Emergency Supplies

Before I start, please note that I don’t normally post pieces of this type over the weekend, but this is going to be a long one and is therefore best posted on a non-workday. Get yourselves a fresh cup of joe or your Morning Margerita and some snack food before going any further.

Here goes.

The need for emergency supplies, or rather, the media’s interest therein, seems to be a cyclical thing. The Red Cross has just published a list which is okay, I guess, but it’s woefully incomplete. I’ll address its shortcomings further down.

I’m not one of the “seasoned” preppers by any means. But I have made, and continue to make, various kinds of contingency plans for myself and, if possible, for my family. So here’s my take on the whole thing.

Before you start any kind of emergency / disaster preparation, understand that you’ll need to make two kinds of preparation in answer to the eternal questions concerning looming disaster: do I hunker down, or do I bug out? Each requires not only a different set of preparations, but also a different mindset. Frankly, unless your town is being evacuated, you’re better off staying in place. And if you are getting the hell out, do not go to a marshalling point with your carefully-packed supplies, because the first thing the law enforcement stooges will do is take all your stuff and stick it in the communal pot — which means you’ll be supporting the grasshoppers.

Just remember that if you’re going to join up at someone else’s house — highly recommended because it makes the place easier to defend — just make sure that you arrive properly armed and provisioned, or else your buddy running the sanctuary is going to turn you away (or he should, anyway). Do not be the guy who has to rely on the good graces of others: four or five self-sufficient extra people can defend a house and its contents with ease, but four or five hungry mouths just means that everyone’s going to go hungry sooner. And don’t get angry or butt-hurt when your buddy turns you away if all you’re bringing is your empty hands: you’re the one who’s unprepared, not he. This is all the more critical if you’re bringing small kids to the party: look after them yourself, because otherwise they’re just a burden on everyone else.

I can’t believe I even have to say all this, but I suspect that most people have made no plans either because they’re stupid and negligent, or they think “it can’t happen here”, or else they expect “the government” to look after them. We are not Europeans, people: we’re Americans and we take care of ourselves.

Hunkering down. This means that you’re not going to leave the house because the situation out there is too volatile. Complete social breakdown means that you’d likely be vulnerable outside your house unless you’re part of a group which can handle any kind of mutual self-defense requirement. So you decide to stay at home and create a fortified position. This is generally the case too when there’s a local issue such as a prolonged power outage, or nearby locations have been flooded, leaving you isolated. (Obviously, if we’re talking potential damage such as wrought by a tropical storm in Florida, the East Coast or the Gulf Coast, then it’s time to bug out.)
I would even say that in 90% of occasions other than the above, you’d be better off staying put. The reason is simple: you can keep more survival items in a house than in a car. Also, you can keep larger / heavier items simply because you don’t have to lug them around.

It sounds all daring and romantic to hit the trail and be independent and stuff, but anyone who’s ever been on a full-pack route march will quickly disabuse you of your illusions. And a car / SUV / EOTWAWKI vehicle is all very well, right up until you run out of gas because you were stuck in a fifty-mile line of barely-moving cars on the interstate.

So let’s look at what you need in a hunker-down situation.

Backup power. This could mean as little as spare batteries for all your survival appliances like phones and flashlights, through a power inverter than can be run by your car and keep your fridge running, all the way up to a large backup power unit which will keep your large items usable (e.g. fridge, deep freeze, ovens, microwaves and of course, laptops).

Food should not be a problem if you have a decent quantity of shelf-stable groceries in your pantry — and if you don’t have these, then you should get some. This would include canned goods, dry goods (sugar, flour, salt etc.) as well as protein bars and such. (By the way, forget making bread au naturel; it seldom works and usually tastes like crap. Stick to rice and porridges like oatmeal or grits (see below).

Water is of course a necessity, and you need lots, at least a gallon a day just for drinking alone — although if you have a swimming pool or even a large hot tub, you’ll be okay for water for some time. (Yeah, chlorinated water tastes like crap but you won’t die of thirst.) And if you get one of those water purifying thingies, you’ll have fourteen to twenty thousand gallons of potable water on hand. With a couple of cheap plastic paint buckets, you’ll even be able to flush your toilet with the pool water.

You’ll need to cook stuff. You can do it the hard way or the easy way. The hard way means cutting wood and making fires — not easy in the suburbs when firewood is at a premium, and impossible in any large city. The easy way is a Weber grill with two propane cylinders. I keep one full and use the other until it runs out; then I hook up the full one and get a refill immediately. (Some people rotate three cylinders in this manner, and I’ll never argue with them about it.) If you’re careful and husband your gas, you’d have about six to eights weeks’ cooking with that supply. I also have on hand a couple of single-burner Coleman-type camp stoves (with a zillion butane gas cylinders), which worked fine the last time we had a serious power outage. They are remarkably frugal — you can heat up a can of coffee and food twice per day (i.e. warming up a can in a pot of water), and doing just that, one of those gas cylinders will last you 4-5 days. (Pro tip: most Asian markets sell cheap copies of the Coleman stove that last forever — mine are at least a decade old and are still running strong — and the cylinders cost about a buck each, much cheaper than the branded butane sold by camping stores.)

Lighting. If the mains power is out, you have to have light because apart from any actual need (e.g. for reading), light stops you from getting depressed at night. I have a couple of DD battery-powered mini-florescent lanterns, which likewise worked just fine.

And of course, you’re gonna need a few flashlights, such as the SureFire (for personal defense) and the venerable Maglite 3D. What I like about these two old warhorses is that modern xenon bulb technology has changed them both beyond words and given them new life.

First aid / medications: get as comprehensive a kit as you can afford, and supplement according to your own assessment and needs. Most important are your medications, if you’re taking any. It’s no good having lots of Tylenol when what you need is Diovan for your blood pressure. I know that insurance companies only pay for about a month’s worth of medications at a time — we all know why — but if your life depends on your meds, get your doctor to write you a prescription for three months’ supply, then bite the bullet and pay cash for them. All the prep in the world isn’t going to be worth much when you keel over from a preventable heart attack. Once you have the extra meds, start using them and top up the stash with your “fresh” monthly Rx so the drugs stay effective. I have at least 90 days’ worth each of Diovan (for high BP) and Allopurinol (gout), as well as stuff like low-dose aspirin 87mg (heart) and the (exceedingly few) supplementary vitamins I take. Also, if you’re of that age, don’t forget your contraceptives. Danger causes the libido to rocket, folks, and it’s also a good way to keep warm.

Weaponry: you’ll need to protect all this stuff from people who aren’t as prepared as you, so I don’t think I need to talk too much about this one. Suffice it to say that you should have at minimum one each of the following, and make sure every adult in the house can use all of them:

Pump-action shotgun — I prefer 20ga, but 12ga seems to be the most popular. Just remember that a shotgun is fine, but they don’t hold much ammo and reloading is a bitch.

Assault rifle — I prefer the AK-47 (7.62x39mm) , and the PTR-91 (7.62 NATO) is equally fine; but the AR-15 (5.56mm Poodleshooter) is mighty popular too, so go with what you’re comfortable using. If you live in one of the gun-fearing wussy (GFW) states and can’t buy a modern semi-auto rifle, get a Marlin lever-action carbine in .30-30 — or, if your handgun of choice is a .44 or .357 Magnum, then make the Marlin a “companion piece” and get it in the same caliber.

Handgun — any semi-auto; mine is of course the Colt 1911-style, but if you can shoot the eyes out of a gnat with a Glock 9mm, then go ahead [sigh]. Generally speaking, a semi-auto is more effective if you’re going to be involved in a prolonged shooting, but honestly, I won’t argue with anyone who prefers to use their S&W 686 (as long as you stock up with speedloaders and practice using them). Actually, choice of ammo is more important than the gun: make sure you’re loaded with hollowpoints, whatever the caliber or handgun type.

Rimfire rifle / handgun — for all those times when you don’t need a large caliber.

And it goes without saying that you should have plentiful ammo  — at least 200 rounds each per gun, not just per type. (Rimfire ammo should be in much, much greater quantities — in the thousands or even tens of thousands — because if nothing else, it’s good barter material, as is liquor.)

Now let me address the contents of the Red Cross’s list, because that seems to be an attempt to get people ready to bug out. You will need to carry sufficient supplies for three days, and preferably five. And if you have small kids, forget about hiking: you’ll need a car.

  • Rucksack: sure. Just make sure that it’s not so heavy that you can’t carry it further than a couple miles without passing out.
  • Water: get a Camelbak. Water is heavy, and 5-gallon jugs are as awkward as hell to carry. Remember, though, that if you’re already carrying a backpack, the Camelbak isn’t going to lighten your load any. And if you get the smaller Camelbak, you may as well just carry three canteens. 
  • Food: jerky, energy bars / trail mix, nuts and dried fruit or candy. Everything else is too heavy. Forget cans of anything unless you eat them all in the first couple days, and forget any kind of balanced diet — remember that you’re out for five days, tops — and all you really need is protein and minerals to survive that small period of time. But if you still want something more, go here and knock yourself out.
  • Flashlight: small and powerful (e.g. Surefire 6P and/or Maglite AA), with spare batteries.
  • Radio: the hand-cranked ones are fine, but beware of the cheap ones because they require so much cranking, you’ll be exhausted by the time you get enough juice for a 2-minute broadcast. Easier to take batteries for them. My advice: spend a little more and get a phone charger and solar panel included.
  • First aid kit: as large as you can fit into your backpack, including medications.
  • Multi-purpose tool: I have two: a Gerber Multiplier 600 and a Swiss Army Champ (it’s a sentimental choice, sue me). Why two? Because they’re small and easily lost.
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items: they mean asswipes, handwipes and tampons. Baby wipes are the best, and tampons can also be used to plug up a wound.
  • Mobile phone with chargers: get a spare battery, charge it and swap it out occasionally with the “first” one to keep it in condition. Also get a small portable charger for an emergency boost.
  • Copies of personal documents:  (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies). Just guard them with your life.
  • Emergency blanket: a.k.a. the Mylar sleeping bag. I like the Titan, but the SOL Bivvy is also good, just less rugged. If you live in a cold climate, don’t forget stuff like gloves, a scarf, a coat, a hat, thermal undies and decent insulated boots. 
  • Extra cash: $500. If you need any more, you’ll have to start shooting (see below).

What the Red Cross missed:

  • Gun: Two would be better, three optimal. Carry a rifle or shotgun openly, conceal your handgun(s). I’d recommend a tiny revolver like the NAA Mini-Revolver or a Bond Arms Derringer as the third, “last resort” piece. 
  • Knife: not just the little thing you get on a multitool; you need at least one large knife (e.g. a Ka-Bar) and a smaller pocket knife. 
  • Axe / hatchet: actually, I prefer a roofing hammer, as long as you sharpen the blade first.
  • Fire starter: I like the SurvivalSPARK, because it has a spiffy little compass attached.

 

I’ve written way too much, and I’ve only scratched the surface. I only hope I’ve got people to think about this a little, if they haven’t already. Just remember: like most stuff of this nature, you never need it until you need it — but then you’ll need it really badly.

For a more comprehensive treatment of the topic, go to Bill Quick’s SHTF place. In the meantime, let’s not get carried away, shall we?

Little light on foodstuffs would be my only criticism, but otherwise, not a bad start.

Retirement Guns

Mr. FM and I were relaxing over a pint or two of whisky the other night and as always, the topic drifted towards that of guns. In this specific instance, it was “retirement” guns — i.e. when one has reached a certain age, and a miserly pension/SocSec payout prevents one from buying lots of rifles and/or ammo, what then are the guns that are most desirable to own, either by outright purchase (assuming the funds are available) or else acquired by selling off other guns to fund the purchases?

As I’m right in this target demographic, it’s a subject of keen interest to me.

The criteria are that they should be:

  • quality guns (high on the quality curve but acceptable costwise), to compensate for failing eyesight, shaky grip and unsteady footing;
  • only a few in number, yet able to address most shooting situations;
  • if possible, having gentle recoil (or at least gentler recoil) than the guns of one’s yoot;
  • and finally, chambered for a cartridge of which one already has a large supply.

Of course, the first priority would be a .22 rifle for both plinking and precision/varminting work. Mr. FM suggests an Anschutz 1416:

…or, if you’re going to go all benchy:

Then there’s the CZ 455 Luxe:

or, once again for the Benchies, the CZ 455 Precision:

I myself don’t need to buy either, as my Taurus Mod 62 / Marlin 880 SSQ / 880 SSV in .22 LR / .22 WinMag respectively, are probably all I’ll ever need for both plinking and varminting.

Yeah, the Marlins are no Anschutz or CZ, but they shoot better than I can shoot them; and I don’t have to spend any more money, so there’s that. And, of course, I do have a few boxes of both calibers in Ye Olde Ammoe Locquer. [/understatement]

In that vein, let’s talk for a moment about the guns which are chambered according to the contents of your ammo locker. As any fule kno, I’m a huge fan of the AK-47 rifle, and I have (let’s say) a sufficiency of 7.62x39mm ammo. So, if I wanted an accurate bolt-action hunting rifle chambered in that excellent caliber, then why not a CZ 527 Carbine:

Incidentally, if your preferred SHTF rifle is of the AR-15 persuasion and you have a boatload of its ammo, then obviously there is a plethora of bolt-action choices for you. But I would respectfully suggest that you could do a lot worse than the above-mentioned CZ 527 Carbine chambered in .223 Rem.

Let’s see… plinking/varminting, SHTF, short-range hunting; what’s left? Oh yeah, I almost forgot.

Everyone needs a rifle with which one can reach out and touch someone / something at distances up to 500-600 yards. I believe I now have that covered with my new Mauser M12 in 6.5x55mm:

Once again, if your preferred assault rifle is of the FN-FAL / H&K G3 etc. type and you have a lot of 7.62x55mm/.308 Win ammo, then you should by all means get a hunting / sniper rifle in that chambering.

So there you have it. By the above criteria, my rifle count is: three rimfires (.22 LR and .22 WinMag), one SHTF and one short-range hunting (7.62x39mm), and one sniper (6.5x55mm): a total of six rifles and four calibers. (I don’t currently own a CZ 527 in 7.62x39mm, but after much discussion / whisky with Mr. FM, I’m starting to like the idea.)

Another retiree’s rifle collection might be: one .22 LR for plinking, two in .223 Rem for SHTF and varminting, a .30-30 lever piece for short-range hunting, and a .300 WinMag for long-distance work: a total of five rifles and four calibers.

See how that works?

Feel free to add your combinations, using the above criteria, in Comments. Remember: funds are tight, you want to cut down on “caliber proliferation”, and you want to be able to address all the most likely shooting situations you’re going to encounter as an Old Fart. Have at it.

Ambushed

The day after my Lord’s pilgrimage, Mr. FM suggested we take a quiet drive into the Cotswolds, some few miles north-west of FM Towers. He knows that I’m not one for scenic drives just for the drive’s sake, so he mentioned the magical words “in the Porsche” — and needless to say, that was sufficient incentive for me to agree.

So we footled around along English country roads — me oohing and aaahing at Teh Scenery, which is spectacular: rolling hills, forest glades, farmers doing Farming Things, etc. Of course, it being a lovely day (sunny, warm, bees buzzing lazily etc.) there were the usual problems (i.e. cyclists), but the oncoming roar of a 3.6-liter Porsche engine usually had the desired effect of sending them flying into roadside ditches, which is all part of the fun of a summer drive. Then things took a turn for the worse. Much worse.

We turned off the country road onto what can best be described as a farm road and ended up at a series of farm-type buildings. Over the door of one such building was a sign which read, cryptically, “R.J. Blackwall”. What place is this, I wondered, and then we went inside.

 

Rupert Blackwall is one of the pre-eminent Mauser dealers in the British Isles.

O My Readers, I need first to give you a teeny bit of background so you can fully appreciate what was to follow. In the Great Time Of Poverty when I was forced to sell almost all my guns, I found myself, for the first time in my life, Mauserless. Never mind Mauser lookalikes or derivatives thereof; ever since I can remember, I’ve had at least one actual Mauser rifle in my gun cabinet — in fact, my very first gun purchase in the U.S. was a Mauser 98K. Since the Great Poverty, some four years ago, I’ve been without a Mauser — a fact I’d once lamented to Mr. FM, en passant — and only now did his devilment come to light. You see, he’d seen my reaction to the exquisite M12 I’d fired only a week before at the Corinium range and thus, I believe, had schemed a visit to this… this temple to Vulcan’s Dark Arts.

Of course, that’s not how he played it, the foul man; he chatted with Mr. Blackwall — a gunsmith of considerable skill and knowledge, having been trained at E.J. Churchill — about some rifle he was considering for his next African safari, leaving me to wander around the store and browse among (actually, drool over) the store’s wares.

First I saw a matched pair of AyA 20-gauge side-by-side shotguns (which I will need for future High Bird Shooting excursions), but I knew that the cost thereof was going to be silly: and in pounds sterling, still more so. With a deep sigh, I moved on. Until I came to the “second-hand” rack…

..and there it was: a barely-fired Mauser M12, in… 6.5x55mm (my favorite medium caliber of all), at a price that, when translated into U.S. greenbacks, was not expensive at all. In fact, it was… affordable.

Of course, one can’t just buy a rifle and walk out of the door with it, not in Merrie Olde England, oh no. In fact, I thought that I would not be able to purchase any gun, because (as we all know) in the U.S. such things are streng verboten (as I’d discovered when first I emigrated and wanted to buy a gun). Well, no. In the U.S., not anyone can buy a gun, but anyone can own a gun (mostly). In Britain, it’s the reverse. I could buy the gun, but I couldn’t take possession of it — it would have to go onto a British gun owner’s license — until such time as I would leave the U.K. And of course, standing right next to me, with an evil leer on his aristocratic features, there was just such a British gun owner.

All that remained was to give Mr. Blackwall my credit card.

I’ll be “testing” it over the coming weeks at Corinium, once I get a decent scope on it. Range report(s) and pics to follow.

And most important of all, I am no longer Mauserless, so all my old Boer forefathers can stop spinning in their graves.

Object Lesson

Hmmmm….

While jogging on a familiar, overgrown, wooded trail near her home on a recent warm afternoon, Rachel Borch thought to herself, “what a beautiful day.”
Little did she know she was about to be attacked by a rabid raccoon she would end up killing with her bare hands. In the midst of appreciating the weather and scenery, she looked ahead and noticed a raccoon obstructing the narrow foot path, baring its tiny teeth. Suddenly, it began “bounding” toward her, Borch recalled Wednesday afternoon during an interview at her home on Hatchet Mountain Road in Hope.
“I knew instantly it had to be rabid,” said Borch, who remembers ripping out her headphones and dropping her phone on the ground.

It’s a gripping story, and you should read the whole thing.

However: I can’t help wondering whether she wouldn’t have saved herself from a whole lot of trouble (and pain, and medical attention, and stress) if she’d only been carrying a gun.

Of course, she wouldn’t have been: she’s a vegetarian, and cute lil’ furry animals are All God’s Creatures, after all… except when they’re rabid little fuckers trying to kill you.

Let’s add a little recommendation to the thus-begged question: “If I’m going to go jogging along a lonely country trail all by myself, and danger threatens, what gun should I be carrying to protect myself?”

Of course, the gun has to be a small one, because otherwise it’s going to bounce around all over the place. (Unless, of course, you have a proper holster for it – which I’ll be discussing later when I talk about carry guns.) I must confess to being not the best authority on “jogging guns” because I don’t jog – a stately saunter is about my limit – but I can’t see why a decent little carry piece wouldn’t do the trick.

Frankly, I think that the gun may not be as important as the ammo you’ve loaded it with. When I go for my daily walks, if it’s a short one (to buy lottery tickets at the corner 7-Eleven) I carry a little NAA Mini-revolver (.22 Magnum: two shotshells  followed by three solids):

If it’s a longer walk (up the hill to the liquor store), then I carry in addition my S&W Model 637 loaded with Winchester SXT .38 Special +P jacketed hollowpoints.

I am fully aware that these may not be the best options for other people (e.g. our hapless jogger in the story above), so I will happily entertain further discussion in Comments.

Same Old Question, Different Time — Conclusion

For part 1 (Rimfire) of this series, go here; for part 2 (Shotguns), here; for part 3 (Assault Rifles), here.; and for part 4 (Handguns), here.

As we come to the end of this little exercise, let’s look at Reader Wally T’s question again:

“What do you consider a minimum number of guns for home- and self defense for me and my wife, and which guns would you recommend?”

I’ve looked at the home-defense part of the question exclusively, because we can address the “carry” issue another time. So: what’s my answer?

The minimum number of home-defense guns for any household is three (3): a shotgun, an assault rifle and a handgun. (Remember, rimfire guns are really household items and not guns; but if you insist, then add a .22 rifle and handgun to the count.) Remember too that there should be at least one handgun per adult household member, so your own total will likely end up being greater than that.

The specific guns I would recommend for home defense are:

Shotgun:
Mossberg SA-20  “Railed” in 20ga – mostly because its teeny 16″ barrel makes it handier in a small space than a 28″ hunting barrel.

Assault rifle:
AK-47 (WASR-10) in 7.62x39mm

Handgun:
Men (from): S&W Model 27 or Model 586 with a 4″ barrel in .357 Mag/.38 Special +P (revolver); Glock 21* in .45 ACP (DA-only semi-auto which functions like a revolver); Springfield 1911 in .45 ACP (single-action semi-auto).
Women (from): S&W Model 642 Lady Smith in .38 Special +P (revolver); CZ 75 D PCR Compact in 9mm +P (SA/DA semi-auto); Browning High Power in 9mm (single action).

For the record: I personally own or have owned at least one of each of the guns in the above categories, with just a couple of minor variations (e.g. S&W Model 637, not the 640/642; the Model 65, not the 586/686; the full-size CZ 75 D rather than the PCR; and the Browning Gold Hunter 20ga, not the Mossberg). I’ve also fired at least a thousand rounds through each of them, and likewise could write an entire post on their virtues (don’t make me do it).

None of the above should be taken to reflect any aspersions or slights on other brands, of course. These are simply my personal recommendations, based on my own experience and ownership. (I know a guy who has at least eight Ruger SP101 .357 Mag revolvers scattered around his house: bedside, toolbox, living room, kitchen, truck etc. – ten guesses which gun he’d recommend.)

Readers’ comments and differences of opinion are welcome, as always. In the next week or so, I’ll be talking about carry pieces for both men and women.


*As I’ve said many times before, my issues with Glock are personal (I’m not a fan of DA pistols in general; I think Glocks are pig-ugly; and it’s a furrin gun), but the issues are absolutely not related to the gun’s performance, which is superb. My prejudices should not prevent me recommending the best gun for the job, so I’m gonna hold my nose on this one.

That said, there are other striker-fired options, especially:

  • the SIG P320 is the new basic pistol the U.S. Army has chosen, and it’s available in several calibers and configurations. I’ve only fired it a couple times (and liked it), but it’s Doc Russia’s choice of sidearm (in .40 S&W) when he rolls out with the local SWAT guys, so there’s that. It can also be configured for women to replace the CZ in their category. (I still prefer the CZ, though. If I were at all interested in 9mm DA pistols, the “75” would be my only choice.)
  • the Kahr P9 is an excellent choice – a gunsmith friend prefers its engineering to the Glock’s – and the only knock on Kahr pistols in general is that they’re spendy. Like the P320, the basic design also comes in .40 S&W and .45 ACP variants. If you don’t want polymer on your gun, then go with the “T” line (like the T9).
  • The Springfield XD pistols are likewise excellent, albeit re-badged HS2000 pistols from Croatia (ergo furrin like the Glock). Rugged and reliable, they also come in 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP, and are highly recommended.