Archive for American Survivor Blog

Live Free to Exhibit at Grayslake IL, Survival Expo

Live Free USA to Exhibit and Present at

The Grayslake Illinois Survival Expo.

Saturday March 17th from 9:00 AM till 5:00 PM and

Sunday March 18th from 9:00 AM till 4:00 PM at the

Lake County IL. Fairgrounds 19822   W. Peterson Rd. Grayslake IL

   Live Free will have a full booth selling discount survival books and Live Free logo items.  James C. Jones the organizations president will be presenting “The Ten Principles of Survival” on both Saturday and Sunday. Representatives from the North Chicago Area Chapter and other affiliated groups will be on hand.  There will also be plenty of free survival information handouts at the booth. We look forward to meeting our members and supports there.

Fifty Years of Live Free USA


Looking back and Looking Ahead, by James C. Jones, Founder and President

Most significant organizations are formally created with the involvement and support of financially stable, business and professional founders.  Live Free USA evolved from a group of poor city kids who liked to go camping.  We have established the year nineteen-sixty-eight as the formal start of Live Free USA because that’s about when we started practicing, advocating and educating for survival and self-reliance. The organization started as an NRA affiliated shooting sports club and expanded into other outdoor sports including rock climbing, caving, river rafting, primitive camping and archery. The potential for injuries and the need for first aid and safety training brought us to focus on survival related issues.  Membership was primarily limited to the South-side of Chicago in the 1960's and the draconian gun laws and vehement anti-gun sentiments (much greater than today) made operations as a “gun club’ unsustainable so we evolved into a “sports club” but continued to do shooting activities out of town. The political turbulence of the late 1960's combined with the growing threats of the Cold War drew the organization into the broader aspects of emergency preparedness and self-reliance while we continued to conduct outdoor survival training as well.  We also began to attract membership beyond the Chicago area. At this time we started publishing our survival newsletter. Originally titled “Directions” and mimeographed it became todays “American Survivor” a respected source of survival information for over 40-years.

In the late 1960's we started doing annual training programs at Tippecanoe River State Park in norther Indiana. The park offered cabins and a huge training area for a reasonable price. This event evolved it what became the annual “Camp Independence” survival education event. We first rented just one cabin, but by the late 1970's we were renting the entire, 50 building facility including dining halls, shelters, an infirmary, showers and housing for hundreds of participants. We were able to conduct combination indoor and outdoor training programs, drills and scenarios that were beyond anything being done today by any survival organization.  Camp Independence continued until 2015 when the Indiana Department of Resources elected to close the facilities. This was a major blow to our training programs, since no equivalent facilities existed.  It is sad to note that the reason for closure was primarily that very few groups used it.  The organizations that had previously held events and gatherings there have either disbanded or become less willing to cope without heat, AC and lights. To many folks Tippecanoe and Live Free were synonyms.

We really hoped to develop our own version of the facilities at Tippecanoe River State Park in the 1970's. We started selling shares of our “land fund” and doing car washes to raise money to buy some land.  Against all odds, we managed to get sufficient funds to purchase 20-acres of beautiful wooded property in Wisconsin.  We set up a camp area, rifle range, and other facilities and eventually acquired an adjoining 20- acres.  We called it “The American Survival Center” (I still have the sign), but a combination of events forced us to sell it off in the mid 80's.  One of the reasons that we do the paperwork to maintain our current not-for-profit, tax deductible status is the hope that we might receive a contribution, bequest or grant that would revive the dream of a true “American Survival Center.”  Certainly there is a greater need than ever for such a facility with so many camp facilities closing.

The 1980's brought Live Free USA into the national and even international spotlight. We noted that the media was suddenly interested in “survivalists” but had been attracted to extreme political and religious groups who may have been practicing survival skills, but were not (in our view) real survivalists.  Having been at it for two decades, we were far ahead of others in actual practices.  For several years we worked to promote the true philosophies and practices of survivalism.  Media helicopters landed at Tippecanoe and at the American Survival Center. We did dozens of interviews for radio, TV and major publications. We even talked on the BBC and Dutch TV.  I was privileged to speak at the American Society for Civil Defense on two occasions.  Through this publicity we built up a national membership and even some international members. We still had to manage with our very limited number of overworked volunteers and no significant financial support, and this severely limited our ability to build on our success or expand our programs.  The cover of the 1986 issue of American Survival Guide was dedicated to Live Free USA's years of service.  Live Free’s reputation, core group and missions were all established in the 1980's, but the preparedness movement almost collapsed in the early 1990's.

Although Live Free USA never considered nuclear war as the only or even primary survival and preparedness motivation, the public jumped to the conclusion that the fall of the Soviet Union was the beginning of the age of peace and security.  All of the survival magazines soon ceased publication and all of the other survival organizations evaporated.  Without magazines to advertise in we dwindled down to a small number of loyal national members and a hardcore group locally.  We still held Camp Independence at Tippecanoe and got out our newsletter sporadically. In short, Live Free went into a survival mode of conserving resources and maintaining our local core membership.  By the late 1990's support for preparedness and survivalist began to revive as terrorism, economic instability, natural disaster, epidemics and other obvious challenges began to be recognized by the public. Variations of survivalist such as the “prepper” movement and the “homesteading” movement began to emerge.  At the same time the internet provided a new avenue for Live Free to outreach, network, promote and organize.  The dawn of the Twenty-First Century brought with it multiple natural and man-made disasters combined with a matrix of potential survival challenges that established preparedness and survival education as a major requirement for the public.  Some new preparedness magazines were in publication, and preparedness expositions were being held throughout the country.

The early part of this century has seen Live Free reestablish itself as the leading organization for survival and preparedness.  While members can join on-line through our website at, we still provide hard-copy mailings to all those who prefer that method. Our American Survivor newsletter remains the only continuously published survival publication from the 1970's and Live Free USA has been advertised in most national survival magazines in recent years.  We have several active chapters and conduct multiple training events annually.  Live Free USA and Live Free chapter groups have exhibited and presented at dozens of preparedness expositions. Unlike the 1980's when Live Free was the major focus of media attention and the public actually joined and participated in organized groups, today the internet fragments and dilutes the public’s attention on any one group and the public tends to prefer virtual rather than real involvement.  Hard-copy publications are often replaced by a video or blog.  There are literally thousands of survival websites and hundreds of survival and preparedness (for profit) suppliers and trainers.   This has made it difficult for Live Free to grow as it did in the 80's, but we are an important part of the growing movement.

This organization started with a number of handicaps that most organizations don’t have.

  • We started without any support or sponsorships at all and the members themselves could not afford much in the way of contributions until much later.
  • We had no lawyers, accountant’s businessmen, or other professionals to help us build the organization. Most groups have a lot of pro-bono help.  Most groups have members taking care of the website, tax documents and other issues, we do not.
  • We have no sponsors or significant donations and have never received any kinds of grants.
  • Telling folks that they need to prepare for some bad times is not necessarily popular. Unless there has been a recent disaster or serious scare event interest and support drops.
  • Although we are classified as a “public charity” by the IRS we don’t get any of the support that a group like the Red Cross or Boy Scouts will receive. In fact we get less than $100.00 per year in contributions even though we conduct our education programs for free.
  • Other than memberships and a few book sales we have no solid financial support system.
  • When membership increases and/or activities multiply, the same few volunteers get overloaded and we are forced to reduce operations when we should be increasing them.
  • We have no actual headquarters, office or training facility from which to efficiently expand operations and house a staff. Only a major grant or contribution will address this issue.
  • We have a lot of training equipment and supplies and there are some bequests that may come to Live Free in the years to come, but the equipment may need to be disposed of if they are not going to be used, and the organization must still exist for the bequests to be made in the future.

When I retired from my day job a few years ago I determined to give a final push to get Live Free to a point of sustainable growth and solid operation. I traveled to many preparedness expositions, wrote for many magazines and put aside some personal priorities in favor of building Live Free.  We have had some notable successes, but I am disappointed that we have not attracted more young leadership and outside financial support.  Illnesses and age among our core members has begun to seriously degrade our operations.  Developments in the next 12 to 24 months will determine the future of the organization.  Live Free USA is the only tax-deductible, not-for-profit organization in the United States (maybe the world) dedicated to healing people prepare for survival situations and become more self-reliant. Certainly, there has never been a greater need for what we do, yet our existence is in jeopardy.   

I welcome everyone's suggestions and participation as we go forward.  Please consider  attending our 50th Annual Meeting on March 24th at 1:00 PM in Cabela's Conference Center in Hammond IN. 

Can North Korea Win a War with the USA?

Can North Korea Win a War with the United States?

From a survival/disaster point of view it is only important that North Korea thinks they can win a nuclear exchange.  If the think they can win they are much more likely to initiate action.  North Korea recently postulated that they would win because (1) their population is tougher and more unified and (2) they have many more deep underground shelters.  America has not experienced the true destruction and deprivations of war on our homeland in over one-hundred and fifty years. We have grown accustom to a level of comfort and security that breeds apathy and an inability to endure hardship.  The ongoing decline of participation in survival camps, Boy Scout camps and other survival oriented programs certainly indicates a softening of our society.  Most great civilizations grow weak and soft over time and are eventually overrun by some form of barbarians.  America is not immune to this historic pattern. America’s massive disunity promoted by the media and the internet would certainly lead a closed and paranoid society like North Korea to convince themselves that we would dissolve in the face of even a limited nuclear exchange.

We can lose and have lost a war against a much weaker opponent. We lost the war in Vietnam because of our division and weakness of political will in spite of the fact that or military had effectively crushed the Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army.  We are having difficulty winning wars against primitive, cave dwelling forces in the Middle East.  North Korea is encouraged by these examples.    A few historic examples that apply to the current crisis are:

  • The Japanese initiated World War Two in spite of being statically overmatched by more than ten-to-one in every category of military and industrial capability. They were convinced that American’s were weak-willed and would not sustain a long struggle across the pacific islands.  Their sneak attack enraged and unified the American public and resulted in a disaster for Japan and the loss of millions of American lives as well.
  • After World War One several prominent British organizations pledged that Britain would never again go to war on the European content. This lead Hitler to be more aggressive and miscalculate.  The result was a disaster for Germany and for Britain.
  • During the Cold War it was reported that the American public’s interest in survival (e.g. survivalists) and preparedness worried the KGB. In spite of the inadequate US government programs the fact that some of the American public were willing to face an Armageddon caused the Soviets to resist the temptation to threaten and intimidate.  This perception may have actually prevented World War Three.

To start a war it is only important that the initiating side believes they can win

While we can and would military obliterate North Korea they could probably still overrun South Korea and heavily damage Japan. Even a few hits on American cities would result in economic collapse and political chaos.  Russia and China would be free to expand and assert themselves as the major world powers.  While Korea might lose, America could lose a lot.  From a purely survival standpoint, any kind of nuclear detonation in even ono or two American cities would result in radioactive fallout, economic chaos, civil disorder, food shortages, and probably epidemics. North Korea has also threatened to detonate an electromagnetic pulse device that could do more long-term damage than actual bombs.

If North Korea (or any other nation) initiates a nuclear or conventional war in the next few years it will be facilitated by our apparent disunity and the public’s inability to face even minimal hardships and discomfort.  A more unified and robust preparedness and survival movement as we had during the Cold War years would go a long-way to discourage would be aggressors.   Weakness invites aggression.


Camp Liberty Report

Camp Liberty Report

Although we had planned Camp Liberty at Goodenow Woods in Will County IL as an “autumn camp” event, mother nature decided to bring us winter with a few snowflakes and wind-chills in the low thirties.  This may have discouraged a few participants, but the stalwarts carried on. It was actually not a s bad as predicted and we were able to explore the area and try a few survival items.  This is a very nice campground, recently upgraded and easy to get to.  We decided to definitely schedule Camp Liberty there next year again, but a few week earlier in October.


Plenty of parking and great, clean campsites. The weather forecast was far worse than the actual conditions, but it probably scared off some would be participants.  Live Free members were the only ones in the whole park.

You Can’t Shoot A Hurricane

You Can’t Shoot a Hurricane!

By James C. Jones, EMT/CHCM

There was a picture in the news recently of a guy shooting at a hurricane. The poor fellow was taking out his frustration, anger and apparent helplessness by emptying the magazine of his handgun into the wind and rain.  The hurricane was unimpressed.  Some people have an emotional attachment to firearms and an attitude that having guns is the answer to every survival problem?  Gun organizations generally have larger memberships and bigger budgets than preparedness groups and gun shows bring in thousands more than the most successful preparedness shows. While I may own a few firearms and I make frequent contributions to gun rights organizations, I consider firearms as just one part of a comprehensive survival, and self-reliance system.  In fact firearms are the solution to only about ten-percent of the potential threats to your survival.  Emergencies that you can’t shoot include:

  1. Communicable diseases
  2. Famines
  3. Droughts
  4. Floods
  5. Earthquakes
  6. Blizzards
  7. Utility outages
  8. Hurricanes
  9. Tornadoes
  10. Wildfires
  11. Severe bleeding
  12. Cardiac arrest
  13. Hypothermia
  14. Hyperthermia
  15. Radioactive fallout
  16. Toxic chemicals
  17. Biological weapons
  18. Home fires
  19. Terrorist bombs
  20. Economic collapse

Admittedly, looting and civil disorder secondary to some of these events could require armed protection at some point.  Firearms are an absolute survival necessity in surviving criminal assault of any kind and could help in hunting for food in a famine. Being able to protect your survival and self-sufficiency supplies is a critical and necessary capability, but being armed without being truly prepared and self-reliant is irrational.

A truly comprehensive survival battery requires four or five well-chosen weapons.

  1. A large caliber, high capacity handgun for home defense
  2. A small compact handgun for concealed carry
  3. A tactical rifle for serious home protection or evacuation during a major disaster
  4. A scoped hunting rifle and/or a shotgun for hunting if that is part of your survival plans.

You should have plenty of ammunition, spare magazines and parts for these weapons and practice shooting enough to be proficient in their use.  Beyond the basic battery you are a gun collector or hobbyist. While it’s fine to have a large collection of firearms they can become a liability under some survival conditions.

  1. If you have a home fire they may be destroyed or the fire department may be “concerned” upon finding them.
  2. If you are forced to evacuate, can you move them all without sacrificing bringing other more useful supplies?
  3. If you cannot bring them all with you, will they be destroyed or looted before you return?
  4. What do you plan to do with the excess weapons? Trade them for supplies?  Give them to your neighbors to support community defense?
  5. Once you have the basic defensive weapons and ammunition, will you balance your preparedness by spending on other survival supplies?

Now, I have encountered people (they are not survivalists) who actually say “I can survive because I have my guns”.  Such attitudes are morally indefensible and functional impractical.

  • Those who have what you need are probably survivalists (admittedly or not) and are going to be armed and resist any attempt to take their supplies.
  • Those who you can intimidate or loot without armed resistance are probably unprepared and have little to take.
  • Having to fight for every meal and shelter will quickly wear you down and result in growing injuries and losses. You and those with you will become detested and will be hunted-down or shot-on-sight by responsible survivalists or law enforcement.

Firearms and firearms related skills must be part of a balanced and responsible emergency preparedness and self-reliance system, but is not the answer to most survival challenges.  Live Free USA started out in the 1960s as a shooting club and evolved into a broader-based survival and preparedness organization precisely because we recognized that you couldn’t shoot most of the dangers to life and freedom that were coming our way.


Nuclear Event Survival Article

With all of the tension around North Korea, I thought it would be a good time to update and republish an article about nuclear survival. Back in the 60s-80s Live Free did a lot of nuclear war survival training and we helped several Civil Defense organizations. In fact, I spoke at the American Society For Civil Defense convention in Las Vegas. I had to follow Edward Teller (inventor of the H-bomb) on the speaking schedule. Since the end of the Cold War nuclear survival has been ignored, but there are many scenarios for limited and semi-limited nuclear exchanges. While we have a lot of other more probable and even more catastrophic hazards today, nuclear weapons remain part of the treat matrix. Because this article is long and illustrated I have included it here as a PDF file


Surprise Disasters and the Death Spiral

More Surprises and the Spiral.

The Subject of our July/August issue was “Surprise Disaster”. Does four major hurricanes and two major earthquakes in the same region in the same month qualify? Other recent American Survivor headline topics included “Severe Weather”, and “Descent into Chios”. We seem to be right on target with our materials. I was looking at a 1970s copy of our newsletter and the headline was “The Coming Age of Terrorism”. Prophetic. Too bad that so few people read our publications.
The recent multiple disasters verifies our predictions about a disaster to catastrophe spiral. There is no such thing as recovery once the magnitude and quantity of disaster outpaces the resources and economies of the civilization. The emergency management agencies were exhausted. The Red Cross was forced to recruit literately off the street to get help. The public’s ability to provide contributions dwindled as each new demand occurred. State and national governments were forced further into debt. Housing prices are predicted to rise as material and labor goes towards replacing home instead of building new ones. Puerto Rico’s utility companies had already field for bankruptcy before the hurricanes struck. All of the funds from “recovery” and response must come from infrastructure improvements, security and safety agencies and from maintenance of the very systems that protect us from the next disaster. This spiral of more disasters, less capability and a weakening economy is unlikely to take us to a safe and prosperous future.

Thoughts on Hurricane Harvey

Thoughts on Hurricane Harvey

By James C. Jones, EMT/CHCM

While most people prefer to think of this most recent disaster as a singular event that Houston and America will recover from, the reality is quite different.  The billions of dollars that must go to rebuilding Houston may look like a boon to the construction industry and replacing the millions of vehicles and other items destroyed will generate some sales and jobs in the short term this is false economy. All of the wealth and labor that will now be expended on rebuilding what was destroyed will be unavailable for other critical needs.  Rebuilding hundreds of thousands of homes in Houston is not building hundreds of thousands of homes for others. 

Funds to rebuild Houston will have to come from progress and proactive programs such as infrastructure improvements, the maintenance of bridges, dams, roads and flood control systems in other regions.  Resources will have to come from security, defense and emergency preparedness. The hundreds of billions now spent on security and the endless war after the 9/11 attacks is not helping the poor or building safer cities. The losses from Hurricane Katrina reduced the defenses in other cities. Each disaster weakens our capacity to respond to the next disaster and disasters are happening with increasing frequency and severity.  

Hurricane Harvey also demonstrated on a small scale the domino affect of disasters.  The flooding caused sewage systems, water pumping systems, hospital generators failed, explosions and fires caused by failed systems could not be accessed by fire and police.  The temporary shutdown of a few refineries impacting the entire country.  Each new disaster makes the next disaster more probable and/or more costly. The politicians and the media work overtime to paint a picture of progress and security, but all of the trends are downward. Every civil disorder, every economic decline, every terrorist act, every flood, every storm, ever wildfire, every man-made disaster makes us poorer, weaker, and more vulnerable to the next and even worse event.

Eventually this chain reaction will lead to a multi-faceted apocalyptic situation. This may even be hard to recognize until our children living in a ruined and subjugated world look back.  This process of multiple and increasing disasters leading to more decline and vulnerability is a worldwide phenomenon.  We can add revolutions, epidemics, famines, wars and water shortages to the spiral in other parts of the world.  These categories of disaster have not yet been added to America’s disaster spiral.  The fact is that the world is broke and civilization is in a death spiral that it refuses to recognize. In the words of George Orwell “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act”.  The spiral is irreversible, but individuals and groups can save lives, protect freedoms and preserve human values and ideals through self-reliance and survival concepts and practices.

If liberty means anything it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear”
~ George Orwell


Welcome Dismal Swamp Preppers (VA)


Dismal Swamp Preppers (Norfolk VA Region)

Contact: Tim and Carol McCann

Description:  We are a small but active group of friends that are working together to learn from each other, teach each other, and be able to depend on each other if times get rough. Our focus is on building community, providing both classroom style and hands-on training, and generally learning self-sufficiency while sharing. A good portion of the classes are based on group input and sharing.

Our Motto is:  Survive. Thrive. Help Others. Help Yourself. No matter what your goal is in the prepping process, this site will help you connect with others of a like mind.

Our past meetings have been classes on the following:

  • Medicinal Herbs and Spices - Growing, Blending, Using
  • Organic Gardening
  • Security - Standing in Place versus Bugging Out / Protecting your family and property
  • Essential Oils for Health Support and First Aid
  • Food Preservation Methods, Old and New
  • Storage Prep, the Good, the Bad and the Just Plain Wrong

Future Classes may include:

  • Preserving with salt
  • Making Pemmican
  • EMP - Prepping for survival and recovery
  • Energy Alternatives
  • Seed Harvesting - How to know when they are ripe, how to harvest, how to preserve, how to tell if the seeds are hybrid or viable
  • Non-Electric early perimeter warnings
  • Barter
  • Ham Radio for Communication
  • Small Engine Maintenance and Repair
  • Water, Water Everywhere class we had in January



The Dying Voices of Survival & Preparedness

The Dying Voices of Preparedness

Will American Survivor be the last preparedness

and survival publication in print?

I was just informed that Backwoods Home magazine will cease publication. This is yet another casualty of blogs, U-tube and free internet content. Backwoods Home was a philosophically a survival magazine, but had a severely limited range. Being published in the Oregon back-country, there was a lot about cabin building, goat raising and jam making and not much about urban and suburban survival concerns. That limited its appeal to less than 10-percent of the population. The cost of paper publication printing and mailing against electronic publication is rapidly reducing the number and size of existing survival and preparedness publications. Even the NRA’s National Rifleman and National Geographic’s magazines are down to less than half of their previous number of pages. Recently Harris Publications ceased publishing Survivors Edge (Harris went entirely out of business), Survivalist magazine and Prepper and Shooter magazines’ have also stopped publication. There are still a number of survival/preparedness magazines published occasionally under various titles found on newsstand shelves. Bugout magazine is still in print as a subscription magazine as is Self-Reliance and Mother Earth News. More alarming is the declining number of good survival and preparedness books being printed. Live Free USA buys survival related books from out-off-print book dealers to sell at expositions, meetings and gun shows. Many of these books are not being reprinted again and are now permanently out-of-print,.
It is unfortunate to see this casualty-rate among printed publications. In my opinion, blogs, posts, email letters and websites lack the quality, depth and sustainability of magazines, newsletters and books.
American Survivor was originally published as “Directions” and then “New Directions” by Live Free starting in the early 1970’s The first issues were actually mimeographed. We are the oldest established and surviving survival/preparedness publication in America. We have survived because (1) we are not trying to make a profit and do not need to make a living at it and (2) we have been dedicated to the cause through its ups-and-downs for decades. At one point in the 1990’s we were down to about 55-issues. Back in the 1980’s we put out a 16-page issue every month. Today we distribute about 500 printed copies ever-other month, but many more are downloaded off the website. I have also found that people have kept back issues from our earliest times in binders. I am reluctant to go to an email only distribution of American Survivor for several reasons.
• About 30% of our members never provide an email address and would probably not renew at all.
• Email publications dump into an ocean of on-line publications, most of-which few have time to find, download and print or read. Personally, I have no time to read 90% of my incoming email and I never download any forwarded stuff.
• Existing email survival magazines seem to be focused on profit and selling stuff to readers, rather than in-depth material.
• Postage and printing are still affordable enough to mail these issues as long as we have help with assembly and stamping.
The real issue is continuity. Most of our writers are well past 60 and volunteers for editing, assembling and managing are harder and harder to find. In the past we have had a number of other editor’s take over, but quit after a year or two after changing the format or running consistently late issues. Recovery and rebuilding then made more work for me. This is why I hang on to this simple format and basic content. We have hundreds of articles in stock and we could even expand the size and circulation if we had others to handle editing, production and mailing. Meanwhile, I will hang on for a few more years if necessary.
Other survival and preparedness publications in my archives are;
• Preparedness Journal: this was a low-budget magazine that was published for a few years late 1990’s focused on the Y2K issue.
• Practical Survival: Published in the late 1980’s through the mid 1990’s
• Survive: a slick, well-illustrated magazine published by the same folks that publish Soldier of Fortune magazine. Published from the early 1980’s to the mid 1990’s
• Survive Tomorrow: A multi-page newsletter that was numbered to be placed in a binder. This was published through the 1980,s
• Survival News: A basic newsletter published out of Riverside IL in the 1980s
• Australasian Survivor: Published by the Aussies in the mid 1980’s
• American Survival Guide: Published From the early 1980’s through the early 1990’s. This was by-far the widest-read and longest-running survival preparedness publication in America. They featured several articles about Live Free USA including our 25th anniversary recognition with yours-truly on the cover, repelling down a cliff.
The above publications ceased distribution because there was a significant decline in interest and support for survival and preparedness immediately after the end of the Cold War. Most survival organizations dissolved and Live Free USA had to drastically reduce publications and activities to survive through this period. Only our loyal, hard-core members and mission dedication kept us going.