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  Hand Drill Particulars Carried Over From Old Forum
Posted by: storm - 04-05-2004, 12:19 AM - Forum: Hoodlum Workshop-Photos Please - Replies (1)

some people in the other forums requested that i send them a list of friction fire embers i've achieved via various methods (other than ones that are listed in one of my published articles). after finishing the list, i thought it might be worthwhile to post it here:

Hand Drill Combinations I’ve Tried in Washington (that led to an ember):

- on western hemlock root: big-leaf maple (BLM), cattail, red elderberry

- on western red cedar heartwood: BLM, itself, salmonberry, thimbleberry, canada thistle

- on western red cedar sapwood: cattail, horseweed, canada thistle, burdock, mullein

- on sub-alpine fir: spiraea, ocean spray, western red cedar

- on sitka spruce: bitter cherry, clematis

- on douglas fir: BLM, clematis, cattail, western red cedar, red elderberry

- on BLM: itself, cattail, ocean spray, thimbleberry, salmonberry

- on artist’s conk fungus: BLM

- on red-belted conk: BLM

Misc. Hand Drill Embers:

- sunflower on itself

- douglas fir on itself

- live oak on CA buckeye

- scotch broom on itself

- bamboo (Phyllostachys sp.) on CA fan palm

One-Armed Fire Plow Embers:

- CA fan palm on itself

Fire Plow Embers:

- CA buckeye on itself

- mule fat on yucca

- sotol on yucca

- mule fat on redwood

- mule fat on CA fan palm

Fire Thong Embers:

- rawhide lacing on yucca

- sisal on CA fan palm

Fire Saw Embers:

- yucca on itself

- sotol on yucca

- CA fan palm on itself

- CA fan palm on CA buckeye

- bamboo on itself

- red elderberry on itself

Inverted Fire Saw Embers:

- yucca on itself

- CA fan palm on itself

- bamboo on itself

- red elderberry on itself

Favorite Hand drill Combos:

- box elder on CA fan palm

- cattail on western red cedar sapwood

- milk thistle on CA buckeye

- mule fat on CA fan palm

- mule fat on sotol

- mullein on western red cedar sapwood

- burdock on western red cedar sapwood

Fungal Bow Drill Embers:

- on Fomes fomentarius (tinder fungus): green ash, burning bush

- on Ganoderma applanatum (artist’s conk): basswood, green ash, CA fan palm, mule fat

- on Fomitopsis pinicola (red-belted conk): red-osier dogwood, burning bush, CA fan palm

i think there is a need/want for some articles (and good photos) regarding fire thong, fire saw and one-armed fire plow--i'll get right on it. BTW, i hear that you might see an article by me in one of this year's issues of Stalking the Wild Magazine, Wilderness Way Magazine, Earth First! Magazine and Backwoodsman Magazine. i am honored...

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  Changing Blades In A Sak
Posted by: Guest - 04-05-2004, 12:15 AM - Forum: General FAQ - No Replies


Sorry I had to wait until now to write this out but I don’t get as much computer time these days as I used to.

Anyway the only SAC knives I have experience with as far as taking them apart and so forth are the Rucksack and similar models. The smaller knives may be assembled in an entirely different way.

When you pry off the slabs with a sharp edged tool you will find that they are only held in place with three plastic pockets formed inside the slabs these pockets slip over three corresponding brass pins and collars located at each end and slightly off midpoint in the center. While I have had no trouble getting a good press fit when reassembling the knives, it would be possible to glue them at these points and replace the slabs if the pockets were damaged to the point that they were no longer tight.

Each of the collars is flared at the top to form a lip to grab the slab material. They are also press fit onto the pins that go through handle and as a unit they also form the pivot points for the blades and friction bars. The corkscrew and awl use another brass pin that has been peened into place and is not used to hold the slabs.

When you want to remove a blade or blades you will need to have a slab of wood with a shallow hole drilled into the face that is the same size as the pins and collars. You will also need a punch that is the same size or smaller than the pivot pin. Place the slabless knife onto the wood with the pin you want to remove over the hole. Using the punch and a small hammer tap out the pin and drive it into the hole you placed in the wood. The collar on the bottom side will go with the pin and the one on the topside will come off of the pin. When you have removed the entire pin the blades on that end will fall out.

At this point you can swap or change any of the main body blades or tools. You only need to pay attention to the possibility that the replaced tool might interfere with a closed blade on the other side or that it might be a different thickness. If the thickness is the problem then you can place shims or file down the thickness to make it work. If it interferes with the opposing blade or tool then you can try moving it to the inside or outside slot or placing a different tool on the opposing end.

If you are replacing the awl or corkscrew then you need to file off the flared end of the fourth pin and push it out. You will not be able to use this pin again but a trip to the hobby or welding store and a length of brass rod of the right diameter will replace it without a problem. You will need to repeen the replacement rod.

All this would allow you to swap and change your SAC to fit your personnel desires like I did. You could also copy the blade in a better steel and have a custom blade installed. It would be possible to redesign the blade to a shape you desired like a one handed blade or a different tip. You would also be able to replace the slabs with whatever material you wanted like exotic wood or bone, antler, horn, or micarta. You might even have a piece of G10, aluminum, titanium, or carbon fiber laying around to make it really unique.

When you reassemble the main pins you will need to slip the collars over the pins and then slightly peen the inner rod so that it forms a good friction fit to the collar. Then press the collar tight to the sides of the frame and punch the rod inside fairly well so that it flares out inside the collar and sets tight.

Hope this is what you wanted and does the job for you.


Oh by the way the side lock comes off with the scales. It is almosst impossible to mess up.

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  Using Cattails For Hand Drill Spindles
Posted by: storm - 04-05-2004, 12:14 AM - Forum: Hoodlum Workshop-Photos Please - Replies (7)

when dick baugh visited me, he told me that he never uses cattail for a hand drill spindle. so i twirled up an ember using cattail on a decayed (light as balsa wood) western red cedar hearthboard.

i really like cattail spindles. it seems easier on the hands, works well with softer woods (like cedar sapwood--even got an ember with cattail on an artist's conk fungus this afternoon, but that combination is very finicky and difficult). and...it's nearly always needs no straightening and can be quite abundant. i'm sure that others have paid better attention than i have, but i think that the taller the cattail is, the firmer the larger-diameter spindle that can be gotten from the plant. in other words--the larger diameter cattail spindles do seem fragile, as you suggested. but when i encounter a 7'-8' cattail, i can usually get a firm, good, thicker spindle out of it by using the top 3 feet (then remove the top 12-18" of that--because it's too small in diameter and fragile). great plant.

what kind of wood do other people use their cattail spindles on?

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  The Acheulean Hand Ax--or Was It?
Posted by: storm - 04-05-2004, 12:10 AM - Forum: Hoodlum Workshop-Photos Please - No Replies

this is part of an interesting article i found at [url="http://www.williamcalvin.com"]william calvin webpage[/url]. i've made a few "hand axes" that were loosely modelled after ancient artifacts. but when it came time to use them i discovered that either 1) i was using them incorrectly, because they made my hands hurt and cut them, or 2) i was making them incorrectly. i like this guy's thoughts on the subject...what do you think?

ABOUT THE EARLIEST STONE TOOL of fancy design was the Acheulean hand ax. It's almost as fancy as the arrowhead (first seen during the last ice age but mostly in the 10,000 years since the melt-off). The Acheulean hand ax is far, far older: it was the most prominent feature of the Acheulean toolkit made by Homo erectus between 1.5 and 0.3 million years ago. It is found everywhere from the tip of Africa to Europe to South Asia, made of whatever local rocks were handy.

[Image: bk5p179.jpg]

There is only one problem: for more than a century, no one could seem to figure out what the Acheulean hand ax was especially good for. For archaeologists, it has been like one of those "What is it?" exhibits in the children's room at a museum, where the children attempt to guess what the covered pan on a pole was once used for. To preheat beds with coals from the fire is not a modern problem, what with other forms of heating; I'm not sure that our guesses about hand ax usefulness are much better than the children's guesses about the pan on a pole.

Labeling the Acheulean creation a "hand ax" was certainly a major error, though the name has stuck anyway for various reasons. The sharpened edges of the typical hand ax continue all around its perimeter, and so would do a lot of damage to any hand that attempted to use a hand ax for chopping: it would, so to speak, bite the hand that held it.

The archaeologists' fallback position is that perhaps it was used for separating meat from skin and bone. But a flesher is hardly an important item in a toolkit, since split cobbles work so well for the purpose already. A hand ax (especially one with a broken edge) could certainly do double-duty as a flesher, but some other function must account for its singular features:

1) it is bilaterally symmetric,

2) usually has a point,

3) usually has a sharpened edge all the way around, and

4) it is also usually flattened, something like a discus.

The exceptions are interesting. There are some with blunt back ends, just as there are some (called Acheulean cleavers) without a point. But they may simply be broken versions of the classic shape; that's the default position to take concerning such variants until they are shown otherwise.

Surely we can do better than the position taken by some frustrated archaeologists: that it was a ceremonial item, functionless in the everyday sense of the word. "Form for form's sake" certainly exists, but it is subject to fads and fashions -- the Acheulean hand ax would have to be the all-time-record fad, extending over Africa and Eurasia for more than a million years! What use requires all of those four features, a use that would inhibit further variations in the usual manner, so that the design would remain stable for a very long time? It must be nearly perfect for some important task to achieve such an all-time-record for design stability.

Because its shape is reminiscent of the spear point and arrowhead, there was an early suggestion (H. G. Wells mentions it in his 1899 book, Tales of Space and Time) that the hand ax was thrown at animals while hunting. This suggestion floundered because the back end of the hand ax is so unsuitable for attachment to a spear (hafting didn't appear until well after hand-ax days): the rear edge of a classic hand ax is carefully rounded and sharpened. Throwing it without a shaft seems a bit silly too: how would one keep the point oriented forward in flight? Any explanation for the function of the hand ax needs to explain that point, those all-around edges, that symmetry, that flattening.

This unsatisfactory state of affairs lasted until an intrepid undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts made a fiberglass replica of a big Acheulean hand ax and gave it to some varsity discus throwers to experiment with. Eileen O'Brien took her cue from a 1965 suggestion by a South African anthropologist, M.D.W. Jeffreys: that the smaller hand axes could be thrown with spin, perhaps into a flock of birds. The replica indeed spun well; that flattened shape and bilateral symmetry are very useful for setting a spin. O'Brien and her two athletic friends discovered a totally unsuspected aerodynamic property of their hand-ax replica: in mid-flight, it would turn on edge and land that way. Indeed, the hand ax would usually slice into the ground and bury its point. Now, as you probably recall from your own experience, having the Frisbee turn edge-on shortly after launch is something that happens to all inexperienced Frisbee throwers -- but those experienced discus-throwers couldn't keep it from happening. It seemed to come with the shape.

And the tendency to land edge-on matches up with a previously puzzling aspect of the archaeology: hand axes are often found in dried-up ponds and lakes and creeks, sometimes standing on edge! This strongly suggests that hand axes were indeed thrown at animals visiting the waterhole to drink -- that hominids were practicing an old carnivore trick, lying in wait at the only waterhole.

O'Brien's experiments were a major advance, but they left many questions unanswered: Waterhole predation ought to work with any old handy rock; the painstaking preparation of this rock seems excessive. Why the sharpened edges all around? If spin is nice, why not just use a flat slab of rock, broken to be symmetrical? The answer implicit in these experiments was that a "spinning ax" could do a lot more damage than a rock: by landing on edge (especially a sharpened edge), all of the force is concentrated on a thin edge. But why the point?

THERE THE MATTER RESTED for nearly a decade; I had to puzzle over it for four years before I stumbled upon an interesting clue. It seemed to me that the hand axes were not being thrown at individual animals but at whole herds. Teaching introductory biology for the first time while writing The River that Flows Uphill had reminded me of why animals cluster into herds or schools: to protect against predators.

As herd size increases, there are more individuals on the periphery of the herd exposed to predators -- but the average animal is safer. The percentage of the herd on the periphery will drop as the herd size increases. That's why there is "safety in numbers." For a small herd, half are exposed on the periphery; tenfold larger, and most of the herd is protected inside that vulnerable outer ring. To a physiologist, this is just another surface-to-volume ratio problem of the kind familiar from thermoregulation, from why an animal needs a circulatory system to move oxygen around, if larger than the size where diffusion suffices.

But lobbing a rock up over, and thus into, a herd gets around this restriction of only the peripheral ones being vulnerable; you circumvent a two-dimensional design with a lob into the third dimension! Furthermore, herds cluster ever more tightly together when feeling threatened -- which would only make matters better for the hunter lobbing rocks into their midst as fewer rocks would fall between animals. Even when you miss, it's easier next time!

You aim at the herd, not any one individual animal: it is a "side of the barn" throw rather than a precision throw. And knowing what I did about how hard it was to throw with precision, I thought that lobbing into herds was likely to be a good entry-level technique for the beginning hunter. Invention in behavior tends not to be the "light bulb" flashing on, the bright idea after contemplation -- it tends to be an old way of doing things, converted to a somewhat similar task, one that turns out to hit upon something valuable. After this invention, adaptations streamline the behavior and eventually the body style itself. Chimps can probably throw well enough to hit a herd, though probably not with sufficient consistency to hit an isolated animal from any distance (and no second chances: the animal runs away after the first launch).

There is just one problem with hitting a herd animal in this way: most lobbed rocks that strike it would hit its back and bounce off -- an unlikely way to kill an animal. On the rare occasions when a rock hit the animal on its head or spine, it might have conveniently collapsed -- but otherwise the hunters would likely be left with an angry animal running away, with a good head start on the pursuers. Even if knocked down, the animal could likely have gotten up and run away before pursuers arrived.

Ah, but when I thought about it some more, I realized that if the animal should be knocked down, it might be further injured by its fellow herd animals -- they would stampede when the hunters launched. Even if the herd didn't trample the injured animal, they would delay it getting back on its feet. This might give the hunters time to run up and club the animal, or perhaps throw stones from up close at its head.

I was especially impressed with this scenario when I realized that there was a perfect transition from known behaviors of chimpanzees: while chimps do throw rocks, my primate ethologist friends tell me, they particularly like to throw big tree branches after flailing them around furiously. Such a branch, lobbed into a herd lapping up the lake at sunset, would land just as the herd was wheeling around and starting to run away -- so it would often trip an animal or two, expose them to trampling by the rest of the herd, delay them enough so that the hunters could corner them and polish them off. If chimps lived among herds of grazing animals, the more patient chimps could easily practice such a technique. If they ran out of branches, they would probably throw their other favorite projectile, big rocks.

If that's the way hominids got started hunting, how did they ever arrive at a fancy scheme such as making Acheulean hand axes? What is it about flattened bilateral symmetry, a point, and sharpened edges all around? So I decided to fiddle around with throwing hand axes.

I TOO FINALLY ENLISTED THE AID of an experienced discus thrower, Gareth Anderson, and we repeated the O'Brien experiments with five crude hand axes from southern Algeria and a fiberglass replica of a fancy flattened one. They all exhibited the same aerodynamic peculiarity as the giant replica that O'Brien tested: they tended to land on edge, even if thrown horizontally like a Frisbee.

Gareth and I had picked a well-worn soccer field for this experiment; it had close-cropped grass and many worn spots, and the ground had been softened up by a Seattle drizzle the day before. So when a hand ax landed and then bounced away, we could see the gouge it left behind. Gareth would retrieve the hand ax and bring it back to fit into the hole in the ground, trying to figure out its orientation when it landed. And because of packed dirt adhering to the hand ax, we could usually see the place along the perimeter of the hand ax that hit the ground first -- and it was no preferred place. Since the hand ax was spinning, it rotated after impact and the point eventually poked into the ground. Sometimes the point would snag the ground and impale the hand ax, just as in the O'Brien experiments. Thus the point helps stop the hand ax -- meaning that, in the case of an animal target, it would cause the animal to stagger much more than when the rock merely bounced free.

[Image: bk5p184.jpg]

So if the soccer field were instead the back of a zebra or gazelle, the projectile would no longer bounce off their backs like a rock would -- but rather transfer most of its forward momentum to the animal. The animal might not be able to right itself in time, before collapsing, due to an interesting neurological peculiarity: injury to the back in a four-legged animal causes the legs to flex, as when an animal scrapes its back on an overhanging tree branch or rock and the hindquarters hunch down to free the skin from the sharp obstruction. To keep from collapsing sideways after a hand ax impact on its near side or its back, the animal needs to extend its legs on the far side -- but the back injury from the sharpened edge of the hand ax would tend to make it flex the hindlimbs instead. Thus the reflex protection against toppling would be countermanded.

And that's when the pointed front end of the hand ax finally began to make some sense. It would spin around and tend to bury itself in the skin (or snag a roll of skin pushed up by the forward motion of the hand ax landing). This would not only transfer much of the hand ax's forward momentum to the animal -- but it would yank on the just-incised skin.

A clean cut of the skin is not necessarily painful if you're busy with something else, as I discovered myself one night as a child playing hide-and-seek after dark: I got a big cut on an ankle (from the nearly buried stump of a newly sawed-off bush) that I didn't notice until my mother complained at me ten minutes later, for tracking something red into the house and across the carpet. One of the things that amazes medical students during their first duty in the hospital emergency room is how many patients with a bad cut or scrape (and even broken bones) will claim that it doesn't hurt (someone finally compiled some statistics: 37 percent claim no pain for several hours after injury, though almost everyone hurts a half day later).

But what is guaranteed painful is to manipulate the cut skin edges (just ask a surgeon: they can often continue operating after local anesthesia wears off, so long as they don't touch the skin edges; when they start to place stitches is when the patient requests a booster dose). The spinning hand ax, incising the skin and then snagging its point to yank on the new incision, ought to produce a powerful withdrawal reflex that lowers the hindquarters. Even a small hand ax might cause enough sharp pain to make a big animal suddenly collapse. If the animal were standing alone, it might still get up in time to run away from the approaching hunters -- but with a herd stampeding past, just being knocked down might prove fatal.

And so lobbing branches and then rocks into herds visiting waterholes looks like a good way to make the transition from chimpanzeelike behaviors to hominid hunting -- without improving the brain's timing abilities at all. That's the basic invention for hunting. Making a "spinning-snagging ax" (as we ought to rename the hand ax, though I suspect that "killer Frisbee" will win out!) probably doubled and tripled the yield, permitted hominids to graduate from small gazelles (for whom a thrown rock might have sufficed) to the larger herd animals such as zebra. To make further improvements beyond that, you have to improve throwing accuracy so that you can hit small herds or single animals.

Note that the lobbing technique won't work against anything except targets that are tightly packed together, at least not until accuracy improves quite a lot. That's why I don't think that this invention was important for aggression within a hominid species. Yes, a tendency toward mayhem probably existed in our common ancestor (newly-installed silverback male gorillas practice infanticide, and chimps savagely beat up "enemy" chimps), and yes, accurate throwing would have allowed intermediate prehumans additional ways of committing mayhem. Attacking one another is definitely a potential way of shaping up prehumans to be bigger and better fighters -- which, judging from the history of warfare, may well have played some role at some point in the ape-to-human transition. But the shift from gathering-snatching-scavenging to successful waterhole hunting was not a major step along that path; it was instead a major step in food acquisition that would not work well against fellow hominids (unless as tightly packed as a herd!). And this invention was probably of "new niche" proportions, the sort of thing that can create a new species and spread them around the continents.

What might any of these aspects of side-of-the-barn throwing have to do with juvenilization? Certainly they might produce boom-time conditions as they increased the hominid population size that could be supported. But I think that precision throwing came later, and that it has a much better tie with juvenilization.

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  Evolution Of Blood Types...
Posted by: storm - 04-04-2004, 11:49 PM - Forum: Questions and Answers - Replies (25)

i've only recently questioned the reasons for the existence of different blood types among humans, so i looked it up on the 'net:

Evolution of Blood Types

Back in the early days of man, there were only blood type O people. This means the surface of the red blood cells had neither A nor B antigens on it. This has carried down until today, when the vast majority of people are still type O.

Around 20,000BC, a mutation occurred, and some people began to be Blood Type A. These people developed an A membrane or antigen on the surface of their blood cells. This blood type became common in central Europe as well as Scandanavia. Many feel this change occurred when farming became common in those areas.

The next change was around 10,000BC. This is when some people developed a Type B membrane on their blood cells. This change took place in Asia and Japan, and biologists are not sure what encouraged this change to take place.

It was not until around the 1500s that the A groups and B groups began to mix as travel became more and more common. This formed the AB blood type, which is most common now in northern India, even though it is still the rarest of the four main blood types. Only 5% of US residents are blood type AB.

does anyone know more about this? specifically--what caused blood types to diverge? some environmental pressure?

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  Hey, Old Pagan...
Posted by: storm - 04-04-2004, 11:47 PM - Forum: Questions and Answers - Replies (2)

bravo regarding your website! since getting introduced to the "New Age" in college, i've felt unfairly shunned for simply being male.

do you have a grasp of the main difference between a pagan and a pantheist? i'm not looking for a textbook definition, but an answer emerging from the feelings of a practicing pagan or pantheist. thank you!

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Posted by: storm - 04-04-2004, 11:31 PM - Forum: Hoodlum Workshop-Photos Please - Replies (17)

i'm going to test all of my quartzite and granite rocks in the fire (then water) tonight with a big, roaring fire. i learned last time that i needed only a small fire to heat enough rocks to sufficiently boil 2 gallons of water. a couple of the rocks cracked open--i want to make sure i get all the "bad" rocks out of my collection for future use...

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  Let Us Not Forget This Venerable Site
Posted by: BIG-TARGET - 04-04-2004, 11:18 PM - Forum: Questions and Answers - Replies (13)

for those into MINI-KIT!!! This classic site!!!

[url="http://www.angelfire.com/il3/bobsplace/"]Bob's Guide To Mini-kits[/url]

<img src='http://www.hoodswoods.net/IVB/public/style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/wink.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt='Wink' />

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  Ki What Is It?
Posted by: Ron Hood - 04-04-2004, 10:28 PM - Forum: Preparedness FAQ - Replies (2)

johnny gizzard

Registered User

KI what is it?

Posted: 2/26/03 4:13 pm



Potassium Iodide is the first "Radiation Protective" or Thyroid Blocking" agent to be sold directly to the general public. Its active ingredient, 130 mg. of potassium iodide (KI), gives virtually complete protection from the most feared consequence of a nuclear accident - a meltdown and release of radioactive iodine into the environment.

Radioactive iodine (primarily I-131) is a waste product of nuclear fission produced in reactors and bombs. Its potential impact on human health is staggering, and it could affect more people (perhaps far more people) than all other radioactive sources combined. US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) reports indicate that a major release could injure hundreds of thousands of people, and many believe that the government is underestimating the danger.

What makes I-131 so dangerous is that the body can not distinguish it from ordinary iodine. As a result, if it is accidentally swallowed (in contaminated food or water), or inhaled (it can remain in the atmosphere for days), it will be absorbed into the thyroid gland and will remain there long enough to slowly poison its victim. It can take 20 to 30 years, but eventually it can lead to cancer, thyroid damage, growth and birth defects, or death. Children, whose thyroids are especially active, are extremely susceptible to it.

But Potassium Iodide protects against radioactive iodine by preventing its absorption by the thyroid gland. Potassium Iodide saturates (blocks) the thyroid with stable iodine, "filling it to capacity". Once filled, the gland "turns off" its absorption mechanism, and it will remain off long enough for the radioactive iodine to disappear naturally. This method of protection is extremely safe and effective, and up to 99% of all radiation induced thyroid damage can be avoided by the use of Potassium Iodide.

The value of potassium iodide was demonstrated following the Chernobyl nuclear accident, where authorities began mass distribution (millions of doses) of KI just hours after the explosion. In the years following the accident in areas where people received the drug, the incidence of thyroid cancer has not increased. But where KI was not distributed, previously rare forms of juvenile thyroid cancer have begun appearing at epidemic rates, with over 11,000 cases reported by the year 2000.

But the radiation did not stop at the Soviet border. In Poland, 300 miles away, authorities watched as radioactive iodine levels began climbing. Soon, authorities felt they had no choice, and doctors ordered a protective dose for every child in the country. These efforts proved successful, and there has been no increase in thyroid cancer in Poland due to Chernobyl. Similar preventative measures took place in other areas throughout Europe, with similar success.

These programs succeeded because most European countries had long stockpiled KI for emergency use in the event of a nuclear accident or war. Planners, therefore, had access to the drug (which should be taken prior to exposure for maximum effectiveness) when it was needed. Unfortunately, similar mass stockpiles are not kept in the United States


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  3800 Words On Cleaning In The Field
Posted by: Ron Hood - 04-04-2004, 10:26 PM - Forum: Weapons FAQ - No Replies


Registered User

3800 Words on Cleaning in the Field

Posted: 8/19/03 9:58 am


Some thoughts on extended firearms maintenance in the field.

First, a true story:

The Time: Early 1944

The Place: An island "Somewhere in the Pacific"

A United States Army infantry captain stands in a clearing, surrounded by his men. Worn out, sick, sleep-deprived, the rifle company is only at about half its rated strength. They’ve been fighting both the Japanese and disease. They’re hungry and tired. And now they’ve got another problem, one that keeps looming bigger and bigger every day. Their guns are starting to fail from hard use, neglect, and the tropical weather, and the battalion armorer has been invalided off the island.

"Is there anyone her who can take an M1 rifle apart and reassemble it blindfolded?" the captain asks the troops. Nobody raises his hand. Finally, a 21-year-old farmboy and logger, from the hills above the Santiam Valley in Oregon stands up. He’s never even driven a car, and had never traveled more than 50 miles from home before he enlisted. It’s been 60 days since he’s had fresh socks, slept on anything but coral or sand, changed his uniform, or had a shower. He’s just a combat infantryman with no more formal training than any other wartime trooper, and that’s precious little. But he says he thinks that he can.

"Then do it," orders the captain. The men spread a poncho out on the ground; the young man is blindfolded with a T-shirt and given an M1 Garand. And, indeed, he can both disassemble and then reassemble that M1.

And that’s how my Uncle Eldon became the new battalion armorer, a job for which he had no training, but one that he thought was pretty good duty because he got to sleep in a tent that served as his workshop.

* * * * *

Our Man In The Sierra, Mr. Eric Stoskopf, recently asks which firearms can best sustain poor maintenance in the field. I’ve been giving this matter some thought (warning sign number one—perhaps you should just bail out of this post while you can). This seems such a simple question on the surface, but I’ve grown to believe it’s much more complex than we may first think. Answering such a question calls for someone with a first-rate intellect, deep experience, and a captivating writing style. Unfortunately, all you have is me, the equivalent of some yahoo sitting on a poncho in the jungle with a T-shirt tied around his head. Be thankful you’re not asking for medical advice.

Mr. Stoskopf’s question is more than simply academic: On the eve of spending a month in the mountains under primitive conditions, one suspects the firearms he has with him on his trip may not get the pampering they do sitting in a fireproof gun safe at home.

Firearms maintenance under field conditions is a different animal from firearms maintenance at the target range. In my experience, after a day at the range, one is (or should be) most concerned with cleaning required due to the actual firing of ammunition. In the field, however, a weapon may require much more cleaning and maintenance even though it was never fired, due to exposure to dirt, rain, snow, dust, grit, insects, and the like.

How does one decide which firearm will hold up best under poor circumstances? Most folks would just say, "Choose something stainless," and leave it at that. Yet that’s far from a complete answer, and indeed, may even be advice in exactly the wrong direction.

Here are the simple rules:

Rule Number One: Keep the firearm clean. Clean means free not only from the byproducts of shooting (powder fouling, metal fouling), but also free from dirt, dust, leaves, seeds, sweat and fingerprints. Dirt promotes corrosion, and dirt in the mechanism promotes malfunction.

Rule Number Two: Keep the firearm dry. Moisture attracts dirt, and moisture rapidly accelerates corrosion. Moisture can mean rain or snow, but dew and condensation are just as damaging.

With a little foresight and dedication, it’s easy to accomplish both.

Basic Considerations

Here are a couple of thoughts: First, you may choose to make your life easy by selecting a firearm which is easy to maintain. By this I mean one that is easy to disassemble with no major tools, has few parts, and whose major parts groups are large. Second, one may choose a firearm whose materials (stainless steel, synthetics, nickel-plated exterior, chrome-plated bore) make it more tolerant of (some) poor cleaning. And third, one may pick a firearm which by its very construction gives dirt, dust, and assorted field funk fewer places to get in or foul things up.

Simplicity, robustness, ease of maintenance and ease of assembly are of interest to most armed forces, and indeed, when we examine some of the more successful military arms, we find that they mostly meet our criteria: Another Forum contributor mentions the SKS and AK-47; in addition, the M96 and M98 Mausers, the Lee Enfields, the Arisakas, and the M1903 Springfield all disassemble into their major parts using nothing more than a bullet tip as a tool, and they all seem to tolerate lack of maintenance—the AK series famously so.

As a rule, bolt guns protect their mechanisms relatively well. Modern commercial bolt guns—especially the Remingtons and Rugers—do not readily allow the user to detail-strip the bolt, but one may disassemble it far enough to maintain it, and, as we’ve noted before, the striker mechanism is relatively well protected. Lever guns are also easy to strip, although maintaining the inside of their magazine tubes and keeping these dent-free can be a challenge. Non-military autoloading rifles are often a handful, and their gas systems prone to corrosion. Single-shots like the H&R or NEF offerings are excellent choices—few parts, well protected, easy to disassemble (to a point).

Revolvers, surprisingly, come in second to most autoloading pistols, even though for most wilderness situations revolvers have much in their favor. Grit entering through the trigger/frame junction can tie up the mechanism in surprising order. Swing out or remove the cylinder and you can clean up the worst of things, but if grit or moisture gets into the lockwork it’s a tougher job. M1911-series autoloaders are famously robust and easy to maintain, and single actions tend to have fewer parts compared to double actions.

With shotguns as with rifles, singles and doubles easily break down into their larger component parts; pumps protect their mechanism well and generally disassemble with ease, and autoloaders require the most TLC.

A couple of other observations. When the United States Army switched over from the old "Trapdoor" Springfield to the more modern Krag, they were surprised to see the new rifles suffer from rusty bores. The Trapdoor, after all, used notoriously corrosion-inducing blackpowder loads (the .45-70), while the new Krag used modern "smokeless" powder. But the visionaries in Washington failed to consider two points: The Krags’ cartridges used corrosive primers, and the new smallbore .30 barrels were tougher to clean than the bigger .45-caliber tubes on the trapdoors. That’s no small thing, and a lesson that has not been lost on Your Humble Narrator. It’s fantastically easy to keep a 12-gauge single sparkling under field conditions. That big .70-caliber pipe doesn’t wick water through capillary action the way a .22 will, and even if you’re without proper cleaning equipment, you can drop a piece of parachute cord through the big bore or even cut a willow branch to use as a cleaning rod. Since they’re easy to clean, they get cleaned more often, and, perversely, because they’re clean, it’s easier to keep them clean.


Look at that high polish and all that pretty blueing. Just a rich man’s seduction, right? How I wish it were. Truth is, a smartly polished metal surface is easier to keep clean, and retains less moisture. Polishing also removes scratches, minor irregularities, and fissures that promote a phenomenon known as "crevice corrosion" (more on this in a bit).

High-quality blueing can do an exceptional job of protecting a firearm. I have several Mauser rifles in my safes, four of which have been through two world wars, and which are rust-free. And these are issue-grade weapons that have seen severe service in the field and which have not been refinished. Mauserfabrik in Oberndorf, and the Swedish Husqvarna and Carl Gustav concerns, used high-quality steel, and in the case of the 1896 and 1938 Swedes, alloyed it with a bit of copper, enhancing the rust resistance. Indeed, the bolt bodies on those Swedish Mausers are in the white (raw metal with no finish) and they remain rust-free, even though one of them is 105 years old.

Blueing is really just a thin layer of surface oxidation that serves to protect the metal underneath. When applied correctly and carefully, it can offer substantial protection against corrosion.

We all know that under most day-to-day exposures, aluminum does not corrode either (exposure to severe acids, bases, or salt-air are notable exceptions). Yet handle uncoated aluminum (aluminum which has not been anodized or coated with lacquer), and your hands will soon be dark. Why? Aluminum oxide. You see, aluminum naturally oxidizes a thin layer at its surface, and then stabilizes. This thin aluminum oxide layer protects the parent metal underneath, and consequently, aluminum doesn’t "rust." Climbers and other outdoorsmen who have handled aluminum carabiners know this instinctively, even if they don’t understand the reasons why. A day spent climbing will leave your hands black from aluminum oxide, yet those aluminum carabiners don’t pit or rust the way steel would. The aluminum oxide layer is thin and soft, and readily rubs off; blueing is thin and hard, and while you can rub it off (note the so-called holster wear at the sharp edges of a revolver’s muzzle), it’s really pretty durable.

Nickel or chrome plating (especially chrome-plated bores) resist corrosion surprisingly well, so long as no ammonia-based solvents attack the copper "strike" between the chrome or nickel and the parent metal. And rust in the bore is often the number-one enemy: the bore is comparatively tough to keep clean, is subjected to both thermal and mechanical stresses from firing, and even a small amount of corrosion here has an immediate effect on both accuracy and perhaps safety.

Other finishes like zinc phosphate (Parkerizing) and proprietary finishes (Rogard, etc.) generally work well so long as the finish is not scratched through. Some are tougher than others. Due to their excellent surface finish, Glock handguns, for example, have proven exceptionally durable even though they are produced using conventional carbon steel.

Stainless steel, of course, is the modern solution for many. Yet stainless is not the magic bullet one would think. In January of 1981, the American Rifleman, that much-regarded journal of the National Rifle Association, published an article entitled "Stainless Steel Firearms," authored by Norman J. Whisler and Richard D. Overley (that I sit here looking at an original copy simply proves that I should clean out my library more often and get a life).

The authors took steel-alloy coupons and pieces from both stainless (410- and 300-series) and carbon steel (4140 chrome-molybdenum) and subjected them to corrosion tests. All parts were tempered to Rockwell C-30, typical for common firearms parts (the tempering process influences corrosion resistance).

In a nutshell, here were their observations: The 4140 exhibited signs of rust earlier than the stainless steel (410), which remained corrosion-free for seven days under their test conditions, "after which the corrosion of the stainless became much more severe. In the course of 24 hours, the 410 changed from being apparently unharmed to being much worse than the 4140, and remained so for the remaining three weeks of the test. Red rust was clearly forming on the surface of the 410 fouling."

The authors then tested some gun parts fashioned form 300-series stainless and 4140. Here, "the 300-series stainless reacted much more slowly than the 410 coupon." Yet it too eventually developed rapid and severe corrosion, eventually far worse than the 4140. "The 4140 [was] lightly attacked over its entire surface, while the 410 had pits about 1-2mm wide (.04-.08") and about as deep. In the second test, the chrome-moly steel hammer was subject to general attack . . . [while] the stainless hammer contained a number of deep pits."

The authors continue, stating that "localized corrosion of stainless steel is more likely to be a problem for gun owners than general attack, since it is most likely to occur in small crevices which are not reached by ordinary cleaning. Such corrosion can penetrate deeply into steel in a relatively short time.

"The most common harmful form of localized corrosion in firearms is pitting due to an oxygen concentration cell. This can be established when fouling or degraded (gummy) oil is left unattended on the stainless steel surface. An area underneath the deposit may become depleted in oxygen. Lack of oxygen may destroy the passivity of stainless steel, and the metal at the depleted site will pit, If the surrounding area is in the presence of oxygen, the pit may grow even more rapidly than in the case of common steels, This is so because of the large galvanic potential between the passive stainless steel and the non-passive portion which is corroding. Pits, once formed, tend to perpetuate conditions, which cause pitting.

"Crevice corrosion requires an existing notch, hole, or interface to initiate. In firearms, crevices may be found at the frame/grip-plate interface, at the barrel/frame interface, cylinder-notch/cylinder-stop interface, and in the corners of the rifling."

The authors further note: "Pitting can occur if the surface of stainless steel is contaminated by ordinary steel. This can occur if the stainless steel is cleaned with (non-stainless) steel wool, or if it is ground, filed, or machined with items that have been previously used for ordinary steels. Tiny particles of ordinary steel will remain on the surface of the stainless steel after the operation has been completed. Not only is this rust unsightly, but it will destroy the passivity of the stainless steel underneath, thereby initiating pitting."

In short, clean your stainless firearms as scrupulously as you would your blue-steel guns, and pay particular attention to the crevice corrosion to which stainless firearms are particularly vulnerable.

Protecting the Piece

Since so much firearms corrosion in the field has to do with the elements and not actual firing, protecting the weapon from unnecessary exposure is a large step in the right direction. This may take the form of a fabric breech cover, a case, a full-flap holster, or a piece of electrical tape covering the muzzle. A coat of hard-paste automotive wax, especially in damp climates, is also a good prophylaxis.

Look carefully at photographs of German troops in Russia during World War II and you’ll often see them with small bits of rag stuffed in the muzzles of their MP38/40 machine pistols or Kar98k rifles. They were trying to keep dust, dirt, and moisture out of their bores, but this was an exceedingly poor technique in attempt to accomplish a worthy goal. The inevitably cotton rags wicked moisture, even in the hot Russian summers of 1941, 1942, and 1943, and I’ve seen many, many Eastern Front Mausers with severe corrosion in the last inch of their bore, even though the rest of the barrel was pristine.

* * * * *

I’ve carried quite a few firearms in the field, often under conditions of continuous use and exposure. Yet I’ve even managed to preserve blue-steel cap-and-ball revolvers loaded with black powder from rusting, sometimes for many weeks at a time. How?

I try to do whatever I can to keep them both clean and dry. Sometimes this takes the form of protective covering. Sometimes it means disassembly in the field. It always entails both lubrication, and often the wiping of surfaces with a lightly oiled piece of fabric. Once clean and dry, I try to keep the pieces protected from the elements, and that includes condensation due to rapid changes in temperature. Whenever I can, I take advantage of a warm day to clean and dry the arm as well.

You don’t need a whole toolbox with you. A ziplock bag holding an eight-inch-squared piece of fabric saturated with your favorite firearms oil or a pre-impregnated silicon cloth is enough for wipedowns. Some dry material to absorb moisture is helpful, but this can be as simple as a rag, toilet paper, or a paper towel. Take the tools you need to dismount the firearm. (Screwdriver? Allen key? Will your Swiss Army knife or Leatherman suffice, or do you need something more? Try your tools at home before your presume they will work in the field. I’ve reground the screwdriver on my pocketknife to fit my Mauser’s guard screws.)

A small brush is really quite useful for cleaning off dust and dirt where there’s no high-pressure compressed air to be found. I’ve got a special little one from Brownells, but you can find a serviceable equivalent at your local Starbucks or kitchen supply center—just look for one designed to clean out espresso machines. They usually have a wooden handle about four inches long and bristles two or three inches long, and are round, not flat like a paintbrush. The coffee-machine brush bristles are a little soft, but a rubber band or string wrapped tightly about halfway down their length effectively stiffens them up.

Normally, a one-piece cleaning rod is preferable for all cleaning chores. Yet this is the real world, and under the rigors of serious field use, a one-piece rod is simply too cumbersome and susceptible to damage. So find a good multiple-piece cleaning rod, a bore brush, and a cleaning jag.

Yes, you can use a string to pull a patch through your bore, and that rig will fit in a 35mm film can. But to really clean your bore or to dislodge debris, you need a rod. Again, for a 12-gauge, you may be able to tiller one out yourself from a straight branch, but for rifles you need to bring one of your own. There are no shortage of these on the market, and over the years the U. S. military has outfitted the troops with some passable designs that fit into the buttstocks of rifles like the M1 Garand, the M14 (both .30 caliber), and the M16 (.223 caliber). A tiny container (one ounce will do) of nitro solvent is a welcome addition once you have a proper cleaning rod, as well.

* * * * *

Once upon a time, when I was assisting Mr. Hood and other survival instructors with some regularity, I went on a quest, and convinced myself that a Ruger Security Six was the answer. Here was a stainless-steel .357 Magnum revolver that could be detail stripped with virtually no tools. Especially impressive (I convinced myself) was the ability to drop the entire lockworks in one assembly without having to remove a sideplate.

Yet in reality, even after pretty much four years of continuous duty, of guiding in all four seasons, and of my own trips, I never had to tear the Ruger down in the field, and eventually opted to carry something else. Today, it’s a house gun, and almost never travels afield, replaced by other choices.

So today I carry pretty much whatever weapon I deem suitable for the task at hand, and I pay precious little attention to weather it’s blued steel, Parkerized, or stainless. I carry a small field cleaning kit, and a cleaning rod. And I just try to pay attention and not get lazy.

A Final Story:

In the early 1980s, I had a young cousin who joined the Navy and shipped off on a guided missile frigate in the Pacific. He was 18, and was trained as a communications man. At sea, he was standing watch late one evening, monitoring radio traffic from his duty station on the bridge, when one of his young shipmates whose duty that night was to patrol the deck walked into the compartment to warm up.

Onboard, most of the sailors had a nickname, and they called this young man "The Merc" (as in the mercenary), because he as always playing around with guns and knives. (A thought—he may now well be a member of this very Forum. Perhaps they should have called him the Hoodlum!) Since he was standing watch on the deck, he’d been issued with a sidearm, at the time a Government Model Colt M1911A1, the familiar "Colt .45" we all know and love.

The Merc decided he was going to impress my cousin by showing him how to detail-strip his the old warhorse, and got it down to a bunch of tiny pieces. But when it was time to reassemble it, he got flustered, and forgot how. He tried and tried, but the clock was ticking, and in just another minute his watch ended and we was going to have to turn the gun, belt, holster and flashlight over to the next watch. Finally, he just scooped up the parts, dumped them into the holster, stuck the gripframe on top, fastened the holster’s flap shut, and resumed his watch.

Thankfully, he was only an anchor-clanker and not an infantryman or a Marine, and his life did not depend upon having a functioning sidearm that night. One may only wonder which poor swabbie eventually opened that holster and attempted to draw that Colt, and came up with only the grips and slide rails.

The moral, of course, is that don’t know that one should become familiar with one’s firearm’s assembly and disassembly procedures at home, before you have to take the crash course out in the woods, just as you should understand how your vehicle’s jack works before you try to instruct yourself by Braille in the middle of a Sierra snowstorm.

* * * * *

For 22 years I lived in the unreconstructed deserts of the American West, and at home I hardly gave corrosion a second thought. Prior to that I’d spent a great deal of time in the wet Pacific Northwest, where hunting in the rain was an accepted fact of life. In central Europe, too, I’ve had plenty of outdoor equipment survive rain, fog, and snow. But now I live within sight of a large ocean, and my job title has been reduced to Fleet Corrosion Control Officer. Everything, so it seems, is susceptible to corrosion, from the cars in the driveway to the contact switches in the stereo and computer. Even in this harsh environment, though, my firearms remain largely corrosion free, as does my saltwater fishing gear. It’s an endless, thankless fight, and every once in a while I do see that telltale orange stain that tells me something’s gone undetected. Out with the Scotchbrite and WD-40! It’s a tough battle, but you can win.

A series of good men took awful good care of that old Mauser rifle for 105 years. I don’t intend to let them down, and to let rust win now.

Best regards,




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Registered User


Posted: 8/19/03 4:05 pm


(This message was left blank)


Posts: 310 | IP:


Registered User

Re: as usual ml...

Posted: 8/19/03 5:26 pm


you have hit the nail on the head,

there must be preventive maintinence done on your equipment or you will get a rude suprise. having hunted in alaska i will tell you that you must oil up you rifle every day. i keep a special oily rag just to do it with in a zip lock bag. and a can of spray oil spritzed down the barrel then a dry patch also. i dont use silicone based oils as they might kill a primer, but you better be paying attention to you rifle or you will be sorry when it goes click instead of bang (the loudest sound in the world) especially in alaska where " you are not at the top of the food chain anymore toto".


Edited by: alco141 at: 8/19/03 5:31 pm


Posts: 1132 | IP:

Eric Stoskopf

Cool Calm Calamity


Posted: 8/20/03 11:32 am


An entire six pages of valuable information. Incredible.

I'm sure Cleaning in the Field will remain on my desk and within easy reach for quite some time.

Many thanks to ML for yet another informative lesson.

Now. How how does one deal with the guilt of not having the time to finish a measly trip report after having just read a 3800 word masterpiece on firearms maintenance!




"In the school of the woods there is no graduation day"

Horace Kephart


Posts: 2179 | IP:


Registered User


Posted: 8/20/03 4:50 pm


I just was talking to Wally the other day about the .22 caliber Romanians. I have become quite familiar with them and even though they have some crevices that are susceptible to dirt and grit, they are easy to strip and clean. I must admit that some advise you gave about cleaning in general and the need for a rod and not just a bore snake saved me a weekend of hunting last year, as a bullet lodged in the barrel of said .22's and if it wasnt for that rod I would have been home after just 2 hours. I tried the stick as rod trick, but quickly realized that it was a dream and pulled out the rod that I had reluctantly packed.



p.s. I only wish you could be an English Comp proffesor, as that was a hell of an essay!


Posts: 442 | IP:

Howard Wallace

Registered User

moderator - consider moving this to the FAQ

Posted: 8/20/03 5:22 pm


before it falls off the end of the forum. If any other of ML dissertations are still extant perhaps they should go over there also.

Howard Wallace

---Pro Libertate---


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Registered User

Many, Many Thanks

Posted: 8/20/03 5:58 pm


Thank you all for the kind responses. They are most appreciated, and I sincerely mean that. For while (some) of these little epistles are fun to write, especially those which require me to do a little research and thus further my own education, the longer ones do take a little time, and thus they often show up a little late in this “instant” web world. Still, it is gratifying to know they are appreciated, and that they sometimes make a difference (Neohobbit’s experience as a case in point).

Also, I need to voice a long-overdue thanks to Ron and Karen Hood for providing the bandwidth, the opportunity, and indirectly the audience.

Finally, a personal indulgence, addressing the “English Professor” comment: Should you have attended a certain university in California during the late 1970s and early 1980s when for a time I was a member of the English Department faculty, indeed you could have suffered through one of my Freshman Composition classes, although I don’t know how much fun it would have been. But I can note that the first day of classes and the opening day of deer season were often perilously close, and that more than once I was off hunting while a colleague generously substituted for a couple of days. I think that rattled some of the other department members, but they chalked it up as just another one of my colorful eccentricities—of which I had and continue to have no short supply.

It’s vogue among some Forum members to bash universities and university educations, saying that they’re a waste of time. Sorry they had that experience. I would not trade my years as an undergraduate and a graduate student for anything—indeed, I continue to take night classes with some frequency, even though there’s plenty of gray in my moustache now. In the university, I learned much that continues to enrich my life. That in addition to my purely academic studies I was also lucky enough to take classes personally from Ron Hood and other gifted outdoors instructors, and got paid to lead and guide outdoor survival, climbing and backpacking trips, and spent my free time riding motorcycles, hunting, fishing, and shoehorning a Chevrolet engine into my old Toyota Land Cruiser when classes were finished made those wonderful years even better.

Thanks again. I’ll try to continue making some meaningful contributions.



Posts: 453 | IP:

Bill Hay

Registered User

Many, many kudos...

Posted: 8/20/03 6:41 pm



While the "instant" web makes it often difficult to keep up with postings, many of us live lives that seem to match the same insane pace...

Your time and experience is a worthy substitute to our taking our own time to research subjects... And much more efficient, I might add...

There is always an audience, always a market, for knowledge. Granted, our current society has fewer and fewer who thirst, but there are always a few.

The youth should always hold a valued place for the experience and wisdom of the aged.

Or in modern American English... "Duh. Like, keep 'em comin', dude!"

And an additional note of recognition to Ron & Karen for providing the environment that we can continue to learn, and share what we have learned.

I'm struggling with a raging cold, and a system full of antihistamines, so appologies if any of this doesn't make sense.


Conventional thinking promotes conventional wisdom.

Conventional wisdom promotes conventional action.

Conventional action promotes conventional results.

Conventional results are average.

A webpage... of sorts...


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Registered User


Re: Many, many kudos...

Posted: 8/20/03 8:42 pm


im struggeling thru a case of beer, and i second Bill Hays words..

ML, thank you again for yet another insightful, intelligent and educational post. ive often considered and wondered about your writting style and now understand why. kind of suspected an english background, or higher than most education. as always i look forwards to more of yore writtings, stories, and experiences. for that wich you hca contributed and i have read, sir i am in your debt.

Ron and Karen, thank you again and again and again for providing this forum, and this meeting place for like mined people to come and gather, share, swap stories, knowledge, information, lean on one another, share our lives and experiences. Sir and Ma'am, for your hard work, i am in youir debt.

there are many many MANY of you who help to make this forum what it is.. and i also thank you for being exactly who and what you are.. good people, honest people, helpful and careing people. good to know ya.

now im going back to my lurking and thats nuff of that sentimental $h!t!!! take care all.

Ray in California

"Beware the man with only one gun, chances are he KNOWS how to use it."


Posts: 976 | IP:


I survived WASP


Thread copied from Weapons forum

Posted: 8/20/03 10:02 pm


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Of all the things I've lost, I think I miss my mind the most.

Wally Merrin



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