Tuesday, September 23, 2008

AR-15 and Mossberg 590

2 great tools of the trade. The AR-15 and the Mossberg 590. The AR-15 is available in several configurations with a ton of accessories. It's use by the Federal government and lots of local Law Enforcement means that ammunition will continue to be available even when the Wal-Mart burns down. The Mossberg 590 and it's cousins the Mossberg 500 and Maverick 88 are reliable and infinitley useful. Stay away from pistol grips with no stocks if you actually want to hit something. Mad Max was full of it when it came to weapon choice.

Tools of the Trade

Firearms are a common topic when discussing Survivalism. In the event of a world changing catastrophe, firearm ownership may well be the difference in being a victim or surviving. As with anything, however, there are many things to consider before deciding the "if" and "what" of owning a gun.

So, tell me about it.
The most important thing to consider is the "if" portion. Owning a gun is much like owning a car or a house. There are both benefits and obligations to it. Ask yourself a few questions before you make the decision:

1. Am I willing to take the proper safety precautions with a firearm? This includes making it inaccessible to smaller children as well as keeping it properly locked up to prevent theft and misuse.

2. Am I willing to learn how to properly and safely operate my firearm? That includes going to the range and practicing on a regular basis, and possibly taking a course if you are not comfortable with guns to begin with.

3. Am I willing to commit to maintaining my firearm? This means learning how to disassemble and properly clean your gun as well as keeping proper cleaning supplies on hand.

4. Is my family comfortable with my decision? Will your family commit to learning gun safety as well? If you properly train them, especially children, you lessen the chances of a tragic gun related accident happening. I shoot, my kids shoot, my wife does not. However, I have tried to make sure she is comfortable with guns in the house. She knows all mine are stored properly and made safe if they are not locked up (cleaning, heading to range, etc.)
I have decided to get a gun!
Now on to the fun part. What do I get? Well, a Desert Eagle in .50 caliber and some sort of full-auto Class 3 Machine Gun, right? Nope. No. Nyet.
I thought you said this was the fun part!
A gun is a tool, and just like you would not hammer a nail with a screwdriver, you need to decide the right tool for the job. Decide what you want your firearm to do.
Home Defense? Small Game Hunting? Target Shooting? There are thousands of different guns out there in hundreds of different calibers and it can be a little confusing when you try and decide what you want.
Great, so how do I decide?
Do your homework. Buy a copy of Shotgun News. Look at the pictures and read the articles. Search the Internet. Ask a friend. Keep in mind your mission for the weapon as well as your budget. Price ammunition before you make a purchase.
Why does the price of ammo matter?
I have a wonderful custom hunting rifle from the 1950s. It is built off a Japanese Arisaka rifle action that someone brought back from WW2 and mated with a war surplus Johnson Ligt Machine gun barrel. It is highly accurate and obviously made by a real craftsman. I paid only $125 for it. This should be the perfect rifle, right? Wrong. It is chambered in .300 Savage. A round that waned in popularity after the 1960s. Right now a box of 20 rounds in this caliber runs from $27 to $45. That means more than $1.35 a shot! What point is a good gun if you can't afford to shoot it?
What does RipperBravo6 think?
**Consider a semi-automatic pistol for home defense. These are easy to use, easy to maintain and ammunition is readily available.
**A semi-auto rifle in a lighter caliber such as .223 can serve for defense as well as hunting.
**A 12 gauge pump shotgun can be loaded with buckshot for home defense and bird shot for hunting. With slugs, it can even take larger game.
No one weapon is going to handle everything, so be prepared to compromise. Consider your primary mission and purchase something easy to use and maintain that fits your budget.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"I'm not a Survivalist, what can I do?"

Normally I get one of two responses when I talk to someone about preparedness. About 75% of them smile politely when I tell them of my preparations, but simply shrug their shoulders when I ask about theirs. Their only plan seems to be to go to the grocery store if something happens. Well, that only works if there is a grocery store to go to. I had an interesting thing happen Saturday. After we decided Ike was going to miss us entirely, my wife and I invited her brother and his wife over for drinks. Before they arrived, I ran up to our new Spec's Liquor to get "supplies". I took about $50 in cash with me just in case there was an issue with using credit cards. Well, as I live and breathe, there was a sign on the door of Spec's saying they could not take cards! You see, Spec's is headquartered in Houston and their credit card machines are tied into the corporate network. No power in Houston, no cards anywhere! I got my "supplies". but there were a few unhappy folks who did not. Having set out cash before the storm turned out to be a good idea, but imagine if those folks had been trying to buy food, water or gas and no one would take their credit cards. Kind of magnifies the situation.
25% of the folks I talk to are a little more receptive. They are interested in what I have done and want to know what they can do. So, today's entry is about 5 things you can do to become more prepared.
1. Have a plan.
This is the number one thing that I recommend for anyone thinking about preparedness. And one plan is never enough. For any given situation, you need a plan and a backup plan. What should you plan for? well, here are a few possible scenarios:
A. Getting to your rally point (most likely your home) in the event of an emergency.
B. Staying home (bugging in) during an emergency.
C. Leaving town (bugging out) in the event of an emergency.
D. Dealing with household emergencies (gas leak, house fire, leaking water heater).
E. Starting over after an emergency.
Things to consider in your plan are who is included in the plan, what routes should be taken to a location, what supplies are needed, what comes next after you execute the plan as well as several alternatives for each step. For instance, we have a plan that addresses getting home in the event of an emergency. It reads as follows (names and places removed):
"In the event of an emergency every family member should plan to meet at the family home at XXXX XXXXX Street. Adult A will attempt to drive to the house via the following route (document route) if the is not possible, Adult A will take alternate route (document route). If driving is not an option, Adult A will walk home using the following route (document route). Child A will ride his bicycle home from school, unless the school detains him, then he will be picked up by Adult B. Once the family is home, a decision will be made to leave or stay"
And so on and so forth. That is just the basics, the more details the better. Also, having a plan is not enough, you have to discuss it with your family (maybe once every 3 months) and practice it (twice a year at least) for it to work in an emergency.
2. Have some money put away.
My wife had the opportunity to help out with some of the Ike refugees being sheltered in our area, and her number one observation was that almost none of them had any money on them. One family could not even drive their car to a different shelter because they had no money for gas. The ultimate consequence of the welfare state/entitlement culture in America, but that is a different discussion. You have to have some cash set back if you plan to leave or to stay. I know how hard saving money can be, but if you take $10 or $20 each payday and put it in an envelope on your fire safe (you do have a fire safe, don't you?), then you will never miss it. In a year, you will have $120 to $240 put back. That is enough to gas up the car and get 300 miles away from anywhere and still have enough left to feed your family and buy any essentials you have forgotten. Don't count on being able to get money from an ATM or on your debit card, cash is king in an emergency!
3. Get some extra food.
Many people think that survival food has to be expensive freeze dried stuff, however, your normal grocery list probably contains a lot of items that you could use. If you buy groceries every 2 weeks, and include 3 or 4 additional items each time, you can have 3 weeks of food put back in no time. A few extra cans of condensed soup, canned spaghetti sauce and dried pasta, rice, beans (dry or canned), powdered milk, canned juice and canned meat (chicken, ham, tuna) are all items I have in my personal larder. Buy things you will eat. Plan a menu using your survival food. Don't forget comfort foods like pudding, oatmeal and fruit. Have some variety in what you buy. By adding $5 to $10 extra into your groceries each time, you can be ready for almost anything. Rotate, use and replace the survival food every 3 to 6 months, an item at a time.
4. Get some tools.
A few simple tools can mean the difference in an emergency. Do you have a wrench to turn off the gas to your house in the event of a leak? A hammer and nails to board things up? Duct tape to secure the glass in your windows? Well, you should. A good crescent wrench, a hammer and a variety of nail sizes, tape and plastic sheeting and a good hand saw should be your minimum set of tools. If you live in storm prone areas, you should have pre cut marine grade plywood for your windows and doors. The night before a hurricane is no time to run to Home Depot! 50-100' of poly rope and a good pair of leather work gloves can help with debris removal. Keep some 8' 2x4s in the garage or shed for shoring up anything that collapses. And rememeber, hand tools beat electric tools when the electricity is off!
5. Hydrate!
Storing water is not an easy task. It is bulky and weighs a lot. On the flip side, if you go without it, you will die. Keep as much on hand as you can. Even if it is just 2 or 3 5 gallon jugs. Avoid the plastic milk bottles as they are hard to stack and there is evidence of the chemicals in them leeching out into the water over time. 2 cases of bottled water is better than nothing. You will still have the water in your pipes and your water heater if things shut off. In addition, a water filter and some bleach in an eye dropper is generally all you need to make any water potable. Store what you can and have a plan for finding more. My neighbor has an above ground pool that would be good for more than swimming in an emergency.
These 5 steps are just the beginning, but every journey starts with one step. Don't be afraid to take that step, it might save you one day.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Dodged a Bullet

Photo Courtesy of Associated Press.

Hurricane Ike roared ashore Friday night hitting Galveston, Texas and spreading destruction across the state. The pic above is of Crystal Beach, on the Bolivar Peninsula. I took my kids to the beach here the weekend before school started. (about 3 weeks ago) Now it is history. I grew up in Houston and spent a lot of time in Galveston. Seeing pictures and noticing the things that should be there, but are now gone is pretty shocking and depressing. However, I am happy to report we made it through unscathed. We had some wind on Saturday (25-30 mph), but no rain (which we could have used). I was relieved that it missed us, but also happy to have an excuse to test our emergency preparedness.
We had made a decision to cancel all activities for the weekend and stay home together just to be safe. We did not have to crack open the survival rations and we did not lose power, but just getting the family into the correct mindset did wonders. I made a few decisions over the weekend that I think will help in the event of a real emergency and I thought I would share them with you.
1. Be more prepared to close the house up.
This includes having pre-cut sheets of plywood on hand to cover windows and doors. We could cover all windows and doors and leave via the garage and the house would be pretty safe and sturdy. My main concern would be the windows on the front that are surrounded with brick. Either I need to invest in some masonry anchors or board up from the inside with the understanding that I will lose the glass.
2. Have more variety in survival food.
I have come to understand that my tolerance for sitting in a muddy ditch eating MRE's will not be shared by my family in the event of a real emergency. I took a look at our emergency stores and there are a lot of beans, pasta and rice and not a lot of variety. I will be adding some of variations of our family favorites to the larder beginning next week. More ethnic food (Italian, Chinese, Mexican) as well as more comfort food (pudding, snacks, etc.) should make "Bugging In" more tolerable.
3. Prepare for Guests.
After taking a poll of my family in the area, I can tell that no one is ready for a true emergency, and as much as I preach self-reliance to my wife, if push came to shove, I could not turn those people away. Well, in truth, I might be able to, but my wife, who is much more human than I, would not let me. Therefore, I need to prepare to have 2-10 extra mouths to feed if something goes down. Keeping 3 weeks of food for 14 people is not possible, budget or storage wise, but I think if I can keep an extra week and some "extenders" (rice, pasta, beans) on hand, we would be much better off. In addition, we have room for them, but not enough bedding, so some air mattresses and fleece blankets are in a future purchase.
As with anything, preparing takes time, and you are never really finished, but I know after this weekend, that if something happened, I would be better off than probably 80-90% of the population in our area. Mission Accomplished (partially)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Moment of Truth?

Well, sort of. Hurricane Ike is bearing down on the Texas coast, and although we are not in it's direct path, we are expecting heavy rains and potentially damaging winds this weekend. Not a true "disaster", but still a chance to evaluate our preparedness. Here are a few areas that we took a look at to make sure we were ready:

1. Getting home.
I keep a small amount of supplies in a GTTH bag (Get To The House) at work. My work is most distant from our house, so in the event that the roads were inaccessible, I would be the one walking, or choosing to stay at work. Everyone else is less than a 30 minute walk from home. I have water in my bag, several power bars, a flashlight, small first aid kit (finding a balance here was tough, to keep it small enough to carry, I can treat only very basic cuts and scrapes, but it does include a US military triangular bandage, which is good for larger wounds), mylar emergency blanket, multitool, whistle, mirror and firestarting kit. I can possibly supplement this with the extra supplies I keep at my desk (tea, bouillon cubes, hard candy, water). If I can get to the truck in the parking lot, I can access more water and my "self defense" gear. I carry a pocket knife and wear comfortable shoes to work, so I think I am good if I have to hoof it.

2. At Home:
I am happy to report that my hurricane shopping consisted of a case of Dr. Pepper, an extra loaf of bread and stuff to make Navy Beans and cornbread for Saturday. We are stocked for several weeks on food, and although I am not happy with our current supply of water, we can fill the tubs and drain the water heater if needed. As long as the gas stays on, we can cook inside, and if it goes off, we have the propane grill and a gas fired camping stove to handle things. My only real concern is the air conditioning. If power stays off for more than 2 days and the storm has passed, it will get pretty hot and humid pretty quick. We either stick it out, or Bug Out and stay with family who are unaffected.

3. Other Issues
The cars are all at least half full and there is a can of gas in the garage. Gas prices have shot up this week already, but no shortages are reported. If we were directly in the path, I would go ahead and fill all 3 vehicles up, but we will wait on the hopes that prices will retreat after the storm passes. All 3 vehicles could make it a minimum of 300 miles on the gas in them, and if we consolidated and took gas from 2 of them, we have a range of probably 600-700 miles.
We do not own a generator. I have never considered this a good investment. In order to get a generator big enough to run the whole house (and air conditioner) we would end up spending a lot more than I would want to, and a small generator will only run the basics. I have done a run down of electrical items in our house, and there is nothing we can't live without. We have candles and lantern for lights, our emergency food does not need refrigeration, and we have battery operated radios. We can even charge our cell phones from the cars. I just can't see spending the money to get a generator.

I think we are good to go and the storm has given us a chance to find out if our preparations are adequate. Another good side effect has been the opportunity to talk to others about planning ahead. If I can make some converts and get a few people to change their mindset, that is a few less who will be looting in my neighborhood!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Secret Identity?

There have been some questions about why the identities of myself and my family are being kept secret in our pictures. General concensus is that we are really government agents. The truth, as usual, is a lot more mundane, and a little funnier.
I black out the faces in my pictures as kind of a personal joke. You don't know who we are, so we might be your next door neighbors. (if we are, you probably recognized those skinny kids!). Nothing secret or sinister about it.
However, this is the Internet, and I don't necessarily want everyone knowing who we are. Not that I don't trust you all, but frankly...I don't. Wouldn't be much of a Survivalist if I did, huh?
As far as this picture goes...well...let's just say my kids have a very interesting sense of humor.

"TEOTWAWKI" Scenario 2

OK, I have discussed the possibility of a terrorist attack, it's potential outcomes and my family's reaction to it. My personal thought is that a terrorist attack in my area is a remote possibility. So, what does that mean as far as preparations? Should we just cross it off our list and move on to something else? Nope, no chance. Part of our personal survival mantra is "Be prepared for anything, have a plan for everything".
Let's take a look at something now that I believe has a much greater chance of occurring and a much greater direct impact on my family.
2. Social Upheaval
What the heck is this, and why am I worried about it? Social upheaval is the reaction of society to a devastating situation. The trigger could be economic (food shortage, gas shortage), environmental (weather, natural disaster), political (governmental policies, civil unrest) or other (epidemic). Hurricane Katrina is a prime example of Social Upheaval happening in our lifetime. An environmental event led to economic shortages, exacerbated by governmental policies (local, state and federal) which caused civil unrest (looting, crimes, violence). If something like that occurred in my small town, it would be a life altering event for us. So, let's discuss it.
Scenario- Triggered by a nationwide event, society temporarily breaks down and Social Upheaval occurs. Rioting and looting occur and the Federal Government declares martial law in effected areas. Due to large scale of event, not enough law enforcement/military personnell are available to keep order.
Possible Outcomes- Rioting, Looting, Crime, Heavy Traffic, Interruption of basic services (water, gas, electricity), Food hoarding, Heavy Federal presence/military quarantine of areas.
Personal Approach: This is a difficult choice.
Bugging out means uprooting the entire family and walking away from a considerable monetary investment (house). However, the safety of my family comes first, so chances are good that we would leave. First step would be to gather the family in one place and asess the situation. When can/should we leave? Do we have time to pack any extra items, or do we need to grab our Bug Out Bags and hit the road?
That decision would need to be made at the time, and our plan allows for this flexibility.
I will discuss BOB contents in another post, but food, clothing, medical supplies and personal water are a must. The BOV (Bug Out Vehicle) would have to be loaded with the extra food, fuel and water that we keep on hand. I have not put a watch to this, but with everything centralized I think we can have it done in half an hour. Weapons and ammo are loaded just prior to people, and we are underway!
I have 3 different "Fall Back" locations planned. They are ranked in order of distance, closest first. When the time comes to move out, we will evaluate each one in order, considering relative safety, availability of additional supplies and distance. The plan is to avoid major roads, sticking to those less travelled. This avoids 2 major, potential obstacles.
First being other "refugees", who may only be an impedance, but could also pose a threat. If you are someone who looks like you are well equipped and supplied, you may become a target for someone who is less prepared. Desperate times can create desperate situations. The point of Bugging Out is not to head down the highway "Mad Max" style, blowing up the bad guys and shooting out the windows, but rather to keep a low profile and get to a safe destination.
The second obstacle to be avoided is the government itself. This includes, local law enforcement, National Guard, state and federal law enforcement and the US military. Not that I am saying the government is the enemy, however, in a disaster situation, their plan for me might not match my personal plan. And although I consider myself a good American, I am going to choose my family's safety over what might work best for Uncle Sam.
Items of Use: Truck SUV or Station Wagon, fuel, extra fuel cans, siphon, funnel and hose, spare tires, jack, tools, spare air (tire inflator in a can), maps, GPS, compass, extra water and food, blankets and a tarp (for sleeping and hiding truck). games and book for the kids, and a good plan!
The plan for this scenario is to move safely to an area unaffected by the turmoil, where we have friends or family we can use for support. When things normalize, we can look into coming home, assessing the damage and starting our lives up again. To make sure this is possible, we have all our documents in a portable fire safe, ready to go next to the weapons rack, and a back up of all documents on a USB drive...well, where it is, that my business. I have no illusions of living off the land for the rest of my life and starting a new society somewhere in the woods. I want to be able to come back when it is over and try to start my life up again.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

What will "TEOTWAWKI" be?

TEOTWAWKI. Not a real word. Not a Native American tribe. Not a dish in Moroccan cooking.
It stands for "The End Of The World As We Know It".
It is a common survivalist term to designate the moment that society breaks down and chaos reigns. The moment that being prepared really matters. Until this point, those of us who planned for it are just a bunch of weirdos with a lot of canned food. Once it happens, we finally get to have our "I told you so!" moment.
Personally, I hope it never happens. I hope life is all rainbows and unicorns, forever and ever. But I cannot trust that will be the case.
What will happen? Well, let's take a look at a scenario and it's possible outcomes. I will include my personal approach in hopes that it creates some thought and discussion for anyone who reads it.
1. Terrorist Attack.
This could take many forms. With the heightened state of alert in America, a 9/11 style coordinated attack is a more remote possibility, but still exists. In my opinion, smaller scale, localized attacks are more likely. It baffles me why Al Quaeda (or whomever) has not targeted a school or shopping center with a car bomb. I think it will happen at some point, but unless it happens near me, the impact will be minimal to my family.
Scenario: Terrorists attack local landmark with a suicide bomb/dirty bomb.
Possible Outcomes: Direct injury if at blast site. Closed Roads. Heavy Traffic. Interruption of basic services (water, gas, electricity). Food hoarding. Heavy Federal presence. Air Quality hazard.
Personal Approach: Collect all family members as soon as possible and locate in primary residence. Establish contact with extended family. Avoid traveling. Distribute dust filter masks to family members, close and seal house as much as possible. Leave area only if directly effected by attack.
Items of use: Family Bug Out/Bug In plan. Cell phones with texting ability. Computer access, Twitter access (http://twitter.com/), dust masks, NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) masks, food and water. duct tape, plastic sheeting, extra A/C filters.
Barring a devastating attack that makes it impossible to stay in our home, the general plan is to get everybody inside, make the house safe and sit this one out. Food and water stores for "Bugging In" are optimized for a 3 week period for 4 people and one pet. Dust masks, sealing the doors, windows and chimney and frequently changing the Air Conditioner filter will help keep us healthy. Considering the phone lines (land and cell) will probably be jammed contacting loved ones will be difficult. Text messages might be possible, if not, I can access the web from my cell phone and leave an update on Twitter for anyone interested. The basic plan is to lay low until the danger passes, stay safe and healthy, then assess the situation to determine next steps.

The family

Here they are. This is the reason I decided to be prepared for what the future might bring. I hope the day never dawns when we pack up and Bug Out, but I know that we are better off for having prepared. And no, the object in the background is not our survival bunker. Why does everyone keep asking that?

Initial Post

If you are 8 years old and your motto is "Be Prepared", you are in the Boy Scouts.
If you are 38 years old and have the same motto, you are now a crazy, Ramboesque, doomsaying "Survivalist".

That, folks, is my dirty secret. I am a "Survivalist".

If you saw me on the streets, you probably would not know. You might even look at me and smile. A slightly grey, middle aged, middle management type. You would have no idea that I have an arsenal at home that would rival many small town Police Departments. You could not tell that I have food and water hoarded in every available space in my house. It would not occur to you that , as I walk down the street, I am in "Condition Yellow", scoping potential threats and escape routes.

Why? That is a difficult question to answer. I think the potential for a world ending event is slim. I don't fear the New World Order. I believe zombies only occur in the movies. For a long time, I was happy to go to work, come home, watch TV, love my family and go to bed at night content with the world.

What world shaking event turned me into this?
Y2K? 9/11? Katrina?
None of these things had more than a passing effect on my life. Where I live, things like hurricanes, earthquakes, dirty bombs, chemical spills and other disasters are not commonplace.

No, it was a pretty simple event. One Sunday afternoon, in my small town, someone ran their car into a transformer. Lights out.

It was a summer afternoon and without air conditioning, the house quickly warmed up. My son and I went out to sit in the garage. He walked out and pressed the garage door opener button and of course, nothing happened. He looked at me as if the sky had just fallen. As I showed him the emergency door release and opened the door, it occurred to me that any survival skills I might have gained during my upbringing had not been properly passed on. I resolved to teach him what I knew at the first possible opportunity, but he was only 9 at the time, so I was not too concerned.

Then my cell phone rang. It was my wife. She and my daughter (15) had been at church and were headed home. She had stopped at McDonalds to pick up lunch for the kids and was informed that due to the power being out, they could not sell her anything. I asked if the grills/ovens were out (I assumed they were gas and would not be affected). Turns out, without the computerized registers, no one there was able to make change. Now, I was in shock. Making change manually must be a lost art.

At this point, my family expressed their concern with the state of our world. What would we do for food? How could we cook without electricity? Then my son asked a question. A question so profound that it required a moment of silence and reflection before it could be answered. He asked...

"What if the electricity never comes back on?"

The look of concern in the eyes of my children and wife were the impetus I needed. Change had to happen and sooner rather than later.

I assured everyone that the power would come back, but even if it did not, we would be alright. I took them inside and lit our gas stove with a match. I warmed leftover pizza in a skillet. I took out candles and flashlights. I explained to them to keep the refrigerator closed to preserve our food. I showed them that it was cooler downstairs because hot air rises. I had each one pack a small bag in case we had to go elsewhere.

After, we sat in folding chair in the driveway, watching the neighbors mill about assesing the situation before they hopped in their cars and headed off to the mall to find air conditioning. I made my decision, never again, no matter what the situation, would my family be unprepared. I explained my thoughts to them, and each one agreed that we needed to make a change. No matter what happened in the future, we would be ready, and we would do it together.