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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What the Well Dressed Prepper Wears

Finally we're getting to the post so many have requested the last couple of months: "What do I wear to a come-as-you-are Depression?" But first, a disclaimer, kind of.
I have to admit that quite often I am accused of a need to 'grow up'. Here, I am going to insist we all act like grown-ups. How do we do that? By accepting responsibility for our own actions is a good start. Do so now. I am not, do not nor will not accept responsibility for what actions others decide to follow. Let your own thinking be your guide. Also, what I say is not the ultimate authority. Every word that follows has been debated and argued, factified and falsified by too-numerous-to-mention authors in every venue available. Not only that, some of the people with whom one will speak with about these thoughts will still be wet behind the ears kids with little real world experience and, as I, have opinions that may be a bit prejudiced. However, their opinion will be predicated to aiding their employer through increasing a sale. I have no such agenda. I will mention names without endorsing those names as to being superior to any other, just that they are well-known and available.
Several actions we, acting in adult fashion, need to consider are:
1) Perceived needs should be the leading factor in decision making.
2) Do not- repeat: do not- allow yourself to be talked into something that does not fit your perceived need. All sales persons have their livelihood in mind, not yours. On other words, don't buy an accoutrement just because a sales person says you need it. Every weapon you buy should 'need' only one item to make it work: a box of bullets. Anything else is decorating the frosting.
3) Get the best you can afford, yet remember what is 'best' for one may not be 'best' for you.
4) No matter what tool you buy, get some training. Learn to use that tool to the best of your abilities.
5) No tool is fool proof and fools should not use them. Don't be a fool. Also, do not act like a child when handling tools.
Now we've cleared the legalese of this project, let's get to some meat.
Training is even more important than the tool. Without training, the tool is useless. The following tools have some basic training rules that must be followed to insure a lack of unintended consequences. (See #5 above.)
Rule number one: Treat every weapon as though it is loaded. Do not assume it is not until you have verified. The same goes for when you need it: don't assume it's loaded and discover it isn't when it should be.
Rule number two: Be very aware of where the muzzle is pointed.
Rule number three: Be aware of what is behind the target.
Rule number four: Keep all fingers away from the trigger until shooting.
The toys:
When it comes to hunting, I am an archer. Longbows and recurves predominately. I do have a compound, and like it, and for a nearly perfect long (read: decades) term weapon, I feel the bow cannot be beat. I can manufacture a bow and arrows from available materials where as a firearm needs components beyond my ability to hand make, other than reloading (which ability I recommend). That said...
My perceived need of weapons is predicated on the (oops!) assumption that I will be living my life 'normally' during the coming future. I do not feel the need to be armed with the latest 'black' rifle and a quadrillion rounds of ammo. I do see a need for some weapons of self defense, and do carry every waking moment and have firepower near to hand while sleeping. Following are my ideas and suggestions from that perspective. (Other perspectives will follow.)
Everyone should have a gun. Period. But what kind? May I be so bold?
Minimally, one should have a .22 Long Rifle caliber. Perfect as a forager for the kind of hunting that will dominate any survival, or sport, hunting: small game.
My favorite rifle is the Marlin 880, about 20 years old. Bolt action, seven shot, a 4.5-14 Mueller scope tops it. My son's favorite rifle is the Ruger 10/22 topped with a Pro-Point red dot. Accurate and fast out of the box, this is the most remodelled .22 available. More accessories are available than can be imagined to make this a very formidable weapon, even to resemble the dreaded 'black' rifles. My auto is a Remington 547. As good as the Ruger but not as customisable. Winchester, Marlin/Henry, and others, also make .22 lever guns. Fine weapons.
With either of these, I am comfortable knowing I am armed well enough to handle any situation short of a grizzly bear attack.
Final comment on .22's: any will be a good investment even if just for the enjoyment of shooting. Ammo is plentiful (well, getting scarce now) and cheap, allowing ample supplies for practicing weaponcraft. For every .22 you own, have 5000 (thousand) rounds. That's just ten bricks. About $200.
Pistols and revolvers (pistols are semi-auto firing, revolvers have cylinders) are an excellent addition and partner for a .22. My recommendation is the Ruger MK3, a Smith and Wesson 22A in semi-auto. Again, I am prejudiced in that these are the only two semi-autos I've shot. I like them both and their accuracy is all I can handle. I have no preference or experience with .22 revolvers other than a full-blown Iver Johnson competition model my dad had sixty years ago. Again, include the ammo as above.
If I'm going gun hunting, you can bet it's after birds. No hunting excites me so much as hunting partridge, ducks, geese, and pheasants. If I'm going to freeze my bunns off, it's going to be over a spread of deeks. And for reliability, power, accuracy and pure cussed toughness, the best of all is the 12 gauge pump.
Shotguns come in five flavors: single shot, double barrel, bolt, pump and semi-auto. Each of these comes in differing gauges: .410, 16, 20, 12 and 10. (There are oddball gauges, but stay away from them. Also, unless you like to torture yourself, stay away from the 10 gauge. It's a goose gun suitable for Cape Buffalo.)
My recommendation on shotguns is going to be a pump. Remington's 870 and Mossberg's 500 are the reputed best available. I have shot a Marlin 550 for thirty years with no malfunctions. Other makers are probably as good as, maybe even superior to, the Remington and Mossberg. Maybe. Military and law enforcement love the 870 and 500. Whatever you buy, get it in either 20 or 12 gauge. Sixteen gauge are becoming popular again, but ammo is not so easy to find as 20 and 12.
I love my over-under 12 gauge, too. But not as a SHTF weapon. Ditto on dad's single shot. They are great hunting weapons, however, and for the price, are well worth considering.
Rifles dominate the shooting market. They are also dominate in the gun control media. Reasons being, they are as accurate as the shooter can be, are powerful and appealing to the American mystique. Remington, Mossberg, Marlin/Henry, Winchester, are the more well known makers of guns for the 'common' man. Available in single shot, bolt, pump, lever and semi-auto configuration, high power rifles can be as expensive as one would want to spend on a gun. (Though I have seen $10,000 12 gauges as well. Seriously. They get even more.)
Let's be real: we aren't going to spend that kind of money on a survival gun.
If I am of limited funds, or want to go as cheaply as I can, I'd get a single shot rifle in either .223, or .308, caliber. Reason being: ammo availability. Probably the two most common calibers now. They come in any caliber desired, however.
For $10 more, a serviceable Mosin Nagent can be had. The M-N are military arms, very durable and accurate enough for big game hunting. The M-N is probably the most endorsed low-cost survival weapon to date. Not a beauty, it's a tough, reasonably accurate bolt action, cheap and every where. Ammo availability is great at the moment, but may be scarce in the near future. One will not go wrong buying this weapon. Other military weapons of great fame are the British Enfield .303 (British) round, and the Mauser, usually in 8mm. I have both and they are very fine shooters, mil-tough and accurate for hunting. Expensive to play with unless reloading, though. Even then, more expensive than the 30 calibers.
Savage, Marlin, Remington, Ruger, Winchester, Mossberg...all excellent makers of firearms. (Notice which brand is 'first' on my list? :-) ) Again, purchase in the very available loads of .223, .243, .308, 30-06, 270. My fave is the 30-06, but I like pain, too. (kidding.) I do like the 30-06 simply because it's a long time favorite. Savage has the Accu-trigger (tm) and their guns do shoot well, are very accurate and on the lower end of cost, the upper end of available.
"Automatics". Oh, yes- the bane of the anti-gunners and most dreaded of all weapons upon the face of the earth, bar none. Not even an atomic bomb frightens an anti-gunner so much as an "automatic" rifle. I have five words for those kind of people: "Grow up, get a life."
Semi-auto rifles available come from many makers. Remington, Winchester, Ruger, Springfield, to name a minimum. Available in calibers from .223 to the magnums, these are the rifles Everyman loves to shoot but is afraid to tell his wife he wants. Currently, the most popular of the lower cost semis is the SKS, a Chinese weapon in military configuration. (Incidentally, along with the AK, the SKS is the minimum- but not most desired- weapon most militia suggest.) It is a reasonably accurate, fast shooting, readily available rifle.
More well known, the AK clones are the second choice for cost/availability. Again, reasonably accurate, fast shooting, high-count magazine and fun to play with, they have the reputation of being the toughest military arm ever created. Even our military SpecOps people like using this weapon.
Going up the line, DPMS makes an AR-15 that is on the low cost end of military look-alikes that can come in whatever caliber one desires. Usually that is .223 (similar to M-16 military round) and .308 Winchester (M-14 military similarity). Other makers are Colt, Remington, Springfield...the list is endless, really. Google M15 and you will find hundreds of makers all claiming to have the best.
Probably the most sought-after semi auto today, for those with a few bucks to spend, is the FN1aL in .308 caliber. If you're 'into' getting what many consider to be the 'ultimate survival rifle', google Fabrique Nationale and you'll learn more than you ever wanted to know. (Not my cup of tea, obviously- but I'm a 'frugal prepper'.)
Assault and Black Rifles...
If you want one of these, join the Armed Forces or a Law Enforcement Agency because, contrary to popular myth espoused by the Brady Bunch and other anti-gun lie fabricating organisations, these weapons are not available on the Common Gun Show Market. Nor can you walk into any gun selling store and buy or order one. Ain't gonna happen, Jack.
One can buy a can of black paint and cover their M-N, SKS, M1A1, Ruger, Winchester, Savage, Marlin, Whatever brand rifle and paint it. Then I guess you've bought a 'black' rifle. Also, the M-N, SKS, Mauser, Enfield, M1 are actually surplus military arms, so I imagine they can be classified 'assault' weapons. You decide.
Cowboy Action shooting is the fastest growing shooting sport out there. They shoot the guns our 'cowboy' ancestors shot. .44/70, .38/70, 32-20, 45 Long Colt, etc. These are the configuration for the most popular deer cartridge ever- the 30-30. Lever action rifles, these can be bought almost anywhere and are probably the only repeating rifle that will be available if the new AWB comes into effect. Light weight, for the most part, accurate and mid-priced, they are very viable survival weapons. More on these in a minute.
Probably the most fun anyone can have an still be within the law is shooting handguns. For the moment, anyway.
From single shot Thompson Centers to semi-auto 'grease guns' such as Kel-Tec and Hi-Point 9mm's, pistols are the 'fun guns'. Everybody should own a handgun.
Easily concealable, these are what we carry for self defense today, what every cop has on his belt (and the reason they hitch their pants continually) and the most viable of guns to own, simply for self defense.
A .22 for practice/skill gaining and fun should be in everyones gun cabinet.
Minimal for honest self-defense/CCW, but a bit on the anemic end of performance, is the .380 caliber. It's an abbreviated 9mm, but it will cause some intense pain and no person killed by it has come back to tell the shooter it was not enough gun. Up the scale is the 9mm, by many deigned the minimal self defense caliber. Again, no one has come back to whine about being killed by a wimpy Nine-em-em.
For nearly a hundred years, policemen the nation over carried the .38 caliber. Even the military had adopted it in the 1800's, notably the Marine Corps. Again, we have no reports of dead people coming back to... However, historically speaking, the lack of 'stopping power' against the Moros by Marines using this arm lead to creation of the 1911 and .45 caliber semi-auto. A .38+P cartridge, pronounced "thirty-eight plus pee", has quite a fine reputation as a self defense round. A .38 Super is available in semi-auto pistols and are a bit more potent than the .38 Special.
Big brother to the .38, and using the same caliber bullet, is the .357. (As an aside, there are lever rifles chambered in .357 as well.) This is a man-stopper and beginning of the magnum cartridges for pistoleroes. Available only in revolvers, to my knowledge anyway.
Reasonably new on the market is the .40 caliber. (New being just catching on.) Many military and PDs are converting to this caliber and, as some gun gurus point out, the caliber does begin with a "4", so it's okay to shoot people with.
From the days of Yesteryear comes one of the oldest pistols made, certainly the most famous: the Colt 1911 in .45 flavor. This is a man-stopper. Period. Now manufactured in many calibers by many companies, the 1911 design is reliable and tough.
Made famous by Dirty Harry, the .44 Smith and Wesson magnum was the most powerful handgun cartridge made. It has probably also broken more wrists and eardrums than any handgun ever made. This is a two-handed gun. Of course, I'm going to get lots of letters from gargantuan wristed people who shoot it one handed (including from a brother-in-law), but for the common man (color me common),this gun requires two hands to shoot. But it will stop anything hit with it. And you'd better hit with the first shot 'cuz the second shot is going to take a while.
Monster handguns are now on the market making the .44 mag kind of the wimp of the Big Boy calibers. Among them, the .454 Casull. I have heard rumors of a .50 caliber Casull, as well. Wimps need not apply to use these weapons. That leaves me out.
Black powder...
My Hawken .50 caliber is fun to shoot. Nothing quite comes close in fun as popping heads off squirrels with a weapon that is nearly as old as firearms. Slow to load, using only black powder or the modern equivalents, these are the weapons used at Lexington and Concord Green, the Civil War and on all continents of the planet. Fun to shoot, a bitch to clean- and they gotta be cleaned after every use- these may qualify as survival weapons since the powder can be made from charcoal, salt peter and sulfur, the bullets can be manufactured from any lead type found and, in flintlock configuration, nearly any rock can be used to strike a spark. After all, these are the guns carried by Kit Carson, Jedediah Smith, Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Jim Bridger...
Answering the ultimate question...
So, James: what do you suggest for Common Man as survival weapon selection? My personal choice, and keeping cost to almost a bare minimum are:
.22 rifle, Marlin Model 60 with four power (4X) scope. This is "Americas Most Popular Rifle". Period. And for good reason. Accuracy, availability, durability. The Ruger 10/22 is my next choice.
Handgun: Springfield Armory XD (or XD-M) in any flavor: 9mm, .40 or .45. (I will also include a revolver here: a .38 or .357 Detective Special (type) snubby. With either handgun, find an Inside Waist Band (IWB) holster and carry it over your appendix. Sometimes referred to as AIWB holster, it's the most logical (to me and many others) place to carry a handgun for concealment.
Shotgun. 20 or 12 gauge. Cost effective single shot or a pump- I will not be brand specific here cuz they're really all good. One word about the Remington 870 and Mossy: they do come with a choice of second barrel. Called a 'slug' barrel, these have sights like a rifle. My opinion: don't get it. If you need a rifle, get a rifle. I know southern MN is shotgun only deer hunting, but we're talking survival gun, and a slug can be fired from a 'normal' shotgun barrel.
Rifle. A single shot break action in .223 is a good choice for the low-cost, good quality rifle. Beware that some do have plastic sights. Ignore these and find another gun. I do feel the smallest caliber one should go with is .243. Ammo availability for this will be good, I think, because it's not a military caliber as are the .223 and .308. Also, the .243 has a bit larger bullet than .223, therefore more stopping power. But not much.
Up the price range, a Savage bolt action in .243, .308 or 30-06.
Lever action 30-30 is an excellent survival gun, even for combat situations. Perhaps, in combat, a better choice than a bolt action for CQB (Close Quarters Combat).
Combat/militia or "Black" rifle. On the low cost end, SKS, rising in price to the AK or the clones of same. DPMS in .223 or .308. Get the basic rifle, use it, get used to it, then decide what accoutrements you need for it. Again, these are not "assault rifles", they are semi-auto (single shot) rifles of military origins.
What I'm going to be carrying...
Daily carry is either a S&W 9mm with 13 round clips or a Charter Arms Police Undercover in .38 (with +P).
My trusty old Marlin 12 gauge is plenty of gun. In a SHTF situation, I will hacksaw 12 inches or more off the barrel and carry it in a shoulder holster, similar to a back quiver.
For survival purposes, I will carry the Savage 30-06 until I run out of ammo. Then I'll reach into the pack, string the bow and live happily ever after.
Hopefully this has kind of given some ideas what to think about and look for. A complete arsenal can be had for less than $500 if one is not concerned with needing a warriors bag of tricks. The first rule to not break is "When going to a gunfight, bring a gun." If you're good with it and remember to get your bunns off the 'X', any gun will do. It may just take longer. If one trusts pawn shops, guns can often be bought for less than new prices. What's that expression? Caveat Emptor?
Whatever weapon you buy, it is useless without ammunition. That is a whole other post...egads...well, it could be.
Suggestions on ammo- and this ain't gonna be cheap!
For .22, have at least ten thousand rounds for them. You'll go through plenty fast. Small game will make up most of the hunting, so it makes sense. I like CCI Stingers.
For shotgun, get 250-500 rounds of various shot. A good mix would be five boxes each of number 6 shot, Double Ought buck and slugs. That is, figuring 25 rounds per box.
Rifle, my suggestion is as much as you can find, but a minimum of 500 rounds for each caliber. If you're looking at some sort of militia duty, even as a Lone Ranger, get five thousand rounds at least.
Cabella's, Sportsman's Guide, B.A.S.S. Pro Shops, others sell ammo at bulk prices and by the case in ammo boxes that are worth their weight in gold. If you can 'get in good' with a local store, you may be able to buy ammo at his cost and that will save a few bucks. Whatever caliber you decide, buy lots of ammo. Also, think of spare parts for the weapon. Things like firing pins, extractors, springs and guides do break or wear out. It never hurts to have spares.
Along with the ammo, if your weapon of choice uses a separate magazine, buy as many spare mags as possible. You'll never regret it.
Now, before you run off to the store...
Shy's "Dream" collection...
When the rubber meets the road and if I had all the money I wanted, these are my choices when asked, "If you could have only one choice of weapon, what would it be?"
I'm going to set the bow aside and stick to a gun, in this instance.
If I had all the money I wanted and could buy what I wanted, I buy two (ROFL) of these...
Lever action rifle in .357 or .44 mag caliber. And an accompanying revolver in same caliber.
God bless, happy hunting.


  1. Thanks for all the amazing info. It’s good to be able to "pick the brain" of someone who knows what they are talking about. If only you had posted this a couple weeks ago it would have helped with my recent purchases. Although I did end up with a .223 and a 30-30 so I think I did alright...

  2. P.S.
    Oh in case anyone who shouldnt be reading this is reading this (read gov) "my guns were stolen just last night"

  3. I was just thinking of showing them the bullet supply- from the inside out. ;)
    Dang, this post got lonnnngggggg... didn't realise it til just now: took 18.37 minutes to scroll down. Sorry, guys- next time it'll be two posts...but there's more still to come on this one! WHEW, I'm outta breath typin'!

  4. And really, really helpful! Thanks for this awesome post and please keep 'em coming!

  5. Shy Wolf:
    Thanks...Lots of info. Kind of scary to someone who's been living in liberal urban areas too long, but I'm determined.

  6. Good info Shy! Love it and will print it out to pass on to others! Hey, being a small woman, what I tell people is to get a gun they are comfortable with and don't have to concentrate to stay on their feet! Like, for me a 12 gauge is too much, but love my 20 gauge Mossberg pump(holds 6) - I rock with it! Also, love my .38 revolver - fits my hand well. Wanted guns I could grab quickly and handle without thought except to focus on target and what was going on at the time. Didn't want a lot of kick to contend with, but wanted stopping power LOL!

  7. Thanks for this post!

    I have minimal experience with firearms but plan to to aquire some soon. I will be taking rifle, sidearm and hunting courses this spring/summer as well as getting my Firearms Acquisition Certificate (FAC - required here in Canada). That will take some time.

    So you just saved me a pile of time when that is all finished, I will start with a .22 and a 12-gauge pump.

    This last Nov I started an archery course. It is going well. I am shooting a recurve for now but I am VERY interested in self-made longbows - with only a knife, you can arm yourself with a deadly projectile weapon - awesome!!

    This is a great post - you really know your stuff - thanks for taking the time to share!!

  8. Shy Wolf
    Great post and I agree on almost every point. The one thing I did not see mentioned that I thought may need to be with a 357 you can shoot 38 special so target practice is cheaper. (Not trying to nit pick just thought it was worth mentioning)
    God Bless and keep the great post coming

  9. I am glad you mentioned Black Powder.
    I have a 50 cal. patch n ball replica that I got at a rendezvous for 100 bucks. I scrounge around for lead and make my own bullets. I can buy elephant brand Black Powder for 6 bucks a pound. 7000 grains worth. I use 40 grains for punching paper and 80 grains when I hunt deer. I use old pillow ticking for patches.

    I have taken 7 or 8 deer with this rifle. It has good knock down power as all deer have fallen with one shot, it's a good thing cause thats all you get with a muzzle loader. I make all my shot at 50 yards or less because I want a clean kill and I don't trust myself past that.With the buckhorn iron sights and my poor eyesight I can hit a 20 lb propane bottle at 100 yards but not every time.

    I see muzzle loaders at almost every gun show and many are 100 bucks or so. Almost every area has a black powder club that is looking for new members. They are generally a pretty family friendly bunch and would be glad to help you get started in black powder.

  10. Jambaloney- thank you. You'll love making your own bow. Time consuming to do right, but well worth it when someone asks where you 'found' it.
    Good luck getting firearms in Canada- I understand it to be a fairly rigorous activity. We Americans should talk with a few more Canadians and Australians and Brits and learn what it's really like having restrictive gun laws.
    Thank you for stopping by.
    Santa-- dang, you know: I read and thought of putting it in and just ended with the parenthetical about the rifle. My short memory.Dang! Thanks for catching it- interchangeability is one reason I want the .357 rifle/pistol combo.
    Trick- black powder seems to be cropping up all over now. I think partly cuz folks are trading them in on 'modern' weapons. Maybe, anyway. But, oh, yes- fun to hunt with. We too often forget that black powder was killing moose and deer and bear and elk and goats and sheep and people from hundreds of yards for a great many years. I'd have no fear of making a 150 yard shot with it, 200 might be pushing my luck but 120 grains of FFG Pyro is a heckuva whallop.
    Ernie, thank you. Glad you enjoyed it- print all you want.
    Thanks for stopping by, All. God bless, prep on.


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