Poll Results: An Exercise in Humility–a Poll on Embarrassing Mistakes

The following are the responses that we’ve received thusfar in our current poll on Lessons Learned:

I didn’t the follow instructions on the bottle and I only took antibiotics until fever broke, then stopped. Fever came back and had to switch antibiotics.

I didn’t floss my teeth for years thinking brushing my teeth was enough. Ignored continual bleeding from gums and didn’t visit a dentist for 15 years. When I went I found out that I had advanced gum disease and jaw bone loss far beyond my years. Surgery was required. I’ve been flossing every day now. If I hadn’t made this change I’d have started losing teeth within 10 years.

On a day hike I relied on a GPS and ignored my own sense of direction and nearly got stuck out at high altitude at night without any shelter supplies. Could have killed both of my kids.

Bought a bunch of meat, dehydrated it and put it in a vacuum sealed bag. Two months later it was all molded.

I assumed that a brand new rifle I had bought would work. Didn’t shoot it for a year. When I did it had problems that required it be sent back to the factory for repair.


Mr. Rawles:
I bought a case of CCI Blazer .357 Magnum ammo, aluminum cased. Blazer is fine for semi-autos. Not so good in revolvers – the case expands and I couldn’t punch them out with more than one round in the gun
Moral: make sure your ammo works in it’s intended platform – always.
Stupid avoided – courtesy of the good folks at Olympic Arms: steel-cased / lacquered 7.62 x 39mm ammo has been gumming up their K-30 AR carbines. Sustained fire heats up the chamber and melts the lacquer. When the gun cools, the chamber is pooched, making feed/extraction reliability iffy. Stupid prevention: use brass, or zinc-plated ammo ( Barnaul Silver ). See moral …

My first big survival mistake was buying a Ruger ultralight all-weather rifle, which weighs around 6 lbs empty, chambered in .30-06. I’d done lots of research and knew it was effective to every conceivable range, was common and available, and would kill just about any animal I cared to imagine…but I’d never fired one. It kicked like a mule and left me black and blue from firing exactly 8 rounds in it. I never fired it again and sold it for slightly more than I paid for it, with the rest of the box of ammo. It wasn’t that the rifle was bad. It was that it was too light for the caliber on a brand new shooter with no training in handling recoil.

The right thing to do would have been to buy that rifle in either .243 Winchester or .270 Winchester, the former being slightly preferable since its enough for California deer and is a surprisingly good target round, better than .270 due to better quality bullets. And in a 6 lb rifle, its also very light recoil. The memory of that recoil shied me away from .30 caliber rifles for several years and it wasn’t until I fired an M44 Mosin Nagant that I learned how to handle serious recoil. That [.30-06] Ruger set back my rifle marksmanship education around three years.

Of course, I’ve met guys who were tougher than me who foolishly bought .300 Win Mag rifles and winced around 5 minutes after each and every shot. I got a headache-inducing concussion from firing a 7mm Remington Magnum in a Savage hunting rifle. Very sharp recoil. Glad it wasn’t mine. I also met guys who shot the .338 Ultramag with muzzle brakes and made 38 inch groups at 300 yards (that’s big enough to miss a moose, BTW.) It was the .22 LR which taught me proper trigger control and breathing. And the .223 which taught me handloading and further accuracy since the ammo was better than the .22 LR that my rifle liked to be fed (.22’s vary that way quite a bit.)

I suppose I shouldn’t have bought the M44, and the Mauser, and the .308, and the 7mm-08, and the .338-06 after I’d already proved myself a marksman with the .223. I should have just bought a .308 and dealt with the recoil, loading 130 grain bullets until I was used to it with heavier rounds. But the upshot is I have rifles to fire all those different [types of] ammo. But I don’t own a .30-06 or a .270 Winchester, or a .243 Winchester either. The 7mm08 does everything those do.

Knowing what I know now, and knowing that .308 ammo is expensive and the surplus is mostly cr*p, I’d probably go for a 7mm’08 re-barreling of a .308 autoloader for the most flexibility and recoil reduction in a lighter battle rifle yet retain penetration and wounding capability. Something like the FN SCAR-H (Heavy) and keep the .308 barrel in reserve for when I run out of my good ammo. Swapping the barrel takes minutes, after all. Now, if only we civilians could get them…


I started out my gun owning career with some clunkers – among others a Mossberg 500. (Yes, I know lots of people love them) but mine was a total [Piece of Schumer] (POS). The safety on top would engage from recoil and racking the slide, not conducive to follow up shots, I also had the Para Ord that I told you about a while back, a POS [Ruger] Mini-14, that could never shoot straight and was seriously tempted by a Star, Rossi and some other real turds that I was talked out of prior to purchase.
Also stick with quality glass, Leupold at a minimum and Swarovski / Kahles if you can afford it. I have wasted money on Burris and Simmons and other Chinese cr*p. Maybe go Nikon if that’s all you can afford
If I was recommending a battery to a new shooter I would say, stick with a quality handgun, in 9mm, .40, .357, .44 or .45 made by S&W, SIG, Glock, Kimber, Colt, Browning, Ruger, and stay far away from lower tier B and C guns unless they are free or ‘no papers’. Get a good bolt rifle in .223, and in .308 or 30-06, semi auto in same .223 and in .308 or 30-06 (Winchester, Rem, Springfield Armory, Savage, or sporter Mauser and a .22 handgun and rifle (10/22 or a CZ bolt rifle) and a good 12 and/or 20 gauge shotgun (Browning or Remington or Benelli). Family heirlooms and inheritances in goofy calibers not withstanding.
My problem is that I now want to get a 7mm Mauser, a .22-250, .358 Winchester, and some others just to play around. because I can afford to, not because I need one in that caliber, I have rifles that will hunt anything. I don’t need these other calibers. My main point is stay with tier A quality arms in common calibers.


Mr. Rawles,
To add to the what not to do, embarrassing mistakes I have made. I have a few to share that I think are quite illuminating for safety and personal reasons.
Number one and dangerous was as a young reloader, now over 25 years ago in 1981 after about a year of getting into the macho (and stupid) habit of loading close to max. Firing a Colt manufactured first series AR-15 with .223 loaded to the max, only one load that may have had just an extra grain or two over maximum (as I found several out of that batch of 100 that were one to two grains over, once pulled and checked). As luck would have it the damage to the AR was relatively minimal: a burst and split gas tube, bent ejection cover, hand-guard damage, and one frightened and lucky shooter – me… Luck because the damage could have been catastrophic and I was not wearing protective eyewear. Those are both major mistakes I do not make now, eyewear and loading quality control / conservative loading procedures.
Second mistake was a new pistol with out a complete check, the first time I racked the slide a broken firing pin had wedged just far enough forward to fire the round, the damage to the loading table at the range was not as bad as the embarrassment of firing into the range table in front of several friends all of us without hearing protection because we were preparing to fire rather than kill the table.
I have nightmares about that pistol to this day, had it not been for the fact that I was not pointing that pistol at a person that could have been a negligent discharge with a big price. Proper procedure would have had the firearm pointing at the range field or target area rather than over the range table.


While I have made plenty of mistakes on my road to preparedness, I see two that stand out. One is somewhat comical, while the other one is a trap that is all too common.

The first one happened about eight years ago now when I first really caught the preparedness “bug”. I knew that water is second only to oxygen when it comes to immediate needs, so I decided to start stockpiling soda bottles to use for water storage. before too long, I have a basement full of sticky, nasty pop bottles of all shapes and sizes just waiting for me to rinse out and fill with water. About that time I realized that not only were half of them missing their caps, it also dawned on me just how much room all these bottles would take up. needless to say, I stopped stockpiling soda bottles. I did buy a British Berkefeld and two extra sets of filters though, and am getting ready to hook my rain gutters up to a food grade 50 gallon drum.

The other mistake I made is using my preparedness ideals to over-indulge in some over-lapping areas of interest. Like a lot of survivalists, I am a self confessed “gun nut”. I like to shoot, and I truly value my time spent at the range. Just how many battle rifles does one need though? I currently own three different “assault rifles”, each one using a different magazine and caliber. The story with handguns isn’t quite as drastic, but I still have two types of pistol with their own caliber and magazines. While it isn’t a bad idea to have some extra rifles and pistols on hand, the logistics of owning so many types and calibers is expensive to say the least. I did the same thing with communications gear. I love radios, and think that everyone who is seriously into preparedness should have a good quality communications receiver, but just how many does one really need? A table full? A room full? I have since realized what I was doing, and have issued a couple of new rules for myself: No more guns, and no more radios. I have enough of both, thank you, and the resources I could be spending on these hobbies are much better spent elsewhere. the cost of the last rifle and receiver I purchased would have bought an awful lot of food, or even paid for a solar backup to power all those radios when the power goes out.

The bottom line is that being prepared is more than an excuse to buy a lot of guns. They are a very important part of it, but they are not the only part. Before you buy that sexy looking AR, maybe you should ask yourself if you have enough provisions on hand to survive a week off the grid. If you do, then maybe it’s not a bad purchase for your particular situation. If you don’t, then your money could be better spent elsewhere. We live and we learn I suppose. Hopefully others will read my mistakes and learn from them.


I love SF’s idea to share our “hiccups” as we all make them and we learn invaluable lessons from each. Three things come to mind quickly as things in which I largely disappointed myself more than anything. (On the brighter side, lessons learned pre-SHTF are all good!!)
Here are the topics of disgust:
1). Sawdust-based compost on Garden
2). Vacuum sealing spare garden seeds
3). Not putting my dust masks in a dry vermin resistant package.As for the sawdust compost mixture I tilled into my garden three years running I continually noticed a decline in yield. In further research I found that the sawdust “sterilizes” the soil by absorbing the key nutrients and not releasing them to what is needed. (This can be corrected with adding Nitrogen, but what if Nitrogen is not readily available)? In talking with [The] Seed Savers [Exchange], it sounds as if they recommend not vacuum sealing seeds as they are “living organisms” that will decrease in germination if sealed if not ruin your yield. Sounds like a good ol tight fitting can in a cool dark environment is as good as anything. I guess I have a bunch of sweet corn seed that is now squirrel feed. (Different food family than intended, but will not totally go to waste :-).As far as the dust masks are concerned, I had a few boxes of masks in case of a bird flu type scenario that did not get put into crates. These are now laden with mold from the lack of controlled environment that they were in. Now, it surely would be a health risk to inhale dust/mold spores directly into your system while hoping to filter out other harmful impurities. Can you say “lesson learned“?Someone may as well benefit from the mistakes I made. Humility, yes; Humor, No.

JWR Adds: This poll is still open. By all means, please send us additional “lessons learned”, via e-mail. We will of course post them anonymously.