Monday, July 30, 2012

Quick Update: My Progress

Hello friends, hope life is treating you well.  I have been quite busy with work, and so of course my personal time and this blog have suffered.  So, today, I figured instead of talking about any specific prepping topic (I have multiple posts in various stages of completion), I figured I would give a short rundown of where I am personally in my preps right now.

As you may have been reading, I consider preps to be a bit more than just going out, buying some things, and stuffing them in a bag, or in a pantry and calling it good.  There are multiple facets, and for me, some are in what I consider "the real world", and some in the "survival world".  I do not mean that distinction as any sort of insult, or that I don't consider prepping and/or survival to be a means of living in the real world.  For me, the "real world" refers more to my everyday life.  Work, bills, time with my family, that sort of thing.  So, in my case, my biggest area of advancement in my preps has been in my physical condition.  I am well aware that I need to lose a few lbs, and after I created this blog, I actually began earnest effort to that end.  I am glad to say I've dropped about 15 lbs and I'm continuing to make the effort to get out more, and be more physically active.  A body at rest tends to stay at rest, and in any sort of survival situation, I don't want to be the weak link in the group I'm in.  I have seen entirely too many short 450lb guys on Youtube making videos of themselves crammed into a 5XL tactical vest, breathing hard as they're walking through the woods on the way to their shooting spot.  I mean, that's just you walking to the range?  Come on, now.  You know what you need to do. 

So, that's my positive advancement in one area.  Sadly, in another area, I've been getting kicked around lately.  My personal finances recently took a huge hit as my home's air conditioning unit died, and I've also gotten bad news from my dentist that I will have to have some costly dental work done.  I'm trying my best to keep a positive outlook, but I would be lying if I said that I hadn't had a couple restless nights lately thinking about my personal money situation.

Of course, before all this happened, I had been working on some of my situational preps.  I have had some good help in both the food supplies area, as well as the information/advice area from some of my close family members who are avid (and highly advanced) preppers themselves.  They are much farther along than I am, and my plans definitely take this into account.  Their home would almost certainly be an ultimate backup location in the event of a longstanding natural disaster that leveled the area I live in.  They live far enough away that their home might survive whatever that disaster is.  So, it's a good thing.  Since I have started this blog, I have been putting together a true bug-out plan, as well as some different routes we might take in the event we have to leave.  I have also bought more food to store, as well as making up a list of things our BOBs don't currently have.  In the last few months or so, I've started acquiring items as I either find them, or have the money to buy them. In no particular order:

- I finally purchased a decent oil storm lantern for the house to use in the event of a power outage, along with a few containers of the oil it uses.

- I purchased some pairs of work gloves for our BOBs, which was a tip I picked up from some video on outdoor survival I watched, where in every scene, the guy was wearing those leather palmed mechanic's gloves.  I think it's a great item to have in every BOB, especially if your plan includes hiking through the woods.  Keeping your hands safe, and undamaged will be absolutely vital.  All it would take is one bad scratch to get infected, or a bad splinter, or a couple fingers broken when you threw your hand out to catch yourself as you slipped down a short hill in the woods to really slow you down, or worse, make you a burden on the rest of your party.

- I have purchased small car first-aid kits for both household cars, as well as another larger first aid kit, along with multiple other first aid type items to go in them.

- I have gotten my hands on multiple 100ft long bunchs of 550 cord.  The things you can do with 550 cord are nearly limitless.

- I obtained two small "throwaway" grills for something like four bucks each.  These little things are fantastic!  I stumbled onto these when a local grocery store actually had the forethought to put together a "Bad Weather Survival" endcap in a prominant place.  They are these small tin pans full of charcoal that have a grate and two little fold-down arms that the thing sits on.  Sure, I keep my grill at home always stocked with propane, as well as a spare tank in the garage, but if we had to leave,  we could take these with us, and at least have a hot meal two of the nights we were on the lam.  I don't need to go into what a huge moral booster a hot meal can be in times of stress.

- Numerous different flashlights and flashlights, as these things ALWAYS come in handy, and honestly, you can never have too many.

-  I have been able to find some decent bottles of water purification tablets, as well as several packs of completely waterproof matches.  These are both must-have items in my geographical location since it's one of the more humid parts of the country.  Your matches have to be kept dry, and any water you find might not be potable.

- Two 5 gallon water jugs to serve as water storage.

That's about all that comes to mind, but of course, I'm sure I'm forgetting a few things here and there.  Right now, my current plans include getting my hands on the following:

- Sleeping bags matched to the local climate for my family and I.  This is an obvious need in the event of an on-foot leaving the area.  We have multiple possible backup locations, and might need our own sleeping accommodations in any pretty much any of them.
- A small camp stove for use inside my home in the event of a bunker-in situation where stepping out back of my home is not an ideal situation.  This might be for any number of reasons, but of course, one of the primary reasons is that the rear of my home is visible from the road.  In the event that we have a power outage, my primary concern will be in making sure I don't draw any attention to my house in any way, and the sight (and smell) of me possibly cooking a hot meal on my grill out back would be a detriment to that goal.
- Some means of shelter for our BOBs.  I am mulling over whether a small tent might work, or possibly a couple of tarps.  At present, I am considering the multiple tarp idea, that way we could both carry one, and should we somehow get separated, we'd at least both be able to shelter ourselves from rain or elements with some rope, and that single tarp we'd each be carrying.  With a tent, if my pack were somehow lost, we'd be without shelter.

There are of course many more odds and ends that I want to pick up, but right now, with those items, I'll have our most basic needs covered in the event of a short term bunkering in, as well as a short term bugging out.  I am working on my plans, I'm working on my preps.  I have not forgotten.  I will write more soon.  Until then, stay safe out there, and keep working your way forward.

- Unnamed Prepper

“Survival justifies any means.”
― Toba Beta, My Ancestor Was an Ancient Astronaut

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Doomsday Preppers and SHTF Ruminations:

I have watched the latest episode of Doomsday Preppers and I had some ideas jumbling around in my head that I wanted to get down in writing.  If it comes to too much rambling, I'll probably cut it short at that point.  You've been warned.

First off, let me say that I think Doomsday Preppers has run its course.  In my opinion, they should have cut that show off after the first four or five episodes.  The problem for me is that they seem to have shot their wad early in the season by showing guys like Southernprepper1, that one guy whose entire family is all trained in a different skillset, and that guy who turned his entire backyard and pool into a self-sustaining mini-biosphere.  I mean, seriously, how cool was that?  Now, each episode is starting to feel like they're scraping the barrel.  I mean, each episode just seems to be getting worse and worse.  As an example, I hold up the thug looking guy with three kids who was some shopkeeper in the middle of town.  "In a SHTF situation, I'm going to bring my family to the shop where I have all my preps stashed, and we'll hide out in the basement*!" and then it repeatedly shows a scene where they're interviewing his wife and she's crying because she's upset that this guy has been taking all the family money and spending on preps, instead of the lifestyle they used to have.  I was surprised they showed it, honestly because for some reason they tend not to.  There have been other episodes where you could tell the spouse absolutely was not into prepping, and they would make a point at some point in the episode of showing a scene where the skeptical spouse is suddenly all "I am totally onboard with it, now!"  Staged?  What?  Nooooo.  Never!  It's no secret that NatGeo has been creatively editing the show to sell the agenda that preppers are crazy, so you'd think they'd LOVE showing people who DON'T agree with their spouse spending every cent the household brings in on preps because it's "just so crazy".  Guess I'll keep watching and find out how much farther down the hole they can go.

That said...

If you've been reading, you'll note that I tend to treat the prepper/survival subject with an entire bag of salt.  What this means is that while I DO think prepping is practical, and just an all-around good idea, I don't think some peoples' ideas for doing so have been very well thought out.  I've mentioned my BS Detector, and nowhere does it buzz harder than while watching some of these videos and blogs talking about "OMG when SHTF!" or "When America collapses..." or "When the dollar collapses..." or "When martial law is enacted, REMEMBER KATRINA!" and so on.  I feel like these people just aren't things through completely, and I'll tell you why.

You know, a hundred years ago, prepping wouldn't have even been a hobby, or term used to describe a hobby (or for many, a lifestyle).  Back then, and into the early to mid 1900s, people generally did not live extravagantly.  They put money aside when they could, and stored all the food and household necessities they could, just in case bad things happened.  Which, of course they did on Black Tuesday (the major stock market crash) which kicked off the Great Depression which lasted the entirety of the 1930s until WWII showed up to get the country back to work.  People who lived through that time period were generally very frugal all throughout the rest of their lives.  I have had several elderly relatives who, when I was younger, I remember them telling me stories about that time.  Clearly, these folks were preppers in every sense of the word.

Fast forward to today.  You have millions of Americans who aren't frugal.  They live paycheck to paycheck, and often, not by necessity.  New cars every couple of years, a house full of electronics, closets full of nice clothes, personal hobbies based around the collection of items instead of experiences, "We only eat name-brand food", and so on, all lead to a three-fourths of the country that is only moments away from personal financial disaster at any given time.  I have plenty of firsthand observational examples of this in my personal life.  I knew a guy in college who had to let a car sit in his driveway for six months (that he was still making payments on) because he had modified it and damaged his engine and had to save up for a new one.  What a young guy making $15 an hour (something like that, if I recall) was doing with a car that cost him $600+ a month, I have no idea.  I knew a girl who graduated and got a job after college and then ran up all her credit cards buying a lifestyle she thought a college graduate should have, instead of the one her $20 an hour salary afforded her.  The housing market bubble bursting hit our area pretty hard, leading to steep devaluation of homes and plenty of people either declaring bankruptcy or going into foreclosure because they had bought more house than they could afford, or took undesirable loan terms because they just figured things would keep going like they always had.  The problem is that in the long term, a lifestyle of excess is NEVER sustainable.  Fuel costs, food costs, housing costs, amenities (such as clothing) costs, all are going up, and yearly raises don't keep up with them.  At some point, people need to wake up and realize that they need to make some changes.  If you are a paycheck away from your children not being able to eat, or you not having a warm, dry place to sleep tonight, then something is fundamentally wrong.

So, here's my issue with the whole "SHTF!!" as a preparation goal.  People who generally use this term (a term I'm sure you can tell that I detest, at this point) aren't using it to describe something well within the realm of feasibility.  They are using it to describe something that realistically won't happen.  SWAT team storm troopers aren't going to march down Main Street America and start clubbing people.  The President isn't going to declare nation-wide martial law.  "They" aren't coming fer yer gunz!

Because frankly, if we're being absolutely honest, America's decline is happening already.  It's already everywhere around us.  Ignorance, racism, civil unrest in urban areas, people having no problem breaking into other peoples' homes, the economy hasn't bounced back, bad news on TV every day, entirely incompetent government leadership at every level, everything from a gallon of gas to a gallon of milk is approaching record levels of cost and a dollar doesn't buy nearly what it used to, people everywhere are on edge, the whole SHTF scenerio?  It's happening right now.  Problem is, there was no sudden moment which alerted us to the situation.  There was no specific moment where it was suddenly time to grab your BOB, AR-15, and race out the door to your backup location.  There wasn't a singular instance where you knew it was time to lock the doors, turn off the lights, and start eating canned Spam and freeze-dried food from a five-gallon bucket.  So, when I hear people talking about what they'll do when "SHTF!!!", I have a private laugh to myself.  I mean, what you will do?  What you should be thinking about is: what are you doing right now?

See, the fact of the matter is this.  It's been happening right under our noses for years now.  The signs are everywhere for the person using common sense and a view of the "Big Picture" to see.  The skyrocketing prices of college educations have young people graduating with debt levels that ensure they'll never build any meaningful wealth nor get ahead in life**.  Fuel costs ensure that everything else goes up also (since most items in stores get there by truck, which runs on what?), while oil companies continue to post absolutely mindblowing profits.  At every turn, our politicians pass bills, or try to vote legislation the American people do not support into law.  And that's not party-specific.  They are ALL dirty.  Obamacare?  The news channels were FULL of outrage against that bill.  It passed.  Another example?  The whole "Fast and the Furious" debacle, where it was discovered that Attorney General Eric Holder in efforts to sell Mexican drug cartels weapons (which were then used to kill Americans!!!), so that the incident could be used as incentive to get more stringent, more anti-Second Amendment gun control laws passed.  A third example?  How about this latest Trayvon Martin case?  The New Black Panther Party put out a bounty on George Zimmerman's head, which is absolutely illegal.  Know how many Black Panther party members have thus far been arrested?  None.  No one else has been arrested over what is essentially a wide-open, clear death threat either.  And of course, can't forget the Illegal issue.  The state of Arizona issues laws that were based entirely on Federal laws already on the books in an attempt to get a handle on the issue of all the illegals who were bleeding the state dry, and what happens?  The Federal Government actually SUED Arizona!!!  WHAT?  So, let me get this straight, the state has decided to enforce laws the Fed won't enforce, and now you're going to sue them to ensure they don't carry out those laws YOU'RE supposed to be carrying out?  What?!  What sort of surreal Bizarro-land BS is that??

With all these examples, it then becomes clear that what they want, is Americans engaging in things like endless divisive arguments over topics like Abortion, religion, class warfare, or gay marriage, because quite frankly, those topics don't actually mean anything.  If any of those topics are a huge issue for you , (the reader) above and beyond issues like the economy, the dollar, skyrocketing prices, and politicians doing whatever they want, then I'm sorry.  There's something wrong with you, and you are doing exactly what the Government wants you to be doing.  It all boils down to this for me, people who talk about what they'll do when "SHTF!!!" are comical, because the fan blades are already covered in so much, it's a wonder the damn thing is still spinning.  Time to wake up, folks.  Stay safe out there.

- Unnamed Prepper

"Politics, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage."
AMBROSE BIERCE, The Devil's Dictionary

*Really a crap plan when the only way down into the basement is a set of farmhouse double-doors located on the outside of the building right next to a busy street.  Yeah, really discreet.
**An example: you learn in Finance class about how if you utilize the power of Compound Interest and start investing $500-$1000 a month in your early twenties, you'll have a millions of dollars come retirement time.  And then you graduate from college with $35,000 (or more!) in educational debt.  How are you supposed to have $500-$1000 free a month to invest when you have the price of a car hanging over your head, and you don't make that much for the first several years of your working life?  Absurd.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Inevitable EDC Post:

Survival can mean a lot of different things in a lot of situations.  In a bad natural disaster situation, it can reference you surviving as you fight your way home through clogged streets and damaged urban areas to meet up with your wife because you were at work when a tornado landed in your part of town and started causing massive property damage.  It can mean you surviving as you and your family bug out to your backup location in the event of social unrest that happens to take over your area of town where your apartment is.  It can even mean you continuing to have a life in the event of total social chaos where the entire structure of civilization breaks down.  Survival.

Today, I'm talking about a different type of survival: every day survival.  That's right, welcome to my every-day-carry post.  Before I begin, I'd like to make a recommendation.  If you ever find yourself bored and want to be entertained, might I suggest doing a search of "EDC" on Youtube?  I promise you it's worth the time because some of those geniuses crack me right up.  In fact, a lot of those videos are actually a good example of what not to do.  I will now explain how so, in my typical fashion.  Please try not to be offended.  Remember, in reality, you want to be doing pretty much the OPPOSITE of what a lot of those internet spec-warriors are doing:

1.  Why carry one concealed firearm when you can carry two?  After all, during the course of the day in your quiet everyday life, you might find yourself suddenly embroiled in a major shoot-out showdown with several gang members.  So you need to be prepared!  Also, be sure to carry two different firearms made by two different manufacturers.  That way you'll also need to carry twice the number of magazines, because you have to carry a magazine and at least one spare (true internet SWAT spec-ops sheepdogs carry two or three) for each gun you have.  So be smart, make things more difficult for yourself and carry guns that feature magazines that aren't compatible.

2.  Carrying a knife?  An excellent idea, so given that logic, carrying two or even three knives would be even more excellent! Hey, you never know when one might break or be lost during that inevitable hand-to-hand combat you find yourself in, so that backup folder (on your non-dominant hand side, of course) will really come in handy.

3.  Keychain?  Real survivalists carry a keychain that has eight or nine different survival tools on it.  Mini-flashlights, screwdrivers, can-openers, Swiss Army knives, back-up rings with spare keys in case one of the keys on the main ring breaks, and one of those cool kubaton keychains that nobody knows how to correctly use, all this and more is found on a real EDC keychain.  If you can use your keychain as a bludgeon in your time of need, so much the better!  That way you're never without a way to defend yourself!

4.  Know what you need?  You need to carry multiple writing pads on your person along with multiple writing instruments at all times, because you never know when you might need to jot down an idea during a gunfight and need to rewrite it on the backup pad after your main pad is shot out of your hand Wild-West style during that mall shoot-out with that mad-dog street gang you found yourself pulled into, you know, doing your sheep-dog duty and all.

Ok, I think you get the idea.  Essentially, what I'm saying is that there are a lot of Youtube preppers out there who apparently wear cargo pants every day, and you've got to hear these guys coming with the way they're rattling and clanking around every step they take.  I mean, I myself have cargo pants that I wear on occasion, but these guys apparently have the room to stow several lbs of stuff on their person at any given time.  It is not uncommon to see a guy's EDC video laid out just as I have (sarcastically) described it: multiple handguns, multiple knives, multiple writing instruments, multiple pads, a huge keychain, and more, all that they swear they carry on their person every single day.  These are usually the same mouthbreathers who spend a great many posts or videos talking about the need to be ever vigilant every moment of every day, even when asleep, because you never know when the balloon will go up, and you, Joe Citizen will be called upon to "do your part" and "protect the sheep".  (Does the Meet the Fockers two fingers pointed at my eyes, then I swivel the hand to point the two fingers at you) Youtube poster Nutnfancy* has done a really good job of fomenting a lot of this mindset in people like that, and frankly, it's both frightening and disgusting.  Here's a hint.  If you fancy yourself some protector of the public, get off your ass and join the Military, or else become a police officer.  Any other scenario (like the ones you fantasize about where you "save the day" by taking down the bad guy with your conceal carry weapon by staging a shoot-out in a public place) is only going to land you in jail.  The real world is not Youtube-land.  Sorry. 

To put it candidly, I'm going to call bullshit (I usually get my comments deleted and banned from that particular channel whenever I do) on carrying all that stuff in your pants pockets and on your belt every single day.  Listen, part of my job is working with the Military in a capacity that I won't speak about, but one of the things I can say is that a lot of active duty guys are carrying a ton of stuff around at any given time in their pockets, and when they do, you hear it.  Do you remember what I've said in the past about not attracting attention to yourself?  Right.  Therefore, I tend to do things a bit differently.  So, at this time we'll move past the always entertaining "making fun of internet SEAL team SWAT warriors" section of the festivities and get to the actual rundown of my own every day carry.  Like many others, I have various different preparedness methodologies either planned out, or are under way.  Our BOBs and my GHB** do not serve normal EDC functions, so bear that in mind.  I will cover these other systems in a future post***.

For every day carry, I don't actually carry much more than the average guy on my person.  What I carry is as follows:

1. A good quality folding knife.  Usually, it's a Benchmade.  I consider a good pocket-knife the bare minimum of every day carry.  There may be days or times when I don't have any of my other gear on me, but you can bet I have my knife.  I am never without it.  But alas, I am not a super SWAT specwar commando, so I only carry the one.  I would advise you get into the habit.  Knives come in vast array of sizes, steels, and blade types and configurations.  I am a big fan of half-serrated blades, because even if your knife is dull (sharpen that thing before you hurt yourself, man!!  Come on!), a half-serrated blade will almost always perform the deed.  For example, find yourself in a car wreck and need to cut your seat-belt so you can get out of the car?  A good half-serrated knife will get it done whereas a dull straight blade might not.  The knife I carry is also big enough to serve as a self-defense knife in a pinch, and you may consider carrying one large enough to perform that function for you as well (although I don't recommend trying to use a knife if you don't have to).
2. A small pen-light that I keep slid into the same pants pocket that holds my knife.  The light I currently carry is about the size of a Sharpie marker.  Made by 5.11, if I recall correctly.  I used to scoff at people who actually carried a flashlight, because hey, I work in a lit office, who needs to carry a flashlight around.  But a good prepper buddy (one of the guys I talked about last post, in fact) made a good case for carrying one, so I went and bought one.  Once I started carrying this light, I have used it a million times it seems like.  If I need to step into a darkened room at home to get something from my desk, instead of flipping on the lights, I just use my flashlight.  When out walking in the evenings with my wife, I will sometimes use it to look into dark areas between buildings.  I have used it to find things that rolled off the table in a dimly lit local bar we were at.  The light I have produces 130 lumens, which is more than up to the task.  I generally do not go out without it these days. 
3. Wallet.  I think this is a given.
4. Cell-phone.  I have gone one step further and purchased a Lifeproof (look 'em up) case for my iPhone.  Boasts mil-spec level protection, plus is completely waterproof.  Protecting your phone just makes good sense.
5. Key-ring that generally only carries my car, house, office, and mail key, along with a metal tag shaped like the badge of the brand of car I own.  I am a fan of many of the neat little keychain survival tools out there, however I am a bigger fan of being able to put my keys in my pants pocket.  I work in an office environment pretty much all of the time, so a huge jangling keychain with several fob-shaped/sized tools on it just isn't practical or convenient.
6. A good pen.  Currently I am in favor of the stainless steel metal bodied pens from Zebra.  They are only several dollars, but in a pinch they make good stabbing tools.  Also, I have had various martial arts training courses, and can actually use a kubaton type instrument effectively if required.  Both this pen, and my flashlight could serve that purpose if needed, and neither telegraph themselves as useful for that purpose, which I like.  I have actually seen people get pulled aside for an in-depth "examination" by TSA authorities at airports because people had those aforementioned kubaton keychains in their carry-on.  Whereas, I breeze by with multiple Zebra pens in my carry-on bag with no problems.  The logic to take from this?  It doesn't have to look like a weapon in order to be a weapon.

And that's about it.  However.  I also carry a large messenger laptop type bag.  The one I have is a
Targus brand model I picked up fairly inexpensively at Target.  It is in this bag that I carry a good deal of my EDC survival-type gear.  I have this bag with me every day, and have relied on its contents many, many times in the past at one point or another.  I won't list out explanations for the following items unless deemed necessary, but will give you a full rundown of what I actually have full access to at any given time (not necessarily in any logical order):

- small "first aid" kit that contains: spare pair of contacts, band-aids, pain-reliever pills, decongestant pills, chapstick, eye-drops
- several pens
- two spare batteries for my pocket flashlight
- a subcompact .40 caliber pistol (Kahr) with a second magazine.  I have my conceal carry license and am thus legally allowed to carry this firearm.
- multiple charge cables for my iPhone and other miscellaneous electronics (even if I am not carrying those electronics at the time.  Cables weigh nothing, and a great many devices use the same adaptors.  Never know when a friend's cell phone might need charging)
- two or three energy bars
- a small ziplock baggie of diet/energy pills
- a large Brita squeeze bottle.  Not only do I have a bottle of water, but I have Brita's (somewhat limited) filtering capabilities to act on any other water I might source throughout the day
- a solar powered charger that all my USB charger cables can plug into
- an air pillow
- spare pair of socks
- spare pair of undershorts
- deodorant stick
- breath-mints and gum packs
- digital camera
- iPod
- iPad
- large Write-in-the-Rain pad (with a pencil)
- a large 550 paracord bracelet that I sometimes wear (contains 25 ft of paracord when unraveled)
- a USB car charging plug (anything with a USB cable can then be plugged into a car's power outlet)
- stamps
- two pairs of headphones
- a pair of foam ear plugs

This is what I currently have.  Some of these items may seem puzzling ("I mean, who carries around spare underwear in their bag, UP??") but the way this bag is currently configured, I can remove the firearm and spare magazine, and be ready to board the plane.  Knife and flashlight (which looks somewhat tactical because it's black) go into my checked luggage, and I'm on my way with no hassles.  And frankly, if you have ever traveled, then you know why I carry some of the stuff I do.  I have been very grateful to have clean undergarments to put on once or twice when my bag was lost in transit, and I was able to rely on those when my bag wasn't delivered until the next morning.  I also add a toothbrush to my bag before traveling for this purpose.

So, as you can see, I generally use this as my EDC bag, and my system has been working quite well for some time, now.  I have had opportunities to use most of the stuff in this bag, and the best part that all told, it weighs several lbs, a far cry from the backpacks I used to carry in my college days.  There is even room for my laptop when required.  Hopefully, this gives you a few ideas for things to start having with you, and if you have any suggestions for me, please feel free to leave them in the comments section.  Thank you for sticking with me through another short novel of a post, and we'll talk again here in a few days.  Stay safe out there.

- Unnamed Prepper

"Be prepared."
 - Boy Scout Motto   

*I won't be surprised if I get a comment or two from people defending this guy.  His zombie followers are pretty loyal.
**Get Home Bag
***Yes, I'm aware that I've promised you posts on a couple other topics as well.  I'll get to 'em, I promise!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Quick Update: Friends

Hello fellow Internet citizens, wanted to discuss a topic near to my heart and mind today.  Right now, I have a very close friend working on a post or two, which I will be putting up for your perusal and information here really soon.  The guy's as sharp as they come, and not only is he a prepper himself, but has various other experiences (both educational and Life) that have helped him to get to where he is today, and where he continues to go.  He has some various training that compliments what I have, so he's not only a great friend, but a really good resource to have around for information, and just to bounce ideas off of.  So, be on the look-out, that will be up soon.

And that brings up a good point of discussion to mind, which I'd like to go into here.  Like many of you reading this, I am very fortunate, and blessed to have several friends who I know I could count on in times of need.  A few of those, they are preppers also* and are definitely included in any longterm plans that I may make.  Now, I naturally would help my non-prepper friends to the best of my ability, that goes without needing to be clarified.  But, that said, it's great that I do have a few friends who really "get it" and so those become assets instead of liabilities (in the strictest of terms).  Like myself, they are like-minded preppers, and I count them as staunch allies.  And really, those of you reading this really, really need to keep this in mind.  I have only seen a few internet preppers discuss this topic.  The fact of the matter is this: you will need friends in pretty much every survival situation.  Think about it for a moment.  A lot of preppers talk about stockpiling food, guns, ammo, home fortifications and so on, and that's all great.  But the fact is, having friends to call on, whether it be as using their home as a BOL**, having them around in a disaster situation as an extra pair of hands to help, and an extra sense of judgement, or even putting a shotgun in their hand and having them to help you repel attempted home intrusion in the even of a total WROL situation; ALL of these situations can be made easier with your friends being there.  But online, I have seen some preppers saying things like "Well, I wouldn't call my friends because then they'd want to come stay with us, and use our generator power, or eat from our food stores, or drink some of our water." or "Well, I don't really want to have to look after extra people."  Frankly, I find that mindset disgusting.

Listen.  Here's the fact of the matter.  As usual, I'll skip right to the common sense.  First thought in my head?  You can't stay up forever.  It's that simple.  That's just one simple example.  If power is out in your neighborhood after a bad natural disaster, it's a given that looters may come prowling your neighborhood to see if there are any easy pickings.  If that happens, and it's just your wife and yourself, what will you do?  "Simple UP, I'll stand watch while my wife sleeps, and then she'll stand watch while I get some rest."  Hey, that is fantastic.  In a situation where your wife has trained, prepped, and studied to the point where she has a similar threat-response skillset to yours, that is just great.  But fact is, most preppers don't have that.  Hell, I myself don't have that.  My wife is intensely intelligent, fierce, beautiful, and tenacious.  But do I think she'd have the same ability to repel an attempted break-in with overwhelming force and terminal finality?  No, I don't think so.  For one thing, I am physically much, much larger and stronger than she is.  I will meet an attempted break-in with terminal force, no other way to say it.  In my state of residence, this is allowed per our laws (thankfully). 

And to be clear, there are no surprises here, she reads this blog.  She has an array of skillsets that highly compliment mine, and she does train periodically with firearms and is a great shot.  When I travel for work, I am comfortable in my knowledge that she would be able to defend herself from a standard break-in.  But in a serious, disaster-type extended situation, people are going to be desperate.  An alarm sounding (most alarms won't even be working in the case of a power outage!) or a present homeowner won't deter a determined perpetrator.  I can readily admit that I would most likely move her, our supplies/preps, to another more fortified location if the need was there, or else I would call on one or more of my friends to come stay with us.  Primarily I would do this to provide the best protection for her that I could.  And frankly, that means another big burly guy with experience in firearms, such as one of my close friends, or another prepper friend of mine who's really good with a shotgun.  It's that simple.

And hey, let me touch on the "Friends will want to eat my food, drink my water, need my ammo!" mindset.  You know what?  First of all, you should be taking a couple extra people into account anyway.  What's the worst outcome?  Alright, so you saved up enough water supplies to last five people for two months in the event of a major natural disaster.  Excellent.  Well, hey, the disaster happens, and one of your friends is able to make it to your location.  So, it's you, your wife, and your friend.  Well, that two month supply of water for five people can now be stretched out even further because it's just the three of you.  Hey, you saved up a year's worth of food for two people, and you have two friends (a good buddy and his wife) make it to your house, and all they brought was their water supplies, guns, and some ammo?  Well, a year's worth of food for two people is still going to be able to last four people well past any natural disaster being put to rights by local government infrastructure.  What?  You have enough ammo to outlast any horde of zombies, and your buddy and his wife who brought their guns only have a few boxes each?  Well, so what?  If they're helping watch your home, than dammit, give 'em some damn ammo from your stores!!!  Use your head, here.  I will end the rant by saying I don't understand the "It's just me and my family against the world" mindset.  In any truly end-of-society situation, you are going to want as many dependable friends around you as possible, simple as that.  Because bad guys?  Yeah, they have friends too, and you can bet they're going to band together.  So, it's on you to even the odds.

As a last note, please understand that when I say "friends", I am talking about close personal friends, not friendly acquaintances such as Steve the Mailroom clerk at your place of employment.  I do not disclose my preps to anyone outside of my immediate close circle of friends as a general rule, and I would suggest that you inact the same security mindset, which I have talked about before.  It sounds silly when you first think about it, but honestly?  Having a beer at a company function and talking about your shared enjoyment in sports isn't the same thing as seeing how people will truly act in their personal lives.  And the last thing you need in your immediate vicinity in a tense survival situation is an unknown quantity like people you don't know that well.  So, don't risk the headache (or worse).  Only allow like-minded close friends to know about your preparations.  Include them in your plans.  Be included in theirs.  Understand up front that you may be called on to help support them with your supplies, just as they understand they may need to support you with theirs.

At the end of the day, human beings work together better, and can accomplish more than they can on their own.  This is the basis of any strong, stable society.  Don't discount it.  Stay safe out there.

- Unnamed Prepper

"If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself."

- Henry Ford   

*Amazingly, they were preppers independently of any urgings on my part.  Always great to find out you have a shared interest beyond the usual fare.
** Bug Out Location

Monday, April 9, 2012

Prepping on a Budget and OH NOEZ, Big Brother Is Watching You!

Good day, folks.  Wanted to drop a quick update to my small number of readers.  No seriously, those of you in Alaska, Russia, and assorted other faraway places, thanks for stopping by!

First up today, I wanted to briefly discuss prepping on a budget, since this is often a huge topic of discussion in the prepping community.  A lot of new preppers that post up in various forums I ghost/lurk on all seem to have the same complaints.  They watch all the Youtube preppers posting hundreds of videos of their many firearms, or their year's worth (or more) of stockpiled food for several people, or their other in-depth preps, and it all kind of overwhelms these folks who are new to the prepper game.  What they fail to take into account is that a lot of these people have been doing this for years.  And really, shows like "Doomsday Preppers" don't help matters with their (frankly) bullshit editing where make a point of having the preppers featured mention how much money they've spent overall.  What good does someone featured on the show admitting they've spent $50,000 over the years do for the beginner to hear?  Often, this leads to feelings of inadequacy or "I just can't do it!" and so they just throw their hands up and say "Forget it".  This is exactly the wrong message to send, I feel.  Instead, my advice is to start out small.  Every prepper out there has been where you were once.  Bear a few things in mind.  And remember, I try to remain a realist with a dash of optimist thrown in for spice:

1.  The United States won't collapse tomorrow.  So, if you can't afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars right this minute on gold, silver, or other precious metals to stockpile for the end-times, when you'll need to trade that gold for a case of green beans and a crate full of chickens, don't worry about it.  If you truly want to get to the point that some preppers are at, you're going to have to do it just as they did, and start saving some money from each paycheck, and then go buy yourself some precious metals.  Simple as that.

2.  Zombies are not going to attack your neighborhood tomorrow.  So, if you can't afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars right this minute on a gun-safe full of AR-15s (each with a fancy optic) and 50,000 rounds of ammo, or a bag full of pistols with thousands of rounds stored for each one, don't worry about it.  If you want to be able to arm a small compound with enough weapons to get WWZ properly underway, you'll have to do it the same way all those Youtube preppers did: save your money up, then go buy yourself some serious firepower!

3.  The grocery stores and trucking/shipping infrastructure of the US won't collapse tomorrow.  So, if you can't afford the thousands of dollars in freeze-dried food in those huge five gallon buckets, supplemented with a basement full of shelves stocked with canned goods and peanut butter along with 3,000 gallons of bottled water, don't worry about it.  If you want to have enough food and to keep yourselves going for a year or more, you'll need to do what those forum guys with all that food and water stockpiled did, save up and buy a bunch at once...or else, do it the smart way and every paycheck, pick up a little something. A bag of rice here, some sixpacks of canned tuna that were on sale there...pretty soon, your pantry is going to look like the pantries of some of those folks on "Doomsday Preppers". 

The point I'm trying to make should be fairly obvious by now.  Don't go read forums/blogs or watch Youtube videos (or that damn Doomsday show) featuring preps that took people years and years to assemble, and then let yourself become discouraged because you can't go out and come to that same level all at once.  Some of those folks have nothing else in their lives other than their preps*,and have spent years and years worth of paychecks singularly on supplies, firearms, ammunition, and other prepping areas such as home fortification, and so on.  These sorts of folks (as best as I can tell from their videos/blog posts) don't live the normal middle-class existence.  They don't go out to eat most nights, they don't go out on the weekends with friends (or if they do, they aren't down at the bar blowing $200 on a bartab), and they don't buy things they don't need like flashy sports-cars.  They tend to live beneath their means, and spend the extra money that frees up on prepping supplies.  That is the difference.  If you want to begin prepping, and don't feel that you'll be able to commit to a total life-change, that's ok.  I think I'm probably one of the first people I've ever seen on the subject who will outright say that.  Not everyone is going to see the logic in preparing for the total collapse of the government.  Not everyone is going to decide they need a safe full of long-guns.  For many, a backpack with some food, clothing, water, and a couple boxes of ammo for their used Glock they got on sale, all sitting next to the door and ready to go will be plenty. 

Don't be discouraged.  With prepping, disaster preparedness, or the survival mentality, morale is everything.  If you can envision yourself doing it, you can do it.  Simple as that.  Start small.  Map out a realistic budget as part of your planning stages.  Can you spare, say $50 a month?  Hell, $50 a paycheck?  That's $100 a month right there.  With that sort of funding, you're going to be a fully stocked prepped household in no time, to be quite candid with you.  I mean, $50?  That's 50 one-gallon jugs of drinking water, as an example.  What is that?  Well, considering that the standard rule of thumb is one gallon per person, per day as a minimum, that means you have water for one person for almost two months!  You can spare $100 a month?  That's insane.  That's two lanterns, at around $30 apiece (for decent camping lanterns) and $40 left over to buy fuel canisters.  Wait, you can buy those cheap storm-lanterns that run on kerosene at Wal-Mart for what, $10 apiece?  A big jug of kerosene is like, $6.  So, essentially, for that month's $100 outlay, you are going to have light to read by, enough to last through almost any power outage situation.  What's that?  You're not really making that much coin?  Alright, let's see, $30 a paycheck?  $60 a month?  That's enough money to buy enough Ramen to last you a year right there.  Next month's $60, buy 60 jugs of water, boom.  Month after that, buy a $50 camp stove, and four canisters of fuel.  Month after that, start working on a bug-out bag.  Hit up the thrift store and pick up a couple cheap backpacks, and go from there.  Couple of cheap ponchos, a few space blankets, some energy bars, some extra pairs of socks, and some bottled-water, and you have the makings of a cheap Get Outta Dodge bag, and all for silly cheap.

You don't need $2,000 tricked out assault rifles, enough ammo, food, and water to outfit a battalion, or a super high-end Maxpedition pack filled with top-of-the-line camping-store charge card goodies in order to be prepared to a pretty decent degree.  Plenty of people out there are just like you, in the same financial situation you are in, and prepping on the cheap.  Use your head, and some common sense, and you're going to be fine.

Speaking of using your head, that brings me to my second topic of discussion. Now, before I get into this, please understand that I have always had a pretty heavy sense of skepticism.  I have a highly developed BS Meter, and when things don't pass the standard "sniff check", I'll say so.  This subject is one of those.  Very recently, I watched a few Youtube videos that all seemed to have the same message, as though several of the big YT-preppers all read the same article somewhere in a similar time-frame and had to make a commentary video on it, or else posted up their opinion in agreement.  Not sure, but due to the nature of the topic, I'm pretty sure it was posted on some conspiracy theory board I don't read.

I digress.  Anyway...

The topic of discussion centered around the idea that a lot of conspiracy theorists (and no small number of preppers, apparently) hold where they feel that the Government** is not only able to monitor our every move, but is actively doing so, and targeting preppers. 

Ok, first off, this is absurd.  I'm sorry, but it is.  I know that a lot of preppers have a strong dislike for the Government.  I know they have a strong dislike for authority agencies like the FBI or NSA, or whoever.  Yes, I'm aware that the NSA and FBI have multiple technologies that would allow a  specific government agency focused on finding out everything about you to easily do so.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, here's the gist of it.  Some people are concerned because they appear to have just recently discovered something that's been a reality for something like 20 or more years now.  Let's be candid.  I understand the logic behind the paranoia.  I do.

"They"*** can track every purchase you make, they know all of your spending habits, they know about all your internet haunts, they have on file every word you've ever typed and it's all cross-referenced by every IP you've ever had, they are listening in on every call you make on your cell phone (well, when they aren't busy GPS tracking your cell phone when you visit that little cabin in the woods you think no one knows about where you have some supplies stashed), they know about every gun you own, they know how much ammo you have, and they know all about your food stash, your preps, even that class III vest you paid cash for at the last gun show. 

Here's why it's bullshit: you're a nobody.

I mean, are you kidding me with this?  I'm trying not to be outright offensive here, but really.  Come on, already.  There are over three hundred million Americans.  How many people are active duty armed forces?  How many people are in all the local/state police forces, National Guard forces, TSA, NSA, FBI, DOE, DOT, hell, Secret Service, etc., etc., etc.??  Why would any of those groups be looking for you?  Listen, there's an old saying I know you've heard before, "if you don't want to be noticed, then don't attract attention".  Well, trust me when I say that it takes more than a Youtube channel full of videos of you having indicated that you dislike the current Administration, talked about what ARs and shotguns you have, and that you have a year's supply of food to be "noticed".  Law enforcement or "They" aren't going to be "coming to take all your preps in an emergency situation".  This seems to be the going mindset.  "Well, the government is going to come take all our supplies, guns, and ammo if there's civil unrest!"

What?!  Listen, I'm not going to go into what I do for a living, but suffice it to say that this is one of those rare times where I am speaking from professional experience and prior knowledge of How The System Works.  And I'm here to tell you that, unless you've been making a bunch of cell phone calls where you talk about assassinating a certain key political figure who tends to take trips in a winged vehicle whose name rhymes with Chairhorse Fun, then I am able to tell you from a position of reasonable certainty that you aren't even in any sort of nebulous "Person of Interest/Suspicion" database.  You living in a rural area and trying to "live off the grid" and paying for everything with cash is fine.  For one thing, that wouldn't stop the Feds if you did become a POI/S.  There are so many systems in place that retain personal information about you, it's easy for them to find you with a couple of phone calls, really.  But hey, if it makes you feel better, go for it.  Certainly nothing wrong with it.  Hey, as an example, I explained early in my posting on this blog that I use it as a means of obscuring my identity and having a place where I can freely talk about a subject which I realize might bring ridicule on me if various people in my life discovered my interest in it.  If the Feds wanted to find me, and everywhere I'd ever been online, it would be accomplished in a matter of minutes.  Then they'd pull up my driver's license or other personal documentation in government systems and simply send a car out to my house to pick me up.  And here's the thing: same goes for you.

But they won't.  Because they don't care about you.  Simple as that.

Problem is, it's not really the Feds you have to worry about.  Are you reading this on a computer you own?  That's hooked up to the internet?  Then too bad, you're already in the "System", and have been for some time.  Hell, you think the Feds are insidious; they don't hold a candle to companies like Google who are tracking what sites you visit when you use their search engine, read your Gmail emails at random, track what sites you purchase goods from, who you bank with, and what your interests are.  Do you have an iPhone?  Apple has been busted multiple times now keeping tabs on peoples' personal calling habits, from who you call most often (which they then cross reference to see if that person is using one of their devices) to when you call, what apps you buy, how you use the phone, and using the built in GPS to build a profile of your "everyday" whereabouts.  Your bank?  Well, I think you already have an idea of how invasive the whole FICO thing is.  Plus, banks regularly sell your personal information and credit and bill-paying histories to multiple companies who exist solely to build consumer profiles about people so they can sell these to other companies who will then try to market goods and services to you.

Don't believe me?  Do a search sometime on yourself.  And they're just one of the many, many services of that type out there.  So, please.  Take my advice.  Do your due diligence in making sure you aren't a target of identity theft, but understand that at this point, you're already in the "system" you are afraid of.  And you have been for many years.  If you are reading this, and you're a veteran prepper, I invite you to take notice of the fact that you haven't had your door kicked in by a team of SWAT stormtroopers as black helicopters with harsh spotlights illuminate your whole house.  They don't care about you.  You're not a person of interest.  So, it should be clear that while there are companies out there with full profiles on you, to them, you're just a statistic, one name in a list of millions.  Sometimes, preppers get really carried away, and lose focus.  Don't be that guy.  Keep a level head, a positive attitude, and at the end of the day, stay safe out there.

- Unnamed Prepper

"Imagine a thousand more such daily intrusions in your life, every hour and minute of every day, and you can grasp the source of this paranoia, this anger that could consume me at any moment if I lost control. "

- Jack Henry Abbott

*Which I am definitely not going to condescend towards.  We are all different, with different things we assign levels of importance to.  
**DUN DUN DUUUUUUN  (Picture a Vaudeville villain twirling his mustache and covering his face with his cape) 
***Ever notice how nutjob conspiracy theorists always have this nebulous "they" whom they feel is out to get them?  Big Brother, Big Government, Big Corporations, the Men in Black, the CIA, FBI, NSA, TSA, DOE, and hell, the DOT, are all watching your every move.  Right now.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Inevitabile Survival Firearms Post:

Hello readers, I am forced to once again apologize for a long delay between posts.  Work has remained hectic, with both travel, and various other parts of the job that all conspire together to wipe me out by the end of the day.  It results in me not having much time or energy for writing.  So, updates will be somewhat sporadic from me for awhile, and I just have to be candid about it.  That said, let's talk about a huge topic of debate amongst survivalists: firearms.

I have seen countless videos that discuss this subject, and you have too.  Lots of articles will break down a list of "absolute must-have SHTF guns" into a list which usually contains three or five firearms.  I will discuss a few of these for your edification, going by a list of the standard four types instead and we'll get to that in a moment.  Previously, I have spoken multiple times about the necessity of planning, and also on making sure you are keeping a realistic perspective.  The firearms subject is no different.  The fact is this (to my mind): you won't be staging any extended gun battles with "the bad guys" or "zombies".  A lot of preppers seem to discuss the need for security as though surviving waves and waves of attackers (armed or otherwise) is a real eventuality.  I do accept that anything is certainly possible, but probable to any degree?  In this case, no.  To that end, they talk about stockpiling tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition and the need for an arsenal of firearms.  As for having to fight off these waves of bad guys, the sad fact is, if you find yourself in that situation, then you probably shouldn't have stayed in that location in the first place.  I know that is not a popular position to take, but there it is.  I always love how videos and survival shows will then show some tired footage of some riot somewhere else in the world, as though "OH NO! This will be happening right in your neighborhood unless you have a ton of guns and ammo!"  This goes back to what I have said before: most people aren't inherently killers.  This includes most preppers. 

All that said, I DO support the view that you should have a firearm of some sort, because it is possible at some point that you'll have to deal with an intruder who has decided to try to break into your home* or to fend off an aggressor you may encounter while on the way to your backup location. But again, try to be realistic in your planning.  Therefore, let's run through that list of the four firearm types, one or more of which may prove most useful to you in your planning:

1.  Pistol: This gun has its own subsection of argument.  Which caliber is the best?  Which gun is best?  Pistol or revolver?  All I can do is give you my own viewpoints on those three main questions.
  • Caliber: My basic answer usually tends to be "Whatever you're good with, and can afford to set some boxes aside."  People argue caliber constantly on various gun boards, but here's the fact of the matter: pretty much every caliber will be deadly if you hit an aggressor in the right place.  For example, people who deride 9mm as "not enough" for a self-defense round oddly never take up on offers to be shot with it, to see how "not enough" it is.  And so, this should tell you that frankly, as long as you pick something with decent stopping power, you're going to be fine.  If all you can afford is .22lr, then that's all you can afford.  It's not the best, but as long as you shoot someone in the face with it, you're going to be fine.  The odds that you'll be beset by a helmeted aggressor are low, unless of course, you find yourself in a Road Warrior remake.  Now, me personally?  I have pistols in both 9mm and .45 caliber.  I enjoy shooting both calibers, and either one would be fine.  Are you a .38/.357 guy?  Alright, good times.  I have owned multiple .357 pistols and revolvers in the past and enjoyed shooting them.  So, pick a good caliber, or if you have the money to do so, buy multiple firearms in a few different calibers and go to town.
  • Pistol or Revolver: Fifty years ago, the easy answer would have been "Get a revolver so you'll know it will always work!".  Back then, there were very few reliable semi-automatic pistols that would feed any ammo, and that could be depended on to work whether dirty or in between cleanings.  Revolvers were the way to go, because a revolver will almost always work, as long as it is a quality firearm from a reputable manufacturer such as Colt or Ruger.  These days however, there are plenty of pistols such as offerings from Glock, Springfield, SIG, and Smith & Wesson that will fit the bill.  Available in any caliber, and able to hold triple (or more) the number of rounds even the best revolver does, accurate and reliable; a pistol these days would be my personal recommendation.  Easier and quicker to reload, a bottom-feeder just makes more sense.  You can stash a pistol and several loaded magazines in a bag, and be ready to go for just about any survival situation, if need be.  A revolver, you'll be doing a lot more reloading, unless you train specifically with a revolver.  Five or six rounds is up pretty quickly if you aren't paying attention.  Pick a platform and get good with it.  
  • Brand: This entire paragraph is going to be my opinion only.  Just want to be clear.  In fact, the following will apply to every firearm discussed in this post.  What brand should you pick?  I would recommend that you go with a brand that has a good history, and a large following.  What this tells you is that that company is making a quality product.  I can't tell you what you should spend.  Only you can ascertain that.  I would recommend this.  Firearms are definitely one of those "you get what you pay for." items.  Would I buy a Hi-Point instead of a Glock because doing so would save me $300?  Not at all.  I personally think that you get what you pay for.  The cheap brands have their defenders**, but even they admit that those cheap firearms don't stack up against actual quality firearms.  And let's be candid, you can buy an excellent quality handgun for around $500.  And you'll have this firearm for the rest of your life, and it will provide many thousands of rounds of service, you'll be able to pass it on to your children.  A small price to pay for such a faithful item.  So, if you're going to buy a firearm, take that extra month, and save up that extra money and buy a quality firearm the first time.  That's my best advice.      
2. Shotgun:  This is pretty much the "do it all" longarm.  Many, many self-defense or home-defense experts recommend that if you can only buy one firearm, make it a shotgun.  I'm not sure I agree personally, because a shotgun isn't very concealable.  For my specific requirements, concealability is pretty high up on my list of requirements.  That said, the variety of types of ammunition available for a shotgun make it one of the most versatile firearms overall, that I do agree with.

3. Rifle: Similar to the pistol/revolver discussion, rifles come in an endless number of different calibers, and each has its defenders.  On the Survival/Gun enthusiast forums, Internet pundits commonly talk about using hunting rifles as sniping rifles for long-range defense.  Well, that's great, but keep in mind that actual long-range shooting isn't at all like Call of Duty where you simply center the scope target reticle at the bad guy's head and pull the right Xbox controller trigger button for a BOOM!  HEADSHOT!!!  Yeah, no.  As a suburban prepper, a rifle does not make much tactical sense for me, and the rifles I do own don't see much use at the ranges I go to.  However, if necessary, I have shot with them enough that I'll be able to hit what I'm aiming at.  I would recommend that you do some serious research if you are interested in purchasing, and becoming proficient with, a rifle.  Aim your research at what your needs are, and what others are using to address those needs.  Also, don't forget optics!  Not too many people making long-range shots without an optic of some type these days.

4. AR15/AK47: What, you didn't think I was going to close a discussion on firearms without mentioning the standard available-to-civilians assault rifle, did you?  This is an age-old argument, and only you, the reader will be able to decide for yourself which of the two better serve your needs.  Both the AR and the AK are amazing combat multipliers*** which give the one holding either one, the ability to fend off a large number of attackers, or to quickly send a large number of rounds downrange onto a target.  There are two other major advantages of these two platforms over a standard hunting rifle.  The first is the large number of rounds both rifles can hold, courtesy of the second: removable magazines in various denominations (5, 10, 20, 30).  So, essentially, you can have one guy with an AR or AK with a stack of magazines successfully able to engage a much larger aggressor force (provided that guy is either well concealed or shooting from a protected position).  I really can't tell you whether one is better than the other.  I personally own an AR-15, and love it.  It's accurate, light, and if I was leaving my home, I'd almost certainly take it with me.  I have a carbine length rifle which will allow me to actually hide its length in the BOB I am using.  Not bad!  That said, there is something attractive about the AK47 platform.  A larger round, with a storied history of high reliability.  It's not uncommon to see videos where an AK has been buried in mud, gets dug up, and runs through a 30 rounder with no problems.  Most ARs won't do that.  They are a bit more fine-tuned than the workhorse AK.  I love 'em both, and am just waiting for the right AK to fall into my lap.

Firearms, a simple term, but a HUGE subject of discussion.  When choosing what firearm(s) is/are right for you, keep your needs in mind.  Are you Bugging In?  Then perhaps more long-arms such as a good shotgun, or an AR/AK might be what you need.  Either of these will allow you more up close stopping power than a handgun, with the added benefit of long-range target engagement.  Are you Bugging Out?  Then perhaps a handgun (pistol/revolver) will be better for you.  They are more easily concealable, and many pistols these days have large capacity magazines that will allow a person to command a large number of rounds in a fight, and quickly be able to reload, and get back into action.  If you are away from your home, it's hard to say how the local authorities will be acting, but the common sense part of me feels like you'll be making yourself a target if you're just hiking down the roadside carrying an AR or shotgun and someone in authority drives by.  As for how much ammunition you need, I think the simple answer is "however much you can afford, and are comfortable with purchasing to store away".  I keep a certain amount of ammunition stored away, for every firearm I own.  But do I have fifty thousand rounds in my home?  No.  To me, that's overkill.  To you, that might not be.  Your mileage may vary.

We'll speak again soon.  Stay safe out there.   

- Unnamed Prepper

"Remember the first rule of gunfighting ... have a gun."

- Col. Jeff Cooper


*Although the break-in will almost certainly be to steal any items of value, not necessarily your preparations/supplies.  But of course, I could be wrong.  
**It's the Internet, everything has its defenders!
***A common term which is used to describe something that will make the bearer stronger or more powerful in a conflict/self-defense situation than they would be on their own. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The BOB and You or How I Learned to Leave the Weight at Home:,

I have been on travel for awhile now, and have had some time to think about my inevitable post on BOBs* and how I wanted to approach it.  Everyone and their brother has put together a blog post, or a Youtube video about the exact contents of their BOBs, and how you need to Be Prepared for Anything!  Because you never know!**  After my experience with all these blogs and videos, I think mine will be a tad different, because I want to instead to discuss this topic from a different angle.  I ask the reader to take a step back and (here it comes again) focus on what you're actually going to need this bag for, and I do this because I'm sure not seeing a lot of that in most of the things I see and read.  My reasoning for this approach stems partially from a very recent experience during my travels, which I will talk about shortly.

So, the BOB.  Look, I know it's the prepper mantra of sorts to be ready for anything, and I am totally onboard with that.  Problem is, I also have this nagging propensity to look at things realistically.  As I said before, it's great that you're starting out prepping.  You've read a few forums or blogs, you've watched a few vids, and you dig out your card, and get ready to go shopping for everything that vid you watched from a YT user named something compelling like "SuperSensibleSurvivalistGuru"*** (I mean, with a name like that, the guy must be an expert!) where they spell out every item you need.  Alright, good deal, now slow down.  Take a breath.  Let's take a step back for a second and ask ourselves some sensible questions (as long as we're hung up on being sensible and all), shall we?

1. Is this guy working from the viewpoint of his local weather conditions/possible natural disasters?  Do these resemble yours?  For example, hurricane preparations aren't going to look like earthquake preparations.
2. More importantly, has SSSG above designed his BOB around his exact bug-out plan?  Does this bug-out plan resemble yours at all?  For example, there's not much reason you should be packing a bag full of camping equipment and three weeks' worth of food if your plan involves simply driving to a friend/family member's house that's a total of twenty miles away, a trip you plan on making by car, and could do on foot in two days tops if required (and you were in reasonable shape).
3. Perhaps the most important question (in my eyes): how much will your bag weigh?

I'd like to mention two factoids about myself that I feel qualifies me to speak on this specific topic fairly well.

A. In my initial post in this blog, I mention that I am not a survival expert.  I am not law enforcement, or military, nor am I Bear Grylls.  All of that is still true.  However, I have decided that it won't be an identification marker if I reveal that I am an Eagle Scout.  There are over a million of us, so I think my initial mission of anonymity has remained intact.  So, yes, I'm an Eagle Scout.  What that means is that I have hiked many, many miles loaded down with a giant pack through woods and down dirt roads aplenty.  I have made many, many packing mistakes, and have learned from each one.  I have camped out in the constant downpours of east-coastal state summer showers.  I know roughly how much ground a person weighed down to a certain degree can cover in a day, and what sort of food and water requirements this sort of travel imposes.  So, while I am not an expert (and really, I'm not sure what really constitutes a survival expert other than someone who lives without the trappings of modern civilization nearly completely), I am experienced enough to be able to speak on the topic of BOBs from the standpoint that there is one concern that for most people should be the primary concern: weight.

B. I very recently had an experience on my travels that really underscored this old lesson I'd learned a long time ago, but had mistakenly discarded in this instance.  My flight was late arriving, and I disembarked this flight at a large regional hub airport, and was forced to run for over a mile at a dead run to make my connecting flight at another gate that was all the way across the airport in the roughly seventeen minutes I had left before that flight took off.  Let me tell you that this run almost killed me.  I had let my physical shape slide in the past few years (something I have begun correcting in the last few months), and I was hindered by a backpack that contained all the things I normally carry when traveling, a bag I pack without real thought to weight.  It spends most of its time in the overhead bin, or in the trunk of my rental, so who cares?  Idiot.  Complacency really, and I mean really, kicked my ass in this case.  With my laptop, and everything else in it, my backpack pegs north of 25 lbs.  A flat out run with 25+ lbs on your back will whip most people.  It certainly whipped my ass.  I did make the flight, however, and relearned the lesson.  As soon as I got home, I went out and bought a smaller bag the next day, and have revised my entire travel packing strategy.  I won't be caught flatfooted like that again!

And so, this lesson is one I implore you to keep at the forefront of your mind.  Your BOB should exactly reflect your bug-out plan (that you should already be working on if you've decided that BO is your preferred strategy).  Weight should be a primary concern even if your plan is currently "The news says a class 4 hurricane is bearing down on my area in the next 12 hours so I'm getting the family, getting in the car and heading to my parents' place three towns away to the north".  Getting everything loaded in your car right before Go Time is not the time to discover that you got crazy with your BOB and it weighs 60 lbs, and your wife's weighs 45lbs. as you're grunting and struggling to throw them in the trunk along with three cases of water. After all, what if your car breaks down?  What if you find yourself on a packed roadway with no way through as the hurricane starts to hit town?  At that point, you may find yourself on foot, and you certainly don't want to leave your supplies behind!

This is what I am seeing when I watch these videos and read these blogs.  You see these so-called experts, and you see things like these guys packing five different knives, ten flashlights along with spare batteries (different types no less! A facepalm noob mistake) for each, three hundred rounds of ammunition in addition to five loaded mags for their pistol (planning on fighting your way through an entire armed mob, are you?), clothes for a week, a gallon of water, multiples of backups for gear that is only marginally essential (if you live in a populated suburban area, you really don't need four different signal mirrors, hell, you don't even need one, a knife blade will do the trick), a full cooking kit, and no less than eight different ways to make a fire.  The issue here is that sure, you have a lot of cool gear.  Sad fact: you can't take it all with you if there's a chance you'll have to go forward on foot at some point.  Each little item adds up.  Sure, it's light when you're hefting it, and you toss it into your pack.  But then you go to pick up the bag and damn near throw your back out?  Yeah, that's Not Good.  And in my mind, you should put together your BOB with the mindset that you will end up on foot at some point.  If you're going with your wife and children, make sure their BOBs aren't so heavy they can't walk far.  Two healthy, motivated adults will be able to make ten or more miles a day on foot, less if with children in tow.  Of course, speaking further on that will go back to more of a planning discussion, and I'm doing my best to stay on point.

So, today's lesson: keep your bags light, and only have essentials.  Know firmly what plan the bag is supporting.  All too many internet survival experts seem not to cover this, in their haste to show you all the cool survival gear they plan to have with them.

Trial Run:

It is highly recommended that once you complete what you feel is your ideally outfitted BOB, that you put it on, put your good sturdy hiking shoes/boots on, and you take your ass for a long walk!  Hopefully, you have followed my advice, and having practiced the Grey Man Concept, you and your bag just look like a hiker out for a practice run.  I see them in my area fairly often, out walking in the evenings.  Sure, you may be armed (after all, you should ideally be outfitted exactly how you would be in the real exit event) but you shouldn't look it.  You are on a shakedown cruise, so to speak, with your bag.  You should try to walk for several miles.  If you have access to some local wooded area that you know well, perhaps during the day, you can head out there and ascertain how you'll do on terrain that isn't nice and flat.

In this way, during my years with scouts, I learned many lessons.  Here are a few:

  • Small outer pockets of your pack are the place for things like your first-aid kit, a spare pair of socks, spare laces for your shoes/boots, a mealbar or two, a flashlight with a couple spare batteries (it can get dark very quickly during some parts of the year), some matches, a knife, and so on.  Also, keep this in mind when selecting a bag to make your BOB.  A big sack with few small outer pockets might be good for holding everything, but do you really want to have to pull everything out because it's getting dark, and you can't find your spare batteries because they're all the way at the bottom of the main compartment where they tumbled after you started hiking with the bag on?
  • If you are carrying food, make sure it's some sort of MRE.  That is, packaged food that is able to be quickly heated (many MREs now come with chemical heating packets).  In fact, for a BOB, something like that is probably best.  For one thing, if you carry much dried food, that means some of whatever water you're carrying is now required to turn that powdered chicken kiev into something edible.  Not the best solution when your plan was to hike 20 miles over these hills that lay between you and your back up location.  Additionally, you now have to stop, take out a bunch of items, and set up a cooking spot.  Just a real hassle if you have a timeline you're trying to meet.  Also, make sure you aren't carrying canned goods, for Chrissake.  I assume I don't need to discuss why.
  • You need to carry both water, as well as some form of water purification.  Those Brita sport bottles will NOT be sufficient to cleanse water you pull from stream out in the woods you come across, so keep that in mind.  That is one thing every other prepper stresses, that I agree with.  Without water, you're dead.  In fact, I tend to keep a few bottles of water in my car, just never know when you might need it(**see, I can laugh at myself!).  Many hiking packs are made these days with those water-bladders in the back, and definitely would be a good asset to have on yours.
  • If you are going to hike somewhere, don't kill yourself.  Plan out a realistic timetable.  So many hiking trips got inadvertently extended for me as a young scout because I had a patrol leader or two in my time who couldn't properly plan a hike.  Eight scouts (a full patrol) aren't covering fifteen miles in a day through woods just because they were able to do it at one point on a road-hike on a weekender where they were carrying less gear.  This is also why I recommend the trial run.  In fact, there was a recent episode of that Doomsday Preppers show (more on that on my next post) where a young woman's plan to get out of her city was that she was going to put on her BOB, and walk out to the outskirts.  She had planned for this to take six hours because she worked out regularly (the show had footage of her doing calisthenics and jogging on a running trail) and felt this was realistic based on her apparently doing little more than running a Googlemaps check of her route.  Well, she had her first trial run of this hike-outta-Dodge while on the show, and she discovered to her dismay that not only did it take a hell of a lot longer than six hours, it wasn't the easy jaunt she'd thought it would be.  A shame.
  • A big, BIG part of your BOB gear needs to be a good pair of hiking boots.  I hiked with plenty of miserable scouts (and adults) who decided that the major hike we were on was the best place to break in a new pair of hiking boots.  Or else, there were scouts who decided that a worn pair of skate shoes were the ideal hiking footwear for a long hike through wooded hills.  I myself have multiple pairs of well cared-for, broken-in hiking boots (I personally prefer Merrill's) that you can bet would be on my feet in the event I had to leave my home ahead of a hurricane or tornado.  In fact, I tend to travel in these also, since some of the airports I find myself traversing would kill my feet in lesser footwear.  Before you buy that cool $100 knife, or $300 tacticool flashlight with the five modes, buy yourself some quality hiking boots.  Then spend the time breaking them in.  You absolutely will regret it if you don't.  
There is so much more, I could probably write for hours on the subject.  Instead, I implore you to read all you can, load out your BOB with things you'll need that support your plan, not someone else's, who may be a giant gear-guy.  Take only what you need, nothing you don't.  Then, load up, and take the bag for a spin, and see how it (and you) do.  If you're able to actually trial-run your escape plan, so much the better.  Whatever you do, stay safe out there.

- Unnamed Prepper

"In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks."
- John Muir

*    I expect we all know what this acronym stands for by now!
**  Many preppers are big proponents of phrases that are incredibly vague yet that hint at doom and the collapse of everything just around the corner.
*** A contrived name combined from two or three Youtube account names I've actually seen.  Outstanding!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

VERY Short Hiatus:

Fellow preppers, I apologize for the lack of updates.  My job has me traveling more than usual at the moment, and I just have not had the time to sit down to finish the few updates I have in various stages of completion.  Please bear with me, I'll be back to my regularly scheduled posting in the next few days.  Until then, stay safe out there.

- Unnamed Prepper

Monday, March 5, 2012

Bugging In or Out? Your Call:

You know, some part of me really dislikes using the same terms used by every other survival blog/forum/video page in existence, but I suppose it can't be helped.  These are general concepts that many speak on, and so they have come to have standardized terms.  The show must go on!  On the off chance you, the new prepper may not know what these mean, I will spell them out:

Bugging Out:  Getting the hell out of Dodge, high-tailing it outta there, taking the next train outta town.  In the event of a disaster either natural or manmade, this situation is where you grab your (hopefully already packed and ready to go) BOB*, your AK47 and chest-rig full of magazines and head out the door for your backup location, whether by vehicle or on foot.  I'd advise taking the woods.

Bugging In:  Battening down the hatches, holing up, keeping your head down.  In the event of a disaster either natural or manmade, this situation is where you lock your doors, load your shotgun, turn off the lights, and break out the freeze dried beer and wait for the zombie-looters to kick the door in!  You aren't going down without a fight, pal!

Alright, I'm being overly dramatic, but both theories have both pros and cons, along with their share of proponents and detractors.  And anyway, a lot of preppers take them themselves entirely too seriously, so why not have some fun with it?  This is another post that's probably best put in the "Planning Stage" category.  Remember what I said before about making sure you focus your plan on one (or at least a small few) lines of preparation?  This goes along with that and I'll explain why.  Hopefully, this will help you to be able to decide which course of action is best for you.

Today's post will deal with bugging out, as a future post will discuss the stay-at-home option.

This is probably the scenario that you see the most online.  It's definitely a more short-term solution, unless it is used in conjunction with a backup location that will serve as a long-term sustainment location, such as a fully stocked cabin out in the wilderness.  Since most folks don't tend to have fully stocked cabins out in the woods on land they own, bugging out is generally your go-to plan in the event of some sort of natural disaster that's on its way to flatten your city, town, or neighborhood.  This strategy does require some forethought, and the ability for swift action on your part.  Remember, 99% of the people out there aren't preppers, who don't know anything about being prepared.  So when the radio starts broadcasting the danger signal that a tornado is inbound while they're sitting on their couch with their feet up watching American Idol or whatever, that's when they're going to jump up, grab the kids, grab their gun, and the wife, and jump in their SUV and head out...straight into the traffic of a packed roadway.  You, the conscientious prepper, who kept an eye on your local news, and knew bad weather was coming should already be long gone by then.

This strategy depends on your having mapped out the best route out of the area, and you're going to want to have planned a few alternate routes also.  You want these alternates because it's always possible that you weren't the only one keeping an eye on the local weather station that day.  Remember, you can always go the long way to get to your planned destination, as long as you make sure that the alternate route isn't into the path of the storm, hurricane, or tornado!  I'd also highly recommend having actually driven the route(s) a few times.  It would seem like common sense, but sadly, most folks live in the Google/smart phone age and have no common sense.  Driving the route towards your destination with the rain sheeting down in the darkness is no time to be keeping one eye on the road, and the other on your stupid phone with its GPS app running.  Know where you're going.

This will mean something different to everyone.  Maybe you know someone or have family in the next town.  Perhaps you own a vacation home.  It might be a hotel you called, although in a large enough disaster, that might prove impossible.  In any case, this is what it means to be a prepper.  Find a place to go, and build your plan around it. 

The supplies needed for a BOB will vary according to a few parameters.  In this case, you will want to ensure that your preparations/supplies are portable.  We'll only mention the very basics here, as a full discussion of both a BOB as well as a GHB** will be addressed in a future post.  Are you traveling by vehicle?  Then weight of your bag may not be as big of a concern.  Do you foresee a need to at some point abandon your vehicle and make the rest of the trip on foot?  For the urban prepper, this is the most common strategy to keep in mind as at some point, you're going to almost certainly find yourself leaving the area on foot after your vehicle has been abandoned to gridlock city traffic.  In that instance, here is some serious advice: don't take anything you don't need.  A lot of internet preppers love to do that.  They will take a huge backpack filled with sixty lbs of stuff, because they seemingly haven't given any thought to the idea that just possibly, they may have to actually carry this thing somewhere.  This is definitely a case of scope creep as far as I'm concerned. It's good to be prepared, but a lot of people love their cool camping gear, knives, guns, and nifty survival gadgets, and so believe they have to take all of it with them.  Don't be that guy.  This goes back to what I was saying before about having a clear plan.  What is your BOB for?  To help you get your location where you'll then ?  Is it a "I'm going to go hide in the woods for a couple weeks" bag?  Take what you need, and nothing you don't.  What do you need?  We'll talk about that soon.

Next up, we'll talk about what needs to go in that bag, along with a general idea of what all you probably want to have on you.  For now, stay safe out there.

- Unnamed Prepper

"At a time when unbridled greed, malignant aggression, and existence of weapons of mass destruction threatens the survival of humanity, we should seriously consider any avenue that offers some hope."
- Stanislav Grof    

*   Now you know where the term "Bug Out Bag" comes from!
** Get Home Bag

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Grey Man Concept, Invisibility, and How Conceal Carry Is Actually Prepping:

I'm on the road tonight sitting far from my family and home as I type this, and after a long day in the sky yesterday and a day of work today, I may be somewhat rambling, but bear with me.

There are a couple of concepts I was thinking about today as I had spent time at multiple airports, and it brought to mind one concept in particular that you may have read of or heard about: The Grey Man Concept.  The GMC put simply, is the art of blending into your environment and not standing out in any way or drawing attention to yourself.  You tend to see this concept discussed more on firearms or conceal carry boards, where it does tend to be a highly pertinent subject, especially when considering ways in which not to be scoped out while carrying a firearm on your person.  More on conceal carriers in a few, let's focus on the GMC for a moment.  As you'll find out, being Grey actually will serve the beginning prepper very well, with regard to...well, pretty much everything.  Let's point out a few things that someone utilizing the GMC would not do during a survival situation, or daily life:
  • The Grey Man has decided that his plan in an economic collapse will be to bug in.  The Grey Man knows it is important to have food stored away.  However, he will not have large pallets of food (such as bagged wheat or rice from a warehouse wholesaler) delivered to his house during the day.  Another way to see it: a GM wouldn't have his new 70 inch flatpanel plasma delivered during the afternoon directly after work, nor would he then leave the box from the television outside on his curb for all to see.  Instead, he'll bring food and supplies home in smaller increments, or make it look like a standard grocery trip as he brings bags into his house.  Neighbors who see him won't think "I have a pretty good idea where we can get some food, get me my shotgun!" when the lights go Out and they have hungry kids.
  • The Grey Man has decided his plan in a natural disaster includes bugging out.  The Grey Man will not choose bug out clothing that is SWAT black, military camouflage, or multicam, or that features tacticool internet gear-company tactical vests or military style backpacks covered in pouches bulging with AR-15 magazines. He knows this is a clear red flag to anyone who may driving by, such as a local law enforcement officer that he might be a Bad Guy.  Instead, he'll wear something like jeans, a dark colored jacket or sweater, and a backpack made for camping.  All the room, none of the "Hey, I might have multiple guns on my person, and clearly believe that I am a spec-ops SWAT team G-man in training, detain me, please!"
  • The Grey Man has decided to take his family out to the movies.  The Grey Man will not wear that free Ruger hat he was given after his last firearm purchase, nor the Glock shirt he was given by a relative that knows he's into firearms.  When he pulls up in his non-flashy car, it will not have a bumper sticker on the back that says "I dial 1911", nor does the house he and his family left have signs out front that say "If you can read this, you're in range!!" 
The concept to take away from this is simple: be invisible.  Conceal carry folks use this term to describe the efforts they go to in order to make sure they aren't "memorable".  Many more extreme Grey Men drive dull cars, live in nondescript houses, do not wear flashy jewelry or dress in a way that stands out.  In this way, they feel this puts them at a tactical advantage should they be in a store when robbers kick the door in and rush in brandishing guns.  They are essentially prepping themselves to be more effective defenders in such a situation, whereas if they were wearing clothing that advertised their firearm ownership to the world, they become an instant target.  Invisibility.  In fact, there are almost certainly Grey Men around you anywhere you go in public these days. 

So, during all your preparing, remember what I said about OPSEC.  Invisibility is a HUGE part of that.  Your preparations are a considerable expenditure of time and resources.  A lot, a lot of survival boards/blogs/videos will make a point of discussing firearms (don't worry, I'll get there myself) as a means of defending what's yours.  I don't disagree with this viewpoint, but see it this way.  By not making yourself a target, or a known source of supplies, you cut out a large portion of trouble that might otherwise head your way.  Because let's be candid for a moment.  Most people aren't Rambo.  They aren't chomping at the bit just waiting for the balloon to go up, so they can rush out and start mowing people down with that AR-15 and the 25,000 rounds they hoarded because EFF YEAH, IT'S THE END-TIMES!  Most people aren't killers.  I am not a killer.  You almost certainly aren't either.  I own many firearms, but at no time do I fantasize about shooting someone with them.  If I ever had to, I would.  But it's not something I look forward to, so if I can avoid it, I will.  Alright, end of that particular sermon.  Be invisible, hide your valuables, not just physically, but conceptually, as in, don't talk about them, or let people you don't know, know you have a stockpile of supplies at your house.  You may think this is me being dramatic, but honestly, there are plenty of stories posted up of people going on vacation and coming home to find their house was broken into and cleaned out while they were gone, because one of the family posted on Facebook or wherever that they were all going on vacation, yay!  Same concept here.

That's not just common sense, that's smart planning.  I myself utilize the GMC where I can in my life.  I purposely keep the exterior of my home nondescript, even though I'd love to cover the front with plants and such to make it unique.  Sadly, I am not able to do it much in my personal life, as I am what you might call a memorable personality.  I drive a flashy car (that I do not park in my driveway, but in the street across the way), and am a tall, loud person.  Just the way I'm made.  That said, when on the road, due to what I do for a living, I practice the GMC pretty strictly.  I dress in faded jeans and a tee-shirt.  I do not make eye contact with people, nor do I strike up conversations.  Yes, it is entirely at odds with who I am at home when surrounded by coworkers, friends, or family. But you just never really know with people these days.

I have typed way too much as usual, but hopefully, I've given you, the possible new prepper a few basic things to consider and/or add to your plans.  Stay safe out there.

- Unnamed Prepper

"Perhaps catastrophe is the natural human environment, and even though we spend a good deal of energy trying to get away from it, we are programmed for survival amid catastrophe."
- Germaine Greer