A Young Man’s Preps – Part 2, by St. Leibowitz

(Continued from Part 1.)


Knives are next. Knife laws vary wildly even between the states. We got most knives legalized here in Texas a while back, but there are still some that are prohibited in certain locations. In most places you can at least have a pocket knife without too much trouble. Victorinox’s Swiss Army knives are quite good, and look a little less scary than, say, a Spyderco tactical folder. Assess what you want and need, and get one. Or two. Or several. Just don’t go crazy buying any old knife that looks cool. You need to save your money for other things. Generally, the more tools a “knife” has on it, the less dangerous it is perceived to be. 4” blade on a Leatherman? “Oh, aren’t you prepared? ;)” A 4” blade on a Benchmade out-the front (OTF) automatic opener? “OMG we’re all gonna die! Help, terrorism!” Your mileage may vary. Knives do not have to be expensive. The more common Swiss Army knives are quite reasonable, and they last forever if not abused. I still use my Victorinox Cadet after fourteen years, and I expect my new Fieldmaster to last thirty. Everyone should have a pocketknife. If an otherwise normal boy seven or older can’t be trusted with a pocketknife, then he was not parented well.

Moving on, let me discuss sheath knives. Let’s begin with the more tool-ish ones, for outdoor, utility, and skinning use. These also do not have to be expensive, but there is a very strict dichotomy between inexpensive and cheap. Inexpensive means it does not cost very much. Cheap means that it’s a piece of garbage and you should throw it into the nearest convenient dumpster. There are $15 knives that are awesome. There are a great many more that aren’t worthy to spread butter. The best quality sheath knives in terms of bang for your buck are the Swedish Mora knives. They are awesome. On sale, they can be found for around $12. They are very sharp, very easy to sharpen, and very durable. They come in carbon or stainless steel. If you’re new to knives, then get stainless. I use a carbon steel Mora Companion for my work. (I do feral honeybee removals) and it’s held up under fairly rough use for about three years now. I have resharpened it enough that the blade is visually less wide than a new one, and unless I lose it I expect to use it for another couple of years. And if I do, then $12 gets me another one.

Old Hickory is another good, affordable, and quality brand of kitchen and camp knives. Their 7” model will fit in a Ka-Bar sheath. We use a set of them for pig processing and they work quite well. They are carbon steel, so keep them oiled.

On the other end of the spectrum (for both use and usually price) are “combat knives.” There is a lot of mystique and bullc**p around what constitutes, and is necessary on, a “combat knife.” My standpoint is that any knife is a combat knife if you try hard and believe in yourself. Your “combat knife” really should just be a bigger knife that can be used to chop or cut larger things, or possibly shank someone if needed. Do try to stay out of knife fights. I say this as someone who spars against his martial artist friends as”the mugger” with a knife quite regularly. You will most likely get cut, in any knife fight. Still, a knife is better than nothing.

But a knife should mostly be as a tool. For a camping/hunting knife, any good-quality large blade should do. Buck and Ontario make good options. Shop around, decide what you need, and get one. Look at reviews if possible, don’t buy mainland Chinese garbage. If you absolutely have to have a dedicated “combat knife,” a Ka-Bar, Ontario SP-1, Glock knife, or similar are very high quality. But honestly, a camping knife will do everything a combat knife will do, for the most part. Get a good sheath, some knives only come with what is essentially a nylon bag with Sketchers velcro on it, even some good ones. Kydex is preferable, being inexpensive and fairly rugged. A leather sheath is okay if you take care of it. Make sure it fits on your belt or wherever you plan on attaching it.

Last as far as blades are machetes. You may or may not see a need for one, depending on your location. They can double as a sword, but are also extremely useful for their original intended purpose. Tramontina makes great machetes that are very reasonably priced. Get a sharpening stone and learn to maintain your  machete. Do not get the weird-looking quasi-tactical orange ones you see in sporting goods stores. Frequently, even if the steel is good, the center of gravity is off and they have weird grip angles. This is a massive problem if you, like me, actually use them for brush clearing and the occasional chunk of bee comb that’s really far back in a soffit.

If you get a machete, get one that was made in a country where a machete is as common as a leaf rake. That generally means Latin America. Do not get any blade with zombie stuff on it. They are usually of garbage quality and make the wielder look like a tool. It is not 2011, and you are neither a middle-schooler nor a meth-head.

Blackpowder Guns

Last on the list is blackpowder guns. These may be of interest, but I must warn you that they are not as easy, safe, or reliable as a cartridge firearm. I would not recommend carrying one unless the S has actually, clearly HTF and that was the only gun you had available. That being said, in many jurisdictions replicas of pre-metallic cartridge firearms are less heavily regulated than modern firearms. In the US they are not legally considered firearms at all, at least on the federal level. In the South at least it is not unheard of for teenagers to own them. I know that in some other countries they are also less regulated, but do your own research. There have been a bunch of articles written on black powder guns, so I won’t go over them in too much detail. If you get a revolver, a .44 caliber one would be ideal. This is not a .44 Magnum like in Dirty Harry, it will be closer to a weaker modern handgun round, but is not to be underestimated. Plenty of people have been killed with these.

A Ruger Old Army percussion .44 (actually these have .45 bore diameter) would be ideal, but younger guys like me probably can’t afford one as easily as an Italian-made replica of a Colt or a Remington. A muzzleloading rifle might also be a good idea. Muzzleloaders can also obviously be hunted with, and used for shooting practice. It will also make you appreciate modern firearms a great deal more, mainly because they are comparatively a massive pain in the onager. I bought my black powder revolver at eighteen, though Cabela’s did not “card” me and I paid in cash so I could probably have done it at 16 or 17. Generally, you’re going to have to be eighteen to get powder and caps, at least if you buy them yourself. If you’re under eighteen, then with a cool dad or uncle you might be able to get your hands on some.

Please do not be an idiot about this. Weigh the pros and cons carefully. If your mom finds a .44 percussion revolver in your room that she was not told about, then there will be a reckoning — a very unpleasant one. Be especially careful if you must live with hoplophobes. You might want to predicate such a purchase with a period of noticed interest in the historical period such guns are from. Maybe start talking about Civil War history, and start “obsessing” over a particular Civil War officer. Go with a Union one to be safe, as Confederate ones will put you under scrutiny these days. My favorite Union general is McClellan, but your criteria should be a famous figure who coincidentally carried the revolver model you plan on getting. That way, if the jig is up you can try to pass it off as wanting: “one like (insert X historical figure) carried.”

All right, so that’s all the weapon stuff out of the way. Hopefully, I’ve got your attention for the next more picayune part where I talk about skills and supplies.

(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 3.)