Food for Emergencies; a Summary of Your Best Food Options Reply

L-to-R: Grocery store canned goods and foil packaged food; military MRE meal; freeze-dried food; and lifeboat rations.  All of these have a place in a properly stocked emergency food larder.

The internet is full of advice on food for emergencies and long-term food storage, but what is really the best?

This primer on food selection is designed to help you select the best types of food for your emergency food supply.  This article will help you understand the pros and cons of each category of food, so that you can make informed choices.  The topics of how to store these foods, water storage and sanitation, are not part of this summary but are equally important.  This post is just a primer on food; a great place to start planning your food supply for emergency situations.

Getting Started

The simplest way to get started is to increase the quantity of canned food and dried foods (beans, rice, pasta, wheat, etc.) that you maintain in your pantry, making a deliberate effort to store a variety of food.  For those who live on a tight budget, purchase a few extra cans of food each week until you have enough to sustain your family for at least two weeks.  If you can afford it, go to a big-box store like Costco or Sam’s Club, and purchase canned meats and other staples by the case.  It’s less expensive; often better quality than low cost grocery-store brands, and the box or shrink-wrap packaging helps you store it more compactly.

Ideally, purchase the type of foods that you normally eat, so that you can keep your meals during an emergency as normal as possible.  This is especially important for children who might be finicky eaters.  Be sure to give particular attention to storing the foods needed for both variety and a balanced diet.  This will typically include canned foods such as meat, beans (protein), vegetables and fruit, as well as dry goods such as pasta and rice.  Don’t forget the supplementary foods such as sugar, salt, and flour, as well as the condiments and spices you will need to make your food tasty.  There is a tendency to not eat enough during a high-stress emergency situation, so palatable food will help, particularly with children.

Keep in mind that fresh food such as milk, butter, eggs and bread, will likely be unavailable to you in an emergency.  Therefore, it makes no sense to stockpile a food such as breakfast cereal unless you are prepared to eat it with water rather than milk.  Similarly, prepackaged foods which require fresh or frozen ingredients to complete the recipe, are useless.

For those food cans and packages without an obvious “use before” date, use a Sharpie pen to put a date on the lid/package, and rotate these items so that nothing gets old.  Swollen cans, leaking jars, or contents which smell odd, are indications that the food has spoiled and should not be eaten.  Food poisoning is far more serious than being hungry.  An adult can live for nearly a month with almost no food as long as they are able to consume plenty of pure water.  So don’t get panicky just because you are hungry.

Even if you are breast feeding an infant, be sure to stockpile baby formula in case your milk dries up due to stress, or for some other reason.  If you don’t want to use the formula, donate it to a food bank before the expiration date.  If you have pets, be sure to sore food for them, too.

In addition to stockpiling food, don’t forget that you will need a liquid-fuel or propane camp stove, along with sufficient fuel. In an emergency, you will probably not have electrical power or natural gas, so you will need a method to cook your food.  Heed warnings about only using the stove in a place with adequate ventilation.  This is essential to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.  Since you will be without refrigeration, food products which will spoil without refrigeration should be purchased in 1-meal size cans or packages.

As you expand your inventory of stored food, purchase airtight, insect and rodent-proof food containers for dry foods, and add other types of food (freeze dried, dehydrated, retort packaged, vacuum packed, etc.) to your larder to store a long-term food supply.  Manny canned goods only have a shelf-life of a year or two, but dry beans, rice, grains, and a few other staples will last more than 30-years if properly stored.

For storm and emergency events which are not severe, it may be best to stay in your home.  However, you need to always have a GO-Bag for each family member, and box(es) of food ready for immediate evacuation.  Be sure to practice fitting your evacuation supplies into your car now, in advance of an emergency situation.  When an emergency situation strikes, you may only have a few minutes (at most) to load your car and flee.  Be ready.

Increasing the quantity of canned goods and foil-packaged grocery store food is your first step in emergency food preparation. You need a minimum of two weeks of canned goods and water stored in your pantry, and a way to cook without using electricity or natural gas.

Canned Foods and Foil-Packed Foods

Pros:  These foods are inexpensive in comparison to MREs and freeze-dried food, and quality canned good tend to taster better.  And, since many of us routinely eat canned food, this makes it possible to keep your diet fairly normal during an emergency situation, which makes it a simple task to keep your stored food fresh.   (As long as you routinely eat the oldest items first).

Cons:  Canned foods which contain acidic items, such as a soup which contains tomatoes, usually have a shorter shelf because the acid interacts with the metal of the can.  Though glass jars are not as durable as a metal can, they are better for storing acidic foods — as long as they are stored upright and the contents are not in contact with the metal lid.  Also, canned prepared foods, such as chili, contain a lot of water.  Keep in mind that prepared foods which include a gravy or sauce will be much heavier than solid-packed foods.  Test the various brands of canned vegetables and fruit, and select those products which have less liquid which you will discard.  If you are including canned food in your GO-Bag or evacuation supplies, this added weight and waste becomes a very important consideration.

Dry Food (Rice, pasta, dry beans, wheat, flour, etc.)

Pros:  When considered by weight and space, dry products generally represent a lot of food per dollar, and they require little space for storage.  When stored in airtight, food-quality, insect-proof and rodent-proof containers, most dry foods have a long shelf-life.  Stored using air-removal techniques and the proper containers, many dry foods can be safely stored for 20-30 years or longer.  Bought in bulk, dry foods can be repackaged at home using food-grade 5-gallon buckets, which you seal with Gamma lids after inserting oxygen-absorbing packets.  This is by far the most economical way to prepare a long-term food supply, but the food alone is uninteresting, so you need to get a cookbook with recipes which are designed to make these bulk-stored foods more palatable.  These recipes use a small quantity of freeze dried meat or vegetables, with a sauce made from dehydrated condiments, to transform a mundane meal into a savory feast.

Cons:  Since these dry foods require water to hydrate and cook, you must increase your water supply accordingly.  Having sufficient water for drinking is more important that using water for food preparation.  Consuming dry foods, including cereal, without first hydrating them will cause health problems.  Once water has been added to dry food it must be eaten soon.  It will spoil quickly without refrigeration, so only prepare what you intend to consume for your meal.  Additionally, most people eat dry foods with a sauce, gravy, or spices to make them palatable, so don’t forget to include these food supplements in your planning.  Some dry foods, such as Raman noodles, provide bulk and quell hunger but have no nutritional value.

Note:  When planning for a food supply designed to last more than a month, additional planning and other dry goods are required.  Whole grains such as wheat, corn and oats will require a hand-crank grain mill.  Baking soda and yeast are important for baking.  Salt has many uses including preserving foods and a number of medical uses, plus it can attract game animals and it’s useful as a commodity for barter, so you should store a large quantity.  Honey and certain spices have medicinal benefits, while a number of other spices meet other needs such as encouraging animals to stay out of your vegetable garden.  Fats and oils are essential to health (annually, 96-pounds, which equates to about 17-gallons per person), yet most freeze-dried and dehydrated foods contain almost no fats or oil, so you need to make provisions for this need.  Medicines for diarrhea, and especially natural laxatives such as Metamucil, are vital dry goods because a change in diet often upsets your body systems.  Vitamin C is useful for healing after an injury.  Comfort foods like coffee, tea, sugar, and chocolate syrup are not technically essential, but nevertheless important.  Aluminum foil has scores of uses.  If you do not know how long the emergency will last, be prepared to plant a garden to augment your food supply.  This will require sprout seeds (short term), and heirloom seeds (long term) and gardening equipment.  And the list goes on and on.  The point is this; long-term food storage requires extra planning.  This article is only an introduction.

Home-Canned Food

Pros:  Same benefits as for manufactured canned foods, but often far less expensive and food can be fresher and spiced prior to canning, making it more palatable as well as more nutritious for you and your family.  More types of food can be stored safely in glass than in a metal can, and glass is a safer canning medium and makes it possible to inspect the food prior to opening.

Cons:  Food cleaning and preparation is time consuming, and sanitation and proper canning methods must be strictly monitored to insure safety and stability.  Home canning is generally accomplished using glass jars, so the food supply is more susceptible to breakage, so proper storage is essential.  Transportation of food canned in glass jars is problematic.  When opened, jars should emit a distinct sound indicating a release of the vacuum seal.  If the jar opens silently, the food may be spoiled.

Retort-Packaged Food

Pros:  For milk which more closely resembles fresh milk in taste, ultrahigh-temperature pasteurized milk stored in retort packaging, is the answer.  Non-fat cow milk stores better than low-fat milk, but rice and soy milks have a longer shelf-life.  Since many grocery stores do not stock these items, they must be purchase from a vendor such as Walton Feed ( or Ready Made Resources (

Cons:  Though the taste of these milk products is better than powdered milk, the taste is nowhere close to its fresh counterpart; so many people will not want to use these products routinely. For most people, these milks will work in recipes, and perhaps cereal, but will not be suitable for drinking.  Unfortunately, the shelf-life is only six-months, but this can be extended slightly if refrigerated.

U.S. military “Meal, Ready-to-Eat” food, more commonly referred to as MREs, are available in the civilian market.  These quick and easy meals meet the need for a short-term emergency food supply, and the 24+ menus offer variety, however they are bulky and have a limited shelf-life. But with MREs, a hot meal is available in minutes using the water-activated disposable heater.

Military MREs; Meal, Ready-toEat

Pros:  Extensive research has been done by the U.S. military to develop the optimal food for combat troops operating in the field.  Civilian versions of these pre-packaged meals are available from the same manufactures that make these meals for the government.  Each MRE contains approximately 1,200 calories of food which has been fortified with vitamins and other nutrients.  Each MRE is a complete meal, including condiments, desert, powdered drink, and even a hand wipe and bit of toilet paper.  Since these meals are already hydrated and precooked, they can be eaten direct from the package without any food prep.  Disposable flameless-heaters which are water activated (often purchased separately), can be used to quickly heat the meal.  With more than two dozen menu selections, including vegetarian, MREs have become popular for emergency food storage.  MREs is what the U.S. government generally distributes to disaster victims in the country and abroad.

Cons:  The full MRE meal packet is bulky and far heavier than dehydrated or freeze-dried backpacking food, but since they don’t require any food preparation, they remain popular.  Soldiers and civilians seeking to reduce weight and bulk, often separate the entrée and flameless heater from the other contents of the heavy plastic envelope, and carry only the items from the meal which they like.  However, though you can purchase just the entrée and heater on the civilian market, utilizing only part of the meal represents a substantial reduction in calories and nutritional value.  Further, when consuming the entrée only for multiple days, constipation is likely so these entrees need to be augmented by high-fiber food supplements such as high-fiber meal-replacement bars.  Though MRE meals are extremely convenient, they are expensive.  When purchased in a case of 12-meals, average cost is around $7.50 per meal (for true military-specification MREs).  Though an MRE may be safe to eat for 20-years, shelf-life is only listed as 3-years.  Many MREs purchase on “sale” in the civilian marketplace have expired dates.  For more on MREs, search in our database for MRE.

Freeze-dried foods are available in single-serving size (recommended for evacuation and GO-Bags), in #10 cans (recommended), and in 5-gallon buckets (ideal for large families or groups).

Freeze Dried Food

Pros:  Using a process originally designed by NASA for the Apollo space missions, freeze dried foods are flash frozen and then vacuum packed.  These foods do not require refrigeration or special handling, but water does need to be added to rehydrate the food.  Once reconstituted with water and cooked, these foods retain much of the fresh taste, color, and aroma of frozen food.  With nearly 98% of the water removed, the weight of the food is reduced by 90% compared to fresh food.  Since quality manufacturers vacuum pack their food in Mylar or foil packets, or specially designed cans, the oxygen can be removed from the food.  This stabilizes flavor, texture, and nutritional value.  Quality manufacturers such a Mountain House boast a shelf-life of 7-years for their backpacking meals, and 25-years for food which they factory pack in special #10 cans.  Freeze dried food has long been a favorite of wilderness backpackers, so manufacturers such as Mountain House routinely package their foods in small quantities, or as complete meals, which is particularly handy when used in a GO-Bag.  Eggs, and even ice cream, can be freeze dried so this process offers a great deal of food variety.  Five-gallon buckets lined with Mylar bags containing freeze dried food, is also available from vendors such as:   However, once the package is opend the storage life drops quickly.  The freeze drying process coupled with enamel-lined cans, and oxygen removal and nitrogen flushing processes, also retains the nutritional value of the food better than any of the other processes, so the #10 can option is the best for most situations unless the food is being prepared for a large group.

Cons:  Food packages labeled as “Serves 2” are generally only sufficient for one person.  Pound-for pound, freeze-dried prepackaged meals are generally more expense than any of the other emergency foods.  Since hydration and cooking is required, a stove (and time) is required for proper preparation.  Individual meals can often be prepared using the foil packaging of the food, but bulk foods require cookware.  Like MREs, freeze dried foods have a reduced shelf life if exposed to temperature fluctuations and high ambient temperatures.  Single-meal packaging is generally not durable, so when transporting in a Go-Bag the foil packet should be protected by a zip-loc plastic bag.

Dehydrated Food

Pros:  Less costly than freeze-dried foods, and sometimes even cheaper than fresh food, dehydrated foods are a cost-efficient alternative to freeze dried.  Like home-canning in jars, dehydrated foods can also be produced at home with minimal equipment.  When a home-use dehydrating machine is used along with a vacuum-packaging machine, reasonable shelf life can be attained.  However, dehydrated food made by a quality manufacturer, reconstitutes better and more uniformly.  Commercial dehydration works better on some foods than others, so experimentation is advised before you purchase any food item in quantity.  Dehydrated mashed potatoes, puddings, peanut butter, pancake and bread mix, and vegetable and fruits designed to be added to a meal as a supplement, are the most popular dehydrated foods.   Visit Walton Feed ( for more information.

Cons:  Generally a far shorter effective shelf-life than freeze-dried foods.  Only experienced amateurs or professionally manufactures can usually produce dehydrated foods which have a reliable shelf-life.  Homemade dehydrated foods are often snack foods such as apples, bananas, and apricots.  Over time, the nutritional value of dehydrated food declines, textures change, and taste diminishes.  For those dehydrated foods requiring reconstitution with water, some do not fully rehydrate, which makes the food less palatable.  However, dehydrated foods such as potato flakes make savory mashed potatoes after many years if repackaged into suitable airtight containers with oxygen absorbers.

Note Regarding Long-Term Food Storage:  Due to the lower cost, most families will want to store nearly all bulk grains, legumes, peanut butter, honey and other bulk foods in dehydrated form.  These foods should be stored in food-grade buckets with Gamma lids (or at least Mylar bags), and the packer should have used nitrogen to remove the oxygen prior to sealing the container.  This is best accomplished by a reputable supplier who specializes in food for long-term storage.  However, for those who are more budget minded, home methods using food-grade buckets with Gamma lids (or properly sealed Mylar bags), and inserting oxygen-absorbing packets or chips of dry ice before sealing, can be nearly as effective.  To make this stored food more palatable, store a smaller quantity of freeze-dried vegetables, fruits and meats, in addition to spices.  Use these as supplementary foods to make your meals more interesting and nutritious.  Review the recipes in cookbooks designed for these foods for suggestions on what supplemental foods and spices should be included in your larder.   

Lifeboat rations are not suitable for long-term use, but they are a valuable addition to your GO-Bag or for storage in a vehicle.

Lifeboat & Emergency Food Rations (Brand must be U.S. Coast Guard Approved)

Pros:  Lightweight and very inexpensive, these are the most compact of all the emergency foods, and yet these food-bar rations are an amazingly complete nutritionally-rich on-the-go meal.  Unlike most sports bars and meal-replacement bars, these rations do not increase thirst.  For many years, these rations have continued to be a standard component in the survival kit packed into the lifeboats of large ships.  These compressed food bricks are vacuum packed in foil, which gives an unopened ration a 5-year shelf-life.  Unlike other emergency foods, these rations retain most of their nutritional value even after exposure to temperature extremes.  The most popular and palatable brands are: “Mainstay” and “Datrex.”  The manufacturer of Mainstay claims a formulation designed for more active, land-based survival needs.  A 9-meal packet of Mainstay costs about $7, yet it is only the size of a paperback book, and weighs only 24-ounces.  Each pre-measured meal cube offers 400 calories of nutrition (for a total of 3,600 calories per packet).  Whichever brand you purchase, make sure it is fresh, and that it has been approved for use by the United States Coast Guard.  (Coast Guard approval is like a Good Housekeeping seal of approval for this type of food ration).  At least one packet of these rations is a prudent addition to every GO-Bag, to be eaten if you’re on the run, or when other provisions have been exhausted.

Cons:  Taste and texture are unappealing, and these bars (or cubes) are not stomach filling, but they do provide short-term emergency sustenance far better than energy-bars or meal-replacement bars.  Per-meal cost is incredibly low.  Though the taste is acceptable, these meal cubes will not make you look forward to your next meal, so you may need to discipline yourself to eat because you must.  If given any other option, these rations are not suitable for long-term use.  True, they have kept many inactive sailors alive after more than a month on the sea, but these rations lack many essential micro-nutrients and fiber which are essential for an active life and robust health.

Each type of emergency food has its place in your emergency food supply.  Some, like canned foods purchased from a grocery store, are easy to use in everyday life, making these a good choice as the first level of emergency food storage.  But MREs and lifeboat rations are clearly better for food-on-the-go as will be needed for traveling by vehicle or on-foot with your GO-Bag.  For long-term food storage, it’s hard to beat the great taste of freeze-dried food, but it is expensive, so augmenting it with bulk-packed 5-gallon buckets of dry food will save you money.  In short, it makes sense to have a combination of all of these types of emergency food in a well-planned emergency food larder.

Emergency Food: Meal, Ready-to-Eat (U.S. Military MRE) Reply

Developed by the U.S. military after extensive nutritional and long-term storage research, the modern MRE has replaced the MCI (Meals, Combat, Individual – 1980s), the lighter LRP (Long Range Patrol) rations used in Vietnam, and the C-Ration (canned) .

Though far from gourmet fare, the current-issue MRE meals are a quick and tasty meal when compared to many other options.  With more than two dozen menu selections ranging from meat (or meat-like) dishes to vegetarian, spicy to mild, there is something which will satisfy most, especially if the diner is hungry.  The 1,200 calories of food in each packet is adequate for most people, but between meal addition of Power Bars and candy bars can be a welcomed addition and extra energy boost during trying times.

Packaged in a heavy plastic bag designed to be sturdy and bug resistant, MRE meals contain an entrée, side dish, dessert, crackers with cheese spread, peanut butter or jelly, a powdered beverage (coffee, tea, sport drink, etc.), chewing gum, condiments (salt, pepper, sugar, creamer, and sometimes Tabasco sauce), plastic spoon, matchbook, hand-wash towelette, and a tiny packet of toilet paper.  A flameless water-activated food heater is sometimes included in the package, or can be purchased separately.

Three MRE disposable heaters (left in photo), and three MRE entrees (brown boxes on right), weigh just over two pounds, and occupy just over 100-cubic inches of space. Not as lightweight or compact as freeze-dried backpacking meals, the “ready to eat” aspect is what makes these a great emergency food.  The “eat on the run” benefit, and not needing to add a cook pot and stove to your GO-Bag, provide a definite advantage when evacuating.

For use in a standard size GO-Bag, the MRE takes too much space, but since the entrée meal and flameless heaters are available separately, carrying six meals becomes practical  (8-1/4″h x 5″ w x 2-1/2″ d).  Obviously, using the entree-only reduces the calorie count, but in combination with high-fiber and Power Bars, it can meet your on-the-go needs of your GO-Bag provisions.

First Strike Rations (FSR) are the U.S. military’s solution to soldiers stripping down their MREs.  Similar to our Go-Bag needs, soldiers often discard the MRE protective bag and items which they consider to be unessential, in an effort to reduce weight and space for field operations. Unfortunately, this newer ration is hard to find in the civilian market. FSR meals consist primarily of a sandwich similar to a Hot-Pocket, plus an energy bar, but they aren’t nearly as tasty as an MRE meal.

First Strike Rations, or FSR,  are the U.S. military’s response to soldiers stripping down their MREs to reduce the weight and bulk.  FSR meals are not as tasty, but they are lighter in weight while increasing the important calorie count (2,900 calories vs. the 1,200 calories of a full MRE).  Since these are a recent development, it’s hard to find the genuine article in the civilian marketplace.  First Strike energy bars are more readily available, but not the entire sandwich (hot-pocket) meal.

As a point of reference, the U.S. military calculates that an active male (age 18 to 30) will burn an average of 4,200 calories a day in a combat situation, but stress often reduces voluntary eating to 2,400 calories.  The result is a negative energy balance, and this is a problem that needs to be avoided.

The effect of a negative energy balance may not be a major problem short-term, such as a three day on foot trek with a GO-Bag.  However, the cumulative effect over time will create a significant reduction in energy, resistance to disease, and seriously impair decision-making ability (acuity).  The consumption of sufficient water (and electrolytes) will minimize this effect short-term, but sufficient water and food are both essential to an individual’s ability to operate and cope during an emergency situation.

MREs are ideal as a temporary meal solution, but we recommend that you augment these meals with high-fiber energy bars.  Including some freeze-dried backpacking food is a worthy addition, too, but these foods require hydration and cooking, so a backpacking stove and fuel will need to be added to your kit.

For use in your at-home disaster supplies, MREs are a good way to augment what you have in your pantry, but they should be stored inside your home rather than exposing them to the temperature fluctuations and potential rodent problems of garage or shed storage.  Plus, these cases can be quickly thrown into a car for emergency evacuation, they pack well, and they take less space, are lighter, and more nutritionally complete than most canned food meals.

The downside of eating MREs while bivouacked or at home, is that these meals were designed for active combat, so they are high in fat and salt.  Since the meals are low in fiber content, this can be desirable during a few day cross-country trek or during combat, but this leads to constipation, particularly if not active.  So, if consumed during a sedentary period, augment the MRE meal with other foods which are low-fat, low-salt, and high in fiber.

The food from an MRE is not necessarily the most attractive, but it is nutritious.

Unfortunately, shelf-life of MREs is listed as three years under optimal storage conditions, but this low expectation is likely a defense against litigation rather than a literal limit.  In our experience, as long as the foil packets within the MRE bag are intact and not bloated, they taste okay, and they have been stored properly, the meal will probably be eatable for 10-years or more if it has been stored at 70-degrees.  However, though the meal may remain nutritious and reasonably tasty, the primary effect of age will be a decline in vitamins, so plan accordingly.

Date codes on MREs are often hard to decipher.  Sometimes you will find it plainly etched on the case, such as “05/10/12” which you know to mean May 10, 2012 when used by an American manufacturer.  However, some manufacturers will use a different form such as “1068”. In this case, the first number “1” stands for the year (2001) and the next three numbers indicate which day of the year (365 days in a year) it was packed. So “068” would be day #68 of the year 2001…or March 9, 2001.  So if a case is more than 10-years old, the date can be deceptive.  Often the condition of the case, plus the date code, is the only way to differentiate between old and new product.

If you are looking for emergency food supplies suitable for long-term storage, freeze dried or inert-gas packed foods are a better choice.  Even ordinary grocery stored foods, such as dried beans and rice, can last more than 30-years if stored in airless food containers.  This is a different purpose than the need that the MRE was designed to fill.

MRE Flameless heaters are lightweight, water activated, and disposable.

Unlike freeze-dried and dehydrated foods, MRE’s are, as the name implies, ready to eat.  If you are on the go in an emergency situation, you probably won’t want to engage in food preparation.  Yet, a warm meal is a huge boost to the psyche, and the important attitude adjustment which comes from a little rest and a hot meal.  MREs are pre-cooked so they can be eaten cold, but the ultra-lightweight disposable heater designed for them, makes preparing a hot meal a snap.  You just place your MRE entrée into the plastic bag of the heater envelope, and add water to activate.  Within a couple minutes you have a fully hydrated, healthy, fairly-good tasting meal.

MREs can be purchased from many retailers, but we recommend only buying them from reputable sources such as those listed at the bottom of this post.  Many MREs which are sold on eBay and Craig’s List are old and absconded from the military or Katrina disaster stores.  Also, new MREs should be labeled with the date of manufacture, and checking this date is essential, even when purchased from a usually reliable source.  Be aware, MREs sold on “sale” are often old inventory.

Meal, Ready-to-Eat entrees and heaters can be purchased separately, or as a complete MRE.  Civilian packaging varies, but the peel-to-open impervious plastic-bag container is necessary for durability.

Reputable manufacturers of genuine MREs are: Wornick Eversafe (illustrated in above photos) and Sopakco Sure-Pak (Highest rated in taste test and quality review); followed by Ameriqual A-Pack and MRE Star (Mediocre rating); and Menu-C MREs (Unrated).  Expect to pay around $7.50 per meal when purchase by the case (12).  You may pay slightly more when you purchase a case of assorted meals rather than a case containing the same menu.

For more about MREs, visit:

Natural Disasters and Increased Sexual Violence Reply

The below briefing is a noteworthy summary of the problem of violence against women after a widespread disaster.  It is posted here for its merits, but particularly as an example of modern education on this subject.

Like so many of its ilk, the below “fact sheet” includes a quest for “political correctness” which supersedes honest analysis.  It blocks the telling of the whole story, and herein obstructs the truth.  As a result, we are not given a complete and accurate appraisal of the problem, and this adversely effects preparedness planning.

As these “fact sheets” accurately report, sexual violence does often increase exponentially after a major disaster.  True.  But the reason is baser than the conclusions presented in most of these contemporary, academic theses.

The underlying reason for the increase in sexual violence certainly includes those things mentioned in the following summary, but the fundamental cause is something else.  It is our failure to instill a self-controlling sense of morality, and respect for others, in our cultural mores.

A natural disaster or catastrophic event creates turmoil, and upsets social structures which normally corral behavior.  This makes it possible for individuals to lose their identity in the crowd or ensuing chaos.  John Quincy Adams, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and 2nd president of the United States, said it well.  He commented, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.”

As we have forced God and the teaching of morality out of our schools and public square, fail to praise and reward “character” in the marketplace, as we produce movies and video games which extol violence, self-centeredness as necessary, and as we promote Darwinian “survival of the fittest” in place of virtue, we have earned a populous with only a thin veneer of civilization.

In our modern society, even law-abiding individuals and neighbors (who we perceive to be respectable), can quickly revert to an animal-like state during an emergency situation.  If you intend to prepare for a disaster or emergency situation, you need to prepare for violence, too.  Behavior which individuals might ordinarily condemn as reprehensible, may become acceptable to them once the foundations of their world have been shaken.  Regrettably, mankind is not basically good.  In the aftermath of a disaster this will become painfully evident.

If you are serious about disaster preparedness, expect to see an increase in selfless acts of heroism and sacrifice; but plan for the brutality and violence of a war zone.

— Sig


New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault

Factsheets: Katrina, Natural Disasters and Sexual Violence

Why does rape occur in the aftermath of natural disasters and other humanitarian crises?

Rape and violence against women in the aftermath of humanitarian disasters is no new problem. Internationally, rape in refugee situations has become quite common. According to the Human Rights Watch document “Sexual Violence Against Refugees: Guidelines on Prevention and Response”, there are several causes or circumstances which allow sexual attacks to take place:

1. Society

a. The collapse of traditional societal support mechanisms (social sanctions, norms for proper behavior, etc.) when refugees are forced to flee or to live in camp surroundings. In particular, the communal support systems for the protection of vulnerable individuals may no longer be present.

b. Male attitudes of disrespect towards women may be instrumental in causing incidents of sexual violence. For example, within a camp, men may look upon unaccompanied women and girls as common sexual property.

c. Psychological strain on refugee men in not being able to assume normal cultural, social and economic roles, may cause aggressive behavior towards women. Many other aspects of refugee life can aggravate this, including idleness, anger at loss of control and power, uncertainty about the future, and frustration with living conditions.

d. Alcohol and drug abuse can result in violent behavior within families and communities. Such abuse is often linked to boredom. depression and stress.

2. Vulnerability

a. Females who are on their own for whatever reason, whether they are single, widowed, abandoned, unaccompanied minors, lone heads of households, or women who have been separated from male family members by the chaos of the situation, are all particularly at risk of sexual violence.

3. Camp design and location

a. The design and social structure in many camps may contribute to the likelihood of protection problems. Camps are often overcrowded. Unrelated families may need to share communal living and sleeping space. In effect, such refugees are living among strangers.

b. The lack of police protection and general lawlessness in some camps is also a factor.

In the aftermath of Katrina, we are seeing a similar refugee situation with hundreds of internally displaced persons. Rape and violence has become commonplace and may be exacerbated by the circumstances mentioned above.

There is, however, much research that has been done around prevention of sexual violence within refugee situations, like those presented after Hurricane Katrina. Including gender analyses in disaster planning is crucial. Many lessons can be learned from the international work that has been done on this topic. Below is a brief bibliography of such sources.

The rapes and sexual violence that is occurring in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is unacceptable and could have been prevented. As a community, we should learn from this and ensure that any future natural or man-made disasters do not leave women and children vulnerable to sexual violence.


Blaikie, Piers, et al. (eds.). 1994. At Risk: Natural Hazards, People’s Vulnerability, and Disasters. London: Routledge.

Byrne, Bridget and Sally Baden. 1995. Gender, Emergencies and Humanitarian Assistance. Bridge Briefing on Development and Gender. Oxford: European Commission.
Department of Humanitarian Affairs News. 1997. Focus: Women in Emergencies (22). Geneva: UNDHA.
Eade, Diane and Suzanne Williams (eds). 1995. The Oxfam Handbook of Development and Relief, Vols 1-3. Oxford: Oxfam.
Enarson, Elaine. 1999. Violence against women in disasters: a study of domestic violence programs in the United States and Canada. Violence Against Women 5(7): 742-768.
Enarson, Elaine. l998.“Through Women’s Eyes: A Gendered Research Agenda for Disaster Social Science.” Disasters 22(2): 157-173.

Enarson, Elaine and Betty Hearn Morrow (eds.). 1998. The Gendered Terrain of Disaster:Through Women’s Eyes. Westport, CT: Greenwood/Praeger.
Elaine Enarson and Betty Hearn Morrow (eds.) 1997. “A Gendered Perspective: The Voices of Women.” Pp. 116-140 in Hurricane Andrew: Race, Gender and the Sociology of Disaster, edited by Walter Gillis Peacock, Betty Hearn Morrow, and Hugh Gladwin. London: Routledge.

Enarson, Elaine and Maureen Fordham. 1999. “Lines that divide, ties that bind: race, class, and gender in women’s flood recovery in the US and UK.” Paper presented to the European Sociological Association meetings, Amsterdam.

Fothergill, Alice. 1996. “Gender, Risk, and Disaster.” International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters 14 (1): 33-56.

Fothergill, Alice. 1999. “Women’s roles in a disaster.” Applied Behavioral Science Review 7(2): 125-143.
Fordham, Maureen. 1998. “Making Women Visible in Disasters: Problematising the Private Domain.” Disasters 22 (2): 126-143.

Fordham, Maureen.1999. “The intersection of gender and social class in disaster: balancing resilience and vulnerability.” International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters 17 (1): 15-37.

Hynes, M. and Cardozo, B.L. Sexual violence against refugee womenJournal of Women’s Health & Gender-Based Medicine 9(8):819–823 (2000).

Ikeda, Keiko. 1995. “Gender Differences in Human Loss and Vulnerability in Natural Disasters: A Case Study from Bangladesh.” Indian Journal of Gender Studies 2 (2): 171-193.

International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction. 1995. “Women and Children: Key to Prevention.” STOP Disasters (24).

Khnondker, Habibul. 1996. “Women and Floods in Bangladesh.” International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters 14 (3): 281-292.

Krishnaraj, Maithreye. 1997. “Gender Issues in Disaster Management: The Latur Earthquake.” Gender, Technology and Development 1 (3): 395-411.

Gibbs, Susan. 1990. Women’s Role in the Red Cross/Red Crescent. HDI Studies on Development #1. Geneva: Henry Dunant Institute.

League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. 1991. Working With Women in Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation Programmes. Field Studies Paper #2. Geneva, Switzerland.
Lentin, Ronit (ed.). 1997. Gender and Catastrophe. Zed: London.

Mabuwa, R. [1] Seeking Protection: Addressing Sexual and Domestic Violence in Tanzania’s Refugee Camps. New York: Human Rights Watch (October 2000). Available at: [2]

Morris, Patricia. 1998. Weaving Gender in Disaster and Refugee Assistance. New York: Commission on the Advancement of Women.

Morrow, Betty Hearn and Elaine Enarson. 1996. “Hurricane Andrew Through Women’s Eyes: Issues and Recommendations.” International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters 14 (1): 5-22.

Morrow, Betty Hearn and Brenda Phillips (eds). 1999. Special Issue on Women and Disasters. International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters 17 (1).

Nduna, S. and Rude, D. [3] A Safe Space Created By and For Women: Sexual and Gender-based Violence Program, Phase II Report. New York: International Rescue Committee (1998). Available at: [4]

Palmer, C. [5] Refugee Women and Domestic Violence: Country Studies, Kosovo. Edition 3. London: Refugee Women’s Resource Project, Asylum Aid (September 2002). Available at: [6] reports/DV individual reports/RWDV Kosovo Sep 02.doc.

Rivers, Joan. 1982. “Women and Children Last: An Essay on Sex Discrimination in Disasters.” Disasters 6 (4): 256-67.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Prevention and Response to Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Refugee Situations. Proceedings of the Inter-Agency Lessons Learned Conference, Geneva (March 27–29, 2001). Available at: [7]
UNHCR[8] Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women. Geneva: UNHCR (1991). Available at: [9]

Vann, B. [10] Gender-Based Violence: Emerging Issues in Programs Serving Displaced Populations. Arlington, Virgina: JSI Research and Training Institute (September 2002). Available at:

Walker, Bridget (ed.). l994. Women and Emergencies. Oxford: Oxfam

Wiest, Raymond, Jane Mocellin, and D. Thandiwe Motsisi. 1994. The Needs of Women in Disasters and Emergencies. Report prepared for the Disaster Management Training Programme of the United Nations Development Programme and the Office of the United Nations Disaster Relief Coordinator. Winnipeg, Manitoba: The University of Manitoba Disaster Research Institute.


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Firearm Selection for Emergency Situations Reply

SIG 1911 semi-auto pistol and Smith & Wesson 340PD revolver with laser.

There is a great deal of debate on this subject, and the real­ity is that no single weapon is the best choice for all emergency situations.  Circums­tances and con­ditions vary, as does the use of firearms for self-defense vs. hunting.  There is no universal solu­tion.  Yet, an understanding of the options availa­ble to you is the best place to start.

The purpose of this post is to provide a brief summary of your firearm options, and to identify the pros and cons of each firearm category so that you can begin the process of making an informed choice.

Whatever firearm(s) you select, it’s important to un­derstand that a Concealed Handgun License (CHL) is necessary in most States, and there are State and federal laws which govern firearm use and possession.  Even if you do not want to routinely carry a firearm, you may want to be able to legally carry a handgun during an emergency sit­uation.  Therefore, you need to obtain a concealed handgun license.  (In some States, this is referred to as a “Concealed Weapon License.”  Visit the website of your State’s Department of Public Safety for details).

If you own a firearm as a tool for self-defense, you need to be trained in the proper use of that firearm, and regularly prac­tice with it.  Owning a gun is not being prepared.  You need to be prepared to use the gun.


Revolvers (illustrated above) and semi-automatic pistols come in many sizes, ranging from ultra-small to full-size.

Handgun Benefits:

a)  Can be con­cealed, so you won’t be making others nervous;

b)  With concealed carry, criminals don’t know that you are armed, which gives you the advantage of surprise and the option of restraint;

c)  Semi-auto pistols (left gun in top-of-page photo) can be reloaded quickly.  Revolvers (3 guns in left photo) are simple to operate, and can be fired from inside a pocket or purse;

d)  Handguns are relatively light (12 to 42-oz).

Handgun Disadvantages:

a)  Far less accurate than a rifle;

b)  Limited to short-range use (typically 75-feet);

c)  Only modest stopping power;

d)  Revolvers are slow to reload.  (Not a problem with semi-auto pistols).


Remington 870 Tactical Shotgun, 20-inch barrel, in 12-gauge.  Also available with pistol-grip.

Shotgun Benefits:

a)  Intimidating in appearance and sound;

b)  Require less accuracy in shooting;

c)  Devastating knock-down power (when loaded with 00-Buck shotgun shells);

d)  Loaded with OO-Buck shells, each shot consists of as many as 15-pellets (.33 inches in size);

e)  Loaded with the proper ammunition, shotgun pellets are less likely to penetrate the interior walls of a home.  (12-ga. #4 Buckshot compared to a standard 9mm pistol loaded with FMJ ammunition).

f)  Different types of shotgun shells can be carried to meet the needs of self-defense, as well as for hunting of large and small game.

Shotgun Disadvantages:

a)  Not concealable (Mossberg #55340 is among the smallest);

b)  Even when equipped with an extension-tube magazine, a shotgun only holds 6 or 7 shells;

c)  Very time consuming to reload;

d)  Ammunition is much heavier, reducing the amount that can be easily carried when on foot;

d)  Shotguns designed for sporting purposes are difficult to use indoors as their longer barrel makes them ungainly.  When the purpose is self-defense, a “tactical” or “home defense” shotgun should be used (illustrated on left);

e)  Medium distance effective-range (with most loads, typically less than 100’, further with slugs).

f)  Heavy in weight, typically 8 pounds.


Rifle Benefits:

a)  Longer effective range (400+ yards);

b)  Much greater accuracy;

c)  Combat-style or “assault rifles” are fast to reload, and durable;

d)  Ominous appearance can intimidate assailants.

Rifle Disadvantages:

a)  Cannot be easily concealed;

a)  Sporting rifles hold few cartridges, and reload­ing of sporting rifles is time consuming, making assault rifles the best choice for self-defense.

c)  Heavy to carry.  Most assault rifles are 9-12 lbs, so they are heavy if carried for a long distance.

d)  Rifle ammunition is lighter than that of a shotgun, but spare magazines are bulky and the weight of extra ammunition is significant.

Special Purpose Guns

Special purpose guns come in many forms, some designed for unique and limited self-defense purposes, while others are designed for highly specific hunting or survival use.  These special pur­pose guns are far less versatile but may work well for the certain purposes.

North American Arms “Black Widow” in .22 Magnum is ultra-small, but has marginal value for self-defense.

The North American Arms (NAA) “Black Widow” and other micro-guns are incredibly small, but though the .22 Mag is impres­sive for its size and can be deadly, it has almost no stopping power.

The Taurus “Judge” is a large revolver, cham­bered for both the .45 Colt handgun cartridge and .410 shotgun shell.  Unfortu­nately, the .45 Colt is not available in the newer high-power hollowpoint self-defense ammunition, and the .410 is a diminu­tive shotgun shell, but at close range The Judge can be very effective for self-defense, and for snakes and small game at very short range.  For most people, this gun is far too heavy for concealed carry, but it is popular with backpackers and for survival kits.

The Henry AR-7 Survival Rifle (pictured on right) stores the barrel and action inside its plastic stock.  Only available in .22 LR, this gun is designed to be carried in a knap­sack or survival kit.  Though this caliber is best suited for hunting rabbits and squirrels, a well-placed shot can kill a small deer.  And, a hundred rounds can be carried in a pocket.

Recommended Calibers

Handguns:  9mm and .38 Special are good for new gun owners as they have less recoil but still deliver reasonable stopping power.  (We do not recom­mend using a caliber smaller than this for self-defense.  Yet, any gun is probably better than no gun as long as it is not displayed until you plan to use it.)

Most self-defense handguns carried by police officers are in one these calibers:   9mm, .357 Sig, .40 ACP, and .45 ACP.  The U.S. military primarily uses 9mm pistols, but experts agree that this caliber has far less stopping-power than the previous standard which was .45 ACP.  Reduced recoil and the ability to carry more ammunition in the same size pistol, are the benefits of 9mm over .45 ACP.

If opting for a 9mm pistol, be aware that standard (FMJ) ammunition as well as many 9mm hollow-point bullets (JHP) have excessive penetration.  This can result in the bullet passing through the target and injuring someone else.  If you intend to use a 9mm pistol for self defense, it is recommended that you load your pistol with Speer “Gold Dot” or Remington “Golden Saber,” or another brand of ammunition which has passed the FBI’s stringent standards for use by law enforcement.  Don’t believe the hype and don’t just rust the advice of a friend or salesman, depend on actual research.  This decision is too important.

Shotguns:  12-gauge is the gold standard.  If con­cerned about recoil, use 2-3/4” shells.  To increase your firepower but still carry the maximum number of shells in your gun, use 3” Magnum 00-Buck (Double-Ought Buck).  Ammunition capacity for a shotgun with an extended magazine is typically 6-7 shells.  For self-defense use when you also want to minimize the likelihood of pellets penetrating interior walls, use #4 Buck.  For hunting small game, use birdshot, for large game use lead slugs.  For longer range accuracy (rifle-like) use sabot slugs.  Shotgun shell “rescue flares” can also be launched from a 12-gauge shotgun.  Note: A shotgun with a barrel length less than 18-inches requires a special federal license.  A barrel length longer than 20-inches will produce a tight pattern of pellets, making it less effective for most self-defense applications.  Police and home-defense shotguns generally have a barrel length of 18-20 inches.  For self-defense use, it is best to purchase a shotgun designed for police or a home-defense style shotgun.

Rifles:  5.56 NATO (or .223) or 7.62 NATO (.308) are the standard cartridges for self-defense use.  The 5.56 cartridge is lighter in weight than the 7.62, making it possible to carry more ammunition.  The 7.62 bullet is heavier and the bullet is not as easily deflected by branches and obstructions.  Both are devastating for self-defense use, but the larger caliber is more popular for hunt­ing, and better against vehicles and shooting through walls and obstructions.

Gas cans, long-term fuel storage, fuel transport, and the peerless Scepter gas-can used by the U.S. military Reply

Specter-Military_Fuel_Can-36ReadyBlogIf you’ve been in the military, chances are you have seen the Scepter fuel can.  In our experience, these are the best and safest fuel containers available in the general-use market. They are far superior to both the ordinary red-plastic and red-metal gas cans widely in use. In the last decade, plastic gas cans are almost the only type of gas container you can find in retail stores.  The old-style steel “Jerry-can” has become too costly to produce.  Chinese made Jerry-can knock-offs are available, but these are generally substandard in quality– and you don’t want to skimp when it comes to the storage of an explosive liquid such as gasoline. In addition to lower manufacturing cost for plastic fuel cans, they have also become popular because they are less prone to leak over time and exposure to abuse.  The red-plastic fuel cans available today, with semi-rigid sides, are generally better than the old Jerry-cans for this reason. What to Buy:  A fuel can labeled with a U.S. Department of Defense number, indicating that it qualifies as “ mil-spec” is generally your best bet.  The U.S. military has very high standards. Of course, many products claim to be mil-spec when they are not, so be sure to look for a procurement number stamped into the side of the can.  This is the best validation.  (By the way, there is even a brand name “Mil-Spec” which tries to capitalize on the mil-spec reputation of quality, and most of their goods are definitely not mil-spec).  Specter_Fuel_Can-36ReadyBlog-SmoothCapSpecter Fuel Container U.S. military-surplus 20-liter (approximately 5.3-gallons) plastic-looking fuel cans are by far the best choice.  New ones are available, too, but they are oftentimes staggeringly expensive. Positive Features:  1.  Far more durable than consumer-grade fuel containers;  2.  They don’t leak fuel or fumes, even when exposed to temperature fluctuation;  3. They are reasonably lightweight;  4. They have an internal vent mechanism which provides a smooth flow when fuel is poured from the container;  5.  They are far safer in a fire, and in a traffic accident, than consumer-grade fuel containers. The U.S. military gas cans are made by Specter, a company based in Canada.  A genuine Specter fuel container will have the “Specter” brand name, and “Made in Canada,” molded into the plastic on the side of the can.  (It will also say “U.S. Government Property” or “Military Use Only,” but don’t let that put you off.  With the winding-down of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the government auctioned thousands of these cans.) Scepter Military Fuel Containers (Gas Cans) are made out of tough injection molded polyethylene, not just ordinary plastic.  Though Specter cans may look heavy in appearance, they are actually relatively lightweight due to the advanced materials and manufacturing method used. U.S military surplus Scepter fuel cans are usually sand-color (tan) or olive drab (green), but occasionally you will find them in yellow.  The Specter cans made for the civilian market are similar in appearance, but have a high-visibility yellow check-strap attached to the lid. Caution: Blue plastic cans, including those made by Specter, are for water-only.  They do not have the same safety features as the Specter fuel cans. Also, Specter water cans can be found in the same colors as the fuel cans.  These do not offer the same design features and safety as the containers made for transporting fuel.  You can quickly tell the difference between a Specter fuel can and a Specter water can, by the distinctive small-spout built into the larger cap of the water can. specter-water_can-36ReadyBlog-Arrow (2)Photo on Left: Arrow points to distinctive spout on the water can, whereas the Specter fuel container has a plain, smooth cap (see above photo). Negative Features:  The only downside of purchasing Specter fuel cans is that it may be difficult to find a spout.  And, they are apparently illegal for use in the State of California.  Go figure. In any case, it’s easy enough to make a spout for the Specter if you can’t find one to purchase.  Another option is to buy a flexible metal gas-can spout at an auto supply store which may fit the inside threads of the Specter can.  (Unfortunately, this is a trial and error process). If you find a good deal on Specter fuel cans, but can’t get a spout from the same vendor, it is still worth buying the cans.  They are extremely popular and getting hard to find, so don’t delay. If you purchase a used U.S. military-surplus fuel can, be sure to rinse it with gasoline before filling it with fuel.  Let it sit outside for a couple of days with the lid off so the contents can fully evaporate, before you fill it.  Diesel and gasoline cans are made in all three military colors, so if it is important to you to get a can that has only held your type of fuel, follow the link at the end of this post to view a look-up table of model numbers. Other Fuel-Storage  Containers Gas_Can-NATO-wSpoutIf you can’t find a Specter fuel can, NATO fuel cans can be an acceptable alternative.  However, these other “mil-spec” gas cans are a mixed bag, and in our experience, none of them come even close to the quality of Specter.  But whether you a mil-spec NATO can or a genuine Specter, be sure to inspect it closely before making your purchase.  These containers are extremely durable, but they aren’t indestructible.  A can that leaks isn’t a bargain.  Keep in mind that a painted and scratched Scepter can still be very serviceable, and the faded exterior can often be restored using rubbing-compound purchased at an auto supply store. Gas_Can-RustAnother caution:  Most of the surplus mil-spec NATO fuel cans are metal, and used metal cans have a tendency to leak due to internal corrosion, or paint-covered rust along the seams.  With this in mind, it’s best to buy them from a store which will let you return them if they are defective. By the way, these NATO fuel cans are a risky-buy if they are second-hand (used) and you purchase them online.  This is because surplus goods are often sold by the military due to the fact that they are damaged or defective.  You can mend a torn army tent, but repairing a damaged fuel container is more difficult.  Unfortunately, it’s commonplace for resellers of surplus goods to put a fresh coat of paint on a rusty gas can.  Above Photo:  Inside of new NATO gas can nozzle (left), and repainted gas can (right) showing rust inside the freshly painted fuel can. Also, be sure to purchase fuel-can spouts from the same supplier, as it is sometimes impossible to find spouts for NATO fuel cans.  A big funnel may work, but it’s messy. Used cans made by Specter generally cost between $50-100, which is considerably more than an ordinary plastic gas can purchased at Walmart, but there is no comparison in quality.  And, no comparison in regard to safety, either.  This safety-issue is a very real concern if you intend to store gasoline, not just temporarily transport it.  Gasoline and diesel fuel can be stored much more safely in a Specter fuel can than a standard red-plastic or metal gas can. Never transport fuel inside the cab of a vehicle.  The fumes can be deadly. Only transport gasoline or diesel fuel in a container made for this purpose.  It is too dangerous to store or transport fuel in a container that is not specifically made for this purpose.   Fuel Treatment for Long-Term Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Storage PRI-G_Pint-New-LabelIf you store fuel for more than a couple of months, it needs to be conditioned with either PRI-G (gasoline) or PRI-D (diesel) stabilizer.  Be sure to purchase the right PRI product for the type of fuel you are storing. If you know you will be storing the fuel for more than a few months, be sure to add PRI to the fuel container before you fill it.  The filling action will help to thoroughly mix the PRI treatment compound with the fuel. Similarly, if you plan to store a vehicle or fuel-powered equipment, it’s a good idea to add the PRI to the tank and then top it off with additional fresh fuel.  This will not only help the PRI mix with the fuel that was already in the tank, it’s also a safer way to store the equipment.  With gasoline, it’s the fuel vapors at the top of the tank that are combustible.  As a result, a full-tank is generally less of a fire hazard, and a full-tank will also diminish destructive moisture condensation. Another fuel-treatment product, STA-BIL, is more readily available but it does not provide nearly the same level of protection.  In our tests, gasoline treated with STA-BIL was marginal after just 18-months, and completely unusable after 24-months.  Whereas with PRI, independently conducted tests indicate that PRI-treated fuel can be stored for 5-6 years if it is re-treated annually.  Consumers have reported successful use of PRI-treated fuel after 12-years of storage. Also, with PRI, even old fuel can sometimes be brought back to life.  Just give it a double-dose of the appropriate PRI product, and make sure it is well mixed with the fuel before trying to use it.  If the fuel is in a vehicle, the fuel lines need to be purged of the old fuel before trying to start the engine. As to the PRI fuel-treatment product itself, it will remain fresh for decades, as long as it is properly stored and the container remains unopened.  Once opened, PRI should be used within three years. Fuel Transport and Dispensing Remember, if you are transporting fuel, the container needs to be strongly secured. Bungee cord attachment is not enough.  The container needs to be held securely, so that even in a traffic accident it will not become dislodged.  In most States, you can receive a traffic citation if a fuel container is inadequately secured.  But that’s not the main concern.  More important is that traveling on-road or off-road, a loose fuel container may become a deadly missile and cause injury or death. Gasoline weighs around 6.59 pounds (3.9 kg) per gallon, so a 5-gallon gas can that is full of fuel, can easily weigh 35-pounds (16 kg) or more.  So a dislodged gas container can be more dangerous than a duffer with a sledgehammer. Dispensing:  Be sure to test your fuel-can and nozzle, together.  Don’t assume it’s going to work, nor that you can handle the weight of a full can of fuel. Even if you can handle the weight and you are able to pour the fuel into your vehicle, you may want to use a siphon instead. Self-priming siphons (with an anti-static hose), such as the one illustrated here, are an easy solution for fuel transfer.  With minimal training, even a young child can manage this task, but they should be supervised as fuel transfer can be dangerous.  For the syphoning process to work, remember that the fuel container needs to be higher than the tank of the vehicle.  The siphoning process depends on gravity to work. A funnel with a long neck (illustrated in the photo on the left) is also a handy addition to your fuel-transfer kit.   The long neck of the funnel simulates a gas station’s fuel-pump nozzle, and this can help un-restrict the flow of fuel during the transfer process.  This is noteworthy because most modern cars have an anti-theft device in the neck of the filler pipe.  Though some siphon hoses may be rigid enough to bypass this anti-theft device on your vehicle, it may worth having one of these long-neck funnels, just in case. Be sure to test your fuel-transfer method and equipment before you actually need to use it.   Links to Manufacturers and Additional Information: Specter – Manufacturer’s Website: Specter Fuel Can Look-Up Table by Part #: Article with additional detail on Specter fuel cans: PRI Fuel Treatment Products: Fuel Siphons:  Only use a siphon device which is actually made for the transfer of gasoline, as other siphons may have parts which can cause a fire-creating spark.  Not all self-priming siphons perform the same.  We recommend that you purchase a siphon with a semi-rigid hose that has a large diameter, as it will transfer fuel much faster. Super Jiggler: Safety Siphon: VDP Super Siphon:

How long can you store bottled water? Reply

Fuji Bottled WaterHow long can I store bottled water?

Unopened bottled water products can often be safely stored for years, provided the bottles are kept in the proper environment, and the plastic material of the bottle is BPA-free.  When in doubt, discard or treat bottled water which is more than 6-months old.

Water is also available in aluminum cans and foil pouches, but since these products cannot be inspected prior to purchase or use, there is little opportunity to evaluate the contents.  For water stored in these containers, it is essential that you know the water is from a reputable source, and that it has been properly transported and stored.  If the container does not have a “bottled-on” date or “use-by” date, the contents should be purified before use.

Water provided by a government agency, or well-known relief organization, which is contained in a soft drink (soda) can (Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Sprite, etc.) may be totally acceptable, as these large soft drink distributors are often called upon to can water during times of disaster or other emergencies.

Always store bottled water away from chemicals, such as cleaning compounds, paints, or gasoline.  And, keep the bottles on pallets or shelves, and off of concrete or other flooring which might leach chemicals into the bottles.  Don’t store bottled water in a garage, storage shed, or other location which will expose the water to temperature extremes.  Don’t store bottled water in direct sunlight for an extended period of time.

Bottles which have been exposed to very high or low temperatures (freezing) will likely lose their structural integrity, and may leak or become contaminated.  If you suspect any of your stored bottled water has become contaminated (smells funny, has a plastic taste, shows signs of algae growth, fogging, leaking, particulate matter floating in the water, etc.), discard or boil it for 5-minutes before using it, even in an emergency.  Becoming sick from water-born contaminants will make your situation much worse.  Don’t take chances.

Many experts tout Fuji bottled water as the best, but regardless of whether or not it deserves this high distinction, the square-ish shape of the Fuji bottles makes storage and transport easy, as the bottles pack tighter.  A less expensive option includes brands such as Dasani bottled water, a company which uses plastic bottles which are much stronger than the budget brands.  The added bottle strength is significant for emergency use and transport.  The 24-bottle packages of Dasani are also wrapped in heavy plastic wrap, a factor which makes transport and handling easier, as the packages are less likely to break-open and dump the bottles.

For a list of NSF Certified bottled water brands, visit:

You need a headlamp, in addition to a flashlight. Reply

Black Diamond "Storm" Headlamp, $50

A headlamp is a good choice for walking at night, and when you want to be doing something else with your hands, other than holding a flashlight.  They are also a good light for things around camp, and reading at night.

These headlamps don’t take the place of a flashlight for searching in the distance, but they are practical for most other night uses.  LED models  won’t break as easily if dropped, and bulb-life is usually more than 10,000-hours, so be sure to get an LED model.

A headlamp which incorporates several levels of light output, and also a red-only beam for retaining night vision, is best.  If you are looking for something in the distance, a brighter light is nice, but for reading a map a low setting is far better.  You can easily spend a $100 for a powerful headlamp, but the Black Diamond model illustrated here is only $50, and does a great job.

Another important consideration is weight.  Some of these headlamps utilize a heavy battery-pack, which can make wearing it bothersome.  When possible, you also want to select a headlamp which uses the same type of batteries as your other electronics.  Being able to share the same type of batteries between your different electronics, makes logistics much easier.  And, recharging a more viable option, too.  There are a lot of poor-quality headlamps on the market, so be careful what you buy.  A reliable source is Recreational Equipment, Inc.   If you don’t have one of their stores nearby, visit their website ( to find a good selection of quality headlamps at various price points.

The 100-lumen model illustrated above is more than adequate for most uses.  When selecting a headlamp, remember to pick one which uses only LED bulbs.  Your batteries will last loner than when using other types of bulbs, plus LED bulbs are far more durable.  Selecting a model with a light output of at least 75-lumens is probably optimal for headlamp use, and it should have at least two brightness settings.

Be sure to use the lowest setting which matches your need for illumination.  this will let you get more life out of your batteries.  Use the “Specs” tab when comparing headlamps.

Below is a link to the one I purchased, and I’ve now used it for a number of months.  It cost $90 at REI, and I love it, but I really wish it had the option of switching over to red LEDs, so that I could retain my night vision.  What I do like is that the super bright 200-lumens output is bright enough to light up the trail, even when I’m biking in the dark.

On a side note, certain LEDs are either bright enough or somehow reflect animals eyes at night. I actually prefer this, especially when I take the dogs on a walk in the dark, because I can see if a cat or other animal is ahead.  It would make night-hunting in a survival situation easier, too.  Be sure to check the weight of the headlamp (with batteries) before ordering, as a couple of extra ounces can make a big difference in comfort.  Most of us aren’t used to carrying weight on our head.  ….

–  Erik S.

Knives (Large) for GO Bags and Survival Use Reply

CKRT Razel SS7 Survival Knife

Large knives which can also be used as a pry bar, are often included in a Go Bag (aka/ GOOD Bag, or Bug-Out Knapsack).  However, the downside is the weight of the tool, and the fact that these large blades are illegal in some parts of the country.  Notwithstanding, since we often receive questions on this topic, here is some basic information on large knives.

Below you will find information on several large knife products which will also serve as a saw, pry-bar or multi-tool, which makes them far more useful in an emergency situation.

Another practical consideration is that it is probably better that the item not look too much like a big knife, as long-bladed knives are illegal in some areas, so carrying it on your person, or in your Go Bag, can become problematic.  Also, a blunt-tip may be a far better choice as a pointed-tip blade will generally break when the tool is used as a pry bar.

In summary, the best large knife is one that has multiple uses.  It should be suitable for cutting limbs off trees for firewood and building shelter, for digging, as a rescue tool to cut sheet metal and break glass, and also for use as a pry-bar.  And since weight is a consideration if this is going to be carried on your person (rather than used at home or carried in a vehicle), selection needs to be even more deliberate.  It must be an extremely strong tool if it will ever be used as a rescue tool or pry-bar.  Here are some popular knives which fit this criteria:

Ontario Knife Company – SP8 Machete

A great survival tool, the Ontario Knife Company SP8 Machete is light enough to carry yet durable enough to dish out cutting strokes to brush, limbs and other obstacles. It’s front end can act as a pry bar while it’s serrated back cuts through wood with ease. The SP8 comes with a sturdy side-loading Cordura/leather sheath, which features a leather loop for hanging from a belt and a pivot ring for free movement during wear.

  • 1095 Epoxy powder-coated or Phosphate-coated carbon steel blade
  • Kraton® polymer handles
  • Full tang construction
  • Wide razor sharp edges
  • Sawtooth back
  • Combination leather/cordura sheath
  • Blade Thickness: .25″
  • Blade Length: 10″
  • Overall Length: 15.125″
  • Made in the USA
  • WEIGHT: 2 lbs

Ontario Xtreme Rescue/Entry Tool, 24"

Xtreme Rescue Entry Tool

Price: $167.78

SKU: OK9429

Brand: Ontario Knife Company

Product Description

Ontario Entry Tool – 24 Inch

The Ontario Entry Tool has many uses and is ideal for rescue personnel.  The Ontario Entry Tool combines the functionality of five separate devices into one universal head design. The Entry Tool can be used as an axe, pry bar, hydrant wrench, for gas shut off and as a spanner wrench (2 1/2″ hoses and water mains).

The 24″ entry tool is 24″ in overall length and is made of S7 steel. The blade thickness of the 24″ Entry Tool is .375″. The Ontario 24 Inch Entry Tool is available in Black (OK9429G) or Safety Green (OK9429).

The 18″ entry tool is 18″ in overall length and is made of S7 steel. The blade thickness of the 18″ Entry Tool is .250″.The Ontario 18 Inch Entry Tool is available in Black (OK9428G) or Safety Green (OK9428).

Part Number Description Price
OK9428 18″ Entry Tool, Black $82.54
OK9428G 18″ Entry Tool, Safety Green $82.54
OK9429 24″ Entry Tool, Black $167.78
OK9429G 24″ Entry Tool, Safety Green $167.78

Ontario Knife company

SP16 SPAX with FG/UC Sheath (NSN:4240-01-547-5927)


SPAX is 13.125″ overall with 8″ blade, .250″ thickness. SPAX is the perfect tool for fighting fires, opening and closing hydrants/gas valves or emergency rescues. FG/UC Sheath Leg Strap fits load bearing equipment, tie down, webbing on front to attach small tools/knives. Also available… SP16-SPAX-8420 NSN: 1095-01-515-9877 Combination black leather Cordura sheath include


National Stock Number (NSN)
Blade Steel 1095 Carbon Steel
Blade Length
Blade Thickness
Overall Length
Weight 2.10
Handle Material Kraton�
Blade Color Black Powder Coat
Sheath Color FG/UC Sheath
Release Date
Country of Origin United States of America

Mil Spec Gear

Blade Detail: Plain Edge with Sawback
Blade Length: 9.00
Blade Material: 5160, Black
Carry System: Nylon Sheath
Handle Color: Gray
Handle Material: Micarta
Overall Length: 14.00
Special Features: Sheath comes with Sharpener, Whistle, Wire Saw, Fire Starter







O/A Length: 8 1/8″
Blade Length: 3 1/2″
Thickness: 3/8″ +
Steel: 5160 RC 56-58
Handle: Micarta
Blade Color: TAC Black
Serrated Blade
Weight: 16.3oz





O/A Length: 10 3/4″
Blade Length: 4 1/2″
Thickness: 1/4″
Steel: 5160 Spring Steel RC 55-57
Handle: Micarta
Color: Black Traction Coating
Sheath: Nylon

O/A Length: 7 1/4″
Spoon Width: 1 1/4″
Shank Thickness: 1/2″
Steel: 5140 Alloy Rc 55-56 Forged Steel
Sheath: Nylon


Primmer on Air Pistols & Rifles, B-B Guns & Airsoft Guns Reply

Airguns (pellet guns) are popular for training due to the low cost of both the gun itself, and the ammunition.  And also because in many locales it is legal to shoot them inside a home (away from windows, and with a backstop), and this makes easier to practice. Other than that, airguns are of marginal benefit for other practical purposes.  Airsoft pistols are very inexpensive ($30), shoot 6mm plastic B-Bs, and are only useful for indoor target practice at home.

A firearm such as a Ruger 10/22 rifle weighs around 4-1/2 lb, vs. an air rifle which can easily weigh more than 10 pounds.  If you are carrying it very far, that’s a big difference.  That 6-lbs of difference in the weight of the gun, can also translate into hundreds of extra rounds of .22LR ammunition carried in your pockets.  Yes, .22LR ammunition is more expensive than pellets, but it still only pennies per shot.  True, the pellets used in an airgun are even lighter in weight and more compact to carry, and this benefit  is often cited as a reason to purchase an airgun for survival use and small game hunting.  This is all true, but a .22LR firearm provides substantially greater effective distance, is useful on larger game, and it can provide at least a minimal (very minimal) benefit for self-defense.  Whereas the airgun provides absolutely no benefit for self-defense, except perhaps psychologically, as some models do look like a firearm.

This explained, if noise is the major consideration, or the selection of a gun that is less likely to kill or injure someone is paramount, or if you want to practice indoors at home, than an airgun is a good choice.  However, for most hunting and survival purposes, the .22 LR firearm is far more useful.

Notwithstanding, a .22LR gun is classified as a firearm, so if you buy it “new” it must be purchased from a Federal Firearms Licensed dealer.  Whereas an airgun, pellet gun, B-B gun, or Airsoft gun use air (or CO2) as the propellant, not gun powder, so it does not need to be registered.  It is also important to note that if you shoot an airgun and miss your target, the pellet will generally travel no more than 100-200 feet, whereas a .22LR bullet can travel a mile or more.


Some ‘survivalists’ tout the use airguns for hunting because the ammo is both low cost and you can easily carry 1,000 rounds in your pockets.  However, most air rifles are quite heavy, which is a major drawback.  This said, another positive aspect is that they are fairly quiet to shoot, which means that you’re not giving away your presence when hunting with an airgun during an emergency situation.

Most people think airguns are relatively new concept, but this isn’t the case.  Even the Lewis & Clark expedition carried air rifles in addition to their regular firearms for the same reasons that we consider them.

Also, just as with Airsoft guns, you want to select a model that operates by hand action, not CO2 or bottled air.  Some hand operated airguns are pumped by hand, while others use hand-action to cock a powerful spring.  The spring-powered designs are much more accurate.

I have a precision air pistol you’re welcome to try shooting sometime.  Pistols deliver much lower velocities than an air rifles, but they are lighter and obviously more compact to carry.  It’s hard to find a good air pistol in a local store, but many sporting goods stores carry at least a few air rifles.  Expect to pay in the $150 range for a decent air rifle.

If availability of ammo is of concern, you’ll want to select a .177 caliber airgun.  I’d bet that 95% of the airguns out there are .177 caliber, which means the ammo is easy to find in that caliber.  This said, the .22 caliber airgun does provide more wallop at close distances.  I wouldn’t consider any of the other calibers.

Bass Pro Shop and Cabela’s have a good selection of air rifles (pellet rifles) if you want to take a closer look.  They are located in an aisle near the gun department.

By the way, you NEVER want to discharge a airgun unless there is a pellet in the chamber.  Firing an empty airgun will damage it.  Also, you MUST use special lubricants in high-power airguns as conventional petroleum based products can actually detonate due to the high chamber pressure.  Lastly, even though B-Bs are labeled as being .177 caliber, a pellet and B-B are not the same size.  Many B-B guns will fire .177 pellets, but you’ll damage a pellet gun if you shoot a B-B in it.

There is a lot of debate on what is the best pellet caliber, but the most frequently mentioned are:  .177 or .22.  As to my recommendation as to pellet caliber, I’ve gone back-and-forth on that issue for years.  The larger pellets lose velocity much faster, so the trajectory decline means that aiming is more difficult at distances, and they lose impact-effect at longer range, too.  So, at close range, the .22 pellets pack a much bigger wallop for hunting and they are far more effective for hunting, too, but at even intermediate range the benefit seems to be quickly lost.  In any case, I think you’re point about using the same caliber pellets in both pistol and rifle is a clear advantage.

FYI, when a pellet’s velocity exceeds 1,100 fps, the pellet passes the speed of sound and therefore produces a much louder “crack” sound when the gun is fired.  With this in mind, a .22 caliber pellet shot at 1,000 fps, is a better hunting machine than a .177 pellet traveling at 1,400 fps.  Again, the disadvantage of the .22 is that it loses speed much faster so aiming is more difficult at intermediate range and beyond.  This is because the bullet-drop is significant.  All this said, I still don’t know what to recommend, but .177 pellets are also cheaper and more readily available, if that is significant to you.  By the way, if you buy a gun rated at over 1,000 fps and you want to be quiet, just load the gun with heaver pellets to reduce the speed.  If the specs say that it’ll also fire B-Bs, you don’t want the gun as the barrel is a compromise.

As to pellet design, in .177 you don’t want to use the pointed-tip pellets for hunting squirrels as they pass through the animal.  I don’t know about .22 as I have never used one, but there will obviously be less of a penetration problem with .22.  Also, they do make hollowpoint pellets, but I can’t imagine that they perform at these speeds on flesh.  Anyway, the best choice for pellet materials and shape will take more research.  I don’t have much experience in this arena, but I do have a couple of different designs on-hand if you want to do some testing.  Beeman is known for making high-quality pellets.

*** You need to use special oils on precision spring-piston airguns as the pressure will make regular oil detonate in the chamber.

Also worth noting is that some airguns are quite heavy and poorly balanced.  Because of this issue, I’d recommend checking to see if the gun you like is a different weight when made with a synthetic stock vs. wood.  Further, in my view, many air rifles are simply too heavy for backpacking or survival use.

Scopes probably aren’t required but are fine as long as the gun has iron sights, too.  Laser sights would likely be a negative on an airgun.  Some of the guns don’t look very durable.

Beeman, Gamo, and RWS are the common brands in the mid-price guns, but there are other quality guns, particularly those made in Germany.  Also Crosman and Daisy, but they tend to be lower quality.  Many big-name firearm companies also sell airguns.  If they are really expensive the company probably made the gun, but if it’s a lower price gun, some other manufacturer is probably just paying them to use their name.  As to power plant, you probably want a spring-piston powered airgun if you plan to take it backpacking or use it for survival.  Most cock by breaking the barrel downward, so a longer barrel means it’ll be easier to cock – but none of them should be that hard to cock, anyway, so this probably isn’t much of a consideration.

By the way, when you compare the performance of different airguns, make sure the measurements are made using the same weight and design of pellet.  Usually they’re not, unless the two guns are made by the same company.  Anyway, it’s often hard to compare velocity between guns made by different manufacturers.  Compare the cocking effort (measured in pounds) between guns.  If the cocking effort is the same, there is a good chance that the velocity will be quite similar.  By the way, certain pellets will boost the pellet velocity by as much as 200 fps on the exact same gun.  So read the fine print (examples below, highlighted in yellow).

Beeman RX2 (











Power plant








9.8 lbs.



18.3 FP


Break Barrel

46 lbs.

 Gas Spring


Beech Stained






9.8 lbs.



18.4 FP


Break Barrel

46 lbs.

 Gas Spring


Beech Stained






9.8 lbs.



20.8 FP


Break Barrel

46 lbs.

 Gas Spring


Beech Stained



All velocity and muzzle energy figures for sporting guns were achieved with Silver Bear pellets under controlled conditions. Your results may vary due to changes in altitude, temperature, humidity and equipment.

Gamo (

Whisper Silent Cat
[Item# 6110072154]

The Silent Cat is a Whisper Air Rifle with a 4×32 air Rifle Scope

-Velocity: 1200 feet per second (fps) with PBA, 1000 fps with Lead


 Walther Talon Magnum  (

Velocity 1200 fps

The Walther Talon Magnum Air Rifle is a powerful pellet rifle

that features a robust spring piston break barrel mechanism for maximum

velocity with just one cock of the rifle. At an amazing 1200 feet per

second with a standard .177 caliber lead pellet and a zooming

1400 fps with a hyper velocity pellet

Article on Airgun Calibers (

Airgun calibers.
The lowdown on the four most popular airgun calibers, plus a quick look at BBs

By Tom Gaylord
Exclusively for Copyright ©2003. All Rights Reserved

There are four popular airgun calibers today–.177, .20 (also called 5mm), .22 and .25. In this article, we’ll look at each of those four calibers and see what it does best. We’ll also see how BBs differ from the four pellet calibers.

The four popular smallbore pellet calibers are, from left to right, .177, .20, .22 and .25.

The .177 caliber was probably created shortly after the start of the 20th century. It seems to have surfaced first in England, which was a hotbed of airgun development both then and now.

The advantage of .177 is a smaller pellet that uses less material–usually lead. It is widely used for general shooting and is the only caliber that can be used for bullseye target shooting anywhere in the world. The rules of all official shooting organizations mandate a .177 caliber gun for both pistol and rifle competition.

Because of this, the popular misconception is that the .177 is somehow more accurate than the other three calibers. This is not strictly true, but since all target guns are made in this caliber only, a lot of .177 guns ARE, in fact, more accurate than guns in other calibers. There have been .22 caliber target airguns made in the past in England, Germany, America and perhaps other countries, but today the only target guns made are .177.

The sport of field target is one competitive shooting sport in which a .177 places the shooter at a distinct advantage. The shooter must shoot a pellet through a small hole in a steel target to hit a paddle, knocking down the target and registering a hit. If the pellet touches the side of the hole, there’s a good chance the target won’t fall and no point will be awarded. The kill-zone holes range from 1/4″ to 2″ in diameter, but the smaller holes are by far more common in a match. So, the smaller size of the .177 pellet makes it the statistically superior choice in this sport.

A problem .177 pellets have is that their light weight allows them to go faster than the larger sizes. Once the speed of the pellet approaches the speed of sound (a variable speed of approximately 1,100 f.p.s. at sea level), the accuracy suffers. For powerful air rifles, shooters must select the heaviest pellets in .177 to keep the velocity down.

Sometimes, guns come in both .177 and .22 calibers. Which should you get? Well, consider this. Any given gun will shoot faster in .177 than in .22, if all things are equal. That same gun will hit about 20 percent harder (have more energy) in .22. The .177 pellets tend to be less expensive than .22 pellets, plus there are often more of them in a box. The .22 pellet is larger and some people find it easier to load than the smaller .177.

One final thought. The .177 caliber is by far the most popular today and will be the easiest pellet to find in a store.

Did you notice at the start of this article that the .20 caliber is the only one also designated by its metric size? While all pellets are marked with both their English and metric sizes today, the .20 caliber was actually created that way from the start.

Sheridan introduced the .20 caliber pellet to the world in 1947. Even then they also referred to it as a 5mm.

In 1947, Ed Wackerhagen designed a multi-pump pneumatic air rifle that he called the Sheridan. He found commercial airgun ammunition of the time too inaccurate to work well in his rifle, so he created a proprietary caliber–the .20. Of course, this also meant that his company had to supply all ammunition. While that sounds like a good way to make more money, it can also backfire and destroy the entire marketing plan. If shooters feel they may not be able to purchase an odd-sized caliber in the future (consider the Remington 5mm rimfire that can now cost a dollar a round), they might not buy the gun.

The .20 caliber/5mm got off to a somewhat tenuous start, but Sheridan remained in production and by the mid-1970s, nobody gave it much thought. However, no other airguns were made in that caliber until Robert Beeman requested Feinwerkbau to make up five special model 124 rifles for his company. That project never went anywhere, but within a few more years Weihrauch, the German maker of all the Beeman R-series guns, began making 5mm guns. The market blossomed from there.

America has been the leader in .20 caliber/5mm airguns, but Europe is producing more of them all the time. The pellet makers are also making more designs of pellets in this caliber. There are still fewer choices in .20 caliber than in .177 and .22, but the gap is narrowing.

Many shooters consider .20 caliber to be a good compromise between .177 and .22. Robert Beeman promoted it that way in his catalogs for many years. Actually, .20 is a little closer to .22 than it is to .177 in terms of the cost of the pellets and pellet weight.

While some British ads promote the .20 as a long-range pellet that’s superior to the .22, they’re looking only at the very specific instance of Crosman Premier pellets in that ad. The .22 has a great number of pellets that are better for long-range shooting than any .20 caliber pellet, though there’s nothing wrong with shooting a .20 at a great distance.

Get a .20 caliber gun for general shooting and for hunting or pest elimination. The pellets cost about as much as .22 pellets, but there are fewer styles to choose from.

.22–the hunter’s choice 
The .22 caliber pellet grew out of the .22 rimfire, which, at the start of the 20th century was the choice for most small shooting jobs such as pest elimination. But, a .22 caliber pellet is no longer the same diameter as a .22 rimfire bullet, nor will a rimfire barrel work well for pellets. The rimfire barrel is sized 0.222″ to 0.223″ across the grooves, while the airgun barrel is sized 0.217″ to 0.218″.

Twenty-two caliber was the most popular airgun caliber in America until the late 1960s. That’s why more airguns of that caliber exist among the vintage and antique guns made in this country. The .22 caliber pellet is definitely the choice of the hunter and pest eliminator. It hits harder and also transmits more of its energy to the target than the smaller .177. A .177 pellet traveling at high-velocity is small enough to pass completely through the body of a small animal, leaving no visible signs of trauma if a vital organ or bone is not hit. Even a chipmunk can be “acupunctured” in this way. Of course, the animal is in extreme pain, but since animals don’t act the same as humans, it appears to simply run off. Usually, it will die several days to weeks later, after suffering increasingly greater pain.

The same thing CAN happen with a .22 pellet, but, because of the larger size, it’s much less likely. Speaking of high velocity and hunting with pellet guns, let’s clear up a misconception. In firearms, a high velocity bullet does so much damage to its target that much smaller calibers can be used to hunt big game. This began with the introduction of the .220 Swift in 1935 and grew very popular through the promotion of Roy Weatherby.

But, pellets are not centerfire bullets. They don’t travel 3,000 f.p.s. and faster. Even at a top speed of 1,200 f.p.s., a pellet is going WAY too slow to have a similar hydraulic shock effect on game. So a “fast” pellet is of no advantage to a hunter unless it also carries a large amount of energy that it can successfully transfer to the animal. That’s why the .22 is the king of the hunting calibers.

As far as general shooting goes, the .22 caliber is just fine. The pellets do cost more than .177s and the velocities of the guns are usually slower, but a good shot will have no problem with a .22. It’s the second most popular airgun caliber.

The big .25 
To many shooters, “Bigger is better.” So the .25 caliber has to be the best – right? Perhaps, but learn all the facts before making up your mind.

The quarter-inch bore is somewhat older than the .177. It existed in smoothbore airguns at the end of the 19th century, and BSA made it popular in 1906 with the first rifled smallbore air rifle to use .25 caliber. In those days, and on up until around the 1980s, all .25 caliber air rifles were low-powered and slow. Velocities were in the 300 to 400 f.p.s. range.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that the emergence of powerful rifles made this caliber truly viable and brought it fully back to life. The funny thing is, some guns that OUGHT to be great in .25 caliber don’t fulfill their promise, and others that SHOULD be too puny to do well are surprisingly good! The RWS 48/52 is one of the most popular spring guns ever made. In .22 it is very powerful for a spring rifle, yet in .25 the power drops off a bit. On the other hand, the lightweight BSA Supersport Magnum, which is a delight in .177 and .22 and ought to be a dog in .25, seems to defy logic by also handling the big caliber well.

In the precharged rifles, .25 caliber doesn’t deliver much of an advantage. That’s because the new solid .22 pellets are already so heavy that there is no clear advantage for a .25. Yes, there are solid .25 pellets that are even heavier than the heaviest .22s, but they take away some velocity, which makes long-range shooting that much more difficult.

The Beeman P1 is considered a very powerful air pistol. Even so, at just six foot-pounds, it’s not powerful enough for small game hunting.

Air pistols 
All we’ve talked about so far is air rifles. Where do the pistols fit in?

For starters, air pistols are MUCH less powerful than air rifles, as a rule. The magnum spring pistols top out at about 6 foot-pounds, while the rifles get up to the low 30s. In the precharged guns, air pistols in the four smallbore calibers we’re looking at get up to 12 or even 14 foot-pounds, but the rifles get up as high at 80 foot-pounds! There are a few specialty pistols made in the Orient that get 30 to 50 foot-pounds, but these airguns are as large and heavy as small carbines.

This difference in power between pistols and rifles makes .177 caliber almost the universal choice for an air pistol. When people ask about hunting with a pistol, we tell them that unless they have a 12 foot-pound pistol, they really shouldn’t hunt. Yes, it’s possible to kill certain pests like rats and mice with an air pistol, but it’s almost never a sporting choice for a hunter.

As long as you keep the power level in mind, there is absolutely nothing wrong with owning and shooting a .20-, a .22- and even a .25-caliber air pistol. Just knowing about the big power difference between air pistols and air rifles will help you decide what to get.

Not all round balls are BBs. Shown from left to right: BB, .177 round ball, .22 round ball and .25 round ball.

BBs: Are they the same as .177? 
No! The BB is smaller than .177. In fact, it’s a completely different caliber. When it was first created in 1886, a BB was a type of shotgun shot sized 0.180″ in diameter. Through the years, the size became smaller, until todays steel BB is 0.172″ to 0.173′.

Some airguns can shoot either BBs or pellets. What’s the deal there? The deal is that they’re designed with some kind of compromise bore that will not be damaged by steel BBs, yet a lead pellet can also be shot. These guns are seldom as accurate with either ammunition as regular pellet-only guns, though some of them do a pretty remarkable job at short ranges.

NEVER shoot steel BBs in a gun designed to shoot only pellets! Pellet gun barrels are softer, and the undersized steel BB will damage the rifling (if there is any) as it rattles down the bore. If the gun is smoothbore, there’s no rifling to ruin, but a .177 bore is still oversized and will give poor performance.

A good way to shoot round balls in a pellet gun is to use a round lead ball. These are sized the same as lead pellets and won’t harm your barrel. A few manufacturers make round balls in .177. .22 and .25.

The four main airgun calibers give you a lot of choice. You have to think about what you want to do with your airgun, then pick an appropriate pellet and try it out. Like anything else in life, the final answer to what’s the best caliber or best pellet lies with you. Hopefully, this article has helped you understand the most important fundamentals.  But for survival use, a .22LR caliber rifle or pistol is oftentimes a better choice.  A firearm such as a Ruger 10/22 rifle, weighs around 4-1/2 lb vs. an air rifle which can easily weigh more than 10 pounds.  That 6-lbs of difference translates into a lot of .22LR ammunition.  And, a .22LR firearm provides substantially greater range, is useful on larger game, and it can provide at least a minimal benefit for self-defense.  If noise is the major consideration, or the selection of a gun that is less likely to kill someone, than an airgun is a good choice.  But for most other purposes the .22 LR firearm is a better choice.

Radio Scanners to Monitor Police, Fire, and Emergency Services Reply

What are Scanners Anyway?
A scanner is a radio receiver (it cannot transmit) which allows you to scan multiple frequencies at one time for two-way radio activity. These devices are commonly known as “police scanners” in that most people use the devices to listen to police radio communications although fire department monitoring is almost of equal interest, and scanners can also be used to monitor the two-way radios of taxis, mall security, commercial aircraft, ambulances and so much more. Just like an FM radio station might broadcast on 105.7 FM, a police department will use, for example, 155.625 FM for its dispatcher to communicate with the patrol cars. Because a police department, unlike an FM radio station, does not need to broadcast continually with talk or music, but only when there’s an incident to discuss or respond to, a scanner allows you to sample a multitude of local (within 20 miles or so) public safety agency and business radio channels for activity. The scanner will stop on the first channel it comes to that has activity and the radio will resume scanning when that radio transmission has ended. Note that there are many new types of radio systems such as digital and trunking which are discussed below.

A Short Scanner History
Back in the early days of radio, in the early to mid 1900s, tunable radio receivers were used to monitor police channels. In actuality many police departments used a frequency just at the end of the AM radio dial around 1700 KHz to broadcast to their patrol cars. In the 1960s, when police and fire departments were using FM radio channels around 40 and 155 MHz (VHF Low and High band), enterprising radio enthusiasts developed the scanner which in effect performed a rapid tuning function, searching local radio channels for activity by “scanning” them. The first scanners scanned four or eight channels. To monitor these channels people had to buy crystals for the specific radio frequency used by their local departments, and install them inside the scanner. In later years a keyboard replaced the crystal and now you can program thousands of channels into a scanner from a keyboard or a PC.

Who Uses Scanners and Why?
Scanners are used by a wide spectrum of people, from radio hobbyists to everyday folks who just want to keep an ear on what’s happening around town. Scanners are also used by the news media as well as people who love news and want to hear all about it as it happens. Others are concerned in today’s environment for personal and neighborhood safety and want to stay in tune with the fantastic job our public servants perform. Speaking of our public servants, police departments nationally use scanners to allow them to keep tabs on adjoining departments and jurisdictions in case incidents in one community, such as a car chase, may move into their own or, in the case of fire departments, they may be called for mutual aid at a fire. This is called communications interoperability and scanners can be a critically important tool for public safety in this manner. Newspapers, TV and radio stations all use scanners to gather the news and report on it. There are actually hundreds of ways scanners are used for a variety of public safety, social and even entertainment purposes.

Buying Scanners for Security, Information or Enjoyment

Scanners keep you in the know better than the local news, provide a sense of security, and all the while scanners can be a lot of fun. When buying a scanner for your home, work or as a gift, there are a number of key points to remember:
Determine the type of radio system your local town and county uses
Most communities still use basic radio systems that can be “scanned” using low-end/inexpensive scanners. A low-end scanner though will not have the features, such as alpha-tagging (allowing the scanner to display “Chicago Fire” rather than a frequency) or a PC port, that can be very useful. Your community or region may also use advanced radio systems which will require a more expensive scanner.

Scanners can seem complicated at first, but the low-end models, in particular, are very easy to use. When buying for personal use or as a gift, try to keep it simple by programming and listening to the police and fire department for your own community and perhaps some surrounding communities. Then, as you get more familiar with scanning you can broaden your listening if you desire.
Programming Your Scanner
You must program the local police and fire department frequencies of course before you begin listening. This is akin to entering your favorite AM-FM radio station, but there are a lot more public safety frequencies to choose from. There are a few ways to go about programming your scanner. First, you can buy one of our frequency guides to program the radios yourself. After reading the scanner owner’s manual to understand the programming process, you look up the frequencies and the trunking system details in our book and then enter the information into the radio. Some web sites also maintain this data. The frequency guides offer a wealth of information on all sorts of public and private entities that use radio including police, fire, EMS, DOT, DPW, fire towers, railroads, utilities, colleges, malls, auto racing and so much more. If learning the programming process and finding the frequencies doesn’t appeal to you, you can have Scanner Master program your scanner.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How far will I be able to listen?
Distance depends on too many factors to provide an easy answer, such as the elevation of your home, whether there are hills or other obstructions between you and the agency you wish to monitor; the transmitter power of the agency you wish to listen to, etc. These and other factors all play a part. Generally speaking, with a handheld or desktop scanner you can hear in a 10 to 20 mile radius, but that’s not set in stone.

What is Trunking?
As public safety agencies and businesses grow they require more and more radio frequencies for their operations, consequently available radio spectrum has become more valuable and more difficult to find. To help resolve this problem, radio manufacturers developed “trunking” which works on the same principle as a trunk telephone line. Let€™s take for an example the city of Worcester, Massachusetts. This mid-size city used to have two or three frequencies for the police department and two or three for the fire department as well as one for public works and one for parks. Now, with their trunking radio system, they have upwards of 50 or 100 groups of users on 10 radio frequencies.
One of the frequencies in the system is the “control” or “data” channel, continuously broadcasting a stream of computer data that sounds like a buzzsaw over the air. Every time a police officer, a firefighter or a sanitation worker presses his microphone button an instantaneous computer command is sent out to all the other users within that person’s radio group to move to one of the nine available voice frequencies in the system. The channel the group is assigned is almost completely random so there’s no way to follow a communication unless you have a trunking scanner that works on a principle similar to that of the actual two-way radio. Hence, the TrunkTracker. One moment an officer in the police east side traffic division may be calling his dispatcher on one of the nine frequencies, and seconds later that dispatcher may reply to that officer on a completely different frequency. So now, a small group of radio users, such as the Water Filtration division, can effectively have their own radio channel. It’s not a frequency per se, just any one of the 9 available radio frequencies as long as it’s not in use by another talk-group of users.

The two major types of trunking systems are manufactured by Motorola and by M/A-COM (known as EDACS). A popular business trunking technology is known as LTR. Most, but not all, public safety trunking systems operate on the 800 MHz band. As the technology has evolved over time, each manufacturer has some different flavors of their trunking system. With Motorola you’ll hear about Type I, Type II and IIi. Type I requires something called a fleet map to work properly (although these systems are gradually being phased out). EDACS has narrowband, wideband and SCAT. There are a number of LTR style systems, including one known as MultiNet for public safety (there is no scanner today that can track it) and Passport which is primarily for business communications. There is also some encryption on these systems which makes it impossible to monitor. All of it sounds very complicated and it can be, but here we specialize in providing you with the information to make it easier to set up trunking for your area and once it’s done right it may never have to be touched again. Note: EDACS, MultiNet and Passport are trademarks of their manufacturers.

Trunking systems can be complicated to program for novices (although our Butel software makes programming much easier), but you will find that scanning these trunked systems to be more pleasurable, interesting and informative than ever before. You can hear both sides of a conversation and you can listen in to just those groups which interest you.

Scanner Basics/Information and FAQ’s 

What is Digital and APCO-25 all about?

Just like your cell phone, a digital two-way radio system converts voice into ones and zeros and transmits this data to another radio which decodes the information so the voice communication (sometime sounding a bit robotic) is heard on the other end. Older public safety radio systems are often being replaced with the new digital systems. There is no way to upgrade an older or non-digital scanner. You must buy a digital scanner (such as the Bearcat 296 or 796) or a digital-ready scanner (the Bearcat 250 or 785 which accept a digital card) in order to monitor digital communications.

Digital scanners decode APCO-25 non-encrypted transmissions automatically (encrypted communications cannot be decrypted). A few agencies operate in encryption full time. There are also a few non-standard digital radio systems that are not monitorable at this time such as EDACS ProVoice, M/A-COM OpenSky and European Tetra. Many agencies also used MDT’s (mobile data terminals), the computers in the patrol cars as well as cellular and NEXTEL phones for private communications. These cannot be monitored in any way.

What are PL and DPL (private line & digital private line) or CTCSS and DCS sub-audible tone codes?

Many scanners have the ability to program both a frequency and a sub-audible tone code (PL/DPL). It’s not required that you use it but it is recommended if you have the PL/DPL information. As many agencies and businesses share radio frequencies they use these codes to insure that they only hear others within their department or company. You can do the same. PL helps limit interference by pre-selecting only those transmissions your most interested in and filtering out unwanted conversations. PL data is not always available but most scanners today provide a method of automatically determining the PL or DPL in use.

Can I listen to cellular phone calls? Can scanners be modified to listen to it?

By federal law monitoring private phone conversations is prohibited. No scanners made in the last 10 years have been capable of monitoring cell phones or are capable of being modified to do so. Most cellular phones are now TDMA or CDMA digital which is completely different from APCO-25 digital and couldn’t be monitored even if the cellular frequency range was still included in the radio. Government agencies can purchase scanners which still contain the cellular band but special ID is required.

What is this new Close Call feature of some of the Uniden scanners?

Close Call allows the scanner to instantly tune to most any standard (non-cellular/Nextel) radio transmission within your line-of-sight, or in some cases even further. So, if you’re at a mall, a sporting event, or happen by an accident scene for example and you don’t know the local security, event or police/fire/EMS channels, Close Call will automatically tune your scanner to the frequencies being used. If you’ve been waiting for the right time to buy a new scanner, buying a scanner with Close Call is a great reason to finally make the move.

How can software help me with scanning?

Other than some of the low-end scanners, most scanners today are computer programmable. Using a serial cable and software you connect your scanner to your PC and then you can create multiple files for different areas or events to which you might take your radio. For trunking scanners and/or scanners with alpha-tag capability, programming on a computer (usually in spreadsheet like form) is considerably easier than programming on the scanner itself. More advanced software allows you to also control your scanner from the PC and log activity, record audio, and do much more than you could ever do on your scanner alone. Uniden includes demo software with their scanners but Scanner Master recommends the BuTel ARC (Advanced Radio Control) software which is widely considered the world’s best. It’s extremely easy to use, loads and works seamlessly with your PC, and it is very powerful and feature rich.

What accessories do you recommend?

Antennas – There is no better way to improve reception, whether for base or mobile scanning, then by adding an outside antenna. For home or office scanners we recommend a base station antenna, such as the Discone for all-band monitoring. If you want to really improve performance on a single radio band, check out our professional base station antennas, either omnidirectional or directional for most receiver gain. Aiming a yagi (beam) antenna at a station or region that uses a common band (such as 800 MHz trunking or 460 MHz UHF) will pull in signals you never dreamed of. For mobile scanners we urge you to mount a mobile antenna somewhere on your vehicle. Getting the antenna out from under the steel roof of your car or truck will provide a huge improvement. Not everyone wants another antenna on their car so we offer various types and mounting options. For portable scanners you can buy antennas tuned to specific bands (such as 800 MHz) for improved trunking performance for example, but other bands will suffer.

Software – For all scanners with a PC connection we highly recommend scanner software which will make programming easier and operation more enjoyable. If you’re not convinced go online and check out the demo software that we offer for many models.

Frequency Guides – We offer specialty frequency guides for the Northeast, Southwest and Police Call on CD only, the 7-volume set that covers the nation.

Scanner Legality

It is 100% legal in the United States to purchase, own and operate a scanner radio with a very few minor exceptions. We note that because radio law sometimes, but extremely rarely, changes, and because we are not attorneys, you should check your state, local and federal laws if you have any concerns.

There are a few states that have laws on the books regarding the use of scanners in motor vehicles. Kentucky, Indiana, New York and Florida come to mind. There are a few additional states where it’s illegal to use a scanner in the furtherance of a crime. Click these links below (which may or may not be up-to-date) for further information:

It is illegal to intercept cell phone and cordless phone communications (most cordless phones today are spread spectrum and cannot be monitored anyway. It’s also illegal to monitor cellular phone conversations and for the last 10+ years the major scanner manufacturers, by federal law, have not produced a scanner capable of monitoring the cell phone band. At any rate, because 99.9% of all cell phone calls now are CDMA, GSM and other highly advanced types of digital (not APCO-25 digital), cell phone calls couldn’t be intercepted anyway.

It is also illegal to decrypt encrypted communications. Most public safety communications that use DVP/DES and other types of highly-sophisticated encryption couldn’t be decrypted without years of work and a supercomputer anyway. Luckily, relatively few public safety agencies in the U.S. use such systems. In other parts of the world, particularly we know in Europe, the public safety radio systems cannot be monitored.

Scanners are a well regarded and respected tool for the news media, public safety agencies themselves, and for the general public. Americans like to be in the know. They like to be aware of what’s going on around them and they like to help the police and fire services whenever possible, by reporting crime, fire, and the like. Knowing what the local authorities are doing and perhaps helping (without interfering — very important) after having heard something on-the-air, benefits us all.

So scanners are completely legal to own in your home, on your person, and, in almost all states, in your vehicle. They help you build a healthy respect for the job our public servants our doing while at the same time keeping you in the know. Buy a scanner radio today and be informed and enjoy!

How Scanners Deliver News as it Happens as well as Entertainment and Peace of Mind

This is a long way of asking, “Why are scanners so great?” Or, “Why are scanners such a useful and enjoyable product for everyone? There are many reasons why and below we’ve just begun to cover them.

Let’s take the first part, “How do scanners deliver the news as it happens” We all want to know what’s going on around our city, our nation and the world, but it’s the local news that’s most important to us. It’s what’s happening in our community, in our neighborhood, that we most want to follow.

We can watch TV, read a newspaper or look online for our news. But in all cases it takes time for a reporter/photographer to go to the scene of a fire or a bank robbery and report. With cutbacks in news organizations of late, most public safety incidents won’t be reported on at all, or the report will be delayed. And, if you’re just curious why that police car raced down your street, you’re likely never to know by just relying on news services.

With a scanner you solve all these problems. With a scanner you hear the dispatch* and then can generally follow the police and fire communications as they report from the scene.

So with a scanner you learn of the news “as it happens” rather than relying on some news service to, perhaps, go to the scene and file a report. The media relies on scanners, too, so by using a scanner you’ll know right when your local TV and radio station knows when something important is happening.

With a scanner you’ll also be entertained. Let’s face it, listening to police chases live is unbelievably exciting. Hearing firefighters call for more water pressure as they’re inside a building fighting a fire is thrilling. Hearing planes and trains be dispatched and routed is just plain fun. And in all cases you’re admiration for the jobs these public servants and private professionals are performing only grows while your knowledge and understanding of their work increases.

You can have a scanner on in the background while you watch TV. Some people even go to bed listening to a scanner at night and, over time, instinctively know and wake up when something exciting or important is happening – you can tell by the tension in the voice of the dispatchers and officers in the street who are communicating.

Particularly for kids, when you’re listening to a scanner you’re practically riding along in that patrol car or you’re in that fire truck racing to a scene of a fire. It’s really mesmerizing, entertaining, informative and educational all at the same time.

And, particularly for adults, perhaps those who are concerned about crime in their neighborhood or dry brush around their homes during the fire season, a scanner will keep you abreast of what conditions are in your area. Are police responding to suspicious persons on nearby streets? Do you hear the fire department being called out to hose down homes in the development a few blocks away? This is invaluable information that you can find nowhere else or not nearly as quickly. A scanner radio does it all.

So we hope you’ll consider buying yourself or a loved one a scanner today. For information, for entertainment, for peace-of-mind, and more. There’s nothing like a scanner.

(*In minor police incidents some department dispatches are sent via computer to in-car “mobile data terminals.” However if the incident is at all significant all departments will use radio communications to disseminate information the quickest way its entire force.)

Copyright 2009 Richard Barnett, Scanner Master Corp

Valuable Resources
Be sure to visit for the ultimate resource of scanner frequencies, trunking information, radio forums and more.

A guide to The Best “Police” Radio Scanners
by N4UJW (A Ham Radio Web Site)

See this great article on the Ham Universe Website.


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