Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Consequences of the DREAM Act

Check out FERFAL's blog on the madness in Argentina.

This is the guy that caused me to start PFD. I didn't know he had a blog, but I do now.

No Substitutes

“Aim small; miss small” – The Patriot

“I can shoot straight if I don’t have to shoot too far.” – Scarlett O’Hara

Those who write firearms articles for various publications are, for the most part, whores, and they have been throughout most of my life. I, on the other hand, retain the virtue of the homely spinster who can’t give it away, let alone sell it. If firearms manufacturers sent me every new model they built in hopes that I would say nice things about them, I would probably sell out on the first date. As it is, however, I remain true to the ugly truth. There is no substitute for accuracy.

Velocity is not a substitute for accuracy: Does it matter how fast you miss?

Caliber is not a substitute for accuracy: Does it matter how big the hole is in thin air?

Magazine capacity and firepower are not substitutes for accuracy: Does it matter how many times you can miss in rapid succession?

Cuteness, compactness, convenience, tradition, shininess, status, newness or any other attribute that a gunwriter may extol cannot replace accuracy.

I am perhaps a bit of a velocity freak, but that’s because velocity does have an effect on accuracy. Velocity flattens out the ballistic curve and makes it much easier to hit a target when the distance has to be guessed. If a deer is 200 yards away and a shooter armed with a .30-30 misjudges it, over- or under-estimating the range by 25%, he stands a much better chance of missing than does the shooter of a .270 who does exactly the same thing. The .270 shooter has a much wider range through which he does not have to compensate for a bullet’s drop than does the shooter of the .30-30, and that is due, primarily, to velocity.

Any factor that adds to a given firearm’s accuracy potential is a positive. Any factor that deters from accuracy is a negative. Take recoil – please. The elephant hunter W.D.M. Bell tried using the big elephant guns for hunting, but he was quite recoil-averse, unusually sensitive to the kick of the express rifles. Instead he killed elephants with the woefully inadequate 7x57mm Mauser. Woefully inadequate, that is, for most hunters. Bell killed hundreds of the gigantic creatures with it, for, despite the small, light bullet, the 7x57 has good sectional density and penetration, and Bell was able to make pinpoint accurate shots with the lighter-recoiling round.

Sights and sighting devices, such as lasers, can enhance shot placement. These should be used where they are applicable. It is fine to practice with standard open sights, or to limit oneself to basic sights as a challenge when hunting for sport or target shooting. Simpler sights are also less likely to be jarred or knocked out of adjustment and are sometimes preferred on arms that are subjected to rough conditions. However, most better-quality optical sights, if solidly and properly installed, are quite rugged and not easily put out of alignment. I have scopes or red dot optical sights for all my rifles, although I don’t always use them. Red dots and holographic sights are also a good choice for handguns. Laser sights can be very helpful on a handgun used strictly for self-defense, but they are not acceptable for sporting purposes.

I recall reading a story about police officers who tried to kill a large domestic hog that had gotten out on the highway and caused an accident or was a threat to do so. The officers were using their reasonably potent service weapons but were unable to put the animal down. On the other hand, large hogs and beef cows are routinely dropped humanely in their tracks by people using .22 rifles. The difference is bullet placement.

No state wildlife department -- that I know of -- permits the use of rimfire rifles to take deer – with the possible exception of Maine which, at one time, sanctioned the .22WMR -- and this is as it should be. The .22LR and even the .22WMR are not adequate to humanely kill deer-sized animals under every circumstance. Yet I know of many deer being taken by poachers and farmers (if you are killing game on your own property out of season or otherwise contrary to wildlife statutes, it is illegal, and any person caught doing so will be charged with “poaching” and probably convicted; however, I draw a moral and semantic rather than legal distinction). The .22 rimfires are often preferred by those taking deer illegally because of the quietness of the rounds. The reports are usually not noticed or dismissed as being shots fired by small-game hunters.

Poachers, while not to be emulated as to their extralegal activities, often shoot accurately. They are familiar with the anatomy of their quarry. Shots are carefully chosen, taken at known distances, and placed precisely. It works for the same reason W.D.M. Bell could kill the planet’s largest land animals with a 7mm: there is no substitute for accuracy.

One of the reasons the military ended up selecting the .223 in the M16 is that the recoil was acceptable to the many urbanite and suburbanite kids who were being drafted into the Services during the 1960’s. The .223 can be fired rapidly in a lightweight rifle without punishing the shooter. The mighty BAR was chambered for the .30-06 and was an extremely effective weapon, but the BAR weighed something like three times what a fully loaded M16 weighs. Recoil is detrimental to accuracy for the inexperienced shooter, but it can cause deterioration in accuracy for even the experienced shooter over time. The repeated pounding of a heavier recoiling weapon wears the operator down faster than a weapon with less recoil, all other things being equal.

It’s easy for those of us who are perhaps experienced but casual shooters to criticize the choice of the M16 and the 5.56mm. The round is at a disadvantage in terms of penetration at longer distances. A shooter may be able to accurately hit targets out to six hundred yards, but how many layers of cardboard will those little bullets go through at that distance?

Of course, in these days of asymmetrical warfare, where much of the contact is in urban environments or where bad guys have to be positively identified, long-range shooting is not necessarily an issue. Much of the time, rifles are used for suppressive fire while air support or other resources are called upon to actually take out the target.

For self-defense purposes, as I’ve said before, it is hard to imagine a situation in which a farmer or landowner, let alone a suburbanite or city-dweller would need to fire upon an attacker or attackers at any significant distance. The homeowner defending his or her property and loved ones is both legally and morally responsible for determining when and if deadly force is the only possible alternative. Even if we are able to act within the law, we do not want to lie awake at night wondering if we caused a death unnecessarily. On the other hand, to act too slowly or to not be prepared to act can result in the loss of our own life, the loss of life-sustaining property, death or injury to those we must protect. It would be prudent to take a class in the use of deadly force whether or not one is considering a concealed carry permit. If a class is not an option, read books by people like Massad Ayoob. There is no substitute for knowledge, either.

So, my point was -- somewhere back there, that accuracy is the first principle in hunting or self-defense. If you are considering the purchase of a firearm, make finding one that fits you both physically and psychologically a priority. Get a firearm that is affordable to shoot, for you personally. Get a firearm that is fun to shoot, for you personally. When you get it, shoot it.

The first firearm I ever bought for myself was a High Standard Double-Nine Convertible. It was a .22LR/.22WMR double-action revolver that looked like a western-style single-action. The barrel was five and a half inches long, and it had fixed sights. For many years it was the only firearm I had. I shot it a lot. After twenty years or so, I passed it on to my nephew who had always admired it, and I replaced it with a similarly styled Ruger Single-Six, .22LR/.22WMR, with a six and a half inch barrel and adjustable sights. The Ruger is a true single-action, meaning empties have to be knocked out individually and rounds loaded one at a time. I’ve put even more rounds through the Single-Six than I did through the High Standard, mostly because where I’ve lived the last fifteen years or so has given me more opportunity. I have made some impressive shots on game and pests with this handgun. Were those lucky shots? To some extent certainly, but, as Arnold Palmer said, the more I practice, the luckier I get. Practice and practical use build skill and confidence. It makes the weapon an extension of the shooter, much the way a car is an extension of the experienced driver’s mind and body. Now it’s true that no matter how much experience some folks have, they just never become smooth, confident drivers. Nevertheless, they are still better drivers than they were the first time they tried it. So, too, few of us will ever be world-class marksmen, but we will be better for our practice.

While skill with one particular weapon does not translate perfectly to skill with any weapon, it does help. In my case, my primary defensive handgun is not the Single-Six or my Super Blackhawk single-action wheelgun, but a much more modern semi-automatic. I am faster and more accurate with the autoloader than I would have as a complete novice, but I still had need of weapon-specific practice to be truly confident.

Practice should not be limited to punching holes in paper from a solid rest, though that kind of work is valuable, as it gives the shooter confidence in the inherent accuracy of the weapon. It also helps to develop an almost intangible sense of how a well-placed shot feels mentally. Once a shooter is reasonably experienced at shooting under ideal conditions, if at all possible, challenges should be added in the form of bad light, physical stress, and time constraints. Go out and shoot when the weather is bad – hot, cold, windy, rainy, snowy. Stick to common sense safety rules always, but shoot when light is poor, or practice shooting in the dark with a flashlight. Again, be careful. This can only be done where there is absolutely no chance of striking an unintended target. To add physical stress at the range, do a few pushups between shots.

The best practice for hunting is hunting, naturally. But hunting can also give us experience that is transferable to self-defense and tactical situations. This might be especially true for more active hunting such as for birds or small game. Hunting almost always takes place under less than ideal conditions. There are usually unexpected challenges. We learn to persevere and endure. We are taught to be alert and observant. We learn about stealth. We learn to shoot quickly and accurately. If hunting is out of the question, or opportunities are limited, consider, perhaps, paintball or airsoft competitions to improve tactical thinking and sharpen reaction times.

Knowledge, skill, attitude, and confidence – accept no substitutes.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Worldwide Food Supplies Remain Tight

The UN reports no panic buying ... yet.

It does appear that things are stabilizing somewhat, but I tend to think we are in a downward spiral. Under current conditions even the developed world is one big bad event away from food riots.

Large-scale farming has kept the world from mass starvation, but there is, I suspect, a "food bubble". Modern high-yield grain and soybean production relies on genetically modified seeds, petroleum-based herbicides and insecticides, and lots and lots of energy. If energy prices spike, or, worse, there is a disruption in the supply, e.g., open conflict with Iran, it could create serious pressure on the food supply.

At least the production of ethanol from corn is losing favor. That's a good sign.

I'm not one of those who oppose Monsanto or whomever getting patents on GM seeds, and I don't oppose GM itself. I just don't think farmers at any level should be getting taxpayer-funded benefits and subsidies. We should probably do away with most of the Department of Agriculture. Inspecting packing plants and other food processing is about the only thing DOA does that is worthwhile.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Good Goldman Suggests Deflation

David Goldman aka Spengler has not been on the inflation/hyperinflation bandwagon. When it comes to politics, Goldman's predictions frequently miss. However, he does seem to have a reasonably good map of the higher elevations in finance, and for that reason, I offer his view of the coming "chill wind of deflation". There's a link to his 11/15/2010 post in the linked article.

You can check live gold prices here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Price of Political Cowardice

Here's what happens when you buy votes with other people's money.

Bernanke's Cowardice Has Sealed Our Fate.

I think "sealed our fate" might be overly dramatic, but it is certainly setting us up for extraordinarily difficult times. Central banks are bad ideas. Some of the concepts of Distributism are starting to grow on me.

There are other ways to go. Note in the comments that some believe there should not be as much animosity between the Austrians and the Distributists as might be imagined.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Eaters Living to Eat

The moderns, mad upon mere multiplication, have even made a plural out of what is eternally singular, in the sense of single. They have taken what all ancient philosophers called the Good, and translated it as the Goods. — G.K. Chesterton

Chesterton wrote on rotten apples
covering this in a much more entertaining way than I can ever hope to

Our problem stems first from the fact that our government in collusion with the business sector and the media calls us "consumers". We are told we are a consumer society. We exist to consume. China sees us as consumers of their goods. They have financed our consumerism in order to fund their military machine. During the gap between the two 20th century world wars in which the original Great Depression took place, America happily sold scrap metal to the Germans. A World War I veteran told my father, "They'll be shooting it back at us in a few years." The same might be said of the Chinese and our dollars. Perhaps we can throw resin figurines and Christmas lights at the invading ChiCom soldiers, should it come to that.

The consumer cycle is crashing, and no one wants that to happen. Corporate America runs on debt bubbles. The most recent and what will be the most devastating debt bubble is U.S. Government Treasuries. When that crashes — and it will, we will have an opportunity to rebuild from the ground up. It will not be pretty or easy, and it will be fraught with the danger of totalitarianism. The Tea Party is a good start. The increasingly libertarian (note the small 'l') sentiment of Americans is a good sign, as is the number of people, especially men, embracing a kind of economic minimalism.

The list of bad signs includes our fascination with mindless entertainment — from sports hysteria to "Glee" to "Dancing with the Stars". A large portion of the population lacks any sense of commitment or personal responsibility. That, too, is a bad sign. Many believe the government has money that it doesn't take from someone else at the point of a gun, and that they should be entitled to a share of said funds. Another group believes money is the same as wealth. Yet another block of blockheads lacks respect for private property — true capital.

This brings up an interesting point. Capital is often seen in terms of dollars. Capital is, first and foremost, the means of production. If you own a sewing machine, a plow, a cow, a loom, a forge, a garden plot, or a grapevine, you own means of production — you capitalist pig. Most of us own lots of junk that will make some people think we are well-off. Meanwhile we own very little that is actually productive or that could be considered capital. I'm having a little trouble imagining how a 52" flat-screen television could be productive. I suppose if we rented it out for Sunday night football viewing at the local church, it might return some of our investment, but that market niche is pretty small. The other thing we could do is to find someone who really wants a big-screen TV and sell ours to him. Then we take the money or medium of exchange he gives us and buy something productive, like a set of woodworking tools or a bunch of strawberry plants.

Those are the kinds of transactions that make money handy. The odds of me with my excess big-screen TV finding a person who has an excess of strawberry plants and who wants a big-screen TV are fairly small. So far, I think, Chesterton the Distributist is right there with me.

Let's consider a scenario Bastiat might employ. Suppose instead of buying a direct means of production in terms of tools, seed, plants, or whatever, I keep the money that I received from my TV. I don't need it at the moment to buy food or clothing or other necessities. I do, however, know a man down the road who really needs a new tractor for his farm. I offer to loan him my money to buy the tractor. In exchange, he agrees to pay back the full amount I have loaned him plus, say, five percent, when his next harvest comes in at the end of the year.

Because he now has a new tractor, he is able to turn more land, plant more seed, and harvest a substantially larger crop — enough to pay for the tractor and leave him a decent amount on which to live. The next few years he will enrich himself because he is able to use the tractor. If his crops fail and he doesn't make the payment, then I have the option of taking the tractor. He's no worse off than he was, and I am not much worse off since I can sell the tractor to recover some of my principal. The interest is reasonable since I am the one taking the risk of loss.

I see our current system as being flawed in two ways. One is "consumer debt". Instead of taking on debt to finance a capital purchase, as with our farmer above, we borrow in order to purchase items like the television. Far from enriching us, consumer debt makes us poorer. Even if we sell the item to clear our debt, it is unlikely that we will get all of our money back — certainly we would lose the interest we have paid. Plus, as things now stand, we are transferring debt to the purchaser — moving it around rather than eliminating it. (Note: I am not saying there is no benefit to consumption, it's just that is not capital. It does give a return on the capital investment of the television builder. This is another facet to the discussion since the television builder is building purely to sell. See
Chesterton's essay.

The second problem is even more pernicious. Money can be capital, but it seems to me that it is a special case. We should be careful that we do not allow money to get too far from the physical capital that it finances. Once money becomes an abstract version of capital, it is subject to accounting manipulation and multiplication without regard to any kind of concrete reality. This is precisely what happened when nations came off the gold standard. As long as money was based in precious metals, it could not be infinitely derived. It isn't necessary to use gold, but gold is a known limited quantity that makes money, in a sense, honest. Once we have moved to fiat currency in a consumer society, the sky is the limit. Inflation becomes a policy of the fiat creator because people are willing to take on debt for consumer goods if the "value" of the debt is being reduced over time by a gradual devaluation of the currency.

In other words, incurring $60,000 in debt over a five-year period for a new car costing $30,000 today is acceptable, if we know that in five years, a car of equal value will cost $60,000. General Motors and Ford, along with the lending businesses they owned, finance their entire operations and growth on the basis of this fact. That is the beginning of derivatives.

Of course, the money that GM takes in for a car does not disappear. It goes into the pockets of workers at all levels, of stockholders, of suppliers and their employees, dealers, salesmen, mechanics - all of whom can now, in turn, acquire stuff, usually mostly through taking on debt, on the basis of their wages and salaries. The government and all the layers of government workers get their cut via income, sales, and property taxes. It's a nice little ecosystem with your herbivores and your carnivores and your scavengers (i.e., the government). At least it seems that way.

It is multipling money by basing consumer spending on the inevitable process of price inflation and currency devaluation. Corporate revenues will go up as long as the bubble lasts. The same is true of a government that is financed by inflationary dollars from a progressive income tax. The worst things done to America in the 20th Century were the Sixteenth Amendment, the establishment of the Federal Reserve, the creation of government dependents through entitlements (New Deal — Social Security, Great Society — Medicare, Medicaid, AFDC, etc), and sundering of the dollar from gold in 1971. Singly, probably none of those things would have done us in, but in combination they have enslaved us.

Both the Republican Party of my ancestors and the Democrat Party are guilty by association. Both lack the political will to begin the painful process of lancing the bubble, of draining the entitlement swamp, of weaning government from the systemic inflation feeding expansion. The libertarian-leaning Republicans and the Tea Party are still too much of a political minority and too unfocused to address the base issues. It's a really big problem, after all. It means a complete reversal — not just of policies but of the very American mindset of the last one hundred years.

The only way out is for the bubble to burst, the scheme to collapse, and the house of cards to fall. And, as I said earlier, that's a most dangerous opportunity.

It is my belief that in preparation for this collapse, we should do our best to acquire some means of production for ourselves. But foremost we should recognize that the Good is not goods, as Chesterton says.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tool Update

In my earlier post concerning certain tools, I mentioned that I normally fired slugs through my favorite 870 by simply switching to an Improved Cylinder screw-in choke. I also said that the long, vent-rib barrel is a little unhandy in confined spaces. That's not a big deal since I have effective center-fire handguns within easy reach should interior work be necessary. I decided, though, that a riot-gun configuration would sure be cute.

To that end, I called my friends at Midway and asked if they had a short barrel with a matte finish. They did. Since I live in the same state, I had to pay sales takes as well as shipping, but I got a Remington factory barrel with rifle sights adjustable for windage and elevation for $194.00 (including the NRA round-up contribution). The barrel is 18 and a half inches and is marked "Modified". I'm not so sure about the choke. It seems pretty open to me. However, it shoots slugs like they are going out of style. I won't be able to try it out at 100 yards until my eye gets fixed next month, but at 50 yards, it puts a nice big, round hole exactly where you point it. The rear sight is easily adjusted and has a white triangle pointing up at the U-notch. The front bead is highlighted in white as well, so visibility should be good under most conditions.

As I expected, the shotgun looks as good as it functions inspiring me to christen her "Geraldine" in honor of Alan Arkin's switchblade in "Wait Until Dark".

The Dollar Decline

Denninger says, We Got Problems right here in Sold-Down-the-River City.

And then they take away our AAA debt rating so it will increase the cost of servicing the debt -- assuming there are any takers out there.

I tend to agree with one comment on the Market Ticker that Bernanke has been trying to keep the stock markets up through the election. At some point, he has to tighten credit or see a euro buy three dollars. Even in a depressed economy we're looking at soaring commodity prices. Imagine what that's going to do to dollar-denominated oil prices. I think it was around $84 today. If it goes past $100, I'm guessing unemployment hits 12%.

I wish I knew of a "safe" investment -- unimproved land, perhaps.

The only upside is that this would make imports more expensive and encourage a surge in American manufacturing -- except for the fact that the Chinese currency is pegged to the dollar and is going down with it.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Inflating the Problem

From the Wall Street Journal "Fed Officials Mull Inflation as a Fix".

That will end well, won't it? Let's destroy the savings of the thrifty, moral, hard-working people to make things better for the lazy and profligate.

And what the Fed can't screw up, $100-a-barrel oil might.

I'll say it again, the government cannot afford deflation. They will not allow it to happen if they can help it.

Gallup reports the unemployment rate at 10.1%. The ADP analysis also suggests the unemployment rate has climbed in the last month. New UI claims are holding steady in a narrow range around 450,000 weekly. "Official" unemployment numbers are due out tomorrow. Gallup suggests that the government numbers may understate the rate. I suspect things will be "revised upward" after Election Day.

And then there is No Way Out of the Greater Inflationary Economic Depression from the Market Oracle. Casey makes some good points. It is inconceivable that the U.S. government would ever go broke, but I do like his analogy of the Financial Asteroid Strike. I don't think there's one in the immediate vicinity, but I think the economic equivalent of the Tunguska Event is certain given enough time.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Is Near Depression Like Near Beer?

The IMF admits that the West is stuck in "near depression".

Near-depression sounds so much nicer than Depression. The PIIGS are still squealing. There are riots in Spain over the austerity measures put in place to try and deal with the debt crisis. It looks funny to me that the Euro is holding up so well -- even against gold. I don't see how the European economic union is going hold together. At some point the Germans have to bail on the bloodsuckers.

Bernanke and the Fed are still fighting deflation -- supposedly. What they are really trying to do, good Keynesians, is kick-start some inflation -- their target is probably in the 6-8% range. The federal government cannot afford deflation -- not with deficits in excess of a trillion per year as far as the eye can see and no way to pay. A wiser group of people might start thinking that maybe a cattle prod is not the fix for a dead horse.

I'm beginning to think maybe we need a new horse. Maybe instead of taxing people who earn money, we should tax the spending of money. We definitely need to get rid of the capital gains tax and all estate taxes.

I'd like to see Medicare -- which is broke, and Medicaid replaced with increased competition and catastrophic medical insurance policies. If we were to go to the Fair Tax, medical savings accounts would be unnecessary, as would employer subsidized health insurance.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Uptick in Attacks on 'Polar Bears'

Black on White unprovoked attacks in Chicago -- read the article here.

Welcome to post-racial America. Mainly white men are being targeted. Other reports I've seen recently indicate that white, middle-aged, often overweight (hence the 'polar bear' designation) individuals are attacked for fun. These are not thieves or muggers. These are punks, often in groups, that punch unsuspecting people in the face or from behind. They look for people who are alone and unlikely to fight back. They are not looking for a fight. Four on one is not a fight; it's an invitation to a beat down.

They probably don't do this as much in Texas or Florida where concealed carry is a possibility.

Thomas Sowell Interviewed by IBD

Read the interview here.

Well worth the read as Dr. Sowell touches on several issues with great wisdom.

If Obama is so smart, why isn't Sowell the economic adviser? Shoot, why isn't Thomas Sowell the President?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

So Maybe There is Something to Conspiracy Theories After All

This is a very long article at Zerohedge and is worth reading, though potentially a little scary and probably a little scaremongering.

In essence, it is about the dire situation we are in economically, and the fact that the political class is controlled by the financiers.

I'm not sure if I take any of it too seriously. I will admit, however, that Obama unleashing the dogs of war has occurred to me. This actually becomes easier with a Republican (not Tea Party) majority in Congress. It becomes bipartisan: "We stand united against this external threat to America".

Is Obama ideologically opposed to war? Yes, war against Muslims, but not against the Chinese.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Deflating Demand

Read Karl Denninger commenting on a Robert Reich confession that printing more money isn't really going to turn things around.

Probably the majority of consumers are unable to spend more money to revitalize small business where most job growth is attained. People who have a little spare cash are hoarding it for fear that they might lose their jobs. Businesses, instead of hiring people they don't need to provides goods or services no one will purchase, are using their capital to finance mergers and acquisitions and to buy back stock to speculatively run up their share prices.

We are not seeing rapid increases in consumer prices because DEMAND has fallen off the cliff. As Denninger points out, gasoline should be perhaps $1.25 based on decreased demand, but it is holding at around double that. Some of that is decreased supply after the BP Deepwater Horizon spill -- possibly. I haven't been following the oil market. But some of it may be the leading edge of inflation.

Food prices certainly aren't dropping, and coffee seems to be getting more expensive. I wish I had a crystal ball that worked.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Gaining an Edge

The knife is not man’s oldest tool – that would likely be the club. A knife is kind of wedge, though it probably did not develop from the stone axe. Perhaps it was a broken rock or a sharp-edged shell that gave some ancient brain the idea of a cutting tool. However it came to be, the knife, in all its many variations, has served us long and well.

I miss the good old days when I could carry one of my stockman folders or a Swiss Army knife on a plane in my pocket. With the TSA and the inconvenience, I can drive most places I need to go any more so I still carry knives. I’ve been carrying pocketknives about as long as I’ve had pants with pockets. I just don’t go anywhere without some kind of cutting tool. For years my standard was the three-blade stockman folder. I have a Craftsman stockman with some very tough plastic scales about the color of ivory. That knife has gone all over the country with me since sometime in the early seventies I would guess. The blades are still sound, and the main clip point is probably the sharpest blade in the house. It is standard carbon steel – not stainless – it’s not as pretty as it once was, but it is just as useful and effective.

Back around 1990 I worked in Dallas on the top floor of an office building near Prestonwood Mall at Beltline and the Tollway. The building security/information guy had a desk outside the elevators, and, as I passed him one day, I noticed he had a lockback out on his desk. I paused to ask him about it, and he was happy to show it to me, explaining about the blade and the scales – which I think were some kind of fiberglass – but my memory is getting a little foggy. In any case, it was a one-hand opener. I found that fascinating. A few days later I was passing by a display case of knives and saw one that looked similar while costing considerably less than the price the guard had mentioned. The scales were regular plastic, and it lacked any studs or cutouts. Still, I thought a lockback would be nice to have; I bought it. It took me about fifteen minutes to figure out how to open and close it with one hand. I was able to get the cheap stainless steel of the blade nearly as sharp that of my old stockman. The nice thing about the lockback was the slender profile and the weight, and the fact I could open it with only one hand. I started carrying that knife around a lot.

I had bought and carried other knives between the old stockman and the cheap lockback, but they did not capture my imagination for one reason or another. One or two migrated to the tool box. A few more may have gotten lost or been given away. The lockback, though, started me on a quest of sorts. I began to buy knives. Again, some didn’t do much for me, and they went away, often as Christmas or birthday gifts. Others I still have but don’t use or carry very often, if ever. Still others rotate in and out of my pocket or on and off my belt pretty frequently. I even have a few that are displayed on the shelf but not carried at all. This last category consists of fancy knives with etched blades or simple knives that have some special sentimental value. The old Craftsman was up there for a while, but it did not stay. No matter what happens, it is a knife that deserves to be carried and used from time to time. The “shelf” knives will enter no further into my discussion.

I used to look down on Swiss Army knives, “Boy Scout” knives, and similar gimmicky blades. One day, on a whim, I popped about $20 for a Wenger – one of the two “official” Swiss Army brands. This Wenger had no corkscrew – a definite plus. The even bigger plus was that it had a little saw blade. For a while I think I used that saw blade more than any other tool I had. I would use it to prune tree, cutting green limbs and dead limbs all out of proportion to the size of that little booger. I honed the main spear-point blade until it would shave hair, and I had a fine little pocket tool kit. It was often my carry-on knife for trips by airliner from 1997 to as late as November, 2000.

The “other” Swiss Army knife is Victorinox. I just pulled one out of my pocket. The model I have does not have a saw. It has a small blade and a large blade – both spear-points, scissors, large slot screwdriver/bottle opener, small slot/can opener, Phillips head, awl, package hook, tweezers, and toothpick. It also has that cool “Officier Suisse” stamp on the base of the big blade. The Victorinox is slightly longer and slightly slimmer than the comparable Wenger. I still love the Wenger, but the Victorinox gets carried a little more these days, unless I know I’m going to need the saw blade.

The SAK is, of course, the official MacGyver tool, but Tim Leatherman found them a bit too limited. He wanted to add pliers. Now we have all kinds and brands of multitools from Leatherman, Gerber, SOG, et al. If I could keep only one of my knives –

Sorry about the interruption, I blacked out for a few minutes. Where was I? Oh. Uh, hang on … I’m feeling a little woozy again.

Let me put it like this: if the average person could have only one knife, I might suggest the Leatherman Wave. My preference for the Wave comes primarily from the fact that it has two locking blades that can be accessed one-handed without opening the tool. This makes it a fairly handy, if slightly bulky pocketknife. In addition to the straight and serrated knife blades, the operator also has access to a saw and a file. When the Wave is opened there are a number of screwdriver blades available in addition to scissors.

I’m not sure when I bought my Wave, but I know when I broke it. It was late summer of 2005 – about five years ago now. I was trying to take a cotter pin out of a piece of equipment. I used the Wave pliers to un-brad the pin then slipped the tip of one side of the pliers into the eye of the pin, pulled, and the tip of this high-priced Leatherman snapped off. To say I was upset is an understatement. Oddly I was even more upset when a pair of ancient $2 Japanese needlenose removed the pin with almost no effort. I emailed the Leatherman Company in a frothing-at-the-mouth rage. I had bought a Leatherman tool because I thought it was the height of quality American workmanship. Ha! I figured I’d go out and buy a Gerber and pitch the Leatherman into the back of the tool box.

However, before I could decide on which new Gerber to get, I received a very nice email response from Leatherman Customer Service. The person explained that, despite the fact that I was obviously a retarded idiot who was unaware of Leatherman’s guarantee (25 years if I remember correctly), the company would be happy to replace my Wave if I would ship the broken one to them. I did so and Leatherman did replace the clearly defective multitool, sending me a nice new holster along with it. I use the new holster when I go to town and the old sheath takes the abuse out here in the country. The fact is that I have used this Wave fairly hard for five years, and it is as good as new. I have no complaints about the Leatherman tool or the company’s customer service, despite the fact that Tim Leatherman himself is rumored to be a big-time leftist. He still makes a good multitool.

One thing about the straight blade on the Wave, and this applies to many stainless blades that I have had including Buck and Gerber, sometimes they are hard to sharpen. It’s a chore to get that stupid bevel flattened out and get a decent edge on some varieties of stainless. That can be hard stuff. Of course, once you get it, it tends to hold the edge pretty well. Nevertheless, good old-fashioned high-carbon takes a better edge with a lot less effort. And not all stainless blades are equal, as I mentioned, both the Victorinox and the Wenger SAK’s I have sharpen up pretty nicely. I also have an older Schrade lockback – I can’t remember the model. It was bought in the ‘90’s before the original Schrade Company went bankrupt and closed the New York factory. The stainless blade on that knife sharpens up nicely, and one reason for the ease of sharpening is that it had a good flat grind to start with. Flat ground blades are easier for me to get really sharp. I can get almost any blade to shave hair, but I want the blades to be so sharp that they scare me.

If a person is not big on sharpening knives -- and some days even I'm not, there is an elegant solution to be had. The lowly boxcutter has become the folding, locking, one-hand-opening super utility knife. I have one of these babies -- a Craftsman, by the way, with a pocketclip. It is unbelievably handy. One of the nicest things about it is that I can open it and hand it to my wife to use without saying, "Be careful with that blade." Abuse that sucker all you want, darlin'. I got a hundred more in the drawer.

When it comes to knives and multitools, I’m a big-tent guy. I have an “Edge Brand” from Solingen, Germany – I have Gerbers, the Leatherman, both brands of SAK’s, Columbia River Knife and Tool, Schrade, Buck, Ontario, Cold Steel, some custom made, some homemade, some offbrands, some freebies from the NRA, just all kinds of cutting tools. There are a ton of good edged implements from which to choose. Or be like me, choose some of each!

As far as recommendations for the best kinds of knives, I recommend a good, high-quality multitool – like the Leatherman, but not necessarily the Leatherman. I have a Gerber multitool that appears to be built like a tank and that has some nice features. I have an offbrand multitool that I picked up at a Big Box store that works about as well as either my Gerber or my Leatherman. If a person likes something a little less "tool-ish" or a little more "pocket-able" than a multitool, get a SAK.

I also recommend that you get and carry a “tactical” folder. Of the better known companies, I really like Buck, but there are many good ones out there. There will be people who think I'm crazy, but I would even suggest one of those new generation super utility knives mentioned above could serve in the tactical folder niche. But, of course, that's because I'm a crude and ignorant hillbilly as opposed to a highly trained marital arts expert, so what do I know?

It’s also a good idea to have a big knife or two. You can find high-priced kukris (or khukris or khukuris) on the web. They are a fine chopping tool. I took out a fair-sized patch of sumac with my khukri over the weekend, and it didn’t take long to do it.

The best all-around blade on a big knife is a bowie. Try to find one about the size and with lines similar to the Cold Steel Trailmaster. I cite the Trailmaster only because I know anyone can find a picture of it on the web. For a "fighting" knife, I would not recommend a bowie with an overly wide blade, as the wider blades tend to have the point below the centerline. You can see this "fault" in a knife like the Ontario Marine Raider Bowie. The Marine Raider looks like an excellent chopper and is no doubt a quite useful and effective camp/survival/woodsman's knife, just not so much as a fighting knife.

But then I'm not much on using a knife in combat anyway. Next post we might discuss knives in self-defense, and why I, an utter non-expert, think that most knife-fighting is comic book fantasy.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

More Hyperinflation Fearmongering

John Williams of Shadow Stats is predicting hyperinflation 6 to 9 months from today. There is a link to the Shadow Stats blog in the Zero Hedge post.

From what I understand, Williams has been calling for hyperinflation for the last couple of years, consistently setting it in the late-2010, early-2011 date range. As mentioned in a previous post also from Zero Hedge, hyperinflation is created by a loss of faith the nation's currency, as opposed to the more common type of inflation caused by more dollars chasing fewer goods and escalating wages.

Monday, September 13, 2010

IMF Expresses Fears of Social Turmoil

From the Telegraph comes an IMF warning.

The article indicates that the IMF is fairly optimistic that the global economy has avoided the abyss for the moment. Perhaps that is the case. I think an apt analogy would be that the economy had veered off the road and was heading for the precipice at about 90 mph. We have now slowed to about 45 mph, but we haven't changed directions.

What the experts do admit is that unemployment is very high, 20% or so in Spain, nearly 10% in the U.S. and that many have been out of work for six months or more. Worldwide the IMF admits to 210 million unemployed. Knowing a little about how the U.S. rate is calculated, I'd say 210,000,000 is very conservative. In America, the actual rate is nearly double the official rate. We likely have 300 to 400 million unemployed around the globe. This is creating a huge drag on demand.

But, don't worry, Mr. Olivier Blanchard, chief economist for the IMF has a fix for us:

Mr Blanchard called for extra monetary stimulus as the first line of defence if "downside risks to growth materialise", but said authorities should not rule out another fiscal boost, despite debt worries. "If fiscal stimulus helps avoid structural unemployment, it may actually pay for itself," he said.

And Mr. Blanchard is a Keynesian blockhead, but I repeat myself. Our problems are being caused by government debt sucking up all the funds that could be financing private sector expansion, so the solution is to create more government debt. Brilliant.

Chronic unemployment creates unrest. We are seeing that manifest in the United States in the healthy way of a grassroots political movement to "throw the bums out". In other nations, we may see it manifest as violence with the potential to give rise to more autocratic regimes. These regimes will promise relief if they are given enough control. Kind of like what happened here in '08.

While the current trend in America is positive, we can only replace elected officials, not bureaucrats, regulators, or the heads of government-corporate hybrids. If there is too much inertia in the statist system to allow the private sector and especially small business to get back on track and grow, we may eventually see a more destructive uprising in this country.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Good Enough for Marshal Dillion

I saw this article in my September 2010 American Rifleman.

Rick Hacker talks about the Gunsite course for single-action revolvers. The conclusion:
“I don’t think that anybody who has a single-action should feel deprived in any way,” noted Il Ling New, one of Gunsite’s premiere defensive handgun, rifle and shotgun instructors—and a licensed guide who has hunted throughout the world. “You really should fight with what you have. Why not use your single-action as your defensive handgun? Those five or six rounds in the chambers can win the fight for you.”

I agree.

The handgun I carry most around the place is my Springfield Armory XDM .40 S&W. The reason I carry it has more to do with size and weight, and the fact that it is stainless steel whereas my revolvers are mostly blue. Still, I don't shoot any handgun as well as I shoot my single-action revolvers. In fact, I'm not sure I shoot any firearm I have as well as my Ruger Super Blackhawk and my Single-Six.

As for speed, the SA revolver lends itself to a fast first shot, either in the hand or from the holster. I don't believe any handgun -- except, perhaps, a locked-and-cocked 1911, is as fast – for the average shooter.

The drawbacks are limited capacity and, especially, a comparatively slow reload. But the speed of reloading can be enhanced by a "shoot two/load two" tactical reload -- and practice. If you think you are going to have to shoot your way through 20 or 30 gunmen, ala Josey Wales (who, by the way, was using multiple cap-and-ball Colts, the fastest reload then and now being another handgun), a high-capacity autoloader like the XDM is probably a better choice -- not that anybody is going to survive that gunfight anyway.

Very few of us are going to ever need to fire a handgun in self-defense, though the percentage may go up over the next several years of economic turmoil and possible political instability/insanity. Most of those who will be forced to defend their lives or their families will be able to do so with three shots or less.

A good single-action can be acquired for a reasonable price. Modern single-action revolvers are nearly as fool-proof as a crowbar. Ruger revolvers are strong for their caliber and solidly constructed. Buying a used one is not usually a problem. They can be worn out, but it is uncommon. If buying a used SA, I verify the weapon is unloaded, cock the hammer and see how much movement is in the cylinder. There should be essentially none, either forward and backward or side-to-side.

My SA revolvers are hunting weapons and have barrels of six to seven and a half inches in length. If I were buying one to carry around with me all the time, I would probably try to get a barrel under five inches. A non-reflective finish on a defensive firearm is better than a glossy finish, but dark is better than light, so it often comes down to personal preference. I like matte stainless steel for a weapon I need to carry when I know I might get wet or where I am going to be sweating a lot. Otherwise I prefer a traditional blue finish.

Caliber is a matter of personal preference as well. I like the .44 magnum, but the .357 is hard to beat for self-defense; it makes an adequate hunting round for our local whitetails; and it’s good for varmints. You can go bigger than the .44 these days, and, with the .327 magnum or the older .32 H&R magnum in a used gun, you can go smaller than the .38/357.

I have two handloads I shoot in my Super Blackhawk – one is a jacketed bullet load that gets a 240 grain bullet going about 1350 fps; the other is a cast bullet load, also 240 grains, that runs about 200 fps slower. I could probably fit the cast load in a .44 Special case, but why bother? I use magnum cases for both loads – the cast is over Blue Dot, and the jacketed bullet is over H2400 powder. Either one will shoot through most anything I’ve encountered. The jacketed load is not hot or high pressure, and, though loud, doesn’t have excessive recoil. The cast load is very controllable and is what I normally keep in the revolver unless I expect to take longer shots.

Would I use my single-actions for self-defense? Absolutely. Many times at night, when I check out what the dog is barking at, it is with one of those ‘old-fashioned’ revolvers in my hand. Would I recommend the single-action revolver as someone’s only self-defense weapon? Not necessarily. It depends on what a person is comfortable with. A good double-action revolver is a probably a better “nightstand” gun for most folks. A more modern autoloader such as a Glock or any of a dozen others carries better, has more capacity, and reloads faster, and the reloads can be carried more compactly and conveniently. But the single-action revolver is versatile and fun to shoot, and it will get the job done, whatever it may be.

Check Out a Couple of Posts From the Futurist

In Taxation and Recession, the Futurist makes the logical argument against a capital gains tax: There should be no capital gains tax at all. This is for the simple reason that if a person sells an appreciated asset, and then pays a capital gains tax, they no longer can buy back the same asset that they had just sold.

There is also this little tidbit that I have long believed: Socialism is much more rigged in favor of the ultrawealthy than capitalism is. ... In socialism ... only the ultrawealthy can afford to bypass the oppressive rules placed on everyone else ... .

Guys like Soros and Buffet can afford to be socialists because they have their pile and they know how to keep it.

Also the Futurist's previous post, The Techno-Sponge, argues that the deflationary pressure on high tech goods as a result of Moore's Law is "soaking up", so to speak, the inflation that would otherwise be running wild. I think his analysis may be flawed. Falling housing prices and the relative stability of fuel prices have been, if not deflationary, at least anti-inflationary, more so than technology. The level of unemployment is probably the largest deflationary weight at the moment. In my opinion, none of these will be sufficient over the course of the next couple of years to prevent inflation, but read the Futurist's view and draw your own conclusions.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Zero Hedge Explains How Hyperinflation Could Happen

Zero Hedge: How Hyperinflation Will Happen.

Notice my title says "could", the actual article says "will". They are smarter than I am, but I still hedge my predictions. The point of the article is pretty scary, because it draws a distinction between "inflation" and "hyperinflation". Hyperinflation is not simply inflation gone wild. Here are the key quotes:
Inflation is when the economy overheats: It’s when an economy’s consumables (labor and commodities) are so in-demand because of economic growth, coupled with an expansionist credit environment, that the consumables rise in price. This forces all goods and services to rise in price as well, so that producers can keep up with costs. It is essentially a demand-driven phenomena.

Hyperinflation is the loss of faith in the currency. Prices rise in a hyperinflationary environment just like in an inflationary environment, but they rise not because people want more money for their labor or for commodities, but because people are trying to get out of the currency. It’s not that they want more money—they want less of the currency: So they will pay anything for a good which is not the currency.

(Author's italics emphasis. Bold is my emphasis.)

So, you know that nagging feeling you have that this is not going to end well? This is why.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It's Just a Tool

Part 1 -- Pyramids in Argentina
Part 2 -- Bricks without straw
Part 3 -- Still Thinking
Part 4 -- Health
Part 5 -- Food for Thought
Part 6 - Alternatives
Part 7 - Hard Times

I like guns almost as much as I like knives. I think everyone should have some sort of firearm to defend hearth and home and to perhaps supplement the food supply. Personally, I’m set up to do more fishing than hunting. I’m not big on the taste of most game meat, except wild turkeys, but I’ll eat it if I have to. Fishing takes less effort, and you can catch only what you need for a meal. If you don’t have a fishing opportunity, consider the possibility of setting snares for small game, or building a rabbit gum. I’ll bet an inverted plastic storage box, some string, sticks and a piece of scrap 1x6 could be fashioned into a pretty decent gum in short order.

On firearms, I’m going to differ from your average survivalist/militia-type. I do not expect the U.S. military to come after us, and if they do, we are pretty well screwed. We are not going to have to fight against organized groups - government-sponsored or otherwise. I do not expect it; I do not see that happening; I could well be wrong. Still, I think it is highly unlikely that a person will ever have any reasonable excuse for opening fire on another human at any great distance. We are generally talking about defending yourself and your “stash” from the self-entitled and the opportunistic. The bad guys are not going to be wearing uniforms, colors, or specific tattoos. The dumb criminals won’t be around long. The smart ones will study their victims and figure out a way to approach closely before they strike. They will not likely come roaring up to the gate on outlaw Harleys and engage you in a long-distance firefight.

A heavy, high-capacity battle rifle is not my first choice for dealing with economic collapse. If a person has one, that’s fine. I just would not go out of my way to acquire one. On the other hand, if I didn’t have a centerfire handgun, I’d get one soon. Like TODAY. If I couldn’t get or couldn’t handle anything heavier, I’d get a .22LR autoloading handgun like the Ruger Mark I-III, the Browning Buckmark, or the newer Smith&Wesson. A .22LR handgun is not my first choice. For a centerfire, I would not worry too much about whether it’s a DA revolver or an autoloader, the caliber or the capacity. I’d get what I liked. I'd also get a good holster for it. Then I’d carry it and shoot it every chance I got until I was able to operate it in the dark without thinking and to consistently hit the middle of a 12-inch square at 15 feet in a hurry.

Some people want to argue about 9mm versus .45, double-action revolver versus autoloader. To me, it's like Chevy versus Ford — at least until GM became Government Motors. Any gun is better than no gun, and the only gun that is of any use is the one you have with you when you need it. There is nothing magical about the killing power of a .357 magnum or a .44 magnum or a .45 ACP. A mammal dies because its blood pressure drops. That may be caused by the heart stopping or excessive blood loss. The heart can be stopped by trauma to the central nervous system. Or, CNS trauma can incapacitate the creature until death occurs from blood loss or whatever. Outside of blowing your target up real good, no firearm you can carry will guarantee an immediate stop every time.

I've never shot a human, and I hope and pray I never have to. I have been on the receiving end of a gunshot wound, but my experience there is very limited and not necessarily typical. I have killed several animals with firearms, the largest being whitetail deer. I have also been informed by the experience of others with regard to the effectiveness of various weapons. I'll share a summary of my understanding, but I claim no special expertise. Most of the so-called experts don't have much real experience either. For handguns, the key seems to be penetration. The more flesh that a bullet goes through, all other things being equal, the more effective it is in dropping blood pressure. Also, obviously, the bigger the hole a projectile makes as it goes through the flesh, the more blood it is likely to let out. The weight of a bullet combined with velocity equals momentum. More momentum, more penetration. Speed itself does not kill when it comes to ballistics, but it certainly helps because it encourages, you might say, the bullets to expand (if they are the expanding kind), plus it aids in getting the projectile to the vital organs and through more blood vessels. Again, all other things being equal, the wider, heavier and faster a bullet is, the more damage it will do upon impact. None of that matters if you miss. Don't count on head shots. Choose wisely and practice religiously.

I’m a hillbilly. The shotgun is my weapon of choice. It’s just the way we’re wired. It isn’t always the best choice. It’s rarely the worst choice - unless the baby-eating cannibal commies do start shooting at you from 300 yards. As far as the gauge goes, I’m a 12-gauge man but I started shooting a 12 when the gun was taller that I was. A 20-gauge is easier for some people to handle. Don’t think that it is recoil-free, however. Back in the ‘60’s, my non-shooting brother-in-law bought a brand-new 20 to go bird hunting with my dad. He came back complaining of a bruised shoulder. Also, I am biased toward the Remington 870. There are many great autoloading shotguns out there like the Benelli that are good choices. Mossberg shotguns are as good as the 870, and, like the Remington, have plenty of aftermarket accessories available. In fact, if a person is only interested in the shotgun as a defensive arm, the Mossberg 590 might be the way to go.

There are things about a standard sporting shotgun that I don’t like for defensive purposes. For example, the recoil pad on my 870 is too tacky. It wants to hang up on my shirt rather than slide smoothly and swiftly into position. The sights on a typical shotgun aren’t sights. They are a reference point to help the shooter align the weapon until he is accustomed to the fit of the shotgun. When shooting at small moving targets like clay pigeons, doves or quail, the experienced shotgunner never “aims” the shotgun the way a rifle is aimed. A shotgunner is going on feel, view, and instinct - summed up in the now overused term muscle memory. You know where the end of the barrel should be in relation to your intended target.

Things have changed over the years. You can get shotguns with rifle sights or mount scopes or red dot sights or ghost ring sights. A lot of turkey hunters these days use red dots, scopes, or fiber optic sights because laying a very tight pattern precisely onto a tom’s head is the best way to bring him down and not have to pick shot out of your Thanksgiving dinner.

If a person is going to shoot slugs in a shotgun, precision sights are a necessity. I shoot rifled slugs in my 870 by screwing in the Improved Cylinder choke. I can get reasonable accuracy out to 100 yards - and by reasonable, I can keep 3 shots inside a 5-inch diameter circle. Shooting even 2-¾” 12-gauge off a bench or from a sitting position is a little tiring. The sights make all the difference. I mounted a fiber optic rear sight on my shotgun’s vent rib. After some experimentation with a matching fiber optic front sight, I decided to remove the front sight and use the standard bead in combination with the rear sight. This gives me sufficient fineness in alignment that I would feel quite confident on deer within 100 yards, maybe a little farther in good light.

For home defense, an even better approach would be to buy a shorter, rifled-sighted Improved Cylinder barrel on the 870. The 30-inch barrel that came on the shotgun is a little awkward in tight spots. A 20” barrel would be significantly more maneuverable.

If you really want handiness in a shotgun, get a “coach gun” - that is, a perfectly legal and traditional-looking double-barrel shotgun with a barrel length of 18-½ or 20 inches. The break-open action of a double shortens the overall shotgun length. Make sure you get a shotgun with ejectors rather than extractors, so that when you open the action, it ejects the spent hull or hulls completely. Don’t ever “give ‘em both barrels” - it’s unnecessary, but there is no faster follow-up shot than the second shot from a double. If you think that you might need more than two shots, it’s fairly easy to practice carrying one to three rounds between the fingers of your weak hand (i.e., the left for right-handers), opening the action and dropping a shell in to replace the ejected one. I learned to do something similar hunting quail with a break-open single-barrel. The other nice thing about a double is that it is rather intimidating when viewed from the business end.

Now, as to why I like shotguns despite their short range: I have seen them work. They do not blow creatures to bits. A shotgun will not necessarily knock an animal or a human off its feet. There is a scene in Open Range where Boss (Robert Duvall) is inside a building and shoots a bad guy through the wall with his double-barrel shotgun. I'm assuming he used both barrels because the blast took out about a 12-inch diameter section of the board siding and hurled the bad guy ten feet across the alley. He landed in a limp, lifeless heap. Down home we have a word for that, but since I'm G-Rated, I will say it is "fiction". Pure fiction. I've rolled rabbits backend over frontend with a shotgun. Don't expect it on anything bigger.

The effectiveness of a shotgun is in the amount of blood it lets out. Within its range on soft targets, a shotgun loaded with something like #2 shot has almost no equal in causing blood loss. The shot does not have to penetrate as deeply as single projectiles because of the large number that strike and the large area over which they strike. I have some 00 buckshot loads, but the range for them is still quite limited. They will penetrate better than smaller shot, but to be most effective they need to still be in a "bunch" when they impact. That means, if the shotgun has an open choke, fifteen yards is probably optimum. A full or extra-full choke like I normally use might get you another ten yards. Twenty-five yards is all I'd count on with any shotgun and any shot. (Slugs are not shot.)

Another limitation of the shotgun is its inability to penetrate cover, such as car doors, or a ballistic vest. Bad guys may well start wearing body armor, which is pretty effective against pistol rounds and shotguns. I've heard that regular slugs will not penetrate even the body armor that can be worn under clothes. That may be the case. I'm sure shot won't. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind, aside from the obvious head shot: a) what I said earlier about shotguns not knocking a person off their feet does not apply if a shotgun slug hits body armor that it cannot penetrate — it's going to hurt — keep shooting; and, b) there are a lot of blood vessels, big ones, in the leg of a human and gravity is your friend. Shoot low, Sheriff, she's ridin' a Shetland.

On the so-called assault rifles, especially the AR and its clones - I don’t have one. I don’t have a particular use for one. I’ve qualified with them. They have a lot of advantages such as weight, capacity, aftermarket accessories, picatinny rails and attachments. Most of the AR variants are quite accurate and easy to shoot, and they are apparently much more reliable than the first generation. They are durable, easy to field strip, clean, and repair, if you have the parts. Because they are well-designed ergonomically and designed to be carried, a person is more likely to have one with him/her when he/she needs it. I have nothing bad to say about AR’s. If you like them, get one.

For foraging, I would be far more likely to use a traditional bolt-action, lever-action, or even a single-shot rifle. I’d be far more likely to use a nice, quiet .22LR or a long-barreled .22WMR rifle for most of my hunting locally. Selection of a centerfire caliber varies by location - varies greatly. If I lived in the Plains or the Mountain West, I’d make sure I had something with a reasonably flat trajectory, like a .270. If I thought I’d run into a grizzly bear, I’d probably think about at least one of the .300 magnums or larger. Around here, the .223 is perfectly legal for deer, and within its limits, with a good bullet, it works well as long as it doesn’t have to penetrate too much mass to get to the vitals. I like to use rounds that are powder-efficient, as are many of the smaller cases. It’s interesting. For a long time, the “official” deer rifle was, of course, the .30-30, then the .30-06. During the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, everyone seemed to have a .243 or 6mm. Lately, all my rowdy friends have gone to .22 centerfires - less recoil, less muzzle blast, less powder, same result.

Frankly, if I weren’t concerned about legality, I could get by just fine with a .22WMR. Remington still makes their 597 Magnum autoloader. My research indicates that extraction and feeding problems are not that common, and the rifle is fairly accurate. It probably runs around $400 these days. For considerably less you could also pick up a Savage or Marlin bolt-action. A Henry lever-action .22 mag might also be less expensive. Seems like the CZ bolt-action I was looking at a while back was around $400, but it was a thing of beauty with a full Mannlicher stock and all steel components. The nice thing about a .22 magnum is that it will do nearly what a .223 does for the first 100 yards. Fifty rounds of .22WMR will fit in a pocket without weighing you down and cost you in the neighborhood of 18 cents to 25 cents a shot. I can reload a .223 for maybe a little less than that, depending on the bullets I use, if I don’t count my time. To each his own, but I would prefer at least a 22-inch barrel on a .22 magnum. My favorite is my old Mossberg 640KB with a 24-inch barrel. It’s quieter than most regular .22’s. With barrels less than 22 inches, the magnum has considerable muzzle-blast. From my Single-Six, it is more painful on my unplugged ears than a .44 magnum from my Super Blackhawk.

I know there will be some who dispute my comparison of the .22WMR to the .223, and I understand from an external ballistic point-of-view, the .223 seems far superior - more than 1000 fps faster than the fastest .22 magnum with a slightly heavier bullet. Even the .22 Hornet leaves the WMR in the dust. However, in terms of performance on game, the .22 magnum holds its own quite well.

While, as I said earlier, the shotgun is our weapon of choice, a reasonable case could be made for a .22LR rifle, especially an accurate, compact, reliable autoloader like the Ruger 10/22 or the Marlin 60/70 as the best single weapon a person could own. Don’t ask me how I know this, but a .22 is adequate for a humane kill on an Ozark whitetail. I wouldn’t say it’s the best choice but it is adequate, especially in the hands of a decent shot. As a defensive round, the .22LR, even with premium ammunition like the CCI Stinger, is less than perfect. It lacks penetration. Nevertheless, I’m sure two, three, or more center-of-mass or central nervous system hits from a .22 rifle would be extremely discouraging to anyone attempting mayhem on your person or property. A rifle like the Ruger 10/22, with some very economical practice, makes that pretty easy. Even peripheral wounds from a .22 would most likely encourage a predator to look for a less troublesome victim. Again, we’re talking about a potential Second Great Depression rather than a complete breakdown of society.

If you are not going to practice, at least dry-firing, and familiarize yourself with a firearm, I’d almost say you’re better off without one -- maybe consider an aluminum baseball bat instead. Almost. On the local news, just a couple of weeks ago as I write, they reported that a double homicide had been committed by a repeat offender. They flashed the murderer’s mugshot up on the screen. He is covered in tattoos. He has spent most of his 30 years in prison or on parole. His rap sheet isn’t a sheet, it’s a book several inches thick. He was in the house in a rural area when the owners returned home. There is no indication that the victims threatened the perpetrator or offered any resistance. He could have just taken the stuff he wanted and left. He didn’t. The couple he murdered had just celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary. Mr. Wilson was 82 and a veteran. His wife was 76. The animal - no, animals aren’t capable of such evil - the sick asshole raped the woman before shooting both victims in the back of the head.

Get a firearm, practice with it, carry it, and be prepared to use it. Don’t do anything illegal. If you need a permit to carry concealed, get one.

This brings up another point. Living in a more rural area is not a guarantee of safety. People in rural areas are more isolated and farther from law enforcement. They may also be assumed to be “richer” or to have a stash of cash or values. This view is likely to become more prevalent rather than less in an economic collapse. I don’t know the sequence of events in the situation just described, but some alertness on the part of the victims might have saved them. Their house appears to have been old. They may have been used to leaving their doors unlocked or possibly just minimally secured. I doubt they even had deadbolts. Only one door on my dad’s house had a deadbolt. The other two exterior doors could be carded. It is important to be alert and aware, especially of things that don’t “look right”, that are out of place or not the way you remember leaving them. Most of the time it will turn out to be nothing. The one time it isn’t could save your life or the life of a loved one.

No firearm will save you if you are stupid. In fact, if you are stupid, I have only one thing to say: Get off my blog!

Hard Times

Part 1 -- Pyramids in Argentina
Part 2 -- Bricks without straw
Part 3 -- Still Thinking
Part 4 -- Health
Part 5 -- Food for Thought
Part 6 — Alternatives

If hard times are on the horizon, and you have the time and resources to prepare now, it would be prudent to do so. One simple step is to make a list of the things you use every day from soap to toilet paper, pens and paper to socks and shoes. Every time you pick up something this week, think about where it came from and how it came into your hand. Think about whether it would be easy or difficult to get by without it. It is not a question of whether you like or enjoy the thing, but how essential it is to helping you and your family get through the day.

After you have a list of frequently used and important items, consider how hard it would be to make those things or to make alternatives to those things. Let's take shoes for example. Can you make a decent pair of shoes? I'm pretty sure I can't. I could possibly tan a deer hide and make some passable mocassins if I had to, but they are not as usable as Redwing boots or New Balance running shoes. I would be wise to make sure I had sufficient footwear available to get me through difficult or lean times. Now is the time to buy and accumulate sturdy, comfortable boots and shoes, as well as any similar items. If the lack of boots would cause a hardship, buy boots. Of course, where you live, boots may not be necessary. You may need five-gallon buckets of mosquito repellant and sunscreen, or a parka, or bicycle tires or eyeglasses, nails, or glue. Everybody's list will be different. You have to make it yourself and not depend on somebody else. I have stacks of disposable BIC butane lighters, mostly the small ones, still in the blister packs, because I live in the country and I often need to start fires and I hate matches.

While you are accumulating these necessities, study your list of frequently used items for things that might be useful for barter — things that you could acquire in surplus and that are easy to store long-term. What you want are supplies you can trade for something you might run out of or just not have when you need it. Add to the barter list some things you rarely or never use yourself or that might be luxuries in hard times. For example, I might consider buying a few half-pints or pints of hard liquor which will store indefinitely in the odd corner — especially since I no longer drink. Tobacco products might be good as well for those of us who are non-tobacco users. Get extra needles, thread, buttons, pencils, paper, nails, screws, wire, cordage, fishing tackle, and ammunition, all of which can be stacked up somewhere dry and secure for use by yourself or in trade. Next time you are in your favorite discount store consider picking up a couple of cheap hammers, cutting tools, or other small handy tools to use in barter.

Consider alternative uses for items you now throw away such as junk mail, telephone books, coffee cans, cardboard and other packaging materials.

For preserving food in difficult times, freezing is great but nothing beats canning. It's not hard to learn. There are lots of resources on the Web or in the bookstores to get you started. If you garden or have access to substantial quantities of vegetables, fruits, or even meat, you cannot afford not to can. I recommend a pressure cooker as the safest, most reliable method. For a small initial investment you will be able to fill your pantry with your own jars of home-canned tomatoes, beans, peaches, or other foods. All you have to do is replace your flats. Buy lots and lots of flats, which take up next to no room, store indefinitely and are worth their weight in gold if you are trying to avoid going hungry. My mother would occasionally re-use flats, but I think that's a little risky if you have to depend on your stash. I suppose, though, if you sterilize them well, and if they seal, they are just as good as new ones.

My view is that you just can't have too many good knives and good big knives no matter what — and there are other tools that you might think about acquiring for your own specific location, situation, and environment. I have a little, light chainsaw, several axes, cultivators, shovels, hoes, forks, and mattocks, as well as the means to keep them sharp and well-maintained. If you have wooden handles on your tools, get some kind of preservative such as boiled linseed oil to keep them from splintering or rotting. I am kind of partial to Johnson's Paste Wax which I also use on my traditional firearms — the ones with blue steel and wood. Have a selection of files and whetstones, lubricants and preservatives to go with the tools you will need.

I suggest making sure you have a Bible or two. In fact, I recommend acquiring a good supply of books of various kinds, including ones containing practical information, books of religion and philosophy, history, and fiction. E-books are fine, but I have my favorites and my most useful ones in hardcopy. The power may go out or my harddrive might crash or I might drop my smartphone in the toilet. Hardcopy books need only the usual wireless optic connection to provide us with information, entertainment, insight, and inspiration.

Along with books, it is a good idea to have a supply of games, music, and DVD's. As I said earlier, I don't expect the world to go completely Mad Max, Eli, or Postman on us. We are in a period of financial turmoil and potential monetary collapse, not a total breakdown of civilization.

Let me digress a moment, when I say "I expect" this or that, I don't mean I think something will necessarily happen, especially in detail. Rather I think it has a reasonable probability of occurring such that it would be wise to prepare for it. I'm not making predictions. People who look at the current situation and extrapolate — which is what I am doing — are frequently wrong because unforeseen events take place. New technologies do emerge, often almost overnight, or so it seems. The Yellowstone Caldera may blow, and I won't have to worry about anything. Still, I think my overall expectations are moderately probable.

I expect things to get tight.
I expect the dollar to fall and prices to go very high.
I expect to stay home. A lot.
I expect fuel to become expensive.
I expect electricity to be mostly available, though the grid may become less reliable, but I also expect electric power to become much more costly.

Give those expectations, cable and satellite services may become luxuries some of us will give up. I've already given them up. I still watch broadcast television for the local news and weather — though not every day. I might total an hour a week in the summer, a little more in the winter. National news is mostly propaganda or misdirection. Most of the crap on television is, well, crap — there being occasional exceptions on the Discovery Channel or the History Channel.

In the coming hard times, we will need to feed our bodies, but we should not neglect our souls. I can watch Ride the High Country, The Magnificent Seven, True Grit, Last of the Mohicans, or LOTR repeatedly for years and enjoy them every time, and have it cost only a small amount of juice to a TV, portable DVD player, or laptop. Make sure you have music in an MP3 player or CD's or something. Have a musical instrument or two, even if you don't play. You may have time to finally learn a few guitar chords or to blow the blues harp.

What’s the point in surviving if it’s no fun?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Alternative Lifestyles

Part 1 -- Pyramids in Argentina
Part 2 -- Bricks without straw
Part 3 -- Still Thinking
Part 4 -- Health
Part 5 -- Food for Thought

Make this word part of your vocabulary: alternatives. We need to have alternatives for all the things we consider a normal part of life here in the United States.

The REA had finally gotten electric lines to our part of the sticks a couple of years before I was born. Reliable delivery of electrical power was still a few years in the future at that point. I remember many times using kerosene lamps — the big glass ones that Mom and Dad had used before they got electricity — because the power would go out. Being in the dark is a drag. Keep plenty of batteries on hand. I know some have the expiration dates printed on them so you have an easier time keeping the older ones on top. I am amazed at the amount of light we can get from LED flashlights and lamps. They are very easy on batteries, and it would be wise to have several LED devices in various configurations. I am also a big fan of Maglites because they are so tough. I have a 3 D-cell Maglite that would floor a pachyderm. Rechargeable flashlights are good, but most of the ones I've had tend to lose their ability to hold a charge over time. Everybody should probably have at least one handcrank light.

Handcrank appliances like lights and radios that will also charge cellphones and other devices via USB connection or whatever could be really handy. I am not sure how they will hold up long term, but they are certainly worth having in an emergency. Solar chargers are another possibility.

Of course, the traditional low-tech light and heat sources such as candles and oil lamps and lanterns should be stocked along with some fuel.

In a short-term emergency, generators are valuable. I use a propane generator, but I'm not sure of the availability of propane. If I can't get propane, I probably can't get diesel or gasoline, either, and propane stores so much better. As I've said, I don't expect a complete collapse of civilization, just hard times. I think fuels will be available, albeit perhaps in more limited quantities and/or decreasing quality. If I can run a generator even briefly to power my water pump, it will make life much easier.

Clean water is essential. If the grid goes down, in many cases, a municipal water supply will keep going, at least for a time. It will still be clean and safe. Your basic indoor plumbing will also continue to function, even without electricity in many cases. That is not so for those of us out in the country who have our own wells. We have to be able to run power the water pump, have a store of water, or, possibly, have access to a spring or ground water of some sort. It's probably a good idea to have a few gallons of water at all times. Farm supply stores will often have fairly inexpensive 40 or 55 gallon plastic barrels with screw-on lids and spigots. Filling a couple of those barrels with water and adding the appropriate amount of chlorine will make for a decent emergency water supply. Setting them up on blocks or whatever will give you room to get a bucket under the little spout. I've even attached hoses to the spigot and elevated them on my tractor for watering plants that the hoses from the house won't reach. Remember a gallon of water weighes about 8 pounds. Forty gallons equals 320 pounds. Put the barrel where you want it before you fill it.

What about alternative means of transportation? I think gasoline and other fuels will be available, but more expensive and more difficult to acquire. What do you do if you can't get gas, or you can't get much gas? Can you ride your bicycle? How much can you haul on it? An old cruiser is probably better than a dedicated racer. Some mountain bikes are probably all right, depending on how they are set up. Is a bike trailer a possibility for increasing your hauling capacity? What about horses, mules, or other beasts of burden? If you have room, a horse or mule may be a feasibility. But they are not without their own needs, and, while they may consume alternative fuel, their care and feeding must be planned for in advance. They may not need tires, but they will need shoes. Be realistic about your ability to feed and care for animals in tough times.

Another option might be to use a motorcycle or motor scooter. These machines give you speed and range while requiring far less gasoline to keep them going. As the old folks said, walking ain't all been took up yet. You really can cover a considerable distance on foot if you are in moderately good shape. I recently did about ten miles in three hours while the heat index was over 100, and I was wearing black dress clothes and a pair of too-tight Noconas with Spanish riding heels. It's a long story, but the adrenaline only helped for the first three or four miles.

Rickshaws and sedan cars will probably work only if you are a good-looking female. But do use your imagination and consider the advantages and disadvantages of your personal situation. A rickshaw-type human-powered trailer will allow you to haul much heavier and bulkier loads. Forget the assault wheelbarrows. If you have a medium to large dog, you might use it to pull a cart or wagon. Maybe you could build a still and power your flex-fuel Silverado with moonshine. The important thing is to do what you can right now.

Start thinking of alternative ways to provide the essentials you will need. Do not think that the government is going to come along to bail us out. They are the cause of the problem. Government produces nothing and only has what it takes from others. If the "others" either have nothing or are part of the "ruling class" along with the politicians and bureaucrats, those of us out here in flyover country will be left to twist in the wind or take care of it ourselves.

I try not to worry about any of this stuff. I trust God. Prudence is not a lack of trust in God's power. There is such a thing as a gift of wisdom, which God will give to those who ask. Wisdom prepares for difficulties to the extent possible. It is simply the opposite of sloth and laziness. Wisdom says do what you can when you can. But wisdom never says to worry, fret, or fear, and the last thing I would want to do is cause a person to worry or to fear the future. Do what you can, fear not, and trust in the Lord.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Food for Thought Updated

Part 1 -- Pyramids in Argentina
Part 2 -- Bricks without straw
Part 3 -- Still Thinking
Part 4 -- Health

If I were a real prepper, I'd probably talk about air next. So, you can only live about three minutes without air. Breathe deep. And whatever you do, don't stop breathing — unless you are under water or possibly buried alive in the old mine you knew you shouldn't have entered and Lassie stood at the entrance and tried to block your way but you were going to show the dumb dog so now your only hope is that she can convince June Lockhart to ring up Big John or Mr. Edwards on that funky wind up telephone to come and dig you out. Or you could just avoid getting into places where you can't breathe, which is my recommendation.

Next I should talk about water. Everybody needs water. I need water to make coffee. I will actually discuss water a little more in a later post.

That brings us to food. One of the perniciously persistent ideas people cling to is that of "living off the land". There is a deep-seated belief that if we just had the skills, as Napoleon Dynamite might say, we could survive like our ancestors as hunter-gatherers. First, let me point out that there are over 300 million people in the United States. Without the advantages of modern agriculture, a significant portion of that 300 million would get mighty hungry. Second, my grandmother taught me to skin squirrels. She thought two or three squirrels could make a decent meal, but she usually made the tree-rat equivalent of chicken-and-dumplings. Straight fried squirrel does not go very far. Even if you eat squirrel brains, there just isn't much there to start. Rabbit is the same way. They might be a good, if limited source, of protein, but you are going to get little necessary fat from them. The same is true of most game, except for bears, opossums, and raccoons — or so I hear. Grandma also thought groundhogs, aka woodchucks, were good eating. Groundhogs carry quite a bit of fat by the end of summer. But that is only the beginning of the problem.

If a large portion of the human population were to start seriously foraging, wild game would get even wilder, as well as more scarce. In Texas and Oklahoma, and increasingly in southern Missouri, we use armadillos for speed bumps. In Ohio, they apparently use whitetail deer. I remember driving through a park in Cleveland thick with deer that hardly had sense enough to get out of the way of the car. If people get hungry, the dumb deer won't last long and the smart will quickly learn to avoid humans altogether. If poaching and jacklighting were to become widely practiced, we could see whitetails pushed, if not to extinction, at least to the point of scarcity. That may sound unbelievable to a generation accustomed to urban deer and other wildlife, but many of us remember when wildlife was much less common.

In short, I would not plan on living off wild game except in emergency situations. It is not sustainable for a large human population. The same is true of foraging for other wild edibles such as berries, nuts, and roots. Hickory nuts aren't bad. Blackberries are hard to beat. I wouldn't count on them getting me through the winter.

Humans started agriculture for a reason — so they would not starve. Raising food — grains, vegetables, livestock, poultry, etc., allows for a positive ROI — not in money but in calories, as well as time. It is much more efficient to have a domestic milk cow, despite the trouble and routine work involved, than to hunt down and attempt to milk a buffalo, for example. That's just not prudent.

I love to hunt. I like to get out in the woods and get away from everything. I like sitting somewhere, being both relaxed and alert, enjoying the wild world and being a part of it as a predator. But I'm not so naive as to mistake enjoyment for efficiency. Hunting is inefficient in terms of time and often the energy invested. Trapping and snaring are a little better, but it's still not as efficient as being able to walk out in the garden or the field and harvest what you have grown and tended. Keeping a few animals along with growing some grain and vegetables is the best way to get the necessary energy to live — aside from going to the store and buying it off the shelf.

I think everybody should have at least a little experience growing their own food. If a person has a yard, they should have a garden. I also see more community gardens and places where apartment dwellers can rent a small plot. It's a good investment of both time and money. If you are going to try gardening, I suggest using heirloom seeds — that is, non-hybrids that pollinate and germinate true to the parent plant. A couple of sources that I can recommend from personal experience are the folks at Sustainable Seeds and Baker Creek Seeds. Baker Creek has a nice catalog that you can get to help nurture your gardening impulses.

A small backyard garden can be a substantial, even vital supplement if the soil is built up and maintained. There are lots of sites that will give you guidance on composting for soil enrichment. I have nothing against commercial fertilizers, but they can be expensive. They can also be hard to get. Plus, their composition is limited. Compost and manure add trace elements and a certain je ne sais que — an aroma of the life-force for want of a better phrase. Good soil is living soil.

Given adequate space, I think it's possible to raise much if not most of your own food. When I was a kid, our garden was probably about an acre, plus we had a separate plot — usually about a quarter acre, just for potatoes. We always grew enough potatoes to get us through the winter. Mom canned tomatoes, beans, corn, pickles, beets, and jelly in copious amounts. We bought a big chest-type freezer and froze even more food. We raised our own chickens for eggs and meat, and we butchered a hog or two every year. We had a smokehouse for the hams and bacon.

We never lacked food, but it was a lot of work, and it required a certain level of skill and experience. My parents and their parents and their parents' parents had known how to sustain themselves by agriculture. I know a lot of stuff they didn't know. I know some of what they knew, but not nearly all of it. Life was getting easier for us, and I was on the tail-end of those generations of subsistence farmers. I saw it done. I know how to do a lot of it, but that's not the same as being able to do it. Overconfidence is the opposite of prudence. Thinking that I know it all can be fatal. We need to learn, develop, and hone our skills before things get too critical, while there is a little room yet to fall back and survive a failed attempt.

To summarize:
Learn to grow at least some of your own food, preferably with seeds that can be harvested and saved for the next season.
Learn to preserve your own food by canning, dehydrating, freezing, smoking, etc.
Start developing your skills now. Don't wait until it really is life and death.

Though people should learn to grow and preserve at least some of their own food, it is also important to have a good store of food right now. To recap my view of the way things are going, I think we are facing a breakdown in our economic system. Our current situation is unsustainable in terms of government debt, and the government's ultimate solution will be to devalue the dollar even further. Food, fuel, and utilities will become more expensive and possibly decrease in quantity and quality. I think things will become difficult for a lot of people. Therefore, it is important to prepare as much as possible while you have the resources to do so.

If you want to buy hard red winter wheat in bulk and store it in nitrogen-sealed food-grade containers, please do so. Personally, I'm buying canned chili. Seriously. Forget, for a moment, economic collapse, and consider something as simple as an ice storm. A few years ago, a nearby city was hit with a huge ice storm. Not just tree limbs but trees were toppled. Power lines were down everywhere. The city crews were busy fixing the lines, but much of the damage was done to weatherheads on homes, which were the homeowners' responsibility. Imagine thousands of people needing the services of electricians at the same time. People sat for days with no power. Initially ice made ground travel hazardous. When travel was possible, every generator within a fifty mile radius was gone in about fifteen minutes. Store shelves were cleared of food and bottled water.

There is a place for MRE's. If you have to head out with just what you can carry, a supply of MRE's will be lighter and take up less space than anything else. If you think you might have to evacuate your home for whatever reason, MRE's should go in your bug-out bag or your boogie box or whatever you have. Meanwhile, if you are playing at home, you can eat tuna right out of the can, no heat or water needed. Are those Vikings? What’s that they’re saying? Spam? Think of it as pemmican in a can. But let's not limit the selection to Starkist and Spam, there are all kinds of foods that a person can get off the grocery store shelves right now that will keep body and soul together for an extended period of time. They require little to no preparation aside from the use of a can opener, and you can even use your Swiss Army Knife or P-38 if you want to feel manly. The main thing is to stock stuff that requires little or no water or fire to prepare. The less resources used the better in any kind of challenging situation. Always store food you like and will eat in any case, rotate and replenish. I've heard Dinty Moore Beef Stew is still good after ten years. I think I'll let someone be the test case for that.

Keep a good supply of staple items that you normally use such as salt, sugar, flour, cornmeal, oil, tea, COFFEE, beans, etc.  Don't forget spices.  If, in the course of dealing with economic difficulties, you find yourself getting by with some of the less prime cuts of meat, foraging for small game or whatever, a good supply and variety of spices will make those items much more palatable.  You can buy salt or sugar cure mixture for preserving meat, but kosher salt works.  I prefer it to "table salt" in canning as well.

It the event of power failures or interruptions, a full freezer will last longer than a half full one.  Invest in some plastic ice packs and use them to take up the empty space as you use up the food.