A Survival Battery and Gear For a Prepper Family of Four, by Irish-7

I am writing our family’s security preparations, specifically the weapon selection and breakdown per family member. I will also describe our “Battle Rattle” (web gear) and survival kits.
First, a little background and base information. I am a retired US Army First Sergeant with over 30 years of military service. I have performed multiple jobs of my lengthy career, mainly in the Combat Arms. I was a Mortarman and Automatic Rifleman in the Airborne Infantry. I was a Unit Armorer, Supply Sergeant and Rifle Platoon Sergeant in the Mechanized Infantry and a Scout Platoon Sergeant and Cavalry First Sergeant in a Brigade Reconnaissance Troop. Those were all active duty positions. I was also a Military Policeman for two years in the US Army Reserve. I retired in late 2010.

My family began preparation for crisis, disaster, TEOTWAWKI in March of 2011. Our efforts have been adversely impacted in that the Veterans Administration has not yet paid my award for Service Connected Disability. I have been waiting almost a year. But, I collected and saved some things over three decades in the Army. I believe that this military equipment will be very valuable in any survival situation. I owned several guns before we began preparation for the pending tragedies. We have purchased multiple weapons specifically for WTSHTF. We have four members of our “Nuclear Family” as Jerry Ahern defines in his book Survive!: The Disaster, Crisis and Emergency Handbook. I have a wife and two teenage sons. I wanted each family member to have both “stand off” and short range firing capabilities. I consider “stand off” to be a rifle or shotgun with slugs and short range to be a pistol.

I will carry a Bushmaster M4 Carbine. This is the civilian version of the U.S. military’s main assault weapon. It is a 5.56mm (.223 Remington) rifle. I also have a Colt Gold Cup Series 70 M1911A1 Cal.45 pistol for a short range weapon. I built my web gear using the vest type suspenders (as opposed to the old LC-1). I kept the two small arms ammunition cases on the pistol belt so to free up the ammo pockets on the vest for a hand held radio, GPS and some survival supplies. This set up holds a lensatic compass, 2 one-quart canteens, a canteen cup, pistol holster, fixed blade knife and a small buttpack. The web gear is a complete survival kit containing all the basic necessities for shelter (poncho and emergency blanket), water storage/purification, First Aid, sanitation items (toilet paper, baby wipes, soap), food procurement (fishing kit), plus several pocket knives and multi-tools (pliers and hammer types). The web gear holds about 200 rounds of 5.56mm ammo for the M4 and 50 rounds for the M1911 pistol.

My oldest son is assigned a Mossberg Model 88 12 gauge pump shotgun and a Smith & Wesson Model 19-4 .357 Magnum pistol. His web gear was built using the LC-1 suspenders and a cotton-web pistol belt. I attached a larger buttpack on this Load Bearing Equipment (LBE). It essentially hold the same survival items as my set up, with the addition of wire saw and a snack bag containing trail mix, Slim Jims, Beef Jerky, Nutri-bars and Jolt gum. He has the same 2 one quart canteens, canteen cup and 2 ammo pouches as me. With the addition of a shotgun bandoleer, he can carry 100 rounds of mixed 12 gauge ammo (slugs and “00” buckshot), plus about 80 rounds of .357 Magnum (6- in the cylinder, 4-speedloaders + a box).

I am giving my wife a Savage Model 24J over/under .22 LR/20 gauge combination rifle/shotgun. She also has a Walther PPK .380 handgun. She purchased one of those tactical vests that the SWAT teams use. We hooked the vest on a civilian fanny pack, the kind with the Nalgene water bottles on both sides of the zippered pouch. The vest / fanny pack combination is also a complete survival kit. Combining the sling on the rifle/shotgun and a sleeve on the buttstock, there is 20 rounds of mixed shotgun slugs and numbers 3, 4 & 6 shot. I inserted a prescription pill bottle in one of the shotgun shell loops on the sling. It holds 27 rounds of 22 Long Rifle. She can carry about 40 rounds total for the shotgun, 200 rounds for the .22 rifle and 74 pistol cartridges (3 x 8 round magazines for the PPK .380, plus a spare box of 50 cartridges.) Granted, the Savage over/under is not a great defensive weapon. But, it is a diverse tool for hunting food.

Since my youngest son is somewhat leery of rifles or shotguns with strong recoil, I have assigned him my Henry AR-7 Air Force Survival Rifle. As with the Savage 24J, it would not be my first choice for security. I will point out that the magazine holds 8 .22 LR cartridges. I purchased three additional magazines (to supplement the two that come with the rifle) and affixed a small pouch to hold the magazines on the inside of the buttstock. In very short order, he could put out a hail of .22 LR rounds. I also gave him a [Hi-Standard] Sentinel 9-shot .22 revolver. His web gear consists of the fanny pack with the two Nalgene water bottles.      

In addressing the rucksack / backpack assignments, I will open with stating that I am still using my large frame rucksack that I had as a paratrooper in the early 1980’s. It may be more than I should be carrying with my current medical conditions, but I believe that I am mentally strong enough to push myself into bearing that weight. Periodically, I will “Ruck Up” and go for a Forced March to prove that I can still handle the weight. I have always subscribed to the theory that “It is better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it”. On the outside of the military ruck I attached an entrenching tool (small, folding shovel), a 24” machete / saw, a 2 quart collapsible canteen and a small hatchet. I won’t go over all the contents of the rucksack, but I will say that it holds similar provisions as the web gear survival kit, but in greater quantity or more elaborate spread. For example, the first aid kit in the ruck is larger than the buttpack. Where the buttpack contained a $2.50 Space Blanket, the rucksack has the military version of the $12.95 All Weather Blanket. I will credit John D. McCann’s book Build the Perfect Survival Kit for helping me choose the contents.

My wife and kids have smaller backpacks. They are using the Army Combat Uniform (ACU) camouflage pattern medium rucksacks that Army National Guard Recruiters give out as enlistment perks. They are frameless packs with multiple, zipper-closed compartments. They hold complete survival necessities, including ponchos, poncho liners, folding saw or hatchet, mess, sewing, fishing, fire starting and first aid “kits”. There is also space for emergency blankets, Mountain House or MRE entrees, Datrex Rations, toilet paper, baby wipes and a waterproof box holding insect repellant, sunscreen, Chapstick, water purification tablets, baby powder and a small tune of Curel hand cream.

Our packs are more “Survival Kits” than full “Bug Out” Bags”. We each have a separate bag with clothing, more rations, personal hygiene items and a few manuals such as Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties: and JWR’s How to Survive the End of the World As We Know It. We also carry an assortment of other books on wilderness survival, first aid, prescription drugs, and home remedies.

I carry a versatile hand truck in my SUV. The cart will hold our Bug Out Bags, a case of bottled water, 1 case of MREs and a milk crate with auto items (larger First Aid Kit, tow rope, folding shovel, field shower, roll of garbage bags and camp toilet seat). This ingenious item is lightweight, but strong enough to hold 400 pounds. It can be set up as a cart on four wheels and be pushed/pulled down any hard ball road. Or, it can be stood up as a hand truck on two wheels and be dragged through the field. (My plan to affix a police ballistic riot shield to the cart has not yet been fulfilled).We also have a collapsible hand truck for any last minute, additional items. Of course, we would only be using these hand trucks and carts if we were forced to walk to our “Bug Out Location”. Our intentions are to “Bug In” at our home. One quick note about storing weapons in my truck: I do not carry all these weapons and bulk supply of ammunition around with me during routine use of the vehicle. In my mind, such practice would not be very reasonable. I do keep the AR-7 Survival Rifle and the Savage Model 24J over/under .22 LR/20 gauge in the truck for most travel within our region. My wife and I both have concealed weapons permits in our home state. At any given time, I have the Colt .45 Auto and she has the Walther PPK .380 or Smith and Wesson .380 Bodyguard. We each purchased at least four extra magazines.

In closing, I feel compelled to state that we prefer a “Bug In” over “Bug Out” scenario, if we are to face any type of crisis or disaster situation. I am confident that we have covered the required security considerations with the mixture and breakdown of weapons on hand. The topography of the land surrounding our home allows us to engage potential threats with all four “Stand Off” weapons: M4 Carbine, AR-7 Rifle, Mossberg Shotgun and both barrels of the Savage over/under system. The handgun calibers: .45 ACP, .357 Magnum  and .380 Auto are ample defense in protecting us in the odd event that robbers penetrate our perimeter. I have plans to enhance our capabilities with the purchase of additional weapons: Ruger Mini-14, Remington 870 20 gauge Pump, Smith and Wesson Governor .410 gauge/.45 Colt, S&W Model 686 .357 Magnum (4” barrel) and Springfield M6 22 LR /. 410 Gauge. My oldest son questioned why I am looking at new revolvers instead of new automatics. I reminded him that a revolver has less moving parts to lube, higher potential to break/jam/malfunction and does not have to be disassembled to clean. I also reminded him that an $1,800 Kimber .45 Auto is reduced to single-shot by a broken magazine spring.

JWR Adds: Instead of buying a Ruger Mini-14 as you mentioned, I’d instead recommend buying a second M4gery. This will give you commonality of training, magazines, accessories, and spare parts. I’d also recommend a .44 Magnum revolver, rather than a Smith and Wesson Governor. Both .410 buckshot and slugs are poor man stoppers, and most factory .45 Colt loadings are very mild. (They are loaded that way with liability in mind, since there are large numbers of Colt single-action Peacemakers still in circulation, and some of these date to before 1896, when Colt switched from iron frames to steel frames.) Furthermore, .44 Magnum and .44 Special have a wider rim than .45 Colt. Most revolver extractors can “miss” the scanty rim on .45 Colt brass, causing a very slow-to-remedy “extractor over rim” jam. This sort of jam is a nuisance at the range, but in the midst of a gunfight it could prove to be either indelibly memorable, or tragic.