This guest post by Michael and entry in our non-fiction writing contest.
I have followed with great interest all of the submissions for this writing contest, and have gleaned a tremendous amount of useful information. Thank you to those of you for taking the time to share your knowledge.
I am a combat vet and former public servant. I currently work in the healthcare field as an RN and Paramedic. I am married, a father of two boys and in my mid-forties. I have a college education, an honorable discharge and numerous other professional experiences and certifications, including but not limited to certified Interior Structure Firefighter, a CDL Class A driver’s license and a master bartender’s certification (hiccup). I am also a certified NRA Ranges Safety Officer and Small Arms Instructor. Enough of that, but I did just want to give you a little background on myself before continuing.
In the world of prepping, what motivates us, or better yet scares us to take measures to ensure self-survival is as varied as we are as individuals. There is an old adage that applies to preparation as it does to anything else; there’s a million and one right ways to do the same thing, and when we disseminate information for the benefit of our fellow man, we must keep that in mind. We need to present our knowledge in a way that is respectful and with the understanding that what may be ideal or perfect to you, may not be for someone else, and that HAS to be okay.
We all have so much to share and learn from each other, yet sadly time and time again in any thread in the forum, on any subject, there are those that seemingly always present their experiences and/or knowledge of a particular subject matter as indisputable fact, to the point of being disrespectful, and often times downright indignant when an opposing idea or thought is presented to them.
I am baffled by that mindset and I try to address it every time I encounter it. I am sure each of you have seen it occur as often as I have, and I hope you’ve taken the opportunity to engage the offender in a constructive way, taking the opportunity to remind them that the purpose of the site is to inform and support each other in preparation for any possible SHTF or TEOTWAWKI scenario we may encounter. The world in which we live is challenging enough as it is.
Daily we encounter those that wish to discount what we do as insane, and to ridicule us at every opportunity. A fine example of this is the television show currently on the National Geographic channel; ‘Doomsday Preppers’. It is my opinion this show does more harm than good, and takes every opportunity to highlight those who are on the extreme fringes of what prepping is all about.
We do not need to be seen in that light, nor do we need to berate each other within our own ‘family’ on this site. In fact, there are many ‘users’ who post with regular frequency that quite simply scare me, and certainly annoy me. So much so, that I would view them cautiously in any real world scenario. We need to combat negativity at every turn, and encourage great camaraderie through positive information sharing, and guidance to all members.
Many times I see a new member eagerly post a question and instantly get berated with ‘OMG, this topic again?’ type replies/responses. Why is this? What is the satisfaction from berating a new member; any member? How much effort does it take to either, A) Answer the question, or B) Politely direct them to existing threads and posts on the subject matter, or C) Simply do not even respond if it irritates you that badly. We are better than that and need to make sure we lead the way in a positive manner at all times.
Getting off of my high horse now, I’d like to share with you my thought process behind my ‘Go-to-hell’ bag and weapon selection for a TEOTWAWKI and/or SHTF event, with the hope of possibly making you take pause and reassess your own arsenal in a beneficial way, or help you create one from scratch. Remember, though, this is what works for ME, based on the experiences in life I’VE had, and based on MY personal preferences and observations. It is NOT foolproof, and is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but it may be solid plan for those of you in the region/environment I am presently in, and could be good starting point for those of you new to this aspect of preparing.
Living in the Northeast; specifically the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, I have to ensure that the weapon I select for defensive, and if necessary, offensive purposes is suitable for this harsh, unpredictable environment. Initially, I set out to find a ‘one-does-all’ weapon, but quickly discounted that mindset and reverted to the ‘different jobs; different tools’ line of thought.
As I think is the case with most of us, we develop a fondness and proficiency with certain weapons and it’s often hard to look beyond those favorites, but you have to find a way to impartially assess your arsenal and determine if it’s adequate for the perceived task. If it is, great and congratulations; if it isn’t, you need to prioritize this part of your preparation simply for the fact that if you cannot defend yourself, your property, your family and your stores of supplies adequately, you’ve essentially prepared for nothing. Regardless of where you live, you will be threatened. You will be challenged. Someone will attempt to take what you have. Prioritize your arsenal ahead of any other purchase.
Selecting your weapon(s) begins with questions and assessments. Your assessment and questions begin with your location. What is the terrain? Are you rural, suburban, city or a mix? What is your primary need of a weapon(s), i.e. hunting or defense? Your secondary need? You need to do a little investigating and determine what the law enforcement and military presence is in your community, as well. Take time to find out what the caliber is of the side arm your local and state law enforcement agencies use. Chances are it’s going to be 9mm and/or .40S&W, but you may encounter .357 Sig and the occasional .45ACP. Find out what they use for SWAT calibers in their long arms; chances are that’s going to be a mix of 5.56 (similar to .223), and 7.62×51 (.308). I have seen some agencies fielding the 7.62×39, but that’s a rarity. They will all likely have shotguns in their employ and probably of the 12 gauge variety. The military will be fielding weapons primarily of the 9mm, 5.56 and the 7.62x51flavors.
Before you continue, plant in your conscious psyche right now that as far as weapons and calibers are concerned, promise yourself you won’t get caught up in the group that likes to make a particular caliber something it isn’t, and that can be in a good or bad way. Use calibers and weapons for what they are, not for what they aren’t. Make informed decisions and plan accordingly. Make choices based on what your needs are, in the region in which you reside, and for the purposes you expect to need the weapon(s) for. There is no ‘one’ gun for all tasks. There are many suitable ones, though. View them as tools, and your arsenal as a toolbox. How many toolboxes have you seen with just one tool?
The prevailing ‘official’ calibers in almost every community, rural or otherwise, are the 9mm, the .40S&W, the 5.56 and the 7.62×51(.308). Are these my favorite calibers? Not necessarily. I’m a dinosaur and in a side arm, I love, love, love the .45ACP and the .357 Magnum. In rifles, I’m a huge fan of the 30’06. However, those calibers, while popular and seemingly abundant right now, will be scarce, if not almost non-existent when things crap out. The likelihood of coming across those calibers and calibers like the 30-30, .243, .270, etc., will be near impossible if you do not already have a huge personal cache of ammo. However, the 9mm and other calibers mentioned above are going to be found abundantly at armories, police stations, and as ‘combat/battlefield casualty litter’; sad but true.
Next, you have to consider the prevailing firearms. In side arms, it’s estimated that 60% of U.S. LEOs use some variation of the Glock. The State Troopers in my state have moved to the S&W MP .40, while local LEOs carry the Glock 22. The state to my immediate south, Massachusetts, moved their State Troopers to the S&W MP .45ACP. The VT National Guard, as does the regular Army and most other branches, carries the Beretta 92FS in 9mm and the M4 in 5.56. What did I do with this information? I prepared long term based on the most commonly encountered weapons and calibers in my region. I acquired them, learned them and have become proficient with them. For my side arms, I utilize the Glock 33, the Glock 23, the S&W MP .45ACP and a S&W Model 28-2 Highway Patrolman .357 Magnum. For my long arms, I utilize an AR-10 (7.62×51), a Mossberg MVP Predator in 5.56 (a bolt gun that uses regular M4 magazines of any capacity). For intermediate ranges out to 200 meters, I use the VZ58 in 7.62×39.
Why the Glocks? First, I hate all things polymer, I just do, but you cannot overlook their simplicity, their durability and the abundance of parts available. The Glock 33 is a subcompact chambered in .357 Sig. However, with the simple change of a barrel, I can also use .40S&W ammunition flawlessly. With the change of a barrel and magazine, I can run 9mm through it flawlessly. I have it set up to run 9mm Hornady Critical Duty 135gr +P and it resides in a flap holster on my molle chest rig, along with the other barrels and additional mags. I also have a slide and mag in my ruck that allows me to run .22LR through it. It’s my backup gun capable of handling the 4 different calibers I’m likely to encounter and keeps me in the fight. The S&W MP .45ACP rides in an M12 holster as a thigh rig and serves as my primary side arm in any SHTF situation. The Glock 23 is my EDC (everyday carry) and it, too, is capable of firing the .357 Sig and 9mm, along with its original OEM configuration for .40S&W. I have it set to run the 9mm Hornady Critical Duty 135gr +P, too, as it’s my preferred self-defense round. The Glock 23 usually spends its days lounging away in the small of my back. The S&W .357 Magnum wheel gun resides in my ruck, along with four pouched speed loaders. An undisputed awesome round, having that wheel gun on me is a huge piece of mind. More than that though, it also fires the .38 Special. See where I am going with all of this? With four handguns, I have 6 calibers covered: the .22LR (which I hear the FBI claims has killed more people and animals than all other calibers combined), .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .357 Sig, .40S&W, .45ACP.
For the same reasons as the handguns, I based my choices on my rifles: the availability of ammo of chosen calibers, lethality of selected rounds, likelihood of encountering spare parts, magazines, etc., The 7.62×51 (.308) gives me long range hunting and defensive capabilities in a proven platform. The 5.56 with 20” barrel gives me the stability and increased performance of a bolt gun with the capacity of an M4, using M4 mags.
It is utility round capable of performing almost any task I ask of it out to 500 meters. Those two reside at home. The VZ58 is absolutely my personal favorite weapon. I have an aftermarket heavy duty adjustable folding stock on it, along with an upgraded front upper and lower hand guard. I’ve kept it iron sights only and it’s deadly accurate. I bust clay pigeons all day long at 125 meters. Chambered in the under-appreciated and grossly misunderstood 7.62×39 round, it is deadly capable and is my primary ‘go-to-hell’ weapon. The appearance to an AK47 is where the similarities end.
In fact, they share ZERO interchangeable parts. The action is similar to the simplicity of the SKS, and maintenance requirements are almost nil. If you are not familiar with one, I recommend you check one out. Its accuracy at ranges fewer than 200 meters is comparable to any AR plat-formed rifle. In my environment, not many opportunities to fire beyond 200 meters exists or is needed, and unless I’m hunting, I will avoid unnecessary contact that poses no immediate threat to me, making the 7.62×39 round perfect for my everyday need.
Its reliability, in my opinion, far surpasses the Stoner system, of which I really have nothing bad to say, other than regular fouling that may not always occur at a convenient time, as many my illustrious ‘brothers-in arms’ can testify to! Built to fire the steel cased combloc ammo, with extremely available and affordable spare parts, it is the gem of my personal arsenal. With 30 round magazines, the $4.19 122gr HP ammo is not painful to the wallet to shoot and stockpile. In addition the loaded VZ mags on my chest rig, I have a full reload of 330rds in my ruck, and 5K rounds spread between home and where I intend to rally/bug-out to.
Lastly, I have the venerable Winchester 1200 12 gauge pump shotgun that actually saw action in ‘Nam with my Dad (R.I.P.), with extended capacity and an aftermarket skeleton stock I added, along with a rifled slug barrel. It, too, lives at home, loaded with low recoil Triple OOO buckshot, standing its silent vigil ever so faithfully as it has for nearly 40 years now.
On my USGI chest rig, I use Condor Kangaroo style dual mag pouches, one left of center of chest rig, one right of center. In these I get a total of 4 VZ mags and 4 pistol mags. In the middle I use a USGI triple pouch mag carrier that I get 6 VZ mags into. Above that is a triple pouch pistol mag carrier that houses two mags and two other barrels. To the right of that pistol mag carrier is the flap holster that carries the Glock 33.
On my belt is the thigh rig with the M12 holster holding the S&W MP .45ACP. At the top of the M12 extension is a triple pistol mag holder that holds mags for the MP .45ACP. This set up gives me two handguns with the capability to fire 4 different calibers. It also gives me 10 loaded VZ mags. Including the mags in the weapons themselves, I have 330 rounds of rifle ammunition and 150 rounds of handgun ammunition, encompassing a total of four different calibers; oh, and my Kabar Sheath Knife, too.
This is my primary bug out load/vest and is complimented by my old school Alice pack, which contains a selection of critical replacement weapon parts, the wheel gun, 5 to 7 days of caloric sustenance – stretchable to 10 days, including water and water purification, first aid, fire capability, two camo woobies, two camo ponchos, USGI sleeping bag and USGI 4 season tent, several hundred feet of paracord, compass, an emergency radio and transceiver walkie-talkie, local maps for the surrounding 50 miles, a main set and a change of BDUs, three pair of socks, my Belleville 650 boots, M65 with liner, tuque, gloves, flashlight, binoculars, a small fishing and trapping kit, one week worth of meds, a fifth of Jim Beam Black in a plastic bottle and a pack of Winston Red’s, in the box.
This set-up fits nicely in the cross box of my pickup truck, and remains ready to go and untouched, with the exception of range time with the weapons and change out of food products periodically. I can grab the chest rig, ruck, and rifle in a matter of seconds, and be kitted up shortly after that. The total weight is not much over what I remember my combat load out weights being, and I’ve carried this up and down the Appalachian as a test to see if I still had the physical ability. I was pleasantly surprised that with a little weight shifting, I could comfortably carry it.
What I have shared with you here is my personal preferences, based on the logistical challenges and opportunities of where I live, and what my ultimate mission is I hope to accomplish when the ‘balloon goes up’. My setup is designed to get me in or out of the fight regardless of where I am, keeping me self-sufficient in any environment for up to 10 days with nothing else needed from anyone, allowing me to focus on my primary goal of getting back home by any means necessary, and putting my family’s long term action plan in gear. My wife is similarly equipped. My boys reside out of state, but logistics are in place to ensure we eventually link up.
We keep our preparations low key, and have a small network of like minded individuals within a 50 mile radius. We have the ability to ‘bob and weave’ as necessary, should we need to avoid hostile contact of an invading enemy force, roving gang, or zombies, with caches of extra supplies and ammo strategically located and accessible within a day’s hike in most directions, in most weather conditions. Everything I have written here is usually a contentious and hotly contested topic. It shouldn’t be that way because it is completely speculative at best and a ‘one-size-fits-all’ mentality is simply absurd. All I can do, and hope I have done, is share with you what I do, and why.
I hope this has been informative, entertaining and thought provoking.
Good luck, God Bless, and keep your powder dry… times they are a changin’!
This contest will end on February 16 2013 – prizes include:
- First Place winner will receive Two cases of MRE’s courtesy of Camping Survival, A Wonder Junior Deluxe hand-mill courtesy of Kitchen Kneads, $150 gift certificate for Fiocchi Ammo courtesy of LuckyGunner Ammo, A Big Berkey Water Filter System courtesy of TruPrep Emergency Preparedness and a one year subscription to Personal VPN service courtesy of unspyable.
- Second Place: A $200 gift certificate for any order from their store courtesy of Shepherd Survival and A Doom and Bloom Mini Trauma Bag courtesy of LPC Survival.
- Third Place: A Bar-ricade door bar courtesy of My Locksmith, Inc.