I occasionally prowl prepper forums to read the opinions being expressed on various survival-related matters. Some people offer opinions that provide excellent insight into a particular problem or concern. Other people offer opinions that reveal profoundly weird or nonsensical views about issues. Of course, that situation certainly isn’t limited to the field of preparedness.
I recently saw a posting on a forum by someone who asked whether, in making his preparations for a possible societal collapse, he should acquire “pass out” guns to hand out to his neighbors who, though mildly interested in survival matters when he discussed it with them, were unwilling to buy firearms at this time. He also asked for suggestions about which guns he should buy for them, in case he ever found it necessary to arm them after “the balloon went up”.
Many of those who responded to his query said he should go ahead and buy the guns. Since this could involve the expenditure of considerable funds, surplus Moisin Nagant rifles, Mossberg shotguns, Maverick shotguns, Hi-Points automatic pistols, and various .22 LR firearms were recommended as being serviceable weapons that he might consider and which wouldn’t deplete his bank account too much.
Others who responded flatly with an objection stated that he should not give these people guns if they were not trained to use them. Others warned him that arming neighbors was a bad idea because these people were likely to turn on him with their new firearms.
In my opinion, if this is the world view of the people with these latter opinions and if it is based on their current circumstances, these people probably need to move to a new neighborhood, but, then again, that’s just me and my opinion.
My comments that follow here are intended to be applied to a “World Gone Feral” (WGF), where no help from local authorities can be expected in the foreseeable future and where everyone is simply on their own during a period of dramatic and prolonged social chaos. To be very clear, it is not about OPSEC violations and the wisdom of revealing your personal preparations to neighbors in advance of social chaos. It is not an in-depth discussion about choosing the best defensive tactics when defending a neighborhood. It is also not about charitable motivations or concerns about helping your neighbors in times of need. It is simply about how you and your family will be safer if you are surrounded by armed neighbors who are able to help you and your family make it intact through serious and prolonged societal chaos.
Jim Rawles nails it when he says that people will be safer post-TEOTWAWKI if they have others on which they can depend for support and who can help contribute to security needs. To suggest, as some do, that it is always best to go it alone is, in a word, suicide–or at least, it very well could be.
Be serious. You, your spouse, and your eight and five year old children can’t maintain adequate security 24 hours a day at your lakeside retreat, two bedroom walk-up apartment in the city, or suburban tri-level. While it may not “take a village” to be as safe as possible, you will likely need more than you, your spouse, and a couple of kids to provide a safe environment after “The End of The World as We Know It.”
I suppose that those who are able to construct a homestead so deep in the wilderness that no one could ever find them might make it on their own, if they have enough physical resources there, but it’s because their very remoteness is their primary (and passive) security measure. They do not believe that they need to take active security measures in providing for their safety because their sheer distance from other elements of society provides enough security. Yet, living so deep in the wilderness is not a realistic, or at least an acceptable, option for most people for all kinds of reasons. Some reasons people choose not to live in the wilderness is because they want to earn a decent income, have access to professional medical treatment, or be able to socialize their kids with other children, or simply because they are not willing to spend their whole lives waiting for society to collapse, so figuring out how to keep safe while in close contact with others is a problem that most of us need to address and figure out.
So let’s consider just how most of us, who live in more typical environments with others, might deal in the best way possible with our security needs when it really matters after the WGF.
First, about how many neighbors might need to be armed in order to provide a decent level of security, considering that conventional U.S. Army tactics provide for one defender to meet three attackers. A brigade defends against a division, for example. The reason for this is easy to understand. A unit on the defense that is dug in and ready finds it easier to defend ground against a much larger force that has to maneuver in front of it.
While this formula won’t work across the board in a WGF, due to the fact that the bad guys might be much better armed, and your neighbors may well have inferior skills and training, it is unlikely that you will need to meet the bad guys one-on-one.
Whether or not neighbors can “hit the broadside of a barn from inside the barn” with the weapons that they have newly acquired from your personal inventory, at worst, these neighbors will be able to serve as early warning devices for the neighborhood, much like watch dogs that bark but which aren’t inclined to actually attack intruders.
If the need arises, even a volunteer “computer nerd” or a volunteer “soccer mom” posted on the neighborhood perimeter who have never held a gun, much less squeezed a trigger until this very day, can begin firing rounds and make the bad guys duck and cover for a couple of critical minutes. While doing so, they will alert others to the danger.
When this happens, they can give more capable members of the neighborhood “rapid reaction force” time to arrive and to deal with the threat. The bad guys may even be in a total state of confusion, while they attempt to figure out where the shooter is and how to advance safely on the shooter’s position. Hopefully, they will waste a precious couple of minutes trying to figure out whether this defender can shoot the wings off a mosquito at a hundred yards or whether they can even hit the inside of that barn. This time interval could be critical, and it could save lives on your side of the fight.
Can you possibly believe that it would be better for you and your family for the computer nerd or soccer mom to cower unarmed in a basement when the bad guys arrive, or for them to spot the bad guys and simply yell helplessly from the far side of the cul-de-sac and do nothing else?
If your paramount concern is you and your family’s security, from a purely pragmatic (not cynical) perspective, you and your family will likely be better off even if the computer nerd and soccer mom ultimately sacrifice themselves while providing this critical interval in which you and your rapid reaction force can properly deal with the threat. Also, just how well served will the computer nerd and the soccer mom and their families be if they sit quietly out of the fight and become “victims in progress,” all the while hoping against hope that the bad guys will just go away and someone else will make things better? As has been said in a different context, “’Hope and change’ is not a strategy.”
Try to think like a predator would think post-TEWOTWAWKI. Consider this scenario:
A leader and his buddies are cruising down the road in vehicles straight out of “Road Warrior.” They are decked out in full “battle rattle” and each of them is armed with an AR or AK, and each of them has several full magazines for their weapons. At the same time, they also have empty stomachs and almost empty fuel tanks for their vehicles. The situation is getting grim for them. (These same predators may have been a respected high school physical education teacher, a customer service rep, or a Sam’s Club cashier just three months earlier, but I’ll save the discussion of that transition for another article.)
The predators first pass a small subdivision where people are observed to be socializing or walking around in Ray-Bans, t-shirts, and flip-flops. A half-mile further down the road, they pass a subdivision where people are observed to be walking the perimeter and performing security functions at the entrances, while carrying shotguns and black rifles slung from their shoulders or carried at the ready position. Assume that this fellow and his predator buddies have gone to “the dark side” in the last three months, and that they are now desperate, and that conventional senses of morality have no effect on any decision they make in their effort to meet their needs. Assume, further, that they have decided to strike some new target that night. With those factors in mind, which of the two potential subdivisions described above poses the best risk–to-benefit ratio for this predator and his buddies?
This was not a trick question.
An armed neighborhood would give the clear impression to potential predators that your turf is not the “low hanging fruit” in the area. It will not serve you and your neighbors well to have an invisible but obvious “Kick Me” sign on your backs. While it may not be a serious issue in the first couple of weeks, sooner or later, appearing to be a soft target only invites trouble. After a societal collapse, as soft targets are hit one-by-one, if your neighborhood appears to be easy pickings, it is just a matter of time before the wolves get around to your part of the flock. In a feral world, predators almost always attack the old, the weak, and the young. In a post-TEOTWAWKI situation that is completely out of control, add to those traditional victim categories the unarmed.
I was a prosecutor for several years. I never, ever had a case involving purse snatching when the victim wasn’t an older woman or a small woman. Again, choosing such victims was simply part of a risk-to-benefit ratio that even the “perp” with the 80 IQ could calculate. Predators almost always do the math.
“Si vis pacem, para bellum.” This translates, “If you want peace, prepare for war”– Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus in De Re Militari. In addition, leaders, from the Emperor Hadrian to President Reagan, have used the phrase “Peace through strength”. I feel confident that ol’ Vegetius, Hadrian, and, God bless him, Ronnie, would also agree with my paraphrasing when I say, “If you want peace, appear to be prepared for war” and “Peace through the appearance of strength”.
Socialist radical Saul Alinsky, who is hardly a role model in this discussion, did express a sentiment that you should keep in mind, “Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have”. Simply appearing to be strong surely won’t be the solution in every situation, but it’s certainly likely to help you in many situations, and it just may get you through a crisis with you, your family, and your neighbors safe and intact.
As an example of this, a couple of years ago, I read on this fine blog a posting by a former Los Angeles Police Department officer (or perhaps a senior LAPD officer now). He was a young patrolman with the LAPD during the 1992 Rodney King Riots in Los Angeles. He mentioned that while many store owners fled their stores and found them looted when they returned after order was restored, many Koreatown shopkeepers and merchants armed themselves and guarded their businesses so as to prevent looting. Just their appearance while armed and on rooftops and in front of their stores kept most potential looters at bay.
If you search, you can find videos of shots actually being fired by these store owners on YouTube during this riot, but this LAPD officer pointed out how successful most of these shopkeepers’ efforts were, and that, most of the time, gunshots weren’t necessary to keep the scum away. Of particular interest here is that he also said that it was a little known fact that some of these Koreans were actually armed with toy guns. The mere appearance of guns in their hands, however, was sufficient to cause most of the looters to try their luck elsewhere. Once again, the denizens of LA’s uneducated, bottom-feeding, and lawless class were perfectly capable of calculating the risk-to-benefit ratio, and they found it wanting in significant parts of Koreatown.
Put simply, after everything has gone to pot, in a world Without Rule of Law, it is very unlikely to be in your interest and your neighbors’ interest to appear to be living in “a gun free zone”.
Some have suggested that it would be a good idea to merely make one’s home look abandoned and already looted. This is supposed to cause the bad guys to look elsewhere. All I can say about that idea is that even if you are personally willing to do this, the level of societal chaos will need to have sunk to Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell before most of your spouses will allow your homes to be trashed enough to fool the bad guys. (That first “shucking” action you hear is likely to be coming from your wife with the 12 ga. Mossberg 500 behind you.) Also, if your neighbors refuse to follow your example by trashing the external appearance of their own homes, just how is that going to help you very much in keeping the bad guys away from the area?
About the only time I can even imagine that it would not be in your interest to let potential predators know that you and your neighbors are armed to the teeth is when an ambush is planned. That may work in novels. In real life? Not so much. Trying to execute a serious ambush would be far beyond the capabilities of most people who have never fired weapons.
If you think that a group of marginally experienced neighbors should keep weapons hidden so as to sucker unknowing bad guys into an ambush, and that this is a really great idea, you probably also draw to inside straights when playing poker. Why would you ever want to invite an attack from predators who have misjudged the risk and mistakenly believe that your group is weak? In combat operations, the military is required to coldly calculate what are determined to be acceptable losses. Someone, perhaps Robert E. Lee, but I am not sure, said something to the effect that victories are purchased with the lives of men. Who among your family, your brothers, your friends, or your neighbors do you consider “expendable” in situations such as these?
The old adage is that “the best way to survive a gun fight is to avoid a gun fight”, and the logic is beyond dispute. Let predators believe, rightly or wrongly, that attacking you and your neighbors is going to be very dangerous and that “the game is not worth the candle”. Let them believe that attacking you will be very costly to them, at best, and let them believe that, even if they can hurt your group very badly, the result would still be very close to ”Mutually Assured Destruction”.
Before I close here, about that idea of neighbors turning on you with their new firearms, I am reminded of Cody Lundin’s remark when he and Joe Teti were in a bad place in some scorched, dry climate and came across a fetid pool of water. He posed a question and asked whether or not it was a good idea to drink from it. He answered his own question in words to the effect of, “Sure. You may be in a hospital wretching your guts out in three days, but it’s better than dying from dehydration by tomorrow morning.” Applying that logic here, living six months after arming your neighbors is better than dying in three weeks after going it alone. The crisis may be ended or substantially better in six months, and the conflict with your neighbors may never occur.
My view here is that if you have the financial resources to buy extra firearms to hand out to friends and neighbors in a very serious crisis, then you should seriously consider buying these firearms. Each one may represent an insurance policy that pays off handsomely for you and your family. What is the downside for having the ability to do this if you decide that it is in your interest to do it?
There surely would be a great upside and no downside if you had this option, and it’s not as if these firearms have expiration dates on them. The worst case scenario is that, if nothing else, you would have exceptionally valuable barter items after the collapse.
As long as you’re at it, don’t forget to buy adequate quantities of ammo for these firearms that, otherwise, would be large paperweights or clubs. This ammo will also be a terrific barter item, something that is likely to be the new “coin of the realm” post-TEOTWAWKI.
“A man can never have too much red wine, too many books, or too much ammunition.” -Rudyard Kipling