We are continuing through the list of skills in the third point– “Acquire Skills”– of six points that will be presented and detailed that, if implemented in your own life, will greatly increase your chances of success, both in surviving TEOTWAWKI and in breaking the stereotype of the “kooky prepper.”
Shelter building is easily self-taught, especially if you buy some books on the subject and have the ability to “think outside the box.” The 1911 edition of the Boy Scouts Handbook shows many ways to construct shelters using a single piece of cloth (without ever cutting it), sticks, and cord. There are also various methods for building a shelter using only natural materials. For any shelter construction, it is key to ensure that your shelter is water resistant; that it will not collapse under the weight of snow, rain saturation, or its own materials; and that it blends in with the surrounding environment. Don’t be that guy camping underneath a blue poly tarp that’s visible from a mile away during TEOTWAWKI (or anytime for that matter). Either buy an actual military shelter (tent, bivy, canopy, or army poncho), or be prepared to construct a good natural shelter each time you set up camp. Also, be sure to have the appropriate woods tools with you to assist in construction, including a hefty fixed blade knife and a folding saw (mine is a Sawvivor, which is no longer produced), and possibly a hatchet or tomahawk with a head consisting of both blade and hammer, which is especially useful for pounding stakes into the ground.
In BUD/S we spent about two weeks learning and practicing land navigation. During the first week we studied the use of USGS (United States Geological Survey) 1:24,000 scale UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator) grid maps in conjunction with compasses and map tools, and the following week we used those tools and skills to navigate through the mountains inland from San Diego near the Mexican border. Each day we were required to individually find our way to seven of the dozens (if not hundreds) of points our instructors had hidden throughout the national forest. The points consisted of spruce-blue tomato stakes about a foot tall with a dog tag hanging from the top of each one by a short steel cable. We needed to find six out of seven points per day to pass the course; the distance between points ranged anywhere from 100 yards to several miles. Then, in squads, we completed a night navigation course consisting of chemlight points that were not as easy to see from a distance as you would think. In SQT, our land nav course was done in partners over a three-day period, walking about 26 miles through the mountains with a full load-out. At the Team, we again conducted a solo land nav course through the forests of Virginia, both in the daytime and at night. (I kept many sticks from poking my eyes out by wearing clear shooting glasses.) Never were we allowed to use a GPS to aid in navigation, and smart phones didn’t exist yet, as far as I remember. All navigation was done using the Silva Ranger compass.
GPS’s, like all electronics, can (and will) fail at the worst possible time. Also, the government can turn off or encrypt the signals from GPS satellites, and I believe they are likely to shut the system down for civilian use in the case of WROL (Without Rule Of Law). An EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse from a nuclear detonation or solar flare) could also cause significant problems for your GPS. The Silva Ranger consists of a liquid-filled compass with a mirror and sighting notch for taking accurate bearings, as well as scale rulers to use with your maps. This compass is capable of amazing accuracy, depending on the user’s skills, and it will function flawlessly, regardless of environmental or governmental factors, as long as you take care of it..
You may have some difficulty finding a military-grade land nav course to use for your own practice. However, I have heard that orienteering clubs have courses laid out on public lands and private campgrounds across the country. You can also hone your skills by geocaching, using your map and compass. Once you become proficient, you can challenge yourself further by setting up your own orienteering course for a local Boy Scout troop. (Just make sure you plot the points accurately, or you’ll have some disgruntled scouts to answer to.)
For medical training, you can learn basic first aid from the Boy Scouts or the American Red Cross. We learned to dress gunshot wounds, apply tourniquets, and give IV’s during SQT, but you will probably need to attend EMT training or join the military yourself to satisfactorily learn those skills. Becoming a corpsman in a combat unit would provide you with a wide array of medical skills and experiences from which to draw upon, in the case of TEOTWAWKI. A great source of military and survival medical supplies is www.chinookmed.com.
I have a great interest in firearms, and I am very much in favor of defending and strengthening our Second Amendment rights. I would like to see the amendment enhanced to read, “A well armed citizenry being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of all Americans to keep and bear weaponry equivalent to any and all government arms and equipment, especially for use against tyranny in government and common criminals, shall not be infringed upon or regulated by the government or any corporate entity, at any level, in the least degree, outside the walls of a jail or prison.”
My only firearms experience prior to BUD/S was earning the Shotgun Merit Badge at summer camp and firing three rounds of 22LR during a winter Klondike Derby. Pellet and BB guns aside, I never touched another real firearm until BUD/S. In Third Phase, we were trained to manipulate, fire, disassemble, clean, reassemble, and store the Sig P226 semi-auto pistol, S&W 686 revolver, Remington 870 pump-action shotgun, HK MP5 sub-machinegun, Colt M4 carbine, MK-46 (SAW– Squad Automatic Weapon), MK-243 (M60 machinegun), and M79 and M203 grenade launchers. In SQT, we retrained on some of those same firearms, as well as the AK47 carbine, M14 rifle, Browning M2 machinegun, Carl Gustav and AT4 recoilless rifles, and LAW rockets. At the Team, we fired the HK MK23 semi-auto pistol, and I was privileged to try out the boat-mounted Twin 50’s (two M2’s sharing one trigger) as well as the MK-19 automatic grenade launcher. I have also owned and become proficient in using around thirty personal firearms since purchasing my first shotgun back in 2002. In BUD/S, we had the basic firearms safety rules drilled into us, and we spent a lot of time dry firing (and drawing and re-holstering with the P226– our primary sidearm) before we ever fired any shots on a range. We had to qualify as experts in both pistol and rifle from the 25-yard line and 200-yard line respectively; we conducted Immediate Action Drills on a live-fire range (to practice returning fire and breaking contact from an enemy ambush), and we practiced our own ambushes and raids, as well as room clearing in a mock ship and kill-house/town. We became familiar enough with our firearms that we could disassemble, reassemble, load, shoot, and rectify malfunctions without giving any of it a second thought.
Now, I understand that not all survivalists all able to train with and master firearms to as great an extent as the Navy SEALs, but there are certain measures that all gun owners should take to become responsible and proficient shooters. As far as I have noticed the general public to be concerned, you are considered much more trustworthy with a firearm if you have been professionally trained rather than if you have been self taught or received casual instruction from a friend or relative. From my own observations of untrained or poorly-trained persons tending to do foolhardy things with firearms, I find this perspective to be justified. Prospective gun owners should attend and graduate from at least one professionally-instructed course (preferably more) to learn basic firearms safety, proper maintenance, shooting fundamentals, and self-defense/tactical shooting skills as well as techniques for clearing malfunctions during high-stress situations. Blackwater USA (now Academi) offers such courses, and so does a personal friend and fellow SEAL through his business www.tridentfitness.net. Training should be undergone for both handguns and long guns, and I do not consider hunter safety courses or concealed carry courses to offer sufficient firearms training for anybody, much less for serious survivalists. You need training that is based on the use of firearms as battle weapons.
To me, a major indicator of whether somebody is a novice prepper, a kook, or a truly prepared survivalist is the type and quality of gear that he selects. Many of us are living on a tight budget and it’s simply not feasible to purchase the top-end version of every gear item we need. Still, it is important to always make quality a high priority, and for some items you really should only consider top-end candidates and save up as necessary to buy them. Here I will detail my own EDC items and recommendations: a watch, sunglasses, phone, flashlight, lighter, pocketknife, and handgun. I also normally carry my wallet, but I made it myself and it’s very unique, so I can’t recommend a store-bought equivalent. In the future, I hope to write another essay covering a full TEOTWAWKI combat load-out, but for now I’ll just stick with the ROL (time when Rule of Law is in effect) essentials.
The ability to determine time is essential to following a daily schedule and coordinating events with others. My watch is a Seiko automatic, which is internally wound by body movement. I was told by a reputable watch dealer/repairman that it should run for 15 to 20 years without needing any service, as long as it doesn’t experience any hard impacts. The same man tells me that Luminox watches, which are made specifically for military use, are also excellent. My Seiko has modern glow-paint on the hands and numerals and holds a dim glow all night long after being exposed to sunlight throughout the day, or after shining a bright light on it for a few seconds. Luminox uses tritium for the same purpose, which will glow continually for between 12 and 20 years. Either a Seiko or a Luminox will set you back about $300. The only other watches I care for are Casio G-Shocks and the Timex Atlantis. Both offer water resistance to 50m or deeper but will only last about three years before requiring a battery replacement and may be more prone to failure in the case of an EMP, whereas such an event is less likely to affect an analog watch. Analog watches are often made with a rotating bezel to provide a simple stopwatch function, and they can be used to determine cardinal direction if you know the trick.
Sunlight is terrible for virtually everything that doesn’t contain chlorophyll, and your eyes are especially susceptible to damage from both direct and indirect solar radiation. I find it incredible how so many people go about their daily lives without wearing anything to shield their eyes from the UV rays or even the sheer brightness of the sun. My current sunglasses are the Oakley XX. I wear them anytime I’m outdoors between sunrise and sunset. I had a pair of Oakley Fives that I liked better (basically the XX without any of the rubber pieces), but I lost them kayaking while riding a wave in Florida. I believe that Oakley makes the best sunglasses on the market, and they offer a lifetime warranty on their frames for the rare cases in which they break. (They will not replace scratched lenses, so be careful with them.) Most SEALs wear Oakleys because of their comfort, ruggedness, clarity, and highly protective lens coatings. They are relatively expensive, but you can get a major discount on most models if you have served in military or law enforcement by going to www.oakleysi.com and applying for membership. (You’ll have to e-mail Oakley a copy of your DD-214 or current government ID.)
I don’t really care much for owning or carrying a cell phone, as doing so makes a person feel obligated to be available to others when he would rather not be, because the phone acts as a GPS tracking device and because (being a transmitter of radio signals) a cell phone is a potential source of cancer-causing radiation when carried close to one’s body. My current phone is an iPhone, and it basically functions as a tiny Mac computer, so that makes me less reluctant to carry it. (I normally keep it off my body whenever possible though.) It is fully compatible with my actual computer (a MacBook Pro), and MagPul makes excellent tactical cases for it that are available in black, foliage, and flat dark earth. Some practical apps you may want to load into your phone are “Daylight”, which provides the civil, nautical, and astronomical morning and evening twilight times as well as actual sunrise and sunset times. (This is very useful for mission planning.) Other helpful apps include Trimble Outdoors’ “Navigator”, which provides digital and zoomable USGS Topo maps for the entire country with a “current position” indicator, and “BulletDrop”, which calculates ballistics based upon data you provide (cartridge specifications, zero, yardage, and wind speed). All of these apps are free.
I began regularly carrying a flashlight about two years ago, when my job necessitated it for reading, writing, and performing inspections before dawn and in enclosed spaces. Before that time, I just performed tasks in the dark by feel, which I still frequently do. I wear a Maglite Solitaire LED flashlight on a bead chain around my neck. This is a top-quality American-made flashlight, and it is much brighter than its incandescent predecessor. Advertised as a keychain flashlight, the Solitaire runs 1:45 hours on one AAA battery, measures approximately 4” by ½”, is waterproof, and wearing it around the neck allows a person to easily access and bite it for hands-free use. If you prefer a pocket- or belt-carry flashlight, the Mini Maglite Pro+ LED is very nice and bright. It runs on two AA batteries and can be used as a flashlight or as a “candle”. (The Solitaire also does this, but it won’t stand on end as well.) I also have a Mag-Tac flashlight, but I don’t care for it a whole lot. Despite it being extremely bright, it’s too bulky for comfortable pants-pocket carry, and it doesn’t function as a candle for area lighting, although I do take it running at night. The only other quality American EDC flashlights I’m aware of are made by Surefire, but they are outrageously priced, and I don’t believe there is much performance difference between them and Maglite; you’re really just paying for the name and a more tactical look. For a weapons light, Streamlight makes the TLR series in my home state of Pennsylvania. I don’t think you can find a better weapon light than the TLR-1s, which has a watertight aluminum housing and utilizes a very bright LED, but if you prefer the addition of an aiming laser, the TLR-2s is a good option.
Tomorrow, we’ll continue the list of quality gear.