There are many varying opinions on what makes a prepper prepared. After listening to my contemporaries for some time, and giving their opinions due credence, I always find myself arriving at the same conclusion. I know that food, water and shelter are staples for not only prepping, but also normal everyday life. I understand the importance of self-reliance and sustainability. Topics like alternative energy sources, shelves stocked with supplies, ponds teaming with fish, underground hideouts, rainwater collection, and so on all make clear sense to me. I’ve found that the term SHTF seems to be frequently taken out of context and often misused. I must draw a line in the sand at the notion I’ve found of some people rationalizing how a couple thousand rounds of .22LR in a backpack can make a Ruger 10/22 a serviceable “combat” weapon. While storable food and water are both mission critical, it is apparent to me that arming yourself with the proper weapons, training, and equipment is the most essential part of prepping. I am certainly not regarded as a subject matter expert, or an authority in prepping, but I have been part of an invasion force. I am a combat veteran, a sharpshooter and machine gun expert. I have priceless real world experience and training that many of you will never attain. It seems that time is running out, that is why I have chosen to share my own personal insights.
In an economic collapse, the loss of utilities will be a disruption to your daily life. A collapse such as this could unleash waves of armed criminals, rioters, and looters looking for easy targets and a free meal. The events unfolding on the East Coast following hurricane Sandy are a good reminder of this. The worst case scenario is losing your food and water stores and the creature comforts of your dwelling. Even if you plan to hunker down, situations change and what used to be relative safety can become certain death. Your storable food, water supply, and shelter may all be compromised in an instant by an armed adversary. Far easier is it to disengage a hostile force carrying your weapon and as much ammo as possible, than to carry your food and water supply. The last thing you want is to get shot in the back running away with water jugs. In combat, I have never run to grab MREs when our perimeter was being probed. However, I have never passed up the opportunity to procure extra magazines when an insurgent was in the wire or when I was heading out on a mission. When my convoy was hit with IEDs, my thoughts were not ‘where are the cases of water?‘. That’s something- having no regard for water in the desert. When your life is in immediate danger and you are protecting your loved ones, you will not have regard for it either.
Undoubtedly the .22 LR is a handy piece of kit. Accuracy, affordability, utility, and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of ammunition are very persuasive arguments for any firearms enthusiast that can’t leave a gun store without a new piece. For many preppers, it is impossible for this venerable platform to evade your interest or collection. Limit your .22 LR rifles use to the role of plinking practice and acquiring small game. If this is your go to weapon in a SHTF scenario, you may want to revise your strategy. Here’s why…
I grew up and lived for the most of my life in a large urban center located in FEMA Zone 5. On any given New Year’s Eve, an assortment of automatic gunfire is rampant. Police officers are admittedly ordered back to the precinct for their own safety. It is likely that most, if not all of those weapons are illegal and possessed by individuals under weapons disabilities. Whether legal or not, those same weapons could show up at your door during a collapse. Another aspect to consider is the proliferation of armed criminals who possess bullet resistant vests. Combine the two and you have quite the formidable adversary. To dismiss this threat is suicidal. If well-armed, armor clad men show up at your door with sinister plans for you and your family, you don’t want to find yourself gripping a .22 LR, period. You don’t want to find yourself outmanned and outgunned. Your stockpile of ammo is of no value to you and your family if you are outmatched by the bad guys.
Whether you anticipate bugging in or bugging out in a TEOTWAWKI scenario, you may not be able to avoid a physical confrontation or fire fight. It is of my opinion to always bring enough gun. Take into consideration that you will have no say in who your enemy is or when they will assault you. Unless your survival group is actively scouting the ‘enemy’, which is offensive in nature (subject outside the scope of this article), you will not be able to predict the nature of your enemy’s weapons, armor, equipment, or level of training.
Your training is the cornerstone of all things survival. It is the umbrella that protects all of your other life sustaining preparations. No matter how bad the situation gets, nothing is a SHTF scenario until you are literally fighting for your life. An armed force on force encounter is nothing short of combat. You need to be intuitive, decisive, and deliberately lethal. Your mindset must allow you to freely dispatch your foes, one target at a time, effortlessly transitioning to the next target of opportunity without fixating on a previous target that is no longer a threat. Be prepared to cause serious debilitating injury and take human life.
Regardless of which weapon system or caliber you invest in, it is completely useless if you cannot effectively place rounds on target. It is an utmost priority that you become proficient in marksmanship. For beginners, I recommend acquiring some basic training. Books, videos, and courses have become quite prolific: www.magpuldynamics.com, www.vickerstactical.com, and www.gunsite.com. Military manuals are also a wealth of knowledge. Any book you find authored by the late Col. Jeff Cooper should be a no-brainer purchase. Another great place to look for help is the programming on the Outdoor Network and Sportsman Channel. You should find those channels to be very informative, as they demonstrate a multitude of realistic training drills, tips from the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, expert advice from the nation’s most prestigious firearms training institutes and top national competitors. Study land warfare manuals (MOUT), scouting, land navigation, camouflage, etc. ‘Train hard, fight easy’ was the saying. Well, no fight is easy, but it is certainly better to sweat in training than to bleed in combat. An important aspect of training is that it gives you a realistic sense of your group’s overall mission capabilities. It will help identify your group’s weaknesses and strengths, create discipline, and help build confidence amongst the team members. Establish a chain of command. I recommend the most experienced person in regard to a specific task take charge in those activities. Otherwise, with no leadership your group may fail to react to a threat in a timely manner. This will compromise the mission of your survival. Unit cohesion is a prescript for any organization to perform the duties in which it was designed. Training will allow you to identify the strongest shooters in your group. These individuals should be appointed the role of designated marksman. At the same time it will allow your proficient shooters to coach the others and get them up to speed. Consistently training in small unit tactics will enable your group to move with precision and drastically reduce the risk of fratricide.
Never become complacent. Complacency can get you dead in a hurry. Never take short cuts in training; it will undermine the intended purpose of training in the first place. I am reminded of a story about police training. A SWAT team attending a training session zeroed their weapons to a range in which they would ‘like’ to fight. They were only expecting to engage hostiles in close proximity and this led them to believe they had no reason to train and zero to the maximum effective range of their weapons. I assume this dangerous habit might have been acquired by becoming complacent after numerous house search warrants. The argument (excuse) they presented was that it would be difficult to remember the different points of aim (POA) and points of impact (POI) at different ranges, especially under the stress of combat. Shortly thereafter training was interrupted. They were called out and responded to an incident, in which they found themselves in a field with an armed suspect at a range of 100 yards. They were unable to safely engage the target. Luckily for them he was apprehended and nobody lost their lives. After that close call, they changed their training doctrine. Had the event been more severe and the team been unable to carry out their mission, they certainly would have come under intense scrutiny, or worse. Their own complacency sabotaged their mission capabilities, and it could have cost innocent lives, or widowed their own wives.
Police officers have superior training compared to average citizens (including CCW holders). It is noteworthy however, that police shooting statistics show they aren’t very accurate. Data suggests police accuracy to be in the neighborhood of 17% or so. Remember the Empire State Building police shooting in New York City not long ago? Bystanders were needlessly injured by the barrage of police gunfire. Perhaps some of you will recollect the shootout between Ohio State Troopers and the Kehoe brothers in 1997, where the exchange of gunfire took place at a distance of ten feet. The result was nobody being shot. Well, when the SHTF and you get an adrenaline dump, you’re going lose fine motor skills. If you think you’re going to be able to do any better than police with inferior training you’re dead wrong. You will be half as good in real life as you are on the range, and that’s being optimistic. The bad guys aren’t going to stand there like the targets of a static range, and you had better be moving too. What’s worse is they are trying to put bullets in you.
When you’re on the farm post-TEOTWAWKI, don’t mope around in condition white with your head attached to your third point of contact. Keep your head on a swivel. If your rifle is not within arms-reach, you don’t have a rifle. When you find yourself completing mundane tasks, pulling long hours of perimeter guard duty or gate guard, your mind has a tendency to wander. You must overcome this tendency and remain focused at all times. It only takes a moment for the uneventful day to day grind to erupt into chaos. While serving in Iraq in 2003 as a member of the 101st Airborne Division, boredom would set in quite often. An order would come down and off we’d go pulling convoy security again. It beat guard duty and guard duty beat handling prisoners of war. The surroundings became familiar, as did the flow of local people. Even the ambushes at a bustling nearby intersection began to seem commonplace. I remember a group of insurgents randomly firing small arms and disappearing before someone could get a bead on those SOBs. As it turned out, that proved to be a poor career choice for those individuals. Sniper rounds often found their way into the airfield in Mosul and a man I know caught one of them. He was lucky, it only shattered his femur, and he was able to keep the limb. IEDs happen and there is no warning. Two of my brethren are very blessed to be alive; especially considering one sustained a shattered shoulder and multiple fractured vertebrae. They both suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). I have also had my share of close calls and near misses. I have seen firsthand the damage military small arms can inflict. These kinds of things happen fast and you need to ‘stay alert, stay alive’. Familiarity breeds comfort. Being comfortable in your surroundings gives a false sense of security. Complacency is a mass murderer.
Your inner circle should only consist of a small and limited number of deeply trusted individuals. You must actively attempt to make additions to your small group based on experience, specialties, and high value skills. Your training will bridge the gap between fear and mission effectiveness. Force multipliers must be identified and properly employed to gain every advantage for your well-trained dedicated force of do-good Patriots. If you have never seen firsthand the barbarism of combat, you cannot fully appreciate the suffering it induces. Your survival completely depends on your ability to wage asymmetrical warfare against your enemy. Your ability to promptly overwhelm an enemy with firepower, decimate his ranks, disappear, and live to fight another day will be the key to your survival. None of this can be accomplished hiding in your basement, or foolishly engaging a superior fighting force with sub-par weapons and laughable training. Get real and get in gear. Shoot until it becomes second nature, then shoot some more. Make sure the personnel in your force are cross trained in each other’s skill sets and equipment to an effective degree. Everybody in the group must be familiar with all weapon systems that are deployable in your arsenal. Get the training you need. Keep shooting and prepare for the worst. Choose not to be a statistic, but rather the exception.
Procurement of weapons and ammunition far exceeds the purchase of other seemingly important items. You will have to make choices that are tedious and might push the limits of your financial situation. It is a difficult proposition, but when your life is hanging in the balance spare no expense. In a real life SHTF situation the only important thing is firepower. It is the only thing. You must absolutely overwhelm the enemy with superior firepower.
In close quarters the 12 gauge is arguably king. However, as effective as it is, if you step out into the street where ranges easily exceed 100 meters, you may quickly find yourself outgunned. Yes, that also includes your slug gun. Your .22LR will fit thousands of rounds in a backpack, yes. However, if this is your weapon of choice, then your plan will inevitably fail. If you can show me a military that fields a .22LR, I can show you a defeated army. Nations around the world have sought out solutions to maximize the number of rounds their soldiers can carry while considering weight limitations. It is not an accident that they haven’t arrived at the .22LR. You are depending on your weapon to keep you alive. Select your weapon’s chambering wisely, and make sure it has enough horse power to do its job of protecting you effectively. Think in terms of maximizing your capabilities in any scenario. If I only could own one weapon (not recommended), it would be a carbine. Generally speaking, it easily transitions from close quarters to medium, to moderately long range offering far more security than a shotgun. Be aware of your specific weapon’s limitations and capabilities. Understand its intended purpose and keep it assigned only to tasks in which it excels, if possible. An M4 is not an M16 for all intents and purposes. While the M4 is more suitable and controllable in close quarters, your maximum effective range on a point target is limited by its shorter barrel. With the M16, you extend your effective range at the cost of cumbersome handling in confined spaces. If you anticipate longer range encounters in your area of operation you may opt for a different weapon system altogether.
In recent combat in Afghanistan, Taliban fighters have been utilizing .30 caliber weapons to engage our troops at ranges of ,1000+ meters, well outside the effective range of the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge of the M16 family of weapons our soldiers carry. Those engagements have prompted the United States military to take another look at the fielding of .30 rifles. Don’t just buy a firearm because of its CDI (chicks dig it) factor. Purchase them according to your threat assessment and the unique demands of your specific environment and situation. A firearm vetted at failing in cold weather environments is a poor choice for a defensive roll if you spend 4-5 months out of the year shoveling snow. Those climates are more demanding of you and your weapon. It is important to learn how to maintain your weapon in such environments.
Handguns are highly utilitarian, as your long gun is unlikely to accompany you to the store, to and from work, or anywhere else you are likely to end up. Choice of caliber is up to you, but the bigger the hole, the more bleeding it will cause, and the larger diameter bullet is more likely to hit a vital structure causing greater tissue damage. In context, your handgun should only be used as a back-up weapon, or to fight your way to a long gun in a SHTF scenario.
Keep spare parts on hand for parts that are likely to break with hard use of your weapons. Consider enrolling in a gunsmith course to personally enrich yourself, and to pass on acquired knowledge to your group members, because somebody has to keep those weapons serviceable. Keep your weapons properly lubricated and well maintained. Take care of it today, and your weapon will take care of you when you need it most. Your group should select weapons chambered in readily available calibers. Yes, the HK7 is one cool PDW if you can get one, but how do you plan to feed it? Proprietary ammunition has its niche, but the difficulty in amassing ammunition for them is too great a burden to bear. Limiting your overall ammunition requirements simplifies logistics for your group. It is also likely that your group will be able to barter with or for common ammunition more readily than the fancy stuff that only you have a need for.
Once you have become the master of your weapon, you need to keep training, and train harder. The addition of force multipliers to the equation is in order. Red dots, holographic reflex sights, magnifiers, and medium range scopes manufactured by EOTech, Aimpoint, and Trijicon to name a few are excellent choices. Magpul also supplies a number of gizmos for your shooting pleasure. Their PMAGs have become an industry standard and are stocked exclusively in my collection. Lasers are also a welcomed addition to my tiny arsenal, as they serve two purposes. The first is target acquisition. The second is the red dot that it produces on a target is universally recognized and has the intimidation factor that has caused assaulters to stand down in the past. I currently use and recommend Crimson Trace and Insight Technologies lasers. Trijicon also manufactures the tritium night sights that have made their way onto my service pistols. The ability to see your sights in any lighting condition is obviously advantageous. The life span for green and yellow sights is 12 years. Orange sights putter out after five years.
Edged weapons are also important. A hearty blade like the iconic Ka-Bar has numerous applications. You can find great deals on Ka-Bar knives at www.manventureoutpost.com. Combat tomahawks are well suited to the task as well. I recommend picking up a ’hawk’ from the folks at RMJ Tactical www.rmjtactical.com. Their products have been used extensively overseas and are credited with taking out the trash and keeping our boys safe. They are designed to pierce a Kevlar helmet, which is a pretty nice feature if your proximity to an assaulter momentarily takes your long gun out of the fight. I recall this story airing on television. A bright reliable flashlight should already be part of your daily routine. Surefire is the apex predator in that arena. I have carried several of them on deployment and highly recommend their products. Night vision devices are an absolute must, as they allow the viewer to see in near total darkness without breaking light discipline and giving away their position.
Buyer beware! Simply attaching as many accessories as your rails will accommodate makes you no more a sharpshooter than purchasing a scalpel makes you a surgeon. Likewise, stockpiling ammunition and owning several weapons does not make you a soldier, sorry fellas. They are tools to use in conjunction with, not a supplement to, skill. Keep in mind, every additional piece of kit demands more training. You will have to work hard and train intensely to develop your skill sets.
Regardless of your chosen weapon platform- high capacity magazines, magazine couplers, drum magazines or beta mags should always find their way into your home. Surplus ammo is fine if your chosen weapons will put up with it. I have found that old steel cased ammo, even the moderately rusted kind, still allows my weapon to run like a sewing machine. While not an ideal scenario, it’s better to know that now than to find out otherwise when my life is on the line. The relevancy here is that more ammo allows for extended fighting periods (horse power included). That means I don’t have to cringe if I blow through a mag or four laying down suppressive fire. This may be unlikely, but I‘m planning to win in any scenario. Because surplus is cheaper, you can acquire a whole lot more for the money. You will need a way to carry all of your gear. Load bearing equipment goes hand in hand with weaponry, so be sure to choose quality gear that is able to handle your mission critical load out.
It is important to consider force multipliers when defending against the aforementioned rogue criminal elements. Several companies offer bump fire stocks on the market for weapons such as the AR, the infamous AK series, and even the Saiga 12 gauge and others (www.slidefire.com and http://fostechoutdoors.com/index.php). These stocks increase your standard semi auto weapons cyclic rate to mimic full auto fire. More specifically, around 900 rounds per minute with the AR platform. It will spit out an entire 30 round magazine in under 2.5 seconds! While the criminal hordes have select fire weapons illegally, we have the option to purchase these stocks for mere hundreds of dollars and all approved by the BATF with no tax stamp or waiting period. Your assaulters may not know the difference, or care. But they will know somebody on the other side of the door or down the hall is not to be trifled with.
I believe in fighting fire with fire. This ideal extends to the use of body armor. With so many options available to the consumer, bullet resistant vests are everywhere and can be had for reasonable prices if you look in the right places. And why not? The criminals waste no time acquiring these items to use against you. Make educated purchases as the vest’s bullet resistance degrades over time and with everyday use. Surplus Kevlar helmets are pretty much everywhere as well. There are many more force multipliers than mentioned here, but I believe I have outlined a practical foundation for you to be well prepared and well protected. The people aiming to harm you will be well prepared. It’s up to you to determine the level of threat you face, and how best to protect your family. We’re definitely not talking about the run of the mill home invasion that is seemingly innocuous by comparison.
Being geared up for combat is an intelligent approach to protecting yourselves against the inherent risks of outsiders when TEOTWAWKI arrives. It is the only way to stay alive when the SHTF. Your goal should be to emulate law enforcement and military training, tactics and arms. These brave people risk their lives every day and know very well how to protect themselves. If you are well armed and trained, you have a degree of sustainability. Your weapon can produce food. Your food and water supply cannot protect or defend you when engaged by enemy forces. Your mind is the most dangerous weapon you possess. It is up to you to hone the mind and prepare it to keep you safe. “Safety is something that happens between your ears, not something you hold in your hands” – Col. Jeff Cooper. The weapons are simply an extension of your mind. All excuses will fall silent when the brass meets the grass. There cannot be enough emphasis placed on proper equipment and training. In the end, it is all you have to fall back on.