Safe travels

With the holiday season approaching, many families will be setting out by car or mass transit to other destinations. Whether to escape the frigid winter or visit family, this escape from routine brings up a few questions to the protection and preparedness mindset. Here’s some common concerns…

IMPORTANT: We are not lawyers and we did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. It REMAINS the reader’s responsibility to determine the legalities of protection tools and actions in the various governing body regions in which they travel.

Can I take my handgun in my vehicle (no CPL)?

In general, the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986 created a “Safe Passage” clause in the US Code that allowed for interstate travel with a firearm (unloaded, not accessible to vehicle occupants). The stipulation was that if the firearm was legal to possess at the departure point, and legal to possess at the destination point, then the owner was immune to all strict gun control measures in between. This supposed that the “in between” did not include anything other than brief stops (food, gas, bio-breaks, overnight lodging as necessary).

It should be noted that many over-zealous legislatures and LEO’s have made stops on people, and pressed charges, based on characteristics of the firearm that were made illegal in state/municipality areas. Local laws such as magazine size restrictions, or other firearm features are often attempted to be prosecuted despite the safe passage laws.

If you are traveling, be sure to review the laws in each state you will be traveling through, as well as the levels in which states restrict the rights of the people. Know the laws, know the prescribed method of transport, and drive in such a manner that your “just passing through” goes unnoticed.

Can I take my handgun in my vehicle (with CPL)?

Because each state infringes on the Second Amendment to varying degrees, and because Concealed Pistol Licenses are handled at the state level, navigating where you can and cannot carry concealed with your CPL can be challenging. Many states have ‘reciprocity’ with one another: they will honor your CPL in their state since people from their state have theirs honored while visiting your state. Driver’s licenses enjoy this reciprocity state-to-state throughout the nation. CPL isn’t as encompassing, yet.

To start, look at every single state you will drive through. Then go to a website that is devoted to concealed carry reciprocity and see the results. DON’T STOP THERE. Trusting some web site isn’t the best move in the world. A good reciprocity map will have links to the attorney generals’ opinions from each state granting reciprocity. Review these carefully. Heck, even print them and put them in a small notebook. If you encounter a preference-enforcing government official, you will have access to the determination right there. At the very least, you will be able to demonstrate you did due-diligence before your travels.

IMPORTANT: You must carry concealed in a manner prescribed by the state you are in, and follow THEIR laws when carrying concealed. In Michigan, a “no gun” sign carries little legal weight. You must leave the premises if told to. In some states, that no-gun sign has rule of law. There are many other differences about where, when, and how concealed carry is permitted. You must know them all for each state you travel.

Big ole jet airliner… Flying with your firearm.

In public aircraft (not a private charter airplane), you may obviously not bring your firearm in carry-on with you. You must put in in checked baggage.

The TSA has this to say on the matter:

  • Firearms must be unloaded.
  • Firearms must be in a locked hard sided case. Only you should have the key.
  • Firearms must be declared to the airlines when checking the baggage.
  • Ammunition must be in checked baggage only.
  • Ammunition must be transported in a box designed to transport ammunition.

Similar to the “Safe Passage” rules above, the firearm must be legal to own at your departure point and at the landing point.

An interesting side note occurs when you must retrieve your baggage by exiting the secured area of the airport, getting baggage, then checking in to a connecting flight (say, 2 different airlines). There have been at least a couple instances were the authorities have been summoned because the firearm had characteristics not legal in that area. Depending on the political climate, this can be as simple as going on your way, or as complicated as “we will be making a lesson of you”.

If your flight has connections that require you to retrieve your checked baggage, understand the procedures for getting your baggage to the new check in area. If the flight is unanticipatedly diverted, talk to the airline crew once you exit the plane to make plans to have your carry-on moved by them, without you reclaiming it at baggage claim.

Always call ahead to your airlines to understand any accommodations that must be made by their policies. In a line at the airport is not a good place for a learn-as-you-go experience.

IMPORTANT: If you regularly use your trusty ole daypack as a range bag, and plan to use it as a carry on, spend a ridiculous amount of time ensuring there is no ammunition in the bag. Too many people are put in small rooms with uncomfortable chairs and subjected to questioning from officials from simply because of a few stray rounds of niner mike mike they didn’t shoot up last Saturday…

Do people still take trains?

Trains have a very similar policy as airlines. Firearms must be packaged appropriately, and in checked baggage. Amtrack has guidelines here.

International travel

The USA infringes on peoples’ firearm rights to a lesser extent than most other governments in the world. That being said, there are a number of countries that will honor your ability to own a firearm, though most will not honor your ability to carry it, concealed or otherwise. Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Panama, and South Africa have relatively easy to access CPL requirements.

First, before your departure, understand how to fly with your firearm. You’ll want to declare your firearm to Customs using the Form 4457 and get it signed. This helps your return to the US with that firearm as proof it was not acquired abroad.

Know where the US Embassy is when going abroad, and have that phone number recorded.

Knowledge and skills are not subject to laws

We regularly promote training beyond the gun. Everything from situational awareness to first aid courses to strong physical-level martial classes. These are where protection begins. Awareness gives you the much needed “heads up” something is amiss. Physical force gives you an edge no matter the type of conflict. Whether just confidence (there are nonverbal cues a person who knows how to handle himself gives off), the ability to repel a non-lethal attack, or the skills to get at your firearm in a mixed-force attack, martial skills come into play across the entire use of force spectrum.

These skills prepare you for interpersonal conflict. These cannot be outlawed (knowledge cannot be contained by any government entity). They cannot be seized at the border, and they do not rely on the possession of a thing in order to work (though weapons enhance these skills).

2019 In The Books!

We (Berge and Don) have had an amazing year with the opportunity to train some of the finest peaceable and responsible students. We are regularly honored and humbled at the trust you, our students, place in us. The skills we practice in are life and death, readiness for an encounter, preparedness for when bad things happen, and so much more. We do not take our roles in this regard lightly, and we both draw from our knowledge, training, and experiences to deliver you the most up to date, and grounded in reality information we can.

We had an excellent shooting season! Our classes were small enough (we do not want to be a 30+ student classroom) to be able to provide a very favorable instructor to student ratio which really allowed us to focus in on the drills being presented and the foundational skills necessary to master them.

In addition to a great shooting season, this year we had record attendance in our martial offerings (Personal Protection and Tactical Tomahawk) and our Emergency Preparedness (EP 1 and EP2) offerings, with our alumni stepping up to use our coupon codes. We are very thankful for this! The threats we face as Michigan individuals and families isn’t always a lethal force encounter, and isn’t even always an interpersonal conflict.

As we look to 2020, we will be offering more classes, with a return of our Intermediate Handgun series (levels 1 and 2), and a level 3 series of our Emergency Preparedness course later in the year.

Join us!

30-Day Preparedness Challenge: Day 2

Welcome to the Keep and Bear, LLC 30 Day Preparedness Challenge! We are on Day 2. If you are just joining us, please go to the intro post to learn more.

The purpose of this ‘challenge’ is to provide a paced and measured plan to fulfill some basic family preparedness needs. These needs are real-world, and applicable to the average family.

The below headings are the main survival priorities.

Positive Mental Attitude

In the Day 1 post, the task was to pick a book relating to positive mental attitude. To expand on that, it can be a book on success or mental improvement, such as the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (a great resource), but it can also be about developing mental tenacity. If you haven’t already, google “books on positive mental attitude” or “books on success” and pick one you are interested in.

TASK: Read at least one chapter in your PMA book.


In the Day 1 post, the task was to determine if your inventories included at least a decent dust/particulate mask for you and your family. There was also a reference to a decent explanation on different masks and qualities.

TASK: Determine the threat conditions you face near your home and work. Determine the most appropriate masks for your needs. Determine their durations. Put getting them on your To-Do list.


Remember, we are most concerned with Shelter At Home. But in some conditions, we will need to fortify and repair the home so it can continue to shelter us. Most people have a basic tool kit, but if you do not, it is now time to assess what you do have and fill in what you don’t.

Here is an excellent home set of tools to start out:

In addition to this set, you should have:

  • Hammers
  • Rubber Mallet
  • Crowbar
  • Hatchet
  • Pipe Wrench
  • Power drill (cordless)
  • Circular Saw
  • Tape Measure
  • Pliers set with side cutters
  • Utility Knife
  • Stud finder
  • Wood glue
  • Super glue
  • Duct tape
  • Oil filter wrench
  • Saw horses
  • Clamps

TASK: Assess your tool needs, including any specialty or odd tools needed for your situation. Compare this list to your tool inventory. Identify all gaps and add getting the needed tools to your To-Do list.

An example of an odd tool… I have a utility tractor. It occasionally requires the engine bolts tightened to the frame. It takes a 19mm wrench to do so. Once identified, this required tool was obtained. I have several tractor implements that have even larger bolts. Once identified, a 3/4″ drive bar wrench was needed with sockets of the appropriate size. These are in addition to the kit above.


We are going for 1 gallon of potable water per person per day for up to 7 days. That means with a family of 4, we need 28 gallons. This is a bare-bones amount suitable for average exertion in temperate weather. If you’re dealing with high exertion and hot weather, double the requirement.

On Day 1, we started saving/sourcing 2-liter bottles. These are excellent containers because they are relatively sturdy, tolerate stacking, and are a very effective quantity vs weight physical characteristic. Ideally the 2-liter bottles were used for water originally. If they were used for soda, ensure they are cleaned very thoroughly as sugar can allow growth of things we’d rather not drink. Don’t forget cleaning the cap and the cap threading.

TASK: Find a place you will be storing your water supplies. It should be dark, and ideally cool.

TASK: Clean and fill at least two 2-liter bottles.

As a heads up, we will be filling two 2-liter bottles each weeknight for the entire challenge. If you would rather knock this out in one fell swoop, go for it!

NOTE: To disinfect water, 4 drops per 2-liter bottle is the correct ratio, however, adding bleach to the water now (to store it) does no real good. Bleach will remain effective as a disinfectant for about 24 hours in water. If you are uncertain about your storage water purity, add bleach to the water before you use it, not as you store it.

Additionally, if you’d rather buy purpose-made storage containers for water, go for it. It’s a bit out of budget for this exercise, but there can be distinct advantages.


Assess your family’s eating habits. What has short shelf lives (like bread)? What has longer shelf lives (like boxed mac n cheese)? What has nearly indefinite shelf lives (like dehydrated foods, canned goods, or dry goods)?

TASK: Start putting together a list of typical meals and their ingredients that consist of short, long, and indefinite shelf life items. Identify completed recipes that use at least long-life ingredients.


A flashlight in every room, and on you. That’s the goal. There should literally be a small flashlight in easy reach in every location you spend time. Your dad chair? Flashlight in the coffee table next to it. Computer desk? Flashlight on it. Bed? Flashlight in the night stand. Car? Flashlight in the center console or the door tray.

In addition to these flashlights, carry one. Tactical flashlights are cool-guy gear. Get one.

TASK: Collect all the flashlights you have in your junk drawers and put them in useful places that are near the areas you actually dwell. Find a smallish one and keep it on you.

Lastly, have one “high capacity” flashlight, or better, two. These are the lights that will have reasonable brightness for a good long while.

TASK: Have at least one long duration flashlight. Your small lights have one job: Get you to your big light.

TASK: Make a recurring schedule in your To-Do list to replace flashlight batteries at least 1/year.


Yes, we have to learn stuff. Your training should include:

  • Basic home repairs
  • Basic automotive repair
  • Basic equipment repairs (chainsaws, tractors, tools, etc).
  • Navigation
  • First Aid
  • Self defense
  • Communications
  • Adverse condition and tactical driving
  • Home skills (sewing, food preparation/preservation)

TASK: Assess your skillset in the above areas and identify if any are missing. Based on your skills, research what you most need extra training in. Enroll in at least one of those training subjects.

SHAMELESS PLUG: Emergency preparedness planning is a very important skill set. Keep and Bear, LLC offers training in developing plans. Do it!

30-Day Preparedness Challenge: Day 1

Welcome to the Keep and Bear, LLC 30 Day Preparedness Challenge! The purpose of this ‘challenge’ is to provide a paced and measured plan to fulfill some basic family preparedness needs. These needs are real-world, and applicable to the average family..

NOTE: This challenge is running in September 2019. References to weekdays (Sunday, Monday,…) are accurate for this year. If you are referring to this, post-challenge, or running it on your own afterwards, the weekdays may be off somewhat. It was designed to be started on a Sunday, for people who tend to work Monday through Friday. Adjust accordingly!

The scope of this challenge is to provide for the basic family of four for 7 days. We have 30 days to accomplish this but there are multiple considerations. For each task, the goal will be stated (for instance, for hydration we want 1 gallon of water for each family member for 7 days stored up. That’s 28 gallons total) and you may scale it accordingly (if you have 8 family members you’ll need to double it!).

In addition to basic needs, there will be ideas for emergency response and items for simply more resilient living. You will NOT be able to survive a nuclear winter or the zombie apocalypse from this 30-day challenge, but you will be well on your way to being better able to handle what life throws at you.

As far as costs, we have tried to keep this minimal and focus on what can be done cheaply. In some cases, cost cannot be avoided, but in some cases, the costs can be offset. Time investment is also something we’ve tried to minimize where we can. We have a month. If we can devote just 1/2 hour a day to that, we have 15 hours of preparedness forethought devoted to keeping our families safe.

Below is a list of typical survival priorities and a couple other categories we are going to explore. In each of them, we’ll have tasks through the month to accomplish. Not every category will have something allocated to it that day.

TASK: Download a quality task/to-do app. One that has scheduled events, recurring events, and subtasks. Microsoft To-Do is a great app for this purpose, and runs on your smartphone and syncs with your computer. Download it, and use it.

Positive Mental Attitude

A positive mental attitude is the first and most important survival priority there is. Only the will to survive will cause further action. A drowning person can continue to fight for survival, even without air. Eventually his body may give out, but lack of survival should never be because one “gave up”.

TASK: Buy, download, or otherwise obtain a book related to positive mental attitude. For me, the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People was a great book about getting things done, prioritization, and, well, becoming more effective.


We obviously need air to survive, and lack of it will cause death very quickly. What can we do to ensure air quality? Should we have SCUBA tanks on hand?

Our end goal will be to simply have reasonable buffer in case of chemical leaks or other airborne threats.

TASK: Determine if your inventory includes a decent dust/particulate mask for you and your family. At least one for each family member, but more is better. Learn about the ratings here. If your home inventory does not include them, add getting them to your To-Do list.


For the most part, this challenge will be a shelter-in-home and get-to-home oriented activity. Making bug out bags and the like can be expensive. Let’s do one thing at a time, and since most emergency situations are best weathered shelter-in-home, lets handle the highest probability case first.

Our end goal here will be to ensure we have a means to maintain and repair our home, and plans against common threat events (fire, tornado, etc.)

TASK: On your To-Do app, create a recurring 6 month task to change batteries in your smoke alarms. Create an annually recurring task to inspect your fire extinguishers.


How much is enough? We are going for 1 gallon of potable water per person per day for up to 7 days. That means with a family of 4, we need 28 gallons. This is a bare-bones amount suitable for average exertion in temperate weather. If you’re dealing with high exertion and hot weather, double the requirement.

The above was just drinking water. “Gray water”, or water that you can use as a tool (such as doing dishes, adding to toilets to flush, bathe, etc) is an additional requirement and should be accumulated as well, in at least equal quantities.

TASK: Start saving 2-liter bottles. If you buy soda, save them. If you have friends that have them, get them. 2-liter bottles are EXCELLENT water storage containers. Easily enough water for most personal tasks, and small enough to keep weight down.

TASK: Determine your family’s water needs. 28 gallons is the goal for a family of 4. That’s close to 53 2-liter bottles.


Nutrition is not as much a concern in the short term since the body can go many days without food. However, from a preparedness standpoint, extra exertion in an emergency requires more fuel to remain functional.

Additionally, food represents a comfort, a normalcy. In the coming month we’re going to prepare for food stores. These should not be MREs or other survival foods that your family wont even recognize as food. It should be stuff they already know and like, and we’ll simply have to identify what can keep for a longer time.

As always, food supplies should be rotated. If we stock up on Mac N Cheese, don’t just set the emergency boxes aside, eat them! Just have more in inventory to accommodate a 7 day consumption rate.


This is where the cool-guy/gal gear goes. Gear is fun. We like gear. We’re going to get to gear up a bit. Some of this we will talk about in other sections, but a lot of it here, too.

Some other things will be to ensure we’re prepared for events. Do you know multiple ways home? Do you know the resources and risks along those ways? Should you? Yup.

TASK: Determine if each family member has a sturdy pair of work gloves. If not, get them some. In an emergency, there’ll be more things to do, and some of the items will have less familiarity. More injury likelihood is present. Protect your hands. Establish a place to store these gloves and keep them stored there.


Wait what… I have to learn stuff? Yup. You don’t get to buy gear without having to learn the gear. We’ll also talk about stuff you should already know. Like First Aid.

Wrap Up

Each day we’ll have a wrap up. Where we’re at and where we still need to get to. What we spent in time and dollars. Hopefully you’ll hit our FB page to discuss!

On-body carry (only)

I had the opportunity to provide some advice to a lady who was taking her CPL class (not through us, due to distance). The advice I gave her was to concentrate on her front sights (she had vision constraints) and once she gets her CPL to carry on-body only (no purse, no handbag).

The reasons for on-body carry are, frankly, numerous. In fact, on body carry is appropriate about 99+% of the time under a normal CPL paradigm (carrying a pistol in case of general lethal threat).

Here are a few of the points…

Reduced handling

Firearms are extremely safe on their own. Mechanical safeties render most firearms unshootable except when the trigger is actuated. The act of manipulating a firearm increases unintended trigger actuation. This is irrefutable and merely a function of interaction with the object. To reduce risk, good handling and trigger finger discipline are practices to make this risk as low as reasonably possible.

In on-body carry, the firearm on your person will likely be handled twice per day: When you put it on in the morning and when you take it off at night. If you have non-permissive environments, handling will likely increase as you remove/rearm to access/vacate these places.

In these cases, the firearm in its holster together should be removed if possible. By keeping the trigger area covered in the holster, the risk on unintentional trigger actuation is minimized.

For vehicle staging, there are holsters, magnets, and other devices to make the firearm readily available to the driver or occupant. If these regularly require unholstering from on-body carry to put in the vehicle-staged area, then reholstering to on-body carry when you need to go somewhere, multiple iterations of handling are incurred which is increased risk of unintentional discharge.

All opportunities to reduce casual handling of the firearm increase safety and good practices.

Consistent draw

We have a class called Intermediate Handgun I, which is what the CPL class should really be, and not the home-intent course Michigan requires. We practice tons of drills, and those drills are all from the draw. The average student will draw their pistol about 200 times in those 8 hours. They will PRACTICE it.  They will develop consistency. They will develop ‘muscle memory’ as the act of drawing becomes more familiar and effective.

After classes like this, it is unlikely a person will practice drawing as intently. We hope they do, but most ranges do not allow shooting from the draw, and will have a nice bench in front of the stall to operate from. In short, we have a limited amount of range time we can practice from the draw. Why, then, place the firearm off-body in some place you won’t be able to practice it? If it’s in your car’s center console, will you practice that draw? Attached to a magnet under the dash? Will you practice that?

There is no object more familiar to us than our own bodies. Without looking, we can reach our hips, touch our knees and elbows, clap hands, and anything else. After a single class, we can access our holstered firearm with little more than a glance. Maybe not even that. Our bodies provide this ‘familiar environment’ and we can feel the gun there and know to reach for it instinctively.

Reaching into a glove box or a center console or a dresser drawer or any other things is inherently less familiar. Less familiarity equals milliseconds to seconds.

In an ideal world, we would be able to stage the firearm in any container in any proximity near us and have 100% proficiency at accessing it. In the real world, almost all CPLers will not practice that extensively. This is not a bash, it’s an honest assessment of real-world priorities with our time. If we’ve prioritized practice for a couple days, let’s keep our carry methods in line with what we’ve already practiced.

Consistent access

In addition to the consistently drawing the firearm, with on body carry the firearm is always on you. Going in to get a Slurpee? It’ll just be a minute? The temptation of having off-body carry and just leaving the gun behind is there. Yes, we can ‘program out’ this temptation, but with best practices we can negate this temptation. In short, the safest place for your firearm is under your direct control and access. There are hundreds of reasons to not bother holstering. “It’s right there under the seat while I pump gas”, “I’ll just be in there a minute”, etc. Those 10 feet or that closed door might just become miles and walls when you need it the most. “Its always on you” is a far better and more consistent answer than “variable”.

Prioritized handling

A firearm is risk mitigation. Risk is severity, probability, and detectability. A firearm is to deal with a high severity, low detectability risk (armed bad guy ‘comes out of nowhere’). We instruct our students to stage their firearm with that in mind. In other words, don’t let it go somewhere it cannot be gotten immediately, EVEN if its use is infrequent (low probability).

Placement and conflict

Off body carry, namely a purse, handbag, or satchel, is literally putting the life saving tool IN the most likely point of contention. If someone is attacked, odds are it is for their purse or their stuff. Females have the added concern of ‘sexual access’. For a robber, his focus will be on getting the container, and getting away. If it is armed robbery, handing over the purse or bag will be the only action available. You will literally be giving the criminal your gun.

For a female facing sexual assault, she must fight off any percussion attacks, attempt to get away, and attempt to ‘restrict access’. A firearm on body might be able to reached during a fight (please train ground fighting!). If the firearm was in a purse, she must add retaining the purse and getting into the purse to those objectives.

For any altercation with on-body carry, the criminal may not yet notice the gun, and the gun is not (yet) the object of contention. Best case, you’re not putting a gun in the bad guy’s hands. More importantly, you’re not giving up your protective tool. If the situation escalates to “lethal force imminent”, you’re not in a fight over a handbag to get your gun while the criminal has his lethal force weapon in hand.

Minor exceptions

There are of course no absolutes in life, and trying to make the crux of an argument wrong through exceptions is a bit foolish. But, there are some exceptions to on-body carry only.

Bedtime, shower.

There are of course many more, but from a CPL paradigm where the Average Joe/Jane is going about their day responsibly armed, on body carry is right almost all the time.

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.


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.


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.

Saving money on training ammunition

The age-old dilemma shooting sports enthusiasts face is spending their hard earned money on a new gun, accessories, training, or ammunition. Yes, a new gun is shiny and cool. Yes, accessories can act as a force multiplier and increase the versatility of your platform. Yes, training can transform you (eventually) from a jellyfish into John Wick. All of these, though, depend on ammunition to make it go. Unexciting. Non-glamorous. Ammunition.

In order to enjoy the shooting sports more, more ammo is highly desirable. Here are some tips on getting more bang for your buck. (See what I did there?)

Inventory control: Determine how much ammunition you need each month. If you’re in a shooting league and are going through 500 rounds a month, your needs are different than a casual shooter expending one magazine at Uncle Joe’s farm visit every few months. Plan on having an inventory of 5 – 10 times your monthly need. This will help ensure you can go several months in between finding excellent deals, as well as accommodate extra shooting or training opportunities.

Understand the name of the game is $/round: With some ammo coming in 50 round boxes, 250 round value packs, 350 round buckets, 600 round packs, and 1000 round bulk packs, it can be hard to determine what is a good deal. Always divide the package cost by the number of rounds to determine a “cents per shot” value. For instance, $13.99 for a box of 50 rounds comes to $13.99 / 50 = 27.98 cents per shot. As of this writing, 9 x 19 mm comes in at about 23 cents per round for new ammunition (115 grain FMJ). Using once-fired brass reloads for range practice (from a reputable reloader), that cost can drop to 15 cents per round. Some places will even discount you further for bringing them once-fired brass.

Choose firearms chambered for cartridges with economy of scale: In other words, ammo that manufacturers have dedicated mass-production capability to will be cheaper than those that have not. Currently, 9 x 19 mm and 5.56 x 45 mm (and .223 Remington) are the most-produced cartridges in the world. Next up are the .45 ACP and .308 Winchester. If you plan to shoot a lot, do yourself a favor and get a 9mm handgun. It will be far cheaper to shoot than .380 ACP, .40 S&W, .357 Sig, etc. If your go-to cartridge is the .43 ACME Obscurus, it will be unlikely you’ll find sales on it, as only so much is produced each year.

Determine your “buy” threshold: Just like the stock market, set a cents per round value that you will act on when you encounter it. Have some money in reserve ($200 is a fair amount) that you WILL spend when you find that deal. Ensure you include shipping costs if applicable, and be sure you discount out-of-state purchases their sales tax, if applicable.

Identify reload sellers in your area: Google “ammunition reloaders <your town>” for a list of commercial reloaders in your area. Quality can vary from business to business. Do online reviews of each place. Local training-only businesses can guide you to what has worked well in their classes. Gun stores may not be so forthcoming since they have shelves of ammo they’d rather sell you.

Always be shopping: Subscribe to multiple gun-sales emails. Cabelas, Dunhams, Midway, and more have daily and weekly specials. When the cost per round is sufficiently low to justify the order (with shipping) or driving to the store, make the purchase. Even if you don’t have your full allotment of $200 (or whatever it is) saved up, spend what is in your allotment. The name of the game is cartridges on your shelf.

Use a Rewards credit card: The average homeowner spends $1000/month between needed stuff for the house, groceries, gasoline, etc.,. Additionally, some utilities can also be paid by credit card. An easy way to get more ammunition is to simply shift expenses you are already incurring onto a rewards card, such as a Cabelas credit card. Of course, be financially responsible and pay stuff off, but there’s no reason not to use the rewards offered as a supplement to your ammunition purchasing power. An advantage to this is that the discount applies to anything in the store, not just range-intent ammo.

Pro-tip: If you buy ammunition, store it in its packaging. Yes, it’s neat to make a treasure-chest-looking bulk ammo container of loose rounds, but keeping ammo in its original boxes lets you retain TRACEABILITY. If there’s ever a recall on ammo, you will have brand, manufacturing date, and lot number, available to determine if the recall affected you. If you dump it all into a bulk box, you’ll have nothing more than a very nervous feeling until it’s all shot up.

Dry-fire practice: Loading your gun’s chamber with nothing costs you 0 cents per round! Yet trigger control is one of the two biggest factors in improving handgun accuracy (the other being sight alignment). Dry fire practice can be done at home (ensure you are safe!) and even 5-10 minutes per day can yield improvements in a short time.

Shoot .22 intermittently: If your firearm has a .22 LR equivalent training gun or a swappable magazine and barrel assembly, shooting .22 is a decent way to develop shooting skills on the cheap. As just stated, trigger control and sight alignment are the biggest contributors to handgun accuracy and both can be practiced with a .22 training gun. The shooter MUST take caution, however, since he will not be practicing grip control and recoil management with .22 LR practice. This is why it’s best to use the .22 LR as an intermittent practice cartridge.

Get something for your money: For amateurs, it can take somewhere on the order of 1000 rounds downrange to move past the notion that you have a repeated explosion going off in your hands and just being excited you’re shooting. At some point, new-shooter anxiety wears off and improvement-intent training kicks in. At this point, every dime and quarter you send downrange should mean something. You should be getting something for your money. Repeated holes in center of target is great. What’s your grouping on controlled pairs (double taps)? What’s your grouping on move-and-shoot? A fun day at the range is GREAT! Do it! But take the time to learn to really shoot as well. Improving your technique is more about YOU than metal on paper. Shift the focus to improvement. Treat rounds downrange as an investment.

Reloading (maybe): Reloading has a somewhat costly start-up expense as you buy the devices, scales, and other equipment necessary to do so. You then have to buy the consumables (casings, primers, powder, and bullets), then you must spend your time assembling the cartridges. For economy-of-scale cartridges like .223 and 9mm, it will take many thousands of rounds to overcome the start up costs and be money ahead. The more uncommon the cartridge, the faster the savings per round will overcome the initial investment. (An advantage to reloading is being able to tailor your cartridge specs to your specific needs, though.)

Round chambered

There are at least four “age-old” handgun debates, with passionate viewpoints on either side. Both sides have expert opinion with hand-picked data, both sides “weigh” the data differently (a fact that is 100% correct does not necessarily mean much to the argument due to relevancy), and both sides have ardent supporters of their stance with preference-based argument. Some common handgun arguments are

  • Revolver vs Semiautomatic.
  • 9 mm vs 45ACP.
  • Colt 1911 vs Glock.
  • Chamber empty or round chambered.

It is this last point that separates the casual concealed carrier with the more ardent personal protection practitioners.

Arguments for carrying an unchambered handgun:

Proof against negligent discharge. For most people, whether through lack of certainty in their equipment or their skills, carrying on an empty chamber is self-justified to preclude the risk of an negligent discharge (in this case, ‘negligent’ means a non-purposeful actuation of the trigger mechanism). Each day we put the gun on our belts and take it off at night. Sometimes, tasks during the day may require us to take it off to perform a thing. Add in PFZ’s (pistol free zones) where we must take guns off and put them on after leaving them, people could be handling the firearm multiple times each day. Since most people go through their day without having to draw the firearm in self defense, the likelihood of a negligent discharge is quite statistically higher than a defensive draw.

The fix for this possibility is to become more familiar with the firearm, and to utilize a holster that allows removal of the firearm from the body in-holster. Most concealed carry holsters will allow this by unbuckling one’s belt and pulling the belt from the holster’s belt loops. There is little reason (and no excuse) to be manipulating a firearm outside its holster during these administrative, daily tasks of arming and de-arming, save a morning press check.

Mechanical devices are not foolproof: A firearm can be a complicated device, with the concern of these mechanisms failing and causing an unintended discharge (in this case, ‘unintended’ means that the firearm discharged without a trigger actuation). For hammer fired handguns, the main firing mechanism is right there to be seen. It is a reminder that ‘stuff’ is happening inside the gun’s innards that some shooters just don’t have a grasp on. For striker-fired pistols, all the firing mechanism ‘stuff’ is inside. How does it work? How do we know it works?

This concern can be addressed with a two-pronged approach. First, we must indeed choose a firearm that has a solid reputation as a safe and reliable device. While unpopular, this means carrying proven designs by proven manufacturers with proven design verification testing. It means NOT being an early adopter of the newest greatest gun as your defensive tool.

As an example, when Sig Sauer introduced the P320, incidents of unintended discharges were soon reported from dropped handguns 1. After lengthy evaluation of internal safeties, it was discovered that when dropped so that the handgun landed on the back of the slide, the mass of the trigger had enough inertia to result in trigger actuation. This trigger actuation caused the internal safeties to disengage (appropriate for a trigger actuation) and resulted in an unintended discharge. This was a product from a proven company with proven design verification testing. The design, though, was not proven. (Sig Sauer has since modified their drop test protocols.)

The second approach to overcome doubts of unintended discharge is to truly understand the firearm’s safety mechanisms. The ‘Glock safety’ employs a trigger safety that, effectively, puts the ‘manual safety’ disengagement as part of the trigger actuation. This safety disengages two internal safeties. The Beretta M9 and a few others have an external safety that rotates a transfer bar off-axis, so that a hammer drop never strikes the firing pin. Understanding the mechanics of the firearm’s internal and external safeties can go a long way to having confidence in chambered carry. Choosing a firearm with safeties commensurate with one’s preferences and confidence is paramount.

Time to be sure: Some concealed carriers argue that the added time to bring the firearm into a ready state by chambering a round affords them the time to be sure that lethal force is justifiable. The concern for certainty is to be absolutely commended. The mechanism by which that certainty is obtained is not necessarily the optimal means to do so.

See the “Immediacy of need” subheading below for an experienced rebut of this rationale.

Arguments for carrying a round-chambered handgun:

A tool of last resort: As taught in the NRA’s Personal Protection in the Home (this course was selected as satisfying the training requirements for a concealed pistol license in Michigan), the firearm is a tool of last resort. Accessing and producing the firearm is the last-ditch effort to protection when other options have failed, or the immediacy of the threat precludes other defensive options. In short, the defender is out of time and out of options, save using neutralizing, lethal force. As a tool of last resort, there are a number of sub-reasons to carry a round chambered.

Immediacy of need: After identifying a threat and determining strong verbal command and capability of lethal force is imminent, a protector must:
1) (CPL) Dig through at least one layer of clothing to access the firearm.
2) Draw the firearm.
3) Get on target.
4) Issue verbal commands to stop and make final assessment to shoot.
5) Disengage safety (if applicable) and engage trigger contact.
6) Confirm on target and discharge firearm.

Please go back and read these six steps while envisioning the duress of a lethal force conflict. Someone is shooting at you or charging you with a knife. With your current skill set, envision each of these steps, the time it takes to perform each one, and an assailant approaching quickly and stabbing, or shooting at you.

During each of these steps, time is going by. It’s time to be harmed or killed, but it’s also time that assessment will occur. “I gotta get this thing on target” and “this guy is really trying to kill me?!” is all being contemplated with the priority of survival instinct. In reality, step 4 is the crux of the argument: “Make final assessment to shoot”. Open-chamber carriers believe that adding a step to chamber a round creates this assessment. It does not. The assessment is already in the sequence. For the chambered-round carrier, he may take extra time if available to re-verify that assessment. For the open-chamber carrier, he must spend that time, even if that time is not available.

The anatomy of violence: Violent altercations are stark, inhuman events. One only has to watch defensive encounters on Youtube security camera footage to see hopeful, peaceable lives being cut short by those willing to do harm. It is both depressing and infuriating. During these altercations, there is frequently a struggle (physical force) to stop attacks and to get away.

FBI statistics for law enforcement officer-involved fatalities 2 show that nearly 50% of fatalities occurred between 0 and 5 feet away.

Note that this table represents LEO’s who, by job duty, must engage hostile assailants. They typically establish contact with suspects or known criminals for purposes of apprehension. Their proximity to the suspect may be closer than the non-LEO civilian whose general priority is to retreat from threat of violence.

However, use of this data may be applicable since assailants typically want something from their target: money, jewelry, wealth, sexual access, or even the desire to commit harm. This typically requires obtaining proximity to target. For the LEO, they must engage, and for the non-LEO civilian, the assailant is trying to engage. In each case, there is one party intent on engagement. Thus, for the purposes of this article, these engagement distances will be used for non-LEO civilians as well .

If these distances are applicable, then the proximity between the assailant and the protector is indeed in melee range (within 0 to 10 feet provides an immediacy of hand-to-hand or handheld weapon threat) 57% of the time. With the assailant in range to lay hands on the protector, or the protector using hand-applications to prevent harm (blocking weapon strikes, for instance), drawing a firearm is a risky option as it turns the melee into a fight over the gun.

Assuming the protector can indeed make the minimum time and distance to draw the gun, he must ensure this is done so with both hands. In reality, both hands are not necessarily free to cycle the slide and chamber a round. Well-trained and equipped-with-intention protectors may know how to cycle their slide on a belt, table, or other protrusion, and have a firearm whose hardware allows for this action, but this should be seen as a secondary option rather than a primary-planned action.


The arguments for open chamber carry are borne, ultimately, from uncertainty and unfamiliarity. Uncertainty in personal firearm handling, uncertainty in the decision making process to use lethal force, and unfamiliarity with a handgun’s redundant safeties.

These factors can all be mitigated through training and knowledge acquisition. They are entirely in the gun wielder’s control to reduce the perceived risks and mitigate the actual risks.

What is less in the gun wielder’s control is the severity of an imminent attack, the timing of the attack, and the distances the altercation will take place in. These factors are a result of the interplay between attacker and protector. Carrying on an open chamber directly and adversely affects the protector’s ability to employ lethal force.

For a tool of last resort, a purposeful condition to delay its immediate use (open chambered carry) and require 2 free hands to bring it into the engagement imposes far more risk of harm than the avoidable risks perceived. The capability of an immediately deployable round-chambered handgun has benefits necessary to reduce imminent harm.

1- Sig Sauer Confronts Further Reports of Possible Safety Defect in Popular Pistol. The Trace, Alex Yablon, 08AUG2017

2- Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted, 2012 U.S. Department of Justice—Federal Bureau of Investigation, Table 36, Released Fall 2013

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.