Gun Selection for Survival Kits Reply

Tania Mallet as Tilly Masterson with an AR-7 survival rifle in the movie Goldfinger, 1964.

Tania Mallet as Tilly Masterson with an AR-7 survival rifle in the movie Goldfinger, 1964.  The modern version of this rifle, and the Ruger 10/22 Takedown, are the most popular survival kit guns.

There are many opinions as to what gun is best for inclusion in a survival kit, and there is certainly no consensus, even among the experts.  But if you are not planning for a specific type of emergency, and self-defense is NOT your primary concern, then a .22 caliber rifle is generally considered to be the best all-around choice.

No matter which gun or caliber you choose, it is essential to learn how to safely operate and shoot your gun.  (You will find a link to safety rules at the end of this article.)  Further, guns which are stored in a survival kit must be secured so that children and others cannot access the firearm.   

A takedown rifle such as the Henry AR-7 Survival Rifle or the Ruger 10/22 Takedown can be quickly assembled or disassembled into 2-3 pieces.  This feature makes it possible for the rifle to fit inside a GO-Bag, some hydration packs, and most survival kits carried in vehicles and small airplanes.  For most people, this is important because the gun is unobtrusive as well as compact when being transported.  Plus, you can carry a lot of ammunition, because .22LR ammunition is small in size and it is lightweight.

Note:  For specific survival situations and threats, you may want a different type of survival kit gun.

First Step:  Select the Purpose for Your Survival Kit Gun—and Your Limiting Factors.

If size, weight and concealing the gun aren’t important to you, then the best gun for survival in the wild, plus general self-defense, is a shotgun.  Unfortunately, a shotgun is too big and heavy a gun for survival kits that are compact. Yet, for all-around hunting of small and large animals in a survival situation, and protection from wild animals and self-defense, a shotgun is the most versatile choice.  If you are only going to have one gun in your non-portable survival kit, you’ll probably want it to be a shotgun.

Self-Defense Use:  For defense at close-to-medium range (up to 100+-ft / 30 meters), it’s hard to beat a 12-gauge tactical shotgun.  A tactical 12-gauge shotgun is extremely intimidating to criminals, and it delivers potent stopping power.

Multipurpose Use:  Versatility is the primary strength of a shotgun, and this is what makes it our top-choice for a survival kit gun when size and weight isn’t an issue.  Just by changing the type of ammunition you have loaded in the shotgun, you can switch from a shotshell that is great for self defense, to a different shell that is ideal for stopping a pack of rabid dogs or wolves, to another which works for hunting small critters, and then to yet another which can take down big animals, even a brown bear.  Then, you can unload and reload with yet a different shotgun shell to hunt birds.  No other type of gun possesses this kind of extreme flexibility.

The downside of a shotgun for a survival kit is not that the gun is so big, but rather that the ammunition (shells, shotshells) is large, bulky, and heavy.

Remington_870_MarineIf you do opt for a shotgun for your survival kit, our recommended gun is the Remington 870 Marine model.  Unloaded it weighs 7.5 lbs (3.4 kg), and it is 38.5 inches (97.8 cm) in length.  Since it has nickel plating covering the gun, including the inside of the barrel and receiver, it is very durable.  The operating action is very dependable, too.  Perhaps the best testimony to the reliability of the Remington 870 is that it is the shotgun of choice for most law enforcement agencies in the United States.

One of the strengths of this survival gun is also a weakness.  With the Remington 870 Marine model shotgun, the bright electrostatic-applied nickel finish on the gun can easily reflect light and thereby draw attention to its owner.  Thankfully, this problem can be readily solved.  The bright surface can be subdued by painting the gun as described below as a treatment for the Ruger 10/22 stainless steel model, but in this case, DuraCoat Aerosol paint is recommended.  This can be accomplished as a simple do-it-yourself project, or something that a gunsmith or gun store can do for you.

Unfortunately, a shotgun brings with it a number of major problems for those who are looking for a survival kit gun that can be carried in a portable kit.

A tactical shotgun is impossible to conceal, it won’t fit into a GO-Bag knapsack, and it is three pounds heavier than the Ruger 10/22 which won our #1 Choice Award for a survival kit gun (below) that will fit inside a backpack.  Nevertheless, a tactical shotgun is a superb choice as a survival kit gun if size, weight, and ammunition-bulk aren’t a consideration.  For more about shotgun selection, Click Here to download the Remington Guide to Shotguns and Shotshells, or Click Here for an e-book on shotguns for defense and survival.

Ruger-Mrk-3-Pistol-22-w-7-inch-bbl

Ruger Mark III Hunter, a 10-shot .22 pistol with a 7-inch (17.5 cm) barrel, and weight of 41-ounces (1.2 kg).

If portability and concealment of the gun is a primary consideration, then it’s hard to beat a handgun, even a long-barrel handgun which will better meet the hunting purpose of a survival kit gun.  A 9mm or larger-caliber pistol (or revolver) is your best bet to meet the need for self-defense, but it’s overkill for small game.  Moreover, even a very powerful handgun isn’t a great choice if your goal is protection from dangerous predators, such as bear.

If concealment isn’t required, a shotgun, rifle, or tactical rifle is usually a better choice.  But if concealment is essential, or if you need to have a gun in a holster while you labor with your hands or are seated in a vehicle, then you might want to consider a handgun.  Be sure to look at the .410/.45 combination guns made by  Magnum Research, Rossi, and Taurus.  However, if you want to maximize the amount of ammunition that can be carried, a long-barrel .22 LR handgun such as the one pictured on the left, will be a better choice.

Keep in mind that a rifle is easier to shoot accurately, and the bullet fired from a rifle will generally deliver more punch (power).  The exact same cartridge fired from an equal-quality rifle rather than a handgun, will be more accurate, and it will have more wallop when it reaches its target.  This is because the added barrel length makes it easier to accurately aim the rifle, and the added barrel length makes it possible for the gunpowder to more fully burn, thereby providing more power and velocity behind the bullet.  Still, a handgun is easier to carry, especially indoors or in a vehicle, but outdoors a rifle carried using a sling is better for most survival situations.

 

The Key Factor for Choosing a Survival Kit Gun

L to R: .22 LR, 9mm, .45 ACP, .223 / 5.56 mm, .30-06, 12-gauge shotshell

L to R: .22LR, 9 mm, .45 ACP, .223 / 5.56 mm, .30-06, 12-gauge shotshell

The important key to unlock the answer of, “What is the best gun for a survival kit?” has more to do with the issue of ammunition, than it does the type or brand of the gun.  When making a decision regarding what gun to pack into a survival kit, the detail most often forgotten is the bulk and weight of the ammunition the gun uses.  Obviously, a gun without ammunition is useless, so the ability to carry plenty of ammo is a critically important consideration.  This is even more significant if your survival kit is in a GO-Bag or backpack size.

As a point of reference, here is a ballpark comparison of ammunition weight, by ammunition type:  For every 1-pound of weight, you can carry either:  137 –.22 LR cartridges, 38 – 9mm pistol cartridges, 39 – .223 / 5.56 mm rifle cartridges, 18 – 7.62/.308 rifle cartridges, or 11 – 12 ga. 00-Buck shotshells.  So it’s no surprise that .22 LR is the most popular caliber for survival guns.

For all around use, when defense is not the primary consideration, a takedown .22-caliber rifle is a hard-to-beat choice; additionally so if your goal is to pack a gun and lots of ammunition in an unobtrusive, compact, and lightweight survival kit.

Fortunately, a .22 caliber rifle is usually the least expensive type of firearm to purchase.  Furthermore, it is also the simplest to operate and the easiest for people of all ages and sizes to shoot accurately.  Since a .22 rifle produces almost no recoil when it is fired, it is also a popular choice for those who do not have any previous experience with firearms.

Rifles designed for the .22 LR (twenty-two Long Rifle) bullet are the most common—and there is a good reason for this.  It is typically the least expensive firearm ammunition, it is accurate, it’s fun to shoot for target practice and plinking, it’s useful for controlling populations of small animals which destroy food crops and harm domestic and farm animals, and it is ideal for hunting small game when you want to minimize damage to the meat.  It’s win – win – win – win – win choice.

22LR Ammo in PalmEspecially important in regard to survival kit guns, .22 LR ammunition is lightweight and compact; a hundred cartridges (shots) can easily be carried in the pocket of a pair of jeans (2 boxes of 50).

In a pinch, a .22 rifle or handgun can be used for self-defense.  A .22LR rifle can be used to accurately hit a human-size target at distances up to 500-yards.  However, the .22-cartridge is definitely NOT adequate for self-defense.  Even at short range it has little stopping power.  Nonetheless, there are more people killed each year by .22 bullets than any other caliber gun.  This statistic is a sobering reminder that these guns are not toys.  (This death rate is because the .22 is such a common caliber, not because it is so inherently deadly).

If you are selecting a gun primarily for self-defense, you will want to select a gun in a much larger caliber.  However, if you are looking for a gun that can be used for self-defense in a pinch, but the anticipated use is primarily for hunting small game, then the .22 is a great choice.  (Note:  In most places it is not legal to hunt deer-size animals with a .22, but if you are starving, a well-placed .22 bullet can do the job.)

In the hands of a skilled shooter, a .22LR bullet fired from a rifle still has enough kinetic energy to take down a deer-size animal at a distance of up to 440-yards (402 meters), but this is not achievable for most hunters.  Realistically, even a reasonably accurate shooter should not expect to hunt a  deer-size animal at a range that is greater than 150-feet (46-meters).

Within the world of .22 caliber firearms there are hundreds of gun choices, so we can’t begin to cover every option in this summary.  Nevertheless, there are a number of details which must be understood before we get into our specific recommendations for packable survival kit guns.

.22 Caliber Guns and Ammunition (metric labeling, 5.6×15R)

Target with holes from .22 bullets

The .22LR bullet is so small that 10-shots can fit under a dime.

The designation “.22” (pronounced “twenty-two”) indicates the diameter of the bullet, which is .22-inch.  This is a very tiny bullet.  Depending on brand, it weighs between 20 – 60 grains (0.05-0.14 oz / 1.3 to 3.9 g), and upon firing it exits the barrel at a velocity of between 575 to 1,750 feet per second (ft/s) [175 to 533 m/s].  Both .22 rifles and .22 handguns can use the same .22 ammunition.

When people talk about a gun that is a ‘twenty-two,’ they are referring to the type of ammunition that is used in the gun.  Most twenty-two caliber guns are chambered for ‘.22 LR’ (twenty-two Long Rifle) ammunition, but there are other variations.  In addition to handguns and rifles which are designed to use the .22 LR cartridge, other twenty-two guns are chambered for other similar cartridges such as the ‘.22 Short,’ ‘.22 Long’ and ‘.22 Magnum.’  Technically, these are all twenty-two guns.  Important Note: A .22 Magnum (Mag / WMR / WRF) cartridge may fit into a .22LR gun, but it is unsafe to do so.  Do not attempt to fire a .22 Magnum in any gun that is not specifically made for that caliber.

If you aren’t knowledgeable about these variations, buy a gun chambered for the ‘.22 LR’ cartridge, and only buy ‘.22 LR’ ammunition for that gun.  If you have selected the correct ammunition, the text .22 LR or .22 Long Rifle will be prominently printed on the flap of each box of ammunition.  Make sure you buy the right ammunition for your gun.

Though many people use the term “bullet” to indicate what is loaded into the gun, this is not the proper use of the word.  Strictly speaking, the bullet is the projectile which is shot out of the barrel.  What you load into the gun is a cartridge (or round), and it consists of a bullet, gun powder and the primer which ignites the powder, and the brass case which holds it all together.

L to R: Lead Bullet, Copper-Plated Bullet, and Cooper-Plated Hollowpoint Bullet

L to R: Lead Bullet, Copper-Plated Bullet, and Cooper-Plated Hollowpoint Bullet

Within the same ‘.22 LR’ caliber there are different types of .22 LR bullets (projectiles), too.  Don’t let this confuse you.  You will commonly find .22 LR ammunition with bullets (projectiles) that are made of uncoated lead, and also copper-plated lead.  (The copper coating keeps the barrel cleaner).  In a sporting goods store you will also find .22 LR ammunition with hollow-point bullets that are designed to expand, as this can provide more stopping power and less risk of over-penetration and ricochet.  Another variation is cartridges which are labeled “Match,” and these are made for target-shooting matches and other circumstances where increased accuracy is desired.  Another increasingly common variation is “subsonic” ammunition which is quieter, but generally less powerful.  Shotshell .22 LR ammunition is also available, and it is primarily used for killing snakes at short range.  (Warning:  Plastic-nose shotshell or snake-shot projectiles tend to jam in semiautomatic guns.)

Since we are talking about survival kits which are often stored for many years, it is worth noting that uncoated lead bullets will oxidize when stored for a long period of time.  So, if you have a choice, select a brand of ammunition which uses copper-plated bullets.  Notwithstanding, oxidized lead bullets are often still serviceable.  Before loading them into your gun, first rub the bullets with a coarse cloth to remove the oxidation.

Federal 22 Brick w Ammo CanFor safety and longevity, it is best to store all ammunition in steel containers such as military ammo cans.  Add a packet of desiccant (moisture absorbent) for long-term storage.  Occasionally you can find .22 ammunition already sealed in a tin can, and this is excellent for long term storage.  Even better is packing the ammunition in a 7-mil Mylar bag with a desiccant packet.  And for long-term storage of your survival kit gun, treat it with a rust-inhibiting oil like Boeshield T-9, and then seal it in the same type of packaging material with desiccant.  Click Here for instructions on do-it-yourself Mylar packaging, and sources for Mylar bags and desiccant.

You will find that .22 LR cartridges come in standard power (not usually labeled, as it is standard), high-power, high-velocity or ultra-velocity, and also subsonic (low-power, which are quieter).  For survival kits, any of these will suffice.

Unless your .22 LR gun is finicky, it will shoot various types of .22 LR ammunition.  But before you purchase a quantity of ammunition, shoot a hundred rounds to verify that the brand shoots accurately and reliably in your gun.  A well-lubricated, quality rifle or pistol should be able to shoot 200-rounds (shots) without jamming.

A small, lightweight cleaning kit must be kept with your survival kit gun.

A small, lightweight cleaning kit must be stored with your survival kit gun.

If you are using ammunition with copper-covered-lead bullets, a good .22 rifle should be able to shoot several hundred shots without additional lubrication or maintenance of any kind. Nevertheless, cleaning, re-lubrication and rust-prevention treatment is important after each day of shooting, and also whenever the gun is exposed to dirt, sand, perspiration, high humidly, rain, or sea air.  No survival gun is complete without a small gun cleaning kit such as the small and lightweight Otis Tactical.

The Ruger 10/22 seems to digest all brands of .22 LR ammunition, that’s one reason it’s so popular.  However, the Ruger 10/22 does not do well with ultra-high velocity cartridges such as “Stinger,” a .22 LR cartridge made by CII.  The Henry AR-7 rifle can be a little more finicky, and seems to operate best using high-velocity ammunition.

For a survival-kit gun, reliability with different brands of ammunition is an important consideration as resupply in an emergency situation often means you can’t be picky.  This is one of the reasons we selected the Ruger 10/22 as the best survival kit gun for GO-Bags and knapsack-size survival kits.

Online or in sporting goods stores, you will usually find .22 LR ammunition in boxes of 50 cartridges or a “brick” of 500 – 555 cartridges, but other sizes are also sold.  When feasible, always use the same ammunition, as different brands can produce a different point-of-impact of the bullet.

When you are carrying ammunition, make sure the cartridges are not banging around as this can damage them and adversely affect accuracy.  Never use penetrating oil such as WD-40 on your ammunition as it can seep into the cartridge and damage the gunpowder.

After purchase, and whenever your gun is knocked around or falls on a hard surface, it needs to be “sighted in” to adjust the gun’s sights to match the bullet’s point-of-impact.  Since different brands can produce a different point-of-impact, be sure to use your usual ammunition.  This “sighting in” should be accomplished using the standard distance you expect to shoot the gun.  For most people, this is 50-75 yards (45-70 meters) or less.  For shooting small game, effective range of a .22 LR is about 150 yards (137 meters).  Yet, a .22 LR bullet can travel a mile given the right conditions, so be sure of your backstop before shooting.

 

Our Recommendations for a Packable Survival Kit Gun

Ruger_10-22_wBag01

Ruger 10/22 Takedown rifle in stainless steel, model 11100, shown with included bag.

Best Survival Kit Gun for GO-Bags and Backpack-size Survival Kits:  Ruger 10/22 Takedown – Semiautomatic .22LR Rifle

First introduced in 1963, the lightweight and reliable Ruger 10/22 semiautomatic rifle quickly became the most popular .22 rifle in the United States, and it has retained this lofty position for decades.  However, it is the relatively new Ruger 10/22 “Takedown” (TD) model that we specifically recommend.  Since it is made to be a ‘takedown’ style rifle, the barrel and the stock/action are easily and quickly separated, making it possible to unobtrusively carry the two rifle pieces (20-1/4 inch / 51.5 cm) inside a standard survival kit or GO-Pack (GO-Bag, Bug-Out Bag).  MSRP: $399/$419.  Market price, $350-400.

Packable Weight:  Further, since .the ammunition for the rifle is also small and lightweight, it is reasonable to carry the rifle and 200-rounds of ammunition along with your other Go-Bag or survival kit gear, inside a standard knapsack.  Total weight of the rifle is 4.67 lbs (2.12 kg).  When you add 200-round of ammunition to the rifle and case, the total package is a little more than 6-pounds (2.7 kg).  This means you can still carry a lot of other gear without exceeding the desirable 20-25 pound (9-11 kg) weight of a GO-Bag or portable survival kit.  (Weight of 22 LR cartridges:  1-pound = 137 cartridges / 1 kg = 300 cartridges.  A 500-round brick of .22 LR ammunition is 4.8 pounds (1.7 kg) including box and packaging.)

Made by Henry Rifles, the  U.S. Survival AR-7 is only 3.5-lbs and 18.5-inches stowed

Made by Henry Rifles, the U.S. Survival AR-7 is only 3.5-lbs and 18.5-inches stowed. The waterproof stock holds all the pieces, including 3 magazines.

Runner-Up Choice:  Henry U.S. Survival AR-7 Rifle (It Floats!)

In addition to the Ruger 10/22, there are other takedown .22 rifles, most notably the Henry U.S. Survival AR-7 Rifle.  What is unique about this survival rifle is that it has a storage compartment for the gun’s barrel, action and three magazine inside the rifle’s floating stock.  It is even lighter in weight than the Ruger 10/22 at 3.5 vs. 4.67 lbs (1.6 vs. 2.1 kg), and it boasts a smaller take-down size, 16.5-inches vs. 20-1/4 inches (42 vs. 51.5 cm).

Unfortunately, the AR-7 does not have the reputation of durability and reliability that the Ruger 10/22 enjoys.  This was earned during the days when Charter Arms owned the patent, but since Henry Rifles started making the rife in 1980, the quality is excellent.

The one lingering problem is a design disadvantage:  The feed lip, which transports the ammunition into the chamber of the gun, is on the magazine rather than the gun itself.   The feed lip is therefore susceptible to damage if the magazine is dropped or abused, and this can cause a failure to load.  Therefore, extra magazines are a necessity, and they should be carried in a pouch which provides protection for the feed lip.  (This is a good idea for spare magazines, anyway, no matter what type of gun you have.)

The AR-7 is easy to operate, and though the assembly/disassembly process involves three components rather than the Ruger’s two (making the smaller size possible), it’s quick and easy to accomplish.   Regrettably, the assembled rifle is not as comfortable to shoot as the Ruger 10/22, but it is smaller and $50 cheaper.  And most notably, it floats if you drop the rifle in water.  The old Charter Arms AR-7 had an inferior barrel, but Henry AR-7 comes standard with a sturdy steel barrel covered in tough ABS plastic that is coated with Teflon for improved protection against corrosion.  MSRP & Market Price for AR-7 rifle in Black: $290.

At the end of this section you will find a link to the Ruger and Henry websites, and the specific model number(s) we recommend.

 

Ruger-10-22TD-Scope_Size_Comparison-Arrows

The scope mounted on the top rifle is the proper size, whereas the scope in the inset photo extends far beyond the action, making the rifle less compact.

Optics (Rifle Scope) and Sights

If you opt to add an optical sight to your rifle, it is extremely important to select a scope and scope mount that is compatible with the rifle you select.  For example, once a scope has been mounted onto a Ruger 10/22 Takedown, you don’t want that portion of the rifle to become significantly longer (see photo) in length.  If it is, you lose some of the small-size advantage of the ‘takedown’ style rifle.

It is also important for the scope to retain its zero (accuracy) when the rifle is repeatedly disassembled and reassembled.  If you select a rifle other than a ‘takedown’ (TD) model, this isn’t such a big issue.  However, if you select the Ruger 10/22 Takedown and want to maintain something close to the 20-1/4-inch length of the disassembled rifle, then you will need to carefully select your scope and a quick attach/detach scope mount.

If you select the Henry AR-7 Survival Rifle, you’re stuck.  You will need to remove the scope whenever you put the pieces inside the floating stock.  So, if you want to mount a scope on an AR-7 Survival Rifle and you want to take-down the rifle and store the barrel inside the floating stock, you will be forced to store the scope separate from the rifle. Of course, this is a non-issue if you don’t want an optical scope on your rifle.

A scope mount with a quick-attach mount will help, but the rifle will still need to be re-zeroed.

A scope mount with a quick-attach mount will help, but the rifle will still need to be re-zeroed.

The major downside of mounting a scope on an AR-7 Survival Rifle is that once you remove the scope from the action, so that the pieces will fit inside the floating stock, you will need to re-zero the scope’s point-of-impact when you reassemble it.  This will take time and ammunition.

In an emergency situation with the AR-7 rifle and scope, your first task may be to assemble the rifle, attach the scope, and then test-fire until you have successfully realigned the scope to match the bullet’s point of impact.  After accomplishing this task, you probably won’t want to disassemble your rifle until the emergency situation is over.  The rifle will still float when it is assembled, as long as the scope isn’t too heavy.

As to the Ruger 10/22 Takedown, it shoots great out of the box, and the iron-sights which come mounted on the gun are adequate.  Unfortunately, the standard sights which come on the Henry AR-7 Survival Rifle are not as well liked.

To make these rifles more serviceable at greater shooting distances, many owners do add a 4-6x rifle scope.  You will also want a sling, although in a survival situation you can make a sling out of 550 paracord, and secure it in place using duct tape.  Whichever rifle you choose, you will certainly want to buy extra magazines, especially since a damaged or lost magazine can create a serious survival problem.

Top: Stainless Steel, mdl  Bottom: Black Alloy, mdl

Top: Stainless Steel, mdl 11100; Bottom: Black Alloy, mdl 11112. Both come with Nylon Case.

Two Recommended Models of the Ruger 10/22 Takedown

Even if you don’t want to put the Ruger 10/22 inside your GO-Bag, the included storage bag which comes with the gun is great.  It looks like an ordinary small knapsack or hydration pack.  It won’t float the rifle, but the backpack case is still a nice touch.

If you opt to carry the gun in the included nylon storage case, and you want to make it even more nondescript so that most people won’t know you have a rifle, use a black Sharpie permanent marker to blot out the red Ruger logo that is embroidered on the bag.

Model Numbers:  The two variations of the Ruger 10/22 Takedown model rifle are:  Stainless Steel (model # 11100) and black steel (model #11112).  You may not have the luxury of selecting one over the other as these rifles can be hard to find, but you may still want to understand the merits of each model.

Which 10/22 Takedown Model is Best?

The stainless steel Ruger 10/22 (model 11100) has a reputation for being more durable and less prone to rust, but that isn’t completely accurate as the black model isn’t just made of ordinary gun steel, it’s an alloy.  Nevertheless, the stainless steel model is probably slightly more durable, and this may be an advantage if you anticipate operating in a marine environment or a rainy climate.

The downside of the stainless model is that the shiny surface will reflect light, and this may draw unwanted attention to you and your assembled rifle.  But if you want the advantages of the stainless steel but not the bright finish, the solution is simple.  Paint and wrap the metal parts.  It’s an undemanding process to use a combination of flat-spray paint and a gun wrap to solve the problem.

This is honestly a simple do-it-yourself project:  With the rifle assembled (and scope attached), using a cotton ball as the applicator, rub isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol or a hand-applied (not spray) degreaser, to remove oil from the exposed metal surfaces.  After the alcohol has fully evaporated, wearing gloves to keep oil from your hands off the gun’s clean surface, wipe the gun with a coarse cloth.  Then use painter’s tape or masking tape to cover the gun’s sights, the operating / moving parts, ejection port (bolt area), the rifle’s stock, and anything else you don’t want painted.  Use a flat-black or flat-color spray paint to coat the exposed metal parts.  To avoid paint drips, apply several light coats of paint.  Once the first coat dries, paint the surface again with another light coat.  Repeat until the bright finish is completely concealed.

There are paints designed specifically for guns, such as DuraCoat Aerosol, but a quality hardware-store spray-paint is adequate if you plan to wrap the gun after painting.

Us a non-adhesive gun wrap such as Camo Form to protect your survival rifle.

Us a non-adhesive gun wrap such as McNett Camo Form to protect your survival rifle.

Once the paint has dried, use a non-adhesive gun wrap to protect the paint from chipping and wear.  A gun wrap material such as McNett Camo Form is easy to apply, and the McNett website has easy-to-follow written and video instructions.  Non-adhesive dark-color medical wrap can also be used if you want to save a few dollars.

Your other option is the black-color, Ruger 10/22 Takedown (model #11112).  Purchasing this model saves you the bother of customization, but the black alloy is more prone to rust.  Yet, some people prefer the black model because it comes with a slightly shorter, threaded barrel.  This is a feature that makes it possible to screw-on a suppressor to make the gun quieter.  However, since a noise suppressor requires a special federal license issued by ATF (NFA tax stamp), most people don’t want to bother.

The Ruger 10/22 has been around since 1964, so many variations have been produced over the years.  In addition to suppressors made for this rifle, there are many aftermarket add-ons and doodads if you want to customize your rifle.  However, as long as you purchase a Ruger 10/22 with a synthetic stock (which is more weather resistant and durable than wood), the rifle doesn’t really need any customization. If you buy a used 10/22 with a wood stock, consider replacing it with a good-quality synthetic (not plastic) stock as these are more durable than wood.  The most popular aftermarket stocks are made by Archangel.

The ‘Ruger 10/22 Takedown’ and ‘Henry AR-7’ are Easy to Pack in a Knapsack

Many rifles and shotguns can be disassembled for storage, but the unique feature of the Ruger 10/22 Takedown is that it can be assembled or disassembled in under 5-seconds, and similarly, the Henry AR-7 rifle in under 10-seconds.

Click Here for Videos:  Various short videos on the Ruger 10/22 Takedown and other 10/22 models.  Note on Laser Video: For most people, the optional laser sight is not worth the money as the laser is not sufficiently visible in sunlight, and it requires special batteries.

Ruger_10-22-Std-n-Extended_Mags

Top Left: Ruger 10-Rnd Magazine.  Right: Ruger BX-25  25-Rnd Magazine

Extra Magazines:

The Ruger 10/22 usually only comes with 1-magazine (which holds 10-rounds of ammunition), and the Henry AR-7 comes with two 8-round magazines.  We recommend a minimum of 5-magazines, so be sure to order extra when you purchase your rifle.

Note:  In addition to the factory-made magazines that come with each gun, there are banana-shape and AR-style magazines which hold 25-30 rounds of .22LR ammunition.  There are even giant 50-round magazines available for the Ruger 10/22.

If they are legal in your area, Ruger 25-round magazines (BX-25 or 2x BX-25) and after-market high capacity magazines for the AR-7 can be obtained from online retailers such as Brownells (www.brownells.com) and Midway USA (www.midwayusa.com).  If the magazines aren’t made by the manufacturer, be sure to check the online reviews before purchasing as some brands are unreliable.

Some people want to purchase high-capacity magazines either because they don’t want to reload as often, or because they look more menacing in a self-defense situation.  That’s fine, but it’s important to understand that high-capacity magazines may not be as reliable as the standard factory magazine.

The AlanGater 3Mag Coupler makes it possible to clip together three of the factory 10-rnd magazines.

The AlanGater TriMag Coupler makes it possible to clip together three of the Ruger 10/22 10-round magazines.

Moreover, the Ruger 10/22 magazines, including those made by the factory, are plastic.  Therefore they are prone to damage.  Similarly, the AR-7 magazines have a feeding lip that is easy to damage if the magazine is mishandled (or an aftermarket brand that is poorly constructed).

Plastic high-capacity magazines are far easier to damage than the stock magazines due to their size, shape, and propensity to snag on branches and bushes in the field.  For Ruger 10/22 owners, it may be more prudent to purchase the TriMag Coupler made by AlanGator as it makes a more compact package when installed on the gun.  This device clips together three of the factory 10-round magazines, a technique which minimizes snags while facilitating a quick change of magazines.

 

For Additional Information

Click Here: Link to the manufacturer’s website for the Ruger ‘Takedown’ models.

Click Here:  Link to the manufacturer’s website for Henry U.S. Survival AR-7 Rifle.

 

Click Here:  Brownells, the largest online store for ammunition and magazines, scopes, gun cleaning supplies, etc.

Click Here:  Midway USA, another popular online store for gun supplies.

Click Here:  Gander Mountain, gun and outdoor supplies.

 

Firearm Safety:

Click Here to download a copy of the TXRFA Firearm Safety Rules

 

Recommended Reading on Firearms for Self-Defense:  

For an overview of the different options within the category of self-defense firearms, read “Family and Personal Protection: Selecting the Best Gun for Self-Defense at Home” by Sig Swanstrom.

 

Recommended Reading on Guns for Survival Kits:

Summary of Survival-Kit Firearms:  Click Here for a  2-Page PDF on the positives and negatives of each type of survival kit gun.

Air Guns for Survival Use:  Click Here to jump to our blog post on powerful air guns.

AirSoft Guns for Shooting Practice:  Click Here for Wiki article on AirSoft Guns for Shooting Practice

 

 

Go-Bags and Emergency Provision Kits for Disasters or Evacuation Reply

GO-Bag_Family

Prepare GO-Bags for each family member.

What is a GO Bag?  It’s a pre-packed provisions and gear knapsack, and it is a core element for disaster and emergency preparations.  Whether you are forced to evacuated from your home due to a storm, or you have made the choice to flee due to civil unrest or some other cause, you need a pre-packed GO-Bag (sometimes referred to as a GOOD Bag — Get-Out-Of-Dodge, or BOB — Bug-Out Bag).

A pre-packed GO-Bag makes it possible for you to instantly flee in a disaster or emergency situation   If this is the kind of situation that you encounter, at that point it is too late to pack.  It’s literally too late.  You will either throw things into a bag and leave, with only a few of the things you actually need; or you will take the time to do it right, and the window of opportunity will close and it will be too late to get to safety.  Either way, you will expose yourself to unnecessary danger.  A GO-Bag, pre-packed and ready to use, is an essential component for disaster and emergency preparedness.

Advice from the Experts:  A suitcase or duffle bag is inadequate for use as a GO-Bag.  You need to be able to carry your GO-Bag on your shoulders, comfortably, perhaps for an extended period of time and considerable distance if you end up on foot.  

You may flee from your home or work in your car, but you may end up on walking.  Anticipate this situation.  You may have more supplies in your car but you may be forced to leave almost everything behind.  If this is the situation, a pre-packed GO-Bag may literally be a life saver.

A GO-Bag is a knapsack containing 10-15 lbs of essential supplies.  For most people, a knapsack is a better choice because a large backpack can be ungainly if you need to move quickly.  And, if it’s too heavy you might be tempted to leave it behind, and a large bag may make you more of a target for criminal assault or unwanted attention.  

Keep your emergency supplies and your GO Bag protected inside a duffle bag, and store it in your car’s trunk.  The colors of your clothing and GOOD Bag should be subdued and similar to the color of the terrain, but not camo or military-like. Don’t store batteries in flashlights or electronics.  Frequently replace water and other items susceptible to quality or safety degradation.  Check your kit regularly.  Storing your GO Bag in a plastic trash sack may keep it clean, but it may encourage mold or other problems.  Excessive heat or cold will damage some of your GO Bag provisions, so storage must be appropriate to your environment.

Young Children, Elderly, and those With Physical Limitations

Each member of the family or group that is bugging-out (fleeing), who is physically able, should carry their own GO Bag, even if it’s small.  Young children, elderly, and physically feeble individuals may not be able to carry everything they need, but they should at least carry the important items that are unique to their personal needs.  This will include essential clothing, their medicines, their spare eyeglasses and other personal-needs gear, plus at least some water and Power Bars (food).  You may shutter at the thought of becoming separated from them, but if that does somehow happen, or if you need to transfer them to the care of another, you’ll want your loved one to have those things they actually need.

Seasonal Clothing / Needs for Environment or Conditions

In addition to your GO Bag, you need to have a seasonal bag containing such items as warm/cold weather clothing, rain/sun/heat protection, boots and durable clothing to immediately change into when an emergency situation occurs.  Having multiple changes of clothing is overrated.  What you need are the right clothes for the situation.  Change into your situation-appropriate clothing early, and leave the impractical items behind.  More about clothing will be covered later.  The point we’re making here is that these items should be in a separate bag, but stored with your GO Bag.

What to Get? / Where to Buy?

Though a sporting goods store may offer a good selection of suitable clothing items, their “camping” or “backpacking” departments are often stocked with goods that are of insufficient quality.  Shopping online from a trustworthy vendor such as REI (http://www.REI.com and Brigade Quartermaster (http://www.BrigadeQM.com) are usually a more reliable resource.   REI has stores nationwide which offer training and product-comparison materials, and sales staff who are better informed than those found in most stores.

On this website, brand recommendations (italics) are made only when quality or specifications are highly important.  This doesn’t mean that these items are your only choice, it just means that you need to pay particular attention to the specifications and quality.

Specific Provisions & Gear

You can’t have all of the below items in your GO Bag as it would become too large and heavy.  But if you have a number of people in your family or Bug-Out Group, all of these items can be included.

As finances allow, you need to stockpile as much of this as possible.  Again, the below list is a place to start as you develop your own emergency preparations. This list needs to be revised according to your own needs, your financial ability, and your own geography and environment.

Remember to remove unnecessary packaging from all items, and compress clothing in Ziplock-style travel bags.  Everything should be stored together, and protected from excessive heat/cold, moisture, insects, and other things which might cause damage.

Your Emergency / Disaster Supplies List

Below is a basic list of provisions and gear to create a 2-Week Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Kit, and a GO-Bag (Evacuation Supplies).  The items selected for inclusion in your GO-Bag knapsack will be only a small portion of this list, and the contents of your GO-Bag should be selected based on your location and situation.

This list of provisions and gear is provided only as a place to start, to help you develop your own list of supplies.  We hope that you will find this generic list helpful, but it is not intended to take the place of personal planning for your own circumstances and situation.  Be sure to add, remove and make changes to this list as appropriate for the number of people being served, the special needs of children, elderly and infirm, and for health, weather and other environment conditions where you will be operating.

GO-Bag:  Use either a medium-size internal frame backpack or a stout knapsack as your bag.  It should be equipped with a 100-fl. oz. water bladder, stored empty until needed; and your bag needs to be constructed of waterproof materials and designed to be carried on your back using padded shoulder straps.  If finances are tight, go to a Good Will store and buy an old school-bag knapsack.

The decision to use a medium-size backpack vs. knapsack should be based on the fitness of the individual who will be carrying it, environmental conditions, and terrain.  For most reasonably-fit and healthy people the weight of the fully-packed GO-Bag (weight of bag and contents) should not exceed 20% of their body weight.

In an emergency situation, always keep core essentials with you in your pockets, or in the pockets of a vest or fanny pack which is worn constantly, even while sleeping.  The GO Bag is for essentials, but the critically important “core” essentials such as a small flashlight, lighter or fire-starter, water purification tablets, a collapsible water container, face-covering scarf, self-defense pepper spray, and a pocketknife, should always be kept on your person. 

A change of clothing for an emergency situation can be stored in a separate bag and kept with your GO Bag, but be sure to change into these clothes as soon as practicable when an emergency strikes.  Hand carried items reduce mobility and increase fatigue.

Again, the following list is only a place to start.  It is provided to help you develop your own a GO Bag, and your 14-Day Emergency Provision Kit (for home use, office use, or transport in a vehicle).  Personal needs, environmental conditions, health, children, pets, and the need to assist others must also be considered when developing your personal supply lists.  

If you are new to this, and just getting into preparedness, this list will be daunting.  So start by purchasing the most important items first, and add to your emergency provisions as finances allow.

Assembling your GO-Bag, a sufficient quantity of drinking water, food, emergency medical supplies, and preparations for shelter (protection from cold, rain, sun, etc.) are your first priorities.  Concentrate on these supplies first.

BASIC CLOTHING:

–  Hiking Boots; made from waterproof but breathable material, and tops which extend above the ankle for lateral support and protection (wear these).

–  Water shoes or lightweight tennis shoes.

–  Moisture-wicking liner socks, 3-pair (wear 1-pr).

–  Backpacking socks , 3-pair (wear 1-pair).

–  Underpants (3-pr); and for women add a sports bra.

–  Gloves (work gloves AND surgical/latex gloves).

–  Wool watch cap.

–  Boonie or full-brimmed hat with retention strap.

–  Bandana, cotton or water- wicking synthetic.

–  Ripstop BDU pants, 2 pair (wear 1-pair).

–  Polyester long underwear (1 pair).

–  Long underwear shirt (1).

–  2 Polyester T-shirts, one w/ long-sleeves (wear 1).

–  Gore-Tex rain pants or snake-proof gaiters.

–  Heavy-duty belt with strong buckle.

–  Polar fleece long-sleeve pullover (1).

–  Shirt (long sleeve, roll-up sleeve style (wear).

–  Gore-Tex shell or parka.

–  Camouflage GI poncho or Gore-Tex poncho (can also be used as shelter, or to hide unattended gear).

 

EMERGENCY SHELTER and FIRE

–  Disposable butane lighters (3+).

–   FireSteel or Ultimate Survival fire-starter tool (2).

–  Fire NuggetsTinder Dust, or combustible tinder.

–  Strike-Anywhere or Storm-Proof matches in a watertight plastic container.

–  Magnifying glass (small size, for starting fires, etc.)

–  Space All-Weather Blanket or SOL Thermal Bivy.

–  Tarp (6 x 8’ fiber-reinforced plastic tarp).

–  550 7-strand braided GI paracord (100-feet).

–  Sleeping bag, foam pad and nylon bivy sacks are valuable, but may be too large or heavy if using a H.A.W.G. or other knapsack-size GOOD Bag.


WATER & FOOD

Of the two, pure water is more important than food.  You can live as long as 3-4 weeks on almost no food, but your body and brain will start to suffer greatly after just one day without pure water.

Water and food supplies should be sufficient for 14-days, but you will probably not carry more than 200-oz in your GO-Bag, so water purification tablets or a purification filter is essential.  Prepare for extra people, too.  (Some equipment can be shared, but water supplies and food, shelter, and related supplies must be on a per-person basis.

A 14-day supply of canned food per-person may be difficult to store, but it may be impossible to transport in an average car.  Even a 7-day supply of military meals (MRE – Meals-Ready-to-Eat) would be unreasonable to carry in a GO-Bag knapsack.  So for your transportable supplies, be sure to include quantities of dry goods such as pasta and instant rice to create a more lightweight and compact food supply.

Practice loading your supplies into your vehicle, to make sure everything fits.

For your GO-Bag, pack food such as MRE Entrees (just the meal, not the entire package) or dehydrated meals made for backpacking.  Freeze-dried prepared food, such as those made by “ Mountain House,” are the lightest weight and most easily packed.  And since you only need to add hot water to prepare these freeze-dried meals, it’s an easy and practical way to eat when you’re on the go.  However, keep in mind that when the product label indicates “Serves 2,” it is generally only adequate for one active person.  Power Bars, and lifeboat survival rations (available at a marine-supplies store), can augment these MRE or freeze-dried GO-Bag meals.

Low Cost, Easy to store long-term, and sufficiently lightweight to pack in a GO-Bag, are such things as:

–  Peanuts or trail mix (dried fruits, nuts and seeds), ideal in foil packaging.

–  Power Bars (8+), and Beef Jerky (4+ packages).

–  Gatoraid or similar powder to add to water, to provide carbs and electrolytes.

–  1 -gal Ziplock bag of oatmeal, and a 1-gal bag of rice.

–  Raw honey, cinnamon, salt & pepper, plus a small  bottle of Tabasco sauce or other strong seasoning to help make any food more palatable.

–  1-quart Nalgene bottle, filled with some of above.

–  Drinking water (minimum of 100-oz) of pure drinking water should be in your GO-Bag, plus the capability of purifying water.  Water filtration is not enough.  You need to purify other sources of water.  This can be accomplished by boiling it for at least 5-7 minutes, or by using using purification tablets, or using a water purification system that filters to at least 1-micron.

–  “MSR” water filter (1-micron filtration) or similar is fairly expensive, but can be a life saver.

–  Potable Aqua Iodine water purification tablets (2 bottles, even if you have a water filtration system).

Cooking  at home: Propane camp stove with at least 7-propane bottles, or a one full 5-gallon propane tank.  (Keep in mind that you may be without electricity or natural gas, so your kitchen stove and conventional cooking methods may not work).

Cooking equipment for an extended-duration GO-Bag:

–  “MSR DragonFly” multi-fuel stove, full fuel bottle.

–  Pot w/ lid and heat exchanger (store stove inside).

–  MSR windscreen and heat reflector for cooking.

–  Insulated mug with lid and handle (Size: 16+ oz).

–  Stainless steel spoon, plus sturdy plastic or aluminum spork (fork/spoon combination).

–  Dish/pot scraper and brush.

* Use Hefty OneZip Click plastic bags to organize by category and to protect items as appropriate.

  

MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS:

–  Small, strong plastic backpacking spade (small shovel).

–  Backpacking saw (blades for wood and metal).

–  Pry bar, 15”+.

–  Leatherman Wave multi-tool knife/pliers.

–  Knife sharpener or stone (pocket-size).

–  Topographic map GPS receiver (expensive), or
–  NSGS map of bug-out location and route alternatives, laminated or sealed in slide-lock plastic bag.

–   Heavy duty Dacron sail-maker’s thread and needles, or upholstery needles and thread.

–   Insect repellent – 98% DEET (in slide-lock bag).

–  SPF 50 sun-block and Chapstick.

–  Polarized sunglasses, rated also as eye protection, with protective case and floating retainer strap.

–  Molefoam Padding, tape and blister relief items.

–  Cortisone cream (sm. size; poison ivy & bug bites).

–  Benadryll (travel size, for insect stings).

–  Epipen (for severe allergic reactions to stings).

–  Medication for both diarrhea and constipation, as well as for upset stomach.

–  Ibuprofen and aspirin (20 of each).

–  Field guide to edible plants (region-specific).

–  Photocopy of ID (driver’s license / passport / medication prescriptions).

–  Cash, plus items to barter.

–  P-51 military (pocket) can opener.

–  Swiss Army  Explorer-model pocket knife.

–  Sheath Knife 4+ inch stainless steel blade.

–  550 Paracord (braided, 7-strand nylon, military).

–  Nylon fishing net (9 x 3’ min, 1” mesh).

–  Toothbrush and baking soda.

–  Wilderness concentrated soap (1-3 oz plastic bottle).

–  Safety razor, comb, backpacking toilet tissue.

–  Signal mirror (metal, lightweight; protect surface).

–   Greatland Laser Rescue Flare (or a laser pointer).

–   Flashlight: Mini Maglight w/ extra batteries.

–  Petzl or Black Diamond LED headlamp.

–  Rechargeable batteries and solar battery charger.

–  Heavy-duty duct tape (20’ minimum).

–  Gun Oil: Royal Purple or Militech-1  (1-oz  size).

–  Super Glue (6-small tubes, store in Ziplock bag).

–  Sharpie and Fisher Space pens (black ink).

–  “Rite in the Rain Outdoor Journal”-  5 x 3” notepad.

–  Portable radio with hand-crank and cell phone charger / adapters  (operates on AM-FM-NOAA weather bands).  Or, an ultra-small radio such as Kaito KA1121, plus a hand-crank battery charger.

–  Suunto (or similar) backpacking compass.

–  Plastic whistle, with lanyard.

–  Trash Bags (2) 3-mil, 42-55 gal. construction-grade plastic garbage bags for: shelter, raincoat, to bury gear, for water collection and many other uses.

–  Lightweight mesh bag (food foraging and carry).

–   Bible, New Testament w/ Psalms & Proverbs small-size.  (Even non-religious people will find this a source of comfort and wisdom during difficult times).

HUNTING, FISHING, and FORAGING:
For information on firearms and ammunition, see article: “Firearms & Tools for Defense and Hunting.”  For training on hunting, and hunting education for children, contact Trinity Oaks: www.TrinityOaks.org.

Supplies for Hunting, Fishing, and Foraging:

–  Selection of fishhooks, lures, flies, bobbers, line-weights, and a spool of mono-filament leader.

–  Wire snares or traps suitable for small game.

–  Wrist-Rocket slingshot (or, 5’ surgical tubing to make a slingshot, and for siphoning fuel, water, etc).

–  Binoculars (small & lightweight, 8 x 25 or greater).

 

As you develop your list of supplies, remember that there are at least 4-levels of equipment and food/water preparations that are required:

a) Home and Work Preparations (for yourself and co-workers);

b) Vehicle transported supplies, and/or

c) Mountain Bike or Motorcycle Carried Supplies (Optional). These extra items will be in addition to your GO-Bag;

d) On Foot Bug-Out  (Go-Bag for each individual, required in addition to the above).  Note:  GO-Bags, also referred to as GOOD Bags (Get-Out-O-Dodge) or BOBs (Bug-Out Bags), can be either a pack as used for backpacking, or a knapsack which is more convenient to handle, run with, as well as lighter in weight if you find yourself in the situation of having to walk for a long distance;

e) Pocket-Kits. (Items carried in your pocket, purse, briefcase, everyday/always— just in case).

 

Recommended Retailers for These Products:

REI:  www.REI.com  REI specializes in quality backpacking and camping gear, and these compact and transportable items can form the basis for emergency and disaster preparations.

Brigade Quartermaster:  www.BrigadeQM.com  Brigade Quartermaster is a prime supplier of goods to the military and soldiers serving overseas.  Many of these items are also useful for emergency and disaster preparedness.

Note:  36ReadyBlog does not have a relationship with these retailers, nor do we receive any compensation from them as a result of our making these recommendations.

Amateur Radio (Ham Radio) for Communication During Disasters – Field Day Training Reply

The best opportunity to experience amateur radio operators in action is ARRL Field Day.  This is an exercise where amateur radio operators (ham’s) “take to the field” to set up stations in simulated emergency conditions.  This annual event is held on the 4th weekend of June.

If you are interested in mid-range or long-distance communication in an emergency situation, Field Day is a great opportunity to test your skills.  Start working on getting your amateur radio license now, and then take part in the next Field Day.

It’s best to get both “Technician” and “General” licenses so that you have more frequencies available to you, but at least complete the first-level of training before the next Field Day.  This will let you fully participate.

Even if you don’t yet have your own radio equipment, join a amateur radio club in your area and find an “Elmer” who will help you get started.  Unless you are operating a radio with the assistance of an experienced ham, you need to have a license to operate a two-way radio which transmits on a amateur radio frequency.  ($15 FCC license fee).  To find a club, click on this link and enter either your city or state:  http://www.arrl.org/find-a-club

If Field Day is a ways off but you’d like to learn more, contact a local club and ask if you can join one of their meetings.   Field Day is an ideal opportunity to meet ham radio operators, observe radio equipment in action, and talk with those who are training to be able to help their community in an emergency situation, but many clubs are happy to welcome a “newbie” anytime during the year.

Field Day itself is an informal annual event, so you can show up at a site in your area whenever you’d like, from noon on Saturday to noon on Sunday.  But showing up early, during the set-up time, may your best opportunity to talk with the radio operators.  The below link will help you find a Field Day group operating in your area:  http://www.arrl.org/field-day-locator

Field Day is sponsored by the national association for amateur radio (ARRL-American Radio Relay League), which is the largest organization of its type.  For more about Field Day, visit:  http://www.arrl.org/field-day-info

A book which will help you learn more about amateur radio and prepare for the first test is: “Technician Class: FCC Element 2 Amateur Radio License Preparation,” by Gordon West.

For more about amateur radio and how to get licensed, visit the website:  http://www.arrl.org/new-to-ham-radio

To download an article which will help you select the right radio for you, click here:  ARRL-Choosing_A_Ham_Radio

Already licensed as an amateur radio operator and interested in participating in Field Day?  Be sure to read the post:   “Tips for Mobile Communications on Field Day – Ham Radios for Emergency Communications”.

Food for Emergencies; a Summary of Your Best Food Options Reply

L-to-R: Grocery store canned goods and foil packaged food; military MRE meal; freeze-dried food; and lifeboat rations.  All of these have a place in a properly stocked emergency food larder.

The internet is full of advice on food for emergencies and long-term food storage, but what is really the best?

This primer on food selection is designed to help you select the best types of food for your emergency food supply.  This article will help you understand the pros and cons of each category of food, so that you can make informed choices.  The topics of how to store these foods, water storage and sanitation, are not part of this summary but are equally important.  This post is just a primer on food; a great place to start planning your food supply for emergency situations.

Getting Started

The simplest way to get started is to increase the quantity of canned food and dried foods (beans, rice, pasta, wheat, etc.) that you maintain in your pantry, making a deliberate effort to store a variety of food.  For those who live on a tight budget, purchase a few extra cans of food each week until you have enough to sustain your family for at least two weeks.  If you can afford it, go to a big-box store like Costco or Sam’s Club, and purchase canned meats and other staples by the case.  It’s less expensive; often better quality than low cost grocery-store brands, and the box or shrink-wrap packaging helps you store it more compactly.

Ideally, purchase the type of foods that you normally eat, so that you can keep your meals during an emergency as normal as possible.  This is especially important for children who might be finicky eaters.  Be sure to give particular attention to storing the foods needed for both variety and a balanced diet.  This will typically include canned foods such as meat, beans (protein), vegetables and fruit, as well as dry goods such as pasta and rice.  Don’t forget the supplementary foods such as sugar, salt, and flour, as well as the condiments and spices you will need to make your food tasty.  There is a tendency to not eat enough during a high-stress emergency situation, so palatable food will help, particularly with children.

Keep in mind that fresh food such as milk, butter, eggs and bread, will likely be unavailable to you in an emergency.  Therefore, it makes no sense to stockpile a food such as breakfast cereal unless you are prepared to eat it with water rather than milk.  Similarly, prepackaged foods which require fresh or frozen ingredients to complete the recipe, are useless.

For those food cans and packages without an obvious “use before” date, use a Sharpie pen to put a date on the lid/package, and rotate these items so that nothing gets old.  Swollen cans, leaking jars, or contents which smell odd, are indications that the food has spoiled and should not be eaten.  Food poisoning is far more serious than being hungry.  An adult can live for nearly a month with almost no food as long as they are able to consume plenty of pure water.  So don’t get panicky just because you are hungry.

Even if you are breast feeding an infant, be sure to stockpile baby formula in case your milk dries up due to stress, or for some other reason.  If you don’t want to use the formula, donate it to a food bank before the expiration date.  If you have pets, be sure to sore food for them, too.

In addition to stockpiling food, don’t forget that you will need a liquid-fuel or propane camp stove, along with sufficient fuel. In an emergency, you will probably not have electrical power or natural gas, so you will need a method to cook your food.  Heed warnings about only using the stove in a place with adequate ventilation.  This is essential to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.  Since you will be without refrigeration, food products which will spoil without refrigeration should be purchased in 1-meal size cans or packages.

As you expand your inventory of stored food, purchase airtight, insect and rodent-proof food containers for dry foods, and add other types of food (freeze dried, dehydrated, retort packaged, vacuum packed, etc.) to your larder to store a long-term food supply.  Manny canned goods only have a shelf-life of a year or two, but dry beans, rice, grains, and a few other staples will last more than 30-years if properly stored.

For storm and emergency events which are not severe, it may be best to stay in your home.  However, you need to always have a GO-Bag for each family member, and box(es) of food ready for immediate evacuation.  Be sure to practice fitting your evacuation supplies into your car now, in advance of an emergency situation.  When an emergency situation strikes, you may only have a few minutes (at most) to load your car and flee.  Be ready.

Increasing the quantity of canned goods and foil-packaged grocery store food is your first step in emergency food preparation. You need a minimum of two weeks of canned goods and water stored in your pantry, and a way to cook without using electricity or natural gas.

Canned Foods and Foil-Packed Foods

Pros:  These foods are inexpensive in comparison to MREs and freeze-dried food, and quality canned good tend to taster better.  And, since many of us routinely eat canned food, this makes it possible to keep your diet fairly normal during an emergency situation, which makes it a simple task to keep your stored food fresh.   (As long as you routinely eat the oldest items first).

Cons:  Canned foods which contain acidic items, such as a soup which contains tomatoes, usually have a shorter shelf because the acid interacts with the metal of the can.  Though glass jars are not as durable as a metal can, they are better for storing acidic foods — as long as they are stored upright and the contents are not in contact with the metal lid.  Also, canned prepared foods, such as chili, contain a lot of water.  Keep in mind that prepared foods which include a gravy or sauce will be much heavier than solid-packed foods.  Test the various brands of canned vegetables and fruit, and select those products which have less liquid which you will discard.  If you are including canned food in your GO-Bag or evacuation supplies, this added weight and waste becomes a very important consideration.

Dry Food (Rice, pasta, dry beans, wheat, flour, etc.)

Pros:  When considered by weight and space, dry products generally represent a lot of food per dollar, and they require little space for storage.  When stored in airtight, food-quality, insect-proof and rodent-proof containers, most dry foods have a long shelf-life.  Stored using air-removal techniques and the proper containers, many dry foods can be safely stored for 20-30 years or longer.  Bought in bulk, dry foods can be repackaged at home using food-grade 5-gallon buckets, which you seal with Gamma lids after inserting oxygen-absorbing packets.  This is by far the most economical way to prepare a long-term food supply, but the food alone is uninteresting, so you need to get a cookbook with recipes which are designed to make these bulk-stored foods more palatable.  These recipes use a small quantity of freeze dried meat or vegetables, with a sauce made from dehydrated condiments, to transform a mundane meal into a savory feast.

Cons:  Since these dry foods require water to hydrate and cook, you must increase your water supply accordingly.  Having sufficient water for drinking is more important that using water for food preparation.  Consuming dry foods, including cereal, without first hydrating them will cause health problems.  Once water has been added to dry food it must be eaten soon.  It will spoil quickly without refrigeration, so only prepare what you intend to consume for your meal.  Additionally, most people eat dry foods with a sauce, gravy, or spices to make them palatable, so don’t forget to include these food supplements in your planning.  Some dry foods, such as Raman noodles, provide bulk and quell hunger but have no nutritional value.

Note:  When planning for a food supply designed to last more than a month, additional planning and other dry goods are required.  Whole grains such as wheat, corn and oats will require a hand-crank grain mill.  Baking soda and yeast are important for baking.  Salt has many uses including preserving foods and a number of medical uses, plus it can attract game animals and it’s useful as a commodity for barter, so you should store a large quantity.  Honey and certain spices have medicinal benefits, while a number of other spices meet other needs such as encouraging animals to stay out of your vegetable garden.  Fats and oils are essential to health (annually, 96-pounds, which equates to about 17-gallons per person), yet most freeze-dried and dehydrated foods contain almost no fats or oil, so you need to make provisions for this need.  Medicines for diarrhea, and especially natural laxatives such as Metamucil, are vital dry goods because a change in diet often upsets your body systems.  Vitamin C is useful for healing after an injury.  Comfort foods like coffee, tea, sugar, and chocolate syrup are not technically essential, but nevertheless important.  Aluminum foil has scores of uses.  If you do not know how long the emergency will last, be prepared to plant a garden to augment your food supply.  This will require sprout seeds (short term), and heirloom seeds (long term) and gardening equipment.  And the list goes on and on.  The point is this; long-term food storage requires extra planning.  This article is only an introduction.

Home-Canned Food

Pros:  Same benefits as for manufactured canned foods, but often far less expensive and food can be fresher and spiced prior to canning, making it more palatable as well as more nutritious for you and your family.  More types of food can be stored safely in glass than in a metal can, and glass is a safer canning medium and makes it possible to inspect the food prior to opening.

Cons:  Food cleaning and preparation is time consuming, and sanitation and proper canning methods must be strictly monitored to insure safety and stability.  Home canning is generally accomplished using glass jars, so the food supply is more susceptible to breakage, so proper storage is essential.  Transportation of food canned in glass jars is problematic.  When opened, jars should emit a distinct sound indicating a release of the vacuum seal.  If the jar opens silently, the food may be spoiled.

Retort-Packaged Food

Pros:  For milk which more closely resembles fresh milk in taste, ultrahigh-temperature pasteurized milk stored in retort packaging, is the answer.  Non-fat cow milk stores better than low-fat milk, but rice and soy milks have a longer shelf-life.  Since many grocery stores do not stock these items, they must be purchase from a vendor such as Walton Feed (WaltonFeed.com) or Ready Made Resources (www.ReadyMadeResources.com).

Cons:  Though the taste of these milk products is better than powdered milk, the taste is nowhere close to its fresh counterpart; so many people will not want to use these products routinely. For most people, these milks will work in recipes, and perhaps cereal, but will not be suitable for drinking.  Unfortunately, the shelf-life is only six-months, but this can be extended slightly if refrigerated.

U.S. military “Meal, Ready-to-Eat” food, more commonly referred to as MREs, are available in the civilian market.  These quick and easy meals meet the need for a short-term emergency food supply, and the 24+ menus offer variety, however they are bulky and have a limited shelf-life. But with MREs, a hot meal is available in minutes using the water-activated disposable heater.

Military MREs; Meal, Ready-toEat

Pros:  Extensive research has been done by the U.S. military to develop the optimal food for combat troops operating in the field.  Civilian versions of these pre-packaged meals are available from the same manufactures that make these meals for the government.  Each MRE contains approximately 1,200 calories of food which has been fortified with vitamins and other nutrients.  Each MRE is a complete meal, including condiments, desert, powdered drink, and even a hand wipe and bit of toilet paper.  Since these meals are already hydrated and precooked, they can be eaten direct from the package without any food prep.  Disposable flameless-heaters which are water activated (often purchased separately), can be used to quickly heat the meal.  With more than two dozen menu selections, including vegetarian, MREs have become popular for emergency food storage.  MREs is what the U.S. government generally distributes to disaster victims in the country and abroad.

Cons:  The full MRE meal packet is bulky and far heavier than dehydrated or freeze-dried backpacking food, but since they don’t require any food preparation, they remain popular.  Soldiers and civilians seeking to reduce weight and bulk, often separate the entrée and flameless heater from the other contents of the heavy plastic envelope, and carry only the items from the meal which they like.  However, though you can purchase just the entrée and heater on the civilian market, utilizing only part of the meal represents a substantial reduction in calories and nutritional value.  Further, when consuming the entrée only for multiple days, constipation is likely so these entrees need to be augmented by high-fiber food supplements such as high-fiber meal-replacement bars.  Though MRE meals are extremely convenient, they are expensive.  When purchased in a case of 12-meals, average cost is around $7.50 per meal (for true military-specification MREs).  Though an MRE may be safe to eat for 20-years, shelf-life is only listed as 3-years.  Many MREs purchase on “sale” in the civilian marketplace have expired dates.  For more on MREs, search in our database for MRE.

Freeze-dried foods are available in single-serving size (recommended for evacuation and GO-Bags), in #10 cans (recommended), and in 5-gallon buckets (ideal for large families or groups).

Freeze Dried Food

Pros:  Using a process originally designed by NASA for the Apollo space missions, freeze dried foods are flash frozen and then vacuum packed.  These foods do not require refrigeration or special handling, but water does need to be added to rehydrate the food.  Once reconstituted with water and cooked, these foods retain much of the fresh taste, color, and aroma of frozen food.  With nearly 98% of the water removed, the weight of the food is reduced by 90% compared to fresh food.  Since quality manufacturers vacuum pack their food in Mylar or foil packets, or specially designed cans, the oxygen can be removed from the food.  This stabilizes flavor, texture, and nutritional value.  Quality manufacturers such a Mountain House boast a shelf-life of 7-years for their backpacking meals, and 25-years for food which they factory pack in special #10 cans.  Freeze dried food has long been a favorite of wilderness backpackers, so manufacturers such as Mountain House routinely package their foods in small quantities, or as complete meals, which is particularly handy when used in a GO-Bag.  Eggs, and even ice cream, can be freeze dried so this process offers a great deal of food variety.  Five-gallon buckets lined with Mylar bags containing freeze dried food, is also available from vendors such as:   However, once the package is opend the storage life drops quickly.  The freeze drying process coupled with enamel-lined cans, and oxygen removal and nitrogen flushing processes, also retains the nutritional value of the food better than any of the other processes, so the #10 can option is the best for most situations unless the food is being prepared for a large group.

Cons:  Food packages labeled as “Serves 2” are generally only sufficient for one person.  Pound-for pound, freeze-dried prepackaged meals are generally more expense than any of the other emergency foods.  Since hydration and cooking is required, a stove (and time) is required for proper preparation.  Individual meals can often be prepared using the foil packaging of the food, but bulk foods require cookware.  Like MREs, freeze dried foods have a reduced shelf life if exposed to temperature fluctuations and high ambient temperatures.  Single-meal packaging is generally not durable, so when transporting in a Go-Bag the foil packet should be protected by a zip-loc plastic bag.

Dehydrated Food

Pros:  Less costly than freeze-dried foods, and sometimes even cheaper than fresh food, dehydrated foods are a cost-efficient alternative to freeze dried.  Like home-canning in jars, dehydrated foods can also be produced at home with minimal equipment.  When a home-use dehydrating machine is used along with a vacuum-packaging machine, reasonable shelf life can be attained.  However, dehydrated food made by a quality manufacturer, reconstitutes better and more uniformly.  Commercial dehydration works better on some foods than others, so experimentation is advised before you purchase any food item in quantity.  Dehydrated mashed potatoes, puddings, peanut butter, pancake and bread mix, and vegetable and fruits designed to be added to a meal as a supplement, are the most popular dehydrated foods.   Visit Walton Feed (WaltonFeed.com) for more information.

Cons:  Generally a far shorter effective shelf-life than freeze-dried foods.  Only experienced amateurs or professionally manufactures can usually produce dehydrated foods which have a reliable shelf-life.  Homemade dehydrated foods are often snack foods such as apples, bananas, and apricots.  Over time, the nutritional value of dehydrated food declines, textures change, and taste diminishes.  For those dehydrated foods requiring reconstitution with water, some do not fully rehydrate, which makes the food less palatable.  However, dehydrated foods such as potato flakes make savory mashed potatoes after many years if repackaged into suitable airtight containers with oxygen absorbers.

Note Regarding Long-Term Food Storage:  Due to the lower cost, most families will want to store nearly all bulk grains, legumes, peanut butter, honey and other bulk foods in dehydrated form.  These foods should be stored in food-grade buckets with Gamma lids (or at least Mylar bags), and the packer should have used nitrogen to remove the oxygen prior to sealing the container.  This is best accomplished by a reputable supplier who specializes in food for long-term storage.  However, for those who are more budget minded, home methods using food-grade buckets with Gamma lids (or properly sealed Mylar bags), and inserting oxygen-absorbing packets or chips of dry ice before sealing, can be nearly as effective.  To make this stored food more palatable, store a smaller quantity of freeze-dried vegetables, fruits and meats, in addition to spices.  Use these as supplementary foods to make your meals more interesting and nutritious.  Review the recipes in cookbooks designed for these foods for suggestions on what supplemental foods and spices should be included in your larder.   

Lifeboat rations are not suitable for long-term use, but they are a valuable addition to your GO-Bag or for storage in a vehicle.

Lifeboat & Emergency Food Rations (Brand must be U.S. Coast Guard Approved)

Pros:  Lightweight and very inexpensive, these are the most compact of all the emergency foods, and yet these food-bar rations are an amazingly complete nutritionally-rich on-the-go meal.  Unlike most sports bars and meal-replacement bars, these rations do not increase thirst.  For many years, these rations have continued to be a standard component in the survival kit packed into the lifeboats of large ships.  These compressed food bricks are vacuum packed in foil, which gives an unopened ration a 5-year shelf-life.  Unlike other emergency foods, these rations retain most of their nutritional value even after exposure to temperature extremes.  The most popular and palatable brands are: “Mainstay” and “Datrex.”  The manufacturer of Mainstay claims a formulation designed for more active, land-based survival needs.  A 9-meal packet of Mainstay costs about $7, yet it is only the size of a paperback book, and weighs only 24-ounces.  Each pre-measured meal cube offers 400 calories of nutrition (for a total of 3,600 calories per packet).  Whichever brand you purchase, make sure it is fresh, and that it has been approved for use by the United States Coast Guard.  (Coast Guard approval is like a Good Housekeeping seal of approval for this type of food ration).  At least one packet of these rations is a prudent addition to every GO-Bag, to be eaten if you’re on the run, or when other provisions have been exhausted.

Cons:  Taste and texture are unappealing, and these bars (or cubes) are not stomach filling, but they do provide short-term emergency sustenance far better than energy-bars or meal-replacement bars.  Per-meal cost is incredibly low.  Though the taste is acceptable, these meal cubes will not make you look forward to your next meal, so you may need to discipline yourself to eat because you must.  If given any other option, these rations are not suitable for long-term use.  True, they have kept many inactive sailors alive after more than a month on the sea, but these rations lack many essential micro-nutrients and fiber which are essential for an active life and robust health.

Each type of emergency food has its place in your emergency food supply.  Some, like canned foods purchased from a grocery store, are easy to use in everyday life, making these a good choice as the first level of emergency food storage.  But MREs and lifeboat rations are clearly better for food-on-the-go as will be needed for traveling by vehicle or on-foot with your GO-Bag.  For long-term food storage, it’s hard to beat the great taste of freeze-dried food, but it is expensive, so augmenting it with bulk-packed 5-gallon buckets of dry food will save you money.  In short, it makes sense to have a combination of all of these types of emergency food in a well-planned emergency food larder.

Emergency Food: Meal, Ready-to-Eat (U.S. Military MRE) Reply

Developed by the U.S. military after extensive nutritional and long-term storage research, the modern MRE has replaced the MCI (Meals, Combat, Individual – 1980s), the lighter LRP (Long Range Patrol) rations used in Vietnam, and the C-Ration (canned) .

Though far from gourmet fare, the current-issue MRE meals are a quick and tasty meal when compared to many other options.  With more than two dozen menu selections ranging from meat (or meat-like) dishes to vegetarian, spicy to mild, there is something which will satisfy most, especially if the diner is hungry.  The 1,200 calories of food in each packet is adequate for most people, but between meal addition of Power Bars and candy bars can be a welcomed addition and extra energy boost during trying times.

Packaged in a heavy plastic bag designed to be sturdy and bug resistant, MRE meals contain an entrée, side dish, dessert, crackers with cheese spread, peanut butter or jelly, a powdered beverage (coffee, tea, sport drink, etc.), chewing gum, condiments (salt, pepper, sugar, creamer, and sometimes Tabasco sauce), plastic spoon, matchbook, hand-wash towelette, and a tiny packet of toilet paper.  A flameless water-activated food heater is sometimes included in the package, or can be purchased separately.

Three MRE disposable heaters (left in photo), and three MRE entrees (brown boxes on right), weigh just over two pounds, and occupy just over 100-cubic inches of space. Not as lightweight or compact as freeze-dried backpacking meals, the “ready to eat” aspect is what makes these a great emergency food.  The “eat on the run” benefit, and not needing to add a cook pot and stove to your GO-Bag, provide a definite advantage when evacuating.

For use in a standard size GO-Bag, the MRE takes too much space, but since the entrée meal and flameless heaters are available separately, carrying six meals becomes practical  (8-1/4″h x 5″ w x 2-1/2″ d).  Obviously, using the entree-only reduces the calorie count, but in combination with high-fiber and Power Bars, it can meet your on-the-go needs of your GO-Bag provisions.

First Strike Rations (FSR) are the U.S. military’s solution to soldiers stripping down their MREs.  Similar to our Go-Bag needs, soldiers often discard the MRE protective bag and items which they consider to be unessential, in an effort to reduce weight and space for field operations. Unfortunately, this newer ration is hard to find in the civilian market. FSR meals consist primarily of a sandwich similar to a Hot-Pocket, plus an energy bar, but they aren’t nearly as tasty as an MRE meal.

First Strike Rations, or FSR,  are the U.S. military’s response to soldiers stripping down their MREs to reduce the weight and bulk.  FSR meals are not as tasty, but they are lighter in weight while increasing the important calorie count (2,900 calories vs. the 1,200 calories of a full MRE).  Since these are a recent development, it’s hard to find the genuine article in the civilian marketplace.  First Strike energy bars are more readily available, but not the entire sandwich (hot-pocket) meal.

As a point of reference, the U.S. military calculates that an active male (age 18 to 30) will burn an average of 4,200 calories a day in a combat situation, but stress often reduces voluntary eating to 2,400 calories.  The result is a negative energy balance, and this is a problem that needs to be avoided.

The effect of a negative energy balance may not be a major problem short-term, such as a three day on foot trek with a GO-Bag.  However, the cumulative effect over time will create a significant reduction in energy, resistance to disease, and seriously impair decision-making ability (acuity).  The consumption of sufficient water (and electrolytes) will minimize this effect short-term, but sufficient water and food are both essential to an individual’s ability to operate and cope during an emergency situation.

MREs are ideal as a temporary meal solution, but we recommend that you augment these meals with high-fiber energy bars.  Including some freeze-dried backpacking food is a worthy addition, too, but these foods require hydration and cooking, so a backpacking stove and fuel will need to be added to your kit.

For use in your at-home disaster supplies, MREs are a good way to augment what you have in your pantry, but they should be stored inside your home rather than exposing them to the temperature fluctuations and potential rodent problems of garage or shed storage.  Plus, these cases can be quickly thrown into a car for emergency evacuation, they pack well, and they take less space, are lighter, and more nutritionally complete than most canned food meals.

The downside of eating MREs while bivouacked or at home, is that these meals were designed for active combat, so they are high in fat and salt.  Since the meals are low in fiber content, this can be desirable during a few day cross-country trek or during combat, but this leads to constipation, particularly if not active.  So, if consumed during a sedentary period, augment the MRE meal with other foods which are low-fat, low-salt, and high in fiber.

The food from an MRE is not necessarily the most attractive, but it is nutritious.

Unfortunately, shelf-life of MREs is listed as three years under optimal storage conditions, but this low expectation is likely a defense against litigation rather than a literal limit.  In our experience, as long as the foil packets within the MRE bag are intact and not bloated, they taste okay, and they have been stored properly, the meal will probably be eatable for 10-years or more if it has been stored at 70-degrees.  However, though the meal may remain nutritious and reasonably tasty, the primary effect of age will be a decline in vitamins, so plan accordingly.

Date codes on MREs are often hard to decipher.  Sometimes you will find it plainly etched on the case, such as “05/10/12” which you know to mean May 10, 2012 when used by an American manufacturer.  However, some manufacturers will use a different form such as “1068”. In this case, the first number “1” stands for the year (2001) and the next three numbers indicate which day of the year (365 days in a year) it was packed. So “068” would be day #68 of the year 2001…or March 9, 2001.  So if a case is more than 10-years old, the date can be deceptive.  Often the condition of the case, plus the date code, is the only way to differentiate between old and new product.

If you are looking for emergency food supplies suitable for long-term storage, freeze dried or inert-gas packed foods are a better choice.  Even ordinary grocery stored foods, such as dried beans and rice, can last more than 30-years if stored in airless food containers.  This is a different purpose than the need that the MRE was designed to fill.

MRE Flameless heaters are lightweight, water activated, and disposable.

Unlike freeze-dried and dehydrated foods, MRE’s are, as the name implies, ready to eat.  If you are on the go in an emergency situation, you probably won’t want to engage in food preparation.  Yet, a warm meal is a huge boost to the psyche, and the important attitude adjustment which comes from a little rest and a hot meal.  MREs are pre-cooked so they can be eaten cold, but the ultra-lightweight disposable heater designed for them, makes preparing a hot meal a snap.  You just place your MRE entrée into the plastic bag of the heater envelope, and add water to activate.  Within a couple minutes you have a fully hydrated, healthy, fairly-good tasting meal.

MREs can be purchased from many retailers, but we recommend only buying them from reputable sources such as those listed at the bottom of this post.  Many MREs which are sold on eBay and Craig’s List are old and absconded from the military or Katrina disaster stores.  Also, new MREs should be labeled with the date of manufacture, and checking this date is essential, even when purchased from a usually reliable source.  Be aware, MREs sold on “sale” are often old inventory.

Meal, Ready-to-Eat entrees and heaters can be purchased separately, or as a complete MRE.  Civilian packaging varies, but the peel-to-open impervious plastic-bag container is necessary for durability.

Reputable manufacturers of genuine MREs are: Wornick Eversafe (illustrated in above photos) and Sopakco Sure-Pak (Highest rated in taste test and quality review); followed by Ameriqual A-Pack and MRE Star (Mediocre rating); and Menu-C MREs (Unrated).  Expect to pay around $7.50 per meal when purchase by the case (12).  You may pay slightly more when you purchase a case of assorted meals rather than a case containing the same menu.

For more about MREs, visit:

http://www.mreinfo.com/

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/?o=RrzKj&page_id=69473&v=P

http://articles.cnn.com/2007-09-13/tech/combat.food_1_mres-judith-aylward-chicken-breast?_s=PM:TECH

http://science.howstuffworks.com/mre.htm

http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/ready-to-eat-30-years-of-the-mre/

http://www.sopakco.com/

http://wornick.com/

http://getmres.com/

Firearm Selection for Emergency Situations Reply

SIG 1911 semi-auto pistol and Smith & Wesson 340PD revolver with laser.

There is a great deal of debate on this subject, and the real­ity is that no single weapon is the best choice for all emergency situations.  Circums­tances and con­ditions vary, as does the use of firearms for self-defense vs. hunting.  There is no universal solu­tion.  Yet, an understanding of the options availa­ble to you is the best place to start.

The purpose of this post is to provide a brief summary of your firearm options, and to identify the pros and cons of each firearm category so that you can begin the process of making an informed choice.

Whatever firearm(s) you select, it’s important to un­derstand that a Concealed Handgun License (CHL) is necessary in most States, and there are State and federal laws which govern firearm use and possession.  Even if you do not want to routinely carry a firearm, you may want to be able to legally carry a handgun during an emergency sit­uation.  Therefore, you need to obtain a concealed handgun license.  (In some States, this is referred to as a “Concealed Weapon License.”  Visit the website of your State’s Department of Public Safety for details).

If you own a firearm as a tool for self-defense, you need to be trained in the proper use of that firearm, and regularly prac­tice with it.  Owning a gun is not being prepared.  You need to be prepared to use the gun.


Handguns

Revolvers (illustrated above) and semi-automatic pistols come in many sizes, ranging from ultra-small to full-size.

Handgun Benefits:

a)  Can be con­cealed, so you won’t be making others nervous;

b)  With concealed carry, criminals don’t know that you are armed, which gives you the advantage of surprise and the option of restraint;

c)  Semi-auto pistols (left gun in top-of-page photo) can be reloaded quickly.  Revolvers (3 guns in left photo) are simple to operate, and can be fired from inside a pocket or purse;

d)  Handguns are relatively light (12 to 42-oz).

Handgun Disadvantages:

a)  Far less accurate than a rifle;

b)  Limited to short-range use (typically 75-feet);

c)  Only modest stopping power;

d)  Revolvers are slow to reload.  (Not a problem with semi-auto pistols).

 Shotguns

Remington 870 Tactical Shotgun, 20-inch barrel, in 12-gauge.  Also available with pistol-grip.

Shotgun Benefits:

a)  Intimidating in appearance and sound;

b)  Require less accuracy in shooting;

c)  Devastating knock-down power (when loaded with 00-Buck shotgun shells);

d)  Loaded with OO-Buck shells, each shot consists of as many as 15-pellets (.33 inches in size);

e)  Loaded with the proper ammunition, shotgun pellets are less likely to penetrate the interior walls of a home.  (12-ga. #4 Buckshot compared to a standard 9mm pistol loaded with FMJ ammunition).

f)  Different types of shotgun shells can be carried to meet the needs of self-defense, as well as for hunting of large and small game.

Shotgun Disadvantages:

a)  Not concealable (Mossberg #55340 is among the smallest);

b)  Even when equipped with an extension-tube magazine, a shotgun only holds 6 or 7 shells;

c)  Very time consuming to reload;

d)  Ammunition is much heavier, reducing the amount that can be easily carried when on foot;

d)  Shotguns designed for sporting purposes are difficult to use indoors as their longer barrel makes them ungainly.  When the purpose is self-defense, a “tactical” or “home defense” shotgun should be used (illustrated on left);

e)  Medium distance effective-range (with most loads, typically less than 100’, further with slugs).

f)  Heavy in weight, typically 8 pounds.

Rifles

Rifle Benefits:

a)  Longer effective range (400+ yards);

b)  Much greater accuracy;

c)  Combat-style or “assault rifles” are fast to reload, and durable;

d)  Ominous appearance can intimidate assailants.

Rifle Disadvantages:

a)  Cannot be easily concealed;

a)  Sporting rifles hold few cartridges, and reload­ing of sporting rifles is time consuming, making assault rifles the best choice for self-defense.

c)  Heavy to carry.  Most assault rifles are 9-12 lbs, so they are heavy if carried for a long distance.

d)  Rifle ammunition is lighter than that of a shotgun, but spare magazines are bulky and the weight of extra ammunition is significant.

Special Purpose Guns

Special purpose guns come in many forms, some designed for unique and limited self-defense purposes, while others are designed for highly specific hunting or survival use.  These special pur­pose guns are far less versatile but may work well for the certain purposes.

North American Arms “Black Widow” in .22 Magnum is ultra-small, but has marginal value for self-defense.

The North American Arms (NAA) “Black Widow” and other micro-guns are incredibly small, but though the .22 Mag is impres­sive for its size and can be deadly, it has almost no stopping power.

The Taurus “Judge” is a large revolver, cham­bered for both the .45 Colt handgun cartridge and .410 shotgun shell.  Unfortu­nately, the .45 Colt is not available in the newer high-power hollowpoint self-defense ammunition, and the .410 is a diminu­tive shotgun shell, but at close range The Judge can be very effective for self-defense, and for snakes and small game at very short range.  For most people, this gun is far too heavy for concealed carry, but it is popular with backpackers and for survival kits.

The Henry AR-7 Survival Rifle (pictured on right) stores the barrel and action inside its plastic stock.  Only available in .22 LR, this gun is designed to be carried in a knap­sack or survival kit.  Though this caliber is best suited for hunting rabbits and squirrels, a well-placed shot can kill a small deer.  And, a hundred rounds can be carried in a pocket.

Recommended Calibers

Handguns:  9mm and .38 Special are good for new gun owners as they have less recoil but still deliver reasonable stopping power.  (We do not recom­mend using a caliber smaller than this for self-defense.  Yet, any gun is probably better than no gun as long as it is not displayed until you plan to use it.)

Most self-defense handguns carried by police officers are in one these calibers:   9mm, .357 Sig, .40 ACP, and .45 ACP.  The U.S. military primarily uses 9mm pistols, but experts agree that this caliber has far less stopping-power than the previous standard which was .45 ACP.  Reduced recoil and the ability to carry more ammunition in the same size pistol, are the benefits of 9mm over .45 ACP.

If opting for a 9mm pistol, be aware that standard (FMJ) ammunition as well as many 9mm hollow-point bullets (JHP) have excessive penetration.  This can result in the bullet passing through the target and injuring someone else.  If you intend to use a 9mm pistol for self defense, it is recommended that you load your pistol with Speer “Gold Dot” or Remington “Golden Saber,” or another brand of ammunition which has passed the FBI’s stringent standards for use by law enforcement.  Don’t believe the hype and don’t just rust the advice of a friend or salesman, depend on actual research.  This decision is too important.

Shotguns:  12-gauge is the gold standard.  If con­cerned about recoil, use 2-3/4” shells.  To increase your firepower but still carry the maximum number of shells in your gun, use 3” Magnum 00-Buck (Double-Ought Buck).  Ammunition capacity for a shotgun with an extended magazine is typically 6-7 shells.  For self-defense use when you also want to minimize the likelihood of pellets penetrating interior walls, use #4 Buck.  For hunting small game, use birdshot, for large game use lead slugs.  For longer range accuracy (rifle-like) use sabot slugs.  Shotgun shell “rescue flares” can also be launched from a 12-gauge shotgun.  Note: A shotgun with a barrel length less than 18-inches requires a special federal license.  A barrel length longer than 20-inches will produce a tight pattern of pellets, making it less effective for most self-defense applications.  Police and home-defense shotguns generally have a barrel length of 18-20 inches.  For self-defense use, it is best to purchase a shotgun designed for police or a home-defense style shotgun.

Rifles:  5.56 NATO (or .223) or 7.62 NATO (.308) are the standard cartridges for self-defense use.  The 5.56 cartridge is lighter in weight than the 7.62, making it possible to carry more ammunition.  The 7.62 bullet is heavier and the bullet is not as easily deflected by branches and obstructions.  Both are devastating for self-defense use, but the larger caliber is more popular for hunt­ing, and better against vehicles and shooting through walls and obstructions.

Gas cans, long-term fuel storage, fuel transport, and the peerless Scepter gas-can used by the U.S. military Reply

Specter-Military_Fuel_Can-36ReadyBlogIf you’ve been in the military, chances are you have seen the Scepter fuel can.  In our experience, these are the best and safest fuel containers available in the general-use market. They are far superior to both the ordinary red-plastic and red-metal gas cans widely in use. In the last decade, plastic gas cans are almost the only type of gas container you can find in retail stores.  The old-style steel “Jerry-can” has become too costly to produce.  Chinese made Jerry-can knock-offs are available, but these are generally substandard in quality– and you don’t want to skimp when it comes to the storage of an explosive liquid such as gasoline. In addition to lower manufacturing cost for plastic fuel cans, they have also become popular because they are less prone to leak over time and exposure to abuse.  The red-plastic fuel cans available today, with semi-rigid sides, are generally better than the old Jerry-cans for this reason. What to Buy:  A fuel can labeled with a U.S. Department of Defense number, indicating that it qualifies as “ mil-spec” is generally your best bet.  The U.S. military has very high standards. Of course, many products claim to be mil-spec when they are not, so be sure to look for a procurement number stamped into the side of the can.  This is the best validation.  (By the way, there is even a brand name “Mil-Spec” which tries to capitalize on the mil-spec reputation of quality, and most of their goods are definitely not mil-spec).  Specter_Fuel_Can-36ReadyBlog-SmoothCapSpecter Fuel Container U.S. military-surplus 20-liter (approximately 5.3-gallons) plastic-looking fuel cans are by far the best choice.  New ones are available, too, but they are oftentimes staggeringly expensive. Positive Features:  1.  Far more durable than consumer-grade fuel containers;  2.  They don’t leak fuel or fumes, even when exposed to temperature fluctuation;  3. They are reasonably lightweight;  4. They have an internal vent mechanism which provides a smooth flow when fuel is poured from the container;  5.  They are far safer in a fire, and in a traffic accident, than consumer-grade fuel containers. The U.S. military gas cans are made by Specter, a company based in Canada.  A genuine Specter fuel container will have the “Specter” brand name, and “Made in Canada,” molded into the plastic on the side of the can.  (It will also say “U.S. Government Property” or “Military Use Only,” but don’t let that put you off.  With the winding-down of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the government auctioned thousands of these cans.) Scepter Military Fuel Containers (Gas Cans) are made out of tough injection molded polyethylene, not just ordinary plastic.  Though Specter cans may look heavy in appearance, they are actually relatively lightweight due to the advanced materials and manufacturing method used. U.S military surplus Scepter fuel cans are usually sand-color (tan) or olive drab (green), but occasionally you will find them in yellow.  The Specter cans made for the civilian market are similar in appearance, but have a high-visibility yellow check-strap attached to the lid. Caution: Blue plastic cans, including those made by Specter, are for water-only.  They do not have the same safety features as the Specter fuel cans. Also, Specter water cans can be found in the same colors as the fuel cans.  These do not offer the same design features and safety as the containers made for transporting fuel.  You can quickly tell the difference between a Specter fuel can and a Specter water can, by the distinctive small-spout built into the larger cap of the water can. specter-water_can-36ReadyBlog-Arrow (2)Photo on Left: Arrow points to distinctive spout on the water can, whereas the Specter fuel container has a plain, smooth cap (see above photo). Negative Features:  The only downside of purchasing Specter fuel cans is that it may be difficult to find a spout.  And, they are apparently illegal for use in the State of California.  Go figure. In any case, it’s easy enough to make a spout for the Specter if you can’t find one to purchase.  Another option is to buy a flexible metal gas-can spout at an auto supply store which may fit the inside threads of the Specter can.  (Unfortunately, this is a trial and error process). If you find a good deal on Specter fuel cans, but can’t get a spout from the same vendor, it is still worth buying the cans.  They are extremely popular and getting hard to find, so don’t delay. If you purchase a used U.S. military-surplus fuel can, be sure to rinse it with gasoline before filling it with fuel.  Let it sit outside for a couple of days with the lid off so the contents can fully evaporate, before you fill it.  Diesel and gasoline cans are made in all three military colors, so if it is important to you to get a can that has only held your type of fuel, follow the link at the end of this post to view a look-up table of model numbers. Other Fuel-Storage  Containers Gas_Can-NATO-wSpoutIf you can’t find a Specter fuel can, NATO fuel cans can be an acceptable alternative.  However, these other “mil-spec” gas cans are a mixed bag, and in our experience, none of them come even close to the quality of Specter.  But whether you a mil-spec NATO can or a genuine Specter, be sure to inspect it closely before making your purchase.  These containers are extremely durable, but they aren’t indestructible.  A can that leaks isn’t a bargain.  Keep in mind that a painted and scratched Scepter can still be very serviceable, and the faded exterior can often be restored using rubbing-compound purchased at an auto supply store. Gas_Can-RustAnother caution:  Most of the surplus mil-spec NATO fuel cans are metal, and used metal cans have a tendency to leak due to internal corrosion, or paint-covered rust along the seams.  With this in mind, it’s best to buy them from a store which will let you return them if they are defective. By the way, these NATO fuel cans are a risky-buy if they are second-hand (used) and you purchase them online.  This is because surplus goods are often sold by the military due to the fact that they are damaged or defective.  You can mend a torn army tent, but repairing a damaged fuel container is more difficult.  Unfortunately, it’s commonplace for resellers of surplus goods to put a fresh coat of paint on a rusty gas can.  Above Photo:  Inside of new NATO gas can nozzle (left), and repainted gas can (right) showing rust inside the freshly painted fuel can. Also, be sure to purchase fuel-can spouts from the same supplier, as it is sometimes impossible to find spouts for NATO fuel cans.  A big funnel may work, but it’s messy. Used cans made by Specter generally cost between $50-100, which is considerably more than an ordinary plastic gas can purchased at Walmart, but there is no comparison in quality.  And, no comparison in regard to safety, either.  This safety-issue is a very real concern if you intend to store gasoline, not just temporarily transport it.  Gasoline and diesel fuel can be stored much more safely in a Specter fuel can than a standard red-plastic or metal gas can. Never transport fuel inside the cab of a vehicle.  The fumes can be deadly. Only transport gasoline or diesel fuel in a container made for this purpose.  It is too dangerous to store or transport fuel in a container that is not specifically made for this purpose.   Fuel Treatment for Long-Term Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Storage PRI-G_Pint-New-LabelIf you store fuel for more than a couple of months, it needs to be conditioned with either PRI-G (gasoline) or PRI-D (diesel) stabilizer.  Be sure to purchase the right PRI product for the type of fuel you are storing. If you know you will be storing the fuel for more than a few months, be sure to add PRI to the fuel container before you fill it.  The filling action will help to thoroughly mix the PRI treatment compound with the fuel. Similarly, if you plan to store a vehicle or fuel-powered equipment, it’s a good idea to add the PRI to the tank and then top it off with additional fresh fuel.  This will not only help the PRI mix with the fuel that was already in the tank, it’s also a safer way to store the equipment.  With gasoline, it’s the fuel vapors at the top of the tank that are combustible.  As a result, a full-tank is generally less of a fire hazard, and a full-tank will also diminish destructive moisture condensation. Another fuel-treatment product, STA-BIL, is more readily available but it does not provide nearly the same level of protection.  In our tests, gasoline treated with STA-BIL was marginal after just 18-months, and completely unusable after 24-months.  Whereas with PRI, independently conducted tests indicate that PRI-treated fuel can be stored for 5-6 years if it is re-treated annually.  Consumers have reported successful use of PRI-treated fuel after 12-years of storage. Also, with PRI, even old fuel can sometimes be brought back to life.  Just give it a double-dose of the appropriate PRI product, and make sure it is well mixed with the fuel before trying to use it.  If the fuel is in a vehicle, the fuel lines need to be purged of the old fuel before trying to start the engine. As to the PRI fuel-treatment product itself, it will remain fresh for decades, as long as it is properly stored and the container remains unopened.  Once opened, PRI should be used within three years. Fuel Transport and Dispensing Remember, if you are transporting fuel, the container needs to be strongly secured. Bungee cord attachment is not enough.  The container needs to be held securely, so that even in a traffic accident it will not become dislodged.  In most States, you can receive a traffic citation if a fuel container is inadequately secured.  But that’s not the main concern.  More important is that traveling on-road or off-road, a loose fuel container may become a deadly missile and cause injury or death. Gasoline weighs around 6.59 pounds (3.9 kg) per gallon, so a 5-gallon gas can that is full of fuel, can easily weigh 35-pounds (16 kg) or more.  So a dislodged gas container can be more dangerous than a duffer with a sledgehammer. Dispensing:  Be sure to test your fuel-can and nozzle, together.  Don’t assume it’s going to work, nor that you can handle the weight of a full can of fuel. Even if you can handle the weight and you are able to pour the fuel into your vehicle, you may want to use a siphon instead. Self-priming siphons (with an anti-static hose), such as the one illustrated here, are an easy solution for fuel transfer.  With minimal training, even a young child can manage this task, but they should be supervised as fuel transfer can be dangerous.  For the syphoning process to work, remember that the fuel container needs to be higher than the tank of the vehicle.  The siphoning process depends on gravity to work. A funnel with a long neck (illustrated in the photo on the left) is also a handy addition to your fuel-transfer kit.   The long neck of the funnel simulates a gas station’s fuel-pump nozzle, and this can help un-restrict the flow of fuel during the transfer process.  This is noteworthy because most modern cars have an anti-theft device in the neck of the filler pipe.  Though some siphon hoses may be rigid enough to bypass this anti-theft device on your vehicle, it may worth having one of these long-neck funnels, just in case. Be sure to test your fuel-transfer method and equipment before you actually need to use it.   Links to Manufacturers and Additional Information: Specter – Manufacturer’s Website:   http://www.sceptermilitary.com/ Specter Fuel Can Look-Up Table by Part #:  http://www.sceptermilitary.com/fuel_containers/product_table_1/ Article with additional detail on Specter fuel cans:  http://www.pangaea-expeditions.com/scepter/index.html PRI Fuel Treatment Products:  http://www.priproducts.com/preparedness.cfm Fuel Siphons:  Only use a siphon device which is actually made for the transfer of gasoline, as other siphons may have parts which can cause a fire-creating spark.  Not all self-priming siphons perform the same.  We recommend that you purchase a siphon with a semi-rigid hose that has a large diameter, as it will transfer fuel much faster. Super Jiggler:  http://www.superjiggler.com/#pro Safety Siphon:  http://www.safetysiphon.net VDP Super Siphon:  http://www.vdpusa.com/universal/super-siphon.php

Knives (Large) for GO Bags and Survival Use Reply

CKRT Razel SS7 Survival Knife

Large knives which can also be used as a pry bar, are often included in a Go Bag (aka/ GOOD Bag, or Bug-Out Knapsack).  However, the downside is the weight of the tool, and the fact that these large blades are illegal in some parts of the country.  Notwithstanding, since we often receive questions on this topic, here is some basic information on large knives.

Below you will find information on several large knife products which will also serve as a saw, pry-bar or multi-tool, which makes them far more useful in an emergency situation.

Another practical consideration is that it is probably better that the item not look too much like a big knife, as long-bladed knives are illegal in some areas, so carrying it on your person, or in your Go Bag, can become problematic.  Also, a blunt-tip may be a far better choice as a pointed-tip blade will generally break when the tool is used as a pry bar.

In summary, the best large knife is one that has multiple uses.  It should be suitable for cutting limbs off trees for firewood and building shelter, for digging, as a rescue tool to cut sheet metal and break glass, and also for use as a pry-bar.  And since weight is a consideration if this is going to be carried on your person (rather than used at home or carried in a vehicle), selection needs to be even more deliberate.  It must be an extremely strong tool if it will ever be used as a rescue tool or pry-bar.  Here are some popular knives which fit this criteria:

Ontario Knife Company – SP8 Machete

http://www.uscav.com

$54.99   
Description/Features
A great survival tool, the Ontario Knife Company SP8 Machete is light enough to carry yet durable enough to dish out cutting strokes to brush, limbs and other obstacles. It’s front end can act as a pry bar while it’s serrated back cuts through wood with ease. The SP8 comes with a sturdy side-loading Cordura/leather sheath, which features a leather loop for hanging from a belt and a pivot ring for free movement during wear.

  • 1095 Epoxy powder-coated or Phosphate-coated carbon steel blade
  • Kraton® polymer handles
  • Full tang construction
  • Wide razor sharp edges
  • Sawtooth back
  • Combination leather/cordura sheath
  • Blade Thickness: .25″
  • Blade Length: 10″
  • Overall Length: 15.125″
  • Made in the USA
  • WEIGHT: 2 lbs

Ontario Xtreme Rescue/Entry Tool, 24"

Xtreme Rescue Entry Tool

Price: $167.78

SKU: OK9429

Brand: Ontario Knife Company

Product Description

Ontario Entry Tool – 24 Inch

The Ontario Entry Tool has many uses and is ideal for rescue personnel.  The Ontario Entry Tool combines the functionality of five separate devices into one universal head design. The Entry Tool can be used as an axe, pry bar, hydrant wrench, for gas shut off and as a spanner wrench (2 1/2″ hoses and water mains).

The 24″ entry tool is 24″ in overall length and is made of S7 steel. The blade thickness of the 24″ Entry Tool is .375″. The Ontario 24 Inch Entry Tool is available in Black (OK9429G) or Safety Green (OK9429).

The 18″ entry tool is 18″ in overall length and is made of S7 steel. The blade thickness of the 18″ Entry Tool is .250″.The Ontario 18 Inch Entry Tool is available in Black (OK9428G) or Safety Green (OK9428).

Part Number Description Price
OK9428 18″ Entry Tool, Black $82.54
OK9428G 18″ Entry Tool, Safety Green $82.54
OK9429 24″ Entry Tool, Black $167.78
OK9429G 24″ Entry Tool, Safety Green $167.78

Ontario Knife company

SP16 SPAX with FG/UC Sheath (NSN:4240-01-547-5927)

Description

SPAX is 13.125″ overall with 8″ blade, .250″ thickness. SPAX is the perfect tool for fighting fires, opening and closing hydrants/gas valves or emergency rescues. FG/UC Sheath Leg Strap fits load bearing equipment, tie down, webbing on front to attach small tools/knives. Also available… SP16-SPAX-8420 NSN: 1095-01-515-9877 Combination black leather Cordura sheath include

Specifications

National Stock Number (NSN)
Blade Steel 1095 Carbon Steel
Blade Length
Blade Thickness
Overall Length
Weight 2.10
Handle Material Kraton�
Blade Color Black Powder Coat
Sheath Color FG/UC Sheath
Release Date
Country of Origin United States of America

Mil Spec Gear

Specifications
Blade Detail: Plain Edge with Sawback
Blade Length: 9.00
Blade Material: 5160, Black
Carry System: Nylon Sheath
Handle Color: Gray
Handle Material: Micarta
Overall Length: 14.00
Special Features: Sheath comes with Sharpener, Whistle, Wire Saw, Fire Starter

http://ep.yimg.com/ca/I/yhst-80285525796440_2169_398356087

http://www.topsknives.com/product_info.php?products_id=345&osCsid=akq1o1c1sha2adt7qg35i055q3

____________________


MINI PRY KNIFE  …AKA… “LEVERAGE 101”

ALTHOUGH MADE FAIRLY SHORT IN OVERALL LENGTH,
THIS IS AN EXCEPTIONALLY STRONG TOOL.

A FULL 3/8″ THICK  …   FULL TANG BLADE AND  MADE OF 5160 SPRING STEEL.
WITH BLACK LINEN MICARTA,  PISTOL GRIP HANDLES.

UPON REQUEST, TOPS FULLFILLED A REQUIREMENT FROM
A GROUP OF LEO’S….MANY OF WHOM DO ‘HIGH RISK
WARRANTS”,  AND ‘FUGITIVE RECOVERY’….THE REQUEST
WAS NOT FOR A ‘TEAM TOOL’, BUT FOR INDIVIDUAL CARRY…

A SMALLER PRY KNIFE, TO BE CARRIED CLOSE
TO THE BODY,  AND WHEN IN THE SHEATH NOT EASILY
DISTINGUISHABLE FROM SOMETHING LIKE A MULTI TOOL…
ITS USED TO OPEN WINDOWS, SECURE DOORS, BREAK GLASS,
OPEN CONTAINERS….AND OF COURSE
‘A TOOL  OF ‘LAST RESORT’ …

O/A Length: 8 1/8″
Blade Length: 3 1/2″
Thickness: 3/8″ +
Steel: 5160 RC 56-58
Handle: Micarta
Blade Color: TAC Black
Serrated Blade
Weight: 16.3oz

$129.95

________________________________

** PRY-PROBE-PUNCH TOOL ***

Specifications

PRY KNIFE
O/A Length: 10 3/4″
Blade Length: 4 1/2″
Thickness: 1/4″
Steel: 5160 Spring Steel RC 55-57
Handle: Micarta
Color: Black Traction Coating
Sheath: Nylon

PRY-PROBE-PUNCH TOOL
O/A Length: 7 1/4″
Spoon Width: 1 1/4″
Shank Thickness: 1/2″
Steel: 5140 Alloy Rc 55-56 Forged Steel
Sheath: Nylon

$199.00

Radio Scanners to Monitor Police, Fire, and Emergency Services Reply

What are Scanners Anyway?
A scanner is a radio receiver (it cannot transmit) which allows you to scan multiple frequencies at one time for two-way radio activity. These devices are commonly known as “police scanners” in that most people use the devices to listen to police radio communications although fire department monitoring is almost of equal interest, and scanners can also be used to monitor the two-way radios of taxis, mall security, commercial aircraft, ambulances and so much more. Just like an FM radio station might broadcast on 105.7 FM, a police department will use, for example, 155.625 FM for its dispatcher to communicate with the patrol cars. Because a police department, unlike an FM radio station, does not need to broadcast continually with talk or music, but only when there’s an incident to discuss or respond to, a scanner allows you to sample a multitude of local (within 20 miles or so) public safety agency and business radio channels for activity. The scanner will stop on the first channel it comes to that has activity and the radio will resume scanning when that radio transmission has ended. Note that there are many new types of radio systems such as digital and trunking which are discussed below.

A Short Scanner History
Back in the early days of radio, in the early to mid 1900s, tunable radio receivers were used to monitor police channels. In actuality many police departments used a frequency just at the end of the AM radio dial around 1700 KHz to broadcast to their patrol cars. In the 1960s, when police and fire departments were using FM radio channels around 40 and 155 MHz (VHF Low and High band), enterprising radio enthusiasts developed the scanner which in effect performed a rapid tuning function, searching local radio channels for activity by “scanning” them. The first scanners scanned four or eight channels. To monitor these channels people had to buy crystals for the specific radio frequency used by their local departments, and install them inside the scanner. In later years a keyboard replaced the crystal and now you can program thousands of channels into a scanner from a keyboard or a PC.

Who Uses Scanners and Why?
Scanners are used by a wide spectrum of people, from radio hobbyists to everyday folks who just want to keep an ear on what’s happening around town. Scanners are also used by the news media as well as people who love news and want to hear all about it as it happens. Others are concerned in today’s environment for personal and neighborhood safety and want to stay in tune with the fantastic job our public servants perform. Speaking of our public servants, police departments nationally use scanners to allow them to keep tabs on adjoining departments and jurisdictions in case incidents in one community, such as a car chase, may move into their own or, in the case of fire departments, they may be called for mutual aid at a fire. This is called communications interoperability and scanners can be a critically important tool for public safety in this manner. Newspapers, TV and radio stations all use scanners to gather the news and report on it. There are actually hundreds of ways scanners are used for a variety of public safety, social and even entertainment purposes.

Buying Scanners for Security, Information or Enjoyment

Scanners keep you in the know better than the local news, provide a sense of security, and all the while scanners can be a lot of fun. When buying a scanner for your home, work or as a gift, there are a number of key points to remember:
Determine the type of radio system your local town and county uses
Most communities still use basic radio systems that can be “scanned” using low-end/inexpensive scanners. A low-end scanner though will not have the features, such as alpha-tagging (allowing the scanner to display “Chicago Fire” rather than a frequency) or a PC port, that can be very useful. Your community or region may also use advanced radio systems which will require a more expensive scanner.

Scanners can seem complicated at first, but the low-end models, in particular, are very easy to use. When buying for personal use or as a gift, try to keep it simple by programming and listening to the police and fire department for your own community and perhaps some surrounding communities. Then, as you get more familiar with scanning you can broaden your listening if you desire.
Programming Your Scanner
You must program the local police and fire department frequencies of course before you begin listening. This is akin to entering your favorite AM-FM radio station, but there are a lot more public safety frequencies to choose from. There are a few ways to go about programming your scanner. First, you can buy one of our frequency guides to program the radios yourself. After reading the scanner owner’s manual to understand the programming process, you look up the frequencies and the trunking system details in our book and then enter the information into the radio. Some web sites also maintain this data. The frequency guides offer a wealth of information on all sorts of public and private entities that use radio including police, fire, EMS, DOT, DPW, fire towers, railroads, utilities, colleges, malls, auto racing and so much more. If learning the programming process and finding the frequencies doesn’t appeal to you, you can have Scanner Master program your scanner.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How far will I be able to listen?
Distance depends on too many factors to provide an easy answer, such as the elevation of your home, whether there are hills or other obstructions between you and the agency you wish to monitor; the transmitter power of the agency you wish to listen to, etc. These and other factors all play a part. Generally speaking, with a handheld or desktop scanner you can hear in a 10 to 20 mile radius, but that’s not set in stone.

What is Trunking?
As public safety agencies and businesses grow they require more and more radio frequencies for their operations, consequently available radio spectrum has become more valuable and more difficult to find. To help resolve this problem, radio manufacturers developed “trunking” which works on the same principle as a trunk telephone line. Let€™s take for an example the city of Worcester, Massachusetts. This mid-size city used to have two or three frequencies for the police department and two or three for the fire department as well as one for public works and one for parks. Now, with their trunking radio system, they have upwards of 50 or 100 groups of users on 10 radio frequencies.
One of the frequencies in the system is the “control” or “data” channel, continuously broadcasting a stream of computer data that sounds like a buzzsaw over the air. Every time a police officer, a firefighter or a sanitation worker presses his microphone button an instantaneous computer command is sent out to all the other users within that person’s radio group to move to one of the nine available voice frequencies in the system. The channel the group is assigned is almost completely random so there’s no way to follow a communication unless you have a trunking scanner that works on a principle similar to that of the actual two-way radio. Hence, the TrunkTracker. One moment an officer in the police east side traffic division may be calling his dispatcher on one of the nine frequencies, and seconds later that dispatcher may reply to that officer on a completely different frequency. So now, a small group of radio users, such as the Water Filtration division, can effectively have their own radio channel. It’s not a frequency per se, just any one of the 9 available radio frequencies as long as it’s not in use by another talk-group of users.

The two major types of trunking systems are manufactured by Motorola and by M/A-COM (known as EDACS). A popular business trunking technology is known as LTR. Most, but not all, public safety trunking systems operate on the 800 MHz band. As the technology has evolved over time, each manufacturer has some different flavors of their trunking system. With Motorola you’ll hear about Type I, Type II and IIi. Type I requires something called a fleet map to work properly (although these systems are gradually being phased out). EDACS has narrowband, wideband and SCAT. There are a number of LTR style systems, including one known as MultiNet for public safety (there is no scanner today that can track it) and Passport which is primarily for business communications. There is also some encryption on these systems which makes it impossible to monitor. All of it sounds very complicated and it can be, but here we specialize in providing you with the information to make it easier to set up trunking for your area and once it’s done right it may never have to be touched again. Note: EDACS, MultiNet and Passport are trademarks of their manufacturers.

Trunking systems can be complicated to program for novices (although our Butel software makes programming much easier), but you will find that scanning these trunked systems to be more pleasurable, interesting and informative than ever before. You can hear both sides of a conversation and you can listen in to just those groups which interest you.

Scanner Basics/Information and FAQ’s 

What is Digital and APCO-25 all about?

Just like your cell phone, a digital two-way radio system converts voice into ones and zeros and transmits this data to another radio which decodes the information so the voice communication (sometime sounding a bit robotic) is heard on the other end. Older public safety radio systems are often being replaced with the new digital systems. There is no way to upgrade an older or non-digital scanner. You must buy a digital scanner (such as the Bearcat 296 or 796) or a digital-ready scanner (the Bearcat 250 or 785 which accept a digital card) in order to monitor digital communications.

Digital scanners decode APCO-25 non-encrypted transmissions automatically (encrypted communications cannot be decrypted). A few agencies operate in encryption full time. There are also a few non-standard digital radio systems that are not monitorable at this time such as EDACS ProVoice, M/A-COM OpenSky and European Tetra. Many agencies also used MDT’s (mobile data terminals), the computers in the patrol cars as well as cellular and NEXTEL phones for private communications. These cannot be monitored in any way.

What are PL and DPL (private line & digital private line) or CTCSS and DCS sub-audible tone codes?

Many scanners have the ability to program both a frequency and a sub-audible tone code (PL/DPL). It’s not required that you use it but it is recommended if you have the PL/DPL information. As many agencies and businesses share radio frequencies they use these codes to insure that they only hear others within their department or company. You can do the same. PL helps limit interference by pre-selecting only those transmissions your most interested in and filtering out unwanted conversations. PL data is not always available but most scanners today provide a method of automatically determining the PL or DPL in use.

Can I listen to cellular phone calls? Can scanners be modified to listen to it?

By federal law monitoring private phone conversations is prohibited. No scanners made in the last 10 years have been capable of monitoring cell phones or are capable of being modified to do so. Most cellular phones are now TDMA or CDMA digital which is completely different from APCO-25 digital and couldn’t be monitored even if the cellular frequency range was still included in the radio. Government agencies can purchase scanners which still contain the cellular band but special ID is required.

What is this new Close Call feature of some of the Uniden scanners?

Close Call allows the scanner to instantly tune to most any standard (non-cellular/Nextel) radio transmission within your line-of-sight, or in some cases even further. So, if you’re at a mall, a sporting event, or happen by an accident scene for example and you don’t know the local security, event or police/fire/EMS channels, Close Call will automatically tune your scanner to the frequencies being used. If you’ve been waiting for the right time to buy a new scanner, buying a scanner with Close Call is a great reason to finally make the move.

How can software help me with scanning?

Other than some of the low-end scanners, most scanners today are computer programmable. Using a serial cable and software you connect your scanner to your PC and then you can create multiple files for different areas or events to which you might take your radio. For trunking scanners and/or scanners with alpha-tag capability, programming on a computer (usually in spreadsheet like form) is considerably easier than programming on the scanner itself. More advanced software allows you to also control your scanner from the PC and log activity, record audio, and do much more than you could ever do on your scanner alone. Uniden includes demo software with their scanners but Scanner Master recommends the BuTel ARC (Advanced Radio Control) software which is widely considered the world’s best. It’s extremely easy to use, loads and works seamlessly with your PC, and it is very powerful and feature rich.

What accessories do you recommend?

Antennas – There is no better way to improve reception, whether for base or mobile scanning, then by adding an outside antenna. For home or office scanners we recommend a base station antenna, such as the Discone for all-band monitoring. If you want to really improve performance on a single radio band, check out our professional base station antennas, either omnidirectional or directional for most receiver gain. Aiming a yagi (beam) antenna at a station or region that uses a common band (such as 800 MHz trunking or 460 MHz UHF) will pull in signals you never dreamed of. For mobile scanners we urge you to mount a mobile antenna somewhere on your vehicle. Getting the antenna out from under the steel roof of your car or truck will provide a huge improvement. Not everyone wants another antenna on their car so we offer various types and mounting options. For portable scanners you can buy antennas tuned to specific bands (such as 800 MHz) for improved trunking performance for example, but other bands will suffer.

Software – For all scanners with a PC connection we highly recommend scanner software which will make programming easier and operation more enjoyable. If you’re not convinced go online and check out the demo software that we offer for many models.

Frequency Guides – We offer specialty frequency guides for the Northeast, Southwest and Police Call on CD only, the 7-volume set that covers the nation.

Scanner Legality

It is 100% legal in the United States to purchase, own and operate a scanner radio with a very few minor exceptions. We note that because radio law sometimes, but extremely rarely, changes, and because we are not attorneys, you should check your state, local and federal laws if you have any concerns.

There are a few states that have laws on the books regarding the use of scanners in motor vehicles. Kentucky, Indiana, New York and Florida come to mind. There are a few additional states where it’s illegal to use a scanner in the furtherance of a crime. Click these links below (which may or may not be up-to-date) for further information:

http://www.afn.org/~afn09444/scanlaws/
http://www.strongsignals.net/access/content/laws.html
http://www.expertlaw.com/forums/showthread.php?t=52056

It is illegal to intercept cell phone and cordless phone communications (most cordless phones today are spread spectrum and cannot be monitored anyway. It’s also illegal to monitor cellular phone conversations and for the last 10+ years the major scanner manufacturers, by federal law, have not produced a scanner capable of monitoring the cell phone band. At any rate, because 99.9% of all cell phone calls now are CDMA, GSM and other highly advanced types of digital (not APCO-25 digital), cell phone calls couldn’t be intercepted anyway.

It is also illegal to decrypt encrypted communications. Most public safety communications that use DVP/DES and other types of highly-sophisticated encryption couldn’t be decrypted without years of work and a supercomputer anyway. Luckily, relatively few public safety agencies in the U.S. use such systems. In other parts of the world, particularly we know in Europe, the public safety radio systems cannot be monitored.

Scanners are a well regarded and respected tool for the news media, public safety agencies themselves, and for the general public. Americans like to be in the know. They like to be aware of what’s going on around them and they like to help the police and fire services whenever possible, by reporting crime, fire, and the like. Knowing what the local authorities are doing and perhaps helping (without interfering — very important) after having heard something on-the-air, benefits us all.

So scanners are completely legal to own in your home, on your person, and, in almost all states, in your vehicle. They help you build a healthy respect for the job our public servants our doing while at the same time keeping you in the know. Buy a scanner radio today and be informed and enjoy!

How Scanners Deliver News as it Happens as well as Entertainment and Peace of Mind

This is a long way of asking, “Why are scanners so great?” Or, “Why are scanners such a useful and enjoyable product for everyone? There are many reasons why and below we’ve just begun to cover them.

Let’s take the first part, “How do scanners deliver the news as it happens” We all want to know what’s going on around our city, our nation and the world, but it’s the local news that’s most important to us. It’s what’s happening in our community, in our neighborhood, that we most want to follow.

We can watch TV, read a newspaper or look online for our news. But in all cases it takes time for a reporter/photographer to go to the scene of a fire or a bank robbery and report. With cutbacks in news organizations of late, most public safety incidents won’t be reported on at all, or the report will be delayed. And, if you’re just curious why that police car raced down your street, you’re likely never to know by just relying on news services.

With a scanner you solve all these problems. With a scanner you hear the dispatch* and then can generally follow the police and fire communications as they report from the scene.

So with a scanner you learn of the news “as it happens” rather than relying on some news service to, perhaps, go to the scene and file a report. The media relies on scanners, too, so by using a scanner you’ll know right when your local TV and radio station knows when something important is happening.

With a scanner you’ll also be entertained. Let’s face it, listening to police chases live is unbelievably exciting. Hearing firefighters call for more water pressure as they’re inside a building fighting a fire is thrilling. Hearing planes and trains be dispatched and routed is just plain fun. And in all cases you’re admiration for the jobs these public servants and private professionals are performing only grows while your knowledge and understanding of their work increases.

You can have a scanner on in the background while you watch TV. Some people even go to bed listening to a scanner at night and, over time, instinctively know and wake up when something exciting or important is happening – you can tell by the tension in the voice of the dispatchers and officers in the street who are communicating.

Particularly for kids, when you’re listening to a scanner you’re practically riding along in that patrol car or you’re in that fire truck racing to a scene of a fire. It’s really mesmerizing, entertaining, informative and educational all at the same time.

And, particularly for adults, perhaps those who are concerned about crime in their neighborhood or dry brush around their homes during the fire season, a scanner will keep you abreast of what conditions are in your area. Are police responding to suspicious persons on nearby streets? Do you hear the fire department being called out to hose down homes in the development a few blocks away? This is invaluable information that you can find nowhere else or not nearly as quickly. A scanner radio does it all.

So we hope you’ll consider buying yourself or a loved one a scanner today. For information, for entertainment, for peace-of-mind, and more. There’s nothing like a scanner.

(*In minor police incidents some department dispatches are sent via computer to in-car “mobile data terminals.” However if the incident is at all significant all departments will use radio communications to disseminate information the quickest way its entire force.)

Copyright 2009 Richard Barnett, Scanner Master Corp

 
Valuable Resources
Be sure to visit www.radioreference.com for the ultimate resource of scanner frequencies, trunking information, radio forums and more.

A guide to The Best “Police” Radio Scanners
by N4UJW Hamuniverse.com (A Ham Radio Web Site)

See this great article on the Ham Universe Website.

Source:  http://www.scannermaster.com/Articles.asp?ID=165