired without reloading, easily beats the classic six-shooter. Reloads in an auto are, usually, faster than a revolver although some revolvers can be loaded mighty quick with a lot of practice. Revolvers can be a bit more fragile than automatics…anything that hits the cylinder hard enough can spring the frame and damage the bolt. Only lately are we seeing revolvers with accessory rails or night sights as standard items. So, generally, there are some big drawbacks from a logistical and tactical standpoint to revolvers.

What advantages does the revolver have? Generally, the revolvers biggest advantage is based around ammunition. Revolvers can shoot more powerful ammunition with a broader selection of bullets. Revolvers can fire blanks, snakeshot, slow wadcutters, high velocity light bullets, heavy-for-their caliber bullets, or plastic bullets all out of the same loaded cyclinder with no effect on firearm function….something just about any automatic cannot do.

Not to freak out the math-phobic, but lets look at some numbers. We’ll limit our discussion to ‘practical’ guns and calibers. The .454 Casull may be a rhinostomper but most folks aren’t going to carry anything that big. The .50 AE may be awesome in a Desert Eagle but most folks aren’t going to carry one around as a daily gun.

In automatics the most powerful cartridge you can reasonably expect to come across and will fit in your average duty-size gun is the 10mm Auto. Great cartridge. Cartridges Of The World shows a 170 gr. JHP factory load from Norma as generating around 680 ft/lb of energy. That’s pretty darn impressive. On the other hand, the same reference shows the .44 Magnum as generating nothing below that with jacketed factory loads. Or, put another way, every .44 Mag jacketed bullet load listed beats the 10mm.

Not really a fair comparison because both cartridges are, by anyones definition, a bit stompy in terms of recoil. So lets take a step back and go with a little more controllable cartridge choices and look at some numbers. Dinosaurs ‘round the world tout the .45 ACP as a death ray so lets look at the numbers – a +P 185 gr. JHP generates around 534 ft/lb..very impressive. (Anything over 500 ft/lb is pretty darn good) A .357 Magnum 125 gr. JHP beats it by about 50 ft/lb. A niggling difference on the terminal end of things, Im sure.

For personal defense against things with language skills, its an even mix…revolver ballistics or auto ballistics will perform nearly identically for the most common caliber in those two firearms styles. For personal defense against things with claws and teeth, well the revolver has an advantage there in terms of energy that’s pretty hard to argue with.

So we’ve argued that autos are better than revolvers in terms of maintenance (repairs and parts replacement) , and that for personal defense they are about even with proper caliber selection, so that clinches it right? Meh….theres other factors.

A small revolver conceals nicely and can be fired in cramped spaces like a coat pocket. (You can try it but be aware the lining of your coat may catch fire.) Revolvers can be loaded with reduced-charge ammo for new shooters or people who have problems handling more powerful cartridges or cant seem to get past limp-wristing their autos. Looking at revolvers from a post-apocalyptic Mad Max perspective theres some advantages in not having to chase your brass around, be able to cast bullets from scavenged lead, and use homemade black powder if you had to. (Admittedly, a very unlikely scenario but you never know.) Primers, of course, would be a challenge although some folks have had success reloading their own primers with various ‘common household materials.

Succinctly, yes there is a place for the revolver in preparedness. They are excellent for secondary or tertiary levels of redundancy. Police trade-in .38 and .357 revolvers can still be had for less than the price of an automatic and they are less finicky about their cheap reloaded ammo than most autos.

Years ago when I could buy used Smith & Wesson revolvers for less than $200 each I bought as many as I could and tucked them away in the safe. They are the closest thing I have to a ‘disposable’ handgun. While Im loathe to loan out one of the stockpiled Glocks I don’t have a problem loaning out one of the revolvers.

In calibers, I prefer the .357. Its comfortable to shoot, guns are plentiful, the commonality of .38 and .357 ammunition plays into my favor, ballistics are good for my anticipated uses, and the components are cheap and plentiful. Obviously, .38 Special ammo can be shot out of any .357 but not vice versa. Despite this, I still keep a few .38 Special guns on hand mostly for their cheap utility and convenience. Usually any gun you like in .38 is available in .357 also and that would be the way to go in order to preserve the advantage of ammo interchangeability.

My personal recommendation are open to debate, but here’s what I’d go with, in order of preference: Ruger, S&W, Taurus, Colt. I’m actually a Smith & Wesson fan but the Ruger is simply a more robust and durable gun than most revolvers out there. They are the Ak-47 of revolvers in terms of robustness. Their GP100 series and the older Security-, Speed- and Police-Six are good solid guns. When I carry around a .357 I usually carry a Smith Model 28 but if its time to run out the door with a backpack and rifle I’ll take the Ruger. Smith and Wessons are good guns, well made and have a great history. I like them a lot. The nice thing about the Smiths is that they made .357 revolvers on the large .44-frame guns. These guns hold up much better to steady diets of .357 loads than some of the smaller framed guns. But, even then, I still feel like the Ruger is more durable. Taurus makes a great selection of revolvers and theyre quite reasonably priced. Quality is good although once in a while a lemon gets through..however, I hear theyre pretty good on warranty stuff. Taurus probably has the most affordable .38 Specials out there. Colt used to make great revolvers but they’ve fallen so far off the radar in this department that theres almost no point in even considering them. Their older guns used lockwork that was virtually unchanged from the Victorian era and their more modern guns are difficult to find, overpriced and of mixed quality.

Steer clear of things like Llama, RG, Rohm, Astra, and any other company that youre not familiar with. Many of these cheap revolvers are mediocre at best and dangerous at worst. I’ve encountered more than a few that spit lead out the sides of cylinder gap from bad timing. For the price of one of those nightmares you can find a used Smith on GunBroker.

Got the money in hand and have no problem paying once for a gun that will last a lifetime? Here’s your list: Ruger Stainless GP100 (Or an SP101 if you want the snubby), extra front sight inserts, extra set of grips if you prefer Pachmyers, quality holster from Galco, Bianchi or DeSantis, a half dozen speedloaders and pouches (Safariland, HKS), SPeedStrip-type loader, BoreSnake, cleaning kit, as much ammo as you can afford, disassembly manual and you’d pretty much be set to go. If you want to take it to the next level of ‘ready for anything’ get a set of carbide reloading dies, a case of primers (5,000), an 8# keg of powder, a bullet mould and sizer, and a buncha brass.

If youre a fan of the .44 (or .45) cartridges, by all means go with that. Both cartridges are ballistically superior to the .357 and will serve quite nicely. I go with the .357 mostly for logistical reasons regarding ammo availability and expense, but that’s just me. The one caliber I’d shy away from is the .41 Magnum. It’s a great cartridge ballistically but its too much of an oddball for easy feeding. Ammo selection isn’t nearly as broad, and components are not as plentiful as for the .357. 44 and .45.

Daily McGyver-ism – Fuel ID tag

Originally published at Notes from the bunker…. You can comment here or there.

We keep about a dozen five-gallon cans of gas around because, well, if you’re smart thats what you do. And every so often that gas gets rotated out into a fresh tank of gas in the truck. The gas has PRI-G as a fuel stabilizer for storage but I like to rotate the stuff about once a year. Problem is, you have a dozen similar looking fuel cans, how do you tell which ones are have older fuel versus ones that have fresher fuel? Well, the obvious solution is to label them. Here’s where it gets tricky. The cans sit outside all year since keeping full gas cans indoors isnt something Im really keen on doing. A plastic or paper label will fade and deteriorate with the weather, becoming unreadable.


Cut a piece of aluminum from a pop can, lanyard it with some paracord, and scrive the date into the metal. Impervious to the weather for the year I’ll need it, and easily replaced when the fuel is rotated out.

How the lifestyle will cause problems

Originally published at Notes from the bunker…. You can comment here or there.

Every now and then we read about some ‘survivalist’ who gets arrested on some unrelated offense and when the cops search his vehicle or search his home they find food, fuel, ammo, guns, etc. and the next thing you know theres a picture in the paper of a bunch of guns laid out neatly on a table at police headquarters and the word ‘arsenal’ is splayed across the headlines.

Many times the poor bastard in question brought it on himself. But, sometimes, it’s completely the opposite. Neighbor kid comes into your yard to get his baseball, looks in the basement window and sees all those ‘machineguns’ sitting on your reloading bench. Or an ex-girlfriend decides to ‘get even’ and reports you as holding illegal weapons and espousing ‘anti government’ rhetoric. Next thing you know, you get that knock on the door. Back in ’99 I recall reading about a family that got a visit from the feds because the neighbors saw someone wheeling several blue barrels into the house. Turns out the family was ramping up their water storage in advance of Y2K…but they had to explain that to the armed feds. And I’d bet that the feds demanded and got a warrant to search the place. Recently a fella in trouble at his work got ‘volunteered’ to a psychiatric exam and his guns ‘held’ because it was reported he had bought an AK and a few handguns. Mind you no crime had been committed. Folks notice things they think are odd and, lets not mince words, sometimes the stuff we do in the name of preparedness can seem pretty odd to those on the outside.

Someday, in some way, someone (likely multiple someones) with a badge will show up on your doorstep or call you. Now comes the interesting part. You might be asked to answer a few questions and that’s the end of it. Or they may say that your behavior has ‘people concerned’ and would you please come down to the station so we can ‘talk about this’ and while youre gone they’ll just ‘secure’ those guns for you. Or, and don’t think it doesn’t happen, you get a rather loud knock on the door and a guy with a bullhorn tells you to pick up the phone and talk to the negotiator.

Dealing with the cops when youre into a lifestyle of preparedness is not the same as dealing with the cops as ‘a civillian’. It just isn’t. Normally we have certain priorities and imperatives – we want to remain low profile, keep all our stuff out of other peoples hands, not be exposed to unwanted publicity and not wind up in jail. The cops are certainly going to be tense about that guy they never heard of having a dozen rifles, ten thousand rounds of ammo, body armour, communications gear and ‘hate literature’…theyre probably going to be quite curious.

I’m sure some folks are going to disagree with me but the most important thing to remember when dealing with the cops is how to politely say no. “May we search your vehicle?” “I’m sorry, but no.”. “May we come in ?” “Sorry, no.” “May we ask you a few questions?” “ I’d rather not. Sorry.” Why not just say ‘no’ and leave it at that? To avoid being confrontational. You don’t want your response to seem like a challenge to invite more aggressive questioning. That’s really not the time to try to explain to the cops why you don’t need a drivers license, why the flag in the courtroom isn’t correct, how theyre being controlled by the UN or anything else like that. You sound contrite, but firm, in your response that, no, I’d rather not [give a statement/be searched/let you in].

I’ve gone for a ride in the back of a police car, and I’ve talked to more than a few cops. Once the handcuffs go on there really is virtually nothing you can say..nothing…that’s going to make those handcuffs come off. There is nothing you can say that’s going to make the cop say “What? Why didn’t you say so! Let me get those off you. Sorry about that. Simple mistake. You have a nice day.”

Being innocent does not mean you have nothing to fear. You have Claire Wolf and Ragnar Benson books on the shelf? That’s ‘anti-government hate literature’, buddy. The Mini-14 and AR in the safe? ‘Semi automatic assault weapons’..unless you have three or more, in which case you’ve got ‘an arsenal’. The food storage? Youre the ‘survivalist neighbor’. Got a fence on your property? Youre in ‘a compound’. Couple bricks of .22 ammo? ‘Thousands of rounds of ammo’. And all those guns are ‘high power firearms’..except for the varmint gun which is a ‘sniper rifle’.

Any solution? Try to keep as low a profile as possible. Case your guns when you transport them in and out of the house. Be careful about what you throw away. (I don’t throw away empty Mountain House cases in my residential garbage.) Try not to have all your eggs in one basket. Sure your stuff isn’t illegal, the guns aren’t full auto, and theres no law against all that ammo…so what? You still have to wait for them to return it and that can take forever. Heck, in some places when the cops take guns the policy is to not return them even if the charges are unfounded/dropped. And then theres that whole thing about a dozen armed strangers going through your house inspecting all your stuff….

An ounce of prevention is really worth a pound of cure. The less exposure you and your stuff has to other people the less risk you have. It kind of sucks having to be concerned about how other people perceive what youre doing lest they send men with guns after you, but I suppose it beats the alternative.


Originally published at Notes from the bunker…. You can comment here or there.

Shotguns are a weird piece of gear. Everyone admits theyre nasty business at close range yet they are usually the last class of firearm to be restricted by a government. Even in places where gun laws are tight you can still own a shotgun even if you cant own a handgun or a rifle. (And, yes, Im aware that in some places shotguns per se are not prohibited but pumps or semi autos are.)

For me shotguns have two purposes. Primarily as a close-in defensive weapon and then secondarily as a game getter.

Why anyone would choose a shotgun for defense is a little bit of a mystery. An M4-style AR is no bigger, holds more ammo, and is more accurate at any distance than the common 12 ga. room broom. “But I just have to point it in the general direction and the pellets will hit the bad guy!”, not really true at short range. Maybe at thirty yards but the inside of my house is a bit shorter than that. And at longer distances, say 50 yards, Im going to get more energy on target with an AR or AK.

I remember reading somewhere about a fella in Iraq, I think he was a military prison guard or somesuch, who carried a shotgun and large quantity of shells figuring it would be just the ticket in that environ. The prison, I believe, was assaulted and in the firefight he came to very quickly realize that when everyone is running around with Ak’s and M4’s the guy with the 8-shot shotgun is at something of a disadvantage. “Curled up in a ball” is what I read but maybe that was just stretching it. Then theres the stories from WW1 (or was it WW2?) about the troops with shotguns shooting German grenades out of the air when the grenades were lobbed at them. Shotguns have a very colorful history in the armed forces.

There used to be some more interesting guns – the USAS12 (a 12 ga. AR styled gun) and the dramatic-looking Both were reclassified by the goons at ATFE as ‘destructive devices’ making them a bit of a headache to own. Lately the 12 ga. AK’s have been getting popular, esp. now that drums are available for them. For sheer volume of pellets one of those AK’s would be tough to top. (Although YouTube has a video of a fella with a belt fed 12 ga. And the Chinese apparently have a belt fed .410.)

Shotguns do have some unique attributes though that make them worthwhile. First and foremost, they evoke a pretty visceral reaction from whomever theyre pointed at. While having any gun pointed at you is pretty unnerving theres something about the gaping maw of a shotgun muzzle that lets the target know its entering into a new dimension of trouble. Shotguns have the ability to shoot ‘specialty’ rounds such as blanks, rubber buckshot, bean bags, Taser rounds, flares and a handful of other marginally useful ammo. The shotgun is getting mileage overseas as a door breacher using special shells. Police departments usually have some rubber buckshot around for breaking up crowds. Someone somewhere makes whatever exotic shell youre looking for.

I keep the shotgun around because it’s a cheap gun to relegate to dedicated house duty, has a bit of authority, and is quite reliable.

For the average pump shotgun theres two names to know – Remington and Mossberg. There are other pump guns out there but either of these two will be your best choice. Autoloaders are out there as are single-shots, side by sides and even lever-action shotguns but for simplicity, reliability, durability, capability and versatility the pump gun is the way to go. While there are some very respectable autos out there the pump gun has the advantage of being able to shoot virtually any shell that fits the chamber…some specialty ammo (tear gas, blanks, etc) may not have enough power to work an auto but they’ll shoot just fine out of a pump gun.

Remington makes their classic 870 and Mossberg offers a dazzling number of variations of their rugged 500-series. Either brand is a winner. The Mossberg is less money, the Remington is easier to find accessories for. Mossberg has a bigger selection of ‘tactical’ shotguns, Remington has a bigger aftermarket base. Personal preference. We went with the Remingtons because of their ubiquity…theyre everywhere. However, I don’t pass up any bargain Mossbergs that cross my path. They can sometimes be found for $125-150 which makes them pretty hard to let go by.

Mossberg usually offers a package that comes with a short ‘riot’ barrel as well as a longer hunting barrel. Like the Remington, the Mossberg barrels are easily and quickly changed out. Winchester used to have some decent pumpguns but for one reason or another I never really cared for them. The old Model 97 and Model 12 guns are great but good luck with parts and accessories. Remington offered their Model 10 pump for a number of years and while it’s a nice gun as well but like, the older Winchesters, parts can be a problem. None of those mentioned, as far as I know, take 3” shells. Browning ran off some copies of the Model 12 and perhaps theyre a better choice…I have no experience with the Browning copy.

Once in a while someone asks my opinion on a shotgun and I pretty much tell them to get the Rem 870 or the Mossberg 500…either one will serve very well in tough times. I like Mossbergs tang-mounted safety, but I like Remingtons magazine tubes that accept extensions. Six of one, half dozen of the other.

Shotgun ammo is pretty straightforward. Buckshot and slugs have their adherents and, quite honestly, at inside-the-house ranges pretty much any shotgun load will put the hurt on the bad guys. At across-the-room and down-the-hall ranges even birdshot doesn’t spread out very much. Excellent ‘mythbusting’ about shotgun ammo performance can be had at The Box O’ Truth…a website that I recommend to anyone who wants to know “Will [gun/caliber/bullet] really do that?” (Especially telling is the performance of the .410 pistols that seem to be the rage these days. Watch the videos and…judge…for yourself their effectiveness or lack of it.)

What about outside the home? What if youre in Katrina-land and youre defending your business or your neighborhood from angry mobs and looters? Well, we do see shotguns in the hands of the cops at these sorts of events more than we see them with rifles so maybe there’s something to that. Still, I think that if I were stuck in some sort of Haitian earthquake scenario I would be better served with my AK or AR than with the shotgun. The only real advantage I see is if I wanted to break up a crowd by skipping pellets across the pavement or shooting non-lethal shells.

I stick with the 12 ga. simply because it is the most common shotgun shell gauge around. Sure 20 and 16 gauge are lighter and more pleasant to shoot. And, yes, anything a 12 will do a 10 will do better, further, harder and heavier. However if you walk into a hardware store, Walmart, gun shop, police armory, or wrecked pickup truck I’m pretty sure you’ll find 12 ga. ammo to be more common than all the other ones. Additionally, many guns and specialty rounds are only available in 12 ga. If you just cant handle the 12 ga. the 20 seems a reasonable alternative. The 16 ga. isn’t nearly as widely represented as the 20 ga., and although the 16 ga. gives better performance than the 20 ga. The availability of ammo for these guns is a factor.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Look, I want a shotgun and some ammo for defense. Skip the theory. Tell me what to buy.” Okay, head down to the local GunMart and get either a Mossberg 500 or a Rem 870 in 12 ga. with the shortest barrel they offer (18-20”). Buy a few boxes of Remington buckshot and slugs (2 ¾” is fine, get 3” if you feel like being a stud). Pick up a case of the cheapest hunting loads they have…usually its #7 shot or something. Go to the range and use the cheap stuff for practicing loading, gun handling, and getting a feel for shooting the gun. When that’s done try your hand with the buckshot and slugs to get an idea of how they feel and where they shoot. Clean your gun, go home, stuff a half dozen rounds of buckshot in the magazine, call it a day. Accessories like a SideSaddle ammo carrier are nice to have as is a mounted tactical light. The usual gold bead front sight is pretty adequate but if you can get a gun with rifle sights you’ll find them more familiar to use.

If you want to take the plunge and go for the undeniably combative, Mossbergs 590-series military style shotguns are the epitome of brutal, gritty encounter-stopping shotguns. The 590’s have parkerized finishes, protected sights, hold plenty of ammo, and even have a bayonet lug…they are the street brawler of shotguns.

What about those pistol grip shotguns with no stock? Well, they cant really be aimed, and firing one from the hip can be done just as easily on one with a stock. For storage they save some space but think about this – when you hold one the distance between the pistol grip and your elbow is where the stock would normally be, right? So when you shoot one, how is it any more compact than if the stock was on it? They look pretty butch and maybe, maybe, maybe theyre the ticket for really tight quarters but otherwise they take away from accurate fire and effective recoil control. The old style top-folding Remington stocks wobble and develop quite a bit of play after a while. The Butler Creek side folding stocks seem to work quite well, though.

Single and double-barrel shotguns are fine guns for sport and can be used defensively as well. They are, however, not my first choice and while inexpensive, simple and light they suffer from the obvious limitation of shell capacity. Maybe you’d never need to fire more than one or two shells in anger but if you did need to youre definitely going to wish you had a different gun. Most pumps hold 5+1 and the more dedicated guns hold 6,7,8+1 depending on barrel length. Contrast this with firing barrel one, firing barrel two, break open gun, pull two shells from pocket, drop one in each chamber, close gun, repeat two more times versus pull trigger, pump action, repeat six times. If the single or double is the only gun you’ve got, well, you dance with the one that brung ya….

Gimmicky stuff of marginal value: those slings that have shell loops on them. They look cool but when you have twenty rounds of buckshot hanging off your sling its going to make shooting accurately a bit more challenging….all that weight swinging around pulling at the gun as you come to stop to take a quick aimed shot. Better off with a belt pouch full of shells or some other convenient carry method.

Bandoleers hold a lot of ammo and theres no doubt they look pretty cool but Im not convinced of their utility. It’s a classic look but I think I’d be embarrassed to show up at a shootout looking like Pancho Villa. If youre going to carry fifty shotgun shells pack them loose in a satchel or one of the large belt pouches.

SpeedFeed stocks hold a couple extra shells in the buttstock and Ive read mixed things about them. After a while they seem to wear a bit and the shells come flying out of the stock under recoil or they don’t come out at all except with lots of annoying fiddling. A stock cuff with a few shell loops would probably serve better.

Flechette rounds seem like a cool idea and when used in something like an artillery round they really are pretty cool…a thousand steel darts whipping through the air shredding everything in their path. Scaled down for a shotgun shell you have a small amount of lightweight projectiles providing minimal shocking power with unreliable accuracy. Looks cool, sounds cool, probably not really cool.

But, like everything else I post, these are subjective opinions. I’ve got a bit of experience with pretty much everything here and I’ve given more than a little thought to the topic. My final opinion, and your mileage may vary, is that if youre looking for a shotgun for defensive purposes you could wrap it all up in an hour at your local gunhsop with a Rem 870 or a Mossberg 500. If you have an old Ithaca 37, Browning A5, or Benelli M3 and they work for you, keep them. For my own needs I’ve found the Rem/Mossy pump guns to be an affordable, rugged way to go and have no problem recommending them.

Ammo cans

Originally published at Notes from the bunker…. You can comment here or there.

One of the local shops had ammo cans on sale. Six bucks, regardless of size. Well, I dont actually need any more ammo cans but you never really know what you need until you have them. And for six bucks youd have to be insane not to pick up the uber-useful 40mm cans. (Note that the cans may not actually be used for 40mm but theyve come to be called ‘40mm ammo cans’.)

Nice thing about the big ones is that they are airtight, watertight, man-portable and pretty much impervious to anything. ideal for transporting gear through snow, rain, filth and apocalyptic landscapes. Sure theyre a wee bit heavy but thats the proce for nigh-invulnerability.

They also had a few other odd sizes as well and I got a few samples of each. I need a comprehensive field guide to identifying the various ammo cans. I did a quick Google but found no such guide.