Free Markets, Free People

Be Prepared

It’s no secret that I’m a pessimist about the economy, as we travel along our current path, and the danger of a collapse of the currency and financial system, and the possibility of civil disturbance that might follow. Because I occasionally make snarky comments on Twitter and elsewhere about being prepared for 20 days of combat operations, I am occasionally asked about what that actually entails.

Of course, the still-remote possibility of civil unrest isn’t the only reason to be prepared to rough it for a while. There are plenty of earthquakes, floods, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters that might require up to several days of living in the pre-industrial era.

So, since I have a couple of hours free this afternoon as I wait for my flight to Albuquerque, I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts.

First off, there’s all sorts of survival lists on the Internet. This is a good one. There’s about 1,000 others available if you simply Google "survival checklist". That’s just a list of items, which is a good start, but here are some other things you might want to think about.

Map out a route away from urban areas, using roads that are off of the main routes of travel. Highways, freeways, etc., may be jammed with traffic, and you’ll be going nowhere fast. Find the little-used back roads. It’ll require a more circuitous route, but your chances of getting caught in traffic while escaping the city are much smaller. Go sooner rather than later, however, or you still might not get out. If you live in, say, Manhattan, and you wait too long, you’re screwed as far as escaping goes.

If you have a diesel vehicle with a towing package, you’ve got a 12-volt generator. If you don’t have a towing package, but have a cigarette lighter or 12-volt vehicle outlet, you’ve still got a generator, but you’ll need a couple of AC converters, like these.

If your vehicle is not diesel-powered, it should be. You should also have a portable generator, of course. It should also be a diesel. Dependence on gasoline is, in general, not good. If you have a diesel, you can, in an emergency, run it on heating oil, kerosene & vegetable oil, lamp oil, or almost any other low-volatility flammable fuel. You can even make your own bio-diesel fuel. Leveraging your future to gasoline is a Bad Thing if civilization collapses.

Get a small travel trailer, and keep it stocked with your survival supplies. One nice thing about travel trailers is that they already have a 30 or 50 gallon water tank. Drain and fill it every couple of months at minimum, and if you have to leave, you can hook up and go in minutes, and you’re already stocked with food and water for several days. Small used travel trailers are cheap, and easily turned into mobile, pre-stocked, survival shelters.

Have lots of honey on hand. Honey doesn’t spoil, so it keeps for ever. Bacteria cannot live in honey. Archeologists once found a huge pot of honey that was a couple of thousand years old. They ate it, found it very yummy, and suffered no ill effects from it. (They later discovered a body preserved in the bottom of the pot.) In a pinch, honey can be used as an antibiotic covering for wounds, though it does raise the chance of further injuries from bears trying to lick the wound.

Also, if you have honey and salt, you can mix them in water to drink when you get diarrhea, which you almost certainly will in the wilderness, and they will keep you hydrated and supplied with electrolytes so you won’t crap yourself to death, which, prior to 1900, was not an uncommon way to die. So, have salt, too.

Speaking of wounds, if things are really bad, and civilization is actually collapsing, you need to head over to CVS or Walgreens and raid the pharmacy. First, take any drug that ends with "cillin". That’ll be an antibiotic. Also, take anything that ends with "codone" or has "codein" in the name. Those’ll be painkillers. Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Oxycontin…you know what I’m talking about. If you have antibiotics and painkillers, you’ve got a far better chance of surviving an open wound than if you do not. Like, 1000 times better. Use the painkillers sparingly. Don’t get hooked.

Get a copy of the US Army Field Manual 21-76. It’s easy to find. Here it is. Print it out. Read it. Know it. Live it.

Guns. In general, pistols are useless. Sorry, but there’s nothing you can hit with them with any reliability beyond 25 meters, and in combat, beyond 10 feet. At the OK Corral gunfight, 10 guys were jammed into an enclosure about 20 feet square, and two of them walked away without a scratch, after about 50 rounds being fired. You need rifles, and you need more than one. Two guns is one gun, and one gun is no gun. You need at least two rifles per person in the same caliber.

What caliber? Personally, I prefer the 7.62×39 over the 5.56mm/.223 caliber. It’s a harder-hitting round, punches through brush or obstructions more reliably, and is widely available cheaply, as are the weapons which fire it. It’s a better all-round caliber, in my opinion, for hunting or combat, though hopefully you’ll need it for the former, rather than the latter. You cannot go wrong with an SKS rifle in good condition, and you can find a surplus SKS for cheap as dirt. You can also get 1,000 round cases of 7.62×39 cheaply as well. If you want to spend real money on something more modern than the SKS—though, I stress again, the SKS is as fine, accurate, and dependable rifle as you can buy—then spring for a Czech SA Vz58, and you can add all the cool dongles to it. Do not buy an AK-47. For survival purposes, the SKS or Vz58 are superior in every conceivable way. You should assume a combat day will require 100 rounds of ammunition with a semi-automatic rifle (The combat load for the M1 Garand, for example, was 96 rounds per day in WWII). You should have enough ammunition for at least 20 combat days. If you are in, or going to, a big-game area, a surplus Springfield rifle or a Garand are perfect for elk, moose, bear, or other big game. 30-06 ammo is really expensive, however.

Finally, you have to think about your attitude. There’s no easy way to say this, but if things get really bad, like an asteroid wipes out civilization, then you need to be determined and ruthless to survive. Many ethical concepts that are useful in civilized society will be…how does one put this…counter-productive to survival in the state of nature. Many of the survivors you may encounter will be really bad people. Everyone you encounter will be desperate and/or terrified, which will make them extraordinarily dangerous. You will have to keep this uppermost in your mind at all times, and make the appropriate decisions in your dealings with others to ensure your own survival. And that’s all I have to say about that.

In less extreme circumstances, attitude is still everything. Remain calm. Think before you act. Remain positive.

Happily, we do not, for the most part, have to worry about the complete collapse of civilization as a high-order probability.  But there is a chance of some natural disaster in which you may need to be ready to go for two weeks or so living roughly. Ensuring you have adequate food, water, and shelter for those two weeks is not survivalist extremism. It’s just good planning, and good planning may save your life, and will certainly make those two weeks more comfortable.

On the other hand, if you’re also prepared for the asteroid’s arrival…well, you’re prepared for that, too.

Dale Franks
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25 Responses to Be Prepared

  • Grim.  But good, Dale.
    Funny, I just this past week sent all my kids one of those lists.

    • It’s okay Rags, we live in Texas.

      • Yeah, and we get some practice…what with hurricanes.
        But there are knuka-heads here, too.  Aplenty, not too far from me.

        • I’m kinda unhappy about the ammo estimate – frankly I was hoping the wind rows from the first couple waves would put off subsequent attempts.  Now I have to get more ammo.    Dammit, I wasn’t planning on holding Pork Chop Hill! (yeah, yeah, I know, can you EVER have too much?)

  • Damn…I already have 2,000 rounds of .223, plus about another 2000 empty cases.
    My AR-15 will hit a six inch plate at 250 yards, but my buddies SKS can barely hit a 9 inch plate at 100.
    Beyond that my Savage M10FP with the Leupold Mark 4 LR-T M1 8.5-25x50mm with Mil Dot reticle works quite well.

  • I prefer 5.56 over 7.62×39.

    Is 7.62×39 harder hitting? In terms of terminal performance, the 5.56 (using ammo like common M193) fragments and causes much more damage then typical 7.62×39 rounds. You can find very effective 7.62×39 rounds, but they are not that common and you have to research it. Now, the 7.62×39 will outpenetrate 5.56 in some media, like wood, sand, and soft tissue (making it a better big game round). The 5.56 outpenetrates in stuff like steel plate.

    5.56 ballistics combined with the high sights on AR type rifles means you can zero for 100 yards and you are then good for head shots out to about 200 yards. That means one zero can take care of 99.998% of the shots you are likely to take, against a small target (zeros assuming a torso size target are unrealistic).

    • *shrug*
      I routinely put 4″ groups at 100m with my Yugoslav SKS–which is the model I recommend, by the way. I can also buy 7 or 8 SKS rifles for the price of an AR-15. I can buy 2 vz58’s for the price of 1 AR-15. They both also don’t use direct impingement gas systems.
      I carried an M-16 every day for 10 years, so don’t even try to tell me that the AR-15 system is anything other than barely adequate for hard use in the field. I hate the AR-15 with the heat of a thousand suns.

      • You missed my point, which was not about accuracy per se, but zero. With the flat trajectory of 5.56 combined with the high sights (note that the ARs sights are high above the bore), one sight setting can keep all the shots in a head sized target from the muzzle out to 200 yards and all distances in between. No SKS in 7.62×39 can do that, no matter how accurate.

        If you don’t like direct impingment (I do), there are piston ARs and other platforms like SIGs which are also 5.56 with the high offset.

        As far as prices, you can get ARs for around $700 last I looked and SKSs were running about $300. The day of the $65 SKS is over. I’m willing to invest in a quality rifle.

        One of the very most important aspects of a rifle is the sights. The iron sights on the AR are very good except the front sight it too close for older eyes (particularly on the carbines). The SKS has poor sights. Any serious rifle should have optical sights, the three traditional optical combat sights are the Eotech (holographic), Aimpoint (red dot) and Acog (scope). These sights VASTLY improve hit probability, particularly in close range combat where it is hard to focus on iron sights under stress. Eotech and Aimpoint rely on batteries, but the Aimpoint can run ten years on one set of batteries. Eotech can’t run as long but some versions use common AA type. The Eotech is super fast up close, making it a favorite of the SEALs. Acog doesn’t use batteries, but its tritium inserts “run down” in about ten years, reducing its effectivness at night. Acog is expensive and slower up close, but with its magnification (usually 3.5 or 4.0) is more effective at longer ranges.

        Also, lights should be used. Short term rioting is much, much more likely then the collapse of civilization, and it is critically important to verify the target before you terminate it. 

        I actually think that most any decent rifle or carbine would work, if fitted with optical sights and a light. SMLE .303 (bolt action) or Marlin .30-30 (lever action) with optics and light would be better then the best semi autos without them. 

        • Oh, I have to add a point about the high sight setting. With the high sight setting on the AR, your round will impact about 2″ low at very close range. That means if you need precision up close (say, to shot a snake in the head), the high sight offset is a disadvantage. I add this point because I don’t want to leave the impression that the high offset doesn’t involve trade offs.

    • This.  A lot of the 7.63×39 surplus out there is surplussed for a reason.  The earlier bullet designs are notorious through-and-through shooters.  They will not outperform a good 5.56 like M193 or mk262.  They might outperform M855, because it’s performance is horribly inconsistent.
      About the only way that 7.62 beats 5.56 is cost.  The SKS is not $150 anymore, but it still a bargain. Cheap AKs are cheap, but do not generally possess that legendary AK reliability.  They do possess the legendary AK inaccuracy.  Expensive AKs are going to run you as much as a low end AR.  But the sights will be worse, they’re hard to scope, and they are limited upgrade paths.

      • I’ve corresponded with Marines who tested Iraqi AKs, and those AKs also did not have that legendary reliability. IIRC out of about 40 tested AKs (various origins and age), all jammed at least once, some could not be cleared in the field.

  • Oh, I’ll also throw in that you NEED a pistol or several. Many situations dictate not displaying a weapon. Something handy and quick but yet unseen . . .

  • Another topic that applies is fitness and training.

    Now days carbine classes are popular, and probably a good idea.

    Also, modern MMA has shown us the most effective unarmed fighting arts, personally I train in Brazilian JuiJitsu. It’s a sport but also great fitness and a great (but incomplete) martial art. To complete it you would want to add a stand up striking art like boxing or kickboxing. But if you have to settel for one style, go with grappling, either BJJ or judo or wrestling or something related to those–and practiced in full force sparing.

    • I’ll add in that I like my recreational activities to be practical, like the BJJ or shooting, or even fixing my own car, or going camping. As opposed to golf etc.

    • My vote would go to Krav Maga – 7.7+ million Jews can’t all be wrong…  🙂

      • That is a composite art that is essentially theory based. BJJ, like boxing and Mui Thai and wrestling are “combat sports” that are based upon full force competition. I’ll go with the styles based upon full force competition, thank you very much.

  • This may seem a little odd but one thing I would suggest having is a bicycle.  Either a basic mountain bike or a hybrid.  Make sure it has the mounts for racks so that you can put panniers (bike bags) on them.  They’re good, reliable transportation, easily maintained, and don’t need gas or diesel.  They can also go places cars can’t.
    There is a reason you see so many bicycles in poorer countries.  They work.
    Do NOT get a medium or high end road bike.  Do NOT get a dual or even single suspension mountain bike.  These are niche bikes that require more care and have less utility.
    A decent basic mountain bike or hybrid will run you $300-$500.  Used will be even cheaper.

    • Oddly enough, I’m looking at bikes right now. I was pondering hybrid vs road bike – I just gave my seven year old road bike to my son for use at college.
      I hadn’t thought of this angle, so I’m going to take another look at the hybrid bikes. I was considering this one as my leading candidate, and it claims to be a hybrid, but it looks like it leans heavily to the road bike side. Your comments welcome if you know anything about that particular model.

      • I’ve never heard of Vilano before.
        The company’s web page for the bike is here:
        Reading the reviews it seems to me that the bike is poorly assembled.  Most describe how you’ll need to do some adjustments to it.  This is actually true for most new bikes and that is why when you get them at a local bike shop they’ll give you a free tune up in the first 90 days or so.  Basically, the shifters and cables need to be broken in a bit.
        The frame is 6061 Double Butted Aluminum which is very common.  The problem with buying it online is that you can’t inspect the frame.  With mass produced, entry level bikes, these frames can be poorly assembled.  You can tell by the crappy quality of the welds.  Ordering online leaves you in the dark till you actually get the bike.
        It only has one mount for a water bottle cage.  Almost all bikes have two and some nice touring bikes have three.  That there is only ones implies cheap cost cutting production to me.
        The Shimano components are entry level.  Shimano makes good bike parts.  Due to the price of the bike you’re getting the lowest quality components.  They won’t be as nice and they’ll wear out quicker.
        It comes with 700×28 tires that appear to be road slicks.  This is fine for city/road/bike path.  It is not so good for anything else.  For a commuter bike or recreation bike it is fine as long as you stay on paved surfaces.  I’ve never heard of Kenda tires.  I also can’t see how much space there is on the fork and stays to see if there room for a beefier tire.
        One of the things that really matters with a bike is how well it fits.  You can’t know this without riding it.  I would strongly suggest getting a bike for a local shop over getting one online.
        I have a hybrid that is a Trek 7.2 FX from 2008.  It was $400 new and has better specs than this bike.  I’d look around some more.  This is it:

        • Thanks, I’ll look around some more. I did buy my last bike (a Giant) at a bike shop, and was very happy with it.

          • I have an old Giant Kronos (like mid 90s).  The frame is fine but some of the components are just shot.
            I’d like to refurbish it but I’m not sure it is worth the effort.

  • When laws collapse the two most valuable things will be food and women.

  • Excellent post.
    I would add to the list a very large supply of Vitamin C. One builds up and eases down from the daily dose I take, which is 6 grams, or 6,000 milligrams. Some controversy exists about the value of this “vitamin,” which most mammals produce in their livers, but humans and apes do not. Guinea pigs do not produce it either, which is one of the reasons they are used to test things for humans. Their feed has to be supplemented with C for them to avoid dying of scurvy.