We should probably put mikeb302000 on retainer since he seems to stimulate so many of my posts. And this is one reason I love hearing contrary viewpoints; they allow us to refine our arguments, see errors in our logic and stimulate new ideas. The latest comment that mike (and I hope he doesn’t mind my calling him just mike rather than his whole handle) made that inspired me was…

I would like to comment on one little thing though, one which appears in the early paragraphs of the opus, and that is your health. You’re not yet 50 and have undergone open-heart surgery? Is that partly related to your eating habits? Was there some excess smoking and drinking in there too? Have you slacked off on the exercise over these last couple decades?

Sorry for getting so personal, but don’t you think those are more important factors in your survival than the guns? Isn’t it a mistake to neglect the one and focus so excessively on the other?

My quick and dirty reply was: “… of COURSE there are many factors that are FAR more important than guns when it comes to survival. Sheesh.” And indeed, health is on of those factors. I believe it was Robert Heinlein who talked about some of those issues in an essay 30+ years ago (although he was speaking about post-Nuclear War survival). I am assuming that mike is not talking about TEOTWAWKI-style survival but rather more day-to-day issues, so I’ll address those first (in no particular order).

Yes, indeed, daily exercise is vital, not just when it comes to survival but for every day living as well. Exercise has been shown to increase energy, improve health and mental function and increase libido. When it comes to survival, if you are relatively fit when a SHTF situation arises you have the option to run away. And if you can’t run away, being relatively fit makes you better able to handle the stress before, during and after a DGU.

Situational awareness is, of course, another important element to survival. Being able to shoot the eye of a gnat at a hundred paces does you no good if a BG is burping down your throat before you notice him. And situational awareness does not mean “treat everyone like a potential threat.” What it does mean is being aware of your surroundings so if a potential threat presents itself, you have the most time possible to deal with or avoid the problem.

My best friend was a NYC cop for 25+ years. I was visiting him in New York a while back and we went out to dinner with the wives. Even though I was unarmed, I was still trying to maintain good situational awareness when I noticed him looking at me funny. I lifted an inquiring eyebrow and he said “When did you learn to read the street?” He’d been doing the exact same thing (but better, because he’s had lots more experience than me) and caught me at it. I explained the Cooper Color Code and he said it sounded like a good idea.

Then we started wrangling about “civilians” carrying guns until the wives made us stop long enough to eat. Over dinner he told cop stories about times when situational awareness (except he called it “reading the street”) had or had not been used properly. He was certain that being aware had saved his ass (or possibly his life) on at least one occasion. He also commended me on trying to maintain awareness, pointing out that it is probably even more important to be oblivion-free when disarmed.

Another important aspect of survival is what the Rabbi (maybe? I’m actually not sure who says it and I’m too lazy to check) is always saying: avoid stupid people, doing stupid things in stupid places. Don’t close down a bar with a couple of new-found “friends.” Hell it’s probably best not to close down a bar period. Avoid large numbers of drunken revelers which means stay home on New Year’s Eve, Saint Patrick’s Day, post-game tailgate parties in the stadium parking lot, etc. Avoid staying late at the Wisconsin State Fair and other crowded venues.

Listen to your fears. This hearkens back to situational awareness but is more on the subtle side. How many times have you heard victims of an attack saying “I felt something wasn’t right but I didn’t want to” leave the Laundromat/not get on the elevator/cross the street, because it would be rude or hurt someone’s feelings, or make someone believe they were racist?

Walking through a parking garage one evening, I saw a group of teens headed vaguely in my direction, so I changed direction slightly to avoid them. They changed direction so they would pass me. I changed direction again and so did they. This, coupled with all kinds of other cues (none of which I processed consciously at the time), led me to put my hand in my shirt (shoulder-holster) and tell them “I’d appreciate it if you stayed away. You’re making me nervous and I have a gun.”

They didn’t veer off until I got to the “I have a gun” bit, which makes me think my instincts were correct. I never threatened them, I didn’t display my weapon, I just asked them to stay away. If they were an innocent bunch of friends going home from a movie, I may have insulted and probably scared them. If they were predators looking for prey, I may have saved several lives.

And that brings me to the last bit of mike’s statement: “Isn’t it a mistake to neglect the one and focus so excessively on the other?” I don’t actually focus all that much on my guns other than to make sure they are kept in good working order and taking them out to the range (or woods) periodically. What I do focus on (perhaps excessively – I’m a tad OCD) is civil rights in general and gun rights in particular.

The reason that I argue and work in support of gun rights is that all the good health, situational awareness, stupidity avoidance and listening to your fears in the world won’t do a damned thing for you if that group of teens coming across the parking garage know that you can’t have a gun on you because it’s illegal.

This may be beyond the scope of TTAG, but I’m just gonna throw it out anyway. I have (I hope) addressed the day-to-day survival stuff, so what about longer-term but not TEOTWAWKI survival? Think post-Katrina New Orleans, or post-Katrina New Brighton MN, for that matter. Just a few days after Katrina blew through the Gulf Coast, we had a bit of a storm come through New Brighton and knock out the power. No biggie, right? I mean they’ll have it back shortly, right?

Except that 90% of the power company’s people and equipment were 1200 miles south, so we were without power for 6 days. Fortunately, I worked at a local hardware store and was able to grab the last generator they had in stock, which meant our two freezers full of food didn’t rot.

That Christmas the number one item on my wish list was pressure-canning equipment. I now have eight person-months worth of food canned up and a couple of water barrels hooked in series with my hot-water heater. This serves 2 purposes; first the water coming into the house is somewhat pre-warmed, saving energy when heating it and second, water is constantly flowing through the barrels so it’s always fresh. But with the turn of three valves, it’s isolated from the municipal water supply.

So while I have guns, they really are less important than the food/water/shelter thing. But having the guns means that if we ever do wind up in a NOLA-style post-Katrina type FUBAR situation, my wife and I will be perfectly capable of sitting it out at home without worrying excessively about looters.

Now for the fun, speculative bit: TEOTWAWKI has arrived so it’s too late now. But if you had the chance, what sort of survival preparations would you make? IMNSHO guns are one of the least important factors in the survival equation under these circumstances. Do you have a bug-out plan? Will your uncle Steve really be perfectly happy to feed you and your squalling brats if you show up on the door-step of his farmhouse? Do you know what items you’ll need to pack? Do you have a route picked out? How about a secondary route? A tertiary route? Do you know how to fix and maintain your car? Do you know how to ride a horse? A bike? A motorcycle? Paddle a canoe? Sail a boat?

Do you have extra doses of all of your medications? Is your dental work up to date (remember Tom Hanks’ improvised root canal in Castaway)? If you stay at home, do you have water? Soap? Matches? Feminine products (which, BTW, can be used as field bandages)? Can you deliver a baby? Suture a cut? Recognize blood poisoning (septicemia)? Treat an infection? Lance a boil? Can you diagnose appendicitis? Do you know what to do if someone has appendicitis?

Do you know the rule of three? Have you applied it?

Are you planning on hunting for your food (along with everyone else)? Do you know how to dress and butcher a deer, a rabbit, a squirrel, a horse, a dog? Can you recognize the symptoms of chronic wasting disease? How about tularemia?

OK, that’s a lot to consider. The bottom line, though, is that no matter what Rambo-esque fantasies antis think we entertain, serious preppers know that the ideal way to survive is not to be noticed. Which is sort of spoiled by flashes and loud banging noises coming from your hidey-hole.

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30 Responses to Focusing Excessively On Guns As A Survival Element

  1. mikeb should man up and post his home address so society can test his non-violent theories and we can enjoy a social experiment gone amuk.

  2. Another great piece Bruce.

    Let THEM think that we’re all Rambo-esque nut cases. It seems to scare the living daylights out of them (which is pretty amusing in and of itself) so that perception can be used to one’s advantage. As has been said here numerous times, don’t advertise your guns or your preparations. The “gray man” who is skilled, fit, competent and prepared will likely be one of the last men standing. Be Prepared isn’t the Scout motto for nothing.

    Are guns a part of the equation? Of course they are, but they are only one part and I agree with you that they are a relatively minor part at that. They are merely tools. Knowledge, skill, experience, attitude, determination and training are far more important to the equation. Without those, the value of all of the other materials that you may have at your disposal is greatly diminished, though those materials may be of better value to someone more highly evolved and ruthless enough to take them for their own.

  3. Excellent post. May I also add that another reason we think about guns is that, unlike exercise, situational awareness, etc, people are actively trying to restrict or otherwise neuter gun rights.

  4. “Don’t close down a bar with a couple of new-found “friends.” Hell it’s probably best not to close down a bar period.”
    —–
    This. Nothing good happens after midnight. Most (all?) states also take a dim view of carrying under the influence; the standards are usually more stringent than those for DUI/DWI. Here in Minnesota, the bar is set at 0.04% BAC (correct me if I’m wrong, Bruce). That’s one, maybe two beers for a guy my size. Keep your doors locked, put away the guns and do your drinking at home.

    • I don’t know about that. As a night person myself, lots of good things have happened to me after midnight. However, they have happened with people I knew well and trusted, in places I knew well, and in situations that were under control. The one time this wasn’t the case I was very, very lucky and nothing happened, but I definitely learned my lesson.

  5. I bought 8k worth of parts for my ar15 build. To different uppers, plus all the extra parts and extra barrels. All the core components come from Wilson Combat. I bought them direct from the factory so it still costs allot I know but, its what I wanted. Build Wilson Combat base model yourself, 1000. Have Wilson Combat build the same base model, 2000. The gun and the 4 uppers with all the optics are being cerakoted. I can expanded later on the extra parts with different calibers. Anyway I will send you guys pics when I get it.

  6. good write up Bruce, interesting personal experience here. Those teens seemed to me to be acting sketchy on purpose, either to intimidate as a threat or to try o scare you for fun, either way your response to the situation was correct.
    What size generator would you suggest for a situation similar to the scenario you described?

  7. “teens coming across the parking garage know that you can’t have a gun on you because it’s illegal.”

    Does legal/illegal really matter to you when it comes to defending your life? I think that would be a good Question of the Day topic. Would/Do you carry even if it’s illegal and Why?

    Great post, by the way. Lots to think about.

  8. I had a similar discussion with a co-worker yesterday afternoon. He is of a similar mindset but had never activily considered his options. During the course of our conversation I made what I consider to be a fair point. Perhaps it is a bit of an over simplification of the issue but I feel that for all those who consider my preparations to be excessive and that we don’t need every day concealed carry I only have to be right once to justify my preparedness. Those who think we are as safe as newborn babes have to be right every single day.

    I’ve heard it said before and I agree, “When seconds count the police are only minutes away.”

    Along another vein: As a husband, and one day a father, I have certain responsibilities that extend beyond emptying the dishwasher and taking out the trash. I am responsible for paying the bills, ensuring that our Life, Health, Home, and Auto insurances are up to date and valid and it is my job to fix what is broken or at least attempt to before calling a tradesman. When I assumed the mantle of husband I swore before man and God to provide and protect and I must do that with all the tools at my disposal.

    I believe in personal responsibility. I am successful as an employee because I do not ask others to do my job for me and I am successful as a husband for the same reason.

  9. Bruce:

    A couple of things.

    First I want to commend you on your effective use of Counter-Surveillance tactics to determine if you had a possible threat. I have seen people give the advice that you do not change course in an obvious way. While this is often a good tactic, it is ineffective in identifying a tail. Sometimes you want to draw out possible surveillance and the best way to do that is to do something in an abrupt manner. It helps you “make” them. Once you have id-ed the bad guy(s) you can get to the more subtle business of evasion and escape.

    Second, many people ignore food sources right in their own neighborhood. Squirrels, Possums and coons (yummy) and you don’t even need a gun to catch them. These delicacies are a plentiful source of protein in the TEOTWAWKI scenario. It’s better than venison unless you have a tribe to feed.

  10. Although I’m not all that worried about a TEOTWAWKI, I think it’s likely in my lifetime to have energy/oil/food shortages because of disasters or scarcity. I’ve got plans to make it 3 months.

    Guns are a pretty small part of my overall plan.

  11. “This, coupled with all kinds of other cues (none of which I processed consciously at the time), led me to put my hand in my shirt (shoulder-holster) and tell them “I’d appreciate it if you stayed away. You’re making me nervous and I have a gun.”

    They didn’t veer off until I got to the “I have a gun” bit”

    That almost sounds like a Defensive Gun Use (the elusive DGU!). Except that it couldn’t have been, because no one died.

  12. Recommended reading for situational awareness ideas – “Trail Safe: How to avoid danger in the backcountry” by Michael Bane. Good book, and it has the added attraction of REALLY pissing off the enviros. He actually recommends CARRYING A GUN! In the sacred OUTDOORS! Including NATIONAL PARKS! Oh, the agony.

  13. MikeB has excellent trolling skills. It seems like every comment of his elicits a long article from TTAG. Dancing to his tune, much?

    His arguments are easily refuted as you demonstrate, Bruce. So why waste the time? Why does TTAG roll out the red carpet for this guy? One day he wants to take away our guns, the next he wants parenting advice. He gives off a “controlled opposition” vibe.

    So which is it? Is he just great at working you up? Or does he have an extra-special relationship with a staff-member?

    • Someone brought it up before. Yes, it’s annoying as Hell to see Mike get responses. At the same time, these response pieces are GREAT references for winning over people who share Mike’s views but not his convictions. If it means suffering Mike to win over others, so be it.

    • Someone brought it up before. Yes, it’s annoying as Hell to see Mike get entire response pieces. At the same time, these pieces are GREAT references for winning over people who share Mike’s views but not his convictions/chronic insanity. If it means suffering Mike to win over others, so be it.

  14. Good piece. It would be fun to have a Christmas slumber party — eggnog and brandy included — in that gun room pictured above.

  15. Bruce, I read the entire piece, I’m so proud of myself.

    I appreciate very much how you’re article does put the gun in it’s proper perspective versus all those other considerations, but I must say a few times I had the impression you’re a bit over the top with the fantasy-survivalist business.

    And that situational awareness has to be toned down a bit. Here’s why. Almost every day we see people, pass them on the street or whatever, who could be a threat. If you put too much stock in you own ability to read these people and situations, you’re in constant danger of acting badly. I would imagine this is very stressful too, not good for the old health. And imagine how much it distracts you from whatever you’re actually doing. You’re not completely present for your kids or whoever you’re supposed to be doing something with.

    In all these situations, when someone’s approaching from behind or obliquely, you’re keeping one eye on them, ready to act if need be, they pass you by without incident. Then you relax a bit always careful to not miss the next possible threat. Hundreds of these happen, maybe thousands over a period of years. In many of those cases, half of them maybe, if bad intent had been present, it would have been too late for you to act. A bad guy could easily get the jump on you whether you’re armed and paying attention or not.

    So what do I suggest, should you just pay no attention and surrender to the whim of the criminal? No, of course not. Only my sarcastic detractors say that’s what I want and what I do.

    I suggest you practice situational awareness but turn it down a good bit. You watch where you go and when you go there. I know random violence can happen anywhere anytime, but it’s not likely enough to get all worked about.

    • Poor Mike, still assuming the bad guy is perfect and always has the upper hand so “Resistance is futile” to such a good little Borg drone like Mike!

  16. Give mikeb302000 a case of Depends or Pampers, which ever seems appropriate, and then consign/refer his input to HuffPo or another ignorant rag of your choosing.

  17. I hve teenage daughters . if law enforcement were to break down,even for a few days, what can happen to innocent unarmed people doesn’t bear mentioning in polite company. any middle aged guy who thinks he can bare knuckle it with a group of “youths” bent on harm is kidding himself. If you cannot protect ypour immediate safety, what good is any of the rest of the preperation you could make?

    • miforest, I don’t buy the “I have teenage daughters to protect” justification. I also scoff at wild scanarios like the worse than Katrina-type breakdown in law and order, followed by roving bands of rapists looking to off parents and rape daughters.

      Why don’t you just say you like guns and leave it at that. Nobody I know wants to take them away from you. Some of us think you should be qualified to own them, but beyond that you’re free to own guns just like you’re free to own a lawn mower. There’s no need for the extravagant 2nd Amendment twisting and definitely no need for the wild fantasies in which your guns MIGHT save the day.

      • “Nobody I know wants to take them away from you.”

        Right, you’d rather have others do the heavy lifting for you.

  18. “Nobody I know wants to take them away from you.”

    Which begs the question of “Exactly what then, is the ultimate goal of those advocating the necessity for enacting more ’gun control laws’?
    Why a Federally-enacted ‘ban’ on civilian ownership of all firearms, of course.
    Anyone erroneously believing this to not be the ultimate goal of many in government and those who qualify themselves via thought and action to be among members of the new-age, digressive, secularist libtard movement
    is either historically ignorant, oblivious, in denial, mentally disordered, an idiot, all of the aforementioned or some combination thereof.

    “Hells bells Martha, until I started hearing and reading what the new-age libtards had to say, I didn’t even know I was a conservative.”

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