Bug Out Vehicle (BOV)

One aspect of emergency preparedness is knowing when to vacate the home (bug out) and regroup at a safer location. To do so, many preparedness enthusiasts choose to create a purpose-made bug out vehicle to enable this relocation.

We here at Keep and Bear, LLC prefer to keep things realistic. That means unless fantasy vehicles are your hobby, odds are you’re not going to mod an old Deuce and a Half or store a Damnation Alley Landmaster in your back yard anticipating radioactive armored cockroaches.

The more measured approach is to select a vehicle that will serve in an emergency evacuation scenario, and will hopefully fit in with all your other daily needs. This can be difficult in some circumstances, such as needing a highly efficient vehicle for a long commute, that would fare poorly if roads became cluttered with debris.

Below are some considerations when selecting your next vehicle to have some BOV capability. The headings are not in ‘weighted’ order of importance.

Power

During the 2016 Fort McMurray Wildfire which enveloped nearly 1.5 million acres of land, many Canadians were forced to flee in vehicle. There are hours of harrowing Youtube footage showing a relatively orderly evacuation process. As seen in the video, vehicles were perilously close to the blaze. Certainly there were those who evacuated earlier, and those who came later at even greater danger.

One person who was interviewed regarding vehicles for this made the claim “larger pick up trucks with the ability to push stalled vehicles out of the way were more successful in escaping the situation”.

Independent of the nature of the emergency, stalled vehicles will be a problem. There will be those who didn’t gas up, or were at the low end of their fill cycle when the emergency hit. There will be people attempting to escape in vehicles that are not mechanically sound, but it’s all they have. These vehicles become problems for everyone behind them, and having a vehicle that can push things out of the way is a BOV must-have.

Terrain capability

The most frequent emergency travel conditions are weather related. The two threat components include wind and water. Wind is likely to blow down trees, cover roads with branches and debris, and make many rural or semi-rural routes impassable.

Depending on one’s location, water accumulation is likely to be another issue with roadways making them impassable.

New Hartford, IA June 9, 2008 – Heavy rains flooded this small town of 698 last night. The firechief’s high-suspension jeep is being used to shuttle residents to their homes so they can check damage and rescue their pets. Photo by Greg Henshall / FEMA

For either of these, vehicle ground clearance is important. The ability of the vehicle suspension to stay above debris and have the suspension travel to go over larger debris objects means a faster evacuation since one does not have to stop to deal with smaller obstacles.

There are full books written on good suspension systems as well as off-road capability, and very knowledgeable clubs devoted to doing so. Partake in these clubs! The vehicle does not have to be pushed hard or beaten to death, and modern trucks and off-road-intent SUVs can handle some significant terrain challenges. Understand your vehicle’s capabilities.

Water accumulation is especially hazardous since it can hide significant terrain features, such as a washed out road, sink hole, or sharp objects that will destroy tires. Furthermore, water entering the air intake system of the vehicle can hydrolock the engine. At best it is a time consuming fix, and at worst it can result in the engine’s destruction.

If one’s threat matrix has a high risk of flooding, a vehicle with a reasonable lift kit and a well-equipped snorkel system is a valid investment. The snorkel reroutes the vehicle air intake system through a snorkel that is usually 2-3 feet higher than stock. Well equipped snorkel systems also include routing axle breathers and in some cases exhaust pipes to a higher point on the vehicle.

One of the biggest factors in terrain capability is 4 wheel drive. In reality, 4WD is actually one rear wheel and one front wheel providing propulsion. With some modern trucks, electronic locking is available to ensure both rear and/or front wheels spin. 4WD is one of the most important factors that should be considered in a BOV.

Access for tools

If road debris is very likely (and it is), then getting at the tools to clear the path becomes important. Having a chainsaw, gas, a couple shovels, and some utility straps or chains readily accessible will make an evac go more quickly. Pick up trucks with a bed divider can help ensure the stuff you need right away is conveniently accessible at the rear of the bed, while the not-as-important-for-an-evac stuff stays securely in place near the front of the bed.

This type of accessibility can be more difficult in other vehicles, such as a sedan or enclosed SUV. In these cases, plan on either using the trunk or a vacant rear seat, or in the case of an SUV a rear cargo area divider, if available, for tool access . The tools WILL get dirty and muddy and need to be put back in the vehicle interior. Try to keep in mind this is an emergency evacuation scenario and something that will clean up isn’t an immediate concern.

Your spare tire and changing equipment should be equally accessible. If you must remove multiple containers from the vehicle to get at the spare, it is time wasted that may be crucial in an evacuation.

Recovery

A BOV intent vehicle should have recovery points. These are the hooks you see on Jeep bumpers or the D-shackles on some aftermarket offroad bumpers. All vehicles have tie-down points to facilitate shipping. Know where yours are and ensure they can be used as a recovery point if stuck. If you modify them, ensure they are rated for 3-4 times the vehicle weight.

This vehicle has aftermarket recovery points (the D shackles) and a winch.

A winch helps ensure the vehicle can self-recover if it becomes stuck. It consists of a high torque motor and spool which reels in a steel or synthetic (better) cable. Winching is an involved skill to do successfully and safely, and should be a part of your training. Again, get involved, even if only briefly, with an offroad club or take a class in this.

Vehicle reliability

We need it to go. Period. The vehicle must operate as intended when we ask it to. Most modern vehicles are quite reliable. While some have interesting quirks, they shouldn’t let you down. In the truck arena, Toyota is generally considered to reign supreme with the Tacoma and Tundra, though Ford and Chevy still make the list.

Along with reliability in design, regular maintenance is a must to ensure your BOV will perform as intended when you ask it to. We all tend to ‘get to that repair’ at some point, while eking out as much value from the vehicle as we can, but if you have a vehicle that will be intent as the family BOV, stay on top of its maintenance.

Ensure your vehicle has a full size spare. ‘Donuts’ (small spare tires designed to accommodate up to 50 miles or travel at low speeds) are utterly unreliable in an evacuation scenario.

Hauling capacity

Depending on the nature of an evacuation, you might be hauling a lot of stuff, or your go-bags only. A well-prepared go-bag is essential, but if you can save even more stuff from damage, you’ll do it. A BOV with hauling capacity facilitates this.

The first factor in hauling capacity is the weight/volume in the vehicle and its bed (if applicable). A Chevy Silverado Crew Cab bed has 72 cubic feet of cargo space and can bear nearly 2000 pounds of weight. A Toyota Tacoma bed approaches 37 cubic feet in volume and an bear 1175 pounds. For a hasty evac, either of these are sufficient to haul the ‘what you can grab’ items. For an evac with significant forewarning, more items might be removable.

For that, the tow rating of a BOV can be important. A trailer for extra gear, or better yet a camper or enclosed trailer with some living accommodation helps ensure you will have lodging, even if hotels are full. Most half-ton trucks (the compact trucks such as the Colorado, Ranger, and Tacoma) can tow approximately 7000 pounds maximum. Full size pickups can tow a typical 9500 pounds or so. These are maximums and if terrain and debris are a factor, the truck/trailer combination may not be capable of traversing the exit route.

For a decent blend of transporting volume and having livable space, the hobby of “overlanding” (motorized exploration travel, think backpacking from your vehicle) has produced many trailers that double as equipment storage, a galley, and a sleeping area via roof top tent. These types of trailers might be an excellent blend of utility and bug-out capability. (It’s also a growing and rewarding hobby…)

Mileage and range

Before the late 2010’s, we’d have to agree that vehicle mileage was the sacrificial lamb in these considerations. All of the characteristics that make a good bug out vehicle are typically not so good on gas mileage. But with manufacturers upping their fuel economy games, this is not as true as before. The Chevy Colorado with diesel engine can get 28 mpg. The full size Ford F-150 can get similar highway efficiency.

New non-diesel trucks are still capable of 22 mpg combined, which is a reasonable bump from just 2 decades ago.

Mileage and fuel capacity culminate in ‘range’, the total distance a vehicle can go without refueling. Some smaller vehicles sacrifice fuel capacity for mileage. Trucks typically do not. For a new vehicle shopper with BOV-intent, some vehicles offer multiple size fuel tanks. Get the larger one.

A Chevy Suburban only gets 19 mpg combined, but with its 31 gallon fuel tank, gets a range of 589 miles. A Chevy Colorado with diesel tops out at 580 miles range. A Ford F-150 diesel has a combined mileage of 24 mpg. With the available 36 gallon fuel tank, this yields a staggering range of over 800 miles.

It is important to remember that an evac situation will most likely not yield this kind of mileage. Getting 1/2 the anticipated mileage is close to worst case.

Mechanical vs Electronics

There is a LOT of talk about BOVs being as mechanical as you can get them. Carburators, manual transmissions, virtually no electronics… There are a lot of old school survivalists that swear by old vehicles that are still on the road. The notion is that mechanics are more reliable than electronics.

A lot of this can be confusion over causality, though. Newer vehicles with thinner metals increase efficiency, but make them less tolerant to rusting. Massive heavy engines made from recycled anvils are phenomenal for longevity, but don’t really help efficiency. Crush zones on vehicles that make occupants far safer means vehicles will be declared totaled with a lower threshold of damage than their Ford Flintstone counterparts. There’s a lot of reason there seems to be more older cars on the road than old ‘newer’ cars.

Electronics does not automatically equate to unreliability. Due to electronics vehicles have more power than ever using less fuel than ever to achieve it. Yes, electrical issues can be harder to pin down, but the free market is providing with things like OBD2 bluetooth devices that let you read trouble codes from an app. The shadetree mechanic is evolving with vehicle technology.

Muh Eee Emmm Peees!

An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is a phenomenon resultant from a nuclear blast or possibly an intense and targeted coronal mass ejection (stuff from the sun jettisons away from the sun and hits Earth). Preparedness enthusiasts tend to keep this idea in the back of their mind, as even a rudimentary nuclear device can produce a substantial EMP. If such a device is detonated far overhead, the coverage area of a single EMP can be significant. EMPs are measured in volts per meter of open space, meaning that two points, 1 meter away, could have a voltage drop of 20 kilo-volts or more. Considering most solid state electronics are rated for not more than 50 volts, the idea that all electronics will be fried is a common one.

Many BOV builders prefer all-mechanical systems just for this eventuality. Many store extra electrical parts (such as spark plugs, condensers, computer modules, and more) in a Faraday cage (an enclosure meant to attenuate an EMP charge).

The reality of an EMP is that they do exist, though the risk is extremely low. The Carrington Event of the late 1800’s disrupted telegraph communications. It is important to remember that telegraph lines in those days were unshielded, and there was no real idea that such a phenomenon existed. Modern vehicles have decent hardening and shielding in place, and the vehicle itself is not a long antenna (meaning, it doesn’t have a large area in which to absorb EMP energy). Fantasy preppers believe most vehicles will fry. Engineers who test for electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) immunity aren’t so sure that the vehicle body and internal circuit hardening (usually properly placed ceramic capacitors) won’t provide sufficient shielding to allow the vehicle to run after an EMP strike.

If EMP is on your “I’m concerned” list, storing extra parts for your vehicle in a proper Faraday cage will be important. (Dismiss anyone telling you that a microwave oven or a shipping container are suitable Faraday cages. They are not.) Discussing your concerns with a qualified mechanic who can identify absolutely critical systems to making your vehicle run will be worth it.

And back to reality

The reality is that 90% of all threat events will be shelter at home. For the remainder, when the home is not an option, we need to have a safe, effective, and capable vehicle to get us away from the threat and to safety, however far that may be. While everyone’s needs may vary, it is hard to argue against a mid or full sized pick up truck with 4×4 as a suitable BOV. The platform offers extensive modification capability (there are custom mods out there for virtually any application) to ensure your vehicle is appropriate to your needs. With significant payload and towing capability, a fair amount of personal property can be saved. Depending on the nature of the threat, modern vehicle travel ranges can put your family well outside the area of effect on a single tank of fuel.

Maintenance: The not-so-glamorous byproduct of preparedness

There’s a thrill coming home with a new firearm, a new pack, a new radio, etc. Preparedness aficionados love new gear associated with their lifestyle just as much as a golfer loves his new putter or your rich dentist loves his new Corvette on track day.

Even before the thrill of coming home with New Toy, we tend to have a great time comparing specs, reading reviews, and optimizing our kit for its intended role. What optics will work best on the new Glock? What kind of range can I expect from this Yaesu handheld? What’s the best steel for my new pocket folder?

What is not as glamorous or exciting is the maintenance required for such things… For most, it isn’t even considered. But, with each piece of new gear, we must carefully ascertain maintenance needs it will require.

Preparedness must be as much about the learning of, and maintenance of gear, as it is acquiring new gear or new skills.

I recently moved to a 13 acre parcel of land in the ‘far suburbs’. This was done to get away from HOAs, provide a more semi-rural experience for my son, and to start down a more self-resilient lifestyle. I am slowly doing that.

In this effort, I needed to get a compact utility tractor. This is the class of tractors that have a front end loader, and can pull basic ground-engaging implements like rakes, rotary cutters, a rear blade, and more. It was the most phenomenal New Toy I’ve ever purchased, and it changed my capabilities from “I’ll never be able to get that done” to “Eh, gimme 10 minutes…”. In the first year of ownership, I cleared well over an acre of very heavy underbrush in an ancient apple orchard to a cleared area with the apple trees remaining. This year, I’ll likely clear another couple acres. I also cleared snow from my 0.33 mile driveway and private road, moved multiple cords of firewood, and more.

To a preparedness enthusiast (I despise the word ‘prepper’) this tractor represents so much capability to turn my land into an investment that will serve my family and further my goals to a resilient lifestyle. Running it is fun, getting work done on it is beneficial, and the experiences of doing these things ourselves is very fulfilling. Imparting this can-do mentality to my son is priceless.

The tractor takes maintenance. Every year I have to change oil, oil filters, check hydraulic fluid, grease over a dozen joints, adjust settings, clean air filters, and more. Every few years I have to change over 10 gallons of hydraulic fluid and a filter, bleed these systems, maintain the diesel filters, and other things. The attachments need basic maintenance as well. It doesn’t take a ton of time to do any one of these things, but it does take some. Doing them all can be a day of work.

Likewise, I have that handheld Yaesu radio in my pack as well as a backup battery for my smartphone. I have to remember to keep them charged. The optics on my bug out rifle? I need to test them and swap batteries at regular intervals. Got your water bottle full on your Get Home Bag? How long is that good for?

Organizing maintenance

If you’ve taken our Emergency Preparedness 1 class, you’ll remember that each threat component should have a corresponding matrix of activities. (If you haven’t taken our Emergency Preparedness 1 class, take this time to sign up here.) In each category, we do a pre-threat rundown on things to get, get trained on, and maintain so you’re prepared for an event. The maintenance must be part of that pre-threat rundown.

Power failure threat matrix

Here is a page from my threat matrix for power failure. As an aside, I am still working on my threat matrices as well since I moved, and am using it as an opportunity to learn Microsoft OneNote. OneNote is an excellent program for data organization and after the ‘structure’ of the program is understood, is intuitive and versatile. As I transpose info from my previous Excel sheets and reassess for my new home, I am populating more in this OneNote file.

In my Power Failure threat matrix, my task of “Ensure flashlights remain charged” is a daily, weekly, and semiannual task. Why? My tactical flashlight gets tested every morning as I put it in my pocket. Just a short on/off to ensure it works. Weekly, my bedside flashlight gets recharged. Semiannually, the batteries in these get replaced whether they need it or not. These entries in my threat matrix get added to a Maintenance page in the program where they are all listed out; all maintenance items from all tabs. I then have a Log tab where I record what I did for each (though I tend to keep daily and weekly items off it, just too much documentation for no benefit).

Once the threat matrices are complete for all threat components, we’re left with a list of what items require maintenance. Having this list is nice, but we still have to make it a part of our routine.

I’ve opted to use Microsoft To-Do on my iPhone. It allows for tasks, subtasks, recurring tasks, and more. It is comprehensive enough for in-depth task details but still very user friendly. Microsoft did a great job with this. If you have a preferred task manager that you use, go for it. I highly recommend one that allows recurring tasks, though, since that is the objective of this exercise.

Screenshot of Microsoft To-Do task manager

It can take some time creating useful To-Do’s from each maintenance item, but once they’re in your list, it is far easier to make emergency preparedness maintenance items a part of your routine.

Another important thing to remember is to create a Go-Bag or Get-Home-Bag inventory as well, and ensure you have covered maintenance items from that. In my GHB, I have the Yaesu handheld radio, as well as a battery back up for my iPhone. I have the recurring task of charging these weekly. I have some freeze-dry food that I swap out annually, and a water bottle that I cycle the water on weekly (it is not commercially sealed). In my full Bug out Bag I have more items, including testing and swapping optics and sights batteries.

Take away:

Is any of this as glamorous as posting your new AR-15? No. Is it as cool as Instagramming yourself eating a grub or bowdrilling a fire? We prepare to help ensure an uncertain future is at least a stable future through risk reduction. As such, it is just as important to pay attention to upkeep on the preps you already have as it is to get new preps. Without proper maintenance, your preps are in an uncertain state. Just like the condition we are hoping to avoid.

Precious metals in a post-SHTF economy

This topic has come up more frequently as people watch the current hyperinflation situation in Venezuela. The concern is “how can I still have money and the things I need even if the money system has failed?” For family leaders who want to ensure their circle’s well being, this is an understandable concern and a topic worthy of discussion. Often, gold and silver are looked to to maintain buying power in a disaster. But is it the case?

First, understanding what is happening with the money is important. To do this, a basic understanding of economics is required. Imagine a good or service that is “fixed” in value. Supply and demand do not waver, and the process to make it is constant. If this “ideal good” value is fixed, then any price changes are entirely due to fluctuations in the value of the money used to purchase it. Likewise, imagine an “ideal currency”, which does not change in value at all. Any fluctuations in a product’s price can be entirely attributed to changes in its supply and demand.

In economics, the value of one is usually fixed so that the other can be studied. In the real world, neither is fixed. The value of currency is going up/down and the supply and demand of a good is going up/down.

In Venezuela, hyperinflation is occurring. The population has lost faith in its money, while goods and services continue to rise in cost. When money is measured by weight and not by face value, there’s a problem. This picture shows a street in Caracas literally littered with useless money.

Proponents of precious metals will often tell you that gold and silver are a great way to protect against this. They are partially correct. Physically held gold and silver (avoid certificates which ‘claim ownership’ of precious metals held at a remote vault somewhere) are an excellent hedge against inflation and hyperinflation. After the hyperinflation event when the currency is stabilized or a new currency introduced, the value of gold and silver is likely to have about the same value after the event that it had before the event. In other words, if you had about $20k (in US dollars) worth of silver before the Venezuelan bolivar started tanking, and the new money introduced after the regime change (maybe the nuevo bolivar?) is stable, after you sell your precious metals you’ll have about $20k USD in the new currency (minus transaction costs, and assuming the price of silver remained relatively unchanged). Wealth retention.

Money is important because it is wealth representation in between trades. It is ‘potential goods/services’. If you have 2 rifles and need 3 pigs and a goat, the odds of finding a guy with 3 pigs and a goat that also needs 2 rifles is minuscule. If you and a buyer of rifles agree that money is ‘wealth potential’ AND you and the pig and goat seller agree money is ‘wealth potential’, then the transaction can occur.

The issue is that most people do not understand the ‘wealth potential’ of precious metals, and as such seek to avoid using it. If you weren’t a diamond expert and someone tries to trade you a diamond, would you trade 3 rifles and 200 rounds of ammo for it? If you can’t tell the difference between a diamond and an old Coke bottle shard that someone worked over with a Dremel, odds are you would not make the transaction. To make a during-SHTF trade, you would need:

  • An item you have extra of, worth trading.
  • Finding a person needing that item.
  • Peaceably making contact to conduct the trade.
  • An agreed upon medium of trade (currency or other goods).
A pile of old circulated worn collectible silver dimes and quarters. Could be used for silver bullion themes as well. Taken with a Canon 7D DSLR.

A lot of prepper fantasy involves people quickly and seamlessly transitioning from a common currency into “silver face” (the face value of the older 90% silver coins that used to be US currency). Using non-collectable pre-1964 dimes and other partial silver currency. The idea is that somehow normalcy will be maintained during a SHTF event (shit hits the fan) despite the USD demise. In reality, silver face has minimal ‘wealth potential’ recognition outside of preparedness circles.

Now that the mechanism of money has been discussed, the topic of goods and services must be discussed. Assuming a common currency between a buyer and seller of an item has been established, a during-SHTF analysis of goods and services must be done.

After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred, the firearm industry experienced a ‘SHTF’ scenario as people feared government would ban the AR-15 (and other defensive carbines), magazines, and ammunition for it. The demand for these items increased significantly, and manufacturers could not meet it, causing a reduction in supply. An AR-15 PMag, the $15-bill of the gun world, suddenly jumped in price to $100, and were still not available on the market.

Before every major snowstorm in Michigan, families gas up the SUV and buy all the bread and milk. The shelves are bare. This is a mere local event with minimal long term potential for disruption.

One story from Venezuela is a family selling a 2 ounce gold family heirloom ring. As of today (08APR2019), that would be $2600 USD. The family got 3 weeks of food and water for this ring, and counted themselves fortunate they found someone able to make the trade. A ‘thrifty’ food cost for 3 weeks in the USA is about $400 for a family of 4. The food was 6.5 times higher in cost, but for the price, it was available using this mode of payment.

At this point, it is challenging to find someone willing to trade a good or service for bolivars, regardless of quantity. Food is unavailable for this currency.

The fact is, that even with an agreed upon currency, the supply of goods is usually highly limited or completely nonexistent. The lack of supply, and presence of significant demand, coupled with a near-worthless currency, is the nightmare scenario of hyperinflation.

In short, precious metals can be used during-SHTF, but one must expect a commensurate increase in the cost of goods and that they will not be getting good value for their money. If developing a family preparedness strategy, precious metals have their place in investment, but food, water, the means of resiliency, protection (both use of force training as well as medical training) most likely far outweigh the priority of investing in precious metals. It should be well-understood that this investment is largely for post-SHTF recovery and not during-SHTF versatility.

Bomb cyclones and polar vortices

Michigan has had some rough weather the past few weeks. This is the sort of thing that is actual Emergency Preparedness, but isn’t as glamorous as the Whisperers coming for you and Negan has escaped. Nonetheless, late winter has been a real opportunity to put preps into practice.

In late January, a polar vortex enveloped Michigan. In short, the super cold air of the Arctic was pulled lower by pressure zones, bringing us dangerously bone chilling temperatures and wind chill. Temperatures reached as low as -18F in southeastern Michigan with -45F windchill. Demand for natural gas was so high that, coupled with a pump failure at the utility, we were supposed to reduce our demand for gas by lowering thermostats.

Preps for this include many things. It’s never a good idea to be solely dependent on one heat source. With natural gas supply compromised, having a propane heater or other source and fuel is incredibly important as a back up. Equally important is the ability to cordon off a room to heat a smaller volume.

Freezing pipes, frozen car radiators, cracked windows, collapsed roofs, and many more cold-related issues all had to be dealt with. What if one of these compromised the home? Do you know how to shut off the water? Do you have something to cover the windows? Do you have a back up place to go?

Obviously the time to deal with all this is before it happens, so that when it does, you’re running through a procedure instead of developing it as you go.

This past weekend we were treated to the howling winds of a ‘bomb cyclone’. I’m not sure who is creating these terms, but I bet that a ‘sharknado’ is also on his credits-list.

With winds regularly above 30 mph and gusts in the 50 mph range, the potential for severe damage was evident. Of main concern was structural damage to houses from sustained wind speed or tree impacts.

Preparations for this include ensuring your kid’s trampoline is staked down or put away before it decapitates the neighbor’s house. Cutting down at-risk trees, albeit undesirable for some, is important. The ancient tree planted when great great Aunt Martha was born is a great monument, but if it’s had better days, it’s time to ensure it doesn’t interfere with your better days.

Additional preps include ensuring you have building materials on hand such as plywood to cover broken windows, the tools to put it up, knowledge of chainsaw use to cut up trees obstructing emergency exits, etc.

A side effect to this kind of wind is widespread power failure. A threat event can bring multiple threat components. I won’t go over the preps for these because every Michigander already knows them. Time to enact them though!

If you would like help structuring your preparations for events such as these, want to run by considerations for them, or have your plan assessed by K&B instructors and alumni, write us at info@keepandbearllc.com and we can help.

Intro courses: An AWESOME responsibility

February was our opening month for the 2019 training season and we couldn’t be more happy with our start. Our Essential Handgun class is our “first time shooter” and even a “not yet a shooter” course and is designed to make newcomers to this activity feel safe and comfortable as they transition from fear/anxiety over something new, to respect for something well understood. When we designed this course, we didn’t look at the basics: we started at our top level courses and worked our way back.

“Training you forward” is what we do in this course. We hope to see each student move on to get their concealed pistol license, and the intermediate/advanced training that comes after it. With this hope, we ensure that what we teach in the basic class integrates with what will be taught in the advanced classes. Have you ever taken an advanced class in something and spent the day de-programming bad muscle memory or understanding with something new? It happens to all of us at some point. And while that day wasn’t the growth opportunity it could have been while you de-programmed a bad habit, it did eventually get you to the next level. What if you never had bad programming to begin with?

“Begin with the end in mind.”

Habit 2 of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People -Steven Covey.

In our Intermediate Handgun 1 course, we instruct multiple targets and multiple target zones (many bad guys and where to shoot at on them). Near the end, we add “no shoot” targets which may vary in consequence to engage the shooter in problem solving. In our Intermediate Handgun 2 course, we add in close contact and making-distance drills. This is MANY steps removed from the basics of Essential Handgun, but the standard rule of firearm safety “Be aware of your target and what is beyond it” as normally taught improves to “Be aware of your target, what is in front of it, and what is beyond it”. If you just got done palm-fisting bad guy’s nose as you make distance to shoot and your support hand is still in front of you, it’s a good idea to be aware of what is in front of your target so you’re not retrieving your own digits from the ground. Impressing these ideas initially adds to the student’s awareness of the safety topics, and prepares him for what lies ahead.

Technique is the proficiency in which one executes fundamental movements to create application.

-Don Alley, Keep and Bear, LLC.

A couple definitions here…

Technique is the ability of a person to perform a task. It improves with practice, it needs renewal with lack of practice, and it gets sloppy when exhaustion sets in.

Application is the activity being performed. The drill. The martial arts sequence. The ‘subroutine’ needed to execute a particular objective.

Fixing technique is one of our primary activities in our Intermediate Handgun courses because technique was never effectively acquired earlier on. This is NOT a dig on any student. They are in class, and that makes them a rock star in our minds. But, it’s hard for someone to move and shoot when their shooting stance is business casual. It’s hard to get follow up shots when they’re leaning away from the pistol and not into it.

Essential Handgun lets us get these more optimized sooner so they can get plugged right in to the application. With a solid isosceles or fighting stance, moving and shooting is one less step (going from a rather undefined stance to a “oh, I have to move now?” stance, and then into a movable stance). Leaning into the stance slightly helps mitigate recoil which helps for faster follow up shots. Building these fundamentals in early is always the right thing to do to avoid relearning.

An AWESOME responsibility

We designed every aspect of Essential Handgun around our later courses. From terminology needed, function understanding of the firearm, some legalities of ownership, and more. Every slide is scrutinized with “how does this help our student’s understanding?”. Every slide is about them.

We love watching our students gain understanding and grow confident in their technique. We love watching the light bulb turn on as one idea leads to many possibilities or conclusions. We love watching them ingrain a safety mindset in how they operate and handle firearms, and we love the sense of empowerment they leave with. This is never self-righteous “I know about guns” smugness, but the solid reassurance that they accomplished something that was an anxiety for them pre-class.

Our joy is in their continued safety and accomplishment.

Vehicle emergency kit (Winter)

I was out of town for the holiday break. Coming back to Michigan, we encountered very slick roads, and witnessed 10 cars off the road.

We have an emergency preparedness class for a reason. That reason is that 99% of all threat we face is not interpersonal conflict, it’s us against some condition or event.

Did these people have a charged phone to call for help? (I was driving slow enough to see a glow from each vehicle, presumably their phones while calls were made). Did they have cold weather gear or at least a blanket for each occupant?

How long was their wait until the overtaxed tow-services could get to them?

These are the reasons we prepare. Not just for bad guy with a gun, but so good guys stay safe and keep their families safe.

So what goes into a vehicle kit for the winter? Start with this list:

Vehicle needs:
Ice scraper/brush.
Extra windshield fluid.
Jumper cables.
Air compressor and tire gauge.
Tire replacement tools (jack, lug wrench, etc).
Foam tire sealant.
Fire extinguisher.
Basic tool kit.
Reflective markers and vest (yes, really).
Work gloves and safety glasses.
Tow strap.
Sand or kitty litter for traction. (Or MaxTrax).
Shovel.
Headlamp (with spare Li Ion batteries).

Shelter:
(Assumes occupants already have winter jackets.)
Blanket for each occupant.
Mittens and boots for each occupant.
Lighter, matches, and at least 3 tea candles.

Hydration/Nutrition:
At least 1 bottle of water per occupant.
At least 1000 calories / occupant in energy bars.

Rescue/Mitigation:
Spare cash (approx $300() for towing/hotel, repair.
Phone charger and cable.
GPS (if not in phone).
Paper maps.
Vehicle first aid kit.




Evolution of carry gun choices

I received my concealed carry license in 2001. In Michigan, that was about the earliest it could be obtained unless you had some serious connections that caused the gun board to vote for you. This means I’ve been a concealed carrier for 17 years, and diligently carry wherever possible.

In that time, I’ve learned quite a bit about what makes a good carry gun for me and my lifestyle. In parallel, the nation has become more shall-issue state to state, causing the gun industry to ramp up selections for this enthusiastic market segment.

This article really deals more with rationale, experiences, and evolving needs and understanding than it does with grams, muzzle velocity, and technical stuff. Sure, a lot of that helped make the choices of carry guns, but very few people hold up a spec sheet side-by-side and pick solely off that.

My first carry gun: the Beretta 92 FS

This was actually my first pistol purchase made 10 years earlier, and was not purchased with the intent of a CPL-intent sidearm. It was a range gun, and I liked the looks, I liked the heft, and I liked that it was the military M9 with associated testing to verify it. When my little blue card arrived letting me know that my right to carry had been purchased back from the government, it was the only handgun in my collection suitable.

When most people think of concealed carry, the full framed Beretta 92 FS does not come to mind. It’s big, it’s bulky, the grip is thick, the slide is long. It is everything that a carry gun shouldn’t be… except reliable, accurate, manageable. Wait…

As a first carry gun, its mass was rather daunting. Coupled with concealed carry being a new thing in Michigan as well as me being a new carrier, I was certain this near-anvil chunk of metal was printing wildly on my side and causing my gait to list to port (I’m a lefty). Truth is, people are oblivious and I wasn’t printing hardly at all. The mass, though… That got me to thinking about something smaller. Much smaller.

My second carry gun: the Beretta 3032 Tomcat Inox

As much as I loved the Beretta 92 FS, I decided to stick with the brand for my next purchase. Keep in mind this was about 2002 and the huge array of concealed carry pistols were not out yet.

I caught some major grief from some friends at this choice, most from one particular friend that held the attitude that if it was not a Colt 1911 45ACP it was not actually a firearm. To him, this pistol was a sissy gun, and a weak sissy at that. To me, it was a relief from the very heavy 92 FS, the ability to concealed carry practically anywhere without fear of printing, and most importantly, a means to always have a firearm on me, whether dressed up, regular clothes, or in a pair of shorts while getting a Slurpee after mowing the lawn.

My argument was a 3032 Tomcat on my person was more powerful than a 45 in the dresser back home. I wasn’t wrong in this assessment, but the 32 ACP had some issues in the power department, and trusting one’s life to such a small caliber wasn’t the wisest thing out there.

At the time, 380’s were the compacts of choice, but coming off the 92 FS I wanted something more subcompact. I eventually sold this gun to fund my next concealed carry purchase…

The Heckler and Koch USP Compact 45

This gun was a dream come true. It was the sweet spot between the big ole 92FS and the small 3032. It was a beefy caliber. It shot like a dream, and the recoil was more of a long shove than a jumpy abrupt kick.

With the two magazine choices, I had the better feeling extended magazine and the shorter flush one, making this a great gun to take to the range and a comfortable one to shoot as well as carry.

The day comes when we all realize that the class to get the dumb blue card ill-prepared us for an actual altercation. For me, this day came in summer of 2004 during a traffic altercation. Another motorist decided he didn’t like my driving, and chose to express himself with the threat of violence.

I was fortunate to have been carrying that day, as I was in my old Jeep with no top and no doors and traffic was going nowhere. I was pinned in. Fortunately, the presence of the firearm proved to be enough of a visual deterrent that he followed orders to drop his baseball bat that he articulated he was going to kill me with and move on with his day. Needing training was now on my mind.

Later that year, I was winter camping solo and encountered a pack of wild dogs. Their modus operantdi seemed to include growling at people until they threw them food, watch as they scurried off, and then eat food. (I learned this later from some backpacking forum posts for that area.) Since I only had freeze dry, and I was not about to set up camp to entertain a pack of wild dogs while I prepared their lunch, the need to defend myself was evident. I drew the USP Compact 45, and put one right in front of what appeared to be their leader. This scared them off for a time, and effectively ended my trip since I didn’t want them coming back  while I was set up and possibly sleeping.

Getting some training

The next Spring I resolved I would get some training from a legitimate source. I managed to find that training and took a Handgun I and Handgun II course with round counts of 350-400 per day. This was common round counts in the pre-Sandy-Hook days of training. Classes had many drills with high reps per drill. It was here I realized that as much as I loved my 45, ammo costs for training were prohibitive.

To solve this issue, I took the training with my Beretta 92 FS. It may seem counter-intuitive to not ‘train like you fight’, but I felt it was more important to get the knowledge in a way I could afford rather than wait. I also took copious notes and trained in my 45 with those drills as I was able to afford.

Some big take aways were:

Ammunition capacity: With a loaded 92FS and 2 spare magazines, I had 46 shots available. With the USP Compact, I had 25 rounds. Nearly half.

Shooting dynamics: Anyone that says “I carry 45 because I only need to shoot once” is either really, really good, or they are a stupid idiot. Odds are generally on the latter. In an altercation, with all the stressors of conflict, the overload of senses, the worrying you’re doing the right thing, the determination this is last resort, the moving, potential bullets coming your way, trying to get cover, etc., you really aren’t going to hit what you’re aiming at unless it’s very close. Or unless you’ve really trained hard.  Capacity becomes your friend so you don;’t hear the dreaded ‘click’ on an empty mag.

After this training, I started to realize that the USP45C might not be the best choice. During the next couple years, strides in cartridge advancement started to close the 45 vs 9mm performance gap. After nearly a decade with the Heckler and Kock USP Compact 45 as my primary carry gun, it was time to make the transition.

The Heckler and Koch P30

The P30 in 9mm is the perfect firearm for the left handed. Ambi mag release, ambi slide lock lever, no external safety. With 46 shots on body (the loaded handgun and 2 spare mags), the P30 is a phenomenal shooter.

This firearm has been my daily carry for the past 6 years. I have approximately 10,000 rounds through it with multiple classes as a student and many as an instructor myself. It has not once malfunctioned on me. It is the cold, stoic, and reassuring friend that has my back, and I have never once doubted its performance.

That being said, I’ve never shot with it particularly well, and have had great difficulty in pinning down why. I always shoot slightly low, and slightly left. This is not a trigger position thing; I’ve tried adjusting this in a controlled manner. Follow up shots are tight, but consistently off. I’ve adjusted sights, and moved point of aim to achieve acceptable results, but still fail to get the groupings that I can easily achieve on my Beretta 92 FS or my USP Compact.

Reassess Constantly

This summer, when shooting at my home range with my son, we tried a few different drills. The first was double taps. With the P30, I was regularly 8 inches apart vertically and within 2 inches horizontally. With my 92 FS, I was regularly 2 inches apart vertically and negligible drift horizontally. This was approximately 30 double taps with each, with deliberate focus on control.

My next set of drills was a 30 yard shot. No timing, no constraints other than aim and shoot. At 30 yards, I was 18 inches off center with the P30. With the 92 FS, I was a mere 4 inches off center (both were low).

My last set of drills was one handed shooting at 10 yards, no time limit. I was on target (about a 1.5 inch grouping) with 15 shots with the 92 FS. When I performed this with the P30, my grouping was 3.25 inches with 15 shots. Both are within acceptable parameters for self defense needs.

During the nearly 20 year span of concealed carry, holsters have also made great strides. The days of leather-only holsters are long gone, with many kydex and performance plastic ones on the market that make large frame pistols far more manageable and concealable than the days of yore.

My experimentation showed I was a better shooter with the 92 FS. With that knowledge, I ordered a modern holster for it. The modern holster makes the large framed pistol easily concealable, the weight manageable, and printing minimal.

My current carry

My current daily carry is my Beretta 92 FS. It has some drawbacks which I understand. It is assuredly not on the same advancement level as the HK P30, and it is still a bit big for discrete carry everywhere. Added to this is a small Glock 43, for when the full frame pistol is not an option.

Between these two, I am covered for concealability vs capacity. But both operate as intended every time I ask. I shoot well with them both, and both serve their purpose.

Educated shooters will wonder Whiskey Tango Foxtrot at my choice, and they are certainly within the realm of reason to do so. But the gun is one part of the whole system, and with me as part of that system, the 92 FS seems to perform better. For me.

Honest assessment.


Unpopular opinion: You are responsible for your firearm

While visiting some popular sites, I came across a post that depicted an old refrigerator being repurposed as a gun cabinet. The only thing that alarmed me more than the stupid idea was the chorus of approvers of this stupid idea.

Yes, there are many technical reasons this is dumb. No fire protection, minimal ventilation, no place left for the Guinness, etc. But, most importantly, no LOCKING MECHANISM.

In the words of some NRA training material, “Your gun is always somewhere.” This can sound trivial, but it is true. When the firearm is not in your hand, it is where you left it.  If that place is an unlocked refrigerator, it’s on you if the firearm is subject to unauthorized access.

 In a perfect world, we should be able to lay a million dollars on the kitchen table in front of a picture window with the doors unlocked, and no one would ever come take our money. We do not live in a perfect world.

When we own something that can inflict dire consequence, such as a firearm, it is our responsibility as gun owners to control access to the firearm such that dire consequence is not unjustly visited upon ourselves or others.

Controlling firearm access is the owner’s responsibility. Even when he is not present.

Refrigerators are not made to be tamper-proof. Concealment of an object is not a reasonable approach to controlled access. It remains the gun owner’s moral responsibility to ensure due diligence in securing the firearm. Leaving a gun in the car and getting broken into and gun stolen is partially the gun owner’s fault. Leaving a defense gun on the nightstand while at work is partially the gun owner’s fault. Just as leaving it under the bed is, just as leaving a concealed carry gun in a bathroom stall is. Yes, a crime was committed to gain access to it, but access was indeed obtained.

Only when due diligence is demonstrated does the gun owner start to absolve himself. A stout gun safe. A bedside biometric safe. A locked box with securing cable in the car. These begin to demonstrate that the gun owner took reasonable precautions at controlled access. If the gun is obtained through these securing means through determined and appreciable action, the gun owner can ethically state his firearms were secure.

The last thing a responsible gun owner wants is to learn his gun caused harm to innocent people. Start storing it that way.

2019 Training Schedule

Hello BEARS! Our 2019 training schedule is official. We will be offering our Intermediate courses as well this year, so now is the time to get the prerequisites in!

Schedule:

February:

March:

April:

May:

June:

July:

August:

September:

October:

November:

Coupon Codes:

  • PROFICIENCY: This coupon code is for K&B Alumni that have taken a specific course offering and wish to re-take it to continue skill building. It is a deep 30% discount meant for returning students to a specific course, only.
  • K&B-ALUMNI: Alumni of one of our shooting courses (Essential Handgun, Michigan CPL, Intermediate Handgun 1, Intermediate Handgun 2, Martial Gunfighting) may take our Emergency Preparedness 1 and our Personal Protection class for FREE. Do not use this code unless you are an alumni of one of the listed courses.
  • EDUCATOR: An educator (public or private) of preschool, elementary school, middle school, or high school that is willing to take protective training for the purpose of being better able to protect our children will train with us for free. Offer is good for Essential Handgun, Michigan CPL, and Personal Protection courses. Proof of being an educator required prior to course start time.