Today, we’re continuing the list of EDC gear detailed under the fourth point– “Carry and Use Quality Gear”– of the 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”.
I have carried a lighter since I was very young, because of it’s usefulness. It can be used for a variety of tasks, including lighting fires, candles, and fuses; fusing the ends of synthetic cords and ropes; securing heat-shrink tubing; firing up gas stoves; sterilizing needles; and more. My current lighter is a Zippo that I DuraCoated MultiCam. I have been carrying this particular lighter since I was a Boy Scout, over fourteen years ago at which time it still wore its factory woodland camo finish. It never fails me as long as I keep a bottle of spare fluid on hand for when it dries out. Others have mentioned sealing their Zippos with a section of bicycle tire tube to keep the fuel from evaporating, but I use mine so frequently that this would be annoying to deal with, and I would rather just refill it, which is necessary about every two to three weeks. If you can’t or don’t want to carry spare fuel or use the bicycle tube trick, and you’re concerned about your Zippo running out of fluid at an inopportune time, I have read that they will function with nearly any flammable liquid. So, in TEOTWAWKI, you could theoretically refuel your Zippo with diesel, kerosene, lamp oil, nail polish remover, paint solvents, or some other fuel. If you decide to try any of those in your lighter, let the rest of us know how it turns out.
I keep a spare wick in the bottom of my lighter case, as well as several extra flints between the felt pad and the packing material inside the fuel chamber. The wicks aren’t too difficult to replace with a pair of needle-nosed pliers, but you can virtually avoid such a chore altogether by extinguishing the flame as soon as you sense the lighter to be running low on fuel: I’m still using the same wick I was using ten years ago. A good lighter will outlast all the matches you could buy and store, and it will be much more practical for the average task than a ferrocerium rod, magnesium block, or other wilderness fire-starters. (I do carry the Swedish “Light My Fire” ferro rods in the pouches of my fixed-blade knife sheaths for making emergency campfires because they’ll still work even after being submerged in water.) The Zippo is a quality, American classic made in Bradford, PA, and nothing beats it for EDC.
A pocketknife will probably be your most useful gear item, and there are many good choices. The blade should be made of a known quality stainless steel such as AUS8, ATS-34/CM134, S30V, or VG-1. If you can’t determine what type of steel a blade is made of, then don’t buy the knife. A blade measuring between 3-1/2” and 6” will be practical for most EDC tasks; I consider a 4” blade to be standard. A pocket clip is essential for comfort and for keeping the knife handy. (Tip-up carry allows the knife to be removed from the pocket and opened in the most natural manner.) You’ll need to choose between one-handed opening options, such as a thumb stud, thumb hole, or pocket hook for ease of deployment (as opposed to nail nicks, which generally require both hands for opening). If you are left handed, be sure to choose a knife with a reversible pocket clip. Most modern folders already have ambidextrous opening options. The blade needs to lock open for strength and safety; lock-back and axis-lock mechanisms are stronger than liner locks and tend to not loosen as easily over time. Cold Steel alleges that their Tri-Ad lock is the toughest lock-back mechanism available, and I agree with them; however, the design is frequently executed in a way that makes the lock very difficult to disengage when you’re ready to close the blade. This can be remedied with a very small amount of careful rounding of the corners on the locking bar and tang notch using a fine-grit belt grinder. You’ll have to disassemble the knife, study the parts, and make your grinds on a very squared table to maintain the lock’s integrity and functionality. (This really isn’t as hard as it sounds.)
As far as blade shape is concerned, avoid tantos, unless you spend a lot of time in urban environments where the reinforced tip would be useful for prying at man-made objects; tantos are not as practical for a wide range of outdoor cutting tasks, like slicing and whittling, as clip-points or drop-points because of the angle in the blade. I would also avoid blades with any serrations, due to the same limitations as well as being difficult to sharpen. Serrations are generally intended for cutting rope and webbing and for slicing bread. I’ve found that a non-serrated blade will usually cut rope and webbing just as well as, if not better than, a serrated edge.
As for which company’s knife to choose, I recommend Benchmade for American quality, or Cold Steel if you don’t mind your blade having Taiwan stamped on it (although if you look around on eBay you may be able to find some discontinued Japanese models). Despite the Taiwanese manufacture, Cold Steel does produce very strong and sharp blades that have survived torturous testing. I would highly recommend any of Cold Steel’s Voyager series clip-point blades if you prefer a tactical look, their Mackinac or Lonestar Hunters for a more traditional look. (These are a bit heavier than the Voyagers of similar size.) I, personally, like to carry their Counter Point I during PT, in case I get chased by vicious dogs while running, which has happened to me several times. From Benchmade, I would select one of their blue-line or black-line axis-lock knives. Benchmade is currently offering their excellent Griptillian and several other models for custom ordering; you can select your own combination of blade steel, shiny or blackened blade and hardware, handle scale colors and patterns, and images and/or writing to be printed on the blade. (Their images include several variants of the Gadsden Flag.) All Benchmade blade steels are extremely sharp, and their axis-lock allows for very smooth one-handed opening and closing, similar in ease of use to a good OTF switchblade. Spyderco also offers some nice knives. Their Endura 4” is thin and lightweight, and it’s available with a variety of handle colors, including OD green and flat dark earth. You’ll normally be able to find hard-to-beat prices on knives at www.knifecenter.com. If you don’t EDC a pocketknife already, start now; you’ll soon wonder how you ever got along without it. Every survivalist needs a great knife.
Although it will be used the least frequently out of all your EDC gear (at least during ROL), your handgun will be your most important gear item, should you need to use it. With proper function being an absolute necessity when you’re under attack, you should definitely not be cheap about this purchase. I have owned or been issued handguns made by Beretta, Glock, HK, Kahr, Kel-Tec, MasterPiece Arms, Ruger, Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson, and Springfield. I have handled and dry-fired most other makes and models. My preference is for SA/DA (single-action/double-action) semi-autos and SA/DA magnum revolvers. I do not buy into the current group-mentality that every trigger pull must feel exactly the same, and I believe that DAO (double-action only) and striker-fired handguns are generally intended for novices, who want to avoid the “confusion” of dealing with manual controls. I appreciate having a spurred hammer, decock lever, and safety lever if possible. I like all my firearms to be stainless, as rusty parts would cause major problems. If you don’t like the looks of a shiny stainless firearm, then get yourself a blackened stainless firearm, or buy a shiny firearm and have it bead blasted, DuraCoated, Cerakoted, et cetera. Avoid blued steel; it will rust if you carry it regularly. Your handgun should be chambered in a common caliber that has effective stopping power. There is no “best caliber” for self-defense, but I wouldn’t carry anything chambered for a lesser cartridge than 9mm. (Stay away from .380 ACP; it’s expensive and underpowered.) You would be wise to select a handgun chambered in 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .357 Magnum, or .44 Magnum, if you can handle it.
Regardless of caliber choice, I highly recommend Speer Gold Dot ammunition for EDC. It’s bonded design mushrooms upon impact and remains intact throughout its penetration, unlike other hollow point bullets that fragment, and thus expends its energy effectively within the target. This is the top choice of law enforcement and security personnel. You’ll probably have to buy Speer ammo at a gun store, as Walmart does not normally carry it.
For a service pistol, I can highly recommend the Sig P226 and similar aluminum-framed Sigs, such as the new P227 (essentially a P226 in .45 ACP). I can also highly recommend the HK USP and USP compact pistols, although the magazines for them cost around $60 apiece, last time I checked, compared to Sig’s magazines costing around $40. If you were trained on a Glock and can’t adapt to any non-Glock platform, I can highly recommend any of their full-size and compact models in the Generation 3 series, which share parts commonality with Generations 1 and 2 while also providing a light rail on most models and a more secure grip.
For a sub-compact/micro-compact “pocket gun”, I recommend the Kahr P and PM series pistols (the “P” for larger hands and “PM” for smaller hands) despite being striker-fired because they are simply the most compact handguns available per caliber. I also recommend them because they are made with stainless steel and come with tritium night sights (or at least allow for night sights to be installed by the buyer), whereas most other micro-compacts are not and do not. I extensively researched and handled every reputable company’s micro-compact handguns before purchasing my own Kahr PM9, and I concluded that it was superior to the competition in every way, and I will keep it until Sig or HK decide to produce a 9mm SA/DA micro-compact “P226” or “USP”.
If you’re interested in carrying a revolver, the Ruger GP-100 is an excellent choice. It is very comparable to the S&W 686, but the Ruger is allegedly the tougher gun and you can easily install night sights on it yourself, whereas the S&W will require the services of a gunsmith to do so (although the S&W is available with a 7-round cylinder compared to Ruger’s six). It would only be logical to purchase a revolver chambered in .357 Magnum rather than .38 Special, as the former can fire both cartridges but the latter cannot. (I find it odd that any companies even produce revolvers chambered exclusively for .38 Special anymore.) If you can manage the recoil and sheer size/weight of carrying a .44 magnum, then either the Smith & Wesson Model 29 or the Ruger Super Redhawk are excellent choices. Again, I prefer the Ruger, but you’ll need to get the barrel shortened and have the front sight re-installed by a competent gunsmith (such as Gundoc at www.greatwestgunsmithing.com) if you want to EDC it. More often than not, if a firearm is issued to U.S. military, police, or government agencies, then it is a quality piece and you can feel confident in buying one for yourself. For those of you who are under 21, many states will allow you to own and openly-carry a handgun, but your parents will have to buy it for you. If they are agreeable, that’s great, but if not, then you’re unconstitutionally out of luck for now. You will probably find the best deals on firearms at www.gunbroker.com (the “eBay” of firearms). Aside from custom models and special editions that really just offer unnecessary luxuries, don’t let price be the major factor in your handgun selection. Only buy and carry one of the best.
As an additional point, it is entirely unacceptable to hide unsecured firearms around your home, in your vehicles, or on your property where they could be discovered, stolen, and misused by irresponsible persons or criminals. Any firearm that is not under the immediate control of its rightful owner must be kept locked up in a quality gun safe. Simply purchasing a safe, placing it in your house, and filling it with your valuable firearms is not enough though.
Safes for Storing Firearms
Criminals can knock a safe onto its back and use pry bars and the force of their full body-weight to pry the door open; this is especially true of inexpensive safes. Many safe break-ins are perpetrated by cutting through the thin sides of the safe, rather than dealing with the thick door. Criminals can also steal your entire loaded safe and take it to a less-risky location to spend as long as they like prying or cutting it open. Therefore, your safe needs to be bolted to the floor and, if possible, to any walls around it as well. Corner locations are better than having only a single wall behind your safe. A cove surrounding the safe on three sides is better yet. During ROL, a good safe combined with a cell-guard-equipped home security system will make it extremely difficult for anybody to steal your firearms. The best value in safes that I have found is the Liberty Safe Company. Their safes are available in a wide range of sizes in several degrees of plainness or luxury, and they can be purchased straight from the manufacturer or through retail outlets such as Cabela’s and Gander Mountain. You will pay about as much for a good safe as you would pay for one or two quality firearms. It will protect your investments from criminals, house guests, and (to some degree) fires. Owning a safe will help to protect everybody in your community, and it will give you peace of mind. If you are concerned about your children being able to defend themselves when they are home alone, I would suggest leaving one long gun per responsible child locked in a wall-mounted type of rack– preferably in a concealed location in their own bedroom– and giving them the key or combination to quickly access it in an emergency. If you decide to do this, it is your responsibility to make sure your child is properly trained to use the firearm, confirm that they understand when to use it and when not to use it, and ensure that your child does not leave your property (or even your house in some circumstances) with the firearm, or disclose its presence or accessibility to their friends. You can place a Uline seal through the ejection port and mag-well (rifles) or feed port (shotguns), and the rack itself, as an indicator of whether or not the firearm has been tampered with. If the seal goes missing without an emergency having occurred, that child would lose his or her accessibility, at least for a time. You could also provide the child with only “less-lethal” ammunition (mainly for shotguns), such as bean-bag or rubber ball-filled shells. These have very low recoil, so they are highly suitable for children to use, and their misuse would have less dire consequences than buckshot or slugs.