Archive | January, 2013

The 870 Remington Pump Action Shotgun

29 Jan

A shotgun owned by many preppers and survivalists is the 870 Remington pump action. The gun has a simple and reliable mechanism. It’s easy to learn to disassemble and reassemble the weapon. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this classic gun?

The disadvantages largely apply to all shotguns:

1) Lack of range. Even with rifled slugs, shotguns are best used at close distances. A good shot with a shotgun with good sights and rifled slugs can take a deer at 100 yards. Compared to a rifle which can reach several times that distance, one weakness of all shotguns is the lack of effective range. For deer hunting, use slugs.

Buckshot has a more limited range. By the time 00 buck has reached 40 or 50 yards, it will only penetrate a couple of inches of pine. It’s most effective within about 25 yards. Smaller sized buckshot will be less effective as the range increases. Some experts like #1 buckshot. It’s large enough to have better penetration and distance than #4 buckshot. Being a tad smaller than #00 buckshot, you can fit more pellets into a load, creating more trauma.

For most home defense situations or hunting in many areas, the range limitation is more theoretical than practical. Home defense will be under 10 yards and any load should work.

2) Recoil. Some won’t consider this a disadvantage. But for recoil-sensitive people shotguns kick quite a bit. They make reduced recoil shotgun shells for the recoil sensitive. Moving to a 20 gauge shotgun rather than a 12 gauge is another option. The 870 comes in both 12 gauge and 20 gauge.

3) Heavy and bulky ammo. Shotgun shells are quite heavy. For those who plan to bug out and who want to carry a lot of ammo, this is a major consideration.

What are the advantages?

1) Close range stopping power for self defense. Few weapons are as effective at close distances as a shotgun firing buckshot. Even at close range, body armor is very effective in stopping buckshot and slugs though. A shotgun isn’t the best weapon against heavily armored opponents. That said, few home invaders have body armor of any kind.

2) A highly effective weapon for deer and bear within its range when rifled slugs are employed. In the old days, shotgun barrels weren’t rifled. They were smooth bore, just like other shotgun barrels. The slugs often had something that looked like rifling on them. It was more for show than anything. Rifled slugs worked just like a sock with a rock in it. Once you toss it, the heavy end will go first with the light end trailing behind.

For those who anticipate hunting big game with a shotgun, you can purchase rifled barrels. You can outfit the 870 with rifled sights, a peep sight, or an optical sight. One advantage to the 870 Remington is that you can quickly change barrels on it. You could have a short 18 or 20 inch barrel for home defense. You could have a 25 inch barrel with choke tubes for hunting small game and birds and a barrel specifically for rifled slugs.

3) The 870 is highly reliable and serviceable. For those preppers or survivalists who believe they’d have to maintain their weapons over a long period of time without the help of professional gunsmiths, the 870 is a good choice.

4) It’s unlikely to ever be banned in America. I don’t think we’ll see legislation banning semi-automatic weapons in America in my lifetime. Those supporting gun control do target semi-automatic guns. I’ll make another post “What if all semi-automatic guns were banned” where I’ll list what I’d keep and use if none of my guns could be semi-automatic.

While there is a bit of a frenzy purchasing items people think could be banned in the future, like high-capacity AR magazines, if we think through all the possibilities, there could be a risk of a “buy back” program to remove semi-automatic weapons from the population. The 870 wouldn’t be effected. It would take many years before they’d get around to banning 870s!

Years ago, a friend of mine bought up a ton of 870s. I figured once I owned one in each gauge I wanted, I was all set. If you have three or four, why do you need a fifth, and sixth! Researching them a bit today for this article, I learned the new ones may not be up to the standards of the older Wingmasters. I guess he was a wise fellow.

Charlie Palmer, author- The Prepper Next Door

A neat post about the 870.

A nice video (youtube) about taking apart and reassembling an 870:

Step-by-step disassembly for those who want to read about it rather than watch a video

This page from Remington has a link to a pdf schematic for the 870 shotgun

This short video shows how to remove the extractor from the 870.

The video is for a promo for a DVD about gunsmithing the 870. For those who want to learn more about taking apart the trigger group, judging from the sample video clips, the video looks good. It is available on for $18.

I’ve never disassembled the trigger group. You can clean it with a brush or an air gun, soak it in solvent, or spray it with WD-40, and then oil it without taking it apart.

Back in the 1980s I planned to buy some spare parts for my 870. I never got around to it (been busy). If I did, I’d get an extractor, firing pin, firing pin spring, and an extra magazine spring.

The ejector looks like a bear to replace for the hobby gunsmith. Some shooters say it wouldn’t hurt to purchase an entire trigger group  for about $100. Others recommend buying a second 870. You can get a used Wingmaster for less than $350.

Here’s a guy on youtube who is restoring an old 870 he found in a barn.

This link discusses the difference between the lower-cost “Express” 870s and the Wingmasters and the 870 Police models.

For those who want to read more about various buckshot loads, there is a nice discussion here.

This is the first I heard about a possible change in the manufacturing of small parts for the 870. There are several sites with discussions about this:

One more site showing extractor replacement and talking about the MIM extractor versus machined or forged ones.

5 guns to buy before a new gun ban (video on Youtube):

If you own a good 870 shotgun, maybe a Marlin 44 lever rifle, and a 357 magnum revolver, I’d say you’re good to go! These guys do have a good idea for those who want to have an AR-15 but can’t afford one at present: Just buy the receiver and magazines now.

Norovirus Bug On the Rise, New Strain Arrives to United States

Here’s an interesting story  about Marines studying the use of “mindfulness”  to reduce PTSD. During a true WROL or SHTF, one thing preppers should think about is the role that stress will play in their daily lives.

When I think of the word “mindfulness” I think of paying attention. Too many people approach a project without thinking about what they’re doing. Here is a story  about a driver who had their transmission fluid changed at a Jiffy Lube. The vehicle uses a newer kind of transmission fluid. The shop used the old fluid and damaged the transmission, costing $4,288 to repair.

What struck me is that the new transmission fluid is green to idiot proof it. As you drain the fluid, you must notice it is very different from usual transmission fluid. Mindfulness should lead the person to pause and question what’s going on. Why is this stuff green? A pause, a deep breath, and googling it or consulting alldata could have saved a costly repair. Whenever you repair anything, mindfulness can save you money!

The Preppers Next Door (article on, has nothing to do with the book).

Financial Health

20 Jan

A great post on Apartment Prepper “Personal Savings Lessons from Prepping” got me thinking about the importance of basic financial health to prepping. It’s hard to prepare for the future when you’re financially sinking in the present.

In the last four or five years, many Americans have suffered their own personal financial collapse. A job is lost and a family can no longer pay its bills. Money is borrowed to cover the gap between income and expenses in the hope that income will be re-established in the near future. The debt becomes overwhelming.

If you suffer a sudden loss of income, immediately reduce whatever expenses you can. Don’t borrow to cover the gap. If you’re struggling to pay current bills, it will only become harder when you must add payments and interest for past debts to your obligations. Even if you could have scrapped by before, the added debt payments can scuttle you.

This is easier written about than done though. Some expenses are hard to avoid. If you have a sick child and must pay medical bills, even if your income remains solid, you can be done in financially.

A great blog post on  suggests having a “no spend” month. This could work for a country homesteader, but is hard to pull off for a city prepper. You can’t tell your electrical and water company that it’s “No Spend October.” Sorry, guys, you’ll pay them in November!

The time to prepare for a financial blow is before it arrives. Before you make any other preparation, you should put aside at least one month’s worth of income. Two or three months is better. This will give you some breathing room. That money is just like food reserves, it’s there to cover you if you don’t have access to other income. It will let you pay your bills for a bit.

Just as preppers seek some degree of self-sufficiency with a garden, preppers should work to build their incomes. If you lost your main job, would you have something else you could do to earn some cash?

There are opportunities hidden in the open all around us. In the last post I talked about the evilness of springs. Garage door springs, in particular, have a bad reputation as killers, although I couldn’t find one fatality due to a garage door spring by searching Google. There are guys who make their entire living driving around and repairing garage door springs and the other basic parts of garage doors. It’s only one of thousands of business ideas for those who build some special skills and knowledge.

For saving money, one of my favorite things is to learn how to do basic repairs myself. If you read my book, you know I’m a big fan of learning to repair mechanical things: Appliances, your vehicle, your electrical, your plumbing, your HVAC system. I must confess though–I like doing these things.

Most frugal people have their own favorite strategies and techniques for saving money. Here’s a great post about “depression” era money saving tips.

Some ideas are better than others. Baking cookies inside your car on a hot and sunny day? If it worked that would be better than the costly “new car smell.” Turning off your engine while driving is a horrible idea; although I slow down when approaching stop signs to save gas and the brakes. Most people just speed up to the stop sign and hit the brakes and then roar away.

Some ideas appear silly but actually make sense. A constant theme I run into on the net on self-sufficiency sites is making your own laundry soap. Laundry soap’s expensive! It’s a hot ticket item for criminals. One commentator joked: “The U.S. dollar should be pegged to Tide.”

By being more self-reliant, you need to spend less money. David Nash has a good term for this concept of gaining security by being more self-reliant: Prepsteading.

Full homesteading is living your life much like early settlers on the frontier. A grocery store didn’t exist right around the corner to top off your supplies back then.

For many city preppers, full self-sufficiency isn’t practical. But finding a few ways to be less reliant on others can save us a buck here and there.

Americas Top CEOs have come up with a plan to save the government money. They want to raise the retirement age to 70.

These CEOs fail to realize that not all jobs involve sitting on your butt and telling others what to do. I agree with the commentator to the above article: “force these scums to work in construction til they turn 100.” OK, that’s a little too harsh. But I’d support a two-year stint in their late 60s working a tough job. Make them fill in pot holes. Because of the different nature of jobs a universal retirement age makes little sense.

Here’s an interesting story about somebody who is preparing for the Biblical apocalypse. Even though I bet most preppers are conservative Christian, most aren’t planning for the official end of the world and don’t give predictions of apocalyptic doom too much credence. This fellow removed $50,000 from his 401(k) to spend on prepping. If you had an extra $50,000 to spend on prepping, what would you do with it?

Repairing Spring Piston Air Rifles & New York 7 Round Magazine Gun Law

17 Jan

The other day I dug out an older Feinwerkbau 124 sport model air rifle I’ve had for about 25 years. I pulled the trigger and poof and shake. The pellet hit six inches low. I must have not been thinking clearly, because I wasn’t sure if it was me or the rifle. I fired a second shot and the pellet remained in the barrel.

I could blame it on crummy German engineering and quality control. But that wouldn’t fly with anybody who knows the name Feinwerkbau. It was my fault. It had been years since I used this gun or even cleaned it. With older spring piston air rifles, the piston seals can dry out and fail. This is a problem I’ve known about for decades, but you get busy with life and neglect things.

A great blog I stumbled upon ( has a nice motto: “Stupid Costs Money.”  If you have something nice, spend the time to maintain it. If you neglect mechanical things, they fail sooner. That will cost you money.

A spring-piston air rifle is a simple contraption. A spring pushes a piston, which pushes air, which pushes a .177 caliber pellet down the barrel. There are many web pages to explain how to service, “tune,” or repair spring piston air rifles. Below are a few. The last two discuss the Model 124 history.

Here is the piston seal part:

Other FWB 124 “power plant” options:
A spring compressor
This page has a sweet 13 part section about tuning spring piston air rifles.

If you do this sort of work yourself, remember these rifles have powerful springs. Springs are inherently evil–Garage door springs, air rifle springs, even the smallest spring can jump up and pop you in the eye. Large springs can rip flesh if they catch you.

The links above show several spring compressors that can be made of wood or metal and which allow you to slowly release the tension in the spring as you take the rifle apart.

Failing mechanical things can provide financial opportunities too, if you know how to fix them. A guy might try to sell you a car on the sly because it has a failing intake manifold gasket and he was probably quoted thousands of dollars to fix it. If you know what’s wrong and know you can fix the problem yourself for only the cost of gaskets, you might get a good deal.

The Department Of Homeland Security suggests we disable Java from our computers to protect ourselves from hackers. The next link shows you how to do it:

New York has passed a new gun law which bans future pistol magazines of more than 7 rounds. There is a nice discussion of this on

Here is a link to the new law.  If you own an AR-15 or similar rifle, you have one year to register it or it becomes illegal.

Quote: ” Within one year of the effective date, all weapons defined as assault weapons under the new “one-feature” test, as well as weapons grandfathered in under the original assault weapons ban, must be registered. Current owners of these banned weapons may transfer the weapons only to a firearms dealer or transfer to an out of state buyer. All registered owners will be subject to a review of disqualifiers by the State Police.”

If you have magazines greater than ten rounds, they will be banned. If you have magazines that hold up to ten rounds, you can keep them, but you can only load seven shots.

Quote: “This bill prohibits possession of all magazines with the capacity to contain more than ten rounds, regardless of the date of manufacture. Going forward, individuals will only be able to obtain magazines that can contain up to seven rounds. “

This law discriminates against older guys with fading memories. Loading the magazine: One, Two, Three, Four…sip a cup of coffee…where the hell was I, three or four? …click, click, click, click….start counting again One, Two….

The new law affects ammunition purchases.

Quote: ” (1) that sellers of ammunition register with the superintendent of the State police (2) that prior to a sale of ammunition, a seller must run the buyer through a State-created review of disqualifiers to ensure that the buyer is not prohibited by law from possessing ammunition, and (3) that ammunition sales are electronically accessible to the State.”

Quote: ” In order to prevent circumvention of these new controls, this bill requires that any seller–whether located in New York or out of state-ship the ammunition to a dealer within New York for in-person pick-up.”

Last but not least, the new law creates a statewide gun license and record database.

I said before that the push for a new federal online sales tax collection scheme would allow tracking and taxation of online ammunition sales. In time, higher registration fees or taxes could drive many away from gun ownership and shooting. How much would you pay per year to keep your AR-15? Would you pay $30 a year registration fee? Probably. What about $1,000 a year? How much could you afford to shoot if there was a 50 cent tax per bullet?

As a gun owner what concerns me the most is the plan of some to push to convert semiautomatic rifles into Class 3 weapons, which would make it easy to ban them in many states. They want to lump semiautomatic AR-15s with sawed off shotguns and machineguns.

The Prepper Next Door: A Practical Guide For Disaster And Emergency Planning (link to prepper book on Barnes & Noble)  is now available for $9.95 as a Nook eBook.

Burglary Prevention

15 Jan

In the book, The Prepper Next Door: A Practical Guide For Disaster And Emergency Planning, I write quite a bit about hardening your home against intruders and burglary prevention.

When burglars case a home, their main goal is to find out whether or not you’re home. Most burglars don’t want to break into a home with people in it. When criminals knowingly enter a home with people at home, it’s called a home invasion. Those criminals are particularly dangerous, because they aren’t trying to avoid a confrontation.

When we’re away from home, we want burglars to think we’re at home. They’ll choose another house to rob. Denying them information about whether or not we’re home is important. Information Denial is one key to maintaining security.

This fact was hammered home when I was looking at some footprints in the snow of some burglars who had cased a house, but had been unsuccessful in robbing it. One set of footprints stood right in front of the garage window. The garage was unattached. They looked in to see what goodies were present or to see if a vehicle was there. A lack of vehicles about a home could make burglars think nobody is home.

If you live on a street where few cars are parked and you keep your own vehicles in the garage, give some thought to purchasing blinds or drapes for your garage windows. Can a burglar see your cars inside your garage? How could a burglar casing your house know whether or not you’re at home? Look for telltale signs you inadvertently give away.

While we’re talking about garages, many burglars like your tools. Either to steal or to use to break into your own home. Family Handyman has a nice article about protecting your garage from intruders.

More tips on avoiding break ins. has a nice pdf about home security, which emphasizes the key goals of: deter, detect, delay. You want to deter burglars from targeting your home. You want to detect them as soon as possible. The quicker they’re detected, the less chance they have to succeed. You want to delay them. The more time it takes them to get into your house, the more likely they’ll leave and attack an easier target or someone will discover them.

Jim Cobb, author of Prepper’s Home Defense (, wisely adds “defend” to the motto. If your security is breached, you must fight or flee, if you happen to be at home.

I’ve heard some fellows add another “d” to the motto: decapitate. It sounds bad-a** but is a bad idea. Under normal circumstances, you really want to avoid confrontations, and you shouldn’t seek to hurt a burglar, unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Information denial can sometimes work the wrong way. If you’re an old codger taking a nap at noon and you wake up to use the bathroom and discover three gents trying to beat down your door, it can be a big surprise to everybody involved.

They probably followed the proper burglar etiquette of knocking on the front door to see if anybody answered. They probably knocked loudly next. They knocked on the backdoor. They didn’t see activity in the home. Lights were largely off, to save electricity. Just when they’re completely convinced nobody is home, you pop up at the window. Surprise! Somebody is home.

Even if you don’t want to invest in a home alarm system, purchasing a cheap door alarm  can alert you to the most common break-in attempt, kicking in a backdoor. A barking dog is another option.

Don’t feel bad if you don’t answer your door though. Many people, including police officers, don’t. That’s just one of the risks burglars must take! Most burglaries occur during daytime hours in middle class neighborhoods because people are away at their day jobs.

If you do have an alarm system, it might have a “panic” button, designed to set off your alarm manually. You can use that to your advantage if burglars are casing your house, while you’re inside watching them. Somebody knocks on your door. You ignore it. They’re probably trying to sell you something, convert you into something, or get you to sign something. Any which way, you don’t need it.

The guy comes back and knocks again. He has buddies with him, peeking into your windows. Well, this isn’t good, you think. Maybe you dial the police to let them know what’s up. If you don’t want to test the integrity of your door, just when one prepares to kick the door, you hit the alarm button.

Waiting until the last minute had both a downside and an upside. On the upside, it gave the police maximum time to respond. On the downside, the burglars had more time to case the house and learn more about it for a possible future attempt. Unless they’ve tried to break the door down, they might not have broken the law either. There is a chance they’re in possession of drugs, have outstanding warrants, or are in possession of other stolen property which could lead to a direct arrest. Police can see what they look like.

The other option is showing yourself at the last moment, if you’re a fairly strong-looking guy. The burglars will probably be in a hurry to get away at this point. You shouldn’t open the door, there might be several other burglars with them.

What if you’re facing a home invasion and are told to turn off a sounding alarm? Does your alarm system have a duress code?  That’s a special code like a silent alarm used by banks. While it disables the audible alarm at the home, it sends a message to your security company or to the police. You’re turning off the alarm under duress.

Cobb and many military guys like silent alarms. These alarms alert you to an attempt to breach your security. It gives you time to respond, without letting the adversary know that you know about their presence. If you’re trying to survive under harsh social conditions, where the attackers are likely to continue attacking, a loud alarm offers little advantage. Police aren’t available. The intruders might not be scared off. You want to retain the element of surprise for your counterattack. Under normal social conditions, a loud alarm can alert neighbors, police, or scare away an intruder.

I wouldn’t recommend this for most people, but if you had problems with repeat burglaries and are desperate to put and end to them, you could wait until the burglars had breached your door before responding. You’d want to be armed. The idea would be to hold them at gunpoint until the police arrived, after they had broken into your home. In some states, this, technically, wouldn’t be a viable legal option: You’re legally required to flee your own home rather than confront intruders inside of it.

Once criminals have entered your home, your scope of operations is greater. If necessary, you could use lethal force with less risk of legal prosecution. This doesn’t mean there aren’t risks: you could get sued by a burglar or even charged with a crime.

There is an issue of “premeditation” if things go horribly wrong and you’re forced to shoot. Premeditation means you thought through the sequence of events in your brain before you were forced to act. It sounds dangerously close to prepping! I’ve read that in England keeping a bat near your bed could be deemed “premeditation” of intent to hurt a burglar!

Well, this post has gotten a lot longer than I planned. I hope some of the advice will be helpful to you. And, remember, be alert and pay attention for your neighbors too. The burglar that successfully strikes them today might come after you tomorrow.

Charlie Palmer -author of The Prepper Next Door: A Practical Guide For Disaster And Emergency Planning

With the school shooting, some say America should emulate Australia and “buy back” all military style weapons in the country. Although a great country, Australia is by no means perfect, it has one of the world’s highest burglary rates (nearly 3% a year).

The 30-30 Winchester & Hay Rustling

13 Jan

The 30-30 Winchester, sometimes called the 30-30 WCF (Winchester Center Fire) or just the 30 WCF, is a classic prepper cartridge. Usually fired in a lever action rifle, 30-30s are light and handy. Ammo is readily available throughout America. Every hunting season, you’ll find 30-30 ammo on sale. Firing a 170 grain bullet, it will reliably take anything in North America. It has killed huge numbers of deer, bear, and hogs.

A great long-range shooter might not like a 30-30 because of its slower ballistics and because a lever action isn’t as accurate as a bolt action rifle. In open plains areas, a 30-06 or 270 Winchester would be better. For those in Northern Woods, where ranges are likely to be no more than 100 yards, a 30-30 is made to order.

Most shooters will be able to get off quicker follow up shots with a 30-30 than with a bolt action hunting rifle. This is one reason the 30-30 lever action was popular with survivalists of the 1980s. It could be used for self defense. Is it as good as a modern AR-15? No. On the positive side, it is much, much, much less expensive. Many preppers prefer it to the SKS.

Tubular magazines are obnoxious to reload. In the old westerns, whenever the bad guy and hero took a time out from popping off 44-40s at each other from behind rocky ledges, they’d stuff new rounds into their rifles. For many, the shorter stubby rounds are easier to reload than the longer 30-30s. It’s not nearly as nice and easy as pushing rounds into an 870 Remington. But if you needed more than six shots, that’s how you reload them. No extra magazines to purchase or carry.

The 30-30 is a classic workhorse cartridge of yesterday’s ranches and farms. Like many hyphenated calibers, the 30-30 designation originally meant a 30-caliber bullet-hyphen- and 30 grains of black powder.

For about $30, you can purchase portable reloading kits.

To keep the western theme going, because of drought, some people have taken to hay rustling. Surprised me when I read it too. Not rustling cattle, but stealing hay which is in short supply. To foil hay rustlers, sheriffs and ranchers have resorted to the old-school cowboy trick of placing GPS tracking devices inside of hay bales.

Here are some more links about the gun control saga:
In Iowa, one politician wants to ban all semiautomatic weapons, including all handguns.
In Wyoming, some politicians want to ban laws banning guns.
Here’s a nice story about a guy who purchased an AR-15 after confronting a home invader.