They Lived The Most Off-Grid Life Imaginable. Learn From Them.

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They Lived The Most Off-Grid Life Imaginable. Learn From Them.

Built from 1899-1901, the Yukon Telegraph Line was designed to connect the gold mining town of Dawson City with the rest of Canada, and by extension, North America. Long portions of this line ran through some of the most isolated territory in Canada, and linemen lived alone in small shacks spaced every 40 miles in the virgin Canadian wilderness.

Their amazing feats are still studied by historians and survivalists alike.

These men were charged with keeping this vital telegraphic link open, even during harsh conditions, and despite being there to keep the late 19th century “grid” up and running, they lived the most off-the-grid lifestyle imaginable, and their experiences teach us several key lessons.

You Are Completely Alone

These men maintained a critical telegraph line that connected the Yukon and U.S.-controlled Alaska to the rest of the world, but the workers for the Yukon Telegraph Line were famously alone. Most cabins were located in what can be best described as “howling wilderness” and were reachable only by foot, horseback or sometimes by water.

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They were hundreds or more miles away from the nearest settlement, and men lived there six months at a time without relief or resupply. The famed poet Robert W. Service may have summed it up perfectly in his poem “The Telegraph Operator”:

Cheer up! Don’t get so glum

And sick of everything;

The worst is yet to come;

God help you till the Spring.

God shield you from the Fear;

Teach you to laugh, not moan.

Ha! ha! it sounds so queer —

Alone, alone, alone.

When you plan your off-grid retreat or home, how will you handle isolation?

You Live off What You Have

They Lived The Most Off-Grid Life Imaginable. Learn From Them.Living off the land is a romantic ideal, and it’s also extremely difficult. There is a reason hunter/gather cultures operate in small bands with defined divisions of labor, and defend resource-gathering. Foraging food is hard, time-consuming and not always dependable. This is even more true for the lone wolf or very small group living in isolation. The linemen of the Yukon Telegraph were largely dependent upon their supplies. No doubt, they supplemented them with fresh game and plants when they could, but their supply cache was of paramount importance.

Plan for your immediate needs, but also plan ahead, because the only supplies you can truly count on are the ones you have on hand.

Communication Can Be Difficult

You’d think working on a telegraph line would ensure you could contact the outside world, right? Not really. Even for those tasked with keeping the line operational, communications problems existed. During times of severe weather, it was impossible to have all breaks in the line fixed at the same time, or even to get out and repair them. These men controlled the communications grid in their area, and still couldn’t be sure of getting a message out.

Today, we are blessed with the luxury of radio and other communications methods. How will you get your messages out if you are off the grid and alone?

Off-Grid Life Is Hard. Very Hard.

Once you go into an isolated rural region, you are separated from all the benefits of modern industrial civilization – except for what you bring with you. You may be mentally prepared to live off-grid, and you may be well-equipped, but you have entered a different way of life.

You may choose to live an off-grid life, or one day you may be forced to do so. Whatever the case, we should look back to our past and examine what life was like for people who had to live in isolated rural circumstances. It was not always pleasant then, and it is not always pleasant today. We can learn from their trials.

The men who built and maintained the Yukon Telegraph Line worked hard, lived hard and at times suffered hard to keep a vital communications link operational. Learning from their experiences is the least we can do to honor them.

What would you add? Share your thoughts in the section below:

 

Read This Before You Buy a Ham Radio

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Ham radio has become an increasingly popular tool for preppers and people living off the grid. While it is a fairly inexpensive hobby to get into (you can buy surprisingly good imported handheld radios for under $30) there are a few things you need to know before you purchase a ham radio. Get a License […]

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The $50 Survival Rifle That Will Give You 80 Years Of Service

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The $50 Survival Rifle That Will Give You 80 Years Of Service

The single-shot .22 is a classic American gun that often gets overlooked in favor of various magazine-fed rifles.

But part of living off the grid or preparing to be off the grid is simplicity. Simple things work. Complex systems fail. There is little simpler than a well-built, single-shot .22. In my own collection are several old single shots from the height of the Great Depression. Plain, simple and inexpensive, they were built as game-getters and affordable knockabout rifles, and work just as well today as they did back then. I’ve lost track of how often I find a basic single shot for $50-75 in pawnshops, backwoods gun stores, or even cheap at yard sales. These are highly durable goods, and with a little love and care, are good for another 80 years of use.

There are a lot of good reasons to have a single-shot .22 in your homestead’s arsenal:

1. They are affordable.

Sure, a new single-shot and a basic semi-auto .22 are often within $30-$50 dollars of each other, but when you start shopping the used racks, you can get some insane bargains on older rifles. A great many old single shots from the 1930s-60s are readily available in many gun stores, often for well under a hundred bucks. Even a new single shot can be rather affordable, but for me, the real joy of a single-shot .22 is finding an old rifle from the 50s, cleaning it up, and putting it back into service.

2. They are economical.

That is, the cost to use the rifle is economical. Let’s face it: It’s fun to do a mag dump sometimes, and shooting a semi-auto .22 doesn’t always encourage frugal use of ammo. But with a single-shot .22, you are forced to slow down, and that is a good thing.

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Not only does it instill good shooting habits, but it makes your ammo last longer as you spend more time taking each shot. This is excellent not only for teaching first-time shooters, but also for stretching your range time. In a survival situation, odds are you don’t need a fast follow-up shot with a .22, so there is no reason not to stick with a single shot.

3. They don’t attract undue attention.

Don’t get me wrong; I think we should be able to buy all types of guns. But there is an enemy out there who wants to restrict our gun rights. A single-shot .22 looks innocent and harmless. Make that your public facing rifle and you won’t attract attention from anti-gunners and might even get ignored by crooks. After all, the single-shot .22 is probably rather low on the list of guns a criminal would want to use in a crime — or for an anti-gunner to ban.

4. They just work.

Let’s be realistic. There are a lot of unreasonable expectations out of guns. I’ve met people who have spent hundreds of dollars bolting tactical junk to a .22 with the idea it was a “supremely viable” universal combat/hunting rifle, while others chase the latest and greatest .22s that don’t do anything new, save for looking different. But think about what we use a .22 for most of the time — recreation, small game hunting, and shooting smaller predators. Is there really a need for more than one shot most of the time? When the grid goes down, a single-shot rifle with a hundred rounds feels like a lot more than a semi-auto and a hundred rounds.

Conclusion

Single shots are often dismissed as being something less because they don’t have a magazine and may be slow to operate. This, of course, is absurd, as a rabbit or squirrel doesn’t know if you hit it with a fancy semi-auto or grandfather’s old single shot.

So when you are equipping your cabin, or putting a rifle in the barn, stop and remember the venerable old single-shot .22. They’ve been a constant companion of American youth, hunters and sport shooters for as long as the .22 round has been in existence, and they are still going strong today into the 21st century.

Do you agree or disagree? Share your thoughts in the section below:

DIY: The Forgotten Survival Tool Your Ancestors Carried

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DIY: The Forgotten Survival Tool Your Ancestors Carried

Often we can turn to the tools used by our ancestors or indigenous natives to find simple, effective solutions to survival and off-the-grid living. The so-called digging stick is no exception to this rule, and as you will see, the well-equipped survivalist will want to include one of these deceptively simple tools in their bag of tricks.

Anyone who has foraged in the woods knows that a lot of delicious and important foods live underground, and they often form the backbone of a wild food diet. Tubers, bulbs and roots all lurk under the ground, and these starch- and nutrition-packed foods will keep you well-fed and healthy in an off-grid emergency.

The concept of the digging stick is deceptively simple and can be little more than a pointy stick used to help extract roots and tubers from the ground. The tip can be sharpened and fire-hardened for a longer life span, or curved and shaped to serve as a sort of scoop or plow. A crosswise handle also may be fitted to the top to increase leverage and make digging easier.

In a more modern form, a bit of metal can be placed on the tip to improve the useful life of the tool, and help it dig easier. When you realize the digging stick is little more than a pointed and shaped tool designed to make rooting around in the dirt easier, an entire world of possibilities open up.

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But why — you might ask — does the 21st-century world care about one of the most primitive tools ever made? It is precisely because it is a highly primitive tool. It can be made with just your bare hands, or with a simple knife or just a fire. Equally important is that it is a labor- and energy-saving tool. A long-enough stick can be used to dig root vegetables without stooping over, which saves important energy in a survival situation.

DIY: The Forgotten Survival Tool Your Ancestors Carried

Image source: NPS.gov

To make your own digging stick, start with a sturdy branch or stick that is long enough to be comfortable to use. Taking your knife, trim any leaves or smaller branches off it, and shape the tip the way you like it. Use a simple point for basic digging, or curve it and make a sort of bent spoon shape for digging and light soil cultivation or scraping through soft dirt. Run the end through your fire to lightly char and harden it, and you have a basic digging stick! If you are so inclined to use twine, bark or rope, you can tie a crosswise handle to the top, which increases your leverage.

One additional use of the digging stick can be as a light spear or stabbing weapon, particularly if you can fit it with a metal or stone tip. This expands the utility and moves it into the realm of hunting as well as vegetable foraging. You also can carry fishing line and hooks and adapt your digging stick into a fishing pole, and even use it as a light staff or walking stick.

The digging stick is a very useful off-grid tool, which is probably why it has been independently invented by most primitive cultures. Applying modern, 21st-century thinking to the concept, we can lightly improve on it with modern materials, but the power of the digging stick is in its simple function and very simple construction. One could make a fine digging stick out of a fiberglass rod fitted with a steel tip, and even fit a hollow handle to the top to hold survival gear like matches, a compass, fishing line, etc. But being able to make one in minutes when needed is a handy thing, too.

If you plan to incorporate a digging stick into your survival arsenal, you should make one now and practice with it. It is a primitive skill that seems easy on the surface, but like many such skills requires an odd degree of skill and practice to work properly. Experiment with different lengths and configurations, or take them out and test them in the soil in your area. Discover which shapes of tips work best. Learn to work one without having metal tips, and then once you’ve mastered it, go ahead and make one up for your survival gear, or rest easy knowing you could make and properly use on in a pinch.

Our ancient ancestors were not dummies. They survived in a world with primitive medical care at best, and under conditions that would be taxing for nearly all modern people. Plus, they did so with the crudest and simplest of tools. However, they had their brains, and those brains carried them through. Go ahead and make your digging stick, but hone your mind, as well.

Have you ever made a digging stick? Share your tips in the section below:  

4 Reasons The 16-Gauge Shotgun Is NOT Obsolete

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4 Reasons The 16-Gauge Shotgun Is NOT Obsolete

Image source: HoneyKnivesOfChina

The phrase “16-gauge shotgun” often sparks memories of yesteryear: the dusty old single shot from the 50s you inherited from your grandfather, or the quirky old pump you once eyed in the gun store.

The 16-gauge shotgun is a strange gun, especially in the Western U.S. I understand it has a bit more popularity in the Northeast, and of course our European cousins seem overly fond of it. But just what good is a semi-obsolete shotgun that seems to stay alive out of sheer force of habit?

Here are four good answers you should consider one:

1. They can be cheap. Odds are that a comparable 16-gauge will be cheaper on the used gun rack than a similar 12- or 20-gauge. The market just isn’t there, and these things can languish on the shelves. They still go “boom,” though, and still are perfectly good for whatever use you might have for a shotgun. If you are into saving money, you can assemble a nice battery of quality shotguns at an incredible saving by going with a 16-gauge.

2. They fill a sweet spot between 12- and-20 gauge. The shot patterns fall nicely in the middle of the two, and often 16s are lighter to carry than a 12. The right-in-the-middle performance of a 16-gauge means better success in the field and better performance in the kind of circumstances where you might want to haul a light 20-gauge around. The 16-gauge really shines in thick brush, where hunters might normally choose a 12-gauge to bust through the cover. However, you wind up with small game riddled with more pellets than might be desirable, but often a 20-gauge just won’t cut it. The 16 is “just right” for those circumstances.

3. The 16-gauge is a handloader’s dream come true. Admittedly, this is because at some point you have to load for it, due to inconsistent availability of ammo, but once you are freed from the traditional market and cultural expectations of what the “ideal” load is, you are wide open to do your own thing. I have always maintained that if I must load my ammo, I’d rather do it for a niche gun than one where I can get whatever I want off the shelf in the gunstore. This is why I carry a .41 magnum revolver, shoot a Krag, and have a 16-gauge single shot for birds. Beyond that, you can make a 16-gauge do the work of a 20 or 12 with little effort, depending on how you load for it. What’s not to love?

4. The ammo really isn’t that hard to find. If you live near a population center or a large sporting goods store, odds are there are basic 16-gauge loads available to you: birdshot, buckshot, slugs and the like. It’s easy to overlook, but once you start shopping for it, 16-gauge ammo seems to pop up everywhere. Really, a good 16-gauge is a darn fine gun. What I like most about them, though, is that you can walk into almost any country gun shop, or old pawnshop, and find at least one or two neat old 16-gauges. There is something classy about picking up an old break-action shotgun, cleaning it up and bringing it back to life.

So many 16-gauge shotguns fed families, or were prized possessions and are now relegated to the dustbin of history because they aren’t the “latest” and “greatest” scattergun. When shopping for a used 16-gauge, you often will find they are well-preserved, often because at some point the owner decided it was too oddball a cartridge to keep using regularly.

I have seen fine semi-auto 16s at crazy low prices. I can’t begin to count the number of nearly mint 1950s department store branded pumps I’ve run across, either. And, of course, there are a great many old single-shot 16s out there. Well-used, well-loved, but still with plenty of life left in them. The 16-gauge is a direct link back to a different time in American history, when things moved a little slower and were at times a bit simpler.

Hardly an obsolete cartridge, with just a little bit of care, you’ll find a good 16-gauge shotgun is one heck of an off-the-grid companion or even just spare shotgun. Pick one up. You’ll be glad you did.

Do you own a 16-gauge? Have you ever shot one? What do you think? Share your thoughts in the section below:

The Inexpensive All-Purpose Knife Your Ancestors Used

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The Inexpensive All-Purpose Knife Your Ancestors Used

Image source: Pixabay.com

The classic butcher knife has been used on the American continent for centuries, but did you know that it only has been in relatively modern times that the common person could have a dedicated kitchen/utility knife and a hunting/combat knife?

Our ancestors didn’t have the money, luxury or affordable steel to have several different large knives, and throughout history this has been shown in the way simple utilitarian knives have served multiple roles.

A famous early example is the medieval seax, which was the catchall blade of the poor and working class. These simple belt knives were used in everything from cutting food at meals, to cutting up game, to self-defense. Simple to make and affordable, they were the classic butcher knives of their era, and the tradition of a one-size-fits-most belt knife carried over into the New World.

The working class knife of early colonists and Americans eventually became the simple butcher knife. Commonly found in a 10-inch length, these knives have a gently curving blade, a gentle tip and are quite suitable for the sort of pre-industrial-era cutting chores a common person might encounter. This isn’t to say there weren’t dedicated fighting and hunting knives back then; there certainly were, but they were out of the reach of many of our ancestors, and they really weren’t needed.

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There is a trend to buy too much knife when considering the needs of a basic belt knife, and in doing so we stray from the wisdom of those who came before us. I know I am guilty of this. My most common woods knife is a modern Ka-Bar-style blade that in retrospect seems ungainly. Consider the practical logic of the butcher knife as a belt knife. They are inexpensive — a fraction of the price of a quality hunting or combat knife. They are relatively lightweight in comparison to other modern belt knives, and they are designed to do what we do with most of our fixed blade knives, namely cut meat and butcher game.

A Trip Back in Time

Image 200 years ago; you had to have a butcher knife, but a heavy hunting or combat knife was an expensive luxury unless you had a desperate need for that piece of kit. Life on the frontier or a small subsistence farm was hard, and cash money was often scarce. For a person who rarely strayed off the farm or out of town, simple working utility was the order of the day. Even the cheapest blades were hand-forged, and before the Industrial Revolution blessed us with cheap, high-grade steel and iron, metal could be a precious commodity outside of population centers. When somebody needed a knife, they reached for the most efficient cutting tool they had, which was that butcher knife.

We can apply this wisdom to the modern day, as there are a great many different similar knives we can readily carry as general knockabout belt knives. Certainly, a good butcher knife can top the list, as can a seax style blade if you can find one. Or you can use my favorite all-purpose blade: the Swedish mora. Like the English/American-style butcher knife, the mora is an all-purpose working class blade that is as much at home in the woods as it is on the farm or the fishing boat. Cultures all over the world have created simple knives and used them in ways that our modern world would not consider them.

The blades a homesteader or off-gridder have on hand now are some of the finest ever made, and also some of the most affordable.

So, why should we consider reverting to such simple tools as the butcher knife? I would argue because it is an inexpensive tool, because it is the simpler tool, and because it is a household tool. In today’s legally oppressive world full of people who seek to strip decent people of their weapons, household knives are some of the last ones to be targeted (yes, even England is going a bit over the edge in that regard now), but the reality is, aside from the simple utilitarian nature of butcher knives, keeping one or two extra on hand will give you spare knives in an emergency, tools to share with group members, or simply reconnect you to the simpler times of the past.

Put one in your kit, and carry it in the woods. It’s fun and useful. You’ll like it.

What is your favorite all-purpose knife? Share your thoughts in the section below:

5 Things Made Better In Your Grandparents’ Time You STILL Can Find In Thrift Stores

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5 Things Made Better In Your Grandparents' Time You STILL Can Find In Thrift Stores

The trope of “things were better in the good old days” is often just that. An empty trope of viewing the past through rose-colored glasses of idealism and bias, which clouds our judgment of the future and present day.

We can certainly agree that great strides have been made in science, medicine, technology and social matters, and as pleasant as it may seem to go back to a so-called simpler time, I for one would not care to live in, say, even the 1930s without at least some modern medical and labor-saving advancements.

However, even if you take off the rose-colored glasses, there are some things that were, in fact, better in our grandparents’ day – and we often can find these things in a local thrift store.

Let’s take a look at a few.

1. Pyrex dishes

Made of thermal shock resisting borosilicate glass (a mix of boron, silica and a few other ingredients depending on the formula) Pyrex ovenware was a boon to housewives of the 1920s and forward. Offering a lightweight, transparent and easy cooking dish that also was attractive, it was a near instant hit. Unfortunately, today’s Pyrex may not even be the glass our grandparents used. Corning sold the brand name in 1998, and subsequently, the cookware was made from cheaper (and less resistant to thermal shock) tempered soda-lime glass (the same kind of glass jars are made out of).

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Now, if you’ve canned food, you are already familiar with tempered soda-lime glass, and the importance of temperature curves when canning. Well, Pyrex cookware is made out of that same kind of stuff now. While it is true that modern tempered soda-lime glass is extremely strong (certainly better than it was a century ago), if you buy brand new Pyrex dishes, you aren’t getting the same stuff your grandparents used.

It appears, though, that if you find a dish with PYREX in all caps, you are good to go. Shop carefully and make sure you get the good stuff.

2. Cast iron cookware

Now, granted, modern cast iron cookware is every bit as good as the stuff your grandparents used. Except for one niggling, cost-saving thing. Namely, nearly all modern cast iron cookware I’ve seen has been rough cast inside, and not polished smooth like back in the day. Some folks might not be bothered by this, but I absolutely hate it. I’d rather pay a couple dollars more for a pan that has been polished, than still retain its rough cast finish. I’ve never been able to peg when this trend started, but my gut says sometime around the 70s or 80s. Watch for this nicer, more finished cast iron in your local thrift shop or second-hand store, and enjoy a bit of refinement that seems to have fallen by the wayside in the name of profit and price point.

3. Woolen blankets and clothing

Knitted Woolen Yarn Wool Woollen KnittingModern synthetics are, quite frankly, amazing. Lightweight, warm and often water-resistant, there is a lot to be said for them. I, for one, would rather be out in the woods with Gore-Tex than wool. However, there is no denying the usefulness of the old standby of woolen clothing and blankets. Because market preferences have moved on, it is harder and harder to find quality wool clothing and bedding, and when you do it is pricey. The careful thrift store shopper often can snag everything from old army blankets to old hunting shirts. Heck, I’ve even found Korean War-era wool uniforms! Bottom line, if you want wool, see what has been donated. Many estates don’t waste time with out-of-date clothing and bedding and simply pass it along.

4. Furniture

Is yesteryear’s furniture better than today’s? Well, that all depends. High-end furniture is high-end furniture, regardless of when it is made. What we are looking at is low-end and mid-range furniture, because 50-60 years ago, even cheap stuff wasn’t being build out of particleboard and synthetics the way it is now.

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As an added benefit, buying quality used furniture is good for the wallet and environment. Look for older solid wood or laminate furniture in good condition. A little elbow grease with refinishing can save you big. Sometimes out-of-fashion furniture can be had cheap, and searching economically depressed areas can land you real bargains on durable goods.

5. Computer keyboards

Don’t laugh. If you are handy with upgrading connection cables, some 1980s keyboards are vastly superior to the modern thing. Keyboards are often a very cheap item bundled with a PC, and better-quality ones tended to be upgrades or packaged with premium systems. The IBM Model M is perhaps the holy grail of old school keyboards, but there are other nice ones running about. Who knows, you might get lucky and find a few. If you do a lot of typing, or simply enjoy a high-end keyboard, your fingers will thank you.

Conclusion

As I said earlier, it is something of a fallacy that things were made better in the “good old days.” After all, as cool as they are, a 1930s car is nowhere near as safe and fuel-efficient as a modern automobile, but on the other hand, you couldn’t pay me to use modern Pyrex dishware.

Understanding the limitations of past technology and modern progress can put you in a unique position to cherry pick the surviving goods of past generations to equip yourself with high quality merchandise for pennies on the dollar. Sometimes things go out of style but are still quite functional, and sometimes things were just made better back then. No matter what, there are quality bargains to be had if you look!

What would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below:

The Versatile Survival Pistol That Lets You Shoot ANY Caliber

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The Versatile Survival Pistol That Lets You Shoot ANY Caliber

Image source: Smith & Wesson Forums

A never-ending discussion among firearm owners is about the “best” survival gun. Heck, I’ve chimed in on that a couple of times already here, and am about to offer another choice, because in many ways it is the ultimate survival firearm, capable of shooting almost everything, from .22 to .45-70 and can be configured as a rifle or handgun at your pleasure.

I’m talking about the Thompson Contender series pistols. First introduced in 1967, this venerable single shot pistol was redesigned in 1998 as the G2 Contender and has the ability to change barrels.

In the 50 years the Contender has been in production, barrels from tiny rimfire calibers to .45-70 have been made in it, along with specialized rounds adapted for the Contender platform like the 7-30 Waters (a necked down .30-30). Arguably one of the most popular single-shot hunting handguns out there, with a careful barrel selection, the Contender can allow you to carry an entire armory in your survival kit.

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While there are literally hundreds of barrel combinations for the Contender series in dozens of calibers and lengths, with careful shopping, a few will stand out for the devoted off-gridder or survivalist.  The .22 LR seems like an obvious choice, but this is one I wouldn’t go out of my way to get. If you already have an accurate .22 handgun that you can harvest game with, lugging around a Contender barrel won’t give you any edge, although it is hard to argue against the potential increased accuracy the Contender offers. Put this one low on your priority list, along with many of the highly effective but essentially unique to the Contender rounds like the aforementioned 7-30 Waters, or any of the other specialty rounds popular for the Contender. Remember: The name of the game here is survival gun, which means common calibers, unless you are well-equipped already to provide the ammo for an oddball round.

In no particular order, I would choose either .357 or .44 magnum due to the commercial success of those rounds. I’d follow it up with a .30-30 barrel, maybe a .223 and a .45-70 for taking big game. If you can find one, and it is legal in your state (sorry, California) a .45 Colt/.410 barrel with a special choke can be had (although sometimes at great expense), expanding your cartridge choices.

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Now, obviously, we are looking at getting a few barrels for very common, commercially successful calibers and for obvious reasons; if things ever go truly south, you will have an easier time finding such common rounds over hard-to-find rounds. However, there is a place for less common rounds for the well-prepared homesteader. One of my favorite revolver rounds is the .41 magnum, and this is by no means a common round to find. Guess what the first barrel I bought for my Contender was? In fact, I sold the .44 mag barrel that came with mine to get the .41. Chances are if you are invested in an oddball or uncommon caliber, you’ve got dies, brass, bullets, maybe molds to keep it going. And if you are a reloader and have a proper stash of powder and primers, then you are golden. If you plan to include an uncommon caliber in your Contender arsenal, then just make sure you have the ability to keep that round going for a few hundred rounds. Otherwise, your barrel is little more than scrap steel.

As a hunting pistol, you won’t be shooting thousands or even hundreds of rounds out of your Contender a year. This isn’t a combat weapon, and in a grid failure scenario, even a few dozen rounds can keep you in meat for a long time. That does not mean you should neglect a proper ammo supply, though, of at least a couple hundred rounds for each barrel you have.

With the right combination of barrels, the Contender can give you the luxury of multiple firearms in a single package. Barrels are inexpensive, and several can be easily carried at once, along with a small supply of ammo for each. As a compact and hard-hitting hunting handgun, the Contender can keep you in meat year-round and can increase the versatility of your bug-out kit. With a great many common calibers available to choose from, you can readily make the right barrel set for your needs and inventory, and be assured of being able to hunt, even in socially and economic uncertain times.

Have your ever shot or do you own the Contender? Share your thoughts about it in the section below:  

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The Cheap, Easy-To-Make Survival Lamp Your Great-Grandparents Used

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The Cheap, Easy-To-Make Survival Lamp Your Great-Grandparents Used

Imagine you are sitting in a log cabin, or perhaps hunkered down in a lean-to or some other makeshift shelter in the woods. It’s dark, and you’d like more light than your fire provides so you can do some chores.

Maybe you are mending your socks, or sewing a button back in place, enjoying a meal, or just trying to do a little reading before bed. Or maybe you are in a survival situation, and have lost modern means of lighting, or the grid has gone down, and your rural homestead still needs lighting. Or maybe you just like the tools and skills of the past. Either way, it’s dark and you want some light. There are a number of traditional means of lighting your home or shelter, ranging from kerosene lamps, to wax or tallow candles, to the often-forgotten tallow lamp.

Illumination through combustion was the first way our ancestors fought off the darkness, starting with fires and torches, and reaching a point of refinement with pressurized white gas and propane before the electric light won out in the end.

Until petroleum refining took off in the mid-19th century, natural fats and oils provided that illumination. In the Middle East, olive oil was a popular illuminating oil, and at one time, whale oil lit the homes of the well-to-do and wealthy in Europe and America. However, by and large for the common person, candles provided that light. But hunters, natives and the very poor knew of another light that could be as simple as placing melted tallow (a rendered form of fat) in a shallow dish and setting it alight, or using a bit of cloth or porous fiber, string, twine, etc., to serve as a wick. It is a traditional method of lighting that has existed for thousands of years.

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These very simple lights can be made from material readily found in the wilderness, and a tablespoon or so of tallow has been shown to provide useful light for about 45 minutes, making it perfect for working on evening tasks before bed, or even just a few minutes with your Bible or another book. Like all simple tools, the tallow lamp can seem more complex than it really is to our modern mind, so let’s take a look at a common way of making them.

Seashells were one way of holding the tallow, but you also could do it with a piece of bark, a stone with a hollow in it, a small dish, or really anything capable of holding the tallow. For a wick, an inch or two of simple string or twine will suffice, as will a strip of scrap cloth.

Melt the tallow and pour it around your wick (it can be laying sideways if needed), or even press unmelted tallow or fat around the wick. You also can run the wick through a button that will hold it upright in the pool of tallow (a so-called button lamp) and make it a bit more efficient.

What you get with just a minute or two of work is a crude, but effective, lamp. This would not be suitable as your primary lighting source unless you had no other choice, but it becomes invaluable for the stranded hunter or in a total societal collapse. (It’s a great way to use up rancid or heavily used cooking fats, though.)

One of the biggest drawbacks to the tallow lamp, aside from the low levels of light it produces and the fact that it is both smoky and can put out an odor, is that it demands the use of edible fats. You can make lamps along these lines with any kind of natural oil, and as we all know (or should know) fats are very important in a survival situation. Fat consumption provides valuable caloric energy, so this puts tallow lamps strictly in the realm of something to use when you have a sufficient fat supply.

Making tallow lamps isn’t hard. While they are not the greatest source of light, they are more than sufficient for personal use, and are a useful tool when you have no other source of light.

Have you ever made a tallow lamp? Share your tips in the section below:

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The Forgotten Handloading Cartridge You’ll Want When Society Collapses

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The Forgotten Handloading Cartridge You’ll Want When Society Collapses

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Born in the early 1960s as the brainchild of Bill Jordan, Elmer Keith and Skeeter Skelton, there is a uniquely viable magnum cartridge that has stayed under the radar.

I’m talking about the venerable .41 Remington Magnum, which was designed with the idea of making a police service cartridge that was neatly balanced between .357 and .44 magnum, and also could be loaded hotter for hunting use.

What should have been the ultimate police revolver soon became a somewhat obscure hunting revolver, though, due to a poorly chosen introduction of heavy hunting guns paired with hot hunting ammo, while mostly ignoring the police and armed private citizen market. The end-result has been a cartridge that over the last 50 some-odd years has developed a cult-like following of skilled handgunners and knowledgeable handloaders.

While lacking the extreme high end of heavy bullets that the .44 magnum has, the .41 can be loaded anywhere from mild to wild, with heavy loads equal to most upper-end .44 magnum loads. But why should you want an obscure cartridge like the .41? The simple answer is ballistics and ease of shooting. The flat-shooting characteristics of the .41 make it a joy to shoot, and many gun owners find comparable .41 loads to be more pleasant to shoot than .44 loads.

The market has recognized this ongoing fascination with the .41 and, as of this writing, there are several single- and double-action revolvers from Ruger and Smith and Wesson being built, along with a lever-action rifle by Henry.  There certainly is no shortage of guns in which to shoot this round!

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If you are living off-grid or preparing for an uncertain future, you’ve probably got or are considering at least one big bore revolver. You also are hopefully wise enough to secure your ammo supply with sufficient supplies to load your own ammo for a long period of time. Much can be said for choosing a very common cartridge like the .44 magnum, but unless you are expecting a world where you are reduced to scrounging for production ammo (and at that point I’d say you’ve got greater problems than what revolver cartridge you chose), the prudent survivalist is not limited by common market demands, but rather his or her own personal stockpile of bullets, powder and primer.

The Forgotten Handloading Cartridge You’ll Want When Society Collapses

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Revolver brass has a long lifespan if you don’t abuse it, and a few hundred pieces of brass and a couple thousand primers and bullets (and the powder to load with) should keep your revolver shooting for a lifetime during social collapse.

But that doesn’t really tell you why you should consider the .41. Remember: This is a round designed by three of the greatest combat handgunners of the 20th century, and certainly three of the last who understood in great detail the revolver as a hunting and fighting tool. The .41 isn’t just some sort of compromise cartridge; it is built from the ground up to provide exceptional performance. It shoots flatter and straighter than a similar .44, and a comparison of ballistic tables shows an uneasy superiority over the .44 in many similar loadings. Having been used to take everything from elephants and polar bears to deer-sized game, the .41 has proven its worth time and time again.

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Because it does not have the market penetration of the .44, the .41 has become something of a handloader’s cartridge, and also the mark of a sophisticated, or at least well-informed, shooter. As with any cartridge, handloading lets you develop highly effective cartridges for your own personal use, and the .41 is no exception. Revolvers such as those sold by Ruger with their long cylinders all but beg for heavier-than-factory bullets, and if you are handloading, you gain far more authority over the whims of markets and law than if you rely strictly on factory ammo.

In short, the .41 magnum is a hard-hitting, straight-shooting magnum that can kill almost anything walking on the face of the earth, and certainly in North America if you do your part. It is a pleasant-shooting round, a fantastic companion in the forest, and if you are concerned about a really grim future, it is possible obscure ammo stocks will be less of a target for theft than more popular rounds. However, no matter how you cut it, the .41 magnum does everything the .44 does, but with greater accuracy and without the irritating cultural connotations of a “Dirty Harry gun.” Check one out, and you might be hooked, too.

Have you ever shot or owned a .41 magnum? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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The 5 Very Best Cat Breeds For The Homestead

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The 5 Very Best Cat Breeds For The Homestead

Siamese. Image source: Pixabay

It is said that cats were domesticated around the time humans learned to farm and store a surplus of grain. The grain attracted rodents, which attracted cats, and it didn’t take long for humans and cats to figure out that they had a lot to offer each other. Some historians also have said that cats were self-domesticating, in that they basically moved in with humans without requiring much effort.

Regardless, cats are as important to the modern homesteader today as they were thousands of years ago. They provide companionship and keep crop-destroying and disease-carrying rodents, but not all cats are created equal. Let’s take a look at the five best cat breeds for the homestead.

1. Maine coons

The 5 Very Best Cat Breeds For The Homestead

Maine coon. Image source: Pixabay.com

A classic American breed, the Maine coon is a powerful long-haired cat which is optimized for the cold winters of Maine. Known as “the gentle giant,” these cats can reach up to 30 pounds or so in weight (although many are smaller) and they are extremely intelligent and friendly. If you raise one from a kitten, they can be leash-trained, taught to ride on your shoulder, and more.

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Their great advantage on the homestead, aside from being extremely loving and sociable creatures, is that they are rodent-slaughtering machines. My own Maine coon has destroyed much of the rat and mouse population around my house and has moved on to cleaning up the neighbor’s property, as well, much to their delight. This hearty northern breed is pretty much a must-have cat around the homestead or farm, and is perhaps the closest thing to a dog you can get in cuddly cat form.

2. Domestic shorthair

A fancy name for a cat of mixed ancestry with a short coat, these are among the most common housecats you can find. Because of this, you can probably readily adopt an outdoor acclimated domestic shorthair from a shelter (and shelter pets can be some of the most loving and loyal companions you can find). This will give you a natural mouser that is as much at home inside as out. Pick a healthy, stout cat if you want a mouser, or consider an older more mellow (and often overlooked) cat if you want an indoor companion that also can serve as a rodent deterrent.

3. Siamese cats

You’ll want to make sure your Siamese has a companion cat, or that you are home every day to be with it, because this highly sociable (and lethal to rodents) breed will get depressed when alone. Often overlooked as mousers, this ancient breed is more than capable when given the chance, and adds a distinguished touch to any homestead or farm. Consider them if you live in warmer areas where summertime heat could be too uncomfortable for a Maine coon. Siamese are very loyal cats and will often bond with a single person, making another excellent choice for companion and hunter.

4. Japanese bobtail

The 5 Very Best Cat Breeds For The Homestead

Japanese bobtail. Image source: Wikimedia

The traditional cat of Japan, and noted for its prowess in hunting, it is as sociable as it is lethal. Formerly relied upon to protect the silkworm industry from damage by rodents, it is an increasingly popular breed in the United States. Easily identified by its short hair, stumpy little tail, and often popular calico color, this is a breed rich in history that can easily earn a place on your homestead. This is another one that would be great for warmer weather locations due to the short hair, or if you are simply looking for a different sort of cat.

5. Feral cats

While not a breed, but a type, consider that there are many feral cats which are trapped, spayed or neutered and then released again. These are cats that have already learned how to survive outside and may only ask for a warm, dry place to sleep (like your barn or shed) and a regular supplemental diet of cat food to keep healthy and in good shape. Sometimes these are cats that once had a regular home and were abandoned, and will readily adapt to living with people again.  Talk to your local animal shelter or rescue if you think having a couple of relocated feral cats is a good choice.

Picking a Cat

While it is easy to say “breed X or breed Y” is a good mouser, and I am certainly proud of the hunting instincts of my Maine coon, the fact is any cat is a hunter, and the behavior is learned from the mother. While it is a given that any cat that has had to fend for itself is likely to be a skilled hunter, you will want a cat that shows classic stalking and hunting behavior and treats toys like prey animals instead of simply something squeaky and fun.

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Once you get a mouser or two for the homestead, you need to remember a few other things. De-worm them every six months and consider getting some basic medication like painkillers and antibiotics from your vet in case of an injury, especially if you live in a rural or off-grid setting, where proper medical care can be hours or more away. Cats are stoic little creatures and rarely show pain when injured, but still deserve the best care we can give them.

If your cat is going to be an outdoor cat, make sure it has a safe, warm and dry place to sleep, and give them food, because there is no guarantee that rodents alone will supply enough daily calories to keep them healthy. If your cat comes and goes inside and out as it pleases, then you’ve got the best of both worlds right there. And, of course, an indoor-only cat makes a marvelous companion and can take care of any odd rodents that might get inside.

Cats are wonderful creatures and have been living and working alongside human beings for thousands of years. There is no reason not to have a couple around your homestead doing what they do best: killing the rodents that want to steal the fruits of your labor. And all they ask for is a place to sleep, some extra food, and a kind scratch around the ears. Seems like a good trade to me.

What is your favorite cat breed? Share your tips in the section below:

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It’s The Ultimate Survival Cartridge (Because It Won’t Ever Be Banned)

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It's The Ultimate Survival Cartridge (Because It Won't Ever Be Banned)

Image source: Flickr. License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Developed for use in the famous Model 1873 “Trapdoor” Springfield rifle, the 45-70 cartridge has managed to remain popular and in regular use for nearly 150 years. While commonly regarded as a big-game load – it has been used on African safaris to take elephants — it can serve as the ultimate survival round with a little care in loading and understanding, thus making any .45-70 firearm into a one-gun-does-it-all game-getter.

It originally was issued with a 405 grain bullet over a 70 grain black powder charge, but later versions included rounds with a lighter 55 grain powder charge for carbines, and a 500 grain bullet over 70 grains of powder. Any of these loads would be devastating on large game, and the full power loads suitable for even buffalo or large bear. These loads, developed with black powder pressures, are commonly referred to as “Trapdoor” loads, indicating their suitability for guns that cannot handle higher pressures. These include the many original and replica Springfields running around, and certain older Harrington and Richardson single shot rifles, and such.

However, stronger actions have been developed, and many modern .45-70s can take higher pressure loads made with smokeless powders — typically Marlin and Henry lever-action rifles, and .45-70 pistols. These loads are sometimes called standard or intermediate loads, and should never be shot in Trapdoors or old black powder rifles. Moving on up are loads for strong-action rifles, such as the Ruger Number 1, and the NEF Handi Rifle. When shooting these high-pressure shoulder bruisers, it is important you only shoot them in guns warranted by the manufacturer of the ammo or gun as suitable for high-pressure loads.

After the .45-70 was invented, it didn’t take long for the Army to issue so-called “forager rounds.” These are .45-70 cases loaded with a shot-filled wooden bullet and issued for hunting game, and also where we start exploring the world of the .45-70 as an all-around survival cartridge. We are probably familiar with “snake shot” or “rat shot” rounds for the .22 and some common handguns, and the same concept can be scaled up for the .45-70, and will successfully take game out to a few yards. While it’s no long-range game-getter, it is suitable for taking small game at realistic ranges. Since these sorts of shells have to be made by hand, some experimenting with powder and shot charges will be needed to find the right load for your gun. While not a substitute for a traditional small-game gun, these will work, and are the first step into creating a survival loadout for your favorite .45-70.

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It's The Ultimate Survival Cartridge (Because It Won't Ever Be Banned) We also have the “collar button” bullets. Developed to allow troops to practice marksmanship indoors with a low-recoiling round, these 150ish grain bullets are easy to shoot, accurate and more importantly, can be used to hunt all sorts of game, saving both powder and lead. This is another case where the patient handloader will have to get molds, cast their own bullets and work up a load suitable for their rifle and their needs.

Beyond this, there are a huge array of 300-500 grain bullets suitable for the .45-70, and depending on the powder charge, suitable for literally any living creature walking the face of the earth. With a little care and effort, a person with even a trapdoor Springfield can have a survival weapon that will harvest everything from small to big game.

The .45-70 firearms have been made for a century and a half in this country, and the popularity of this round shows no signs of abating. It is not only a classic American cartridge, but it is rich with the history and romance of the Old West and has proven itself in combat and survival situations. The well-equipped homesteader or prepper gains another advantage with the .45-70, in that it was originally a black powder cartridge. If you have a supply of lead and primers, you can make your own powder, and turn your big bore rifle into the ultimate off-the-grid shooting iron.

As an added bonus, nearly every .45-70 made falls into some sort of “traditional” looking form, be it single shots or lever-action rifles. These are commonly seen as “safe” in the eyes of anti-gunners, and are rarely targeted for increased regulation or confiscation. It is possible that in some horrible future, your old buffalo gun might be the only firearm you can openly own or discuss, and combined with the huge array of loads for it makes it an excellent under-the-radar gun.

While not as sexy as an AR-15, or cool as a modern tactical bolt-action rifle, with the right loads, the .45-70 has been feeding and fighting for America for generations. It is an unbroken line of culture and defense handed down from our ancestors to the present day, and if you listen closely, you, too, can hear the wisdom of keeping that big boomer around for another generation.

Do you agree or disagree? Are you a fan of the .45-70? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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The Right Way (And Wrong Way) To Care For Cast Iron

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The Right Way (And Wrong Way) To Care For Cast Iron

Image source: Wikimedia

 

There are several schools of thought to caring for cast iron cookware. Some see it as easy — a traditional skill they’ve long mastered and possibly learned from their parents or grandparents. Then there are those who see it as some sort of arcane ritual, fraught with confusion and the possibility of error. And then there are people like me who actually have started fires in the kitchen trying to season cast iron cookware. More about that little episode later. The reality is that taking care of your cast iron is incredibly easy and requires minimal effort — and just a little bit of oil or grease.

Seasoning Your Cast Iron

Many new cast iron pieces come pre-seasoned — that is to say they already have oil more or less literally baked into the pores of the iron, which forms a durable, non-stick coating in the pan. If you’ve got cookware like that, great. Skip on ahead to the next section, or keep reading anyway, because knowledge is power.  Let us presume you have rusty, dirty or poorly cared-for cast iron. Start by cleaning off the rust. This can be as simple as scrubbing it with some salt mixed with oil, or using bare steel wool, or even gently sandblasting in the most extreme cases. Once you are down to bare iron, now the fun begins.

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Some say to use bacon grease or some other animal fat. Others pull out a bottle of mysterious seasoning oil passed down through the generations and based on an old pioneer recipe that was given to them by a wise old American Indian. But if it’s an edible oil, it will work. Wipe your entire piece of cookware down liberally with oil, and bake it in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. (Some prefer 350 or even lower.) The trick is to heat your skillet enough so the iron absorbs some of the hot oil. Bake for at least half an hour or so, and then let the cookware cool down. Done properly, you now have oil-seasoned cast iron. I like to fry up a few batches of bacon or repeat the seasoning process a couple more times to build up the seasoning. Afterwards, as long as you keep your pans properly oiled, you can maintain the seasoning forever, and you will eventually develop a rich, shiny coating in your cast iron.

The Right Way (And Wrong Way) To Care For Cast Iron

Image source: Pixabay.com

When I was a teenager, I took up collecting vintage cast iron, and I managed to get my hands on a wooden handled waffle iron. This precluded me from baking it, so I filled it up with oil and put it on the stovetop to heat up for a while. This was when I had my first lesson in the flash point of cooking oil, and I had the embarrassment of watching my mother stare at me with a disproving glare as I poured baking soda all over my antique cast iron and made an unholy mess in her kitchen. Learn from my fail and don’t puddle up oil in your cast iron if you are seasoning on the stove top. (Or, at least, watch the temperature of your cookware.)

Taking Care of a Seasoned Pan

Never EVER use soapy water to clean your pan. Ever. The soap cuts the protective oils and strips away the seasoning in the skillet. Instead, use hot water to rinse the pan, and either wipe it down with a clean cloth or sponge, or buff out stubborn food deposits with some salt and oil. Once clean, apply a thin layer of oil and put it away. It’s really that simple. Near-boiling or boiling water sanitizes your cookware, and everything else is just basic cleaning. If you are going to store your cast iron for a period of time, oil it up well and put it in a dry location. Check on it now and then to make sure it is still in good form.

Caring for cast iron isn’t hard. Getting it seasoned is the hardest step, and once you’ve accomplished that, it is just simple maintenance from there. Cast iron cookware can become a multigenerational heirloom, passed down for generations. I have personally seen century-old cast iron in regular use by third and fourth generation family members. Truly, there can be no better way for the well-prepared person to cook.

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The Time-Tested, Forgotten Way Your Ancestors Preserved Food

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The 'Forgotten Pot' Your Ancestors Used To Preserve Food

 

Fermentation and pickling has long been viewed as an effective and healthy way to preserve certain foods. Our ancestors fermented cabbage and other vegetables to make delicious and easy-to-store foods that would see their families through the winter and early spring. These pickled and fermented foods were most commonly prepared in large stoneware crocks – an historic homesteading tool that is often forgotten.

Stoneware is made of a fine quality clay which is semi-vitrified, or fired until it is hard and non-porous, but not to the point where silicates inside the clay body fuse into glass. Industrial ceramics, china and other such items are fully vitrified and are made with clay and other ingredients that form an extra-strong ceramic, while stoneware is not as chemically complex.

Our ancestors knew there was no need to make a high-grade porcelain body for their stoneware crocks, which allowed them to make functional and sometimes highly artistic crockery using less fuel to fire the clay body. The fired stoneware body was then glazed, fired a second time to fix the glaze, and then was ready for use. Over time, stoneware-preserving crocks took on several common forms, but most always with a large, wide mouth and big enough to hold multiple gallons of produce.

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What is exciting is that even today, you can buy the same kind of stoneware that your grandparents or great grandparents used, as there is still a thriving stoneware industry in Ohio. In size, shape, appearance and sometimes even marking, these crocks are unchanged from the days when there was no power grid. These crocks are either open crocks or water-sealed, and the difference is important depending on what you are making.

Sauerkraut and other fermented foods are made in an anaerobic (air-free) environment, and in the days before modern airtight seals, the best way to seal a crock was with a lid that sat in a water-filled trough on the top of the crock, making a simple, and effective seal that kept out the air and allowed for fermentation to take place.

Crock

Image source: Cottage Craft Works

Open crocks are more commonly used for pickling, but also can be used for fermenting if you have the right types of lids and weights. Their primary disadvantage is that you are more likely to get one of several common kinds of harmless mold growing on your food, which had to be removed regularly during the pickling or fermentation process. Whichever method you choose to use, you should take care to select the right kind of crock.

It’s tempting to want to use Grandma’s old stoneware down in the basement, or maybe take advantage of an affordably priced crock from Mexico, but is it safe?

Imported stoneware may not be intended for actual use and may be more decorative than functional. They may have lead glazes, or may not be made to stand up to regular use. Nobody loves lead in their food, and no one wants a crock that fails and destroys their hard work and precious food supplies. As cliché as it sounds, buy American. The stoneware business isn’t what it used to be, and the small price difference for a good American crock keeps your money at home and keeps Americans working – and keeps you safe.

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Now, it may be tempting to use an old crock, but first you need to inspect it. Is it chipped or cracked? A small chip on the top of an open crock shouldn’t be a problem, but a water sealer that won’t hold water is a deal-breaker. Cracks can weaken the body of the crock and serve as a place for bacteria to grow unless it is very carefully cleaned. While the stoneware body isn’t porous, a crack can lead to more problems down the road. Replace a cracked crock unless you badly need to use it. Honestly, unless you have good used crocks on hand, you are better off buying new ones, which leads us to the last little bit you will need before you start preserving food in crocks.

Assuming you are using an open top crock, you will need lids and possibly weights. Lids are made of either stoneware (and fit loosely on the top) or wood (and designed to be used with weights). The weights are traditionally matching stoneware, although most any weight can be used. Weight lids are used in fermenting in place of a water-sealed crock, and are perhaps the most traditionally American way to make sauerkraut and other fermented foods.

For a modest investment of about $100 or so, you can start making your own pickled and fermented foods. It is strongly advised that you do not use a plastic bucket for fermentation, as the chemicals formed during fermentation can interact with the plastic and leach BPA and other toxic chemicals into your food. Fermenting and pickling your own food is a rewarding and traditional way of food preservation, but as with all endeavors, you need to have the right tools for the job at hand. Clean, undamaged and modern stoneware crockery will serve you and your children and grandchildren for years to come, and can be a constant source of healthy, homemade foodstuffs free of the artificial colors, flavors and even corn syrup that infest modern commercial food. Preserving in stoneware is a direct link back to our pioneer ancestors and a path forward to off-grid freedom.

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5 Pieces Of Cast Iron Cookware No Homestead Should Be Without

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5 Pieces Of Cast Iron Cookware No Homestead Should Be Without

Image source: Lodge

The use of cast iron for cooking is a nearly global standard in any culture that has mastered the casting of iron. Durable, long-lasting and easy to make, cast iron has been surpassed in recent years by other lighter materials, but remains very popular with discerning cooks and those who enjoy the simple, traditional tools of our ancestors.

Because it is so tough, a well-cared-for piece of cast iron cookware can become a functional heirloom passed down through generations. However, even without considering the huge amounts of antique and vintage cast iron available to the consumer, there is plenty of current production cast iron cookware, and much of it mimics the patterns that have been popular in America for well over a century. It is generally held that a homesteader should have at least one quality piece of cast iron cookware, but we think there are five pieces every well-equipped homesteader should have.

1. The skillet

Cast iron skillets come in a great number of shapes and sizes. The number it is marked with basically corresponds to its internal diameter (i.e., a No. 8 skillet should be about 8 inches in diameter inside). The No. 8 skillet is about the most popular size out there and should serve as the workhorse of your cast iron collection. Ideally, you should have a glass or iron lid to match it. In a pinch, you can do most of your cooking in a good skillet, making it highly versatile. Other common sizes include the diminutive No. 3, which is ideal for cooking an egg or two, and the larger No. 10, which is great for cooking up a big mess of food. You’ll probably want a couple of different skillets that suit your unique needs.

2. The chicken fryer

A variation on the skillet theme is the so-called “chicken fryer,” which is nothing more than a regular  No. 8 skillet made taller to accommodate the volume of oil needed to deep fry chicken on your stovetop.

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Naturally fitted with a lid, this is a must-have item of cast iron cookware if you enjoy fried chicken or other deep-fried food. As a bonus, it is deep enough to cook soups, chili and stew, making it a very useful tool in the kitchen. However, these aren’t as easy to find as they used to be, so you may be forced to turn to the secondhand market.

3. Dutch ovens

5 Pieces Of Cast Iron Cookware No Homestead Should Be Without

Image source: Flickr

Dutch ovens are nothing more than large cast iron pots with lids, and come in two forms: indoor and outdoor. We are probably all familiar with the outdoor ones fitted with legs and a deep lid that can hold coals, and these certainly are important. Their indoor cousins are just as useful, rounding out a kitchen with a rugged pot good for everything from deep frying to making stew. Commonly a stovetop Dutch oven will have a lid that fits a No. 8 skillet, making them a natural pairing.

4. Griddles

Cast iron griddles come in all shapes and sizes, from long rectangular shaped ones to round ones with handles. The longer ones are commonly used across two burners on a stove, allowing for a cooking area and a warming area, while the round ones with handles are about perfect for cooking pancakes, tortillas and other flatbreads, or anything else you might cook on a griddle.

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I find this pattern to be the one I use most, but your mileage may vary. If you can, you might as well get both, because like guns, nobody ever complained about having too much cast iron cookware!

5. Corn muffin pans

OK, so perhaps this is less a “must -have” and more a “really nice to have.” These charming little pans put out small loaves of cornbread-shaped-like ears of corn, and properly used, have a delightfully crispy exterior. A classic pan our grandparents or great grandparents would have used to put out delicious food that was a step above the usual cornbread, it’s not hard to find these pans even today. I like them because I like cornbread, and because I remember my own grandmother cooking with one. The cornbread they put out goes great with a simple bowl of beans or chili, and even makes a great snack or lunchbox item. Either way, they echo back to a time when food preparation was both simple and infused with great personal pride, and looked quaint on top of everything else.

Conclusion

U.S.-based companies like Lodge and the venerable Wagner crank out literally tons of cast iron cookware of all sorts for discerning consumers, and you are likely to find any sort of cookware you need from them. If you enjoy collecting antiques, there are hundreds and thousands of vintage styles of cookware and dedicated collector organizations. Some pieces are very affordable, and even cheaper than buying brand new, while others can be very expensive.  Everything described in this article can be found without great expense. While nasty Teflon-coated aluminum skillets are cheap, and there is a lot to be said for some of the better grade stainless steel and glass cookware, at the end of the day, nothing is as classic, rugged and pleasant as a good piece of cast iron.

Do you agree? What would be on your list? Share your thoughts in the section below: 

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5 Forgotten ‘Antique Tools’ You Better Store For Uncertain Times

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5 Forgotten ‘Antique Tools’ You Better Store For Uncertain Times

Image source: Wikipedia

The march of progress and the changing demands of an increasingly industrialized world without frontiers has changed the tools we use, but that does not mean all have lost their utility.

For the survivalist, homesteader or simply those interested in the methods of times gone by, there are plenty of useful tools that our ancestors used that the modern world has almost forgotten. They could be used now – or stored away for an uncertain future. Here are five:

1. Flails

5 Forgotten ‘Antique Tools’ You Better Store For Uncertain Times

Flail. Image source: Wikipedia

Flails are ancient grain-threshing tools made obsolete by modern harvesting methods. While thankfully we no longer have to thresh grain by hand, a homesteader growing small amounts of grain may find these useful. Made from two pieces of wood and fastened together with a chain, a flail was swung so that one stick struck stacks of wheat or other grain, knocking the grain from its husk. While labor-intensive, it is an effective process, and when all else fails, it is a great way to thresh your grain harvest, and a skilled hand can thresh about seven bushels of wheat in a day.

2. The hewing axe

In a world where timber and lumber are cut in high speed, there is precious little reason to trim a log square by hand. Unless, of course, there is a long-term blackout, or you live so far away from civilization that you have no other choice.

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Hewing axes are just what they are described as: wide-bladed axes designed for shaping round timbers square. These specialized tools are a must if you want to make your own timbers and you don’t have access to a mill of some sort.

3. Augers

While more commonly seen today in mechanized versions, the original hand auger was an absolute must for boring holes in beams and timber. Regardless of if you are fastening things together with bolts, lag screws or simply using wooden pegs, this handy and somewhat obscure in its manual form hand tool will be the quickest way to bore large and deep holes. Put one of these aside, because without being able to bore holes, your ability to construct buildings gets a lot harder.

4. Butcher knives

It’s not that we don’t use butcher knives anymore, but rather that we don’t use them as our ancestors once did. Throughout history, a common person might have one or two basic utility knifes, and while we now enjoy all manner of special blades, many people once made do with a basic butcher knife. It is easy to get caught up in carrying special hunting knives and forget that once upon a time, our ancestors carried a butcher knife on their belt and made great use of it. So if you are looking for an affordable utility knife, consider a butcher knife.

5. Pick mattock

5 Forgotten ‘Antique Tools’ You Better Store For Uncertain Times

Pick mattock. Image source: Wikipedia

Unless you work regularly with digging tools, these brilliant and simple hand tools are likely to be as forgotten as crank telephones. Combining a wide pick, with an adze, you get two tools in one that are perfect for gardening, working the soil, digging and cutting roots and even shaping timbers. The pick part speaks for itself, but the adze can be sharpened and used to shape wood, cut or any other purpose. This indispensable tool is important for off-grid survival and homesteading.

I am pretty certain that our great-grandparents would happily choose many of the labor-saving tools and methods we have today. However, knowing the simpler tools of the past is important to surviving in an uncertain future — plus there is great personal satisfaction in mastering difficult and nearly forgotten skills. Anyone who is prepared or preparing to live off grid must be ready to dial back their technology base and skill sets to a 19th century or earlier level, and that starts with understanding the tools our great-grandparents would have used.

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If A Solar Storm Strikes The Power Grid, THESE STATES Are Where You Might Be Safe

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If A Solar Storm Take Out The Power Grid, THESE STATES Are Where You Want To Live

Image source: NASA

 

Many homesteaders have heard of the Carrington Event of 1859.

This massive solar storm struck the very early wired telegraph grid, and was so intense that in some places, telegraph operators reported they could send messages even with their batteries disconnected. The event produced auroras that were seen close to the equator and illuminated the night sky so bright that Americans could read their newspapers on their porch.

This historical storm that pummeled the Earth was caused by a coronal mass ejection striking the magnetosphere, and remains to this day one of the largest electromagnetic storms on record.

Of course, in 1859, unless you were a telegraph operator getting zapped by poorly grounded or isolated instruments, or were dependent on a message getting through in a hurry, an electromagnetic storm wasn’t a big deal. In fact, it was more of a cultural novelty, as people who had never seen the Northern Lights in the sky got to enjoy the amazing show caused by the disturbance in the upper atmosphere.

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But 2016 isn’t 1859, and the grid is far more complicated than it was during pre-Civil War days. Today, a solar storm the size of the Carrington Event could destroy transformers and other key parts of the power grid, knock out satellite communications, and take out ground-based communications. Radio and other wireless transmissions like cellphones could be disrupted, and transmitting facilities damaged. According to a 2013 study by insurer Lloyd’s of London, a Carrington-sized storm is “almost inevitable” in the future, simply because one occurs about every 150 years. The study found that:

  • Blackouts would last anywhere from 16 days to 1-2 years, depending on if spare parts for the grid are accessible. If “new transformers need to be ordered, the lead-time is likely to be a minimum of five months,” Lloyd’s found. This is because transformers are custom-made.
  • The highest-risk areas would be “along the Atlantic corridor between Washington D.C. and New York City.” Other high-risk regions include Midwest states, such as Michigan and Wisconsin, and the Gulf Coast.
  • The total economic loss would be as much as $2 trillion.
carrington-event-pic-map

Image source: Lloyd’s of London

Lloyd’s even created a map, showing the states where the storm would have the greatest impact and the least impact (see picture).

“Carrington-level geomagnetic storm simulations can be created using statistical models of past storms or simulations of the interaction between extreme solar wind conditions and the geomagnetic field,” the study found. “Simulated magnetic field time-series are then combined with the local ground conductivity structure to derive the surface electric fields.”

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Without electricity, gas pumps don’t work and trucks cannot make deliveries. In other words, the nation’s supply line comes to a halt. Major banking centers are in some of the most vulnerable regions, and we can expect economic upheaval until things are normalized.

According to Lloyd’s, if you don’t live in an area most likely to be affected by such an event, you might be OK. Other experts, though, caution that a Carrington-type event would impact the entire country and spark a nationwide blackout, due to the interconnected nature of the grid.

If a major solar storm is about to strike and you live in an area that will be badly impacted, the first thing you should do is make sure you have as much cash on hand as possible. Credit cards and the like are mostly useless when the power goes out. Fuel and water may become scarce, as pumps cease to operate and temporary disruptions of supply occur. Without a Faraday cage, our own personal electronics may be damaged or destroyed, and it’s likely you will have no phone service. Skilled amateur radio operators may be able to communicate during a storm, and certainly will have the most functioning mode of communication after the fact, but as in any emergency a lot of their effort will be directed toward helping first responders and aid workers until communication starts returning.

If you are not already prepared to live off the gird with food, water, your own radio gear, maybe a small Faraday cage, and cash or gold and silver on hand, then now is the time to start. Short of a massive overhaul of the most vulnerable parts of the grid, odds are that the next Carrington-level event will cause massive disruptions that will ripple through the entire globe. Not only do you need to start preparing now, but you need to have a plan to withdraw to a safer area in case of civil unrest. Many major Eastern population centers are already high crime areas and often have tough gun control laws that effectively disarm the law-abiding population. The 1-2 year recovery for full grid capacity that is predicted in some areas could turn into a 1-2 year-long crime spree as tensions rise and the will to riot increases in the face of limited services.

We no longer live in the barely wired world of 1859. Life was hard back then, but a disruption of the telegraph system for a few days hardly mattered. Today, the same event will drive us back to the 1800s, and most Americans simply cannot handle that. Can you?

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The Under-The-Radar ‘War Rifle’ That Probably Won’t Ever Be Banned

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The Under-The-Radar 'War Rifle' That Probably Won’t Ever Be Banned

The Krag-Jorgensen rifle was the first smokeless rifle officially used by the US Army. It is a five-shot bolt-action rifle that was first adopted in 1892 and was made obsolete by the famous Model 1903 Springfield.

The Krag saw use in the Spanish-American War, where its slow reload time and lower pressure cartridge was shown to be inferior against the Mauser rifle, and it soldiered on through World War I in the hands of the National Guard and as a rear-line weapon. Some even made it to France in the hands of railway troops, and there is one case of it actually being used in WWI combat. In a nutshell, the Krag served the US in two wars, and was a National Guard staple in the early 20th Century, yet this peculiar rifle has faded out of common memory.

So why bother? For one, Krags are classified as antiques and all are Curio and Relics, making them very low on the gun-grabbing agenda. My own personal Krag was made in 1896, making it an antique that is nearly unregulated by the ATF, yet it shoots a pretty effective .30 caliber round. The Krag also is a marvelous hunting rifle.

The Krag itself is a strange firearm, loading from a side-mounted box magazine that has to be flipped open to drop individual rounds into it. However, since the ammo feeds from the side, the Krag has a buttery-smooth action that isn’t hampered by dragging on rounds pushing up from a box magazine, but we’ll touch on that again in a bit.

The round itself is a very interesting round. Loaded with 40 grains of period smokeless powder and using a .30-caliber bullet, it is commonly sold as .30-40 Krag, although before the advent of the 1903 Springfield, it was sold as .30 Government. More powerful than the ubiquitous .30-30, the .30-40 Krag is still weaker than the 7mm Mauser it faced during the Spanish-American War, leading the Army to develop a high-pressure round that turned out to crack Krag receivers.

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The Under-The-Radar 'War Rifle' That Probably Won’t Ever Be BannedToday, the .30-40 is a rather obsolete round. While commercial lever-action and single-shot rifles were made in that round well into the 20th Century, and some modern guns have been made in it, it remains obscure due to the age of most guns firing it. We are long past the glory days when surplus Krags were dirt-cheap, and what remains are sporterized guns made when they had little value, or valuable unaltered military issued guns. The unusually smooth action of the Krag made them very popular as a hunting rifle, and even today you can find a sporterized Krag for about $200-$300 depending on the quality of the work and if the gun can be readily restored.

Perhaps you have a dusty old Krag that belonged to your father or grandfather, or you found one cheap at a pawnshop with a cut-down stock and barrel, or maybe you just like weird guns. Either way, the Krag has an awful lot going for it, as long as you can feed it ammo. The best thing about it is that it uses a standard 7.62mm bullet. As long as you load in acceptable pressure range, you can take advantage of the incredible array of .30-caliber bullets available to the reloader. You can load the .30-40 to velocities approaching 3000 FPS with a light 100-grain bullet, or develop energy of about 2,200 foot pounds with a 150-grain bullet moving at about 2,500 feet per second. Either way, it isn’t a shabby round, although a modern .308 can do all that and more.

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As mentioned earlier, it also is a great hunting rifle. The round is capable of taking almost any game in North America (.30-40 lever-action rifles were very popular in Alaska before the development of more powerful smokeless hunting rounds, and were popular purchases for those taking part in the Klondike Gold Rush). While the round is decent, it’s the action that is amazing. The first time I cycled my Krag’s action I fell in love. Never have I handled such an amazingly smooth bolt-action. There is almost no drag, and the bold glides in the action like a fine piece of machinery. If you can find a sporterized Krag beyond restoration, or a complete action, it can serve as the basis of a fine hunting rifle.

Ammo itself is expensive — nearly $2 per round retail when you can find it, but more readily is made from shaping .303 British brass, or buying regular .30-40 brass on the rare moments it is sold. I built up my brass supply the painfully expensive way by buying factory ammo, but unless you are going crazy with your loads, or want to shoot thousands of rounds a year through your rifle, you don’t need a lot of brass.

In correct military form, the Krag can be a valuable rifle, especially a correct carbine. In unsalvageable sporter form, it is a strange rifle shooting a strange round that can become a workhorse hunting rifle if you are willing to invest the time and effort to keep it shooting. These rifles served the United States for a long time, and then became classic hunting rifles. They are obscure, but a joy to shoot, and their extreme age makes them legally advantageous in the face of growing attacks on our right to keep and bear arms, while the handy 7.62mm bore gives them a utility far beyond their age. If you have a Krag, it is worth the bother to make it shoot again, and if you like playing with something different, hunt down an old sporter to play with. No matter what, though, this forgotten rifle can once again give excellent service if you let it.

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The 1800s Homemade Battery You May Need During A Collapse

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The 1800s Homemade Battery You May Need During A Collapse

Ever wonder how our 19th-century ancestors maintained a strangely effective telegraph and telephone grid long before the days of highly efficient batteries? The short answer is that they did it through brute force and ingenuity. The long answer is something far more glorious, and even something the modern homesteader could draw inspiration from to create power for recharging small electronics or – in the event of a crisis — running low-power objects.

Now, don’t get me wrong: There is absolutely zero rational reason to recreate these old 19th-century batteries unless you have absolutely no other choice. You are best to stockpile modern-day batteries, solar chargers and survival gadgets, but there may come a time when any sort of cobbled-together battery is the best choice you can make.

The 1800s Homemade Battery You May Need During A Collapse

Image source: W1TP.com

Called a “crow’s foot” battery (or gravity battery) for the shape of its zinc electrodes, these batteries had a star-shaped copper base connected to a wire which created the positive voltage. The whole thing was installed in a large glass jar, full of copper sulfate as an electrolyte. Now so far, a clever prepper or survivalist should be able to scrounge the copper and zinc to make the electrodes, and the glass jar to put them in. But the copper sulfate solution may be harder to come by, although under the name “blue vitriol” it is sometimes sold to provide copper nutrients in animal feed and as an algae killer for pools. You may be able to scavenge that, or if you have access to about 6 volts DC, and sulfuric acid, there are means to make it through electrolysis. Clearly if you expect to survive through a societal collapse, it may be a rather good idea to either have a chemical stockpile before the government puts common chemicals on a watchlist, or make good friends with a chemist who knows how to make things from scratch.

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The 1800s Homemade Battery You May Need During A Collapse

The battery, with the parts separated. Image source: W1TP.com

But let us assume then that you’ve managed to come up with the ingredients for our ancestral battery. Just what can you do with it?

The early telegraph grid used batteries arranged in parallel, using a great many of these roughly 1.5- to 2-volt batteries to maintain the circuit. This array of batteries could be built on to provide sufficient amperage to transmit the telegraph, and later telephone signal over such distances as may be required. They were bulky, leaked electrolyte as they were discharged, and in general were somewhat messy. They were usually placed on a wooden table, with glass battery rest insulators underneath to provide insulation for the battery and also to catch some of the spilled electrolyte. All told, these batteries were crude, yet highly effective.

Coming back to the modern era, or an unpleasant future where you want to charge your small electronics or have some sort of power system for communication, creating these crude 19th century marvels will require dedication. But just what can you do with them?

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The 1800s Homemade Battery You May Need During A Collapse

Image source: MorseTelegraphClub.org

It really depends on how many you can make. Each battery is fairly low voltage and low amperage, and their output depends on the freshness and quality of the electrolyte as well as the quality of the electrodes. You will need a good mulitmeter to check voltage and amperage for each battery you manage to assemble. Personally, I think the primary value of these batteries is less in being able to charge up your pre-collapse iPhone (solar chargers do it much, much better) and more to run some sort of communication array.

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If you get enough batteries going, you can connect them in series to run a low-power radio, or you can run them in parallel for your own telegraph or landline telephone system. They also have value in keeping low-draw LED lights on or as a supplemental source of power for other systems. Because of their large size, these batteries have a long life span, and if you are skilled enough to make them, you can salvage many valuable materials from them at the end of their life cycle to aid in making another battery.

These things are great if you have access to copper, zinc and sulfuric acid, and from there, the output of these batteries is limited only by your resources. I think they work best for providing low-voltage application in parallel, which could be used to maintain small electronics and rechargeable battery packs in a pinch, but I would focus most on using them to make your own communication grid as they were once intended.

The stark reality is that batteries are messy, and nothing can replace a stockpile of solar-powered products — or even a solar-powered generator. Still, it is good to be prepared for all circumstances. We have become culturally dependent on a myriad of electrical devices, and some of those devices can be crucial for communication during a collapse. If you have the ability to add obsolete skills to your skillset, then learning the batteries of the past may become a literal lifesaver.

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The Five 12-Gauge Loads Every Homesteader Should Own

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The Five 12-Gauge Loads Every Homesteader Should Own

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

The 12-gauge shotgun is one of the most common, most versatile firearms a person can own. The right shotgun can be used for everything from survival hunting to protecting the garden from critters to home defense.

The wide variety of ammo, ranging from powerful slugs to lightweight small game loads, is what makes this weapon so useful, and it should be in the arsenal of any homesteader or survivalist. But having the gun is only half the battle; you need to have the right ammo, and more importantly, the right assortment of ammo. With these five best loads, you will be ready for anything that happens on the homestead.

1. Slugs

Perhaps one of the most fearsome loads you can shoot from a shotgun, heavy slugs turn your shotgun into an oversized smoothbore musket. If you have a rifled slug barrel, you gain increased accuracy and a slight increase in range. Even with a regular smooth barrel, you can reliably take shots out to 75 yards or so. There are a great many slugs, ranging from the traditional rifled slug — contrary to popular opinion, the rifling doesn’t aid in accuracy, but merely helps size the slug through various choke sizes — to fancy copper and polymer creations. (Don’t shoot slugs through very tight chokes, because it decreases accuracy and can in rare instances blow up your gun.) One-ounce rifled slugs will do nearly all you want to do. The shotgun is a simple weapon; keep your ammo simple as well.

2. 00 buck

Packing roughly nine .33 caliber pellets into a shell (more with long magnum loads), this is the workhorse of self-defense and hunting ammo. Suitable as the name implies for deer hunting, and absolutely brutal in combat and self-defense, 2 ¾-inch 00 buck is a standard military and police load, as well as a go-to round for home defense.

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While not some magical burst of all-destroying lead, the 00 buck load will drop almost any game animal in the Lower 48 and pretty much any two-legged predator in its tracks. The smart homesteader will keep this close at hand for big game hunting and personal protection.

3. #4 buckshot

Used in the Vietnam War by the Navy Seals and others for its impressive ability to cut through heavy foliage and still drop a target, this is somewhat obscure but highly effective round. Delivering about 27 .24 caliber pellets, this cloud of high velocity lead is proven for home defense or hunting. This is my go-to choice for home defense, because I live in a close urban area, and I’d rather have smaller pellets than larger ones punching through my walls in case of a miss or near miss. Either way, my way of thinking is if it was good enough for the jungles of Vietnam, it’s good enough for the jungles of urban America. Shoot a couple of boxes and see if you aren’t convinced, as well.

4. Birdshot

There are several sizes, and you should probably have some of each. Use the smaller stuff on smaller game and the larger stuff when you need some reach-out-and-touch something. Ranging from the smaller #6 to the somewhat larger #8, birdshot is cheap, reliable and effective. As a bonus, it’s great for casual target shooting, teaching people how to shoot, and practicing with clay pigeons.

5. Non-toxic shot

In most places it is illegal to hunt migratory waterfowl with lead shot, and non-toxic shot is the next-best thing. Responsible hunters know that using non-toxic shot when hunting aids conservation and protects the wildlife we all enjoy. While it can be a bit more expensive than traditional lead shot, non-toxic shot is a must-have round if you hunt duck or geese, or simply want to stop filling your favorite hunting areas with toxic to wildlife lead. We are stewards of nature and owe it to ourselves and our children to hunt responsibly and ethically. Put some non-toxic shot aside, even if you aren’t required to use it. The land you keep clean may be your own.

Final Thoughts

My home-defense shotgun is loaded with #4 buckshot, and I’ve got ammo cans stuffed full of all sorts of 12-gauge ammo. It’s a mass-produced commodity and I’m not shy about grabbing boxes and cases when they turn up cheap. It is easy to put together the right collection of 12-gauge shells for your needs, and at a fairly low cost. Even heavy slugs and 00 buckshot can be had for less than a dollar a round, and if you handload, even cheaper. Having a 12 gauge is like owning five or six different guns, and all you have to do is change the load you are shooting. Much ink has been spilled over the notion of the “one universal gun” that can do everything, and I’d have to say based off of just these five simple types of shells, the 12-gauge shotgun isn’t too far from that mark.

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Vintage Canning Techniques Your Ancestors Used (But Are They Safe?)

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Vintage Canning Techniques Your Ancestors Used (But Are They Safe?)

Canning food in the modern world is easy. We have well-made jars, proven methods developed over a century and a half of trial and error, and the ability to consistently put up safe, nourishing and delicious food.

Even a century ago, canning was a well-established science, regardless of if you used Mason jars with zinc lids and rubber lids, or jars with glass lids and wire bails that locked down tight over a rubber ring. The end result was the same, even if the methods were quaint and old-fashioned today. But prior to our WWII-era metal bands and disposable lids, and prior to the old Lightning jars with wire bails or their competitors, and prior to the earliest Mason jars, there were other methods, and that’s what we are looking at today.

In 1858, John Landis Mason patented the basic screwtop canning jar. It used a zinc lid and a rubber band to provide an airtight seal, and with only minor modifications this method would remain unchanged until WWII. Mason revolutionized home canning with his simple invention, as it brought the reliability of consistently made canning jars, lids and rings into the public sphere for the first time. Prior to that, our ancestors had all manner of ways to put food up in glass and crockery jars.

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In 1810, Nicolas Appert, a French inventor, worked out the idea of hermetically sealing food in jars after cooking it. His methods involved placing food in jars, corking it, sealing the cork with wax, wrapping the jar in cloth and then boiling it. While science tells us now that the boiling of the jar essentially pasteurized it, Appert was unaware of the scientific reasons that ensured his method worked, only that it in fact worked.  He was the first to put up food in glass jars, and he thought it was the exclusion of air that preserved the food (he was half right; the other half was in the boiling).

But prior to his efforts, people were still storing food in jars and crocks. The most common methods involved cooking food with a high sugar content or pickling them. In either case, the final product was placed in glass or crockery jars, and sealed in some form or another with glass, crockery, wooden or metal lids, wax, cloth or paper. Here we see the origins of canned food, but grossly lacking in the kind of processing that allows for safe, long-term storage. Such foods relied on their ingredients, being closed off from the air and stored in a cool dark place, and some of them are considered unsafe today.

Vintage Canning Techniques Your Ancestors Used (But Are They Safe?)The mid- to late-19th century was a boomtime for canning jars and canning technology. Before the Mason jar, we would see “wax sealers,” which used a glass lid and ring of hot wax to provide an airtight seal. This technology is echoed by modern homesteaders who may still use wax to seal jars of jams and jellies. It should be cautioned that wax-sealing of any sort, with or without a lid, was not always successful when it was in vogue, and should not be practiced now; it’s impossible to tell if you’ve gotten a good seal, and it’s easy to break the seal. I remember eating jams put up in wax-sealed jars by my grandmother, but I’d be hard-pressed to do it today.

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Another common sort of jar was the “Lighting” or wire bail jar. Countless variations on this theme exist, ranging from the common sort we may know today to complex systems involving levers or even thumbscrews. All work on the same idea, though, of securely latching a glass lid over a rubber ring that has been sealed through boiling.

The harsh reality is until the 19th century, canning really didn’t exist, and food storage in jars, bottles and crocks was as much hit and miss, as accepting the fact you were stuck with heavily brined or sugared food. Modern concepts of sanitation did not exist, and stored foods were at a greater risk of loss through spoilage.

The current Mason jar, with its on-time use metal lid and reusable metal rings, represents the ultimate in home glass jar canning, and should be embraced with great vigor, due to the low cost, ease of use and proven sanitary track record. If you have older shoulder-seal jars like the old blue Ball jars, or wire bail seal jars, those are best left for decoration or dry storage, and given a gentle and loving retirement.

If you are looking to understand and practice home canning as done by our ancestors, then applying modern sanitary methods and storage, combined with well-made modern storage containers can be rewarding, but outside of an emergency, such methods should really only be practiced for entertainment. An exception could be argued in favor of certain pickling techniques, but those exceed the scope of this article.

Hundreds of companies made thousands of variations of canning jars through WWII, and many still survive today. They are a fascinating glimpse into a time in our nation’s history when self-reliance and sufficiency was an important part of many American’s lifestyles, and the ability to “put up” food for the winter could mean the difference between life and death.

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5 Caliber You Better Stockpile In Case Hillary Wins (No. 3 Might Surprise You!)

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5 Types Of Ammo You Gotta Stockpile Before November (No. 3 May Surprise You!)

9mm. Image source: slickguns.com

It wasn’t all that long ago that you couldn’t find the ammo you needed anywhere at any price. Store shelves were bare and reliable online distributors were out of stock. And unscrupulous vendors took advantage of the shortage to raise prices to astronomical highs.

Well, folks, those times might be coming again if the election doesn’t go the way gun owners are hoping it will go, and while we are enjoying relatively easy-to-acquire ammo again, it’s time to stockpile.

Here, then, are five rounds to stockpile before November.

1. 9mm

This one is a no-brainer. It is probably the single most common handgun caliber, and if you don’t have 9mm, one of your buddies probably does. Lay in a good supply of lightweight ball ammo so you can continue to enjoy target practice during the next shortage, as well as a goodly supply of combat-suitable rounds. I’d make sure to have at least a thousand rounds of assorted hollow point and +p ammo. You can get some great deals right now on steel-cased plinking ammo, and if your gun likes it, it’s certainly worth putting some away if cost is an issue. Otherwise, stick with brass case, because even if you don’t reload, that brass will be valuable trading material, or should inspire you to start loading your own.

2. .223/ 5.56

Yes, the rounds aren’t identical. And yes, there are millions of rifles and handguns that can safely shoot either round, so for the purpose of this article, we are lumping them together. The .223 or 5.56mm round is found everywhere. Aside from the ubiquitous AR-15, there are bolt-action rifles, handguns of all sorts, and even AK-47s in this caliber.

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As an added bonus, it’s also the standard round of the US military and many law enforcement agencies. A critical round to stockpile, buy cheap steel case if it works for you, but know as always, brass case will have more value in an ammo crisis.

3. .22 magnum

I had thought about recommending .22lr, but not only is that stuff still hard to come by in some places, but a brick or two can feed your family for a very long time. I figure any smart survivalist already has some on hand, and if you don’t you’ll get some anyway. But the .22 magnum has a special place on this list. Not only does Kel-Tec build an incredible handgun and carbine in this surprisingly powerful round, but there are a plethora of inexpensive bolt-action rifles and even revolvers that will shoot .22 mag. This round will take small game (probably even deer-sized in a pinch if you do your part) and is a surprisingly good self-defense round if nothing else is available. Use it for predator control, varmint hunting, or when you just need a little more power out of a .22. Thanks to Kel-Tec, there is a demand for this round that exceeds its traditional hunting role, and pushes it into a limited combat or self-defense position. Even if you don’t have a .22 mag yourself, put some of it aside if you can and watch it be a wildly popular trader among those who need it.

4. .308/7.62 NATO

5 Types Of Ammo You Gotta Stockpile Before November (No. 3 May Surprise You!)

.308. Image source: MidwayUSA.com

Same deal here as with the .223/5.56. Know your gun, and know that no matter what, these nearly identical rounds WILL be in great demand. The .308 is not only a hard-hitting, long-range round, but it figures in many people’s disaster plans. A must-have for those who prefer hard-hitting defensive rifles, long-range hunting or sniping rifles, or those who simply appreciate the power of a true battle rifle, this round is expensive in the best of times, and in the worst of times is sure to dry up fast. Found in everything from single-shot rifles to top-of-the-line combat arms, this is one of the most popular cartridges in the world. Unless you score a deal on what little military surplus 7.62 that turns up now and then, simply lay in .308. It’s more common, and you don’t have to worry about the real dangers of shooting the wrong round in the wrong chamber. Steel case is out there, but a few more cents per round gets you invaluable reloadable brass. Remember: The apocalypse might be fought with 5.56, but 7.62 will be sounding the trumpet.

5. 7.62×39

From Russia, with love. Widely used in SKS, AKs and even AR-15s, and a few bolt-action rifles, this is perhaps one of the best general purpose, medium-powered rounds. The 7.62×39 is mostly imported, making it really easy to cut off at the whim of any anti-gun president. There are about umpteen million rifles and more than a few AK-style handguns running around in this caliber, and one of the best things about it is that it’s cheap. Probably the only time you won’t care about buying brass or steel case, just grab an extra case of whatever is cheapest and call it good. When bad times come, you’ll be amazed at how many SKSs and AKs come out of the woodwork, forgotten sometimes for decades. If you don’t already use this round, it will be invaluable for trading.

Conclusion

Is this list comprehensive? Of course not. Will you agree with it? Probably not all of them. There are other calibers I could have ran with, but odds are you have at least one on this list, or know somebody who does. Feed YOUR guns first, but be sure to lay in a good supply of popular rounds, especially those in common use by military and police.  When the grid goes down, and anti gun governments go after our ammo supply as a default gun ban, you’ll be glad you stocked up.

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Why You Should (And Shouldn’t) Get An Electric Fence

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Why You Should (And Shouldn’t) Get An Electric Fence

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Electric fencing has been around in its modern form since the 1930s. Commonly used for livestock and wildlife control, electric fences can be found in nearly all parts of the world, doing nearly the same sort of tasks: keeping livestock where they belong and keeping animals out of places they don’t belong.

Are you considering an electric fence? Consider the pros and cons:

Pros of Electric Fences

Electric fences are cheap compared to other fences. They can be made with inexpensive wire, a low-cost fencer (the unit that sends pulsed voltage through the wire), steel rods and affordable plastic insulators. A fence can be put up in a few hours or less, and it will suffice for basic livestock and animal control.

They are easy to build or add to an existing structure. It doesn’t take an electrician to install a fence, and if you can set fence posts, you can electrify a field or garden. No special tools are required, and you don’t have to worry about how perfectly straight the fence is, or even the tension on the wire. If you already have a fence installed, then simply fasten some insulators to the existing structure and run your wire, and you are good to go!

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Electric fences are durable. Because they are designed for use in most any weather and for farm and ranch work, most components are built for long, hard use. As long as you have a fencer built for the type of work you want, it’s pretty hard to build a bad electric fence. In fact, it’s rather easy to do just the opposite, and it takes a serious dedication to failure to mess it up. Also, you can move an electric fence far easier than you can a traditional fence.

Why You Should (And Shouldn’t) Get An Electric Fence

Image source: Pixabay.com

They also are incredibly cheap to operate. Number crunching on even the most powerful electric fences show that they use just a few cents of electricity a day, often costing under a dollar a month to operate, depending on the wattage used. At the most, you are out around the cost of a fancy cup of coffee at Starbucks for a month’s continuous operation.

Cons of Electric Fences

They require a working power source. If you have access to the grid, that’s great, and your fence is ready to go. If you make your own power, then you will need to integrate them to solar power or another source. The power consumption is still low, but it is a constant low-level drain you must keep in mind.

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An electric fence must be maintained. Broken or damaged insulators can leak current, poorly grounded fencers can fail to perform, weeds and vegetation on wires can drain the voltage and negate the entire purpose of the fence, and a scared animal can run right through the fragile wire if they are spooked enough.

Getting Started

Your local farm and supply store can help you choose a fencer unit that is best for your needs and the size of your fence. Some units feature built-in solar panels to further reduce power use in the daytime, which may be an attractive option for those living off the grid. Modern plastic insulators are sufficient for years of use, but can break down under sunlight after a few years. Porcelain insulators are an old and somewhat expensive standby, but when chipped can soak up moisture. If you use a modern high visibility polymer/wire rope or tape, you face the same degradation issues after a few years in some environments, while aluminum wire can last nearly forever.

An electric fence is the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to secure your garden or keep relatively tame animals within a given area. Combined with traditional fencing, it is a surefire way to have a highly effective fencing system. It is portable, uses nominal amounts of power, can be quickly installed with unskilled labor, and lasts years.

A tall multi-wire fence can even deter the most determined deer or wildlife, and can make a big difference in protecting the food you grow. In the end, the pros far outweigh the cons, and unless you are determined to have a completely electricity-free lifestyle, then there is no reason not to try an electric fence into your homestead and survival plans.

Are You Prepared For A Downed Grid? Read More Here.

5 Magazines You Better Stockpile In Case Hillary Wins

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5 Magazines You Better Stockpile In Case Hillary Wins

Image source: GunsAmerica.com

We all remember $30 PMAGS, and other painfully expensive standard capacity magazines during the gun-buying panics of the Obama administration. Some of us even may remember the black days of the Clinton “assault-weapons” ban, and the high cost of normal magazines then.

Sadly, we are facing another buying panic this November if the wrong candidate wins, and in light of the recent terror attack in Florida, a possible renewed push to ban modern sporting rifles and standard capacity magazines. However, right now, Americans in most states can enjoy unrestricted limits on magazines, and smart ones will lay in spares and extras while they still can.

Here’s a list of magazines you should consider stockpiling:

1. AR-15 mags

Dirt-cheap AR mags still abound, yet we are on the ragged edge of seeing supply vanish and prices boom. I remember after Sandy Hook seeing people pay $15-20 for standard USGI mags, and $30 and more for Pmags. As of this writing, retail prices are still normal, and if you can lay in a few dozen AR mags of any sort, you’ll be doing yourself a great service.

2. AK mags

While the grand days of inexpensive Combloc surplus AK mags are likely long gone, new production mags, both domestic and imported, can be had fairly cheap, along with drums. Shop around and grab any sub-$10 AK mag you can find.

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Most of the US supply is imported, and easily cut off by an unconstitutional executive order; domestic manufacturers will take time to ramp up production to fill that gap. Make sure to get some AK-74 mags, and a few flavors of .223 mags for the recent Zastava imports.

3. Glock mags

5 Magazines You Better Stockpile In Case Hillary Wins Pick a model. Any model. Just as long as it’s over 10 rounds and fits in a Glock. Probably the single most popular handgun brand in the US, Glocks are everywhere. They are inexpensive, so there is no reason not to make sure you have plenty of spares for your guns. As an added bonus, there are carbines and AR-style rifles built to take Glock mags, which increase their utility.

4. 10/22 mags

The Ruger 10/22 is a fantastic rifle, and during the Clinton ban, basic 25 round 10/22 mags were selling for upwards of $30-$50 each. We are enjoying a golden age for 10/22 hi-cap mags, both factory and aftermarket. My choice would be Ruger branded, but barring that, the classic “steel lips” mags are just as suitable (and a bit cheaper). Grab a handful; not only are they a great way to store .22 ammo (if you can get some!) but also make fantastic trade fodder in a pinch.

5. Mags for your own guns

There are hundreds of types of mags that hold more than 10 rounds, and it’s impossible to do more than pick a handful to stockpile. You probably own at least one gun on this list, and likely own more than one that isn’t. Take care of your guns first, and lay in at least three spares if they are expensive — more if they are inexpensive. While mags can last a long time, they can be lost, confiscated or damaged. If we ever face another mag ban in this country, what you have on hand could be the last high capacity magazines you or your children and grandchildren ever see, outside of what the police and military will be using.

Seriously, Stock Up

The clock is ticking, folks. We are moving closer and closer to the horrifying picture of Hillary Clinton winning the White House, and recent terrorist actions are building support for modern-day gun bans. It is crucial to ensure a lifetime supply of magazines for your guns, and to get a few for trade material.

But remember, even as you stockpile, do so in reason. If you buy 300 AR mags and only one rifle, that’s a lot of mags your fellow Americans may not be able to buy. There is nothing wrong with having a reasonable supply for yourself and a few spares, but once you cross the line into hoarding, you are harming others. Be rational, be cautious and above all else, be prepared.

What advice would you add? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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4 Foolish Mistakes People Make When Picking A ‘Bug-Out’ Location (LOTS Of People Do No. 2)

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4 Foolish Mistakes People Make When Picking A 'Bug-Out' Location

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When choosing a location to “bug out” to, there are three very common mistakes people make, each of which could seriously compromise your survival plan, or even worse.

Don’t make these mistakes, and you’ll stand a much better chance of pulling through.

Mistake 1: Head for the hills!

Sure, we’ve all said it, either seriously or in jest. Things go south, we’ll fall back to the mountains and regroup. Especially for those in the western US, the mountains are this near-mythical stronghold full of resources and assets ripe for the picking, and somehow nearly perfectly secured against government intrusion. The reality is much more brutal. Unless you are already intimately familiar with where you want to go, are prepared to not be able to live off the land, and have supplies in place or can bring the bulk of your gear with you, this is a terrible choice.

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Not only will every other like-minded person head that way, but in a disaster, roads already will be clogged, and you may not even be able to make it to your location. This one should be saved for the very well-prepared or for those who already live close to the hills and know exactly where they are going and how to survive in the wild for the long term.

Mistake 2: Hunker in the bunker

Close behind heading for the hills, many survivalists and preppers imagine a fortified position they can withdraw to, and either hide while the world falls apart, or even hold off determined gangs of marauders. Raise your hands: How many here have a real fort, or super-secret hidden bunker? Didn’t think so. You might hold off the odd band of criminals, but otherwise your bunker might become your own personal Alamo. Think wisely before committing yourself to the safety of your homemade fortification. You are better off having a few rural acres with a water source, cabin and supplies.

Mistake 3: The stay-at-home survivalist

Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

OK, this one isn’t always a mistake, but a lot of the time it can be. For me, that’s my usual plan. Where I live, the biggest worry is an earthquake. If I’m still alive when things go bad, then I’m good. I keep an earthquake kit stored away from the house, and I can eat and live decent, and probably can help my neighbors some. However, if serious civil unrest happens, I’m screwed, as I live smack in the middle of an urban area.

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At that point, staying at home could be the worst mistake I ever made. Take an honest assessment of the risks you face where you live. In some cases, you can almost always stay put. In other cases, you’ll have to be ready to leave. From wildfires, to neighborhood-destroying riots, the risks to the stay-at-home prepper are legion. If you can’t leave, then at least be extra well-prepared. Store gear outside the home, possibly even lightly buried if building loss is a concern. Have a place you can hide in if at all possible. Either way, have a fallback plan, even if it’s just hooking up with your buddy two miles away.

Mistake 4: The isolated homesteader

For some of us, this one may be a dream come true. A simple home, off-the-grid power and communication, a big garden that feeds us and gives a surplus to can, maybe some livestock, good hunting, trees for fuel, and a stream to fish in. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? I know it does to me. At least until something happens that would push me out. One benefit of cities and populated areas is that there are more people and more resources to combat an emergency. An earthquake, fire or flood could destroy all your hard work, and leave you with nothing. If you are one of the fortunate rural homesteaders, you must take extra precautions, because you may be one of the last to get any help in a disaster, and if civil society breaks down along with a grid collapse, you may be in trouble.

Do you agree or disagree? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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3 Gun Parts You Better Stockpile Before November

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3 Gun Parts You Better Stockpile Before November

Image source: SurplusAmmo.com

 

We all remember the buying panic that left shelves empty after Sandy Hook and President Obama’s subsequent call for increased gun control. In fact, ever since Obama took office, we’ve seen so many of these panics that we’ve become somewhat resigned to scarcity every couple of years.

This experience has gun owners nervously looking at the 2016 presidential election and the possibility of what will happen if Hillary Clinton wins in November.

If you don’t have an AR-15, then now is the best time to buy or build one. And if you already have one or two, but like to keep spares — or want to be sure you can build in the future – then there are three key parts you should purchase now.

Lower receivers can literally be printed on 3-D printers, and trigger groups are cheap and easy to make. In fact, there are several parts that a smart shopper can be assured of supply. Yet there are three specific parts that are expensive, complex and difficult to make at home — and you need to get these now while you can.

Item No. 1: Bolt Carrier Groups

Arguably the most complex assembly in the entire gun, it is also the set of parts that sees the most stress and strain. You can print a lower out of plastic and have it work surprisingly well, but few people are equipped to machine a BCG, and then shot peen the surface to work harden it, perform a magnetic particle inspection for flaws, and then give it a final surface treatment.

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Right now, a basic mil spec BCG can be had for less than $100. (They were going for more than $250 after Sandy Hook.) Buy ‘em cheap and stack ‘em deep.

Item No. 2: Upper Receivers

A skilled home machinist could make these in a garage, but unlike lowers which can be made with jigs and kits, upper receivers are not so heavily supported in the home builder market. And for good reason; they are not a regulated part and require no paperwork to purchase, but they are also very hard to import. Shop around; deals can be had on uppers, especially if you aren’t picky about forward assists and dust covers. Two or three upper receivers put aside now is two or three ARs you can put together in the future.

Item No. 3: Barrels

Image source: WhiteOakArmament.com

Image source: WhiteOakArmament.com

Another item few can really make at home. These are labor- and time-intensive parts to build, and are often the most expensive single part of any AR build. Because of the time to make them, these are parts that dry up fast — with long waiting lists. Quality barrels can be had at reasonable prices. I’d grab a few M4 profile barrels in 1:7 or 1:9 twist, ideally with a 5.56 or .223 Wylde chamber while you still can. If you are feeling up to it, .300 Blackout, 7.62×39 and perhaps a long heavy barrel is in order. Either way, a few barrels on hand now is security against an increasingly dark future. This is one place where a bit of research and decision making comes in handy now; 5.56 barrels come in several twist rates, and just mentioning them sets off an incredible storm of debate. If you plan to shoot regular ball ammo, then 1:7 or 1:9 for general use is just fine. But if you plan for specialized ammo, or have strong and firm opinions on the matter, then buy the twist rate most suitable for your beliefs or ammo choice. That way you won’t spend the next panic — or even worse, an outright ban — hating yourself for having the “wrong” barrel.

Plan for the Worst

One can argue that there are plenty of AR parts worth stockpiling, or better still, the entire gun. Certainly a powerful argument could be made for adding complete or 80 percent lowers to this list, and I certainly would, but even during panics, 80 percent units can generally be had. Barrels, bolt carrier groups and upper receivers are three of the most expensive and complex parts of an AR, and manufacturers are unlikely to stock excessive inventory beyond projected needs.

America is facing dark and uncertain times, where our civil liberties and very way of life hangs in the balance. We still enjoy relative security and access to many items that gun grabbers want to take away from us. Smart purchases now could mean the difference between having a functional rifle and being at the mercy of an oppressive administration.

Do you agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts in the section below: 

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The 1 Communication System That Will Always Work — Even If Society Collapses

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The 1 Communication Tool That Always Works -- Even When The Power Grid Is Down

We are blessed in our modern-day society with a robust and diverse communications grid: landline phones, cell phones, cable Internet, even satellite communication.

But the stark reality is that all of those systems can, do and have gone down in an emergency. For better or worse, we are a communication-dependent culture, and many of us wonder the same thing: How will we stay in touch during an emergency or even when the grid goes down?

Many Americans have an answer, and it is amateur radio. Ham radio — so-called because of the “ham-fisted” nature of early amateur wireless telegraph operators — is literally designed to provide robust communication in case of disaster or emergency. In fact, that ability is one of the key planks of the entire program as defined and designed by the FCC.

Typically when primary communication goes down, volunteer ham radio operators provide their time and gear to local emergency response units, the Red Cross or simply with their neighbors, and get messages out when there is no other real-time communication method.

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If you or your group want to get in on this, the first thing you need to do is get licensed. The exams are simple, the Morse code requirement was dropped years ago, and most importantly, once licensed you’ll be able to work with local clubs and groups that are dedicated to maintaining a communication backbone during an emergency. The most basic license, called “Technician Class,” is sufficient to get you on the air with the most common type of short range radios on the 2-meter band. Upgrade to General or Extra and you can work frequencies across the shortwave spectrum as well, allowing true global communication.

The 1 Communication Tool That Always Works -- Even When The Power Grid Is Down

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For many well-equipped survivalists, a simple two-meter handheld is all they’ll ever need. Sufficient for local work, for communicating with a small group, or accessing local repeaters, radios ranging from the ubiquitous and affordable BaoFengs to the more expensive and premium quality Yaesu handhelds will more than do the job. These types of radios are perfect for small group exercises, keeping in touch with nearby family, or getting onto a local net which may use repeaters or simple relay methods to pass traffic out of your local area. Some repeaters are connected to the Internet, giving you true global reach, or are trunked with other frequencies, like 10 meters, which can give you a regional or global reach. Either way, a good handheld is a must addition to your survival gear.

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Hot on the heels of handhelds, it’s hard to beat a good base station. Whether installed in your vehicle or in your home, even a basic two-meter base station will give you greater range than a handheld. Remember, too, that most two-meter radios will be able to listen to NOAA weather reports, and even many common law enforcement and fire channels, making them even more invaluable in a survival situation.

If you spend some more money and invest in a high frequency radio, you’ll be able to use globe spanning frequencies like 10 or 20 meters, and, when coupled with the right antenna, be able to reach out for hundreds and thousands of miles.

Most critically, though, you need a way to power all of these things. Small handhelds run off of easily rechargeable battery packs that you can recharge with a generator, solar unit, or in your vehicle. Some also have battery packs that use common AA batteries, making them even more versatile.  Acquaint yourself with local and (if applicable) regional networks. These are scheduled events usually open to any operator who cares to call in and join. Most of these also will activate during an emergency and may work with civil authorities or aid in relaying messages out of an affected area. Ham radios are also very useful for staying in touch with your family, friends or survival group in case of an emergency.

Of course, it is important to acquaint yourself with your gear and local groups BEFORE relying on them for an emergency. Some people think they’ll just get a radio and stick it in a drawer until they “have” to use it. This is simply a good way to get ignored or fumble around on the air at best, and to get badly hurt at worse. A ham radio isn’t some magical communication tool, but it is the communication tool that will remain functioning even in the worst of disasters due to its decentralized nature.

Right now, if you have the luxury of reading this in safety, you have the luxury to invest in some gear and get licensed. It could actually save your life someday.

Learn How To ‘Live Off The Land’ With Just Your Gun. Read More Here.