Now, let’s talk more about ham radio: Beginning in February, 1991 the FCC, in their infinite wisdom, did away with the Morse Code requirement for Technician Class Operators. What that means is there are nolw a lot of ham radio operators who do not know Morse Code. Why is this important? It takes a lot less technology and output power to successfully transmit a message using code. And if you have developed your own alphanumeric code for your group (as we have) then it is even harder to break if sent in Morse code because so many people now days cannot copy Morse code in the first place. Also, if propagation conditions are not good, especially over long distances, it is possible to get a Morse Code message through that would be impossible via voice communications. Also, should you find yourself and members of your group being held captive by a hostile force you can possibly communicate between jail cells or even in the same room blinking Morse code with your eyes, taping it out on the desk or floor or just whistling it.
I don’t think we have more than maybe three or four months before we are faced with a total Schumer Hits The Fan (SHTF) situation. So, as a senior, spend that time learning code and developing your radio listening skills, it will make you a very valuable member of any group.
Reloading and Bullet Swaging
Disclosure: I have no affiliation and receive no compensation from Lee Loaders or Corbin Dies or any of their subsidies. The gentleman who introduced me to bullet swaging, recommended Corbin dies to me as a source for my needed supplies and Lee was the brand, I chose for my first loader 50 years ago. So other than as a consumer, I have no other association with any company or brand name mentioned. I also recommend using factory ammo for all self-defense situations, but at some point factory-loaded ammo may not be available.
Another skill which will prove invaluable to your group in a SHTF situation is reloading and bullet swaging. I have only started to learn bullet swaging and don’t feel knowledgeable enough to go into much detail on the particular how-tos but David Corbin has a wealth of information and Corbin dies are considered the premium in the bullet swaging community, in my opinion.
Ammunition will be a premium commodity in any extended SHTF situation. So knowing how to make bullets and how to reload ammunition will be very valuable skills. I started reloading 50 years ago at age 15. It started at the skeet club my Dad and I belonged to. The club had a shotgun shell loader and one of the gentlemen at the club took me under his wing and taught me to reload shotgun shells. Following that, I bought a Lee hand loader and learned to reload .270 caliber rifle ammunition. I still have and use that Lee hand loader to this day. The hand loader is not fast. And because it only does neck sizing, it is actually not recommended for ammunition used in semi-automatic weapons. Without full-length sizing, there is a bigger potential for jamming. I have reloaded thousands of rounds of .270 ammunition and shot it through my semi-automatic deer rifle without issue. I also have reloaded roughly 1,800 rounds of .38 Special ammo and shot it through several of my revolvers with only a very occasional swollen cartridge casing being hard to eject. The Lee hand loader is lightweight and small enough to carry in your G.O.O.D. pack, with ease.
If you are like most of us, then you probably also have a .45, .40, or 9mm semi-auto handgun. Using a reloading press with sizing dies as well as a case trimmer you can reload those calibers to closer tolerances that will help prevent jamming better than a compact hand loader. So investing in a reloading press is money well spent.
I now have two shotshell reloaders set up to reload 12 gauge, 10 gauge, and 20 gauge shells. In addition to my handloaders, I also have two presses and the dies to reload most of the calibers I shoot and the ability to swage 55 grain, .223 hollow-point bullets. Reloading is enjoyable and relatively safe if you always use caution and remember that you are dealing with explosives. It is also a valuable skill but another word of caution: Obtain the reference books to show the proper, safe powder charges for each caliber and bullet weight and NEVER exceed the recommended charge. Also, all powder is not created equal, do your homework to determine the best powder for the caliber and bullet weight you want to reload, then get all of the information you can find on that specific powder, and stock up on it. From my experience, I can reload thousands of rounds of .38 Special 158 gr. round nose with just one pound of smokeless powder. Also, make sure you have plenty of the proper primers for each caliber that you wish to reload.
I Collect Lead
For many years I have collected scrap lead from any resource I could find and even bought bulk lead when I could find it. Plumbers used to use it to seal joints in cast iron pipe so you could buy it in chunks. Due to all of the hype about the dangers of lead exposure, it is increasingly harder to find but you can find it. As with almost anything you endeavor, use caution when casting bullets. It takes heat to melt the lead. Molten lead can inflict nasty burns and always work in a very well-ventilated area and wear gloves and goggles. I also wear a long sleeve shirt and try to do most of my bullet casting in the colder months of the year.
I have molds to cast 12 gauge and 20 gauge shotgun slugs, 158 grain .357″ (.38) caliber round nose and .445″ round balls for my muzzleloader. There are many different molds on the market so do your research and decide what is best for you. I will provide this hint: Have a way to keep your mold hot before pouring the lead in, a cold mold will usually result in a malformed bullet. Getting the mold hot before pouring will significantly reduce the number of re-dos.
I have built several ARs using 80 percent complete lowers, having the tools and knowledge to build those and repair them, if necessary, is yet another skill that is relatively easy to develop and does not require a lot of agility. Don’t sell us old-timers short on our shooting ability either. I can still group in a 3-inch circle at 100 yards with my ARs, and even my 3×9 scoped Ruger 10/22. I can consistently hit my mark out to about 300 yards with my .270 or .30-06 with scopes.
Gardening and Food Storage Skills
Some of you may have no desire to deal with radios and communications, others may not feel comfortable working with gunpowder or molten lead but there are still plenty of ways we old-timers can be invaluable to our groups. Gardening is one such way. Now, as I mentioned at the very start I have two bad knees and it affects my mobility but it doesn’t stop me. It slows me down considerably but doesn’t stop me. I have always had a garden but this year I doubled the size of my garden.
I have an old rear tine tiller but it has become more than I can handle. That old tiller would jump forward three feet when it hit hard ground, a rock or a root and I just couldn’t control it anymore, so I found a very powerful front tine tiller that turns hard ground without jerking me off my feet. As long as our gas supply holds out I can till and even if gas was not available I can still turn a garden with a shovel. By doing chores like this, we old-timers can keep the younger more agile group members from having to do it so they can work on other needed projects such as cutting and splitting firewood, patrolling, etc.
Food preservation is another much need skill in any group. My wife and I have canned and preserved food for years. Now, with both of us at retirement age with medical issues we can’t do a lot of things we once did but there are still a lot of things we can do. My wife is an expert when it comes to canning. Her grandmother taught her as a teenager and for most of our 45 years as husband and wife we have worked together in the kitchen when it comes to canning what our garden produces. (She’s the boss, I’m the gopher). Almost 10 years ago we upgraded from our small dehydrator to an Excalibur brand dehydrator and have learned to make jerky and dehydrate a variety of dehydrated fruits and vegetables.
The art of curing meat is a life skill that has all but been lost to time. Our grandfathers and great grandfathers depended on smoking and curing meat to survive. I remember eating salt pork and even salt fish as a kid. Honestly, I depend more on canning and dehydrating now, but I have stored several hundred pounds of plain salt and several pounds of sugar curing ingredients and have an entire section in one of my many spiral-ring “How to” survival notebooks on curing meat, the old fashioned way. Again, knowing how to do this and serving in this capacity frees up younger members of the group to do other things.
Inventory control is another vitally important duty every group must do. Knowing what you have, what supplies are getting low and projections on how long your remaining supplies will last is critical to long term survival. Keeping track of those stores can be a daunting task but well suited for older, less agile members of your team.
These are but a few of the many skills that every survival team will need when the SHTF. It is critically important that every team member contributes to the team and carries their weight, but that doesn’t mean they have to be able to run a mile in 6 minutes with a 75-pound pack on their backs and a weapon in the hands. Assigning these less physically demanding duties to the old-timers, keeps the younger team members rested and ready to fight, stand watch in the LP/OP, or take care of the more strenuous chores.
Again, I sincerely believe we only have maybe 4 or 5 months to make final preparations before we are facing a true SHTF situation nationwide. As I’ve told members of my group hundreds of times, I pray every night that I am wrong about my feelings but every day I try to do something else to be better prepared in case I am right.
I pray for God’s blessing upon you, our Nation and our leaders and I pray God continues to bless us all with the knowledge and wisdom to be prepared for what is quickly coming upon us. Also, in closing I would like to thank JWR for this blog. I have learned a lot from the articles and continue to read it daily! God Bless you sir!