Apr 302012

Groups of rioters and looters can be difficult to anticipate and defend against

There’s nothing new about rioting and civil/social disruption.

Indeed, it is currently the 20th anniversary of what are known as the ‘Rodney King Riots’ in Los Angeles – a five-day period of mayhem that erupted with no notice, and which saw looting, destruction, arson and murder across substantial parts of South Central Los Angeles.

It is helpful to quickly review lessons from this before moving on to a look at future vulnerabilities.

The Rodney King/South Central Los Angeles Riots in April/May 1992

The jury decision acquitting  the police officers who were filmed beating Rodney King was announced at 3.15pm.  The first protest response was at around 3.45pm when a crowd of about 300 gathered outside the courthouse to protest the decision.  This was nothing too alarming.

Between 5pm and 6pm, a group of 24 police officers confronted a growing crowd of African-Americans – not at the courthouse, but a considerable distance away in South Central LA.  Out-numbered, the officers retreated, ceding command/control of the territory to the crowd.  By 6.45pm, this crowd, with no police presence to moderate or control them for almost an hour, started looting, attacking vehicles and people.

A television helicopter at 6.45pm, hovering over the crowd, filmed and broadcast live scenes of the crowd dragging a white man (Reginald Denny) out of his truck and viciously beating him up.  We suggest that this live coverage of the crowd gone wild and with no police presence may have encouraged and incited others to join in what was spiraling into major rioting.

It quickly became apparent that the police had withdrawn entirely from large sections of South Central Los Angeles, leaving lawless anarchy behind.  Opportunistic looting and destruction started taking place on a widespread basis, opposed only by Korean store owners who armed themselves and banded together to protect their stores.

Over the course of the five days, nearly 1600 buildings were destroyed or damaged as a result of 3600 different fires.  More than 2300 people were injured, and at least 53 people were known to have been killed in riot related violence (including 10 shot by either the police or armed forces).  22 of the 43+ non police shootings remain open and unsolved now, and in view of the passing of time, will probably never be solved.

The murders are significant because the rioting looters were not just unarmed people looking to steal a color television.  Many of them were armed, and were either randomly shooting at people for no reason at all, or were using their firearms to force their way past store owners so as to loot their stores.

The police were immediately overwhelmed and unable to maintain control, and it was only after not just the National Guard but also regular US Army soldiers and Marines too were deployed that the rioting ended, five days after it started.

Lessons from the LA Riots

From our perspective, we see several key lessons.  The first is that civil disruption can develop very quickly.  It is hard to say at what point ordinary citizens would have become alarmed at this rioting – remember the timeline above.  The court decision by itself didn’t mandate that rioting in this scale would follow, neither did the people protesting at the courthouse – if anything, that was safely away from South Central LA and a safety valve for upset citizens.

The two key events were the police retreating from the group of protesters sometime around 6pm, and then the evolution of the mob from angry upset people to a lawless group of rioters, and the broadcasting of the mob violence over live television, indicating to other disaffected people that they could riot with impunity.

From the flashpoint sometime after 6pm to the televised beating of Reginald Denny was less than 30 minutes, and rioting on a regional basis was underway within an hour after that.

The second lesson is that it took 4 – 5 days before the police – by then augmented with some 15,000 reinforcements in the form of other state police and federal officers, National Guardsmen, plus regular Army and Marines, to get the rioting under control.

We Are More Vulnerable Now to Similar Rioting

There was a lot of analysis into why such a large group of people chose to riot in 1992.  Much of this analysis took the form of liberal hand-wringing and blaming society and other factors/forces for the bad behavior of the rioters; you can choose to accept or reject that as you wish.

But one point is relevant – the point that the rioting came after some extended period of rising disconnection between the rioters and society in general.  This disconnection was economic and social in nature.

We make this point because it seems probable – whether validly justified or not – there is a similar disconnection across much of the country at present.  For further exemplification of the current disaffection of large groups of society with the society in which they live, look at the riots in England in August 2011.  This was a four day period of mayhem that infected not just many parts of London, but also other cities and towns across England too that ended up affecting 48,000 businesses with losses to a greater or lesser extent.

The last few years have been marked by a difficult economy and a growing disaffection at the dichotomy between ‘evil bankers’ at one end of society and their ‘economic victims’ at the other end of society (we’re not judging the merits of such disaffection here, merely reporting on what we observe).  The Occupy Wall Street movement has done a good job of exploiting this unrest, albeit largely peacefully.

We have also seen groups mobilizing against what they see as the evils of international trade, protesting at World Trade Organization meetings.

And in addition to these groups of people who are suffering real or imaginary grievances, there are the ever-present anti-social groups in the country who are keen to take part in violent mayhem any time they can just for the sheer devilry of it, and/or as a way to enrich themselves with the spoils of looting.

So our first point is that the underlying social tensions that could create violent rioting are as strong today as they have ever been.

Now for the second point, hinted at in our headline.

We have suggested the Rodney King riots grew from the televised coverage, beamed into everyone’s living rooms, showing people that they could riot with impunity, and in effect encouraging them to join in the party.  That factor remains ever-present today too, of course – maybe even more so.  Video isn’t just sourced and distributed from professional news gatherers in their helicopters, now everyone with a cell phone can shoot video and within minutes have it live on YouTube or elsewhere.

We now have a new factor – a factor that has contributed to successful revolutions in other countries (notably Egypt and other ‘Arab Spring’ countries) and believed to have been a key element of the rapid growth and spread of the rioting in England last August.  This is the use of social media by rioters to promote their actions and to call in more people to join with them.

By social media we mean primarily Twitter and texting because these are almost instantaneous ways of passing information, either from one person individually to other individuals, or from one person to groups of any size up to many thousands of people.  With such information being sent to people’s cell phones, there is little or no delay between a message being sent and it being received by tens, hundreds or even thousands and tens of thousands of people.

Twitter in particular has two very powerful features for social networking – the ability to ‘re-tweet’ and to forward on twitter messages to other people, and the ability to add ‘hashtags’ as a way of reaching other like-minded people who the sender doesn’t already know and hasn’t met before.  A twitter message can potentially ‘go viral’ and end up on hundreds of thousands of people’s screens in minutes.

We have already seen this in a slightly less threatening sense – the new phenomenon of sudden flash mobs, coalescing out of nowhere.  Until now, these flash mobs have been largely non-violent and haven’t got out of hand.

These tools can also be used by mobs as a way of passing ‘intelligence’ among themselves – letting mob members know the whereabouts of police, road blocks, etc that might impede their actions, and also letting them know where the best tempting targets are.

There is also an added dimension with social media has helped facilitate.  It is less regional and more national/international.  The Rodney King riots didn’t spread to the rest of the US.  The London riots last August were instantly emulated and copied in other cities and towns all across England.


We suggest there is at least as much underlying disconnection between large elements of the ‘under-classes’ (define that term any way you wish) and society in general now as there was in 1992.  Social media make any flashpoint more likely to spread, further and faster, than ever before.

Riots seem to take 4 – 5 days to bring under control (assuming they are controllable).

There is little reason to expect riots would spread out of the concentrated downtown areas of cities and into the outlying ‘leafy suburbs’ – there’s just not the density of population and tempting targets to sustain a riot in a residential suburb full of single family homes.  But if you live in a downtown area, you are vulnerable to the direct effects of rioting, and if you live in a suburb, you may be vulnerable to flow-on effects such as disruptions to food supplies and to utilities.

It is impossible to predict where riots may start or what the flashpoints may be that initiate them, and also impossible to predict where they may spread.

In a major riot situation, you should expect rioters to be armed and to be senselessly shooting at people, places and things for no reason other than because they can.

Seeking refuge inside a building in a riot affected area is only prudent if there is no risk of the building being set on fire.  In a riot situation, you have two choices – evacuate the area entirely as soon as there is evidence of growing rioting; or be prepared to defend your property from safe positions and with the possible need to use lethal force to do so.

If you choose to evacuate, you need to be careful with your choice of route – you don’t want to abandon the possible greater safety of your residence and then find your car ambushed by rioters, or to be trapped by destroyed cars blocking the road ahead.

If you choose to defend your property – perhaps because it is not safe to evacuate – you will need to have as many people as possible with you and willing to actively defend your property.  One or two people are unlikely to dissuade a rioting crowd of 20 – 50 (or more) rampaging towards you.  The Koreans were reasonably successful because they grouped together, and because the rioters recognized in the Koreans a determined adversary.

A less than lethal way of getting the attention of a crowd and persuading them to leave you well alone might be some exotic shotgun rounds – in particular, the Dragon’s Breath rounds that spit out a brief jet of flame approximately 50 ft or more, a ‘fire siren’ round that sends out a very loud whistle (send this first to get their attention) or a thunder flash round (very loud noise – implies very great power), and stinger type rounds that send out nylon balls that hurt but usually don’t seriously wound or kill.

In such a case, you’d want to test these rounds before an emergency to get a feeling for their range and effects, then you’d want to carefully understand where those range points are around the property you’ll be defending.  Note also that the Dragon’s Breath is massively more spectacular at night.  And you could only use this in places where there was no risk of starting fires as a result of your firing the round – you might end up causing more property damage to other people’s property than that you prevented to your own property.

Needless to say, you only have a short time to use such warning devices before needing to use something more serious.  Don’t still be warning a crowd when it engulfs and overwhelms you.

Apr 292012

The Fifth Annual ‘Rich States, Poor States’ report has just been published

Where should your retreat be based?

There are lots of issues to consider in answering that question, and depending on the respective importance people give to the different factors to be considered, you will see a group of people, all given the same raw facts, come to completely different decisions with no two people reaching the same conclusion.

One factor to consider is the economic health of the state you are choosing to live in ‘normally’ and/or choosing to retreat to if all goes wrong in the future.

The good sense in living in an economically prosperous state in ordinary normal times is obvious.  But we suggest that even after ‘the end of the world as we know it’ you’ll still be better off in a state that was, until that time, prosperous.

In general, prosperous states interfere less with their citizens, and their citizens in turn are content to enjoy their own good lifestyles without obsessing too much if their neighbors have it better than them or not.  Prosperous states, by definition, tend to have more people employed and fewer people on benefits, and if you had to choose between having people on state benefits or successful fully employed people living in your area, you’d probably prefer the latter.

Prosperous states also tend to have lower rates of crime, probably because more people are working and getting a good living honestly.

We’re not saying this is the most important factor by any means when choosing locations, but it is one of the many factors to consider, and we mention it now due to the release of the fifth annual ranking of states in terms of their economic outlooks.  This study – ‘Rich States, Poor States’ and published by the American Legislative Exchange Council lists the ten best states as being :

1  Utah

2  South Dakota

3  Virginia

4  Wyoming

5  Idaho

6  Colorado

7  North Dakota

8  Tennessee

9  Missouri

10  Florida

And the ten worst states?  They are :

41  Pennsylvania

42  Rhode Island

43  Oregon

44  Illinois

45  New Jersey

46  Hawaii

47  California

48  Maine

49  Vermont

50  New York

The entire 125 page report can be downloaded from ALEC’s site for free.  It includes detailed analyses of each state’s economic condition and policies, and lots more information too.

Apr 292012

The timeless nature of the Cessna 182 is shown in this 2009 picture of a 1956 model – ie, when it was already 53 years old.

One of the big challenges we must consider and confront is how we would manage to get from our normal residences to our retreats if/when a major disaster is about to occur (or has already occurred).

The ideal choice is, of course, to simply hop into the family car and drive there normally.  But doing this would only be possible if you were able to anticipate any such disasters and get all the way to your retreat some hours before anyone else started to react the same way, and before the roads started to clog up with vehicles and become a giant solid unmoving parking lot.

In the best case scenario, you could do this; indeed not just in best case scenarios but also in more generally anticipated scenarios too.  We discuss the likelihood of traffic congestion interfering with your ‘bug out’ activities here.

Nonetheless, as a prudent prepper, you need to consider not only reasonable scenarios but unreasonable scenarios too.  And planes can be useful not just for avoiding road congestion, but for other reasons too.

Planes Are Useful Alternatives for Many Reasons

A plane can of course get you anywhere quicker than any vehicle can.

A plane can allow you to delay your decision to bug out, because you don’t need to be so concerned about beating the traffic.  Sometimes it can be advantageous to delay a decision as long as prudent, and if you have a plane as a transportation option, you have more time up your sleeve.

A plane gives you another route to where you’re going.  Maybe the roads are closed due to bad weather or as a side effect of the situation that triggered the crisis.  An earthquake, for example, might have caused bridges to fall, a volcano erupting might destroy roads with molten lava runs.

Weather issues may have a much greater impact on travel by road in a Level 2 or 3 scenario.  For example, if a road is washed out, it may not be repaired again.  Or, if a heavy snowfall occurs, there might be no snow removal crews and no snow removal equipment to clear the road, causing it to remain closed all winter long.

While planes are also weather dependent to an extent, the type of weather issues that affect them are short-term rather than potentially 3+ months in duration, and they give you a second chance in the game and more ways to get from where you were to where you want to be.

Most planes don’t have more range than a car with lots of additional gas tanks, but their speed means that what might be a two or three day journey by car can be done comfortably in a single day in a plane, with just one take-off and one landing.

Because plane travel is not dependent on roads, you never run the situation of ‘you can’t get there from here’ – you simply fly directly, the shortest way you wish, between any two points, whereas the roads underneath you might meander around and detour through dog-leg loops, adding hundreds of miles to your journey.

Planes travel is also safer – you’re not going to get speeding tickets or otherwise hassled, whether by law enforcement or other drivers and onlookers while flying through the air.

Flying to Your Retreat In Your Own Airplane

We offer this suggestion completely seriously.  If you live not a long way from a general aviation airport (ie one where private planes can be stored, and where they fly in and out), and if the budget allows it, consider buying a private plane.

A plane as a bug-out-vehicle has the huge advantage that it is not likely to suffer congested roadways.  On the other hand, it relies upon some infrastructure being in place both where it will depart from and where it will land and provides a somewhat weather-dependent means of transportation.

It also has limitations in terms of how many people and how much cargo it can carry (assuming you get a small single engined plane) – although maybe you can ferry people and materials to your retreat in two or three journeys if you can’t fit everything you must get into the plane for a single flight.

Even Better – a Float Plane

Maybe both your normal residence and your retreat is closer to a lake than to an airport (or to a sheltered bay in the ocean).  In such a case, a float plane is better than a regular plane, because whereas airports can experience problems (for example an earthquake which rips up the runway), and may even be operating under emergency air traffic control restrictions that impede private flying, lakes have no such problems at all.

Float planes are more weather dependent, and also become more limited to daylight hours of operation only, so there are trade-offs to consider and evaluate.

Airport/Lake Location Doesn’t Matter for Your Retreat So Much

Note also that the most important issue is the proximity of a suitable lake or airport to your normal location.  It doesn’t matter nearly as much at your retreat.  This is because we are assuming it may be very difficult to travel from your home to the airport or lake where the plane takes off from, but it will probably be comparatively easy to travel on from where you land to your final retreat, due to it being in a low density rural location where the roads are unlikely to be jammed full of people urgently trying to get out of town.

It is much more practical to plan to drive the last 5 or 10, or even 50 or 100 miles to your retreat once you’ve got out of and away from the major population centers.  You need to take to the air to get out of the cities, but once you’re in a rural setting, you can more comfortably plan to complete your journey with relatively few problems by some type of automobile.

Note also the Code Green Halfway House – maybe your objective is merely to fly to the Code Green Halfway House, at which point you can then retrieve a backup vehicle, freshen up, and complete your journey the next day.

Time is Money – Speed is Survival

If you are driving by car to your retreat, you’ll be traveling at the same speed as everyone else who is also evacuating the city you live in.  You’ll be potentially at risk from the people in the cars all around you every minute of your journey, and they’ll be ‘with you’ every part of the way.  And when you finally arrive at your retreat, you might find some unwelcome and uninvited strangers have already got there before you!

But a plane gives you two huge advantages.  The first advantage is that you’re flying at 120 – 180 mph rather than driving at anything from 0 – 70 mph, depending on traffic.  The second is that you’re traveling quite literally ‘as the crow flies’ – in a straight line, the shortest route possible.  These advantage combine to help you get where you’re going massively more quickly, and apart from the vulnerabilities getting to the city airport you fly out of, the rest of the way is comparatively safe.

The Cost of a Plane

Planes are not as expensive as you might think.  While you can certainly spend over a million dollars for a plane, older planes can be had for as little as $50,000.

A 30 – 40 year old single engine Cessna 172, capable of carrying four people (ie a pilot plus three others) and a little freight (depending on passenger weights and how much fuel is loaded) up to 850 miles on a full 56 gallon tank of gas, while cruising at 140 mph can probably be purchased for something in the range of $50,000 – $75,000.  Newer, larger, faster planes, and with more range, of course go up in price, but you can still get something good for $100,000 or less.

Airplanes are subject to strict maintenance, inspection and certification requirements, and are also flown many fewer hours each year than a car is driven.  You can buy an older plane with much more confidence than you would an older car.

You’d of course need to get a private pilot’s license, and you might want other family members to get one too in case you’re incapacitated, and for more overall operational flexibility.  Learning to fly is more complicated than learning to drive, of course, but 80+ year old grandmothers have learned to fly, as have 15 year old teenagers, and every type of person in between.

Spread the Cost More Ways

Consider getting another couple to buy into the plane with you.  A four seater plane can hold four people, after all, and one of the key things you want to do is to have more people in or adjacent to your retreat than just yourself.  There is safety in numbers, and if those same numbers can also reduce the cost of buying and maintaining a plane, so much the better.

Operational Considerations

You need a plane and you need somewhere secure to store it at your home airport or lake.  You need a private pilot’s license.

You’ll want to keep the plane fully fueled, and if you might be ferrying passengers and supplies on multiple flights, you’ll want a supply of fuel at your destination and possibly top-up fuel at your home base as well (depending on how far the plane must fly for each roundtrip).

You’ll also need a vehicle and somewhere secure to store it at the place you’ll be flying to.

Most airplane engines run on a special type of ‘av gas’ but some planes and their engines can be adapted to run on regular automobile gasoline.  If you had your plane modified for regular auto gasoline, it would be more versatile and easier to refuel in the future.

Although you’d want to make use of the latest GPS and avionics, be sure you can navigate without GPS because many worst case scenarios involve the loss of GPS service.

Read More On This Topic

This article has proved popular, and we’ve now added a second article with much more information – More on Planes as Bug-Out Vehicles.

Apr 292012

How much ammunition - and how many guns - are enough?

We received an interesting response from a reader on the subject of how many guns a prepper should own, and when does it become excessive.

Here it is, slightly edited for form.

Thanks for your article on why preppers usually include firearms in their preparations.

I guess I’m a prepper of sorts myself (is there any definition of who/what a prepper is?) and wanted to share with you why I have more guns than you suggested.  Here’s a general sort of list of what I have and why :


1.  A .22 cal for plinking, training my children, practicing, and for small varmint shooting

2 & 3.  Two .223 cal for self-defense

4.  A 7.62×39 also for self-defense (in case I come across some 7.62×39 ammo and am low on .223 ammo)

5.  A .308 semi-auto for hunting or self-defense

6.  A bolt action .308 for hunting (commonality of ammo with #5 above)

7.  A .30-06 bolt action for hunting (due to the ubiquity of the .30-06 round)


1.  A long barreled multi-choke pump action 12 ga for shooting birds

2 & 3.  Short barreled 12 ga pump actions for self-defense


1 & 2.  Full size 9mm semi-autos

3.  Full size .45 cal semi-auto (as a spare, in case of running low on 9mm ammo and finding some .45 cal)

4.  Medium barreled .357 revolver (can take .38 too of course, another spare for ammo reasons)

5.  Sub-compact .380 semi-auto for concealed carry

6.  .22 cal for plinking and training and fun

Add all that up, and you’re looking at a total of not four or eight, but 16 firearms (and I’m not saying that is all I have, either).  But does that make me a ‘gun nut’?  I’m not even sure what or who a gun nut is, but I do know that some people would consider having this many guns to be seriously threatening.  It isn’t seriously threatening, it is just prudently preparing for a wide range of possible futures, especially to do with ammunition shortages.

I also read your comment about duplicate guns in case of failures.  That’s a good point – maybe I need to double up?  And as for how much ammo to store, that’s a good question too!

Anyway, thanks for the article.  I hope my comments add further to the discussion.

Apr 292012

The entrance to 'survivalist' Peter Keller's underground quarters

There was a time when preppers used to call themselves survivalists.

But the main stream media took over this term and used it so overwhelmingly negatively, that to call oneself a survivalist immediately branded one as an anti-social, Aryan-nation, racist, government hating, tax-evading, fundamentalist, dangerous extremist who was plotting to overthrow our country’s government by force.  (Did we leave any negative adjectives out?)

Here’s the latest example – a man allegedly killed his wife and daughter then hightailed it to his hidey-hole in the woods.  But does the newspaper headline describe him as a murderer on the run?  Nope, the headline calls him a survivalist, and the lead photo shows a picture of his underground lair’s main entrance door.

The clear implication – ‘survivalist’ and ‘murderer’ are synonymous terms.

So we now call ourselves Preppers – people who prudently prepare for possible problems in the future.  How long will it be before the main stream media starts painting all the extreme loony-toons types as preppers rather than as survivalists (most journalists haven’t yet realized we’ve changed the name we use to describe our beliefs, values, and actions)?

The thing is that the people who were, from time to time, sensationally described in newspaper headlines and breaking news reports on television as survivalists never were ‘real’ survivalists.

Good survivalists might have some disagreements with the present government and some of the social engineering it conducts, but they’d never dream of actively resisting the government other than at the ballot box and through lawful lobbying.

Good survivalists might occasionally have arguments with neighbors and also family members, but they’d never dream of murdering them.

Good survivalists might plan, prepare, and even construct a retreat somewhere as a refuge subsequent to a massive collapse in society, and they’d even hope it to be a place of comparative safety in such a situation, but they’d never in their wildest dreams think it to be a place they could hide away in at present, and resist being found by the lawful authorities.  Furthermore, they’d doubly never never dream that if they were found, they could safely hunker down and not get captured.

But anti-social loony-toons will do all these things.  Why does the press then over-generalize and say ‘this guy planned for future disasters, and was a loony-toon.  Therefore all people who plan for disasters are loony-toons?

That’s the same as saying ‘This guy votes Democrat (or Republican), and he also murdered his wife and children.  Therefore, everyone who votes Democrat (or Republican) also murders their wives and children too’.  Or, for another example, that’s the same as saying ‘This guy had a fatal accident and killed another motorist because he was drunk while driving his Toyota car.  Therefore all people who drive Toyota cars are dangerous drunk drivers.’

The flawed logic is the same in both cases.  But even though thousands of Democrat supporters commit murder each year, no-one suggests all Democrats are murderers.  Even though Toyota cars are involved in thousands of fatal accidents each year, no-one suggests that all Toyota drivers are dangerous.

Any sensible person understands and appreciates the need to conform to the laws of the society they live in, because they are also sensible enough to understand the consequences.  All sensible people realize that it is totally impossible to win against a confrontation with the country’s law enforcement forces.  This is as inevitable and certain whether it is the lone murderer written about in the article linked above up against a mix of 50+ different SWAT team members, or the entire 112 Branch Davidians in Waco Texas up against many hundreds of ATF, FBI, Texas Rangers and Texas National Guardsmen, with armaments up to and including two M1A1 Main Battle Tanks.

Furthermore, we suggest that Preppers are more sensible and more prudent than the average person.  If a person builds their life around being prudent, being cautious, being sensitive to future potential possibilities and negative outcomes, aren’t they the sort of person who is least likely to embark on risky and unlawful behavior that is absolutely guaranteed to lead to negative outcomes?

One more thing.  You may or may not choose to incorporate some prepping into your own lifestyle, but you should welcome the presence of preppers in your neighborhood, and you should befriend them.  When your food and water runs out, while delicious cooking smells are wafting across to you from your prepared neighbor; when you’re shivering in the cold and dark, while their lights are still on, aren’t you going to want to be best friends with the preppers next door?

It is unfortunate that the MSM have taken over the word ‘survivalist’ and re-purposed it to mean ‘crazy wacko violent loony-toon’, but now that they have, and now that we have a new term of our own – ‘prepper’, we probably should accept the difference.  Preppers are good, survivalists are bad.

Apr 202012

The media love using pictures of seized 'gun caches' (which, by the way, are usually completely legal to own) such as this to vilify preppers and 'survivalists'. Note also how the shotgun on the right has been broken down to look like three different guns to the uninitiated.

Being a prepper often attracts unfair negative media attention.

Perhaps one of the reasons that the concept of preparing for disasters attracts so much automatic negativity is because non-preppers feel a semi-conscious mix of guilt and envy at seeing other people prudently preparing for emergencies.

But rather than admit this truth, non-preppers seek ways to sneer at and denigrate their more prudent fellow citizens, and one thing which they love to attack is the fact that the preparations many people undertake involve – along with hundreds/thousands of other things – purchasing a number of firearms and a quantity of ammunition.

Why do preppers usually own guns (and sometimes what seems like a ridiculous number of them)?  Are they all gun freaks?  Or is there a more logical reason?

We suggest there are two reasons why preppers have guns.  The first is to secure food by hunting, and the second is self-defense.

If one is in some sort of circumstance where there is no food coming in to the supermarkets, what does one do?  One does one of three things.

The first option is the least appealing – one simply starves.  And – yes, it is true one doesn’t need any firearms in such a case.  To be blunt, this is the option that, like it or not, non-preppers risk if there is a major disruption to our food supply (although see the third option below for their other alternative).

The second option is the most positive – one goes out hunting and fishing.  For sure, fishing doesn’t require a gun, and again, for sure, growing fruit and vegetables doesn’t require a gun either, but raising fruit and vegetables is not something that you can instantly start any time you wish, and start harvesting food the very next day.  Most crops are seasonal, and some trees take years to mature.  Getting fruit and vegetables might take a year or more to come on-stream.

Although fishing and growing crops does not require any firearms, hunting does.  So, people who are anticipating the possibility of running out of food, or who wish to augment and extend the supplies they have stored, need firearms – and ammunition for their guns – to go hunting.

Which brings us to the third option people have when they find themselves without food.  This is one that, alas, many people will have no choice but to adopt.  If they don’t have food, and if they have no way to hunt or otherwise gather food, and if they don’t want to just sit down and die, what will they have to do?

Yes, they’ll attempt to take food from other people.  And, in fairness, there’s no time for morality when a person’s life is on the line, is there, so one can understand why they would do this.  Not only can one understand why people would do this, prudent people will also anticipate such occurrences and plan and prepare for them.

Which puts the people who prudently prepared for food shortages in a difficult position.  They probably barely have enough food for themselves – why should they have to share their food with the same people who formerly would jeer and sneer at them, and who refused to similarly stock up and prepare for future problems?  This question is even more relevant and hard to answer if, by sharing their food, they then risk their own ability to survive in the process.

Even in cases where people aren’t risking death by starvation and attempting to beg or take food by force, other ugly encounters are likely to arise.  In any type of social disruption, looters quickly appear and seek to pillage and destroy property.

Preppers become prime targets for looters as well as for starving people seeking food wherever they can find it.

And – guess what.  Most preppers probably don’t want to be victimized and to passively allow all their time, effort, energy and money invested in their preparations be destroyed or stolen from them.

So – why do preppers have guns?  Simple.  For survival – both in the form of hunting for food, and in the form of self-defense.

How Many Guns Are Enough

If you are preparing for such challenges yourself, you will quickly determine that you need to have more than one gun.  You need two rifles for hunting – a small-caliber rifle for small game and varmints, and a larger caliber one for full size animals such as deer.  You also might want a shotgun for ducks and other birds, and a pistol for convenient ever-present self-defense.  Your shotgun and your larger caliber rifle would also be used for self-defense purposes too.

So that is four guns for one person, as a minimum – and if you’re preparing for an extended period of emergency, you might want to double up in case a gun fails and needs to be replaced.  So now we are looking at eight firearms for one person, and remember this is still a  minimum quantity (even though it sounds like a huge number to some people).

That sure sounds like a lot, until you understand the reasoning behind it.  Guns are tools, with different guns being better for some tasks than others.  For a comparison, how many knives do you have in your kitchen?  All knives cut, just like all guns shoot.  But different knives are better or not so good for different tasks, so a professional cook typically has a ‘set’ of many different knives, from tiny boning knives up to huge meat cleavers.  Plus he has a few old knives that still stay in the drawer, even though they are no longer used, and he probably has a couple of other knives he bought but never uses because they weren’t as good as he thought they might be.

It is the same with guns – indeed, it is safer to have multiple guns, because then you can best select the most appropriate gun for each task and use it most appropriately.

So, if one person has eight guns (four main guns and four spares), how many for two people?  Two people would want to have eight guns plus maybe just one (rather than two) sets of four spares – 12 guns for two people.  Three people might call for 16 guns, and so on.  Happily there is no law against owning multiple firearms and no restriction on how many guns anyone can own, so why not get as many as are prudently needed for a range of different future tasks.

Next of course is the question of ammunition.  Ammunition is small and compact so doesn’t take up much storage space, and lasts a long time (definitely in excess of ten years, usually in excess of twenty years if stored reasonably well) and is reasonably inexpensive.

Ammunition is also an excellent trading good.  If two people meet during an emergency, they might decide to swap things that they each respectively either have spares of and need some of in return, and ammunition in common calibers is definitely something that has huge value as a trading item in troubled times.  So how much to store?

That is one of the big questions preppers have to confront with everything they choose to stock up on, of course.  In the case of ammunition, one single bullet might represent the ability to fell a deer, providing enough food for everyone present for a week, or to save a life in a confrontation, and by the same token, the lack of a bullet might mean starving or being overrun and subjugated by lawless marauding hordes of looters.

Each of the four guns will require a different caliber of ammunition, and within that caliber, there will be a range of different bullet shapes, weights, and styles.

It seems prudent to lay in a stock of some thousands of rounds of ammunition accordingly, in a mix of the four different calibers, and with a range of different bullet types (and shot shell types).  Ammunition isn’t a large cost item, doesn’t take up too much space, won’t need to be thrown away unused due to short storage life, and is a key component of assuring the ongoing safety and survival of the group of people owning it.

Are Too Many Guns Dangerous or Threatening?

The media love to talk about ‘survivalists’ having huge caches of weapons and hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition as if this implies some degree of crazed intent on the part of the person owning the guns and ammo.

There is an unspoken implication that a person with two guns is twice as dangerous as a person with one, and that a person with ten guns is ten times as dangerous.  The same strange math is applied to ammunition – a person with 1000 rounds of ammo is ‘obviously’ more dangerous than a person with 500 rounds, and a person with 5,000 rounds is even more dangerous again.

This is nonsense.  The reality is simple :

A person can only shoot one gun at a time, and the gun they are using can only shoot one bullet at a time.

Having two or ten guns doesn’t make a person any more dangerous than having only one gun.  If it did, our professional soldiers would be equipped with dozens of guns.  Professional soldiers only have one or sometimes two guns (ie rifle and pistol); the same is true of most police officers too.  If owning more guns did truly make a person more dangerous, maybe there would be laws against it.

It is the same as cars and petrol, perhaps.  A person can only drive one car at a time, and the one car he is driving only goes at a certain speed with a certain amount of power, no matter if the tank is full of gas or nearly empty.


While guns hopefully and happily play a small part of our ordinary day to day lives, if there should be a disruption to our lives and the society in which we live, we may need to return to the ways of our forefathers and rely on guns more than we need to at present.

Prudent people, preparing for possible problems in the future, will include guns in their preparations both for the ability to hunt food and for prudent self-protection.

If you’re not a prepper, you have nothing to fear from preppers with guns.  They won’t need to use them against you, because you, as a non-prepper, by definition, will have nothing they want or need.  You should instead be concerned about other non-preppers with weapons, who might believe you have something they want or need, whether it be something essential for survival such as food and shelter, or something as irrelevant as a big screen television.

Apr 102012

1950s school bomb drills were one way of prepping. Hopefully you adopt more effective methods.

Neither threat is new, but both have been uttered again this week, and with more vehemence than before.

Threat 1 :  Iran

Our good friends the Iranians (not!) are reputed to be preparing an army to launch against the US, waging war against the country’s infrastructure such as our power grid, water supplies, and other public infrastructure components.

But this ‘war’ would not be fought on American soil, and wouldn’t see combat between our troops and theirs.  This would be a cyber-war, with the Iranian forces being hackers rather than soldiers, and rather than risking their lives on US soil, they’d be attacking our systems from the comfort of their living room tables.

The results to us would be the same.  There’s no difference to us, as between dynamite bombs and logic bombs, when it comes to destroying the control system for a major power substation, a hydro-electric dam, or a water treatment facility.  If when we turn the tap, no water comes out, or if when we flip the switch, the light doesn’t go on, we’re identically affected, no matter what the cause.

More details about this threat here.

Threat 2 :  North Korea

The North Koreans also had a message of hate to share with us this week.  Their top soldier – their Army Chief of Staff – claimed they had unspecified weapons that could ‘defeat the US at a single blow’.

No-one is sure what this would be, and it may well be based more on rhetoric than real substance, but it isn’t a good feeling to have the top soldier of a country that is still technically at war with us to threaten to destroy us completely.

More details about this threat here.

Analysis and Comment

Modern warfare is totally different to that of 50 years ago.  Fifty and more years ago, warfare was low intensity, it occurred over an extended period of time, and the ultimate victory would almost invariably go to the country able to allocate the most men, money and industrial manufacturing to the conflict.

With the US having by far the strongest economy in the world, and one of the largest populations, it was able to field huge armies and both supply and resupply its armed forces at rates vastly greatly than any opposing forces.  Our ability to win any conflict that we fully committed to was close to assured.

But these days warfare is high intensity and can be all over and done with in a matter of minutes (if nuclear), or days/weeks (if conventional).  High intensity wars are not so dependent on a country’s economic strength or even its pool of available manpower, because the war is generally over and done with during the first round, based on the forces and material that the opposing sides have on day one of the conflict.

There is no time to induct and train up and deploy more troops, there is no time to start producing more planes, tanks, and ships.  The war has been won or lost well before then.

With the US running down the size of its standing forces, with it reducing not only the number of planes, tanks and warships, but also its stocks of missiles, bombs, and even bullets, we no longer have an unstoppable lead up front.  And even if we did survive the first round of a high intensity conflict, how long would it be before we could start resupplying?  How long does it take to build a new warship?  A year or more, sometimes five years or more.

How long does it take to build a new plane?  While a new plane only takes maybe a week on the assembly line, the real question is ‘how long does it take to build a new assembly line, and new factories to manufacture the sub-assemblies for the planes?  The answer there is again measured in years, not weeks or months.

The other feature of modern warfare is that it is like guerrilla warfare on steroids.  The key thing about guerrilla warfare is the imbalance of forces.  Traditionally, an attacking force needs to be two to three times the size of the defending force to win an encounter; with guerrilla warfare, tiny teams of men can tie up tens or hundreds of times more of the opposing force.

The concept of guerrilla warfare on steroids is that whereas before it would have taken a team of maybe ten special ops soldiers days or weeks to hit each target in enemy territory, and they would have been vulnerable to enemy countermeasures, now it takes only one clever hacker perhaps no more than a few hours to destroy the control systems for the target that previously would have been destroyed by tons of high explosive instead.  A hacker could wake up in his bed at home in the morning, then after breakfast work from his kitchen table.  By lunchtime he might have destroyed multiple high value enemy targets, then after a comfortable lunch, he could repeat the exercise again for the afternoon, never having personally put himself at risk.

These are the problems and these are the vulnerabilities the US now faces, totally like any threats of ever before.  Our military might – such as it may be these days – is powerless to protect us against a ‘suitcase nuke’ or a biotoxin strike or a remote hacker.

Oh – two more things.  First – this type of future war won’t be fought on a distant battlefield in a far-away foreign country.  For essentially the first time in our nation’s history, this war will be fought in the American homeland, and its casualties will be ordinary US citizens – people like you and me.

Second – the overall vulnerabilities of US society magnify the disruptive effects of attacks on our infrastructure.

The loss of power is more than no lights at home.  It means no power for the factories that make the food we eat, no power for the hospitals, and so on and so on (okay, to be exact, most hospitals have emergency power systems that provide unknown amounts of power, of unknown reliability, for unknown periods of time, but you get our point).

The New Great Equalizers

Back in the days of the wild west, the gun was referred to as the great equalizer.  No longer was the outcome of a fight dependent on the person with the greatest physical strength.  Even the puniest of men and the frailest of women could compete on equal terms, based not on physical prowess but instead on skill at arms with a gun.

Today we have two new great equalizers.  The first is computer hacking.  For the first time in our country’s history, threats to our national security do not require a stronger country with a more powerful economy and a larger army; any puny little country with a handful of clever computer hackers could potentially bring us to our knees more quickly than a super-power with a 10 million man army.

The second is the NBC threat :  Nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.  A drop of toxin in a city water supply, a suitcase nuke exploded downtown in the center of your city, or – worst of all – a single EMP pulse which could destroy most of the electronics and electrics of the entire country – these weapons are trickling down to smaller and smaller countries.

The ‘nuclear club’ of countries that possess nuclear weapons, once the exclusive preserve of the US, UK, France and USSR, is now getting crowded with around ten countries now having nuclear weapons, and plenty more working their way towards that goal.  And with tens of thousands of nuclear weapons ‘out there’ – particular those formerly belonging to the Soviet Union before it broke up, who’s not to say there are a few stray ones in the hands of evil doers.

Chemical and biological weapon capabilities are even more widespread.

Bottom Line

If it isn’t already obvious – our country is massively at risk of man-made disruption – of ‘The End of the World as We Know It’.

And with our fragile society and its lack of reserves and redundancies in supply lines and sources, any disruption will threaten much broader consequences.  Whether such disruptions might take three months or three years to resolve becomes irrelevant when society starts to collapse after three days of disruption and is completely destroyed after three weeks.

How long could you manage with no food, no water, and no utilities, and roving gangs of desperate citizens keen to take whatever you might still have from you, by force if necessary?

We need to be prepping.