Are You Building Capacity or Capability?, by 3ADScout

First let’s define “capacity.” Capacity is how much of something we have. Think about your “capacity” in terms of beans, bullets and band-aids. For food, your capacity might be 72-hours’ worth of food in a bug-out-bag, or 1-year supply for 4 people. Your capacity for bullets might be 1,000 rounds for rifles and 500 rounds per pistol. For band-aids, you might have 10 boxes of 4×4 gauze pads, 2 boxes of gauze rollers and 2 rolls of tape enough to dress one small wound for about a week. When your capacity runs out, you have no more unless you somehow resupply.

Many of us are very good at building our capacity to meet set goals. Some of us don’t have set goals for capacity. For example, we see many preppers write that they “never have enough ammunition” or perhaps they add a bag of rice to their stores every month regardless of how much they have already and plan to continue that practice indefinitely. There is nothing wrong with this strategy but we need to ensure that all our needs for the long run are addressed in our preparedness efforts and that is where building capabilities comes into play.

We can define a capability as our ability to “do something.” Many of our Prepper capabilities are very easy to identify. Let’s go back to the old beans, bullets and band-aids mantra. We need to have a capability to provide nutrition, protection and healthcare. It is very easy to go out and simply buy something to fulfill a need. But does simply buying beans, bullets and band-aids really build a capability?


Only Building Capacity?

I contend that when we simply buy beans, bullets and band-aids we aren’t really building a capability, we are simply building a capacity and there is a big difference in some scenarios. Let’s consider our 72-hour bag. When we assemble a 72-hour bag, we are actually building the capability to survive the time period it takes to get us to our retreat or BOL with a limited 72 hour capacity. Now let’s look at our retreat or BOL preps. If all we have is food for 1 year for 4 people, we just have capacity to feed ourselves for 1 year. What we don’t have is the capability to produce our own food.

Building capability takes some forethought and in-depth planning. To have the capability to feed yourself and your family when that one-year supply of food (capacity) runs out you will need the knowledge, experience, skills, equipment and supplies to plant, care for, harvest and process the food for storage. Just having a number ten can of survival seeds isn’t building capability either, but it is one step towards building the capability to feed yourself and family.

Consider Grid-Down Times

Consider a TEOTWAWKI event like a CME, EMP or a cyber attack on our national electrical grid. We hear and read how this will take us back technology wise somewhere between the 1700s to early 1900s and last decades with perhaps 90% of our population dying. Yet many of us only build a finite capacity to feed ourselves and family for 1, 2, 3 or perhaps 5 years. Then what? We also hear and read that being able to truly survive isn’t about “stuff” its about skills and knowledge. Well that is only partially true. Even the hardiest bushcrafter or mountain man has “stuff.” The difference is that the bushcrafter or mountain man have very limited “stuff” and rely upon that “stuff” to make or produce other things needed to survive the day.

But let’s be honest with ourselves here since we are discussing our ability to survive. In a post-TEOTWAWKI day, where you may need a piece of cordage, do you want a piece of 550 cord or do you want to forage around the forest, spending hours to make your own? Being truly ready to survive is a balance of “stuff” with knowledge, skills, abilities and experiences to make the best use of our stuff to survive.

Where and How to Invest

Building the capability to provide food for yourself and your family should be an equally important goal as having a capacity of stored food. A one-year supply of food for four people is around $5,000 (commercial dehydrated/freeze dried). After we have put up a one and a half year supply of food for our family, we should then start to build the capability to provide food by taking the next $5,000 and invest it into fruit trees, garden tools, bee hives, raised beds, bird netting, pressure canners, jars, and lids and have a capability that will last much longer than one year.

About now I can hear many bemoaning the fact that they don’t live in the county and have the ability to have a garden or orchard. It does not take a lot of land to produce a lot of food. There are many good books on square foot gardening and vertical gardening that can be used even in the smallest of city lots. The good news is many cities are encouraging residents to have gardens and many are evening getting rid of laws that banned having chickens in the city. One of my daughter’s friend’s father a few blocks away even has a few bee hives in the city. Will it feed you and your family for a year? What you are able to grow at this point in time may not, but after the massive die off there will be space to expand gardens. The point is that you are building capability.

Other Examples

We have just used food in our examples but the same can be said for bullets and band-aids too. Do you know how to reload ammunition? Ammunition reloading is a great example where the need for both gear and knowledge can be realized. As for band aids (medical) what capability do we have when our bottle of fish-mox runs out? Do we have the capability to use alternative medicine like essential oils, or salves that we manufacture ourselves? One of the items that I have been looking at for my long-term preps is a seed and nut oil press. Currently, I am also building my own distillation set for extracting essential oils. Having knowledge and experience in identifying plants and knowing what their health/medical benefits are, is also needed to build a medical capability.

Making Extra For Barter

When we build capabilities, they are not only a potentially endless source of food, defense and health for ourselves and family but they also become a source items for trade. In FEMA’s study entitled “Markets, Distribution, and Exchange After Societal Cataclysm” (1989), researchers look at historical trade and extrapolate the ancient ways of conducting trade to a post cataclysm world. It is evident that those with the capability to make something will be in a much better position than those who must barter their labor in exchange for goods and services.

When we think about post-TEOTWAWKI life, we need to think about the ancient figure of speech of “Jack of all trades, master of none”. Having the capability to fix, alter, make, and adapt things will make it easier to survive. In today’s world of disposable consumerism, the number of “Jack of all trades” is dwindling. Take a new tradesman, such as plumber, they can install Pex tubing and a hot water tank, but how many of them understand water and hydraulics to the point that they can build a ram pump? Throw a carburetor in front of a 21-year-old “mechanic” and they have no idea how to fix it since we have come to a point where we interface with a vehicle’s computer to determine the problems and then simply swap out parts with no real skill or knowledge needed like in the 1970s.

Trivial Fixes

It is astonishing the number of things I see at auctions, yard sales and flea markets that are being sold because a spark plug needs changed or a chain needs to be sharpened or some other trivial easy to fix issue. If you are not already a “Jack of All Trades” you should start to become one now before TEOTWAWKI. Most of learn by “doing”. Sure, we can read a book and have a general concept about something but when we actually “do” we gain experience that I like to refer to as “tricks and tips”. These “tricks and tips” are the tidbits of knowledge that are only gained by doing. It might be something as simple as using a one type of hack saw blade to do a particular job verses others.

Consider this: You have to build a ram pump. If you build that ram pump today you can look on the internet or run down to the local library to seek information on designs. You can also stop in to the local hardware store to pick up supplies. Perhaps your first attempt works but you remember reading that there were other ways of building the ram pump. So, you re-engineer your first attempt with another trip to the hardware store and few hours in the workshop. Doing this in a pre-TEOTWAWKI environment doesn’t have the same consequences as doing this in a post-TEOTWAWKI world. If your homemade ram pump doesn’t work today, no harm, just walk over to the faucet and turn it on. But post-TEOTWAWKI, not being able to get water from point “A” to point “B” may mean that your garden (your food supply) dies. Having to re-engineer things takes up precious time and limited resources.

Being truly prepared for TEOTWAWKI requires both having a capacity and capabilities. Are you building both? As I tell my friends, if all you do is put a year’s worth of food away, then you will just simply live a year longer than most.


  1. What is the practical capability difference between reloading, therefore storing the reloading materials and storing ammunition?
    Can someone here make reloading materials at home, is that practicable?

    Is it really practical doable to garden cereals and / or aquivalents enough for a year or 2?

    1. ThoDan,

      I can’t make cases but I can reuse them. I can also find lead and melt it down to cast my own bullets. Primers are the most difficult. So the failsafe plan is going back to black powder.

      The practicality in storing reloading supplies is price and space. I can buy a lot of primers that take up very little storage space. I can also buy powder and store it as well but it does take more space. The shell casing are usually the most exspensive part of the round followed by the bullet. If I have 1,000 rounds of ammo, I can simply collect the brass and reload it multiple times.

      As for cereals and being practical, I try to be practical in my life but sometime being practical, especially in a survival situation, gets thrown out the window. I currently can not grow grains, however in the next few years I will have the ability to do that.

      1. Thanks

        So reloading is economically worth it if the cost – time difference is positive.

        I mean´t is cereal gardening, not farming, really practical to put enough Food on the table for your Group if the SHTF?

        Is the work and time worth it?

    2. Hi ThoDan,
      Having living in Denmark, and prepped in Denmark, I am aware of some of the different problems there in Europe. Especially when it comes to firearms. How it is in Germany, I can’t be sure of, but considering the very restrictive laws that regulated even .177 caliber pellet guns in Denmark, the challenge is much greater than here. You just don’t run out and buy primers, or whatever. Or can you there in Germany? Do they restrict air guns there? Probably. Black powder may be a the best option, and maybe a flintlock is the default. Yet, there is at least one option, and likely others that collectively solve the problem of self defense.

      There might a ‘work around’ to be found for the environment you are in, but not knowing exactly how it is in Germany, it is hard to suggest anything. 12 ga shotgun is versatile, and not as closely regulated in Denmark. Germany many not look too closely at buyers of bird shot. Bird shot usually comes with enough shot that using a Lee 7/8 oz slug mold, one can easily convert the shot into something useful. An expedient method requires no mold, or incriminating evidence, and that is wax slugs, or cut shells, if in a hurry. Wax slugs are easy to make, are accurate, and deadly enough, but see this video first before you begin to make wax slugs:

      This fellow’s experimentation with creative 12 ga loadings might be helpful to Europeans in general.

      Slam fire shotguns may be useful, and a last resort for some Europeans. You shoulda seen what we did to solve that problem, there on farm some where in Denmark. 3/4 inch pipe, the barrel for a ‘slam fire’ shotgun is available in Europe. But it is relative easy to make firing pins and the mechanism as well. Having a good all around understand how a 12 ga could be put to use could be priceless in a land where 12 ga shotgun are the most plentiful firearm. Yes, match heads do work as material for primers. Another fellow who investigates this problem and demonstrates solutions for homemade ammunition is The Ammo Channel on Yooootoobe ( YouTube). Here’s how to build AK from scratch :

      Improvised Ammunition:

      I’m glad to be back in Montana where one can stack ‘it’ deep. If one discovers a method for solving the self defense problem in Europe, it would be a good idea to fully develop the techniques, and to stockpile the base materials over time, and start do it ‘as soon as possible’ (ASAP!)

      1. AFAIK Shooting Clubs? are the second largest club organization here in Germany and´ve a much longer and older history than Soccer, they started centuries as a citicen militia.
        There are much and i mean MUCH more modern firearms around here, than meets the eye

        AFAIK you Need a Permit(which means a Background check if you could/should be trusted to handle the responsibility ) to own modern firearms and buy ammunitions, the Kind of ammunition is not so important – reloading is done here but AFAIK more for precision loads for Hunting and Tournaments.
        OTOH you´re liable to prove that your guns are safely stored, transported etc., a few cases of owners who didn´t do that with catastrophic effect led to this

        40 years ago an Uncle bought an air gun – pellets and we started Shooting with it, but it wasn´t much fun for me.

        The solution for self defense started here with the I.66 fencing manual

  2. If you have a horse, blanket, bridle and saddle and never have used it ~ EVER!
    And it’s easy enough not to – because you have to legs and always walk everywhere without a problem. But one night your wife becomes deathly ill and needs the doctor and needs the doctor now. Great thing you had that horse. The one that’s never been saddled. The one that’s never been ridden. The one you need to be able to go get the doctor with right know – ain’t happening!

  3. The Millenials will die because they only have faith in their “Dumbphones”, and a bag of pot!
    The don’t know how to think, use tools, or use a firearm safely for defense, humble themselves to their Creator, etc! Have mercy on them for they are idiots! I went to get an ice cream with my wife at Dairy Queen and the young girl that waited on me could barely handle my order. She must have been a new hire, and I actually felt sorry for her as she pushed my patience to the limit. How hard is it to take an order for 2 ice cream cones???

    1. I don´t know how she was trained and you ordered, and you Judge a whole Generation on one, most likely new and underpaid employee in gastronomy, what should i think ?

      Is the Problem that they don´t know how to think or that they don´t think how you would them to think?

      A Smartphone in the Hands of a Person who knows how to use it can be a very, very useful tool and many old trades are dying out because there is no market for them.

      Seen a Copper or bronzesmith lately?

      1. Yes I have also have seen a black smith, but since those people do a very specific art, I doubt you will run into them or know if you do….they look just like me and you. Usually they are not running around proclaiming what they do. Even if you do not know about it the market is still there…..

        1. I asked for Copper or bronzesmith not a blacksmith, those work with Copper or bronze not iron.
          Forged blades of bronze are superior to cast blades of bronze

    2. The Millenials

      Once the Baby Boomer generation is gone, this country is gone. When we look at our childhood, One might see a radically different. I learned to ride horse at 8 years of age, to hunt and shoot at the age of 10 without instruction, did my first valve on job on a Ford 390 at 16 without instruction, and with no previous experience, and so on and so on. I was learning to surf when the Beach Boys were cool. Looking at photos and video on the net, most were fit. And we looked each other in the eye when we spoke. Our mentors came through the Great Depression and WW2. No, the Millennials are indeed, in big trouble, and so is most of this country. They are clearly brain washed, and spiritually dead.

      BTW, someone or something hacked my email, so I’ve had to make changes….

      1. So you´re very lucky you didn´t kill yourself.
        I learned to shoot in the army and one oy my comrades died Shooting (my Service time made it absolutely clear to me there are People that I don´t want to have a gun, ever.) My Father was a cop and I consider a child shooting without adult supervision at [a young] age criminally irresponsible.

        I remember how bad childhood could be when you were different, when you were a nerd not a Soccer player

        1. No luck was involved. The culture here was radically different. It is very difficult to explain. Perhaps a case of ‘monkey see, monkey do’? Perhaps I learned by osmosis as did many of my generation and earlier, by merely watching my father. Guns were apart of everyday life. So were horses, and farm animals. As an example, a high school student, (gymnasium level), one was allowed to bring a rifle to school and store it in the locker. No one got shot. But deer did on the way home. We grew up with them and learn to respect them, and use them at an early age.

          Having lived and experienced more than one culture helps one appreciated, and have a deeper understanding of different perspectives. Yet one can only do such much in a short letter to explain. The gun culture, the traditional culture of the U.S. has been severely been degraded, and common sense is no longer common. I would not expect the youth, or young adults in many cases in this day and age, to know how to responsibly handle a firearm unless they grew up when and how, as did my generation.

          As the article suggests, there is great value in having capability, not simply capacity. Sadly the younger generation has lost much of the ‘can do spirit’, that pioneer spirit, that built this country. Now many live in fear of the unknown, and rely on the government and experts to tell them what they can, or cannot do. Us old people would like to re-instill the pioneer spirit, the rugged individualism that made the country strong, so that they have a chance to survive. This is why I share a bit of my past. We endeavor to remind them of those virtues. It is indeed better to be a Jack of all Trades, and master of none, and able to take care of themselves and their family, than to be a specialist. Specialization is for ants.

          1. Maybe it is, a page learned the art of Combat when he was seven years old.

            I personally think if a Person is old enough to drive and can drive a car the same rules are reasonable for Shooting without supervision. Character, Personality and Skill

            I´m working in a Profession with some risks involved and the first i tell every Apprentice, if unsure ask because if we make mistake the consequences could be very bad, they could be very dangerous, for our customers, our colleagues or for ourselves.

            Without specialication, we would never had a civilization – Maybe in the hunter Gather time Survival was possible without specialication later it wasn´t.
            Not to be able to see and go beyond your specilization OTOH

    3. Im finding more and millenials arent all that way. Yes there are some and like everything else the dumb ones make the news. The personal finance guy i listen to on podcast fields many phone calls from them and im encouraged that many at that age make as much as 100k a year sometimes with family and have nearly all their debt wiped out. Many are even very faith based teaching seminars at their church to show others how to do the same.

      1. Some of it is:
        They´re different, want different Things from life and ´ve even different tastes and even ´ve different values.
        They even expected to be treated with respect and dignity and even insist on that

      2. You are singing my song, DD. I just met with a savvy 25 year-old woman today. She works two jobs so she can help support her parents. From the outside, she seems so “prosperous”. But, with parents who routinely ask for monetary help, she has to scrape to get by.

        I have no fear that millenials will mess up what we have built.

        Carry on

    4. I realize that you probably mean “the kids” here; Millennials are 23-38, meaning the modal age is somewhere around 30. The generation after the Boomer years was Generation X, now in their 40s and 50s. Long story short, your doctor is probably a gen xer or even a millennial by now.

      The majority of combat vets in this country are most likely millennials, given the length of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  4. I think the point is to start doing something now & get the skills needed to succeed. It takes time to learn how to garden, preserve any harvest, raise chickens, rabbits, goats, pigs, cattle, bees, learn how to use and maintain any equipment.

    It also takes time to accumulate the supplies to become proficient in any skill.

    As for cereal grains, it is worth trying to grow them. Even a kiddie wading pool can make a garden bed for rice or another cereal grain. At first any harvest might just end up as seed for the next year. Any harvest is more than what I had before. I have non GMO wheat, oats, barley in my long term seed vault and plant a small plot each year or as we get more of the woods & scrub brush cleared. I’ve also been learning to grow things that might be useful to feed my horse,goats & chickens. I’d much rather try these things now while it’s not a problem if something doesn’t grow than desperately need that plot of oats & not have a clue how to grow them.

  5. I look at my own kids and think “gee do they ever put down the electronics?” I grew up and we had an Atrai video game system and it was nice for a winter day but we didn’t rush home to play on it. Some say that is because of the graphics now, I don’t know. But when I fear they won’t grow up with basic skills, I direct them to some real and meaningful, like stacking firewood, shooting rifles or bows, even just starting a fire. Kids don’t magically raise themselves, they need parenting. I don’t blame the kids, I blame the parents. We would do right by ourselves, our kids and our nation if we mentored some of these kids so that they can learn and be part of the solution when dealing with TEOTWAWKI verse just another hungry mouth looking for food. Remember folks, pay now of pay later.

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