Addressing the myths of the shotgun as a home defense weapon

I regularly watch several Facebook pages for new ideas and information around protection and preparedness. I pick up a new idea from these pages maybe once a month. More usefully, I can see what the ‘popular knowledge’ items of the day are. This knowledge is usually more ‘popular’ than it is ‘knowledge’. It’s important to know what misinformation there is out there and have the ability to correct it.

Photo by Mitch Barrie. Remington 870 Police model.

In the past week, I’ve seen the following myths perpetuated as “it is known” information. More sad that this information being passed on at all is the diligent devotion the ill-informed have towards it. Let’s look at some myths that need to go away.

Myth: The shotgun is the ultimate home defense gun

The shotgun is popular because many homes used to have shotguns. With different loads, you could drop a deer, hunt bird, and even deal with nuisance animals. But just because it was popular does not mean it is ‘ultimate’ in a home defense role. It was widely available, and pressed into protection-intent service in earlier days, just like a hatchet was pressed into service as a hand weapon (though the sword is a superior fighting weapon).

Despite its popularity, the shotgun is a subpar home defense gun.

This is not to say the shotgun isn’t effective. It is versatile and deadly. But if you’re putting your life and your family’s life as the consequence, do you want a versatile weapon pressed into service as a defensive gun, or do you want the ultimate defensive gun there is? Let’s look at some measurables for the shotgun, the AR-15, and a 9mm semiautomatic pistol.

In the above table, the shotgun suffers in recoil intensity, ammunition capacity, and overpenetration (for defensive loads). Long guns tend to be less maneuverable that the handgun. In reality, the shotgun has two things going for it the others do not: price and versatility.

Myth: You don’t even need to aim

The shotgun uses ammunition called a shotshell. This is a brass base with a (usually plastic) hull. The shell contains the primer and gunpowder like other cartridges. There is then a wad, separating the powder from the projectiles. The projectiles are either one large mass (a slug), a few large spherical balls (buckshot), or many small spherical balls (birdshot).

The only home defense loads that have reliable stopping power is buckshot and slugs. There are proponents of heavier birdshot, but penetration from these shells are not reliable and should not be used.

When fired, multi-projectile loads start to disperse, creating what is called a ‘shot pattern’. For bird shot from a 12 gauge, The “you don’t need to aim” crowd uses a birdshot dispersal pattern approximating 1 inch of spread per yard of travel. In truth, the pattern is not quite linear like that. Using this generalization, a home defense encounter of 10 yards will yield a 10″ pattern. Despite the myth, a spread such as this still requires aiming. For more realistic defensive distances of 5 yards with an estimated 5″ spread, aiming is absolutely required.

Myth: The ole switcharoo

This is my favorite part of the shotgun myth. The people that say “You don’t even have to aim” use birdshot dispersal pattern as their justification for this claim. When it is suggested that birdshot is not an effective threat neutralization load, they switch to “well a slug will take care of anything”. Yes, it’s true that a slug will take care of anything, but it is a single mass of lead, just like a bullet.

The “you don’t need to aim” crowd switches their logic from inferior birdshot neutralization to the superb stopping power of a slug without dropping the “you don’t need to aim” argument!

At some point in the shotgun, there will either be a slug or shot. When that shot goes off, the advantages/disadvantages of that load will be at play. There will either be some dispersal (shot) with insufficient threat neutralization, OR there will be no dispersal (slug) with superior threat neutralization. The same round cannot have both.

Myth: If you walk into a room and cycle the pump, criminal will wet themselves

It is true that, when faced with an armed protector, criminals will realize that their actions have consequence. No one prefers armed prey. This being said, relying on the noise of a firearm’s action as a deterrent is not an effective means of protection.

I had a person say “if you walk into a room with a shotgun and pump it, the criminal will flee.” My replies were as follows:

Why did you enter a room with a known home invader on an empty chamber? Wouldn’t you cycle the action while you have cover/concealment from another room? Would you really go confront when barricading might be the better option?

Can you guarantee they’ll flee? The only real guarantee is they will respond in some way. Is it fight, flight, freeze, posture, or submit? You do NOT actually know. If you bank on them fleeing and they rush you, that’s very different.

If you believe in pump-noising a home invader, will you have the muzzle covering the target or will you do the whole movie-scene pump holding the shotgun diagonally in front of your torso? Because if you don’t have the muzzle on target, and bad guy decides to charge you, at home defense distances there is a very real chance he will close the distance before you shoulder that shotgun and get the muzzle on target. You will be secure in your bravado and his charge will be complete before you get through the OODA loop that you are not the master of your domain.

The reality of the situation is the shotgun itself, the projectile, and the willingness to effectively wield it is the only reliable deterrent in the system. Relying on the pump action’s noise, the bravado around cycling the action, or a plucky attitude are all 100% unreliable methods of protection.

Myth: Muh Taurus Judge

While not a shotgun technically, a disturbing percentage of fuddlore exists around the Taurus Judge. This revolver is chambered in .45 Long Colt and can accommodate the .410 shotgun cartridge. The .410 is an inadequate shotgun cartridge for home defense. The cartridge was designed in 1857 as a “garden gun” suitable for pests such as snakes and vegetable-robbing varmint. Proponents of the Taurus Judge claim shotgun-like power from a handgun, while not understanding that the .410 shotgun shell loaded with a slug has 1/3 the muzzle energy of a 12 gauge.

The Taurus Judge in .45 Long Colt / 410
photo by BATFE

The misunderstanding around the Taurus Judge is that it brings the advantages of the handgun to the versatility of a shotgun. In truth, it does nothing of the sort. The firearm is expensive, there is no capacity advantage, it does have improved mobility, its effective range is even less than that of a 12 gauge, it has poor threat neutralization power (in fact, the .45 Long Colt cartridge would be a superior defensive load than the .410 slug), and has significant recoil. This option takes away any advantage a 12 gauge pump would have had.


Before folks get too up in arms over this article, yes, a shotgun is an effective threat neutralization weapon. It is cheap, it is versatile, and it is readily available. But again, as was asked in the intro: If you’re putting your life and your family’s life as the consequence, do you want a versatile weapon pressed into service as a defensive gun, or do you want the ultimate defensive gun there is?

If the shotgun is what’s available, it can be pressed into this role. If you have the means to select a purpose-driven platform for defense, the shotgun fills the role poorly compared to other choices.

Surefire E2D Exec Defender Tactical Flashlight -Final Review

It is with a not-so-heavy heart that I retire my Surefire E2D Exec Defender with the bulb (not LED!) as my EDC light. This light has been a part of my EDC and in my EDC pocket for literally a decade now.

I first started carrying the Surefire E2D as part of my martial training. We were focusing on modern protective implements that could be carried discretely every day. Outside a firearm and knife, the tactical pen and flashlight top the list in this regard for non-LEO carry. Their build is robust enough to use as a weapon, and proper shopping gets you something non-threatening in appearance for casual and discreet EDC.

Having a flashlight on my person was a game changer. There are many tasks we do where we “get by” with no augmented illumination, like when your black wallet falls under your car seat which has black upholstery, and it’s dusk. We can feel around for it, taking time, or just light up the space and grab and go. Similarly looking in bags, engine compartments, and any other tight space. Extra illumination is always a benefit (unless you still work in a photography darkroom).

When the LED lights started hitting the market, the argument was made that the solid state component was more durable than a bulb with a filament. I’ll concede that this is very likely the case. The part of the analysis that is left out, though, is whether the bulb is robust enough for its role. In other words, just because the LED might be better at enduring impact, does it mean that the bulb is inadequate?

I have a sample size of one. My E2D bulb light. During my 10 years with that light, I have used it as my primary illumination during low light shooting (support hand carry), primary illumination for a couple night navigation classes, and outdoor activities. I have run approximately 20 Personal Protection classes using it, and been a part of at least that many as a participant. These classes involve using the light to strike Bob (our assortment of torso targets) over and over, with different strike types, strike trajectories, etc. During these, the light is exercised as a possible blinding opportunity. Shine Bob’s eyes briefly and strike him. In short, I probably have well over 10k strikes with this same E2D in that time frame. Let’s be clear on some results:

  • 10 years of EDC use. Includes pocket use, wear, drops, etc. Includes indoor/outdoor use from 0 degF – 100 degF with Michigan humidity.
  • Approximately 40 classes, and personal practice, resulting in approximately 10,000 strikes on a torso target.
  • Minor transferred recoil force from low-light firearm training.
  • ZERO failures to illuminate due to (non-battery) issues.
  • ZERO bulb replacements.
  • ZERO switch issues.
  • ZERO non-cosmetic damage to the hull or bezel.
  • The E2D still functions.

Again, I have a sample size of 1 flashlight. Statistically that isn’t great certainty until you account for how far beyond ‘normal use’ this one sample has gone. For those discounting the longevity of a bulb, I’d have to argue against their stance.

So why switch now? In all honesty, I am not one for the latest gadget and gear for my protection-intent equipment. There is a wisdom in delayed-adoption of new technology. Performance gains are wonderful, but performance and reliability need to be balanced out. Since the single best place your money can be allocated is training, training can make up for the slight advantages early-adopters of new equipment have over the status quo.

Why retire this light? Basically, I want all the lumens. The E2D was a fantastic light for its era, with the bulb rated at 60 lumens output. Modern LED lights have far outshined (heh heh) this performance level, with $50 tactical-ish lights hitting 500 lumens. Dedicated gear like the Surefire E2D LED light will crank out 1000 lumens and has a low and high setting to help balance intensity vs duration needs.

In short, the LED technology has completely obsoleted the bulb light in this case. For a reasonable cost I can get over 10x the lumens. With the equivalent model E2D LED I have identical form factor. The only thing that has changed is brighter light and lighter wallet.

Training progression

We often get trainees who want their Michigan Concealed Pistol License, but could use some extra work on shooting fundamentals. Many of our trainees who pass the CPL shooting requirements voluntarily go back and brush up on basics. We are incredibly thankful to have such dedicated trainees who take the responsibilities of being armed that seriously.

Similarly, we have many trainees who get their CPL and want to go beyond the “proficiency demonstration” of the CPL class to improve their skills and prepare them for the parameters present in an actual altercation. We applaud this, and have multiple offerings that do just that.

Note that we are not “all about the gun”. We emphasize physical force training as well, and are happy to refer students to qualified intermediate force training venues as well.

This is our training map. The courses we have, and the progression we recommend taking them in, to help equip our students with protection proficiency.

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 7

Welcome to the Keep and Bear, LLC 30 Day Preparedness Challenge! We are on Day 7. 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.

Are you almost done with it?


Early last week we identified some air filters that are suitable for your family’s needs in your area. We made a note of them and even revisited the subject and made sure. Time to Add to Cart.

TASK: Add the air filters to cart. Purchase the air filters needed.

Amazon Prime memberships are great for this sort of thing. They have a dizzying array of product and free shipping on many items.


Earlier this week we did a tool and equipment assessment. If your finances are able, fill in the tools and equipment you do not have. This includes tools as well as hardware like fasteners and raw materials like 2×4’s and plywood.

TASK: Purchase or otherwise obtain the tools you need. Keep an eye on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist for materials.


Today we take a break from filling 2 liter bottles. Let’s talk about water and what it means to have clean water. Ideally in our bottles we have H2O, only H2O, and nothing else but H2O. In reality, that isn’t the case. We have as couple terminology points:

Purification: Water purification is the act of ensuring only H2O is in our water container. It consists primarily of filtration and disinfecting.

Filtration: The act of passing water through a medium such that impurities are captured by the medium and not allowed to pass though. Real world filtration may not catch all impurities and some viruses are smaller than filter elements. Improper filtering technique can also allow impurities to make it through the system.

Disinfection: The act of rendering impurities in the water inert. Disinfection is primarily done through an additive, such as chlorine tablets or iodine tablets. Ultraviolet light is now becoming more common with sterilization “pens” that are immersed in the container and emit light to kill viruses and other microorganisms.


For the past week we have been assessing our food needs. Today, we are looking at the lists we’ve made. These should be foods and ingredients that are in long term, medium term, and short term categories.

Indefinite term foods might be good for a year or more. Virtually all canned goods are long term foods. dried rice, dry pasta, wheat berries, sugar, honey, and many more ingredients are long term. These are EXCELLENT foods to stock up on.

Long term goods will keep for a week or so, and ideally without refrigeration. Some commercial baked goods like cookies, crackers, butter, syrups, and more fit this category. These are also great items to stock up on for a week of preparedness.

Short term goods will go bad within about a week, especially with loss of refrigeration. Milk, prepared vegetables, breads, and other foods of this nature are short term. These are poor items to “stock up” on, but in the event of an emergency are OK to get prior to, but understand they may not last.

TASK: Stock up on long and indefinite term food item inventory suitable for one person for an entire week. 3 meals a day, 2000 calories each day, and something they identify as “food” (not MREs or other emergency rations that may be alien to them).

TASK: Establish a FIFO (first in, first out) system in your pantry.

The objective is not to have these emergency foods in some bin or set aside. The objective is to have extra foods in your pantry so that if an emergency happens, you have inventory.


This week we made maps to our workplaces and other frequently traveled areas and have been observing useful resources and concerns.

TASK: On your maps, mark main routes as the primary route taken and ensure all resources and concerns are noted. Mark off waypoints along the way and name them. These should be easy to understand features.


Enroll at least one family member in a First Aid, CPR, AED course.

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.