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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,




Posts: 451 | IP:


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---


Posts: 1381 | IP:


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...


Posts: 3339 | IP:


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


(This message was left blank)


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

Wally Merrin



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  Water Treatment
Posted by: Ron Hood - 04-04-2004, 10:23 PM - Forum: Preparedness FAQ - Replies (3)


Registered User

water treatment

Posted: 2/19/03 3:39 pm


i have found that this link will give you all you need to know about making sure water is safe to drink from a disease standpoint. i have found it very usefull from time to time.



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  Comment For: Action Type And Rate Of Fire (part On
Posted by: Ron Hood - 04-04-2004, 10:17 PM - Forum: Weapons FAQ - No Replies


Registered User

Action Type and Rate Of Fire (Part One)

Posted: 1/12/04 2:44 pm


Five Shots Rapid! An Examination of Rifle Action Types and Rate of Fire.

(Note: Due to this post's length--6300 words--I've had to split it up into two parts. Minor revisions incorporated into this post from the original on 13 January.)

How fast can you fire that bolt-action Mauser? That old lever-action Winchester? That semi-auto? Was Chuck Connors’ magazine-emptying fusillade during the opening credits of The Rifleman a masterful feat of gunhandling or just so much Hollywood hokum? And just how many shots can you expect to get off when you’re being charged by a large, irate animal 30 feet away?

Last summer this recoil-addled correspondent decided to find out for himself, so with a truck full of representative firearms and a case of ammunition, Your Humble Narrator hied out to the open desert of the Great American West, endured a couple of afternoons of 113-degree heat, dined on steaks smoked over creosote-bush coals, and slept out under a magnificent star-filled sky, all in the endeavor to answer these and other pressing questions. (For instance, who the hell encourages this idiot to keep posting this stuff?)

* * * * *

During the last four decades or so, while other members of this Forum were no doubt busy getting rich investing their discretionary income in California beachfront real estate or Microsoft stock and watching their portfolios swell like Pamela Anderson’s bustline, Your Man in the Big Dez was pissing it all away on firearms (as well as a few other colorful vises). This has left me barely able to afford dented cans of off-brand cat-food for taco night on Wednesdays, and my retirement plans have been reduced to squatting under a flat rock in the Sierra Nevada and living off roadkill like a two-legged coyote. Along the way, though, I have managed to stuff a couple of gun safes full of interesting and eclectic iron, so much so than even the Eminent Mr. Hood himself expressed amazement the last time he peered inside. Combine this with an inquisitive and skeptical nature inculcated by the Jesuits and we have all the ingredients to conduct an experiment such as the one you’re about to enjoy (or, perhaps more accurately, grudgingly endure) in this week’s installment of The Woodsmaster Weapons Forum.

* * * * *

Bolt-action, lever-action, pump-action, semi-auto and single-shot: We all intuitively think we know that one is faster to operate than another. It must be so! But a few hundred years ago, we all intuitively knew the earth was flat, too, and even today some of us continue to believe that politicians are capable of truthfulness; that professional wrestling or NASCAR is somehow honest, unscripted competition; or that if we grill our steaks using Brand X propane, a platoon of Victoria’s Secret supermodels models is guaranteed to parachute into our next backyard barbecue wearing little more than the smallest patch of strategically placed lace and their famously pouty looks.

So. Viewed under the harsh magnifying glass of the stopwatch, do we really know the truth about rate of fire, or have we simply once again deluded ourselves with wishful thinking? After all, there is no trap so deadly as the one we set for ourselves (thank you, Raymond Chandler).

These are the questions you ask yourself when you’re too cheap to pony up for cable, and your social life has descended to the depths of my own.

Rather than just give you more of that unsubstantiated opinion (because everyone’s an expert on the Internet!) which passes through lesser websites with the palpable stench of a ground-rolling goat fart, or just steal someone else’s work and publish it as though it were my own, I decided to find the truth—or a reasonable facsimile thereof—before spewing forth. And there seemed to my small and simple mind only one way to accomplish this: by firing five-shot strings as rapidly as I could from a series of representative firearms. I tried to make this as much of an apples-to-apples comparison as possible, at least in terms of caliber and sights. I wanted to know how fast I could fire, say, five shots at a target that was close. Say, 30 feet away. Say, like a large, charging animal.

Maybe some of you have had the good fortune to have shot a Rapid Fire stage in the military, or in High Power rifle competition. If not, I urge you to do so. But rapid fire at Camp Perry is a different creature from what we’re talking about here: First, it’s fired very deliberately and shot for score—a pretty careful score if you’re playing the game seriously or trying to qualify Expert. Compared to a close-encounter with a hostile animal, the targets are distant—100 and 300 yards in most cases. And my old High-Power rulebook defines the rapid stage as ten shots within either 60 or 70 seconds (from standing to sitting or standing to prone, respectively), including one reload of the magazine. (This usually means two five-shot magazines fired back-to-back, or a two-shot magazine followed by an eight-shot magazine for the M1 Garand). You don’t need to be a genius to do the math: allowing for the time it takes to recharge the magazine once and the time it takes to get into position, right off the bat we know a skilled operator with a bolt gun (because these strings were regularly shot with bolt guns and stripper clips in the old days, and some still are) should be able to get off an aimed shot at the very least once every five seconds or so with a substantial amount of precision.

I make no pretensions of being anything more than average when it comes to rapid-fire skills. It’s been close to two decades since I seriously participated in any High-Power rifle competitions, although back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I shot for score with an ’03 Springfield I did manage to hold my own, and I did my time in the 600-yard pits. And I will also admit a little more a passing familiarity with firearms. Consequently, as the advertising monkeys say, your mileage may vary, and you may fire your strings faster or more slowly.

Scientists will note that this experiment doesn’t necessarily prove which action type is faster, but only which action type I can operate faster on a given day. True—and I invite them to perform their own experiments and publish their results. Until that time, the important aspect of today’s little screed should not change: Since all of these strings were fired by one shooter (me), on the same weekend, and with rifles of as close to the same chambering as I could manage, the relative points of which actions facilitate faster shooting should stand as representative. Adjust your speed up or down depending upon your proficiency or lack thereof, but, action-to-action, I imagine your relative speed will remain as illustrated here.

Moving on, let’s take a look at our players, and see what they could do.

Rifles Tested (In order of action type):

Bolt Action

Ruger M77 Mk II, .308 Winchester

Ruger M77 Mk II, .30-’06 Springfield

Remington Model 600, .260 Remington

Model 1896 Krag Carbine, .30 Govt. (.30-40 Krag)

Rifle No. 5, Mk III (Lee Enfield Jungle Carbine), .303 British

Steyr Scout, .308 Winchester

Lever Action

Marlin 336, .30-30 Winchester

Winchester Model 94, .30-30 Winchester

Straight-Pull Bolt Action

K31 Schmidt Rubin, 7.5 x 55 Swiss

Steyr Mannlicher M95/35, 8 x 56R

Pump Action

Remington Model 740 "Gamemaster," .308 Winchester


Rifle, Cal. .30, M1 (M1 Garand), .30-’06 Springfield

Single Shot

Ruger No. 1; 30-’06 Springfield

New England Firearms Handi-Rifle, .308 Winchester


Where possible, I chose rifles firing cartridges of similar length and power—comparing times for a .22 autoloader against a .375 H&H Magnum bolt gun is meaningless. Still, small variables creep into the equation, such as stock design, weight, sights, and so on. I tried to choose firearms which minimized them. With the exception of the M1 Garand and the K31 Schmidt Rubin (both heavy military arms), all of these rifles are general representations of typical sporter-weight guns with barrels generally between 19 and 22 inches, and weighing between six and eight pounds or so.

Sight configuration is also a factor. Ideally, all of the weapons tested would have had identical sighting arrangements. This was not possible; however, with the exception of the Steyr Scout (which utilized a 2.3X Leupold Intermediate Eye Relief telescopic sight) and the Remington Model 600 (1.5-5X Leupold set on 1.5 power), all of the rifles here were fired with iron sights. Sometimes this meant an aperture rear sight (SMLE, Marlin 336, Winchester 94, M1 Garand), and sometimes an open blade rear sight (the rest, generally). In order to minimize sight reacquisition as a variable in the testing, the rifles here were not fired for pinpoint accuracy. Yet simply sending unaimed rounds out into the sagebrush of the Great American West didn’t seem appropriate either, so a twelve-inch by twelve-inch cardboard square was used as a target, set 30 feet away. This proved quite easy to acquire and hit, yet still required me to take aim at something. Firing rapid for small groups and into a small target becomes more a test or shooter skill, gun fit, sighting system, and a particular rifle’s/ammunition’s inherent accuracy than purely action type alone, and it’s not my intention here to explore one individual model of firearm over another for speed, but rather one action type versus another—hence, the largish sampling.

While not all of the rifles were chambered for the same cartridge, they are all comparable, reducing or eliminating the recoil variable of much larger or smaller cartridges. Just as important, they are all pretty representative of a "typical" deer-class hunting cartridge which one would normally be carrying in the woods.

Without exception, all rifles were operated without taking them from the shoulder—even the break-open NEF Handi-Rifle and the Ruger No. 1 single-shots. It is an absolute necessary to learn this in order to fire rapidly, yet this is a skill very few possess, much less practice. (See for yourself at your local shooting range: few shooters do anything but fire from a rest, and fire slowly. And if a shooter isn’t using a benchrest, he’s probably standing in some bastardization of the offhand position, yet still dropping the rifle from his shoulder in order to cycle the action and reload.)

All the bolt guns were right-handed actions, fired by a right-handed shooter (lever guns, pumps, and single-shots are, naturally, equally suited for right- or left handers).

All the firing was standing, offhand, with no supports and no sling used. Again, this is not the recommended drill for accuracy, but for a fast, unanticipated shot (or two or three) at exceedingly close range, it seems the most realistic position.

Times were clocked by an assistant, started from the report of the first shot, and stopped at the report of the last shot. The strings were also tape-recorded along with a base-line time count to eliminate any variables of tape speed, and the tapes were played back and re-clocked to double-check the results.

All times are for five-shot strings, including four reloading cycles from the magazine. (Read that carefully: These times include reloading the chamber from the magazine, not reloading of the magazine itself as in formal High-Power competition. Single-shots, naturally, have no magazine of reserve cartridges.) The strings were started with a live round in the chamber, four rounds in the magazine, and the safety off—again, the intent was not to introduce items such as safety design and placement as variables. While it’s obvious that getting off five shots in the time a determined bear takes to cover 30 feet is a virtual impossibility no matter what the action type, the five-shot strings provided a more clear spread of times for clarity. In addition, had a shooter more time/distance on a particular target, the five-shot string more accurately represents the time required to shoot a magazine dry. Single-shot rifles were fired starting with a round in the chamber and the remaining rounds either held between the fingers of the off hand and/or in a cartridge holder attached to the shooter’s left (off-hand) wrist.

For the initial shot, rifles were held on target, sights aligned, ready to fire, index finger outside of the triggerguard. In the case of the exposed-hammer guns, the hammer was cocked and ready to fire. The action was worked as rapidly as possible, and the rifle was fired as soon as the sights were in alignment with any part of the cardboard target.

Bolt Travel

I was curious as to whether bolt travel would have any significant effect on bolt cycling times. Bolt travel is a factor of two variables: First, and most important, the length of the cartridge in question—longer cartridges necessarily require longer actions, and consequently longer bolt travels. Rather than produce a different action for every single cartridge length, most manufacturers build their rifles on one of two action lengths (short and long), sometimes adding a third for true magnum-length cartridges. To test for this, I compared two Ruger M77 bolt guns, one chambered for the .308 Winchester (short action) and one chambered for the .30-’06 Springfield (long action). Typically, the difference between a short action and a long action is about 3/8 (0.375) of an inch; the difference between the two Rugers is 0.435 (just under 7/16) of an inch. The same applies between a long action and a magnum action—the difference between my Winchester Model 70 long-action’s bolt throw and my Winchester Model 70 Classic Super Express .375 H&H Magnum’s is 0.322 (just over 5/16) of an inch. These are not industry-wide standards, though, and the actual measurements must be derived from brand to brand and model to model.

In reality, I suspected the extra length would add little time; however, I have found that long-action rifles bring the bolt back closer to the shooter’s face, and depending on the rifle’s length of pull (the stock length from butt to trigger) this itself may slow the cyclic speed more psychologically than mechanically, as it may intimidate the shooter. With a well-designed stock, proper technique, and a realistic length of pull, however, I found precious little difference in times due to action length alone.

The second factor influencing bolt travel is the design of the action itself, specifically (with bolt guns) the location of the locking lugs either in front of or to the rear of the magazine. And that’s precisely why I included the Lee Enfield Jungle Carbine: It features rear locking lugs. This, plus an excellent bolt-knob placement and generous camming geometry on the lugs, gives the Lee Enfield family of rifles a reputation for rapid bolt manipulation, due in part to the fact that (because of the lug location) the bolt travels a relatively shorter distance than in other common rifles chambered for similar cartridges. A nice theory, but does it in fact translate to a faster rate of fire? How much shorter is the SMLE’s bolt throw? And was it any factor? Let’s chart ’em all.

Bolt Travel In Inches, Longest to Shortest

(Note: This is travel of the bolt itself, not bolt lift and not travel of the lever for a lever-action rifle or the forearm for a pump-action. )

Marlin 336, .30-30 Winchester: 2.288 inches

Winchester Model 94, .30-30 Winchester: 2.315 inches

Model 1898 Krag Carbine, .30-40 Govt. (.30-40 Krag): 3.630 inches

Rifle No. 5, Mk III (Lee Enfield Jungle Carbine), .303 British: 3.653 inches

Rifle, Cal. .30, M1 (M1 Garand), .30-’06 Springfield: 3.880 inches

Remington Model 600, .260 Remington: 3.625 inches

K31 Schmidt Rubin, 7.5 x 55 Swiss: 4.070 inches *

Ruger M77 Mk II, .308 Winchester: 4.155

Remington Model 740 "Gamemaster," .308 Winchester: (Apx) 4.35 inches **

Steyr Scout, .308 Winchester: 4.470 inches

Ruger M77 Mk II, .30-’06 Springfield: 4.590 inches

Steyr Mannlicher M95/35, 8 x 56R: 5.090 inches

Ruger No. 1; 30-’06 Springfield: NA

New England Firearms Handi-Rifle, .308 Winchester: NA


*The Swiss Schmidt Rubin uses a separate bolt unlatching handle which moves an additional (measured) 0.675 inch before unlocking (or re-locking) the bolt. Thus, while bolt travel per se is 4.070 inches, the real-world travel of the handle is 4.745 inches)

**The Remington 740 was measured using other means than the balance of the rifles, but I feel this is close enough to include here.

I included the Krag carbine because, while often overlooked today, Krags, too, have a oft-cited reputation for rapid bolt manipulation due to a single locking lug, a shortish bolt lift, and excellent bolt-handle design. The Ruger M77s are representative of most other American bolt guns (Remington Model Seven and 700, Winchester Model 70, Savage) and Mauser derivatives in general, while the little Steyr Scout features a "butterknife" bolt handle disliked by some, but of which I am rather fond in carbine applications.

The late Finn Aagaard published several articles on bolt-action rifle speed. One, appearing in the September 1982 issue of the American Rifleman, made note of the following:

"Smoothness is of much consequence in a bolt-action, whereas the length of the bolt travel really is not. The slickest action in my rack is that on a [55]-year-old [Winchester] Model 70 chambered for the .375 H&H Magnum cartridge. Despite its half-inch longer bolt throw, it is significantly faster than a new and still slightly rough short-action Ruger Model 77 [Mark I] in .243 Winchester."

With this, I must agree. For example, the two lever guns, chambered for the same cartridge, showed a significant difference in time, due almost exclusively to the Winchester’s being 50 years old and well-worn, and the Marlin’s relatively tight state of tune. Of the "modern" bolt guns, the little Remington 600 has probably seen the most use, and while I didn’t attempt any measure of how worn-in one of these bolt guns has become, the difference between stiff and smooth is quite obvious when one cycles the action. And it makes a big difference. Note that action friction is not an absolute: it’s easy to lap in a bolt’s cocking and extraction cams (taking care not to lap the locking lugs), and cycling the action 1000-2000 times with the trigger removed will accomplish the same thing through simple use, albeit it a little slower.


Experience has shown me that my most dependably rapid manipulation technique for turnbolt guns usually comes with pinching my index finger and thumb together, with the bolt knob between the two. This works just as well with the "butterknife" bolt handle typical of Mannlicher carbines and the Steyr Scout, especially since the Steyr’s "knob" stands away from the stock when the action is unlocked. For guns with a straight bolt (one which is not bent down) such as the VZ24 Mauser or the Swedish Model 96 Mauser long rifle, I open the bolt using the center of my palm to strike the bolt knob.

For lever actions, I use the middle, ring, and little finger of my shooting hand to thrust the lever down while simultaneously pulling my index (trigger) finger out of the triggerguard.

In the First World War, the British used a unique technique during something referred to as the "Mad Minute." Remember, this was an age of massed, frontal trench assaults, where a rifle company might be faced with literally hundreds or thousands of assailants charging at close range. When Tommy Atkins needed to send rounds downrange prestissimo, he used his thumb and index finger to manipulate the bolt, but fired the piece with his little finger or middle finger on the trigger, without ever gripping the stock with his right hand and without ever releasing his pinch-grip on the bolt knob. While I’ve played with this technique in the past, I did not attempt to use it for these experiments.

Most bolt-action rifles in this country use the opening bolt lift to cock their strikers—virtually all of the current, American-made bolt guns (Remington Models 700 and Seven, Ruger Model 77, the entire Savage line, Winchester Model 70) as well as any Mauser-1898-based design cock on opening. The Mauser 1896 (and most other pre-98 "small-ring" Mausers), the SMLE family, and the P14 and P17 Enfields, though, cock on closing. While cock-on-opening actions are generally preferred in this country, in reality I find cock-on-closing actions a bit smoother to operate rapidly from the shoulder. Or at least I thought I did. In this sample, only the Rifle No. 5, Mk III (Lee Enfield Jungle Carbine) is a cock-on-closing design. As to whether this resulted in a more rapid rate of fire. . . .

Not all cock-on-opening actions are created equally, either. My little Remington Model 600 (no longer in production; this specimen vintage 1966), while still a two-lug, 90-degree lift design, offers a bolt lift considerably lighter than the other bolt guns sampled here. Three-lug bolt designs, such as the Browning A Bolt, often feature shorter bolt lifts (60 degrees), but that also often comes with high bolt-lift values. The Steyr Scout offers an (approximately) 70-degree bolt lift. While we’re beginning to split hairs here, a shorter bolt lift is in theory faster; personally, I think that a lighter bolt lift is just as important or moreso—and I thought that’s what the cock-on-closing actions had to their advantage: their bolt lift is extraordinarily light.

"Straight-Pull" actions, while unfamiliar to many North American shooters, are exactly what they sound like: a bolt-action rifle where the bolt handle is simply yanked straight back and pushed straight forward with no upward-rotational "bolt lift" or downward-rotational "bolt lock" movement of the hand. The two straight-pull actions examined here—the Swiss K31 Schmidt Rubin and the M95/35 Mannlicher—both require a simplified bolt technique. Both rifles do require a surprisingly hefty tug and push on the bolt, though, as the initial backwards travel both unlocks the bolt (both bolts rotate to lock as does a "conventional" turn-bolt) and accomplishes the primary extraction of the cartridge case. It would be easy enough to measure the forces required here with a scale, but suffice it to say that they’re comparatively stout. The K31’s bolt handle is an elongated vertical knob (reminiscent of the upper-case letter "T" turned sideways), which I manipulated by curling the first joint of my index and ring fingers around for the pull-open stroke (hand held with index finger up, little finger down), and closed by pushing forward with the base of my hand where the thumb joins the palm.

The M95/35’s bolt resembles a conventional straight-handled bolt action—its bolt handle sticks out horizontally and perpendicular to the stock, with a round knob on the end. Here, I held my hand in a palm-down orientation, hooked the second joint of my index finger over the ball for the opening stroke, and closed the bolt by pushing forward while grasping the knob between the bent index finger and the base of my thumb. As for the perceived speed advantages of a straight-pull bolt compared with a "conventional" turn-bolt rifle, I direct you to the table of times for some surprises.

Slowing Down to Go Fast

Long ago on the racetrack, I learned that in order to go fast, you often need to slow down. Counterintuitive? Perhaps, but true, nonetheless. By slowing down, your movements become smoother and you eliminate wasted, jerky motions, and with smoothness comes speed, whether you’re riding a motorcycle, peeling potatoes, or working a rifle’s bolt.

In the course of this experimentation, I dry-fired a couple of preliminary five-shot strings with each rifle prior to shooting for the record. I timed these dry-fire sequences as well, and they underscored this point. When I attempted absolute maximum speed, my smoothness went out the window, and I often produced a greater time, due to inability of getting the sights on the target smoothly, not cycling the action efficiently, or needing more time to get my shooting hand back into position. These errors, committed in the search for speed, produced increases in time so significant as to cause the string to be aborted or discarded as non-representative.

Our Friend The Bear

Since part of this whole shootin’ match was to see just how many shots one could get off at a practical target—our theoretical charging bear or rhino or feral Chihuahua—it behooves us to figure out how fast that theoretical animal is covering his real estate. Many authorities state that a bear can charge at about 30 miles per hour, so, using that figure, I calculated how fast a 30-mph bear (or Tyrannosaur, or ambulance-chasing lawyer) can cover some distances:

Speed at 30mph:

30 feet in 0.68 second

50 feet in 1.14 seconds

100 feet in 2.27 seconds

Now, even the profoundly mathematically challenged in the class should notice a couple of things at this point. Most important, with any manually operated action, you’re only going to get one shot off if the bear is 50 feet or closer, and even that presumes that the rifle is in your hands, a round in the chamber, hammer/striker cocked, safety off, and lined up on the target. Your first shot better count. And that is perhaps the most important piece of data here.

(An aside. Once upon a time, I was charged by a young, male African lion over open ground at a distance of perhaps 50 yards. There stood a substantial chain-link fence between myself and the animal, and consequently I had little to fear. The charge was only a bluff to intimidate me (which it did quite effectively, thank you very much), and the lion pulled up short. Still, it was an experience which I will remember to my dying day—the lowered head, the incredible, fluid speed, the tiny, sloped frontal area the lion offered. While I maintained control of my bladder and sphincter, I have serious doubts that I could have managed even a single aimed shot from the shoulder unless I already had the rifle in shooting position. Do not fool yourself into thinking you will have much time to deal with a determined charge of any type, be it from a bear, a bull, or even wild dogs. The lion experience was quite unnerving, even with the fence in place. If you find yourself in such a dangerous situation, your rifle belongs in your hands, and either in a high-ready position or with the butt already in place against your shoulder. You will have no time to look down at your weapon—your eyes must remain on your target, and you’d better be able to operate your safety and action by instinctive feel alone.)

Times (Fastest to slowest, times in seconds):

Rifle, Cal. .30, M1 (M1 Garand), .30-’06 Springfield: 2.06 seconds

Remington Model 740 "Gamemaster," .308 Winchester: 4.53 seconds

Remington Model 600, .260 Remington: 5.05 seconds

Winchester Model 94, .30-30 Winchester: 5.50 seconds

Ruger M77 Mk II, .308 Winchester: 5.97 seconds

Marlin 336, .30-30 Winchester: 6.44 seconds

Steyr Scout, .308 Winchester: 6.53 seconds

Ruger M77 Mk II, .30-’06 Springfield: 6.88 seconds

K31 Schmidt Rubin, 7.5 x 55 Swiss: 7.78 seconds

Rifle No. 5, Mk III (Lee Enfield Jungle Carbine), .303 British: 8.28 seconds

Steyr Mannlicher M95/35, 8 x 56R: 8.47 seconds

Model 1898 Krag Carbine, .30-40 Govt. (.30-40 Krag): 8.71 seconds

Ruger No. 1; 30-’06 Springfield: 14.38 seconds

New England Firearms Handi-Rifle, .308 Winchester: 17.22 seconds

(Should one wonder, the cyclic rate for most machineguns ranges between 700 and 1000 rounds per minute. That translates into between 0.429 and 0.300 second—note the decimal placement—for five rounds. Ain’t automation grand?)

* * * * *


It’s no surprise that the semi-auto was the fastest of the rifles tested, and that the two single-shots were the slowest, by substantial margins in each case. It is a little surprising, though, to note really how close the balance of the manually operated actions are. Yes, some did allow faster rates of fire than others, but in the practical world they (mostly, with the exceptions of the single shots) are all so close as to be more-or-less equal.

Second, I was surprised that the Lee Enfield placed where it did—considerably slower than the long-action, Mauser-derived Ruger M77 in .30-’06 Springfield. Conventional wisdom and folklore held that it was much faster—not the case for me, even after repeated strings.

The two supposedly fast straight-pulls were also decidedly uninspiring, especially the M95/35. Both extraction and cocking effort were very high with this piece. Any speed advantage which it was supposed to bring was thoroughly debunked in my experience, and I was decidedly unimpressed. Even the K31 fared no better than midpack.

The Krag, too, was a disappointment in terms of pure speed. I love Krags, and their action is buttery smooth in operation. But in my testing they proved the slowest of any of the magazine-fed repeaters. Who’d a thunk it?

At the end of the day, I’d have to say two things which are difficult to measure objectively counted for far more than action length or any of the slide-rule stuff. And those two were the smoothness and effort taken to operate the action (less effort is better/faster), and the sights. Because as much as I tried to standardize the sights, several observations are undeniable. First, a telescopic sight set on very low power (and by that I mean less than 2.5X) or an aperture are much faster, even in this extremely coarse use, than a U or V notch set halfway up the barrel.

And a particular note concerning the lever actions, one that’s especially troublesome. The lever guns were the only rifles during which I had to abort a string of fire, and I had to do it fully fifty percent of the time, usually at the second or third shot. With both guns I had the same difficulty: When the lever is not closed fully, the rifle will not fire. The Marlin 336 used a pistol grip and a curved lever, while the Winchester 94 used a straight grip and straight lever, but the issue was the same for both. This certainly is operator-induced, but it’s notable that this operator did not induce any other malfunction in any other rifle used here—and I have shot plenty of lever guns.

This bothers me enough that based on this alone I’d have reservations using a lever action for this kind of work. While the Winchester was a touch over 0.11 second faster than the Ruger M77 short action for the second shot (the Remington Model 600 was faster than the Winchester by close to the same margin) the bolt guns were wholly reliable.

(See Part Two of this post for Conclusions)

Edited by: ML at: 1/13/04 11:31 am


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Action Type and Rate Of Fire (Part Two)

Posted: 1/12/04 2:46 pm


(This is part two of a long post)


I imagine very few Forum members have had or ever will have any legitimate reason to shoot a bear in self defense—or at least we hope that is the case. Still, were I choosing a rifle for bear defense, I would choose it first on the basis of the cartridge it fired—and as I’ve said many times before in this Forum, I’d look for something in the .375 H&H class, or at the very least in the heavy (200- to 220-grain) .30 calibers, launching tough bullets designed to penetrate deeply, and sending them out in the neighborhood of 2700 fps. Next, I’d opt for a good set of iron sights (a wide, flat-topped blade up front and a large "ghost ring" aperture rear), or a very low power (1X-1.5X) telescopic sight with at least three inches of eye relief. I’d look for an example with a good trigger. Only then would I be concerned about action type—and I’d probably choose a bolt gun for its strength, robustness and simplicity, although those characteristics (or lack thereof) are more traits of individual models than of an action type per se.

As we’ve seen here, the difference between the fastest and second fastest isn’t much worth noting at close distances. And familiarity, skill, practice, and proficiency most certainly count for far more than the weapon itself.

Americans, I’ve observed throughout the years, are often quite good at ignoring lessons they might learn from the rest of the world, or even our own past. Here we are concerned with stopping our theoretical bear, and we come up with all sorts of jiggery-pokery we convince ourselves will work. There is, of course, a place where for more than 100 years man had gone up against beasts far more dangerous than any North American bear, not by accident, but deliberately. And that place, of course, is Africa.

In Africa, there exists a creature known as the Stopping Rifle. This is an arm carried by a professional hunter to stop charging, dangerous game, animals like upset lions, elephants, and cape buffalo. While many hunters use magazine-fed bolt-action repeaters, the ne plus ultra of stopping rifles continues to be the big double. Big as in .500 Nitro Express or something similar. Double rifles offer two shots as fast as recoil allows, or virtually instantaneously if one yanks on both triggers at once (depending, of course, on rifle design). Nothing (short of a machine gun) is faster for a second shot—not even a semi-auto (and even I don’t own a semi-auto .500 Nitro). Yes, stopping rifles are expensive, and Americans seem loathe to fork over more than $500 for any rifle. But if you’re really concerned about your wedding ring ending up in a pile of steaming bear dung, I suggest you investigate what professionals choose, and not what you’d just like to own because John Wayne fired blanks through one on a Hollywood movie set.

Some may ask why this experimentation was limited to rifles. Certainly most shooters can fire a double-action revolver or semi-automatic pistol much faster that a manually operated rifle. And while I will often carry a large-caliber revolver in the backcountry, and have even dispatched both deer and a medium-sized black bear with the .44 Remington Magnum, I must underscore the point that no one should ever seriously delude themselves that a handgun is absolutely dependable bear-stopping medicine. The issue is not the handgun itself, but the cartridge which it fires. Even the most powerful handgun cartridges pale in comparison to most rifle cartridges. To handicap yourself to this degree is dangerous thinking if you truly believe that you will be encountering large bear. And while you may be able to fire your .38 special or 9mm Parabellum quickly, you’ll likely find yourself unable to maintain that same rate of fire with a .44 Remington Magnum, .480 Ruger, or .454 Casull due to the substantial increase in recoil-recovery time. Had I to stop a charging bear at close range tonight, without reservation I would choose a .375 H&H rifle or a 12-gauge slug—even if they were single-shot models—over a revolver of any size. At close range, we’ve learned that there’s in all likelihood time for only one shot (remember, that beast is covering 50 feet in 1.14 seconds), and I want that shot to be delivered in a decisive, accurate manner. It does me little good if I mortally wound the bear and he expires in a minute or two—I may very well look as though I’ve been fed through God’s own woodchipper by then. No, we need to put the animal down, immediately and decisively, and with the first shot. Maybe you think you can count on a pistol to do that. And maybe you’re counting on Divine Intervention, or the bruin being smote by an errant hunk of cosmic debris falling from the heavens at the precise moment of the charge, too. Say, maybe those Victoria’s Secret swimsuit models will parachute into your fantasy and save you!

Powerful handguns most certainly do have a place in the outdoors, though. They will perform well on a variety of lesser animals in the wilderness, and of course their mere presence is often a deterrent in the case of two-legged predators. But speed of fire is not the true issue with handgun choice in the backcountry—power and accuracy are the limiting factors, and speed of recovery from a shot is often inversely proportional to the power of the cartridge in question. When it comes to bear, a handgun in the woods is more of a security blanket and a morale booster than an informed solution. Undoubtedly, it is better than nothing, and personally I will continue to carry a large-caliber revolver in many back-country situations, mostly because they are versatile, handy, light, and serve well in many other wilderness situations. Often, you’re more likely to be wearing a handgun than carrying a rifle at the critical moment of need, and undoubtedly a .44 Magnum on your hip is more useful than a .375 H&H left back at the tent. But when bear is on the menu, no handgun offers anywhere near the performance of a sensibly chosen rifle, and no amount of sugar coating or wishful thinking is going to change that.

* * * * *

Well, I see the time has come for me to crawl back into my spider hole and pull the lid closed for the night. If you’ve gotten this far, I at least hope this has proven an evening’s inexpensive entertainment, if not an informative one. Who knows—perhaps one of these days, Mr. Hood will invite Mr. Hay up to his Idaho retreat to produce a "Firearms for Wilderness Survival" video in the Woodsmaster series, and then you’ll never have to actually have to suffer through this much self-indulgent over-written crap again.

Regardless, if you have any interest at all in rapid fire, I encourage you to maintain proficiency with the arm of your choice, and to remember the four rules:

1. All firearms are loaded.

2. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.

3. Never let your muzzle cover something you are not willing to destroy.

4. Be sure of your target and what is behind it.

As always, best regards, travel safely, and good shooting. Follow the advice of that grand outdoorsman, Townsend Whelen: Never carry any more than what you need, and always choose the best equipment for the job. And finally, never, ever lie to yourself when it comes to serious matters in the outdoors.



© 2004. To be reproduced in whole or in part and in any form only with expressed permission of the original author.

Edited by: ML at: 1/13/04 11:33 am


Posts: 469 | IP:

Eric Stoskopf

Cool Calm Calamity

WM Vol.? Firearms for Wilderness Survival featuring Bill Hay

Posted: 1/12/04 5:41 pm


Great idea! I second the motion.

Well...thanks to my desire to "suffer through" Ml's "much self-indulgent over-written crap", I had to run out for more paper and a new ink cartridge! Time well spent!

I have not had had the opportunity to fully digest ML's short novel, but skimming through the pages as they were being spit from the printer, it's obvious we have another "ML Classic" on our hands.

If Wally would do the honor of saving it to the Hoodlums FAQ section, I promise to do my part by adding it (with his permission of course) to "ML's Corner" which can be found here:woodsdrummer.com/ml01.html



Edited by: Eric Stoskopf at: 1/12/04 5:48 pm


Posts: 2361 | IP:

Bill Hay

Registered User

Re: WM Vol.? Firearms for Wilderness Survival featuring Bill

Posted: 1/12/04 6:05 pm


Ahhh.. Youze kuckleheads lay off, ya hear?

There ain't nothing I got to say that others haven't said, and better. You think I make this stuff up? Had to have learned it somewhere...

Ron has probably a better grasp of wilderness guns than most, he can add a "Woodsmaster Tip" to one of his videos that covers things quite well, and doesn't have to bring me in to do it.

And feed me, and make me drink whisky....

Hummm..... Get's ya to thinking don't it?


"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."

-- Abraham Lincoln

A webpage... of sorts...


Posts: 3696 | IP:


I survived WASP


Article copied to FAQ...

Posted: 1/12/04 8:54 pm


and the original left here for discussion. Of course it went into my personal archive first.

Nicely done ML and I found it useful. Your articles are always of interest to me, so it doesn't go unnoticed when you don't show up for awhile.

Welcome back.



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

Wally Merrin



Posts: 1018 | IP:


Registered User

Re: Action Type and Rate Of Fire (Part One)

Posted: 1/12/04 10:29 pm


great article! I missed the comment about your pieces being self indulgent and overwritten, but it's total BS. Informative, interesting and well written as always!

Non Serviam


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Brother Dan

Registered User

excellent read! as always!

Posted: 1/13/04 4:27 am


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Posts: 387 | IP:

Lean Wolf

Registered User

Excellent report, ML...

Posted: 1/13/04 10:30 am


I've always found it interesting to try and shoot at moving targets as opposed to "off the bench." A bit more realistic than always benchrested.

When I lived in Los Angeles, there was a series of firing ranges owned by a man named Wes Thompson, in the high desert country of Santa Clarita, north of L.A. (It's all subdivivions, now.) For a number of years, I and several friends leased one of Thompson's ranges. This was also where the Southwest Pistol League/IPSC held its competition shoots.

Anyway, because we had a mountain as a backstop, and a berm down range where a person could "hide," we would take an old tire, tape a white sheet of notebook paper on it, and then, at the far end of the range, a guy would roll the tire down the berm at the shooter, who would try and hit the white sheet of paper, as it came up time and time again. (Obviously, the guy rolling the tire dropped down behind the berm for safety.)

As the notebook paper was changed each time the "roll" was setup, it was very easy to see if the target paper had been hit.

Certainly not a scientific test, but very interesting as to how difficult it was to hit a rapidly approaching target. Over quite a few different days of shooting, I think I hit the paper squarely maybe three or four times, but I don't recall ever hitting it squarely the very first shot. Kinda had to get used to the rolling tire and when the white square came up facing me.

We used rifles, handguns, and shotguns with slugs.

That's the only time I ever had a chance to shoot at a "charging" target. Eye opening, to say the least.

Again, I found your article very interesting and enlightening.



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Registered User


Posted: 1/13/04 10:38 am


I've revised my original posts just a touch this morning: If anyone is archiving them, they should discard what was posted previously and archive these new (and now-posted) copies. The changes are minor--bolt-travel numbers for the Model 600 Remington, a little punctuation, an error Mr. Hay caught (Thanks!), and some general Englishing-up of some poor style.

Mr. Merrin, I would be in your debt if you would replace the original posts in the FAQ section with these newer versions.

Sorry about the edits. Thanks for your patience. Hope you continue to find the information useful.



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Dirttime Dude

He's got yer 6

Holy Crap and wow...Im blown away.

Posted: 1/13/04 1:47 pm


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  How Has Your Preparedness Changed?
Posted by: Ron Hood - 04-04-2004, 10:14 PM - Forum: Preparedness FAQ - Replies (4)


Registered User

How has your preparedness changed since 9/11?

Posted: 11/18/03 3:19 pm


I'm one that always had extra food and store bought water on hand in the house and while living in the Mtns. of California we learned to keep a good winter kit in the truck or trunk that we continued even after moving here to the coast. When that fateful day occured, the wife sat and watched in tears and I went about doing an inventory and hitting some survival sites to see what else I could do to get us better prepared. We layed in lots of gear, but being who I am, I was never satisfied with how it was packed. What it contained and so on. So, needless to say, I experimented and adjusted. I didn't have many skills and the wife had even less.

Since then, we've both become much better shots with our weapons. We've experimented with different items in our BOB and our individual daily carry kits and we have eliminated much of the gear that we first layed in with what we feel works better, takes up less volumn and weighs less. The items that we removed from the different kits went to friends and family as we made kits for many of them as well. They just didn't see the need, but I saw it different and they agreed to keep them at least in their vehicles. Full instructions included.

Eventually, instead of just throwing a bunch of camping gear together, we layered our gear so that we could deal with several scenarios instead of just having a base camp and trunks full of gear. Each kit backs up and compliments the next. From what's in my pockets on a daily basis to a full fledged base camp. Our mobile gear layers so that if we need to, we can drop the pack and go with our vests, belt kits and bedrolls. We've both learned to trap, find water in the least likely places, make fire beds, build shelters from natural materials, scrounge and the wife has actually started to show an interest in learning how to track and hunt. Lots of improvments in both of us mentally, physically and we continue to grow spiritually, which to us is as important as being able to shoot straight.

Make them sharp, shoot them straight, or leave them home!


Posts: 25 | IP:


Registered User

Re: How has your preparedness changed since 9/11?

Posted: 11/19/03 5:59 am


You might want to consider some NBC (Nuklear, Biological, Chemical) gear, just in case you need to escape from or pass through a contaminated area.

Gas masks

extra filters, (make sure they are rated for NBC)

Chem suits

PI Tablets

Radiation detector

Chemical ID kit

decontamination spray

If you are in your car, learn how to shut off the vents, so that the air inside the car is recirculated, instead of bring in outside air, and of course, roll up your windows.

If you have small children, gas masks may be hard to find, but places like "Cheaper than Dirt" or "Emergency Essentials" carries them in smaller sizes.

Almost all newer cars have an airconditioner. If you put it on MAX, it will recirculate the air inside the car. Some have a little u-turn arrow on a button that does this.


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moccasin man

Registered User

not at all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted: 1/21/04 3:37 pm


I am alwanys prepared for the nothing that will happen to me- the idea of terro is for you to lurk in fear (ie terror) and hide, and sulk, and act scarred- terrorists try to make people nervous, shocked, jittery whatever- it's all a scam if you act smartely (not a word i know) if terror gets you terrorized, then they win


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  Solving Ar-7 Light Strikes (misfires)
Posted by: Ron Hood - 04-04-2004, 10:12 PM - Forum: Weapons FAQ - No Replies


Registered User

Solving AR-7 Light Strikes (misfires)

Posted: 5/22/01 4:13 pm


Solving AR-7 Light Strikes

Probably no single firearm has generated more discussion among Forum members than the AR-7 .22-caliber "survival" rifle. It’s inexpensive, unique, and has an extreme cachet about it. Yet shooters continue to complain about misfeeds and misfires, and I for one am convinced that they are easy to cure. I’m also surprised nobody has ever written with any meaningful authority about this before. I intend to resolve that presently. Here’s the solution.

Light strikes (misfires) occur on the blowback .22 AR-7 for (primarily) one of two reasons. First, the chamber and/or bolt face is/are dirty. The .22 Long Rifle is a notoriously dirty cartridge in that it typically leaves behind much powder residue and lead shavings from the lead bullet itself. The blowback nature of the action exacerbates this. This accumulation of junk either keeps the cartridge from fully chambering or keeps the bolt face from fully contacting the cartridge rim. Remember, in these simple blowback guns (the AR-7, the Ruger 10/22 and Mark I and Mark II pistols, the Marlin 60 family, and countless others) the bolt does not lock in position--only spring pressure holds it up against the base of the cartridge and the breach-end of the barrel. An accumulation of debris in the chamber keeps the cartridge from fully chambering. Thus, when the firing pin strikes the rim, much of the strike energy is absorbed in driving the cartridge forward. Or, if the bolt face itself is dirty, then the firing pin is held away from the rim as it falls, resulting in a light strike. Total firing-pin protrusion for a .22 is (typically) only 0.035 inch (minimum) and 0.039 inch (maximum), so you can see that a little fouling is all it takes. Scrub your bolt face, extractor, and breach face with a toothbrush, and clean the recessed area in the bolt face with a sharp splinter of wood or a toothpick, digging all the crud out. Finally, make sure there are no debris in the firing-pin channel itself to slow or limit the pin’s fall.

The second problem is unique to the AR-7 family (as produced by Armalite, Charter Arms, Survival Arms and Henry Arms to date). I’m convinced this is where 99 percent of the light-strike problems with these guns lie. The AR-7 has a detachable barrel held to the receiver by a captive threaded ring, and the reassemble of the barrel to the receiver is where the problem occurs.

When you remove the barrel from the receiver, the bolt moves forward a small amount--my measurements indicate an average of 0.047 inch (this comes from measuring two Armalite AR-7s and two Charter Arms AR-7s). When reassembling the barrel, if you simply drop the barrel into the receiver and snug down the captive threaded ring, the barrel will not be fully seated in the receiver by this 0.047-inch amount. Now, consider this: a .22 has a headspace (in this instance, the distance between the back of the barrel and the face of the bolt) of 0.044-0.046 inch, and as mentioned a firing-pin protrusion spec of only 0.035 inch (min.) and 0.039 inch (max.), so this 0.047-inch clearance easily outweighs the other clearances.

How to eliminate the 0.047-inch clearance? It couldn’t be easier. When reassembling the barrel to the receiver of your AR-7, first retract the bolt and hold it back so it does not contact the barrel face, then, while continuing to hold the bolt rearward, drop the barrel into the receiver and fully tighten the captive threaded ring so that the barrel’s shoulder makes full and positive contact with the front of the receiver. Release the bolt and you will see that it (the bolt) will not travel as far forward in the receiver as it did with the barrel removed.

Another Forum member has recommended removing material from the rear of the barrel, "maybe 1/64 [inch] with a fine file." I really do not want to cast aspersions upon someone else’s council, and I’m sure that his advice is well meaning, but in this case I feel it is ill informed. While removing material from the front of the receiver or from the barrel shoulder would indeed allow the barrel chamber to move closer to the firing pin, removing material from the barrel face will actually put the rim further away, lightening the firing -pin fall. I must say I think it a poor course of action for anyone to remove material in an area which alters headspace on any firearm. Perhaps in "cleaning up" this area a burr or a chip was removed from the chamber area. A flaw here may indeed keep the cartridge from chambering fully, just as fouling or lead shavings can, and may result in a light strike. But the flaw or burr should be peened back into place without removing material, and a burr protruding into the chamber may be "ironed out" with a chamber-forming tool. The difference between minimum and maximum headspace on a .22 Long Rifle is 0.002 inch, and the decimal equivalent of 1/64 inch is 0.0156 inch--more than seven times the total go/no-go headspace dimension! Give your AR-7 a good detail cleaning, but please don’t start filing on it. And pull that bolt back when you fix the barrel into position. Between those two things, I’ll bet you’ll solve all your light-strike woes.

Hope this has been of interest and of some help,



Posts: 127 | IP:

Bill Hay

Registered User


Re: Solving AR-7 Light Strikes (misfires)

Posted: 5/22/01 5:08 pm


Oh, yes! Useful and interesting both! Thanks again for your input, ML.

I had similar problems many years ago (20? 30?) when I got mine, and stumbled onto the business about holding the bolt back.

All problems resolved...



Posts: 768 | IP:


Registered User

great stuff. i'm gonna try a Henry variant then...

Posted: 5/22/01 7:12 pm


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FAITH is the pivot -point of your fate ;

FACT is the outer limit of your circle;

TRUTH is the radial connection,...without which,

the Faithful and Factual have no common ground....


Posts: 1625 | IP:


Registered User

Re: I know it can be a pain but...

Posted: 5/22/01 9:28 pm


check yer rounds. lots of them come from the box with extra lead hanging off them. I've even

cut them with a knife to reduce the crud.


Posts: 57 | IP:


Registered User

Re: Solving AR-7 Light Strikes (misfires)

Posted: 5/25/01 8:13 pm


You've done it again, ML. I've archived this one,too, and I don't even own the damn gun.


Wally Merrin



Posts: 341 | IP:


Registered User

He almost got me talked into buying one!

Posted: 5/25/01 8:29 pm


Considering the ease of this fix on the AR-7 that ML described...I'm ready to buy one if I ever find a good deal on a 'jammer.'

I'd like to hear some feedback from guys that previously had trouble and see if this cures most of the problems out there.

I have a feeling it does.


"Aim small, miss small!"

Plainsman's Email

Plainsman's Cabin Homepage


Posts: 508 | IP:

Rik Palm

Registered User


Posted: 5/25/01 8:46 pm


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Posts: 412 | IP:


Registered User

Re: ML for president...

Posted: 5/26/01 4:21 am


great fix on this rifle, i think we should elect you hoodlum firearms editor in chief. of course there is no salery that goes with the job, you get to answer inane questions from the rest of us, and the job allows you to work 24/7.

so what about it?




Posts: 76 | IP:

Eric Stoskopf

Cool Calm Calamity

Re: Great Info ML, Thanks!

Posted: 5/26/01 6:08 am


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Posts: 654 | IP:


I survived WASP


Old post brought back to the top

Posted: 7/16/03 11:30 am


I'm bringing this one back to keep it from falling off the last page.



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

Wally Merrin



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Fred Tanner

Registered User

Re: Solving AR-7 Light Strikes (misfires)

Posted: 1/25/04 2:15 pm


(This message was left blank)


Posts: 277 | IP:


I survived WASP


Thread copied to FAQ section

Posted: 1/25/04 3:39 pm


(This message was left blank)


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

Wally Merrin



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  Emergency Food
Posted by: Ron Hood - 04-04-2004, 10:07 PM - Forum: Preparedness FAQ - Replies (2)


Registered User

Emergency Food Stores

Posted: 5/23/03 4:02 am


Just to get a conversation started on the subject and make more specific information available. What are some recommendations for emergency food and why are these items on your list? Please list brand names when possible.

I like those diet bars from Slim-Fast. They taste pretty good, have lots of nutrition including calories from carbs and a little fat, and they are reasonably priced.

The ready.gov list gives this non-specific list:

Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables

Protein or fruit bars

Dry cereal or granola

Peanut butter

Dried fruit



Canned juices

Non-perishable pasteurized milk

High energy foods


Food for infants

Comfort/stress foods


Posts: 308 | IP:

Mike Mlodzik

Peacemaker (.45)


okay ...

Posted: 5/23/03 1:56 pm


... here's one for you.


Good source of protein.

Fats up the wahzoo (and those are in short supply in an emergency).

Lots of sodium (did I mention LOTS!?).

Unlimited shelf-life (as in 'it's still good if the can is intact').

It's available in original (for us purists), low salt (kinda like the difference between the ocean and the Dead Sea), and the new SMOKED SPAM.

Ah ... food of the gods


Mike's Emergency Preparedness Forum


Posts: 1221 | IP:


Registered User

Re: okay ...

Posted: 5/24/03 10:50 am


I started out with Wheat and Corn. You can buy them cheap at the feed store, like 100 pounds for under $10.00, and store them in buckets. I ate some wheat that had been stored for 25 years, and it still sprouted!

Buy a good wheat grinder, but don't grind your wheat until you need it. Once it's ground, it starts to loose it's nutrients.

Go to Baskin and Robbins and buy some dry ice. Put about half a pound in a 5 gallon bucket, fill with (what ever), and place the lid on losely. Wait until the ice has evaporated and seal the lid. I let it sit over night, but don't disturb it at all. The dry ice turns to Carbon Dioxide and forces out all of the Oxegen.

I use Gamma Seal lids, that have a screw off top, but you can reuse the original lids that come with the bucket, if the seal isn't damaged. Just take the seal out and wash it reallty well first, with hot soapy water.

You can get buckets for the taking from bakeries and places that buy bulk foods. Just wash them out really well. Make sure they were used for food only!

Once the buckets are sealed keep them in a place where the temp doesn't vary much, and the cooler the better, just not below freezing. A basement is usually ideal.

After you get your grains, you can suplimant them with oother canned foods. Home canned is better than store bought. That way you know what's in it!


Buy a can of NON HYBRED Garden Seeds. They will last for decades as long as the can isn't opened, and you can save your own seeds for the next years garden. I purchased a can of seeds from Emergency Essentials, in Utah. It will give you enough seeds to plant an entire acre garden. Or call "The Country Store" in Vancouver, Washinton, (360) 891-4408. Ask for Jan, and tell her Pat Smith sent you. She can help you with anything conserning food storage, (a really good resource).

Edited by: Birdog at: 5/24/03 11:58:56 am


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Registered User

Re: okay ...

Posted: 5/25/03 7:38 am


Spam also comes in Cheese flavor and Turkey.


Posts: 16 | IP:


Registered User

Re: okay ...

Posted: 5/25/03 9:18 am


Isn't Spam, Artificial Ham?

So now we have Artificial Ham made with Turkey?

That would make it Artificial, Artificial Ham!

What a world we live in?


Posts: 2884 | IP:


Registered User

I love Spam and other stuff.

Posted: 5/30/03 8:52 pm


A sandwich made of a couple slices of fried spam, and a slice of cheese makes a great lunch! The kids love it too.

Another food item that I keep on hand is Campbell's Condensed Chicken and Stars. In my opinion, possibly the all time best comfort food. I guess it reminds me of my childhood or something, but I always feel better after eating the stuff. Even when I felt pretty good to begin with. I bought it as a "fun food" for the kids a long time ago, then realized how much I still liked it.

I always have a couple sacks of egg noodles on hand too. You can put just about any kind of stew (pintos and black-eyed peas are good too) on them and it looks and tastes better. (again just my opinion) They have a very long shelf life as long as you keep them in an air tight container. I guess any dried pasta would be similar.


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Registered User

I've been thinking about your answer

Posted: 6/2/03 6:34 pm


and although buying raw (non-processed) grain may be something I do. (I buy many pounds of malt every year.) I don't think I would recommend that kind of a set up for the average person surfing the web looking for better ways to be prepared for a local emergency. I think most people are looking for what I had originally started looking for. New ideas about a subject that I knew very little about. A few short years ago, I would have thought you were nuts if you suggested that I buy a grain mill and 50 lbs sacks of feed. Now, heck, I would end up adding all of that wheat and corn into my brewing schedule!

PS. I've played with dry ice in the past and it left an oily residue in the water it was in. Wouldn't just purging the bucket with CO2 from a tank be just as good and also cleaner? Easier to get too.


Posts: 325 | IP:


Registered User

Re: I've been thinking about your answer

Posted: 6/3/03 9:11 am


I would think the oil was from the machine that was used to make to dry ice. All it is, is compressed CO2. It shouldn't have any oil in it. If you wrap it in newspaper, the paper should obsorb the oil.

If you have access to a tank of Co2, by all means use it. most people don't!

The grains are just a very basic start. Easy, Cheap, and plentiful.

I suggest canning you own food from your own garden. Get the book "Encyclopedia of Country Living" by Carla Emery. It tells you how to can just about everything, along with almost everything else you need to know about being self sufficient.

You can also sprout the grains. That will give you about 200% more nutrients than the grain itself.

Check out Curt Saxons web sight. He has allot of unconventional ideas for growing, cooking and storing your own food.

http://www.curtsaxon.com, he's a strange old guy, so you should liker him allot. He fits right in here!


Posts: 2925 | IP:




Posted: 6/4/03 7:26 am


...Birdog give pretty good answer.

Grains be plenty good long term emergency storage items. For coupla reasons...

They be Cheap!

Tehy be nutritious! They Store plenty long time. They taste good.


Two kinds of emergencies, though--short term and long term.

For short term--not more than one moon IMO-- canned stuff, high protein stuff, etc, be plenty good. For long term, though, better store bulk items. These keep ya going while you search/forage/work for other foodstuffs.

IMHO, combination of the two be best.

Remember, NUTRITION be most important aspect of any food. Don't store empty calories.

Feedin yer face be 'bout the oldest occupation on Earth. Nott many "new" ideas can improve on the tried and true.

Aboman gott whole chapter in Book on Food Storage. Maybe it would help-ya.




Posts: 1177 | IP:


Registered User

Re: Actually....

Posted: 6/4/03 8:45 am


Thanks Aboman!

Your book is another great resource for food storage along with alot of other helpul tips, like water purifucation, fire makeing, clothing, just to name a few. It's all a rich tapestry!

And it's small enough to carry in your survival pack!


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

Posted: 6/5/03 5:46 am


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non-obvious seed list (e.g. cotton)

Posted: 3/13/04 12:51 pm


(I realize this is a food-storage topic, but)

Any other seeds that may be good to have around for LONG-term hard times?

- rubber trees

- marijuana

(And as far as the shelf-life of Spam goes, isn't that measured by the life of the shelf?)


Posts: 4 | IP:

Mike Mlodzik

Peacemaker (.45)


Re: non-obvious seed list (e.g. cotton)

Posted: 3/13/04 3:15 pm




(And as far as the shelf-life of Spam goes, isn't that measured by the life of the shelf?)


Yeah ... maybe the 'continental' shelf


Mike's Emergency Preparedness Forum


Posts: 1319 | IP:


Dinty Moore Beef stew

Posted: 3/14/04 10:23 am


Stays safe to eat in the can for a vey long time. We heat water in a cook can, peel off the label from the Dinty Moore can, drop the can in the heating water, wait a few minutes until can is hot, open and eat. Use left over water for other uses.


Posts: 269 | IP:


Registered User

equally an answer and a question

Posted: 3/15/04 9:31 am


I believe I read that if you bake just plain old dough (flour/water) (AND ADD NOTHING ELSE) that it will last a very long time.

I don't know if there is a difference between white and whole wheat flour.


Posts: 5 | IP:


That's basically Hardtack

Posted: 3/21/04 4:16 am


(This message was left blank)


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Registered User


Posted: 3/21/04 4:17 am


(This message was left blank)


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  Survival Book Warnings//questions
Posted by: Guest - 04-04-2004, 08:18 AM - Forum: General FAQ - Replies (10)

I think most survival manuals will have some dangerous information. It is how it is presented that makes a difference. For example: A book says you can get up to two quarts of water a day in the driest environment from a solar still. That leads some to believe they will get two quarts a day. I prefer to cover the solar still expressing what is likely, instead of possible (which theoretically is anything in an infinite universe). I got a lot of what I know today from Outdoor Survival Skills by Larry Dean Olsen, but it has a problem. In more recent editions it throws a punch at us folks that denigrate the solar still, saying we don’t know how to build one. I built my first one after reading his book and I have built hundreds since, mostly to demonstrate how unreliable they are. Since Olsen is such a fan of the contraption, on my courses I have the students read his directions on solar stills directly from the his book and build one per his instructions. Average yield is two teaspoons in 24 hours! In my previous post I talked about which military manuals were in question on this subject. I am not saying to disregard LDO’s work, but look and any survival book with healthy skepticism.

My own book needs some upgrading. The Universal Plant Edibility Test has many enemies on this board, and with good reason. It is not foolproof, and it could get you killed. I cover it in my book because I have some clients that could easily find themselves in long term survival scenarios or escape and evasion. The test was initiated by the military for long term survival in unfamiliar environments. The original test, however, was not thorough enough, starting with direct contact with the plant. After some serious problems, another stage was added using the morphology of the plant as well as smell to discard possibly dangerous species before physical contact. Yet if you had a stuffy nose and tried the test on water hemlock, you would die. I put it in my book, but with strong warnings, that this was not a replacement for specific knowledge. Such a test should be used as a last resort. The US Air Force has expanded it even further now, and it takes about 24 hours to complete. I need to address this in the next printing.

To me, a book concentrating equally on poisonous plants is more valuable than one concentrating mostly on edible plants. It takes a long time to die of starvation, but just hours from some plant poisonings. Vec is right, in these situations first aid takes precedent over botany. Because first aid is such broad topic, however, I chose to limit the subject in my book to problems specific to arid and hot environments. Do not buy my book as your definitive first aid reference.

I also need to change the section of my book dealing with heat stroke. While the treatment I describe for cooling the patient by immersion can be effective, it is not the best. Pouring water on the victim and fanning is more effective than immersion. That will be updated soon. I think that every survival instructor or writer should still be learning and updating their work. To me there is no embarrassment in improvement. The writers, however, that just copy other work are ones to watch out for. They do not have the field experience and don’t really know what does or doesn’t work.

Also beware of how the manual is advertised. There is no premier or best general survival book or authority. Ones that are advertised as such are highly questionable. The Official Pocket Survival Manual series by Robert W. Pelton is an example. (Do not confuse this author with Robert Young Pelton, of the World’s Most Dangerous Places fame. The latter is quite a good read.) The OPSM series by Robert W. Pelton concerns me at several levels.

The series is advertised as the best in the world, and the author is the world’s foremost expert on the subject. First off, the title says it is official, but who officiated it? What is the official connection? There is none that I can find. Another thing the promotional material says is you will not find the Latin names of plants, “The last thing you want to read when you are hungry.” True, but it might be the first thing the doctor wants to know when you’ve poisoned yourself. It takes little space to add the Latin. When an author does not do so, I tend to wonder how much research they have done, and if they are truly interested in helping the reader.

Another advertising boo-boo of this series is calling other survival manuals too verbose, yet this series is in four volumes (The Official Pocket Survival Manual, The Official Pocket Edible Plant Survival Manual, The Official Pocket Medicinal Plant Survival Manual, and The Official Pocket Medical Survival Manual). Each manual runs from 262 to 280 pages and retails for $15.00 each. So the 1,092 page non-verbose, intentionally lacking plant nomenclature set will run you $60.00. That’s a pocketful, but you save weight with the empty wallet. But remember kiddies, it’s OFFICIAL!

As for the good ones, I don’t think you can go wrong with Aboman’s list and I am honored to be there.

Here is the main thing: Select something that tells both the downside as well as the upside of any techniques. Reserve those that claim to be “the only book you’ll ever need” for latrine duty and firestarting, and pick something that explains things in a way you can remember. You may not have the book with you when it hits the fan. And think about this: In the middle of root canal would you like to have your dentist stop and read from The Official Pocket Guide to Dentistry?


Edited by: David Alloway at: 1/22/03 9:53:13 am

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  Understanding Snake Bites And Field Treatment
Posted by: Guest - 04-04-2004, 07:26 AM - Forum: General FAQ - No Replies

Having a problem of attracking rattle-snakes, I thought

I would add this to the FAQ.



Understanding Snake Bites and Field Treatment Options

Jeffrey A. Manion

Disclaimer: I am not a physician and this is not professional medical advice. It is my attempt to compile and summarize information from the literature to better allow people to make informed decisions about the field treatment of snake bites. To the best of my knowledge, the following information is correct and reflects the current state of understanding, but I emphasize that the information is certainly simplified and details can be important.

Introduction. I am a PhD chemist, though certainly not specifically an expert on snake venom. I have, however, done some interested reading over the years. My goal here is to present a concise understandable explanation of the toxic effects of snake bites as well as discuss backcountry treatment options. My feeling is that some understanding of the underlying logic will help one make better decisions if faced with a snake bite situation. It should be realized that the details of the subject are complex and many aspects are poorly understood even by experts. Nonetheless, a great deal has been learned, particularly in the last 10-20 years, and I believe that a useful, if incomplete, picture is now available on many aspects of snake venom toxicity. Unfortunately, there is also a great deal of misinformation and confusion on the issue, and conflicting advice from “authoritative” sources is still available. There are also numerous accounts on the web (see e.g. http://www.venemousreptiles.org) of hospital staff being unprepared and uncertain how to treat snakebites, sometimes doing exactly the wrong things. In this respect it is important to understand the issues and be prepared to demand that proper treatment is given. Remember, the ultimate responsibility and decisions are yours.

The following discussion refers primarily to snakes in the United States although the general principles are the same for other snakes of the world.

Types of Snake Toxins.

All snake venoms are composed of large numbers of distinct toxic chemicals (perhaps 15 to 50 or more for each species). Loosely speaking, there are three general classes of the toxins: neurotoxins, enzymes, and hemotoxins. [Depending on the source and specificity of discussion, many more classes can be defined and one will see reference to peptides, hemorrhagins, necrotoxins, cardiotoxins, myotoxins, etc., or alternatively enzymes may be lumped together with hemotoxins, or referred to simply as hemorrhagic toxins. The distinctions are often somewhat arbitrary, and the biochemical interactions are complex and occur in concert. Alternate useful classifications are 1) neurotoxins and “everything else” and 2) systemic and locally acting toxins].

Neurotoxins: These affect the central nervous system, inhibiting transmittal of nerve impulses. There are various modes of action, including presynaptic and postsynaptic activity (these details can be important regarding the efficacy of certain hospital treatments, but will not be discussed here). In any case, if the heart and lungs are affected, breathing/heart function can stop, killing the victim. The actions of neurotoxins are systemic (whole body) with few local effects.

Enzymes (proteases, phosohpolipases, hyduronidases, etc): These break down tissues in various manners, for example by attacking proteins and cell walls. Basically, the toxins are digesting the tissue. If bitten on an extremity, these toxins will probably not kill directly, but can cause permanent loss of tissue, including major muscles and may require amputation of the affected part in severe cases. This is why photos typically show blackened tissue in the vicinity of rattlesnake bites. Cell breakdown can also lead to massive amounts of swelling. In severe cases the fluid overpressure can affect the circulation and function of tissues in the arms or legs (compartmental syndrome). This is a fairly common complication with large doses of venom. The large redistribution of fluid can also lead to hypotension (low blood pressure) and shock and other systemic effects such as pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs). These can kill in severe cases.

Hemotoxins: Toxins that affect the blood, especially clotting. They include both anticoagulants that inhibit blood clotting and procoagulants (Procoagulants cause clotting within blood vessels, which also rapidly depletes the blood of clotting factors. This then results in increased bleeding, particularly acting in concert with hemorrhagins). Snake venom may have neither, either, or both anticoagulants and procoagulants. Also included in hemotoxins are hemorrhagins (toxins that damage blood vessels) and hemolysins (chemicals that attack red blood cells). Hemotoxins can lead to both severe clotting in local tissues and internal bleeding, particularly in conjunction with cell breakdown from the enzymes. Cell breakdown additionally releases the body’s own cell components in overly large amounts, resulting in secondary pathologic effects. It can, for instance, overtax the kidneys and lead to renal failure in severe cases [some snakes additionally have nephrotoxins, which attack the kidneys directly].

Transport of Toxins. The major movement of most components of snake venom (specifically the large-sized molecules which cannot enter capillaries) is through the lymph system, not the blood (unless the bite strikes veins or arteries directly). This is particularly true in the initial stages after envemonation, but is admittedly a simplification for some components, especially as tissue destruction proceeds. In any case, the lymph system is closer to the surface of the skin than the veins, which are closer than the arteries. Prompt wrapping of the area above and below the bite with e.g. an ace bandage will slow movement of the poison thru the lymph system without preventing blood flow (as would a true tourniquet). The usual recommendation for this method is to wrap the entire limb about as tightly as you would a sprained ankle.

All snakes have a different balance of neurotoxins/enzymes/hemotoxins. Australian snakes and some others (including cobras, coral snakes, and most others of the elapidae family) primarily have neurotoxins, which are generally large molecules and therefore move through the lymph system. The ace bandage method works particularly well in these cases. The coral snake is the main U.S. snake with neurotoxic venom [however a few sub-species of rattlesnakes (Mojave) have neurotoxic venom].

For snake venoms which have enzymatic/hemotoxic activity, the ace bandage method may concentrate the digestive-type compounds and cause greater localized tissue damage. Falling in this category are the crotalidae (pit vipers) including rattlesnakes, water moccasins, and copperheads. The wrap method is only justified in these cases if the increased local damage is made up for by reduced systemic (whole body) effects. I do not believe there is (yet) any clear evidence that this is the case for pit vipers and this approach is still controversial for this reason (despite the frequent recommendation). If the bandage is wrapped too tight, affecting veinous flow, it can lead to increased swelling and greater local tissue damage. If arterial flow is affected the tissue may die from lack of oxygen.

Timing of symptoms: Neurotoxin envenomation usually results in few local symptoms. Systemic symptoms can include numbness, euphoria, cramping, nausea, and difficulty breathing. Pain may or may not be present. Symptoms may not appear for several hours but rapid progression can then occur. The time delay can make it difficult to rapidly judge the degree of envenomation.

With enzymatic/hemotoxic venoms local symptoms (pain and swelling around bite) occur within seconds or minutes. The rapidity and severity of these symptoms gives some indication of the degree of envenomation. Systemic symptoms may include a metallic taste in the mouth, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, dizziness, respiratory difficulty, headache, altered mental state, or collapse. For enzymatic/hemotoxically active venoms, symptoms continue to worsen gradually and swelling and tissue destruction may not peak for two to four days. The timing of the symptoms is a complex result of the dynamics of the migration of the toxins to their active sites, as well as the induction of secondary effects from tissue breakdown.

Grading of Bite Severity (refers only to U.S. pit vipers with enzymatic/hemotoxic venom – cannot be used for neurotoxically active species).

Nonenvenomation (dry bite): Local effects are puncture wounds only. No systemic effects.

Mild envenomation: Local effects are confined to the bite area only. No systemic effects.

Moderate envenomation: Local effects extend beyond the immediate bite area, but are less than the entire part. Systemic effects may include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, metallic taste in mouth, and muscle twitch.

Severe envenomation: Local effects rapidly extend to the entire part, severe swelling with potential compartment syndrome. Systemic effects may include dizziness, shock, respiratory difficulty, diffuse or severe bleeding, kidney failure, and altered mental status.

One recommendation is to use a pen to mark the border of the advancing swelling every 15 minutes as a way to help judge bite severity.

Summary. To summarize, the simple picture for U.S. snakes is that the coral snake (elapidae family) primarily has systemic neurotoxins, while pit viper (crotalidae) venoms have mainly local effects with secondary systemic effects. Note that many experts feel these are dangerous overgeneralizations. One example is the Mojave rattlesnake, a subset of which primarily have neurotoxic venom somewhat similar to an elapid. Since its appearance is similar to the Western Diamondback and the ranges overlap, the theory is that there is the potentially fatal error of mistaking a Mojave bite (with time-delayed neurotoxic activity) for a “dry” bite of a Western Diamondback (although in the one account I have read of an individual being bitten by a Mojave rattlesnake, neurotoxic symptoms were rapidly apparent and were severe within 45 minutes of being bitten). The general elapid/viper distinction becomes even more problematic if extended to snakes worldwide, where there are many examples of more complex venom activity.

Relative toxicity of U.S. Snakes. Lethality reflects a combination of the absolute potency of the venom together with the ability of the snake to deliver the necessary dose. Although Coral Snake venom is very highly toxic, they are not generally considered to be the most lethal of the poisonous snakes in the U.S., partly because their mouths are small and their fangs are near the back of their mouths. As a result they have difficulty in inflicting a serious bite and account for only about 2% of bites in the United States (Caution, however, Coral Snakes can and do bite fingers etc., and if one is bitten the bite can be very serious). Pit vipers are therefore the main concern. Copperheads are generally the least toxic of the U.S. pit vipers. Water moccasins are more toxic than copperheads but are generally considered to be less dangerous than many rattlesnake varieties. The potency of rattlesnake venom varies significantly from species to species although there is conflicting information on the degree of toxicity of various rattlesnakes. Generally, however, the Eastern and Western Diamondbacks are considered to be the most deadly, partly because they are the largest and can inject the most venom. Larger rattlesnakes are usually considered more dangerous for this reason, although juveniles and smaller species sometimes have more concentrated venom and should not be taken lightly. For example, Mojave rattlesnake venom is quite toxic and the snake quite dangerous, despite its relatively small size. Finally, venom toxicity can vary from snake to snake and even in the same snake over time, depending on factors such as the age of the snake, the time of year, and when the snake has last bitten an animal.


Treatment in the field:

1. Don’t get bit. Pay attention where you put your parts, particularly hands and feet. Leave snakes you find alone - don’t play with them or try to kill them.

2. Know what snakes are likely to be in your area, what they look like, and preferably something about their habits and habitats.

3. If bitten, immediately move away from the snake to avoid being bitten again.

4. Remain calm. Most people do not die from snake bites, even if untreated (nonetheless it is a potentially life-threatening medical emergency and should be treated as such!).

5. Immediately remove all jewelry from bitten limb, especially rings from fingers. These can act as tourniquets after swelling develops and necessitate amputation.

6. Vacuum pump. If I had a Sawyer Extractor I would make immediate use of it (within 3 minutes of bite) on the belief that although the efficacy is uncertain, its use cannot hurt (see later discussion under Specific Treatments).

7. Immobilize patient and bitten limb if possible. Passively transport the victim if possible. Bite should be kept at or slightly below heart level.

8. Treat for shock if victim feels faint, but do not elevate bite above heart.

9. Treat respiratory or heart failure immediately.

10. Limb wrapping: see discussion under Transport of Toxins, above. Wrapping and splinting of the limb (the splint helps to immobilize) to inhibit lymph flow is definitely indicated for neurotoxic venoms. Particularly if far from a hospital. For snakes with enzymatic/hemotoxic venom the situation is less clear because of the likelihood of increased local tissue toxicity. Based on my current understanding, my personal choice would probably be not to wrap for these snakes. I probably would splint the limb, however, and, if possible I would keep the bite at or slightly below heart level to minimize swelling.

11. Get to a hospital. Antivenom is the best treatment, although allergic reactions are possible. Prompt administration (within 4 hours is recommended) will minimize effects of the venom.

12. Call the hospital beforehand (or preferably en route) to notify them of the situation and allow them to prepare.

What not to do:

1. Don’t give alcohol. Give fluids only as necessary to prevent dehydration and only if several hours away from hospital.

2. Don’t give stimulants, sedatives, or blood-thinning analgesics (aspirin).

3. Don’t use tourniquets.

4. Don’t cut and suck. Don’t excise (cut out) the bite area.

5. Don’t use cold pack or ice bath (cryotherapy).

6. Don’t cauterize the wound.

7. Don’t use electric shock.

OK, but you’re in the wilderness. In general my objective would be to get to a hospital as fast as reasonably possible while remaining as inactive as possible. These are usually conflicting goals and it is therefore impossible to delineate the best course of action for all situations. I am hesitant to give advice at all because of the large numbers of variables and uniqueness of each situation. Factors to consider are: 1) the apparent severity of the bite, 2) how far you are from motorized or other form of transportation (e.g. horses, boats, etc.), 3) how far you are from any means of outside communication, 4) how isolated the area is (is anyone likely to come along to help), 5) the size of the group, 6) terrain, weather, state of supplies, etc.

Some possibilities are:

1) Walk out slowly.

2) Carry the victim out (usually difficult and slow)

3) Send runners to organize a rescue effort.

4) Walk out slowly while sending other party members ahead.

5) Sit tight and wait it out.

If I were alone in an isolated area, in most cases I would probably not choose to remain where I was, unless the effects of the toxins precluded my walking. Totally abandoning all gear to walk out could also be risky, however, as the progressive effects of the toxins could force you to stop before reaching the trailhead. One can still die of exposure, particularly if in a weakened state. I would probably take the minimum supply of food, water, and shelter and walk out at a slow, steady pace. However, I again emphasize that all courses of action have pros and cons and that you are responsible for your own choices.

Discussion of some specific treatments.

Antivenoms. Unless one is severely allergic, antivenoms are the best treatment for snakebites. Antivenoms are manufactured by envenomating horses and, more recently, sheep with less than lethal doses of snake venom. The resulting animal blood antibodies are collected, purified and dried to make the antivenom. The material is then reconstituted and given to the victim. It works because the antibodies bind tightly to the toxins and thus deactivate them. Antivenoms are prescription drugs that are administered intravenously at hospitals. Coral Snake Antivenom is distinct from that for pit vipers. The same polyvalent antivenoms are used for all North American pit viper bites, including those by copperheads, water moccasins, and rattlesnakes. There are now two types available. These are the Antivenin (Crotalidae) Polyvalent® Wyeth-Ayerst and CroFab® Crotalidae Polyvalent Immune Fab by Protherics. The Wyeth-Ayerst product is derived from horses while the CroFab product is sheep derived. The CroFab product was approved by the FDA in 2000 and is believed to result in much lower risk of acute allergic reactions and serum sickness than the horse-derived product. The Wyeth-Ayerst product is no longer in production as of 2001, but may still be available. U.S. production of Coral Snake antivenom is currently scheduled to cease at the end of 2003.

Antivenom is most effective if administered within four hours of the bite. It can be administered later, but is less effective at that point. This is the primary problem with antivenom as far as backpackers are concerned. In many, if not most instances, the preferred four-hour time frame is not a realistic option in the backcountry. I have not seen scientific information specifically relating the efficacy of antivenom vs. the time between bite and administration. Thus I would try to get to a hospital for antivenom even if I would be later than the 4-hour time frame. The significant danger of life-threatening allergic responses with current antivenom formulations is a major obstacle to developing a field-administrable antivenom. It does not appear this will be overcome in the near future.

Sawyer Extractor (vacuum suction): Some evidence of limited effectiveness. One animal study reported up to 34% removal of venom; others 10-20% efficacy, and some found no benefit. Needs to be used immediately - before venom can move outward. General recommendation is within 3 minutes of bite, continuing for 30 minutes. Probably cannot increase damage, in any case, so is not unreasonable to try, in my opinion.

Cut and suck: Also would have to be immediate. Generally shown to do more harm than good, especially with untrained personnel and high incidence of "dry" snakebites. Very high danger of increased infection, accidental cutting of arteries and veins, and general damage to tissues (tendons, nerves, etc.). Not recommended.

Suck out poison without cutting. Again an immediate treatment. Efficacy uncertain, but would be expected to be less effective than the Sawyer Extractor. Dangers are increased risk of infection due to high concentration of bacteria in mouth, oral absorption of toxins through wounds in mouth, and, if not performed on self, contraction of blood-borne diseases. Generally not recommended by experts.

Activated-carbon poultice: The idea is that the activated carbon will draw out and absorb the poison. I have not seen any discussion or studies of the effectiveness of this technique. I suspect it is rather ineffective since the venom disperses rapidly while the poultice would be slow acting at best. It is not clear if wound coverage would inhibit draining or increase risk of infection.

Cold pack or ice bath treatment: This treatment has been repeatedly shown to increase local tissue damage leading to increased risk of amputation. Definitely bad for pit viper bites and others with severe local tissue effects (rattlesnakes, copperheads, water moccasins). I have not seen any clear discussion for snakes that primarily have neurotoxins although advisories I have seen for bites from Australian snakes do not recommend this treatment.

Electric Shock: Discredited in several animal studies.

Other: Inactivity seems to slow/reduce toxic effects of pit viper bites. Immobilized patients seem to show a milder course than those who exercise. [My only comment on this is how does this differ from the wrap method, as both would slow the spread of the toxin?] Also may not be practical if in the backcountry.

Some additional links





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  Survival Manuals And Misinformation
Posted by: Guest - 04-04-2004, 07:21 AM - Forum: General FAQ - Replies (1)

In another post, I had mentioned that I had written an article a couple of years ago for the now defunct magazine American Survival Guide in misinformation perpetuated in military survival manuals. By request, I am posting the article her. It is text only, without the original photos or illustrations. Enjoy!


Copyright 2000 by David Alloway

Quoting an anonymous Latin proverb two hundred years ago, Isaac D’Israeli wrote, “Beware the man of one book.” When it comes to survival, the persons who go by one book should beware for themselves. Many people purchase military survival manuals because they are cheap. These can sometimes be had for a few bucks at gun shows, army surplus stores, or in higher priced new editions through mail order outlets. Up to 200 manuals can also be found on CD-ROM for what comes out to ten cents each. For many, this may be the only survival book they ever read, and why not? Wouldn’t the military, with its worldwide experience in all environments be the foremost source for survival information?

The problem is that many of these books contain outdated and often dangerous information. Now before I get some offended snake-eaters from Fort Bragg headed my way, let me explain that every military survival instructor I have ever worked with were truly masters at their craft. They know what works and what doesn’t, and don’t always agree with the manuals either. There are several reasons to have a skeptical view of survival manuals.

In a review of the literature there seems to be a cookie cutter approach to military survival manuals going back to the 1950s. For half a century the same verbatim text and illustrations have found their way entrenched into manuals no matter which branch of the armed services claim authorship. To some extent, this also carries on to manuals supplied to the armed forces of other countries. The authorship is anonymous, much copied, and stated in such a way as to be the undisputed truth. With such a presentation many casual readers regard their surplus manual as the Bible, and could martyr themselves for the book.

Because copyright laws do not apply to military manuals, they are freely copied, sometimes in a cut-and-paste fashion, and compiled into books printed by civilian publishers. These are sometimes featured in book clubs relating to military science or outdoor recreation. Again, the military origin lends credibility to some and the lack of copyright royalties makes for a quick and cheap book to produce. While the authors (or perhaps more accurately editors) of these books are stated, there is still the presence of that obscure fifty-year-old “cookie cutter.” It is also obvious in some cases that the person compiling the book has not tested what they are promoting.

Another area of inaccuracy is that the authors and illustrators of these manuals were probably not in close contact with each other. The illustrator was probably assigned a list of subjects to draw, read the text, and then illustrated a method they had never tried themselves. The result is some pretty vague graphics. An example is starting a fire with flint and steel. The probability of success in starting a flint and steel fire by reading Search and Rescue Survival AFM 64-5 (Air Force 1969); Survival FM 21-76 (Army 1970 & 1992); or Aircrew Survival AF Pamphlet 64-5 (Air Force 1985) are minimal. The same goes for The U.S. Armed Forces Survival Manual (1980), a civilian publication that was compiled from several military manuals. The text of each is brief and there is not enough on the selection of tinder for this technique, which is often unavailable in many locales. Some very dry types of fungi can be used, but in many conditions this method is wasted effort. For this reason the mountain men and pioneers carried charred cotton cloth as a tinder source to catch a spark. The illustrations, when provided, are no help with the tinder being a vague pile that could be anything from sawdust to powdered giraffe dung. The Military Book Club’s Survival Handbook (1994), which draws information from at least fifteen U.S. and foreign special forces units, discusses tinder to a greater degree than the aforementioned

books, but the illustration shows a tiny pile of grass-like tinder that would probably not ignite with that method.

The selection of stone is also not well covered in any of the texts, and most of the illustrations show rounded pebbles when a stone with an acute angle is needed for a striking surface. Two of the manuals herald flint and steel as the best method for starting a fire when in fact it requires a lot of practice. Perhaps the most ironic instruction is in the more recent manuals, that counsel to use a knife to strike sparks from the special flint found on the bottom of the issued waterproof match case. An alternate method could be to use one of the matches and keep the fire going!

The graphics gap between author and illustrator is evident in even some of the better privately published survival books. While in general I like John Wiseman’s SAS Survival Handbook, it has some of the same illustrative flaws as the previously mentioned manuals. While the illustration on flint and steel (page 140) has a more professional look than the military manuals, neither the graphics nor the text provide the needed information for consistent success. In addition, the illustration showing the spearthrower (page 108) indicates the artist has never actually seen such a weapon. I own several examples of Inuit, southwestern U.S., Meso-American, and Australian Aborigine spearthrowers, and have never seen one with a hand grip located to the rear. It just won’t work, and if you build one from that example you will find you would have better off throwing a spear by hand. The problem is that we are a visual species, and pictures remain more vivid in most people’s memories than the printed word. Most

people know not to believe everything they read, but it is harder not to believe everything you see, and pictures are powerful.

Because I teach desert survival courses I take an especially critical look at the sections on water acquisition and use. In my professional career as a ranger on the 420 square mile Big Bend Ranch State Park in Texas, I am in continual controversy with people who are about to venture into the Chihuahuan Desert without enough water but plenty of unproved ideas on rationing and solar stills. Military survival manuals are far and away the most responsible for the idea that a hole in the ground, a cup, and a sheet of plastic can provide sufficient drinking water in any circumstance. The solar still was invented in the mid-1960s and has been a staple of survival lore since.

Both civilian and military survival texts often quote yields from solar stills at a quart a day. This is possible under ideal circumstances and with a lot of practice. I have yet to see a successful still built by inexperienced persons reading a book and then going to work. The best yield I ever had from my students concerned three men whose one liter canteen cup was overflowing at the end of twenty-four hours. It should be noted, however, that I talked them through the process and these men were professional adventurers, one whom had summited Mount Everest the year before. These guys knew that details were a matter of life and death. One liter for three people, however, is insufficient in the heat we were experiencing. Add to the lost sweat from digging a hole

without a shovel, the usual low yield of four ounces or less, and the time required for condensation to work, a person can actually work themselves into a deficit. What is the book solution for low yields? Dig more stills! More sweat invested on a gamble.

The current rule for water use is “Ration sweat, not water.” Water rationing is an antiquated method for land travel that probably has its origins back to sailors lost at sea. While floating about on a lifeboat with little to do but lay around, water needs are less if shade is available. The infantry, however, once practiced water rationing, telling their troops when they could drink and how much. This idea still persists with some older veterans, and is responsible for many cases of dehydration. Two survival training films from the Vietnam era for aviators and pilots are the first military references I know of to caution against water rationing in survival scenarios. Desert Survival, 3593 DN (U.S. Navy) and Sun, Sand and Survival, T.F. 1-4991 (U.S. Air Force) are both available on one videotape called Desert Survival Skills listed in the References. The advice in current military manuals is contradictory, advising against rationing while falling back on the half-century old cookie cutter admonitions to sip water or only wet the lips.

The fact is, you cannot ration water in your canteen any more than you can ration gas in a car’s tank. If you have a quarter tank of gas and sixty miles to go to get to the next station, giving the car “a few sips” cannot do it. Instead, you use the available gasoline conservatively by driving slower, coasting downhill, and avoiding rapid acceleration. It is the same way with the body. By waiting until cooler times to walk and limiting physical activity (such as not digging several holes for stills) the available water is used wisely.

It is important to drink enough to keep the brain hydrated. The recommended sipping and wetting the lips is a misuse of available water. Such rationing causes the less important cells of the body to pirate the water away from the brain, which will result in irrational decisions and increased body temperature.

Recently, a European tourist died in the Australian outback of dehydration with one and two thirds liters left in her water bottles, and many similar cases from rationing are on record. It is the water in your stomach that saves you, not the water in the canteen. Yet the manuals confuse the issue. Quoting the 1970 Army manual, page 226: “Don’t gulp your water. Drink in small sips. Use water to only to moisten your lips if the supply is critical.” The well known, but erroneous, technique of placing a pebble under the tongue to allay thirst is described, even though that thirst is telling you to water your brain. Ironically, the same page continues, “Rationing yourself to 1 or 2 quarts of water a day is inviting disaster (at high temperatures) as such small amounts do not prevent dehydration. Ration sweat, not water.”

The U.S. Marine Corps Desert Handbook gives the same paraphrased cautions against rationing water (including the “inviting disaster” line) and later in the manual gives the same wet your lips and put a pebble under the tongue advice word for word as the twenty year older text. The same book goes on to describe a solar still as “a cheap and simple survival still that will produce drinking water even in a dry desert.” Here is my thoughts on the subject. If you are thirsty, drink. Don’t risk a befuddled mind and die of thirst with water in your canteen. This will cause us to use you as an example in my courses. If you are going to rely on a solar still to save weight in carrying water, please take a larger sheet of plastic than the often recommended six foot by six foot square. Those of us on the search and rescue team want enough to adequately wrap you in so you won’t smell so bad when we pack you out.

Many military manuals are too general for use without accompanying instruction. Because our military needs to be capable of operating anywhere in the world on short notice, many such manuals give descriptions of edible plants that are not precise enough. It is understandable that if every edible plant in the world were listed, accurately described, and with step-by-step preparation methods, the volume would require its own vehicle support to carry. It is also a fact that scientific names are all but useless to the average serviceman and that proper identification in many cases would require knowledge of both botany and taxonomy. The generalities, however, are dangerous without instruction.

For example, let’s use the mescal plant found in several of the previously mentioned books. Mescal is colloquial Spanish derived from the Aztec name metl for the edible species of the genus Agave. Commonly called century plant, there are about 250 species in North America. With no further identification, the 1970 Army manual, U.S. Marine Corps Desert Handbook, and The U.S. Armed Forces Survival Manual have brief descriptions of mescal as a food source with vague line drawings. Both the 1970 army manual and The U.S. Armed Forces Survival Manual advise to cut the tips off of the leaves for water. The juice of some Agaves is called agua miel (honey water) in Spanish, and is quite palatable. Agua miel is what is fermented for beverages such as pulque, tequila, and mescal. Some species, however, have a juice that causes severe dermatitis.

Once I was preparing Agave havardii, a mescal species with a food history dating back thousands of years, for pit baking. While chopping off the leaves I splattered the juice on my arms, creating hundreds of small blisters on my skin that burned for over an hour. What would happen if you collected that juice and drank it? To be fair, the 1992 edition of the Army survival manual has a color photo of a century plant, more correctly identified as an Agave, with a cautionary note about the irritating properties of some.

Most of the military references advocate baking the agave bloom stalk, which in most species is not only edible, but also quite tasty. Unfortunately, those stalks are highly seasonal and uncommon, as many of these plants bloom once and die. None of the manuals I have seen tell how to cut off the leaves and bake the central bulbs of these plants in rock lined pits. While the cooking takes upwards of forty-eight hours, it breaks down the caustic chemicals and produces basketball sized portions of food that tastes much like sweet potatoes. These are available year round, and one group of Apaches utilized the plant this way to such an extent they were known to the Spanish as Mescaleros.

Some of this generalization in survival books is not only intentional, but contemptuous. One civilian book is advertised as not having Latin names, as that is “the last thing you want to read about when you are hungry.” It might be, however, the first thing the doctor wants to know when you’ve poisoned yourself. I include scientific nomenclature in my writing for those who wish to pursue the subject deeper. After all, it is better to have a tediously accurate identification than a vague drawing with a common name.

This brings us to the plant edibility test, of which there are two forms. Because it would be impossible to teach a worldwide course on edible plants, a test was developed to identify which could be safely eaten. The earlier test started by taking a small portion of the plant you were considering eating and cautiously applying it to the skin, then mouth, and finally eating the sample at timed intervals. Because some plants like water hemlock could be deadly with just a taste, the test had to be modified. Newer versions of the test, such as found in the 1992 Army manual, start with discarding plants because of seed or fruit color, leaf arrangements, particular odors, milky sap, and several other factors not requiring skin or mouth contact. The older test could get you killed, and there are still opponents to the new method. The 1992 version of the Army text also differs from earlier editions in that it specifically tells you to disregard all fungi as survival food. Earlier manuals included a lot of information on identifying edible and poisonous mushrooms. The edibility test, in any form, is not effective in identifying edible mushrooms from toxic varieties. Even if you can identify edible types, most mushrooms contain fewer calories than they take to digest, which do not make them valuable as survival food. This is a positive example where the military is leaving the cookie cutter and coming up with accurate information.

Perhaps the biggest information gap is in the area of snakebite. There are very few doctors in total agreement with each other on treating snake evenomation, and techniques vary from region to region. As a first responder in a region that, with one exception, has snakes with hemotoxic venom (which attacks the blood and tissue), I am allowed to apply a wide constriction band between the bite and the heart, loose enough to allow arterial blood flow to the limb but snug enough to slow down venal flow to the heart. I can use mechanical suction on the bite, but I am not to incise the fang marks.

What I was taught in Australia, which has exclusively neurotoxic snakes whose venom attacks the nervous system, was very different. It involved using two elastic bandages, with no incision or suction, to localize the venom. This method is proving quite successful there considering that of the ten deadliest snakes in the world, Australia has – ten! Such treatment of a hemotoxic bite, however, could cause much more extensive tissue damage. Because snakebites in the U.S. result in few fatalities, one group of physicians in Arizona is advocating no field treatment other than keeping the victim calm and rapid transport to a hospital. Of course that is not always possible.

U.S. military publications, however, persist in the one-size-fits-all approach. I do not know of anyone in the civilian medical field advocating incising of the bite at this time. Yet the 1969 Air Force manual and the 1982 Aircrew Survival pamphlet, the 1970 Army manual, and The U.S. Armed Forces Survival Manual, all advocate incising the bite immediately.

The 1992 Army manual takes a more conventional approach at first, advising not to incise the fang marks, but then gives instructions to do so if help is more than one hour away. The same manual does differentiate between neurotoxic and hemotoxic bites, but does not give separate treatments. The Military Book Club’s Survival Manual gives separate treatment for hemotoxic and neurotoxic bites, but advises immediate incision for pit vipers if antivenom is not available within one hour. The SAS Survival Handbook gives a single method for all bites similar to what I learned in Australia, which indicates Wiseman’s extensive tropical experience with a preponderance of neurotoxic snakes. To compound the confusion, some snakes, including the Mojave rattler found where I live, have both hemotoxic and neurotoxic compounds in their venom! It is no wonder there is so much disagreement.

Perhaps the most bizarre advice in the snake category, with a hint of vengeance from the Book of Genesis, is attributed to the Green Berets in The Military Book Club’s Survival Handbook. Some books, civilian and military, advise to kill the snake for identification purposes if it can be done without further risk. This book advises, however, for the victim to kill the snake, not only for I.D., but because “it will make you feel better.” Then it says to lie down and be calm.

It should be remembered that these manuals were intended to be backed up with instruction, which can make all the difference in the world. Hands-on experience is always preferable to armchair study. That is why they don’t have correspondence schools for surgeons. These books are basically meant to be memory joggers. I am sure that at any moment someone is going to point out that since I have written a book on survival and teach courses, my motives for bashing military manuals might have a personal interest. I will say this about my book: If you read it like I came off of a holy mountain with it written in stone and do not take the time to practice the skills or learn the plants, you should use its pages for fire starting or latrine sanitation. No survival book is a reliable substitute for experience and hands-on instruction. Unlike the anonymous military manuals, I wrote, photographed, and illustrated my book. Right or wrong, I own what I say and illustrate.

I am not saying that military manuals have no value. Many contain detailed and accurate information in many subjects such as navigation and signaling. The point is that much of the information is rehashed, outdated, unspecific, and untried by those who still include it for print. In a survival situation one piece of bad advice can wipe out all the good. Like everything else, use good judgment and try the techniques before you need them for real. And once again, my hat is off to the survival instructors of our armed forces. I believe it is because of your expertise, and not the information in the manuals, that death from wilderness related emergencies is rare among our service people.


Alloway, David, Desert Survival Skills, University of Texas Press, Austin 2000

Boswell, John, The U.S. Armed Forces Survival Manual, Rawson, Wade Publishers, New

York 1980

Darman, Peter, The Military Book Club’s Survival Manual, Brown Packaging Limited,

London, 1994

Department of the Air Force, Search and Rescue Survival, AFM 64-5, World Wide

Publishing Corporation, Ashland, OR 1969

________, Aircrew Survival, AF Pamphlet 64-5, Washington, D.C. 1985

________, Sun, Sand & Survival, T.F. 1-4991, video in Desert Survival Skills, Gun

Video, 4585 Murphy Canyon Rd. San Diego, CA 92123 n.d.

Department of the Army, Survival, FM 21-76, Washington D.C. 1970, updated version 1992.

Department of the Navy, Desert Survival, 35953 DN, video in Desert Survival Skills,

Gun Video, 4585 Murphy Canyon Rd. San Diego, CA 92123 1979.

U.S. Marine Corps Desert Handbook, Paladin Press, Boulder, CO n.d.

Wiseman, John, The SAS Survival Handbook, Harvill, London 1994

David Alloway has taught survival for over twenty years in the U.S., Mexico, and Australia. He is the author of Desert Survival Skills from University of Texas Press and has his own company specializing in survival and wilderness safety instruction.

You made it down this far? Thanks for your dedication!



Edited by: David Alloway at: 1/14/03 10:32:37 am

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