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 Spokeo.com 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.