How many bullets fit into a nalgene bottle

Bugout Bullet Bottles

Having a stockpile of ammo might provide comfort when bugging in, but what about when you have to bugout?  As you plan your survival options, make sure to include portable but long-term ammo storage solutions. There are about as many ways to store and carry ammo as there are survival calibers, but in the end three truths emerge: the ammo must be kept dry, clean, and quickly identified. Other than that, the way you do it is up to you.

by Doc Montana, a contributing author of

Military surplus ammo cans are a popular storage choice, but the survival water bottles to hold bulletsweight of a full metal ammo can is a significant drawback when going mobile.  And worse, the handles on the lightweight plastic ammo cans are notorious for breaking off just when you need them the most.  Another popular solution is to pour the ammo into clear, seal-able plastic bags.  That solution scores the highest on light weight and identification, but turns in the lowest possible scores for durability.

Off The Shelf

Some ammo manufacturers are selling ammo sealed up like a can of survival bullet stashbeans.  For example Fiocchi makes a sealed “Canned Heat” of 100 rounds of 9mm, and Federal makes a “Fresh Fire Pack” sealed can of 325 x .22 long rifle bullets.  The cans are purged of atmospheric air and filled with nitrogen preventing oxygen corrosion on bullets and primers, and both cans have key-open lids that rip off like a sardine can.

The factory sealed ammo cans are an excellent solution for a very narrow problem.  But since the can is not hermetically resealable, the S really has to Hit the Fan before you want to break the seal.  A better solution and one without the single-use disadvantage is as close as a water bottle away.  A wide-mouth Nalgene lexan water bottle to be exact.

The Bottle Basics

I was searching for a survival ammo storage solution that was shtf bullet storagedurable, inexpensive, modular, lightweight, had visible contents, and provided unlimited shelf life. My choice was Nalgene lexan water bottles with large mouths. The two main sizes are 16 ounces and 32 ounces. After working with the bottles for a while, the advantages racked up beyond many other traditional ammo storage options.

Using plastic bottles to store ammo is nothing new, but in most other cases the bottle was the convenient novelty and not actually a well thought out component in the system.  As evidence of the lack of foresight with other bottles, I offer the five-second rule.  In five seconds or less, Can you empty the bottle of all .22 or pistol ammo.  Soda bottle solutions are about as functional as a piggy bank.  The fastest way to empty them is to slice them open with a knife. Not quite ideal in my book.

The Nalgene lexan bottles are extremely durable, transparent, impervious to temperature change, puncture resistant, reasonably heat resistant, watertight, and cheap.  Further, they hold enough ammo to make a difference, but not so much as to be too heavy, bulky or fragile.  And in my mildly scientific tests, I can empty a 16-ounce wide mouth bottle filled with .22 shells in four seconds.

Also Read: 37 Things You Should Be Stocking but probably aren’t

A brand name bottle is important.  No-name plastic bottles can contain VOCs or volatile organic compounds that are common in Chinese made plastics of undisclosed material. The off-gassing inside a sealed plastic container can react with the contents so care is needed when selecting long term storage containers. Lab-grade Lexan is fairly inert, but ironically the reason I have these bottles available for ammo storage is because they were rotated out of our drinking water bottle collection due to the possibility of BPA (Bisphenol-A) chemicals leaching into the water from the particular polycarbonate plastic used at that time.  As people convert their water bottles and other food storage containers to glass, stainless steel, polypropylene, and BPA-free polycarbonate, the older Lexan bottles are often donated to places like Goodwill so there should be a cheap source of such ammo storage at your local thrift shop.  Since the airtight seal of the lid is critical, shop carefully, and don’t forget that new bottles are still inexpensive.

 Dry = Bang

To keep the ammo dry, a highly efficient desiccant such as silica gel is how to store ammo gunsthe best option.  Although the small “Do not eat” packets that are so common in about everything purchased these days are a better-than-nothing choice, the even better choice is to use quality bulk silica gel, especially with color indicators of viability.  I buy silica gel by the pound from, a scientific supply company, but there are other quality sources including craft shops, auto parts stores, and of course with products such as the one quart bottle of ATD Tools replacement desiccant.

The reason I suggest avoiding the free packets is there is no standard for purity or even evidence that they are real.  If you are going to count on your ammo in the future, don’t save a buck or two on the most important element in survival ammo preservation.  A popular emergency desiccant can be found in dry “Minute Rice,” but save that option emergencies. You need something you can count on for many years, not just a quick solution designed to prevent further damage to your iPhone after it took a swim in the toilet.

Also Read: Gear Review: Ammo Can Stove

Rather than just dumping a tablespoon of silica gel into the bottle, how to store ammo for shtfthe bulk silica gel should be kept contained in something so you can preserve it.  A simple solution is to put the gel into a small zip-closure bag and then poke a few dozen holes into the bag with a pin or small nail.  Another idea is to re-purpose those small drawstring bags that seem to come with a lot of other gear.  For the larger bottles, I like to use the small cloth drawstring bags that companies like Benchmade include with their folding knives. I also recommend putting the silica gel at the top (lid side) of the bottle because that allows easy checking of the color indicators and oven-refreshing of the gel every so often without dumping the bottle.

I don’t have a firm rule for the amount of silica gel to include, but more is always better than less. You cannot make it too dry in the bottle, but you can err on the other side. For larger projects, you can use a silica gel calculator such as this one: (click here)

But my suggestion is about a heaping teaspoon of quality fresh silica gel for each 16 ounces of volume under normal conditions. If you are going to bury your bottle or live in a humid climate, double the recommendation at the minimum. Also, plan on refreshing the gel after the first week just because there was likely more humidity included in the bottle when first sealed. Quickly swap out the week-old gel for new gel and you should be good to go for long term storage.

There are many recommendations for refreshing silica gel but most suggest oven-heating the gel to at least 200 degrees Fahrenheit minimum and 250 degrees Fahrenheit max for between two and eight hours.  I’ve found that my color coded silica gel is ready to go again using the minimum time and temp, but I live in a low humidity area.

Keeping ammo free from exposure to moisture is especially critical with rimfire shells because the case crimping around the bullet is rarely very tight. In fact many .22 bullets spin freely around in their case. This is in stark contrast to excessively crimped and more moisture resistant military cartridges.

Bangs per Ounce

A 16-ounce lexan Nalgene bottle will easily hold 425 rounds of .22 SHTF bullet ammo storagelong rifle with just enough room for the silica gel and a note with the date, specific ammo brand and type, and manufacturer’s lot number. I usually just include the portion of the original box with the lot number and add the date and other necessary additional information. When filled with .22 shells, the bottle weighs about three-and-a-quarter pounds or 1.5kg, which is a highly portable and useful size for many survival and bugout situations.

If you mix brands or types of ammo in the bottle, but want to keep the lot numbers, just make sure you combine different brands where you can easily pair any particular cartridge with the obvious lot number.  However in a true SHTF situation, the lot number will be little more than a bit of nostalgia from a better time.

On the 9mm side, the 16oz bottle will hold about 150 rounds with barely enough room for some silica gel. A packed pint bottle of 9mm weighs just under four pounds or 1.8kg. Obviously you could easily double these numbers by using 32 oz or one-liter bottles.  Although the weight of quart of ammo is significant, the larger mouthed one liter bottle do allow an extra mag to occupy some of the space if needed. I cannot speak for all guns, but both a Ruger 10/22 rotary mag and a Glock 9mm mag easily fit through the mouth of a 32-ounce Nalgene. In fact, the bottle will even hold one 25-round Ruger 10/22 mag if you want to really lower the density and thus weight of your quart of .22 shells.  However, the 33 round Glock mag is too long to fit in the same bottle.

While we tend to err on the side of larger, don’t forget the small.  A using nalgene water bottles to store ammo bulletsone ounce (30ml) bottle will hold a dozen .380 cartridges with enough room left over for a piece of gauze full of silica gel balls.  A standard magazine for popular .380 including the Ruger LCP and the Glock 42 holds six rounds.  The tiny one ounce bottle, therefore, holds two full mags of bangs.  And remember, you can always carry more than one small Bugout Bullet Bottle, but if you only have large bottles, you might elect to walk away from your bottle out of convenience. Small bottles can be carried as second nature.

Survival Deviations

Other non-ammo additions to the bottle include cleaning supplies, a few survival tools (knife, fire starter, paracord, etc.), fishing gear, or just about anything else that fits both your survival paradigm and through the mouth of the bottle.  You can get about 75 rounds of .223 into the 16 oz bottle, but it took me 15 seconds to empty it.  Due to the shape of the .223 shells, the packing density remains low so the bottle only weighed 2.16 pounds, or about one kilogram when filled to the brim with .223 cartridges.

In addition to .223 ammo, you could toss in a bore snake and how to store ammo in a bottleperhaps an AR-15 small parts kit. But if you get carried away, then the bottle loses its function as a long-term ammo mule.

The bugout ammo bottle is insurance that is too cheap to pass up.  An added advantage is that there are many pouches, cases, and accessories designed to fit, hold, carry, insulate, and supplement standard sized water bottles, of which all of them will increase the functionality of the bugout ammo bottle. And even if you do shoot up all your ammo, you still have a water bottle.

All Photos by Doc Montana

Other articles by Doc Montana
Gear Review: Fallkniven A1
Aimpoint vs. EOTech
Ruger 10/22 Takedown
Survival Bicycling

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teotwawki survival blog

Why Isn’t The Economy Any Better?

Other than the Great Depression, recessions were typically followed by periods of expansion.  Starting in the 2000’s the recessions have not been marked by significant growth.  Furthermore, the jobs that were created in the 2000’s have been of lower skill and pay than in previous decades.

By Dave H, a reader of &

The primary reasons for recessions were over production and over people in survival modeconsumption.  These two factors work together to create the business cycles in the economy.  If a manufacturer created too much inventory then they would need to slow production until the excess inventory was consumed.  On the other hand if consumers over purchased they would slow or stop purchasing until they ran out of the excess product.  What historically drove the rebound in the economy was the reduction in inventory as well as the end of life for consumer products.  Let’s take microwave ovens for example and let’s assume for this exercise that a manufacturer created a technological breakthrough in microwave technology.

Consumers may purchase the new microwave for the new feature rather than wait until their old microwave failed.  This would create a significant amount of demand and the manufacturer would increase production to meet this demand.  They would continue with the increased production until after the initial rush of consumers ended.  They would end up with excess inventory and either cease or slow production.  This reduction in production would not only affect production workers it would affect the suppliers, the transportation companies, the warehouses and the retailer.

This slowdown could continue for an extended period of time as consumers of the new microwaves would not be in the market for a replacement model until either the technology changes again or the product failed.  Now imagine the over production and over consumption model happening simultaneously over large sections of the economy and you will see the natural business cycles of the economy. Given this information you would expect that the economy would return when products need to be replaced and inventories reduced.  Since the 2000’s that has not happened.

What has happened is the manufacturing that drove the model has moved overseas and therefore we have not seen a return to prosperity.  The jobs created by the increased demand are now in countries like China, Vietnam, Mexico and Brazil.

Why did the jobs leave?

To understand this answer we need to return to WWII.  During doomsday preppersWWII the United States ramped up manufacturing to meet the war demand.  During this same time the European and Asian production facilities were being devastated by the war.  At the conclusion of the war the US was the only country in the world with significant manufacturing capabilities.  If the world needed a hammer, a dinner plate, clothing or any other manufactured goods they needed to buy them from the US.  This monopoly continued through the 1960’s.

By the 1960’s most of Europe and Japan were past the post war reconstruction phase.  They began to invest in their own production facilities.  By the late 1960’s and into the 1970’s they were competing with and beating US manufacturers.  During the post war reconstruction period the US manufacturers failed to invest in plant and material.  They ended up using manufacturing equipment from the 1930’s and 1940’s to compete against German and Japanese manufacturers with 1960’s and 1970’s technology.

In the early 1980’s the US government recognized the problem and created the 401K retirement savings program.  This program not only provided the average American the ability to save for retirement, it gave a much needed capital influx to US corporations. The US corporations took advantage of the capital and invested heavily in plant and equipment.  Unfortunately, those investments were not made in the United States.  They legacy of labor unions and high wages from the post war reconstruction period forced corporations to look overseas to remain competitive.  The net effect of this was that the US corporations used the wealth of the US worker to become multinationals with overseas operations which pay no US taxes.

Why won’t the jobs return?

On the surface the US would appear to be an excellent location for manufacturing.  It has abundant educated labor, it has extensive natural resources and it has comparatively cheap energy costs.  The unions are dead and labor rates in the south east portion of the country are lower than in some parts of China.  Are you aware that the labor cost in the US to make a ton of steel is equivalent to the transportation cost to bring a ton of steel from China to the US? Obviously the cost of labor is not the issue.  So, what is the problem? Government regulations are making us non-competitive on a global level.

When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was founded back in the early 70′s by Richard Nixon, the ecology of the US was pretty poor.  Lake Erie was dead, a river in Ohio burned and the air was polluted.  It sounds like China today.  They instituted regulations that cleaned the air and water.  We certainly don’t want to return to the heavy pollution industrial days.

On the other hand, we now have an agency which we set up to write regulations but they have gone way past their original intent.  The current EPA, with over 15,000 full time employees, reminds me of a Thomas Jefferson quote “”My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.”

What does the EPA do when they have written all the common sense and reasonable regulations?  They continue to write regulations. They are good at it and they keep getting funded.  They create so many regulations they need to change their name to the Economic Prevention Agency.  The other problem with the agency is they are politically driven and they are no longer focused on the environment.  They just forced the closure of the last US lead smelter.  However, they allow Monsanto to sell GMO’s that have killed 70% of the Monarch butterflies and are devastating bee populations.  So, Monsanto and their heavy campaign contributions gets a pass while causing extensive damage to the environment and the lead smelter gets shut down.

I used the example of the EPA to make a point. Unfortunately, they are not the only culprit.  You could include OSHA, the Department of Labor and many others.  We need to change the way we think of these organizations.  We give them the ability to make laws outside of congress and subsequently our representation.  Maybe they should be convened on a temporary basis.  That way they get disbanded when they complete their original mission and they don’t install unnecessary regulations.  Another change would be to remove their regulatory powers and only authorize them to recommend regulations to congress.  That way we can restore constitutional authority and representation to our government and not let this economy cause a slow sh*t hits the fan event.
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James Lee

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SHTF Armorer: DIY Cold Bluing

Like anything else in this world that gets used, guns wear over time. Stick a gun with even the toughest coating on it in a holster and drawing it back out will slowly erode coatings and finishes.  Salt in sweat, salt and humidity in the air, repeated use, metal dragging/bearing against metal as it moves and actuates, even holding a gun in the same area will eventually wear off the finish. Go into a gun shop sometime and look at the ’94 Winchesters in the rack; the balance point on a 94 is such that you can wrap your hand around the receiver just forward of the triggerguard portion of the lever.  Any 94 that has been used will show signs of bluing wear (shiny, silver spots instead of black metal) right there, as well as inside the lever loop. It’s a constant in the universe:  any gun, given a long enough timeline and heavy enough use, will display signs of honest wear.  And it’s not a bad thing at all; it’s a sign of a much-loved gun.  However, it CAN be an eyesore, and even worse, it means that there is raw, exposed metal there, and that means that the steel is dangerously unprotected from corrosion if not properly cared for.

Note the light bluing wear in the high points of the receiver lines, as well as minor rust freckling, of this Remington 870.

Note the light bluing wear in the high points of the receiver lines, as well as minor rust freckling, of this Remington 870.

What is bluing?

In layman’s terms, “Bluing” is the traditional deep blue or black coloring you see on most STEEL-framed firearms. Traditional bluing only works on ferrous metals, and therefore will not work on stainless steel, or aluminum, for example.  It’s a process of changing the chemical composition of the outside of the steel that the gun is made up of, chemically altering iron in the steel to form a coating of magnetite, also known as black oxide of iron.  This can be achieved through a few different processes: “cold” bluing, which uses selenium dioxide to change the chemical composition of the steel, but the resulting finish isn’t as tough and wear-resistant as “hot” bluing.  Hot bluing utilizes a caustic solution of  liquid alkali salts in a heated bath, usually about 295-325 degrees F, and the resulting caustic black color is much tougher than cold bluing, but necessitates lots of specialized equipment – all the big time gun manufacturers utilize hot tank bluing because it’s a reliable, cost-effective way to produce high quality results that are attractive and rust-resistant.  I used hot-tank bluing to refinish guns for years at a local gunsmithing shop, and I can tell you, it’s a dirty, dangerous process.  One drop of that caustic salt solution at 300 degrees will put a hell of a burn on you. There are lots of environmental issues with cleaner and salt bath disposal; this is why you end up shelling out the big bucks for a professional reblue job.

Also Read: Survival Shotgun – 6 Reasons You Need One

There are other methods, such as rust bluing , fume bluing, and carbona bluing,  that turn out truly beautiful and extremely durable blued finishes, but they are very labor intensive and generally only employed by trained, experienced gunsmiths. There are myriad other finishing options, such as parkerizing, sprayed-on finishes like Duracoat and Cerakote, and nickle plating. However, all of these are out of the reach of run-of-the-mill guys like you and me, as they are either expensive to have done, or expensive to buy the necessary equipment and training to do it ourselves.

Going the Easy Way

So, what does this mean for us if we want to keep our firearms looking snazzy, and keep them protected, yet don’t want to pay the $150+ bill to have a gunsmith refinish our guns?  Well, a quick and easy way to re-finish our steel guns is with cold bluing.  No, it’s not as durable as the other types of bluing, but it has the advantage of being very inexpensive, and relatively easy to apply, even by the novice.  There are couple things to watch out for and attention to pay in certain areas, but there’s no reason why, with a little patience and attention to detail, anyone reading this can’t do it on their own.

What You’ll Need

Aside from the aforementioned patience, there are a few items you’ll need to accumulate. First, a few grades of sandpaper (400 and 600 grit) and/or Scotch-Brite metal finishing pads (maroon colored ones are a good bet) to polish the metal and remove and crust and rust scale. Non-VOC brake cleaner (doesn’t leave a residue as it de-greases) or acetone, to de-grease the metal and generally clean it; #0000 steel wool for burnishing the metal between applications; cotton balls for applying the cold blue (clean cut-up sections of an old t-shirt works well too.), and a good, high-quality gun oil will be needed.

Brownell's Oxpho Blue and our test subject.

Brownell’s Oxpho Blue and our test subject.

Of course, you’ll need cold bluing! I’ve used a couple different types, and both worked well: Birchwood Casey Perma-Blue has been pretty good to me in the past, but I generally go for Keen-Bore Black Magic if I have my druthers. There are other products out there, such as a bunch of other such as Birchwood Casey products, that I’m sure work just as well if they’re more available to you.

Also Read: Tuf Cloth Review for Gun Cleaning

Most of these will come in a liquid form, but some come in cremes or pastes which probably cling a little bit better to the metal and possibly would be a bit easier for the beginner. However, I’ve never found the liquids to be hard to use, so I’ll leave that one up to your discretion.

Getting Started

To kind of have a visual display as to what’s going on when we cold blue, I pulled the butt-plate of my father’s old, beat up Remington Model 14 that has seen many, many days in the woods. The steel butt-plate had some severe crust built up in the horizontal grooves that were in the surface of the plate, plus pretty severe wear, from being shouldered thousands of times, and leaned against trees, or whatever handy field prop was around when the rifle needed to be set down.



Rust and pitting.

Rust and pitting.


First, we need to remove all the old bluing, and any built-up rust and crust.  Any foreign contaminants could possibly ruin our hard work down the road.  To remove these, I usually first use steel wool soaked in gun oil or WD-40 to break down the rust and grime, and get it out of tight spots, the the grooves you see in the butt-plate.  A wire brush, a fine wire wheel on a bench grinder, or any other number of light abrasives that won’t remove a ton of metal when you use them, will work well too; no saying you can’t use combinations of anything you have to get the metal down to just metal.  Once the crud is cut out, you can use 400 grit sandpaper to get the old bluing off. If you find big, deep pits, you might want to look into buffing wheels with polishing compounds to get those out; but for now we’re going to assume that the pits were removed by sandpaper and a little elbow grease. Next, use a higher-grit sandpaper or a green Scotch-brite pad, followed by a maroon Scotch-Brite pad to polish the metal up and make it snazzy. We’re looking to take the the entire surface of the part down to bare metal.

Scotch-brite pads to remove the bluing.

Scotch-brite pads to remove the bluing.

Once everything is cleaned up, you’ll be pretty grubby, but the metal you’re working with should be nice and shiny, bright silver.

Cleaned up nicely!

Cleaned up nicely!

You can still see some light pits on this butt-plate, but I’m personally not really concerned about those; this is a working gun.

The next step is the most important, and as any car painter or gun refinisher will tell you, grease, oil, and silicone are the enemy!  We need to eradicate these from the entire surface of the part you want to re-blue, or you’ll get bleed-through and discolorations that are very tough to work through without starting from scratch.  So, trust me: It’s best to do it right.

I like to start by giving the part(s) a good healthy dose of aerosol brake cleaner to blast all the oil, and any broken loose crap, off the surface of the part. Give ‘er hell; brake cleaner is cheap and it really works. However, it can leave a light, dry residue that also will wreck our bluing job. So, when I can, I also wash the whole part down with acetone and let it air-dry.  Make sure you clean your hands before and after you do this; oil from your skin can and will discolor the parts! While you’re brake-cleaning parts, drench a bunch of your #0000 steel wool and let it air dry. Steel wool comes with a light coating of oil on it to keep it from rusting…and guess what? THAT will mess up your bluing job, too!

Brownell's Oxpho Blue and our test subject.

Dig out the cold blue!

Once everything is super clean, get out your cold blue (whatever form you purchased) and your application cloth or cotton balls. If you have rubber gloves, don them. It’ll keep the bluing solution off your skin, and your skin oils off the parts.

Go ahead and soak a cotton ball or patch with the cold blue solution. Really drench it. (this can be messy; be sure to have a wipe-off rag handy, too!). Then, rub that soaked cotton ball all over your nice, shiny, clean steel part…and watch the magic happen.

Also Read: 5 Steps to Cleaning a Gun

Yep, it turns colors! But it will be splotchy colors. Kinda discouraging. But keep at it; keep running that soaked applicators all over the part, not letting the cold blue solution dry or settle on any one part; this will create darker spots. This isn’t the end of the world, but the more even you can make the application, the easier it will be.

First application.

First application.


You’ll see it doesn’t get super black instantaneously; this will take several “coats”, if you will. It’s VERY IMPORTANT for a nice, clean, even finish that you don’t let the cold blue solution sit on the part for more than one minute or so; it will keep those discolorations in the metal. once you’ve gotten the first application on the metal, take a clean, lint-free cloth and wipe the whole part down, getting the solution off. You can rinse it with water if you want, but I usually shy away from that since the part really isn’t that protected yet.

Next, after drying the part thoroughly, grab your #0000 steel wool and polish that metal you just cold blued. This is called “burnishing” and it helps to really up the quality of the bluing job you do. It looks like it’s taking off the finish you just applied, but go lightly and you’ll soon find a happy medium that looks good and keeps the finish. Clean the part again with acetone, to get any steel wool fragments and any other crud off, and let air dry.

Wet the applicator down again and repeat the process. Wet, dry, burnish, clean. You’ll notice that the more you do this, the “brighter” the polish will be, and the darker the blue will get.

Getting there.

Getting there.


Soon, the finish will be at a level you find pleasing.


It may take a couple hours and all your patience, but eventually, the hard work will pay off. Different tempers and alloys of steel will blue easier or harder; you never really know until you try it. But keep at it, repeating the process, and eventually, the dark blotches will work themselves out, the rest of the metal will even out, and your metal will look great.

Mission accomplished!

Mission accomplished!

After the hard work

Once you have the metal to the point you’re happy with it (the above butt-plate took about two hours, beginning to end) you’ll need to protect your hard work.  Be sure to clean any remaining residue off, and then coat it heavily with gun oil.  Let the gun oil work into the pores of the metal – heating the part at low temperature in your oven – say 170 degrees F or so, to expand the metal and open the pores will help, before you apply the oil. The metal will cool, trapping the oil inside and keeping the metal protected. The oil will also help bring the color out a bit, you might notice.

Keep in mind, like I said before: cold bluing is not as durable as standard hot-tank bluing or many of the sprayed-on finishes that are available. However, you can do it yourself, it’s aesthetically very pleasing, and it protects your gun. What’s wrong with any of that? It may not be a SHTF skill per se, but if you use your gun (which is a huge investment) it pays to be able to keep it looking great and protected for when you do need it.

As a side note: Bluing doesn’t HAVE to be just on guns. Anything that’s carbon steel can generally take a nice bluing: hatchet heads, knives…you name it. I have a REALLY snazzy hatchet around here someplace that I blued in a hot bluing tank years ago…and DAMN, does it look good! I’ll have to dig that out someday…

Do any of you do at-home refinishing? Is it a waste of time, or worth your time? Would you try cold-bluing, or does Krylon and Rustoleum take care of what you need in the finish department?

Stay safe!

-Road Warrior

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All photos by Road Warrior

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Gear Review – The Crovel Extreme II

If you’ve never seen the Crovel before it’s an amazing piece of gear that is made in the USA. Basically it’s a military e-tool on steroids with some cool additions.

First, it’s heavier than an e-tool. This can be both good and bad and I’ll come back to this in a moment.

Second, it has some cool additions such as a pry bar and an attachment point where you can add in some serious heavy duty hardware to break concrete, rocks, or whatever needs to be broken.

The blade is sharpened on one side and carries an ok edge out of the box.  It’s heavy and sharp enough that I was able to split some firewood with it without having to sharpen it.  The other side of the blade carries a saw blade.  In reality I’m not sure what this might be good for but hey, you might as well have it in case you need it.  The shovel blade also has a bottle opener, so you won’t have to go looking for one while you’re doing all the hard work you’ll be doing with this beast.  Enjoy that frosty beverage!

Also Read: Trucker’s Friend – a great SHTF Tool

The pry bar comes with a heavy duty nail puller, which would be useful doing demolition work.

Paracord is wrapped tightly down the length of the handle and could be used for just about anything in a survival situation.  The handle is also hollow, which means you could store extra survival gear such as fishing tackle in it if that’s what you were going to be using this tool for.

Don’t think that because it has a hollow handle it will break easy because that’s not the case at all. This is a heavy duty tool.  When I was splitting the wood I put some oomph behind it and it felt just as good as swinging an axe.  It is a little funky with the claw hammer on it though.

I brought it with me to the campground I stay at in the summer crovel extreme ii shovel for survivaltime here in the state of Maine and passed it around to a couple of guys. I said, “Here! Take this tool and try it and tell me what you think of it.” Now these were good-old Maine boys not easily impressed by cheap goods, but the answer they gave me was invariably, “Where can I get one?” after letting them play with it for a few hours.


So how did it perform in real life? I tried a few different tests. First and probably most obvious I dug a small hole. It performed about like a small shovel would be expected to. If anything it did a little better because of its weight. It was easier to thrust into the ground and it didn’t turn in my hand as much as one of the lighter e-tools might. One bonus was that as I would hit tree roots it was easy to cut them with the edge of the Crovel and keep digging.

I turned the head to 90 degrees and dug a small trench without too much effort. Again, the extra weight made it a good solid tool for this type work. It bit into the ground nicely and one thing I actually kind of liked is that the nail puller at the end made a pretty good handle to hold. I expected that feature to get in the way when working with this tool, but for the most part I didn’t mind it too much.

As mentioned earlier, I split some wood with it the first night I had it and it was a satisfactory experience. It wasn’t the same as splitting with an axe of course, but again, it was heavy enough to go through the wood if you really committed to the swing. I’m not expecting to split two cords of wood with it, but it’s nice to know that if it’s all I have it will get the job done. Remember, I didn’t do a thing to the crovel when I got. I used it as is right out of the box.

One of the downsides to this tool was the paracord wrapping.  I know above I said that it’s covered with paracord, but let me explain why I didn’t care for this feature.  I’ve never had good luck with tools wrapped in paracord for some reason. I do have one knife that’s been ok, but generally speaking it doesn’t usually work well for me, which was the case with this tool as well. After using if for about ½ hour the cord handle started to loosen up on me. I was able to twist it back into place, but it slowly started to unravel again and I had to twist it back into place. When I’m using something I just want to be able to pick it up and use it and not worry about babying it for whatever reason.

The Crovel wasn’t meant to be babied. This thing wants to work and can take it. I’m going to wrap the handle in camo duct tape and if that doesn’t work I’ll just take the paracord off altogether and use duct tape on it, or just leave the handle plain metal.

Wrecking Tips

This tool also comes with two tips for smashing through various concrete structures or zombie skulls. They are very sharp and I can see where they’d be useful for smashing through concrete if you were trying to rescue someone in a collapsed building or something like that.

The bottom of the Crovel unscrews and you can screw the pointy wrecking tips right into it. These two spikes are sold separately from the Crovel.  They are called the Z Spike and the Super Spike. There are rubber gaskets lining the tips, so you don’t have to worry about water leaking in and getting your survival items wet while using it.

I wondered how the tips would stand up to some real abuse so I found a flat rock and took the bigger tip and whaled on it a few times. Not so good. The tip flattened out on the end and while it’s WIN_20140817_170109still usable it isn’t as pointy as it once was.



I’ve mentioned the weight a couple of times and yes, it’s heavy.  At 5.5 lbs it will add some weight to your pack.  However, the extra weight does have advantages in some areas, so it’s not all bad.

It comes in a black nylon case that holds the two tips discussed above, but it’s also got a couple of MOLLE straps that allow you to attach it to your pack.

Since the nylon case is there I decided to test it fixed it to my pack to see what happened. I used my everyday hiking pack/GHB for the test. This is a relatively light pack – about 15 lbs – that I keep with me all the time. I attached it to the pack and took it for a walk. It did add to the pack weight of course, but it wasn’t clumsy feeling as I feared it would be. I walked around for a bit, did some squats, climbed over some logs, and some other basic things you’d do in a pack and was surprised that it didn’t slow me down. It looks awkward, but if I gave you the pack to wear and said, “Here’s a 25 lb pack to carry,” you probably wouldn’t realize it had the Crovel hanging off the back unless you looked.

As a matter of fact it did have one advantage that I rather liked: when I sat my pack down it helped keep it upright even though it wasn’t leaned up against something. My pack usually lays down when it’s by itself, but not this time. The Crovel acted kind of like a kick stand to keep it upright.


This is not a tool that you want to carry around with you if you are trying to go light and fast during your bug out.  Words that come to mind are “industrial”, “bad ass,” and “heavy.”   Made in America by quality craftsman, words that do not come to mind when I think of the Crovel Extreme II are “cheap” “flimsy” “light weight”.  The Crovel would be ideal in a base camp situation.  I could see it being used by rescue personnel or maybe even as a firefighter tool.   In a SHTF situation this tool could prove to be extremely useful.

I have it stowed in my truck in the big toolbox.  It’s a great addition and it’s a comfort knowing it’s back there in case I need it.  The paracord handle is a pain.  I’ll probably remove it so it doesn’t slip while I’m swinging it at something.  With my luck I’d cut a toe off with this thing.

The saw blade really isn’t that practical, but if you have the space and it doesn’t add weight then why not?  The teeth are wide and don’t cut that good, but it’s better than nothing.

If you’re looking for a rugged multi-tool then this might very well be the one you’ve been looking for.

Want more?  Here is a video of the Crovel.

Photos by:
Jarhead Survivor

Questions?  Comments?

Sound off below!

-Jarhead Survivor

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6 Ways To Prepare for Ebola

Ebola.  Even the name is a bit creepy.  The disease itself, is horrifying.   First you get flu like symptoms, then vomiting and diarrhea, then your organs start shutting down and you bleed from all your orifices before dying.


The death rate from this virulent disease is anywhere from 55-90%. Those are not good odds.  Basically, there are no proven cures for this yet.  Some experimental stuff, but who knows how far those will come.  I’m sure there’s not much profit in it for the pharmaceutical companies in a rare disease that hits poverty stricken areas in Africa.  But maybe that’s just my cynical side.

Most survivalists probably have more than a few worries where this disease outbreak is concerned.  What can be done to prepare for a possible exposure?  What can be done to limit one’s chances of dying horribly from it?  Let’s discuss some ways you could prepare.

6 Ways To Prepare for Ebola

1.  Get Necessities:  The incubation period for this virus is 21 days.  In the unlikely event that you find yourself in the middle of an outbreak, you need to be prepared to stay home for 3 weeks, at the very least.  Food, water and medicine, you must have a months worth if you are to avoid contact with others for that length of time.  You need to know the symptoms so that you can accurately gauge who among your house and kin might have the illness.  The World Health Organization has a good factsheet here with details.  And of course, you have to love WebMD.  The same place you go to check your 3 year old’s chicken pox symptoms also has a section on the Ebola virus.  Of course, treating someone in your house through a case of Ebola puts everyone in the house at risk of getting it.  Do you have enough quarantine materials? Enough gloves and masks? Enough courage to face this one knowing you might get it if you’re the one taking care of the patient? Could be a tough decision in real life.

Some Ebola stricken areas cancelled schools and closed markets, quarantining the affected neighborhoods with troops in some cases.  Which leads to the next point.

2. Avoid Quarantine:  Our own American government has much leeway when it comes to “civil disorder.”  I would not put it past them to set up quarantine zones and temporarily detain anyone with so much as a cough.  That’s not to say that this disease spreads in that manner, usually you have to come into close contact with blood or other secretions from a symptomatic Ebola patient in order to catch the virus.  I doubt that will stop the troops from detaining you though and keeping you penned up with other likely sick people.  So don’t give them the opportunity to add you to their collection.

surviving_ebola_how_to_6_ways_to_stop_ebola_outbreak3. Stay home:  I love a good getaway as much as the next gal, but if you keep company with too many world travelers, you put yourself at risk of being the stepping point for the disease as it hops across continents.  And perhaps this should go without saying, but Don’t Go To Africa.  While the outbreak rages, don’t go there.  The disease originates from fruit bats and monkeys native to that continent.  The chances of an outbreak in Idaho or Iowa or Maine, are nill.  (Barring the aforementioned world traveling incubators.)

4. Which Hospitals Welcome Ebola?  Not all hospitals are equipped with the proper isolation and protective gear to handle Ebola patients. The large hospital closest to me has outright said they wouldn’t accept an Ebola patient.  Their plan, such as it is, is to send any that might arrive to the bigger hospital down in Omaha.

6_ways_to_survive_ebola_shtf_pandemic_outbreak5. Get Ready to Play Doctor:  If you suspect your local hospital would not take an Ebola patient, and you want to cover all your bases, you should be prepared to provide supportive treatment for anyone who comes down with it. Re-hydration to combat the vomiting and diarrhea.  Probably preferably intravenously if you have that ability, just because of the vomiting.  And I can’t stress this enough, proper protective gear for anyone that might come in contact with the patient you’re treating at home.

6. Avoid the Big City:  I would love to take in a show on Broadway, maybe after the find a cure for Ebola.  Big cities have international airports with direct flights to and from Africa.  The virus is coming from Africa.  Need I say more?

Also Read: Are You Prepared for Quarantine?

Bottom Line: Hand sanitizer and tissue face mask won’t cut it in this case.  You’d probably want a full body hazmat suit, with a hard plastic face mask.  The truth is, you will probably die this winter from some weird strain of the swine flu, so Ebola is really the least of your concerns in the United States.

Should you be prepping for Ebola? I’d argue no, especially if you’re an American reader who doesn’t travel to Africa.  It can be used as a good thought experiment though, for deciding what to prep for any sort of highly contagious disease outbreak.  So if that’s your aim, go ahead and use Ebola as a test case.  Just don’t lose any sleep over the possibility of an American Ebola outbreak.  I don’t see it happening but if Ebola becomes airborne….stop the clock.

Stay safe out there! Stay healthy. Your best defense is a healthy happy body, so work towards that goal.

Photos by:
International Red Cross

European Commision

- Calamity Jane

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Give me liberty or give me… breath?

Should an American citizen be tear-gassed while standing in his own yard?

By Professor Liberty Mize

Libertarian bridge-builder Rand Paul says no.  In an op-ed penned last week for Time magazine, he uses the situation in St Louis to finally shed light on an issue that the mainstream media has ignored for far too long.

militarization_police_americaThe issue is the militarization of our municipal governments; a systematic injustice of federal overreach that has been going for years under the guise of security.  And as you expected, this multi-billion dollar folly is fully funded by federal dollars.

Homeland Security has no time to shore up our Southern border, but is printing reams of cash to buy and equip assault vehicles to trample the civil liberties of American citizens.

Stated another way, YOUR employees have taken YOUR money to take up arms against YOU.

We’ve all seen the Road Warrior film, but few of us pictured that the post-apocalyptic siege contained within it would be led by fat bureaucrats driving amphibious assault vehicles as they mow down citizens in-between union-mandated naps.

Sadly that scenario is becoming more and more a possibility.  We’ve arrived at a place where the government is so scared of us as to require multi-million dollar weapons to keep us in line.  Couple that with a hair trigger mentality and a sincere lack of understanding about what makes a domestic threat and we are in it deep.

Consider the small town of Washington, Iowa population 7,000 and rambo_survival_knifenow proud owners of a $500,000 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected troop transport.  A vehicle that could prove handy if racy Southern neighbor Burlington ever invades.  Seriously though, what could a land-locked s-hole of a nothing town need with this vehicle?  I doubt John Rambo will be holing up in the nearby Port Louisa Wildlife Refuge anytime soon.

The fact is that Barney Fife was a harmless yet effective deputy sheriff while keeping his lone bullet lodged in his breast pocket.  Can you imagine what he would have done with an RPG?   I’m glad we never found out.  Sadly the next generation (none of whom know who Barney Fife is) won’t be so lucky.

Perhaps most disappointing about the entire issue is where the true story was broken.  I’d argue that it says all you need to know about the state of our republic that Time Magazine has become our beacon of liberty.

Atlas has shrugged and St Louis has burned, it seems like the Constitution might be next.

- Prof Mize

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Summer Camp Mentality

By Dr. John J. Woods, a contributing author to SHTF

A Bug Out is not going to be the equivalent of a vaca to summer camp.  Forget the white sands, the water slides, the picnic BBQs, golf, snow skiing, bonfire marshmallow roasts, shopping antiques in the quaint downtown area with a quiche lunch at the Bistro, or whatever else comprises your idea of a getaway vacation.  This “ain’t” it.Nikon Digitals 080

Escape from your relatively safe and comfortable home to any kind of a secondary domicile be it a farmhouse out in the country or a pup tent a mile from roads in a federal forest is not going to be time off to rest and relax.  Now is the time to work on the mindset of just how serious and difficult living under such conditions is going to be if the SHTF lasts any length of time at all.  It only gets harder as the days bear on.

If you want any idea of how tough this could be, then watch the television series Mountain MenIn particular watch the profiled life of one Marty Meierotto who flies his Piper Super Cub bush plane into the dire wilds of Alaska to trap fur for family income.  Talk about living on the rough side.Nikon Digitals 261

Now, your SHTF might not be this tough, but just consider living without electricity, running water, a flushing commode, central heat and air, on demand stove and oven, plush bed mattresses, and living room furniture with flat screen television and TiVo®.  The fully stocked local grocery store is just a mile away with fresh bread and cold milk everyday not to mention fresh cut meat ready to cook, and frozen foods of all kinds, cheese, snacks, and well you get the point.

Opportunities to Practice

You know the cliché.  But it just happens to be true.  Although in one exception I know of, I never, ever got better at golf no matter how many times I circled the 18 holes.  But in prep for a Bug Out nothing will ever beat being able to practice everything in advance.  Call it a practice run or whatever, but if you are not accomplished at the mission of an on-call pack up and escape, then you need to schedule trying it several times before you have to do it.Canon Digitals 226

If you are not seriously ready to execute a Bug Out, then I can only think your best position is to stick it out at home or work.  At least you know that environment.  If you think you’re going to just throw a couple sleeping bags in the car with a box of pastry tarts, then you might as well give up before you go.

Reality is as well, you really can’t even be expected to practice any realistic Bugging Out skills until you have everything ready to go.  Sure, you can slump off on a few things during these practice sessions, but not much.  You need the time in the field to be as realistic as it can get.  You are testing not only all your gear and its use under real conditions (will I eat tonight?) but you’re also equally testing the skills you and your family have to be successful.

These practice events can be fun.  It can be planned as an adventure away for a weekend from the hum-drum aspects of life, but stage it as if it could be the real Bug Out scenario.  First trips could be to locate or try out some remote sites, or to set up and live out a weekend in an acceptable area.  At least you get to make some dry runs.

Ready to Pack Out

As mentioned and to be redundant, you can’t Bug Out if you don’t have everything ready to Bug Out with.  Many of you preppers will obviously be way beyond this stage, but others may not be.  For some including me initially it can be difficult to get your mind and body around everything that needs to be done to prepare for an exit strategy.

As a friend of mine says, “It’s all part of the experience.”  I would add that it’s all part of the process, too.  There is no need to break out in a sweat over all this, but having said that it is still time to get engaged if you are the least bit prepper serious.

You can study our and the  sites to garner all the prep information and advice you could possibly want to digest.  Articles and blogs here will guide you through the whole process or help you hone skills and prep you have already Tony's cabin #2accomplished.  It’s an on-going never ending process.  It may be a long path, but you have to take the first step.

Trails and Trials

The whole purpose here is to encourage all preppers who are not already fully engaged in the execution of their plans to initiate moving forward.  These Bug Out practice trips are the ideal time to test skills, equipment, gear, and to honestly assess the whole process.  This can be done solo, with a family unit, or an entire SHTF team.  Practice the way your plan is established.

If you are camping, then test your camping equipment.  How fast can you get a camp site cleared out set up, tent assembled, cooking arrangements set, water set up, firewood gathered (if you have one), a meal started, kids settled, older adults settled, job tasks assigned, gas lanterns working, security established, defense weapons ready to go and everything else?Canon Digitals 152

Test your personal gear.  How did that new pair of hunting/hiking boots feel on the walk in?  Ditto for the backpack, weapons sling, machete, knife, compass, and such.  Now that you’ve worn those new socks, cargo shorts, boonie hat, work gloves, etc., is everything working right.  What might you change?  Ask others similar evaluations of their gear and stuff.  Take notes if you have to.

How did that first night away from home work out?  Did a piece of equipment fail or not work as you had hoped?  Was there enough to eat, enough to occupy your mind, did you enjoy the experience?  How did the wife and kids do, or the husband.  Face it, some people are just not cut out to be in the wilds.  No shame in that for sure, but now is the time to find out how compatible you are with a SHTF Bug Out.

No, it is definitely not like going to summer camp, the Holiday Inn, or even those rustic cabins at the state park.  After a couple trips, maybe you will need to reassess some aspects of your plan.  If camping out did not work for you and your family, then start thinking other options such as a camping trailer or leasing a rural place with a small house or cabin.  Maybe there is a generator and a water well.  These are possibilities.  As they say though, get with the program.

All photos by Dr. John J. Woods

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Do You Really Need An AR-15 When TSHTF?

There are two groups of people reading this:  those that think you’ll need an AR-15 or two and those that think one is totally unnecessary.

Let’s explore some scenarios. Maybe some thinking along different lines will help you to make your own decision.

Model 116A PWS AR15

Model 116A PWS AR15


Scenario One

Let’s first operate under the idea that things have really gone to hell. If your thinking falls into this scenario you just might want that semi-automatic handyman by your side. Some of our favorite standby end of the world scenarios are a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) or maybe a terrorist attack that brings the grid down. Maybe it’s a natural disaster that makes your area an island unto itself.  Or possibly a currency collapse as Chris Martenson loves to talk about.

It’s a grid down, TEOTWAWKI world and all you have standing between you and the bad guys is your trusty AR-15 and a few thousand rounds of .223.  In this scenario the more hardware you have the better off you’re going to be.  If legions of crazy people are trying to overrun your compound, it’s unlikely that standing out in front giving the peace sign will turn them away.  Desperate people will do anything – anything – if they think it will help them or their family in a desperate situation.

Bad guy shooting at you.

Bad guy shooting at you.

But they didn’t prep and shouldn’t go after those that did?  Haha!  Everybody will be going after those that have food, gear, and water after it hits the fan, folks.  If you have shelter, water, food and equipment you will become a person of interest to those that haven’t.

You have the right to protect it.  Especially if it’s all you have to keep you alive.  You thought ahead.  You prepped for it.  You deserve to protect it for your use.

In this scenario you should have a good rifle or three.  Do you need an AR-15?  Only you can answer that, but I’ll tell you I feel a lot better with one than when I didn’t have one.  Honestly, any good semi-automatic rifle will probably suffice.

There are several things I like about the AR.  First, I was trained on the M16 and it’s where I have 90% of my experience.  I can still take the bolt apart in my sleep and put it back together again.  Plus it’s so prolific that even after ammo gets hard to find you should still be able to barter for it.  (You do have stuff to barter don’t you?)  It might be expensive, but I suspect it will be well worth it after TEOTWAWKI.

There are other good guns out there that you might want of course:  a good hand gun, a shotgun, maybe a good .30-06 hunting rifle (which could double as a good sniper rifle), a .22 for hunting small game.  You get the idea.

In this situation more is better and an AR15 would definitely be a great addition to your armory.

Sweet security.

Sweet security.

Scenario 2

In this scenario things have gone south over a period of time.  Infrastructure is weak, but still in place.  The markets crashed, but money still works.  Barter definitely happens in the market places and there are many more homeless people than there were before things started their downhill slide, but there is still law and order, or at least a semblance of it.

People are hungry, but not starving.  The government is handing out more food than ever to the hungry masses, but it’s never enough.  The rich are still rich and the poor are still poor, but the middle class has disintegrated and there are more discontented people than ever.

The government crackdown on weapons makes owning an AR15 risky and using one even in self defense is considered a crime.

In this scenario an AR might not be such a good choice.  It’s possible to possess one – just don’t get caught with it or you’ll wind up in a FEMA camp making little ones out of big ones for the greater good of the government.

In this case a bow and arrow or even a sling shot might be a better choice.  If there was a harsh enough punishment meted out for owning a gun then most people probably wouldn’t take the risk, but like the saying goes, “If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns.”0712140928a

Living in the country would be different than living in a city.  You’re likely to be more of an open target to people who have nothing to lose by attacking your compound.   Assume you have to live behind walls or barricades and the need for a weapon in this situation would be obvious.  If a gang attacks with guns you’d better have something better than bows and slingshots to drive them away with.

In the city during a time like this an AR might not be the best choice.  A small handgun or even a knife for that up close and personal action –  you know:  swift, silent and deadly, might be a good way to go.

If you have the skills that is.  Are your knife fighting skills up to snuff?

 So Do I Need One or What?

Obviously these scenarios are just that.  Nobody knows how things will go down and the only thing you can do is keep on doing what you’re doing.  Prepare.

If you’re thinking the world will be a whole lot worse than Scenario One by all means, spend the money and get yourself a good weapon (or weapons) to defend yourself with.  Plan for that Mad Max event and go for it.

On the other hand, if you think it won’t get that violent and people will come together like a band of brothers then don’t buy one.

However, just because you own a good gun don’t think the government can’t or won’t take it at the beginning of an emergency.  Watch this video:

Ultimately you’ll need to make your own decision. Go through the scenarios likely to happen in your area and then prepare for that situation.

Keep in mind the above video, though.  Don’t think the government won’t run roughshod on your rights.  If they think it’s in the public’s “best interest” they’ll take your guns and good luck ever getting them back.  You might want to have some kind of back up protection just in case.  A good fence and good home defense, a guard dog, bow and arrows, a Trucker’s Friend,  whatever, anything is better than nothing.IMG_1766

As unlikely as it may seem, if we ever do devolve to a Mad Max or The Road type post apocalyptic world you’ll want to have back up weapons anyway.  The bullets are only going to last so long and then that sweet AR-15 will be a club.

Final Word

If, like me, you fall into the camp that think an AR-15 would be a useful tool to have around after TEOTWAWKI then now is the time to get one if you haven’t already.

If you don’t like the AR platform then this would be the time to go after the gun you *do* like.

I think that if you’re reading this blog you’re not the kind of people who are going to wait around for the government to take care of them.  If you do think that it’s unlikely you’ll last long in a real long lasting SHTF event.

Questions?  Comments?

Sound off below!

-Jarhead Survivor

Weapons Security – Bug In Or Bug-Out

Dr. John J. Woods    Contributing Author to SHTF Blog

If you own firearms, you certainly want to keep them safe and secure. However, if you are a prepper you need to be particularly concerned about firearms being secure both at home before or during a Bug In.gunsafe3

For an executed Bug Out there is an equal need for in-transit security procedures as well. But then especially during a Bug Out escape and in event of either a short term or prolonged hideout escape scenario, steps need to be planned and followed to make sure you maintain control of your firearms, ammo, and related gear.

The balance of security has to be a fine line between keeping firearms locked up from internal prying little hands and eyes, or unauthorized adults pilfering around the house and the requirement to access them quickly when the immediate need arises.

Following a real life practical plan a prepper friend of mine uses, let’s consider some thoughts, tips, and advice for implementing a fairly comprehensive firearms security plan as part of an over all prepper strategy. Surely we won’t cover all the potential bases, so consider this just an initial starting place in any plan you develop.

Bug In Security

    A home firearms security plan is what I would classify as a no-brainer whether you are a survival prepper or not. Let’s not be party to contributing to another home bound firearms accidental shooting where a kid or somebody else got a hold of an unsecured gun and shot somebody. These events often end in dire results.

Case in point I have secretary at work whose son was involved in an accidental discharge of an unlocked firearm at home and he is now paralyzed from the mid-chest down. He will probably never walk again at the age of 18. Sad for certain, but really I think this is more along the blatant lines of plain ole stupid on the part of the kid and his parents. Everybody needs to guard against such occurrences.

Home security can be accomplished as simply as applying the firearms lock straps that many manufacturers are now including with every factory boxed gun. These can be bought separately for older guns. Other manufacturers like Ruger for example are including specialized gun locks that when in place are very difficult if not impossible to defeat.Gunlocks2

The primary downside to such cable or action locks is that they are key operated. This means of course, that the keys have to be in a place of easy availability. Each gun then may also likely have separate type locks that will have separate keys. This could get quite complicated if speed of access is a consideration. A system would have to be concocted to deal with this. Perhaps some kind of color coded tags?

And of course, the guns would still need to be secured or otherwise

If, and this is a big IF, the guns are only needed during an actual Bug In or Bug Out event, then the weapons can be secured more safely in a gun safe. This does not have to be a Brinks Security walk in bank safe, but anything from a common business steel supply cabinet to a full-fledged gun safe made specifically to lock guns up.hidden from plain sight. If the guns are locked individually, I could see putting them say on top of a closet shelf, but being locked up would be better. Guns could be stolen and the cable type locks could easily be cut off. A key lock door knob could also be put on a closet door as one mode to deter unauthorized access. However, easy access has got to be the big issue here.


There are some very nice, well made, and highly secure sheet steel gun safes made by Stack-On that are quite affordable. They make many different sizes and configurations. These can and should be bolted to the wall studs or to the floor or both for added security. Stack-On gun security cabinets are key locked but some of the more upper end models will have advanced locking systems.

Of course full sized, heavy duty, channel steel, welded gun safes are made by many companies including Redhead at Bass Pro Shops,

Browning, Winchester, Cannon, and others. Some are even fire proof rated. Such safes can cost upwards of $2000 and more, but this is the ultimate in gun security. Their locks are usually electronic coded push buttons, or turn dial combination locks.

If there is an issue of having say one handgun easily accessible in the house, then there are also single gun lock up cabinets that function on finger press combination sequences. In the event of a break in or other disturbance the gun owner can quickly press a hand on the lock mechanism and easily withdraw a loaded gun.

There are many options available to keep guns locked and safe at the house. We just urge that you include such thinking in the overall development of your prepping guns security plan. Make sure the appropriate adults in the family also know the system and the plan. You may think that loaded shotgun leaning against the bedroom wall is a good idea, but be prepared to suffer the consequences if an accident occurs.



    Remember, too, that according to traditional gun safety training, ammo should be stored and locked in a completely separate location. I’ll let you work this out to suit your plans and depth of security arrangements. Guns only work when they are loaded, so work out a system to keep magazines close by or in the gun perhaps with an empty chamber.

In Route Weapons Security

    Keeping guns safe and secure during a Bug Out can be much more problematic. First there is the issue of maintaining control and access during the transportation phase from the main house to the Bug Out location. This may be coming out of a big city or suburb headed to the rural wilds, or leaving at night from home to a house or cabin in the country. It could be going from a rental apartment in a big complex to a wall tent in a national forest somewhere.

During vehicle travel in a Bug Out you are going to want your defensive firearm(s) at the ready. I have tried many different ways to do this and have not until recently been too comfortable with any of them.

If you can name all these guns, you get a prize.

Belt holsters don’t work well for the most part unless it is a cross draw rig especially for a right-handed shooter in the driver’s seat. The side door compartment to the left of the driver seat can be OK, but sometimes there is a tight squeeze between it and the seat. Ditto the same situation between the driver seat and the center console. If there is no console then the handgun could be simply set down on the floor as a compromise. In either situation I recommend you practice drawing your gun from these locations in a vehicle.

I found the best case scenario for a quick weapons holster mount under the steering wheel using a Gun Creek Customs (.com) vehicle gun mount. This positions a nylon handgun holster right under the steering column for a quick, rather unobtrusive draw. Their mounts can attach either to the gaps in the under dash molding or using a strap fixture to wrap around the column. The holster is held secure for a positive handgun withdrawal.

Whatever you do in terms of in vehicle weapons security and deployment, be sure to practice it live even without having to fire out a window or door. Moving from an unarmed condition to a ready position is the key.

I have seen it suggested using a SBR (short barreled rifle) or a shotgun from inside a car, but I have never seen it work in real practice. A long gun is simply too wieldy to get to a ready position from inside a vehicle. If you anticipate a stoppage or event up the roadway, then getting to the ready inside an open door could be done using the door as a shield. Practice this, too.

Firearms Security in the Field

Naturally I favor permanent structures for a Bug Out location over a camping tent. An RV hard sided trailer would be better than a thin fabric Alpine tent in terms of security for both firearms as well as inhabitants. But use what you have and plan accordingly for all contingencies.

Again access is the most important element as well as guarding against unauthorized tampering in your absence. Out in the wilds either camping or living in an alternative home or cabin many preppers likely intend to keep a firearm on their side or a long gun nearby. I guess it all depends on the relative threat in your area.

For security in a hard structure see section above again for Bug In conditions in terms of weapons security. If you don’t have a hardened dwelling or a sturdy out building, storage shed or something similar, then you have to work on a plan to secure and protect valuable weapons and supplies from unwanted access and the outdoor environmental elements.

There are some portable carry, lockable, metal gun cases like safari cases that can yield a measure of security out in the field. Just work out a way to keep these covered and protected from rain, snow, and such. Few things foul up firearms quicker than moisture. Just keeping them in the back of a contained vehicle might be an option. Lying on the floor of a tent might not be.

Individual firearms could be cable locked as suggested for Bug In conditions when these tools are not in immediate need of use. Survival vaults, tubes, or containers that could be buried, or just hidden nearby could be another option. These need to be waterproof and sealable from outside contamination.

As one might well imagine, this discussion is endless. Everybody’s situation is different, but if you have weapons in the mix, then security and protection of these value assets is essential. Just put it down on your “to do list” to work on a strategy to secure weapons for a Bug In or a Bug Out option.

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SHTF Armorer: The AR-15 Bolt Carrier Group

Whether you like it or not, you have to admit that the AR-15 is the rifle of choice for the majority of preppers nationwide. It’s adaptable, it’s easy to handle, easy to shoot well, and the sheer numbers of them out there mean that any prepper undermost circumstances should probably have one in his arsenal.

If you DO have one, you should know how to work on it.  You may love yours to bits; you lovingly selected every part, widget, accessory, and optic on your AR. But if the balloon goes up and yours breaks, you can’t exactly roll down to the local gun shop and expect the gunsmith to fix your problem while you wait. You may find a parts gun in an abandoned police cruiser or National Guard armory that will work on your gun (most are Mil-Spec and therefore mostly interchangeable)…but who’s going to work on it? Guess what, buddy: you are. Luckily, the AR platform is pretty easy to work on.

I keep a smattering of easily-replaced (read: field-replaceable with little or no tools) parts in the Magpul ACS stock compartments of my go-to rifle, along with a cut-down 1/16″ punch, which lets me work on most of my AR with maybe a convenient rock utilized as a hammer. But those parts and punch are useless without knowledge.

What’s that? You have an AR as your go-to SHTF rifle and you can field strip it, but really not much else? Well, let’s start fixing that problem. And we’re going to start the process with learning about the most crucial element of the AR-15/M4 system: The Bolt Carrier Group, or BCG.

First, we’re going to assume that you can remove your bolt and charging handle from the gun in the normal field-stripping procedure.  Do so. You’re going to need a couple specific things, one of them being a 1/16″ or 3/32″ drift punch…this should be relatively easy to come by at your local hardware store. Make sure you get a good hardened one; cheap ones bend and snap very easily. A small hammer will probably be needed, as well as a few cleaning patches, a bunch of Q-tips, some gun cleaning solvent, a light, high-quality gun oil, and a small scraping tool (I use a jeweler’s screwdriver.) A dedicated AR-15 multi-tool is a godsend; I heartily recommend one! Let’s get started.


First, we’re going to pull out the Firing Pin Retaining Pin. This is a small, cotter pin-like affair that is recessed into the side of the bolt. Using a punch, pry it out.

Firing Pin Retaining Pin (shown partially removed)

Firing Pin Retaining Pin (shown partially removed)

A word about this pin: it is a hardened pin; if it breaks somehow, you’ll need to get another AR-15 specific pin. Just going to NAPA and getting a cotter pin won’t work. Those are soft, malleable metal and will break very quickly. Firing Pin Retaining Pins are cheap, so there’s no reason not to buy a few of these expendable parts and have extras.

Firing Pin Retaining Pin removed.

Firing Pin Retaining Pin removed.


This pin, as the name suggests, retains the firing pin in the bolt housing. Removing it allows us to pop out the firing pin, which, depending on your level of gunkiness, may drop right out, or need to be pried out.

Firing Pin partially removed from bolt.

Firing Pin partially removed from bolt.


Next, we’ll get the bolt proper out of the carrier. To do so, we need to pull out the Bolt Cam Pin. Push the bolt head backwards into the body of the carrier (you’ll see it moves back and forth), and once it’s fully in, the cam pin can be turned 90 degrees in either direction.

I'm grasping the bolt in this photo; it needs to be pushed into the body of the carrier to remove the cam pin.


Here , the cam pin (the rectangular piece) is rotated 90 degrees. Pry straight out to remove.

Here , the cam pin (the rectangular piece) is rotated 90 degrees. Pry straight out to remove.


Once the cam pin is rotated 90 degrees, pull it straight out of the bolt carrier body. It should come out easily.

Bolt Cam Pin removed.

Bolt Cam Pin removed.


Once the Cam Pin is out, the bolt can be pulled from the carrier body. If your gas rings are fresh, the bolt may come out a little tightly, but it should pop out with no real problems.

Bolt and cam pin removed from carrier.

Bolt and cam pin removed from carrier.


To disassemble the bolt, there are two pins we need to remove. Grab your trusty pin punch, and drive out this pin to remove the extractor. Be careful: the extractor does have some spring tension behind it, so keep your thumb on it to keep from launching things.


Remove the extractor slowly, watching the spring tension, and set aside. We’ll get back to that in a second.

Next is the ejector. I usually don’t pull out the ejector on routine tear-downs, but it’s easy to do. Drift out the tiny roll pin indicated below (keeping your thumb over the ejector! Serious spring tension here!) and pull the ejector and its spring out of the front of the bolt. Take note of the orientation: There is a notch in the ejector for the pin, and it needs to go back in the same direction it came out so things will work properly.

This small hole is where the ejector retaining pin lives.

This small hole is where the ejector retaining pin lives.

I also don’t pull the gas rings off – there are three of them; you can see them as a slim silver band towards the rear of the bolt body in the picture below. If you need to remove them, use a dental pick or something similar to pry them out of the groove, then peel them out one by one. These rarely need to be replaced unless the rifle is seriously malfunctioning, so I leave them alone generally.

The gas rings are the silver band. Leave 'em alone unless you're sure they are the problem.

The gas rings are the silver band. Leave ‘em alone unless you’re sure they are causing a problem or they are worn.


The extractor houses a couple extra parts: the extractor spring, the extractor spring buffer that resides inside the extractor spring, and usually a rubber O- or D-shaped ring that sits around the extractor spring. This O-ring really helps the extractor spring out in the power department, and it’s easily retrofitted if yours doesn’t have one. The Extra Power upgrade kit is, once again, very inexpensive, and cheap insurance against failures to extract. Grab a couple and keep a spare.

The extractor assembly as it comes out of the bolt.

The extractor assembly as it comes out of the bolt. Note the rubber extra power ring.

From top to bottom: Extractor, extractor spring with buffer inside, rubber O-ring

From top to bottom: Extractor, extractor spring with buffer inside, rubber O-ring


Another item, the last part of the bolt, is on the carrier body, and it’s called the Bolt Carrier Key. It’s held in by two cap screws that are heavily staked in. You can see it in the first photo of this article, where the Firing Pin Retaining Pin is partially pulled out. This key allows gas into the bolt, and it must be sealed strongly on the bolt. Make sure it is secure on the bolt carrier and that you can’t see daylight between the bolt carrier body and the key. If you can, it’s letting action gas be wasted, and needs to be replaced. But if it’s not wiggling and if you can’t see daylight under it, leave it alone.



There are a few words to be said about properly cleaning an AR bolt. As a direct gas impingement system, hot gases and carbon from the cartridge firing are directed right into the body of the bolt, and as such, it gets very dirty very quickly. With all the crud being subjected to lots of cycles and lots of heat, it quickly builds up and hardens inside the bolt. If not properly cleaned, it builds up to the point where the firing pin won’t work properly, or the bolt won’t go fully into battery, amongst other things. So therefore, it is imperative we do a little bit of extra maintenance inside the bolt while it’s apart. Gas piston AR guys don’t have to worry as much about carbon buildup, but it’s still important to keep the innards of your AR bolt carrier group properly clean.

Let’s start with that extractor. The groove in the underside of it catches the rim of your case and pulls it out of the chamber. If that groove has crud built up in it, the extractor cannot properly grasp the rim of your expended cartridge, and you will have a failure to extract, probably followed by the next round from the magazine being fed into the back of the case that didn’t extract. And that, my friends, is a whole lot of suck.

We can prevent that from happening by simply cleaning the extractor groove. Take a small screwdriver, a toothpick, dental pick, whatever – and scrape the gunk out. Use a Q-tip with powder solvent (such as my old friend, Hoppes #9) to break things loose if it’s really built up.

The pointer shows the extractor groove. Clean that baby right up!

The pointer shows the extractor groove. Clean that baby right up!

Use a Q-tip or two and clean out the extractor cutout in the bolt body for good measure. I will put a very, VERY light coat of oil or none at all in the extractor cutout. Oil attracts dirt and grime, and dirt and grime will impede the extractor from properly actuating in its cutout. I do, however, put a drop of oil in the hole the retaining pin goes through, so it will pivot freely when assembled.


The gas rings are the silver band. Leave 'em alone unless you're sure they are the problem.

Use a small screwdriver or scraper tool to remove hardened carbon around the bolt here.


When cleaning the bolt, you need to get all the built-up hardened carbon off the “tail” of the bolt, as shown above. I soak it down with Hoppes # 9 or a cleaning patch, then scrape it away with a small screwdriver. This is one of the important areas on an AR bolt: if this is allowed to build up with carbon, it will eventually impede backwards progress of the bolt in the carrier body, and the gun will not function. Use a Q-tip and clean out the hole for the Bolt Cam Pin, and all the locking lugs on the head of the bolt. Clean the bolt face as well.


Make sure this end of the bolt head is nice and clean as well.  (Yes, I know the BCG is assembled.)

Make sure this area gets an extra helping of clean.

Make sure this area gets an extra helping of clean.

When cleaning the firing pin, make sure all the carbon is cleaned off of it. Again, if it’s loaded up with grime, it doesn’t free-travel inside the bolt and the gun will not function.

Desired results.

Desired results.


When cleaning the Carrier, pay special attention to the areas inside. Carbon builds up like crazy inside of the carrier, and it all needs to get out. I soak this puppy with Hoppes for a few minutes, scrape it with a screwdriver, and usually blast it right out with Gun Scrubber or non-VOC brake cleaner.

Be sure to clean the bejeezus out of the inside of the carrier.

Be sure to clean the bejeezus out of the inside of the carrier.

Use a Q-tip to clean inside the gas key.

Use a Q-tip to clean inside the gas key.


I make sure the bolt is nice and dry, with no cleaning solvent residue anywhere, inside or out. I will usually heat the big parts (bolt and carrier) up inside my oven (don’t tell my wife) at about 170 degrees to open the metal’s pores up, then I’ll use Militec-1 or FrogLube or a similar metal-penetrating lube oil lightly on these parts, inside and out. I let them cool completely to close the pores, then thoroughly dry off the excess, with just a light coating of lube on the outsides of the parts. The main thing is not to leave enough lube on the parts to attract dirt, sand, etc., but to have enough for the parts to not wear as they actuate, nor corrode if they sit for a while. I put a drop of high-quality gun lube (like the aforementioned Militec-1) on the Bolt Cam Pin as well. I like to leave the firing pin clean and dry, with no lube on it to attract anything that will impede its moving freely.


The bolt is kind of a reassemble-in-reverse-order setup. Install the ejector (if you pulled it), then the extractor and its spring, buffer and O-ring. Put the bolt back into the bolt carrier, making sure the extractor will be facing the ejection port of the rifle once it is installed. This is important for the function of the rifle. If the bolt head is in 180 degrees off, the ejector will punch the fired cases back INTO the rifle instead of out of the ejection port. We don’t want this, for obvious reasons.

Note the orientation of the ejector and extractor - this is the correct setup for a standard right-handed gun. (not a left-handed Stag, for instance)

Note the orientation of the ejector and extractor – this is the correct setup for a standard right-handed gun. (not a left-handed Stag, for instance)

Insert the Bolt Cam Pin as you took it out, rotate it 90 degrees so it will clear under the gas key, and then install the firing pin into the back of the bolt. Make sure it slides back and forth freely, then install the Firing Pin Retaining Pin in the side of the bolt.

The bolt should slide back and forth, and rotate freely in the carrier, with some resistance. To test if the gas rings are good, extend the bolt fully out of the carrier, then set the bolt down on a table or flat surface. Gravity should not let the bolt carrier slide down on the bolt; it should stay fully extended. If it does slide down, it’s time to replace the gas rings on the bolt body.

Test the gas rings by putting the boly face-down when fully extended.

Test the gas rings by putting the bolt face-down when fully extended.


That’s about it! Re-install the bolt and charging handle in your rifle, and make sure everything functions as it should. Then go shoot the hell out of it and get some training!


Questions? Comments?  Anything else you’d like to know about the AR platform in an article? Let’s hear it in the comments below!

Stay safe!


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The Weakest Link

Today I’d like to talk about our dependence on electricity.  

We are ingrained from birth in how to use all things electronic.

light post

We take for granted that when we open the fridge it’ll be cold, or when we turn on the coffee maker we’re going to get hot coffee.  When we flip on the light we’ll be able to see when it’s dark outside.  It’s always worked, right?

How many of you have ever been in the middle of a blackout and walked into the bathroom and tried to flip on the light?  For just that brief second you’re like, “What the…?” even though you know  the power is out.  Then you feel a little silly, smile to yourself and continue on.  I’ve done it even when I was carrying a flashlight!

Electricity is the lifeblood of all our fancy doohickeys.  I’m writing this on a Microsoft Surface connected to the internet by tethering to my cell phone in the middle of a campground.  If the power suddenly went out I’d be on the ‘net for another couple of hours until the batteries on my personal electronics died out.  Then – gadget wise – I’d be back in the stone age… or at least the eighties.  (I ain’t knocking the 80’s – I had fun then.)

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But it wasn’t always that way.  Not too long ago people didn’t have electricity.  Hard to believe isn’t it?  Things change so fast and technology moves forward at dizzying speed.  Smart phones keep getting smarter and computers keep getting smaller.  Have you looked around lately at the people immersed in their own little electronic worlds using their cell phones or tablets as gateways?  Or seen how traffic accidents have increased because of distracted driving?

People are getting more and more dependent on electronics and moving further away from the things our parents and grandparents knew:  you don’t need electricity in order to survive… or even to have a good life.  I’ve heard many people over the years say, “I’d just kill myself if doomsday happened and we didn’t have power.”  Wow!  What a sign of the times!  People would rather die than not have electricity.  If that isn’t dependence I don’t know what is.

As crazy as this sounds to most of you reading this it’s something I’ve heard repeated again and again.  The question is if push came to shove and our supply of electricity was knocked out would they really not want to live or would they reach deep down and try to survive?

The Weakest Link

Thus the weakest link in the equation of American’s daily lives is our dependence on electricity.  It’s not like it’s an addiction, it’s what gives us the creature comforts we have to come to expect as part of our every day life.  It allows us to operate our civilization, to govern it and feed it and entertain it.  Think “Just In Time System” and it should make you worried.

If we lost our ability to make electricity it would be harder on our society today than it would have on our grandparents or great grandparents.  My father grew up for years without electricity.  I remember going to his house in Canada when I was very young and there were no electric lights, no plumbing,  and the house was heated by a wood stove.

Try running that by the princess/prince next door and see how it flies!

What can we do about it?  How do we guard against it?  It should be obvious at some point that someone will get the bright idea to bring the grid down.  Or maybe we’ll truly get that CME everybody’s been talking about for years, or possibly it will fail due to a lack of infrastructure  or a terrorist  attack.   Or possibly it’ll be  an attack mounted  by hackers, who knows?

One thing for sure is that when it does go down there are going to be a lot of unprepared folks out there wishing they had a way to keep their food cold, or to see at night, or to communicate or entertain themselves.lightpost5

There have been many blog posts written describing with authority what will happen if and when the grid goes down.  I think the only thing that can be said with authority is that no really knows what will happen.  A lot of it depends on where you’re located.  It’ll probably be different in the city than it is the country or the suburbs.  Maybe it will get violent.  Maybe it won’t.

Another determination on how far down the rabbit hole we go is how long it lasts.  If it’s a few days we might get away with minimal damage, but if it drags on for a week or more we – as a civilization – could be in big trouble.


What can we do to protect ourselves?  Probably not much as an entire society, but as individuals we can take action.  Or maybe a small community could take the initiative and find a way to cut back their electrical dependence and produce their own electricity using hydro power, windmills, solar, or a combination of all three.

At one point I considered going all solar.  After looking into it at the time it was very costly and I didn’t have the money for it.

Recently I bought a camper and it has a 12 volt system.  It wouldn’t take much to convert one over to an all solar powered system.  The idea is to cut down power usage as much as possible and then provide the electricity for whatever systems remain.  A camper can be set up to run off a few solar panels and a couple of batteries for a good long time.

A house that has been converted to solar would of course be a great solution as well.  While costly to set up it would keep you and your family in the creature comforts for years.

If the power goes out you won’t be able to get gasoline and propane – at least in my area – without a major hassle.  And the price is sure to be exorbitant for what supply there is – unless the government steps in and institutes a rationing system.

Having the ability to generate your own electricity will give you some of the luxuries and hopefully enough of the necessities to survive.

Or maybe you could homestead it. There are a lot of folks who do modern homesteading, which means living close to what our ancestors did many years ago.  Grow you own food, raise your animals, keep chickens for eggs.  You could run everything off oil lamps and wood stoves.  Then if the power went you wouldn’t be as affected as others with no idea on how to live without electricity.

One thing for sure is you don’t want to leave your well being in the hands of others if you can help it.  Even a small solar generator would be useful for running lights a few small appliances.

Are you prepared for a grid down situation?

Questions?  Comments?

Sound off below!

-Jarhead Survivor

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The Psychology Of Solitude

By Dr. John J. Woods, a contributing author to

When my wife and child leave for the weekend to visit her sister, I am not guilt laden about feeling a special sense of relief and freedom. The house is quiet. I can watch the TV shows I want, eat what I want, go out to places I might not normally get to go to including a gun store or two, big box bookstore or a restaurant.

I can writejohn-woods in peace and quiet with my buddy dog Molly at my feet. I can stay up late, go outside, smoke a cigar, and drink a bottle of wine. What’s wrong with that? Surely after 60 plus years of life and hard work I deserve that? Is there an issue with a little “me” time?

Funny thing is though, after about two days of being relatively alone, it starts to eat at me.  Maybe the house is too quiet, too lonely.  Do I really miss my wife yelling commands to my daughter?  Do I start to talk to myself and ask questions to which no answers come back?  Is the junk mail really starting to interest me that much?  Isn’t it a bit unusual to flag down a neighbor (that I might not particularly like or have anything in common with) just to have some direct human contact and conservation?  I have friends out there, but they are busy elsewhere or with their own families and lives.  Is this what solitude is all about? And do I really like it?

It should make one stop to think who is actively involved in the prepping process for any type of SHTF black cloud that might form on the horizon. Can I go it alone, if I have to? If I have even minor issues with living by myself for a few days, what would my psyche be like after a week, a month or longer? Regardless of whether I Bug Out or Bug In if the plan puts me in a position of going solo, is that really the best case scenario if I am human dependent? What steps can I take to offset the solitude in a struggle to maintain my sanity? Well, let’s see.


What is it exactly in the purest sense?  Solitude is the condition of being alone or remote from others.  It is isolation in its most restrictive definition. It means being totally withdrawn from society. This condition is likely to be more pronounced in a Bug Out option if you go it alone. In theory during a Bug In there would be neighbors around, but there are pluses and minuses to that. You may also get uninvited visitors as well.john-tree

The emphasis on solitude is the complete detachment from others.  Obviously from a prepper’s perspective the plan you develop for survival under adverse conditions may or may not imply solitude will be the operational condition, but it well could be.  The recommendation then is to take steps to prepare for that eventual likelihood just as you would to prep for stocking needed supplies, exit strategies, defensive measures, and the like.  It needs to be part of the total prep package.

Functioning in a solitary environment can be just as serious a skill undertaking as starting a fire in the rain, or changing out magazines while maintaining steady fire. Trust me if your personal psychology has a breakdown, then the performance of all other essential skills will suffer greatly. In the worst case situation it can be like near paralysis.

Keeping Sane

What is it they say about an idle mind being the devil’s workshop? This old proverb may actually have real life application during a SHTF event, especially if you find yourself going solo with little or no outside contact or prospects of such. It can be a lonely existence, but there are ways to weather a long drawn out Bug Out or In strategy.john-bench

The real key element to success in fighting psychological nagging at the brain is based on the concept of staying busy. If you have stuff to do, all the time, then you have little time to dwell on the negatives of your situation. It’s an exceedingly simple principle but it works.

Think about your days at work or at home concentrating on a particular project to accomplish. I am willing to bet that during those days the time flies by and you paid scant mind to other issues as you focused on the task at hand. Keeping the mind and body active is essential to defeating the devil from getting between your ears.

As you plan your prepping in home stay or escape elsewhere, plan to take along a hobby or several of them.  This may sound totally silly when you’re worried about having enough food to eat and water to drink.  But beyond the essentials of sustaining life, you need other stuff to keep you active, too.  Things you like to do are a really good start.

This could be starting a garden, which is a super idea. It might be wood carving, bird watching, painting, drawing, reading books, leather work, honing outdoor furniture from wood in the forest, whatever.  Have a battery operated radio so you can hear broadcasts, news or music.  Even a battery powered CD player would be good to have.  You get the idea.  Take some stuff along that would be fun to do and help you occupy what might otherwise be idle time.

If you can develop several hobbies or projects then you can divide your time among them.  Having alternatives helps keep the interest level high and your attention span honed to a sharper edge.john-alone

Avoid daily ruts and routines at all costs.  Sure you may have certain obligations you have to do like cook, clean, personal hygiene (very critical), gather wood, repair or build stuff, but try to break up routines into smaller segments and infuse other activities in between including rest or exercise into your daily plan. If safe, take a walk around the neighborhood or base camp property.

This goes hand in hand with varying your daily schedules.  Don’t do the same things every day the same way or at the same time.  Variety is the spice of life, and you’re going to need some spice if not in that pot of venison chili you have over the fire.

Create and Pursue Activities

Beyond the hobbies and fun things to spend time doing, also start making an active to-do list.  There will always be things to do.  Having these projects written down on paper will initiate goals and objectives to be reached.  It may be constructing a gate at an entry point into your Bug Out camp.  It might be building ground blinds for hunting or security observation of various points around the camp.

Bug In projects can include fortification work around the house. As in hurricane territory you may want to fabricate plywood window coverings to have ready just in case.  Maybe a door entry needs strengthening or a garage door locked down from inside.

You may want to create the ultimate “safe room” in the house. This will need lots of planning for barricading inside as well as stocking up essential goods for several days of hiding out.john fire

One aspect I read recently about that seriously had not occurred to me personally was the preparation for a fire at the house. This could be a common strategy for thug outsiders to breech your castle by setting it afire. You need to plan to defend against that, but also have a vehicle ready to go slamming out of the garage to escape the flames and the marauders .  Let’s hope against hope that such never comes to pass.

I feel certain as you assess your own situation and take a personal accounting of all the aspects of surviving alone, that you will come up with plenty of projects to do to keep active.  That is the key to surviving solitude.  You may be alone, but you don’t have to succumb from a solitary existence.  Stay busy and stay alive.

All photos by Dr. John J. Woods

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When #2 Becomes the #1 Priority

Let’s face it: lots of us were drawn to the “prepper movement” because of, well, the romance of the possibilities. The purity, the sheer glamour of testing one’s mettle against anything the world can throw at you. No Big Brother looking over your shoulder. No government taking what you worked hard for to give to someone who didn’t. A great reason to stock pantries and rifle magazines, loading the shelves with crates of ammo and freeze dried food, huge containers of water. You and you alone are 100% responsible for what happens to you. I’ll admit, it definitely has a primal allure!


But one of the most overlooked things I see when people  get ready (probably because it is far less romantic that geeking out over gear) for that big apocalyptic event is sanitation and waste disposal…specifically human waste disposal. For those of us here  in the sticks, it’s not nearly the looming disaster that it will be for those of you in urban areas, living in multi-story apartment buildings, or even suburban layouts. But after a few days, we all end up in the same pot (no pun intended): I don’t care how many bullets the magazine in your multi-thousand dollar tricked out AK-47 holds; shooting your shitter ain’t gonna help when it fills up and you have no way to flush it, chief.


So a great, region-wide event occurs. In the big city, the power grid is down. City water no longer flows. It’s the middle of summer. People have no AC, no running water to wash the sweat off their worried brows. People are dealing the best they can at first, but basic needs and instincts kick in. The toilets everywhere very quickly fill up with no water to flush them. Once the toilets fill, the urinals fill up. Then the sinks and bathtubs. Within three days, any toilet in an urban area is overflowing with feces, festering and fly-covered in the sweltering summer heat. The stench and sanitary conditions are repulsive, and people start migrating out of their comfort zones to do their business. Closets, corners, alleys, dumpsters, even vacant cars are quickly turned into makeshift bathrooms. Humans, knowing deep down that water equals sanitation, relieve themselves near public water ways, park ponds. Within two weeks, by my best guess, a large city with no running water or sanitation facilities, and no paid public employees to clean them up, will become a giant cesspool of filth, sickness and disease, largely because that little porcelain doohickey in your bathroom won’t flush. People start heading into the surrounding areas to get away from the spectacle, and then the people in rural areas start feeling the pressure. So what can you do to protect yourself from the basic issue? This isn’t something you can overlook.


The easiest way to counteract the immediate issue is water. Lots and lots and lots of water. If you live in a home with a septic tank, you’re made in the shade, more or less…IF you have  a steady supply of water, like a nearby pond or river. Once your toilet is full (don’t let it go too long, or it will clog), you can take a bucket of water and either full the back tank on the toilet until it engages the float, then flush, or you can simply dump water in the bowl until suction occurs, and the toilet will flush on its own. This system is a luxury, though, and can’t be counted on. Luckily, gray or non-potable water can be used for this task, but count on a couple gallons per flush. If you have a city septic system or sewer, try to ensure the system is still functioning and not clogged. If it’s not, then you can use the water-filling method with your toilet. If it IS clogged, sewage could back up, causing big time problems.


If you don’t live in a home with a septic tank, you have some planning to do. Not only do you have to supply a way to get rid of the waste from the immediate area, you will have to deal with the fact that you will have to deal with the possibility of built-up waste and smell from others around you (say, if you live in apartment building). YOU may have a way, however basic or complicated, of dealing with the issue, but those around you who did not plan ahead will possibly make the area unbearable to be in. Keep that in mind and have a second location to go to if necessary.


If you plan on bugging in during a long-term event, a nice, simple portable toilet is a 5-gallon bucket. It’s not extravagant, but if you line it with trash bags or some other catching system it works surprisingly well. I find that the plastic bags that grocery stores use to pack your groceries in can work OK…just check them for holes first! They usually have “handle” holes built into them, which you can run 2×4′s through to keep them in place while acting as a makeshift toilet seat. Once you’re done with your business, pull the bag out, tie it up using the handles, (it won’t be airtight) and dispose of it elsewhere (preferably outside if possible.) If you line the 5-gallon bucket with a heavy-duty trash bag, you can use it multiple times; just be sure to sprinkle wood ash, kitty litter, or even dirt over the waste between uses to keep the smell down and the flies and other vermin out of it. I’d probably try not to urinate in this bucket and keep it solid-waste only, just in the off chance you utilize the bucket for other uses that might require some degree of cleanliness. This toilet system is dirt cheap and very portable. You can also line your (emptied) existing toilet (if you have a really good magazine rack by it, say) with a trash bag and use it the same way. Having a disinfecting spray made up of bleach and water will keep things sanitary and knock the smell down too.

old-school latrine.

If you live in a rural area with some real estate around you (and hopefully privacy), you can dig cat-holes. These are basically one-time use holes, preferably around a foot deep, where you can leave your business behind after you bury it. Or, if you’re staying where you are and you’re pretty sure it’s permanent, you can dig a latrine (a large, deep trench in the ground) or even build an outhouse if you have materials. The really big thing to watch for with these ground-dependent receptacles is proximity to drinking water. If you’re pulling water from a well, keep your waste 100 yards or further away. Bacteria will get in your drinking water, and I’m sure in a serious SHTF event, you won’t want to get sick.


They also sell completely non-electric, non-water dependent composting toilets for the prepper with a few bucks. These convert poo into usable compost, supposedly, though I’d do my research first before I bought one, and make sure that it’s right for your conditions. Chemical toilets may work OK too, but they need to be flushed and re-filled with chemicals to work properly…and who needs another thing to stock up on?


Speaking of stocking up, toilet paper, toilet paper, toilet paper! I’m pretty sure my wife would rather die than have to wipe her bum with a series of nature’s own leaves. Yes, it’s bulky, but TP provides a level of comfort that’s hard to parallel. Have you ever cleaned your backside with leaves? Any serious prepper should go out and try it sometime…yeah, you heard me. When you get done reading this, go take a crap in the woods, back to a nice sturdy tree, and wipe up with green leaves. (Dead leaves break and crumble, with obvious consequences.) You will immediately go buy stock in Charmin. Trust me on this one…I know frontiersmen and explorers cleaned up with leaves for millenia, but we have the technology…put that little bit of SHTF romance behind you (hah! I kill me!) for as long as you can. It would also pay off to research poison ivy, oak, and sumac to know what NOT to contact your derriere with. Nobody wants to fight the zombie horde with an itchy nether region.

Hand sanitizers, antibactetrial soaps, and disinfectants should be kept on hand for obvious reasons. Stock up…staying clean means staying healthy. And while you’re at it, keep things as fly- and vermin-free as possible. Flies have no problem walking around in poo then stamping around happily on your next meal…the more you can keep that sort of thing OUT, the healthier you will be as well.

What did I miss? THere must be a million ways to handle this subject; I just touched on the matter at hand. What do you have planned to dispose of solid human waste once the SHTF?

Stay safe!


Are YOU ready?