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A key but often neglected part of having firearms in your prepping plans is practice. Many people purchase thousands of dollars worth of weapons with the intention of using these in a life and death situation. The truth of the matter is that when you are actually in a life and death situation, your skill is dramatically reduced. The confidence you had with that weapon is gone and fear and stress kick in big time. It is at this most critical time that your skill level and proficiency need to be the highest they can be, but the reality is we are able to muster only a fraction.

Practicing with your pistols before there is an emergency is vital to improving your chances of successfully living to talk about it. If your going into a gunfight, you need to be training for a gunfight. Bruce outlines some steps and exercises you can follow below to become more proficient, to increase muscle memory and hopefully increase your odds of hitting what you are shooting at, before it hits you. Practice these drills as often as you can. They could mean the difference between life and death.

The Crush Grip

The crush grip is one of the elements of Massad Ayoob’s five-point “pre-flight checklist” comprising the fundamentals of solid combat handgun marksmanship (Ayoob, 2012). When a shooter uses a crush grip or hard grasp on the handgun with the thumbs curled down, the curled thumbs promote a stronger and tighter grasp. Thumbs curled down do not shift the windage on one’s muzzle direction. My experience and the results with my students validate that one can shoot with combat accuracy with such a grip.

Furthermore, as demonstrated in Massad Ayoob’s Stressfire combat handgun training program (www.MassadAyoobGroup.com), when a shooter intentionally “gorilla grips” the handgun to the point of tremor, the resulting “wobble zone” results in shot groupings on target at combat distances that are still within a combat accuracy acceptable 3 to 4 inches.

However, there is yet one other essential point. The harder you grasp the handgun, the better you will control the gun. Also, the harder you grasp, the easier it is to isolate your trigger finger. Just perform this little experiment:

Full combat grip on holstered gun.

Make a loose fist with your dominant hand and keep your thumb pointed forward. Now, extend your trigger finger and press your trigger finger to the rear just as if you are working a trigger. If you watch your hand as you do this, you may notice that as you work your trigger finger, your other fingers are also moving. You have not completely isolated the movement of your trigger finger from the rest of your hand. This is called “milking,” and if you do this while you are shooting, it typically results in shots that are low and to the left.

Now make a much tighter fist and curl your thumb down. When you extend your trigger finger and press it to the rear now, as if you’re working the trigger, you will notice that your other tightly clasped fingers do not move in unison. You have isolated your trigger finger. This is one advantage of a crush grip.

The importance of a combat shooting program emphasizes techniques that depend on simple gross motor skills as opposed to complex fine motor skills, since fine motor skills deteriorate under life and death stress.

It is my position that we should practice defensive shooting in ways which are consistent with what happens physically and psychologically if we were fighting for our life. These techniques should feed off of the effects of the body alarm reaction and become more effective under stress. They must be simple gross motor techniques that can withstand the tremors and increased physical strength attendant to the body-alarm-triggered adrenaline dump into the bloodstream. A “crush grip” does this.

Can we and should we train for a gunfight?

My position on the matter is that we can train for when the proverbial balloon goes up and that we should maximize our training time by building skills that we might have to use in a deadly force situation. After all, we carry guns because we just might have to use them in defense of life. Therefore, we had better prepare ourselves by running drills that build skills we might actually use for real.

How to Train for the Gunfight

I have developed a practice drill regimen that runs through some of the core elements of combat shooting. It is doable in a lane in an indoor range. I use this practice drill regimen for my own skills maintenance, and I teach it to my private students. I will outline it here. It requires 100 rounds (two boxes) of ammunition.

Training for a gunfight means building skills you will need if you are in an armed confrontation. First and foremost, you will need good basic marksmanship skills because advanced combat shooting skills involve solid applications, and in some cases, modifications, of the basic skills. Thus, you must master the basics.

These include a solid (power) stance, a solid and stable (crush) grip on the gun, acquisition and maintenance of good sight alignment and sight picture, good trigger control and trigger reset, and good follow-through. Second, you will need good point shooting and retention shooting skills. There will be no time to take your time. You need to be able to fire multiple shots fast and accurately close in, because most gunfights happen within nine feet. And third, you will need to move! The person who stays planted is going nowhere fast, and in fact, may get planted. Conversely, the person who moves rapidly is more likely to emerge from the fight alive.

Drill 4: Elbow Up. Elbow Down.

Drill 1. Basic Marksmanship Drill: Two-Handed Grip (30 rounds)

Every trip to the range for practice should include practicing basic marksmanship to refresh and strengthen the fundamentals. Advanced skills build on the basics. This first drill is a primer. I typically run at least 30 rounds through my primary defensive handgun at five, seven, ten, fifteen, and twenty to twenty-five yards. The handgun is brought on target either from the low ready, combat ready, compressed combat ready positions, or the holster. Typically I begin shooting close-in to build confidence and then increase my target distances.

Basic marksmanship means employing the fundamentals; power stance, hard two-handed grasp on the handgun, good sight alignment and sight picture, good trigger control and follow through (give the bullet time to leave the barrel before the trigger reset and preparing for the follow-up shot). For this drill, I am aiming for precision accuracy. I am essentially running the “one-hole drill” or “focus drill” that I have described in previous articles. This is a take as much time as you need drill to get all shots in one hole using the basics of good marksmanship.

Drill 2. Basic Marksmanship Drill: One-Handed Grip (20 rounds)

This drill is the same as the above drill (incorporating all of the fundamentals) except that now you are shooting one-handed at various distances, alternating between your dominant and non-dominant hands. When you shoot one-handed, it is important to grip your handgun even harder, as you have only one hand on the gun. The harder you grasp, the better you will control the gun. Also, the harder you grasp, as we illustrated above, the easier it is to isolate your trigger finger.


The above two drills use up a box (50 rounds) of ammunition. The drills to follow require another 50 rounds. The following drills should incorporate movement at least some of the time that you run them, to the extent that the range will allow. Obviously, if you are working in an indoor range in a lane, your movement will be minimal. Basically, when you are not shooting, you should be moving. As noted defensive firearms trainer, John Farnam is fond of repeating, “Don’t just stand there like a potted palm.” If you present a static target in a real fight, you just might get planted. So, movement should be incorporated into your gun presentation (your draw from the holster) and movement should follow each string of shots.

Drill 3. Draw and Shoot Two-Handed from Compressed Ready to Full Extension (20 rounds)

DRILL 5 as you aim through point shooting at the target, you are shooting up the target from your initial point of aim/point of impact, sort of like a zipper.

In a real gunfight, you will be firing multiple shots. Typically the fight will begin close in. To prevail and survive, you need to get hits on your assailant before he hits you. And you need to move away from your assailant as you are doing so. Distance is your friend. This drill is

One-quarter hip retention point shooting position.

run at three, five, and seven yards. You begin from two-handed compressed ready. When you give yourself the go signal, start shooting from the compressed ready and fire two to three additional shots as you push your gun out to full extension.

In a fight, you would be extending the gun as you fire and simultaneously move away from your assailant. Note: Your first shot at compressed ready should be taken with your hands at least six inches in front of your chest so that the rear end of the cycling slide will not hit your chest.

Drill 4. Elbow-Up/Elbow Down One-Handed Point Shooting from the Hip (10 rounds)

In this drill, I practice drawing from the holster (strong side) and shooting from retention (which in this drill is the one-quarter hip retention position), as soon as the gun is pointed at the target. A total of 10 rounds are fired. This drill should be perfected first without movement. Once you are comfortable with the drill, then you can incorporate movement. However, if you are shooting on an indoor range in a lane, it may not be safe to incorporate movement into this drill. This is the flow sequence broken down into steps:

  1. Acquire a combat grip on the holstered handgun.
  2. Your elbow swings up as you draw the gun up vertically and clear the mouth of the holster with the muzzle.
  3. Your elbow swings down as you rock your forearm up toward the target with your arm in the one-quarter hip retention position.
  4. You fire one shot as soon as your muzzle is pointed at your aim point on the target.

It is very important to maintain a crush grip on the gun as you run this drill. By doing so, you will have more control over the gun.

Drill 5. “The Zipper” (20 rounds)

This drill is an extension of Drill 4. In this drill, I draw from the holster (strong side), begin shooting from the one-quarter hip retention position as soon as the gun is pointed at the target, and continue firing as I push the gun out toward the target through the half hip, three-quarter hip, and full extension positions. This drill is called the zipper because as you aim through point shooting at the target, you are shooting up the target from your initial point of aim/point of impact, sort of like a zipper.

DRILL 5 as you aim through point shooting at the target, you are shooting up the target from your initial point of aim/point of impact, sort of like a zipper.

Here again, we are practicing getting multiple shots at speed into our assailant. You should start running this drill slowly, and gradually build up speed over several sessions. It is important to do it smoothly in one continuous flow. Here you should “flow like water.” Remember that initially at least, slow is smooth, and eventually, fast, effective and coordinated is always smooth.

Recognize that in reality, you would only extend your gun as you are firing as far as you safely can in order to maintain good gun retention. If you are too close to your opponent and you extend your gun too far toward your opponent as you are firing, you may end up giving your gun to your assailant or his partner.

This drill should be performed without movement while you are shooting, as with all of the above drills. Give yourself time to become proficient at this drill before you incorporate movement into your draw from the holster. Again, if you are shooting on an indoor range with lanes, it may not be safe to incorporate movement into this drill. Again, it is very important to maintain a crush grip on the gun throughout the shooting sequence. Especially when you are practicing this technique, if you do not gorilla grip your handgun, you will not have as much control over it as you need to have.

This is the flow sequence broken down into steps:

  1. Acquire a combat grip on the holstered handgun.
  2. Your elbow swings up as you draw the gun up vertically and clear the mouth of the holster with the muzzle.
  3. Your elbow swings down as you rock your forearm up toward the target.
  4. You fire your first shot as soon as your muzzle is pointed at your point of aim on the target and when your arm is in the one-quarter hip position. You continue firing as you push the gun out toward the target through the half hip, three-quarter hip, and full extension positions.


Training for a gunfight means practicing drills that incorporate skills you will need if you are in an armed confrontation. First of all, you need good basic marksmanship skills. Advanced combat shooting skills involve solid applications, and in some cases, modifications of the basic skills. You must master the basics as discussed above. That is why my practice regimen includes a basic marksmanship component.

Second, you need good point shooting and retention shooting skills. Armed confrontations and gunfights typically happen in seconds. There is no time to take your time. You need to be able to shoot multiple shots fast and accurately. Most gunfights happen within nine feet. You will most likely be fighting one or more assailants who are coming toward you, so you will need to hold onto your gun tightly (crush grip, retention position) and fire multiple shots.

Third, you will need to move, so you need to incorporate movement into your drills! The person who stays planted is going nowhere fast, and in fact, may get planted. Conversely, the person who moves rapidly is more likely to emerge from the fight alive. The drills described above incorporate all of these elements.

A key but often neglected part of having firearms in your prepping plans is practice. Many people purchase thousands of dollars worth of weapons with the intention of using these


Escape and Evasion

Here are some basic instructions on how to avoid getting captured if you manage to escape from kidnappers, terrorists or from a location where things have gone very wrong. We do no encourage people to break the law, but you must understand that in some situations what would be viewed as illegal actions such are breaking and entering into a building or taking supplies are your only option for survival.

Fundamentals of OTR (On The Run)

Part of your SHTF plan needs to be what to do if you have to escape from a hostile situation be it urban or rural, be it your local area or somewhere you’re visiting or doing business. Always ensure you have the basic equipment required to navigate and sustain yourself in the environment you’re in, keep it basic, keep it light and keep it concealable.

  • Your goal is survival and to reach a safe area.
  • If you have a cell phone on you consider if those after you can use it to track you. If those after you have access to the phone company’s networks dump the phone completely.
  • Consider your means of leaving the area: on foot, swim, public transport, aircraft, boat, hitch a lift, steal or hijack a vehicle.
  • After the initial escape try to leave the area as quickly as possible and keep a low profile, remember to blend in with your environment.
  • As soon as you can you need to make contact with friends, family, trusted authorities or friendly Embassies.
  • If you cannot leave the area then you’ll have to go to ground and hide, locations can include; in parks or bushes, busy pedestrian areas, public bathrooms, bars and night clubs etc. Consider what CCTV is in the area and if those after you can access it. If your hiding in parks etc. do those after you have thermal imaging equipment? Consider how long you will have to go to ground for and what are your emergency escape routes.
  • Work out where are you running to and try to leave decoys pointing to different locations; book a train ticket with your credit card but never take a train etc.
  • You will need money if you are very lucky and have a credit card hidden on your person you can use ATM’s but remember this will show your location on the grid. If you are in an area where you’re staying for a while, you could possibly have previously stashed cash with other important documents and equipment in a dead drop for emergencies, your last resort would be to steal money.
  • You will also need clean clothes, if you cannot buy them or get them from a place of charity you would need to steal them.
  • If you need to travel a long distance you will need to find somewhere to wash and stay clean.
  • You will need somewhere to sleep; in urban environments it may make sense to stay away from the usual places homeless people congregate as this would be the first place those looking for you would check.
  • If you do not have money to buy food you could possibly get it from charities, steal it or check the trash cans behind restaurants and sandwich shops.
  • To leave most countries you will need a passport or ID’s, if you have lost yours, you can try to covertly bypass border controls and then make it to the nearest friendly Embassy on the other side. At most borders there may be checkpoints on the roads but go a few hundred meters either side there is usually nothing, maybe a fence. So, if you are using a road get off it a few hundred meters before the border, skirt around the check point and rejoin the road a few hundred yards on the other side. When crossing the border do so quickly, quietly and use all your senses and be alert for any patrols or remote cameras etc.
  • Try to have or get maps, even free tourist guides are better than nothing.
  • Learn to identify north and south without a compass.
  • Always carry and try to conceal an escape compass on your person.
  • Identify and remember prominent objects in the area such as major roads, rivers, mountains, airports and buildings, these will give you reference points when on the move.
  • If you are in a rural area and want to locate people follow rivers, most villages are located around water sources.


Face to face with a street thug? Do THIS
Sometimes it doesn’t even feel like we’re living in America anymore, with…
• Outraged alt-left mobs who burn any American flag they come across…
• Trigger-happy thugs who have ZERO regard for human life…
• Radical terrorists plotting to murder Americans right here in our country…
That’s why an ex-CIA Officer made this brief self-defense video and he’s sharing it FREE with all law-abiding American citizens.

Every Heel Has His (Or Her) Achilles Heel

Escape and Evasion Equipment

The reason for escape and evasion equipment is to help you escape from captivity and stay alive for a limited amount of time. You should carry a minimum amount of non-nondescript equipment as discreetly as possible. Expensive, specialist, flashy military equipment will only draw attention to you, it will be taken away by your captors or during a search and could possibly label you as a spy or police etc. This is something you don’t want as it could lead to you being detained, tortured and executed. This list is a guide to what would be useful for you to have on your person, pick the items you think you would be able to get hold of, conceal and relevant to the situation you’re in.

  • Survival blanket: These are usually silver in color and can be used to provide warmth, shelter, collect water and for signaling.
  • Personal water filter: There are many small water filters on the market that are easily carried in a shirt pocket etc.
  • String or thin wire: This has various uses for example construction of shelters, re-closing cut wire fences, trip wires etc.
  • Wire saw: These thin wire saws can be used to cut wood, plastic and soft metals. Always try to buy those made from multiple strands of flexible wire “commando wire saws”. Beware of cheap imitations.
  • Small lock pick set: Bogata pics, diamond/needle file and cuff shims are easy to conceal and inexpensive.
  • S.O. Tech RSB-L-BLK Riggers SERE Belt – Stash pocket allows you to hide escape tools

    Hacksaw blade: The blade should be broken into 2 to 3 inch pieces to make them more concealable, if possible the ends and backs of the blades can be sharpened.

  • Safety pins: Various uses including first aid, mending clothing, building shelters and picking open hand-cuffs.
  • Razor blades: Small and concealable multi-purpose blades.
  • Flint and steel/Matches: Used for fire lighting to keep you warm or cause distractions.
  • Tinder: Cotton wool or lint etc. used to help you light fires.
  • Hairnet and Condoms: Used for carrying water, the condom goes in the hairnet to stop it from splitting.
  • Water purification tabs: For purifying drinking water.
  • Compass: Chose a small and concealable compass.
  • Whistle & Mirror: Can be used for signaling and distractions.
  • Knife: Chose a small concealable knife that won’t be found and confiscated when your captured or that can get you arrested for carrying an illegal weapon. Neck knives are an option as many searchers do not check the neck or chest areas.
  • Flash Lights: Chose a small concealable flash light, forget the expensive tactical lights, this can be used for light, signaling and distractions.
  • Tools: There are many good multi-pliers type tools on the market that are excellent pieces of kit for escape and evasion but will most probably confiscate them straight away if your arrested or kidnapped.
  • Food: Try to conceal high calorie foods such as sweets, nuts and raisins etc.
  • Money: Probably the most important piece of equipment you can carry. Chose small value notes of a well-known currency, waterproof them and conceal them.


Face to face with a street thug? Do THIS
Sometimes it doesn’t even feel like we’re living in America anymore, with…
• Outraged alt-left mobs who burn any American flag they come across…
• Trigger-happy thugs who have ZERO regard for human life…
• Radical terrorists plotting to murder Americans right here in our country…
That’s why an ex-CIA Officer made this brief self-defense video and he’s sharing it FREE with all law-abiding American citizens.

Concealing your Escape and Evasion Kit

Most commercial escape & evasion and survival kits come in a plastic or metal container. This container can be used to drink from and if it’s metal you can also boil water in it. The trouble with tins and containers are that they are easy to find during a body search and will be confiscated. You want to try to conceal your equipment in your clothing.

  • Jackets: There are lots of places for you to hide equipment in jackets especially if they are lined. Wire saws, matches and money can be sewn into seams and draw cords etc. with lager equipment put into the lining. The lining itself can be used for tinder etc.
  • Travel Vests: These have lots of places to conceal equipment but there is a good chance it will be confiscated. A tactical vest is also an indicator that you are in the security business and a FBI wannabe.
  • Shirts: Sew money etc. into the seams.
  • Trousers: Sew money, wire saws, razor blades etc. in the waistband, hems and seams. Also keep a few bits of candy in your pockets.
  • Belts: Sew equipment into your belt or look at buying a commercial money belt.
  • Shoes: There is a lot of room to hide all sorts of equipment in the heels and soles of your shoes.
  • Underwear: Sew money, wire saws etc. into the seams.

Always dress down and don’t wear clothes that will draw attention to you or that will be taken off you by your captors. Again, this is just a guide to get you thinking, just take a few of the above mentioned items, conceal them on your person and they could make your life easier in an escape and evasion situation.


  Escape and Evasion Here are some basic instructions on how to avoid getting captured if you manage to escape from kidnappers, terrorists or from a location where things have gone very

Fear can be the ultimate motivator. People in a plane that is rapidly plummeting to the ground are suddenly motivated to clasp their hands together and hastily scream a prayer that they haven’t felt compelled to whisper since elementary school. Some live by the philosophy that without fear there would never be an opportunity to exhibit great courage. I disagree that fear should be anyone’s ultimate motivator, and I believe fear-fueled prepping is dangerous and foolish.   Prepping because you have given fear a name such as an F5 tornado, a great flood, civil war, an EMP, a worldwide pandemic, etc. could prove deadly for you and your loved ones. Don’t stock up on food and supplies out of fear, instead be confident in your abilities, gather what you can for any given situation and make it part of who you are, how you think, and how you react.

Fear and prepping don’t mix because the act of preparing for anything requires focus and strategy. Fear is paralyzing and can cause a person to push aside sound judgment. It speaks to the rational mind and causes panic which then turns people into illogical, wide-eyed animals. If you are trying to convince a spouse to get on board with your preparedness mindset, the worst thing you can do is to try to motivate them with fear. First of all, it can backfire and fear can cause some people to not even want to get out of bed in the morning. If you start preaching to them about the pandemic that is all but at their doorstep they might conclude that the end is near and there is no point in going to the grocery store or taking the dog for a walk. Even if you are able to convince them to join your small elite army, they very well could turn into a crazed trigger-happy liability.

Medically and psychologically, fear can wreak havoc on your system. It can affect the immune system, cause cardiovascular damage, and gastrointestinal problems. The body suffers with fear, but the mind is where it really causes problems. Your long-term memories are affected as well as the ability to read non-verbal cues. Decision making is impaired in negative ways and a person is apt to fall prey to impulsivity of actions. In simpler terms, a person could forget where they buried all their caches, fly into an irrational rage, shoot a hole in a water barrel because they mistook it for a zombie, and then drop dead from a heart attack. All this could be avoided had they not been operating out of an unyielding, dark, and portentous emotion.

You should be prepared for whatever may come your way, and you should also have some survival skills under your belt for good measure. Most of all, check fear at the door and develop strategies that ensure a cool head and the ability to maintain a panic-free demeanor at all times.

A tale of two Preppers

Imagine the scenario where PREPPER A has worked themselves into a lather over their fear of Ebola. They have feverishly prepared themselves for a worldwide pandemic. They research the topic endlessly, buy every medical book on Amazon, take some First Aid classes, stock up on medical supplies, buy Hazmat suits, etc. They have sacrificed sleep, quality time with loved ones, and freaked out members of their family only to drive home one day and find that their house and all their preps have burned to the ground. The next day the world is thrown into chaos because of financial collapse and they have nothing they relied on except the knowledge in their head. If there is nothing in their head except ideas of how to deal with a pandemic and the ability to use specific supplies then they are in deep trouble. Now let’s take PREPPER B. This person has stored up general preps such as food, medical supplies, and precious metals. They have invested time in learning the survival skills that will keep them alive in any climate and any chaotic situation. Not only is PREPPER B better than A in many ways, they also have one more huge advantage. They possess the ability to keep their emotions in check and maintain a level head even when circumstances seem at their worst. They will be an asset to their family and community.

Irrational fear can derail your prepping plans. Learn to control it now.

Here four things that can assuage the fearful mind:

  1. Identify: Identify what you are fearful of and what about it causes you the most dread. Now recognize that you have the ability to conquer your fear and that what tortures you most is the unknown. Realize you cannot determine the future and it is impossible to prepare for EVERY scenario.
  1. Skills: Work on learning skills that will test your grit. Imagine scenarios where you don’t have anything to fall back on. Determine the skill set needed for these situations and practice them until you are confident in your abilities.
  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff: Make a list of things that you want to accomplish, but don’t assign a timeline. Be diligent, but not OCD.
  1. Remember: Use scripture or a phrase that keeps your emotions in check. Choose something calming that succinctly defines what your state of mind should be in when you are overcome with the wrong emotions. I, personally, find Psalm 23:4 soothing and comforting. This verse gives me confidence and stabilizes my mind.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Remember, if you have worked hard to fill your pantry, stored up emergency items, and have researched everything you need to know to survive you can still be gripped with anxiety which stems from fear. Understanding that you are where you are and that when you go to bed at night you will be satisfied with what you have and make do if the need arises is key to your stability.

Here is a short list of skills that should be firmly planted in your head as well as your loved ones. And I highly recommend taking the time to teach your children survival skills. Ages will vary, but don’t underestimate the usefulness of our youth. Kids are capable to do much more than most people give them credit for.

Knowing how to treat a wound is an important prepper skill.

  1. Build a fire, especially in the event you don’t have matches and newspaper.
  2. Forage for food that isn’t going to kill you.
  3. Build a shelter.
  4. Run 4 miles without dying. If you have health problems that keep you from running, then at least be able to walk 3 miles.
  5. Find drinking water and know how to produce clean, drinkable water without a manufactured filter.
  6. Plant a seed and grow food. Even if it’s spinach. Then learn how to save the seed from what you produce.
  7. Treat a wound and be able to clean it properly to keep infection at bay.
  8. Fire a weapon with a moderate level of proficiency and clean the weapon afterwards. (If you are working with a minor, then most importantly, if they have never shot a firearm then take them somewhere so they can shoot at a target and see that real guns put real big holes in people and things. Guns aren’t toys and I believe if more people taught their kids about weapons, there would be fewer accidental shootings).
  9. Know how to dress for the weather and use layers properly. Dying from overexposure is a bad way to go and can be avoided with proper layers.
  10. Learn how to read the sky for direction and weather. This skill has been overlooked with the introduction of the GPS.

I will end with this quote because I love it. It sums up the experience and disdain I have for fear. There is no one alive that has never been afraid; what sets us apart and makes us strong and more capable of survival is the ability to conquer it.

“I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.”- Thomas Paine

Fear can be the ultimate motivator. People in a plane that is rapidly plummeting to the ground are suddenly motivated to clasp their hands together and hastily scream a prayer

Jack Frost nipping at your nose? Well, it’s that time of year to worry about getting nipped too hard by our cold natured friend. The colder weather makes me think of issues that I have to watch out for and one of them is frostbite. Frostbite can affect anyone and you don’t have to hike all the way up Mount Everest to feel its effects. As we think of prepping, one aspect we prepare for is bugging out or being without shelter due to societal collapse, natural weather event or some other calamity that causes major upheaval. With winter temperatures dropping, being outside could quickly cause cold injuries. Knowing how to prevent frostbite could be a valuable prepping skill you need to know if faced with that prospect.

The easiest thing to do is stay warm and dry and regulate your body temperature. Make sure you have proper cold weather equipment and you are able to reduce your exposure to the cold. That might prove impossible in some situations. Gloves are often overlooked when we think of prepper supplies but even with gloves, most are not designed to keep your fingers protected against every harsh environment. If wet, even the most expensive gloves will be no better at keeping your hands warm than a wet bag.

What are the symptoms of Frostbite?

Frostbite is an injury caused by the freezing of your skin and the underlying fluids and tissues. Frostbite is most common on the extremities or any typically unexposed areas of skin. Fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks or your chin are where you are most likely to get frostbite because when you are cold, the blood in your body retreats towards the core to keep the vital organs functioning and warm. Severe frostbite requires medical attention because it can literally destroy skin, tissues, even muscle and bones.

How to tell if you have frostbite

The symptoms of frostbite include the following:

  • Initially cold skin and a prickling or tingling feeling. This can be felt in early, less severe forms and most of us have been so cold that we felt numb before.
  • Numbness
  • Discolored skin. It could be red, white, even blue or grey.
  • Hard or waxy looking skin
  • You could experience clumsiness or disorientation due to muscle and joint stiffness.
  • Blistering after your skin rewarms. This is a serious sign of frostbite.

Frostbite generally occurs in several stages and takes time depending on the temperature and your exposure to the cold.

Frostnip – Frostnip is the first stage of frostbite and is what most of us who have lived for any amount of time and been outdoors have experienced. With frostnip, you skin turns red and feels obviously very cold. Your skin could also become paler as in your fingertips which will lead to prickly feelings and numbness. When you begin to warm up you may feel pain but this passes and frostnip does not cause any permanent damage and is usually remedied with some warmer temperature and a nice mug of cocoa.

Superficial Frostbite – The second stage of frostbite is red skin that turns white or pale. As this happens, ice crystals may start to form in the tissue. There is no way you will know that this is happening of course and your skin may actually start to feel warm. If you get out of the cold at this point you may notice that your skin appears blue, purple or splotchy and will start to sting, burn and swell. Blisters may appear 24 to 36 hours later.

Severe Frostbite – The longer you are exposed to the cold, the effects of frostbite damage all layers of the skin including the tissues underneath. Numbness, loss of sensation including any pain or discomfort is a sign that your tissues have died essentially. Your joints or muscles may stop working and you will have large blisters form after you have warmed back up. This is the point that skin turns black, hard and you will start losing things that you used to have. This is not good and it’s very important to recognize the signs of frostbite early to prevent this from ever happening. You do not want to deal with any injuries during a grid down or bug out scenario, but frostbite could lead to worse problems. If you have signs of superficial or severe frostbite you should seek medical attention immediately.

Who is more at risk for developing frostbite?

There are some factors that will increase your risk for frostbite:

  • Medical conditions that affect your ability to feel or respond to cold. Diabetic Neuropathy is one that comes to mind so if you have people in your Prepping group who have diabetes, this is something to watch out for.
  • Dehydration – another reason to ensure you have plenty of water even when it’s cold outside and you don’t think you are losing any from sweat.
  • Alcohol or drug use – You do not want to be too stoned to know you are losing your fingers.
  • Previous frostbite or cold injuries. Once you have been frostbitten, you are more susceptible to the effect of cold again.
  • Infants and Seniors are less able to keep themselves warm.
  • High altitudes reduce the oxygen supply and increases the risk of frostbite.

Warm your hands by sticking them in your armpits.

Warm your hands by sticking them in your armpits.

How to treat frostbite?

Frostnip doesn’t require any treatment and usually just getting warm and dry will reduce any effects from the cold. The longer your exposure, the more risk you have of damage and complications from frostbite. Here are some ways to treat frostbite:

If you can seek shelter

  • Get out of the cold– yes, the simplest things are the best usually. Once you are inside someplace warm, remove wet clothing and dry exposed areas.
  • Gently rewarm areas that are in pain. You can soak hands and feet in warm (not hot) water. Water temperature between 98 and 108 is perfectly fine to restore warmth to your skin. The water temperature should only feel warm and you should have someone who hasn’t been affected test the temperature or you can stick an unexposed body part like an elbow in the water to test if you do not have a thermometer.

If you can’t get to shelter

  • You can warm your hands by sticking them in your armpits as close to the body as possible. We were taught to do this in the Army with our battle buddy and thankfully I never had to put that in place. If we were experiencing frostbite we were supposed to stick our hands in our buddy’s armpits or our feet on their belly. Can you imagine how much fun that would be?
  • If there is any chance you will be freezing again, don’t thaw out! This can exacerbate the condition.
  • Take pain medication like Advil, Motrin IB which should be in your first aid kit.
  • Don’t walk on your feet if they are frostbitten. You can cause more injury by breaking off broken dead pieces of your skin.

Medical Treatment of Frostbite

Assuming you are at a point that you can begin healing, begin with rewarming the skin. As this happens, the skin may turn soft and look reddish or purple. Slowly move the affected areas as you can begin to feel them again. Wrap the tissue loosely with sterile bandaging and elevate any areas to reduce swelling.

Severe cases of frostbite will destroy skin so amputations may be necessary. Again, this is not an injury you ever want to have but in a grid-down environment, make sure you do your best to avoid this.

Jack Frost nipping at your nose? Well, it’s that time of year to worry about getting nipped too hard by our cold natured friend. The colder weather makes me think

A core concept of survival in just about any situation is the rule of threes. If you don’t know this rule it is that you can generally live:

  • Three minutes without air
  • Three hours without shelter
  • Three days without water
  • Three weeks without food.

For this post we are going to be looking at shelter or more specifically how your body reacts when we don’t have sufficient shelter to help us regulate our body temperature. Along with making sure you have plenty of food stored for your family and a sufficient source of water, you need to ensure that lack of shelter is not going to be a killer for your group.

The optimal environment for a human to maintain their core body temperature is between 79° and 86°F. The science of keeping your body in “the zone” of this ideal temperature is Thermoregulation. Thermoregulation can be the difference between living and dying and is the practice of controlling your core temperature. Every year people die from power outages during heat waves or winter weather.   Simple variations in environmental temperatures between 30° and 50° have wreaked havoc worldwide and many die from hypothermia or hyperthermia.

Minimal fluctuations to core temperatures can stress the human body and throw its vital systems into chaos.  In the event of stress, things can get pretty ugly and actually break down at the cellular level.  If your temperature suddenly plummets, the proteins in your cells clump together leaving behind areas of water that can potentially freeze and shred the delicate cell membranes.  If your body overheats, the cells can become too warm and essentially melt.  Any stress at the cellular level will cause immense damage to all the body’s organs and systems needed for survival.

Hypothermia is the condition when your core temperature plummets below approximately 96° F. There are variables in the exact temperature, of course, when considering age, sex, percentage of body fat, or even time of day.  Suffering from even mild hypothermia can cause your body to burn through a ton of calories trying to keep your body and the vital organs heated, and this in turn will cut into your body’s food stores. Your body will also limit the amount of blood flowing to your extremities making them more susceptible to damage and impairment.  Shivering is another way for your body to create heat to keep you warm.  While shivering, your body is creating tiny muscle contractions, thereby using energy and heating up the body.  Unfortunately, shivering also burns through food stores in the process.

Hyperthermia is when your core temperature soars above approximately 100°F.  Again, this can vary, but this gives you a good guideline for sustaining a healthy condition when exposed to less than ideal temperatures.  Generally, in the case of hyperthermia, your body will succumb to dehydration.  Your body’s first line of defense is to circulate more than four quarts of blood per minute, dilate the blood vessels, and open the skin up to let the excess heat out.  That is why being dehydrated is so deadly.  Dehydration thickens your blood making it more difficult to circulate and do its job.  Your body also perspires, leaving your skin wet and cooling the outer core.

Thankfully, your body has a built-in alarm system to alert you or someone close to you that your body is stressed by either hypothermia or hyperthermia.

Stages of Hypothermia:

First signs and symptoms – Core temperature 95-96° F

  • Shivering
  • Decreased alertness
  • Unable to think clearly
  • Minor loss of function in fingers and toes
  • Stinging pain in extremities
  • Confusion

Simply put, you have to maintain your core temperature. People with mild hypothermia can warm themselves with additional dry layers or by stomping their feet. Simple physical exertion is a wonderful cure when you are cold. The old saying with a wood fire is that it warms you twice. Once, when the fire is burning and another time while you are chopping and hauling the wood.

Advances signs and symptoms – Core temperature 93-94 ° F

  • Uncontrollable shivering
  • Lack of stability
  • Increased lack of clarity

Get the affected person in doors if possible and rub cold areas. You can use the buddy system and have the warmth from one person help another person. In the Army they say that if your buddy has cold feet he should take off his socks and stick them on your belly or in your arm pits.

Serious signs and symptoms – Core temperature critical – 91-92° F

  • Gray skin
  • Hallucinations
  • Increased lack of stability
  • Speech affected
  • Spasmodic shivering

For more serious signs of Hypothermia, internal heating methods should be tried. Along with external warmth, warm (not hot) fluids should be consumed also.

Mortal signs and symptoms – Core temperature 87-90 ° F

  • Inability to walk
  • Incoherent speech
  • Shivering decreased

As with hyperthermia, if the body temperature gets this low medical help is almost always needed.

Stages of Hyperthermia

Early signs and symptoms – Core temperature between 99-100 ° F

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Thirst
  • Lack of appetite
  • Muscle spasms
  • Feeling weak
  • Profuse sweating

To treat mild cases of hyperthermia, we need to first remove the underlying source of the heat. If the symptoms are caused by exertion on a hot day we can treat the person with increased water consumption and rest in a cool space.

Advance signs of hyperthermia – Core temperature 101-102 ° F

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Profuse sweating
  • Thirst
  • Disorientation
  • Cramps
  • Pale moist skin
  • Possible unconsciousness
  • Weak
  • Rapid pulse and/or breathing
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea and/or vomiting

To treat advanced hyperthermia, we can additionally use rest in a cool, shady area. Removing some articles of clothing and sponging down the head, neck and trunk area will reduce body temperature. Additional water consumption is mandatory. Immersion in a cool bath or body of water can help also.

Mortal signs and symptoms – Core temperature 103-106 ° F

  • Disorientation
  • Delirium
  • Unresponsive
  • Skin hot to the touch and can be dry
  • Shallow breathing
  • Dilated pupils
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Coma

When the body temperature is this elevated medical assistance is almost always needed, but in a survival situation this may not be possible. The body must be cooled as quickly as possible and methods such as iced IV solutions aren’t uncommon. It’s crucial we don’t get to this point so maintain close watch over your group in heat situations.

Clothing Options

Wearing the proper clothing is vital so as not to inhibit, but to aid the body’s natural defenses against hypothermia and hyperthermia.  Wearing the proper clothing will help you adapt to any weather situation

Simple three layer system:

  1. A Base layer should be wicking to keep you dry and non-restrictive when keeping you warm to allow blood to flow freely.
  2. An Insulation layer should be next and can be removed or added as temperatures rise or fall
  3. The last layer is the environmental layer which should be loose fitting, water-resistant and breathable to allow moisture to flow through the fabric so it is not trapped.  To test whether a fabric is water-resistant and breathable, you should put your hand on the inside and breathe onto it from the outside.  If you feel the warmth of your breath, then it is water-resistant.

Remember that the layering system should be used in a hot climate as well.  Some people feel that a tank top and shorts are the best clothing system, but unprotected skin only exposes your skin to the radiation of the sun.  Save the skimpy clothes for the beach when you are on vacation and not in a survival situation.

Hats are another important part of clothing and give the body added protection.  It is good to have a wide-brimmed, water resistant hat that will block out the sun’s rays in a warmer climate and a snug warm hat made of fleece or wool for colder temperatures to keep the heat in your head.

Fabric Choices

There are a myriad of fabrics to choose from for all the essential pieces listed.  There are advantages and disadvantages to each.

Cotton and linen are best suited for hot climates.  As you sweat the fabric absorbs the moisture and lays on your skin like a wet washcloth which is exactly what you want in scorching sunny conditions because it acts as an air conditioner for your skin.

Polypropylene is as unnatural as they come, but has incredible whicking capabilities and it lightweight.  The downside is that if a spark from your campfire will cause the fabric to melt.  It also holds the stench of sweat so well that you will never get the odor out.  Not a good base layer to wear if you are trying to repopulate the world; the ladies won’t be impressed.

Wool is a natural fabric that has the ability to absorb water (up to 50% of its weight) and distribute it throughout the fabric without feeling wet. It even has the ability to keep you toasty warm even when wet, making it a natural choice in the winter where weight isn’t a factor. There are differing qualities of wool so be thoughtful in your purchase.  My mom bought a wool sweater for me as a child and I hated it because it was “itchy”.  I found out later that better quality wools do not feel scratchy.  The downside to wool is that it is bulky and takes longer to dry.

Polyester is completely man-made but offers the widest range of clothing choices.  It can absorb a good deal of water, is somewhat water resistant, versatile.

Nylon is a super tough synthetic fabric.  Most of the waterproof fabrics are made from nylon with a special coating.  Try to avoid completely waterproof fabrics though, unless you are a sailor because it lacks breath-ability.  Nylon dries almost instantaneously.

Down is lightweight and very warm, however it is much like cotton and will weigh you down and freeze you to death if it gets wet.  It is very slow to dry.

With proper clothing layers it is possible to beat the elements and stay warm enough or cool enough to survive any situation.  If you are prepping for a family, be sure to have the basic layers for every member of your family.  Study the warning signs of hypothermia and hyperthermia because rarely does the individual suffering have the ability to recognize when they are in trouble.  These lifesaving tips should keep your body from stressing until you can build or find adequate shelter.

A core concept of survival in just about any situation is the rule of threes. If you don’t know this rule it is that you can generally live: Three minutes

Portable Energy Storage Systems 

We already wrote on Final Prepper of batteries for electric devices, the value of rechargeable, assuming a reliable power source, as well as home generators, something to the benefit of every survival enthusiast. Along those lines why not consider portable energy storage systems as a part of your prepper planning? Useful for a bug-out scenario or in a hunker down situation, the sizes and versatility of the systems out there offer some reasonable options for the short-term, and they can readily support some longer-term situations, should you find yourself and yours in one.

Here in the USA, being from a big city, I believed we are “blessed” with a steady-state of power, if we pay the bills in a timely manner. Then I spent a weekend on the Navajo Reservation in Northeastern Arizona. Two to three power losses a day. Well, there are many places where this is normal. On my half-dozen trips to India power is lost multiple times a day at the local businesses. The big “campus” call-centers have their own dedicated power stations just to keep your favorite 24/7/365 Customer Service Centers up and running. Bottom line, we are spoiled.

Other than tracking down a tripped GFI circuit, to find the tripped receptacle behind a garage cabinet, which you had bolted to the floor, not much thought is put into these “givens”, until a storm or accident put us in the dark. Switch on, lights on. And, you must admit, even after you deal with these you do let what you learned get pushed out of your head after a while because, you know, switch on, light on.

Having a reliable power energy storage system already on-line, ready to go, is never a bad thing. As small as a tablet, weighing less than a pound, to units that are only portable by crane and permanently affixed to your home, and ranging in price from a family meal out to a new family car, there is a right solution for us all.

Think of these systems as bigger rechargeable systems that you can use to recharge your smaller rechargeable batteries, as well as direct connect devices like tablets, and GPS receivers, and ham radios, always standing “at the ready” like good soldiers.

Knowing the underlying technologies used will assist you in making good choices. Solar – it has come a long way. A great alternative, but some days the sun just doesn’t shine – May Gray, June Gloom, the sun has exploded July, Michigan and Minnesota ALL winter long, Alaska a year ago. Anyone living near an ocean, or The Great Lakes knows low-pressure on-shore, high pressure off-shore produces a marine layer that can block out most if not all the suns energy. However, as long as photons are present solar cells charge, diffused light and reflective light are less efficient, but they still allow solar cells to collect power. The drawback is size, weight and time. While there are some light, portable systems, they can have a large footprint when deployed and they will tie you to a stationary location during charging. We are a fan of these but suggest you check out the footprint and charging times to make the best selection for your situation.

Solid State Batteries use a range of electro-chemical storage solutions, including advanced chemistry batteries and capacitors. Caution should one of these be ruptured. Flow Batteries store energy directly in an electrolyte solution (i.e., a car battery) for a longer cycle life, and quick response times, but again, caution should one rupture, and when they are done, they are truly done.

While we can’t forget the other stored energy systems, which include Flywheels, mechanical devices that harness rotational energy to deliver instantaneous electricity. These get complex, large, and expensive to obtain and to “keep on-line”. Other systems available include Compressed Air Energy Storage, Thermal and Pumped Hydro-Power (everyone has their own lake with a dam, right?) Interesting technology but perhaps not practical for “home”, or “away from home” use.

Bottom line, portable energy cells, readily available that can easily be transported, that can be used and reused repeatedly, are a great addition to any survival plan, hunker down plan, bug-out or go bag and should be a part of your disaster planning.

We recently wrote of batteries for electric devices, the value of rechargeable, assuming a reliable power source, as well as home generators, something to the benefit of every survival enthusiast.

One of the wisest things you can do with any aspect of prepping is to have direct first-hand knowledge of how to use whatever skill, tool or gear you are counting on to save your life. This applies to so many things, but it bears repeating. If you purchase a generator to keep the lights on for your family, you should start that puppy up once a year at least. Make sure you know that it works first of all, that you have the proper fuels and lubricants and know how to make it run. If you don’t know all of that, your generator might be worthless.

Its similar with food and long-term food storage. If you are like so many others that have purchased large bags of Hard Red Winter wheat, have you ever eaten any of this? Do you have a grain grinder? Have you ever taken a turn at grinding enough grain to make a single loaf of bread? If not, it is so much better to do this while the grocery stores are still open. Better to find out now that you don’t have something vital to your food preparations than after the world has collapsed around your ears. It is so much more advantageous to know what works and what doesn’t while you still have options to make changes.

I found myself with the same opportunity a couple of weeks ago with what I plan to use as my Bug Out Bag.

Our family decided to go on a backpacking trip for a few days into the wilderness. For this trip we would be staying overnight in the woods obviously and had to carry almost everything to keep us alive for a couple of days, possibly more on our backs. This scenario mirrors almost identically a bug out situation where you are forced to evacuate your home with nothing but what you can carry. A traditional Bug Out Bag is designed to contain enough supplies (food, shelter) to keep you alive for 72 hours. As it so happened, that was about the length of time we were in the woods.

My pack weighed about 45-50 pounds and some of that was due to my taking on weight that my wife couldn’t carry. This could happen to you if someone becomes injured or unable to continue. Even at my initial load it would have been about 40 pounds. That is fine, but not ideal for me I don’t think. Can I carry more weight? Of course. Do I want to be carrying more weight if I am running and potentially hiding for my life? No. What did I have in my pack? Here’s my list below:

I am sure there were other little knickknacks but the point is that I wasn’t bringing what I would consider to be a lot of useless stuff. I also had a .45 strapped to my side.

I have discussed this topic before in our post “Is your Bug Out Bag Going to Get You Killed?” where I cautioned anyone who thinks that they can strap on 50 pounds let alone hauling a load like the Sherpa in the picture above of gear and run out into the woods . This trip gave me some additional ideas as I reflected on my pack for the duration of our hiking. I started to think about this weight on my back being both all I could depend on as well as something that could easily be my downfall.

Weight A Minute!

Now, there are a lot of people out there who reacted pretty strongly to my post and thought that weight = security. The most important thing they said was to take everything you need and if it got to be too heavy, or if you had to abandon anything that was a choice you could make on the road. I agree with that concept as a last resort to some extent, but I don’t think that should guide your initial load out decisions. Weight is probably the single most dangerous aspect about any bug out bag for a couple of reasons.

Too much weight can hurt.
Real World Bug Out Bag

First off, weight over time can slow you down. This isn’t anything surprising to most people I know but you would not believe how many of you out there (I was like this too) will fall for the trap that says if I am in a serious enough situation, I can carry more weight because my life will depend on it. That sounds good as you sit in your house and read this post on your computer or your smart phone. 50 pounds doesn’t sound like much does it? When is the last time you strapped 50 pounds on your back and tried hiking up a mountain? It is different from walking out your driveway.

The “conventional” hiker/backpacker wisdom I hear all of the time is that the average person should not plan on carrying more than 25% of your overall body weight. Let’s assume for the sake of this discussion that you weigh 200 lbs. 25% of 200 is 50 lbs, right? Ta Da! There is that magic number! So, according to conventional wisdom, anyone who weighs 200 pounds or more should be able easily lug around 50 pounds on their back. While this is technically possible (I know because I have done it on many occasions) that doesn’t make it the wisest thing you can do.

I have also heard the argument that a military load out is heavier than that and this is certainly true however; do you want to start out carrying the most weight you possibly can? Now that we mention it, are you in the same physical shape as a 19 or 20-year-old soldier? I know there are 60-year-old men who do this all of the time, but the average person isn’t like that.

Weight in your pack slows you down and wears you out. Can you physically handle the weight? Maybe, but should you? Do you need to? Will that weight be on your back when you are trying to run? Will your bug out route take you up hills or mountainous terrain?

Take a look at professional hikers. For instance, the people who hike the Appalachian trail or the Pacific Crest trail in one long stretch are called thru hikers. They have taken hiking to a new level because if you’re expecting to put your body through that kind of stress (2,160 miles), you seriously have to consider each and every piece of gear. Their average pack load for the essentials, not counting food is around 14-16 pounds. Do you think you could hike further, faster and more comfortably if you lost 30 pounds from your bug out bag? I know that I certainly could have. Does that mean you make sacrifices? I am certain you do and a 16 pound pack is made with the goal of arriving at a resupply point many times along your route. It does consider fatigue and injury though which are two other factors you will have to address at some point with a larger pack unless you are a super hero.

Can you dance with that thing?

On our trip I was hiking up and down mountains on very narrow trails gaining over 1000 feet in elevation each way. We frequently encountered downed trees that we either had to go over or under. This same pack I was wearing wasn’t only heavy but it threw off my balance and added to my silhouette. When I tried to scramble over logs, I had to make sure I had a good hand-hold or else the pack weight might pull me back down the mountain. Simply ducking under a tree wasn’t so simple anymore and frequently I had to get down on my hands and knees to just clear a log. Normally, I wouldn’t have broken stride because I could just dip, go under and back out. My big pack added almost two additional feet of clearance obstacles at points behind me and would catch on a lot more than I normally would.

Getting back to the injury topic, with the extra weight and loss of balance I was less sure-footed so I had to go much slower to prevent getting hurt. The nimble hoping over rocks was replaced with carefully treading and watching each foot fall. If we are out day hiking I keep a steady pace, but with the big bag my kids were lapping me. All things to consider.

Walk the walk

It is so important that you get out somewhere and try out your bug out bag for 72 hours. This is a simple weekend camping trip and will show you so much about your pack that you simply don’t consider when you are throwing stuff in there. My mistake when I first started to pack my bug out bag was to list all of the gear I could possibly use, find the gear I could afford and throw it into a pack that was reasonably priced. This led me to a pack I didn’t really want to lug around and if I had to in a high-stress environment I can see bad things happening.

Remember, this hiking trip you are taking to practice with your bug out bag should be fun. You won’t be running for your life, fleeing your home and weighed down with guns and ammo. Making informed decisions about your bug out bag now will save you when you truly do have to Bug out. Could I work out more, get stronger and carry that bag more easily? Absolutely and that would help, but the average person has the grab and go plan for their bug out bag. Are you able to grab what you have and thrive or will you be dragging butt quickly after you walk out the door with your world on your back?

Our family decided to go on a backpacking trip for a few days into the wilderness. For this trip we would be staying overnight in the woods obviously and had