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Prepping by the Numbers

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Editor’s Note: This post is another entry in the Prepper Writing Contest from Xavier. If you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly win a $300 Amazon Gift Card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today.


When planning your preps, you’re faced with a myriad of options and contrary to the popular social campaign to be unique, I urge you to follow the masses. Not only do the masses USUALLY get things right in aggregate, but it can make your life easier in the long run to just go with the crowd. There’s no need to be exotic with your preps. Consider a tiny slice of prepping: bug-out vehicles, electronics, and firearm selection. The same concept can be applied to almost anything you’re prepping for!

Cars and bug-out vehicles

When looking for a car: don’t be exotic. Play the numbers. The most popular small car in America for MANY years going back decades is the Toyota Corolla. The most popular minivan in America for MANY years going back almost a dozen years is the Honda Odyssey. Care to guess which two vehicles I own? They’re not the most stylish vehicles, not even the best performance or features. That’s not why I own them. I own them because they’re EVERYWHERE! This makes it cheaper and easier to find parts for them NOW, and will make it that much easier to find the parts I need after SHTF. If I were to buy a pickup, I’d likely end up with a Ford F-150 for the exact same reason.

The ability to find spare parts shouldn’t be overlooked.

Consider your geographic area where you live now, your path to your bug-out location, and eventually your bug-out location when making these decisions, and what you’ll need to do with the car. I’ve heard that AWD Subaru’s and Toyota 4Runners are common in Colorado and for a good reason.

Having a popular car makes it easy to find parts. Knowing which cars are compatible make it even easier. For example, the Toyota Corolla and the Toyota Matrix (and even the Pontiac Vibe) use the same 4-cylinder engine & drive train & suspension for any given year. When I do work on my Corolla, I use the Matrix repair manuals. The Honda Odyssey, Honda Pilot, and the 6-cylinder Accord share their frame and most engine components. The Toyota 4Runner, for instance, uses the same size oil filter in 2015 that it did in 1988. If you can, having two cars that share the same frame/engine components can simplify purchasing parts; this way you only have to keep one type of spare on-hand. Even if you can’t, at least keep them all metric or SAE, so you only need to carry/own one set of tools.

This can also come into play when you’re planning your preps with a group. If everyone in your group has the same or realistically similar vehicle and one completely dies, it can serve as a Frankenstein parts donor for other vehicles in your group. Your group can share the cost of a parts-pool for your bug-out camp, as it will benefit every member. Even something simple as having the same oil filter or tire-size may save a life in a pinch. Be wary of aftermarket parts on your vehicle if it prevents you from using standard parts as a rip & replace and doesn’t require welding or metal work.

Electronics

Solar Panels give you a tremendous grid-down advantage.

When thinking of survival electronics, the same rules apply – play the numbers. The most likely ways to use electronics after grid down are AA batteries, 12vDC and USB. Without reliable grid power or a generator the most common way of using portable electronics is battery power. The most common battery is the AA. All of my flashlights and most of my radios use AA batteries. They’re readily available, and can be scavenged from many household accessories such as TV remotes or children’s toys if needed. Don’t be exotic. Don’t get stuck trying to find specialized batteries because you bought a tacti-cool flashlight.

Next up is 12vDC power. This is available from just about any car battery so there should be no shortage, at least in the short-term after grid-down. They can be recharged using solar power generators. Inverters are available to make 120vAC available in a pinch for devices such as laptops, though they’re not always electrically efficient. Many popular survival related electronics operate on 12vDC power, such as CB or HAM radios and GPS units. I would recommend having a 12v deep cycle battery and a way to recharge it at your bug-out location. Having cigarette lighter adapters for your accessories can help while bugging out if you encounter an abandoned vehicle and need to make a quick contact with a radio or to recharge. Many smaller capacity 12v batteries can be found in lawn-care equipment, or as backup power for home alarm panels and garage door openers. There are even personal computers that run completely on 12v. These may be useful in short-term grid down events such as local natural disasters or for EMCOMM groups that have a need for digital communications.

USB ports and accessories are ubiquitous in today’s technological world. Understand that USB isn’t a /source/ of power, but rather an interface that I wouldn’t want to be caught without. Most cell phones and tablets charge using USB. Many small FRS/GMRS or even HAM radios can charge via a USB port. I have a small solar chargeable battery with USB interfaces in my bag. Again, having charging cables for each of your devices along the way can facilitate your travels. Travel adapters to take a 12v cigarette lighter to USB port are also very convenient. Try to make sure your devices use the same USB interface or at least stick to the most common plug types such as usb-micro for most Android phones, or the lightning style plug for newer Apple devices.

Ammunition and Firearms

guns, pistols, rifle, revolvers, and ammunition

When looking at purchasing firearms for self-defense or hunting, one of the first and largely asked questions is “what caliber”. Often it comes down to what’s the most powerful round you can reasonably handle or what has the most ‘stopping power’. However, the most powerful handgun in the world is useless if you can’t find ammunition for it. Don’t be exotic. Picking and standardizing on the most common rounds works in your benefit, and thus often cheaper to acquire now; and more importantly are the most easily obtained after SHTF. Even if you create a substantial stockpile at your home or bug-out location, there’s no guarantee it will not be plundered before you arrive, destroyed by malicious individuals or natural disaster, or that you can remain indefinitely at your bug-out location. You may have to abandon it; how much ammo can you carry with you?

For a standard loadout, you pretty much can’t go wrong with NATO rounds or those inspired by them. This means 9mm for handguns, 5.56mm for your light rifle, and 7.62mm for your long-range rifle. A word of caution: use only ammunition that fits your particular firearm. Many other articles available online explain the differences between the NATO 5.56mm and the common .223 Remington round and the inherent compatibility issues that are involved with these two related rounds. A similar discussion should be had regarding the .308 Winchester and the NATO 7.62, as well as ‘standard 9mm’ vs ‘9mm +P’. Also be aware if you carry a backup/pocket/ankle gun in .380, it’s very similar in size to a 9mm. .38 special and .357 magnum rounds are both basically physically identical. Don’t put the wrong round in the wrong gun or you could have disastrous results.

These rounds pack enough punch for what we’re likely to encounter and are small and light enough to carry a substantial amount. If you own multiple firearms for the same caliber, it would be wise that they are identical. This gives 2 primary benefits. The first is part compatibility. You only need to stock one style of part that can match both of your guns instead of having a plethora of parts for different guns. Your accessories and magazines will be interchangeable. If one gun is incapacitated or damaged, it can be used for loaner parts for your other firearm. The second benefit is weapon familiarity when training. Muscle memory built on one weapon can fail you if you resort to your secondary or backup gun in an intense situation. If you are prepping with a group of others, the same wisdom applies: get the same weapon platform.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the ubiquitous .22LR. It’s never a bad idea to have a weapon in this caliber and to stock up on plenty of ammo for it. It’s suitable for both handgun and long-gun usage. All in all a very versatile round. Another highly popular and useful gun not to neglect is the 12ga shotgun. They’re considered very reliable and pack a punch. There are a myriad of options available for ammunition that are almost 100% compatible with any modern 12ga shotgun.

Consider this just food for thought as you plan your preps. This mindset of shooting for the average can not only minimize your costs for prepping, but stretch your ability to survive after SHTF. If we end up WROL and there’s a need to barter something, having the most popular items makes your trading agility that much higher, rather than the high-priced exotic item that can only be used by a select few.

Be the gray-man!

10 Comments

  1. The Deplorable Cruella DeVille

    May 2, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    + 10 for this article.
    I have used pretty much the same philosophy: subaru for my commuting & GH vehicle, with skid plates for the drive train, oil cooler lines, and a ‘roo bar set added to protect the radiators.
    Weapons are ARs, all in 5.56 to allow .223 to be used if need be. .308 for the major long guns, multiple, identical 9mm and .308 for carry weapons, and a plethora of .22s. handguns and rifles.
    A possible addition to your battery and general power suggestions – most of the larger UPS’s use 12VDC lead acid batteries, and are designed for fairly long term “on” cycles. So you can hook up standard auto or other 12 VDC batteries to provide 120VAC. A word of caution however: most UPS’s do NOT like inductive loads such as power tools. They will work, but the power tool in question should require less than 50% of the rated output capacity of the UPS.

  2. R. Ann

    May 3, 2017 at 12:54 am

    2 thumbs up!

  3. Jeff Edwards

    May 3, 2017 at 7:45 am

    Wow, interesting take on the auto side of prepping by the numbers- have to say you can keep your late model computer controlled small cars……. For many years, it has been written and discussed on most prepper sites, the virtues of older NON computer controlled simple vehicles- trucks and suvs from the late 70’s early 80’s- This is of course for a “bad day” situation-not daily driver. I have two- both from the late 70’s- one is a gas engine suv and the other is a 12Valve Cummins Diesel 3/4 4×4 pickup. Both have been frame off restored with new drivetrains, and all older components rebuilt or replaced. I only need a spare “durraspark module”, coil and distributor for the gas suv- those parts are in a faraday cage, the 12valve only needs a spare fuel filter!!! Also how can you possibly expect to safely move your family and supplies if needed in such small vehicles? And yes, after restoring both, I have the tools to maintain them- Oh yeah, the suv can be almost totally serviced with a 3/8, 1/2, 9/16, 3/4 and 7/8- No scanner needed

  4. Tony Bunzel

    May 3, 2017 at 10:15 am

    Excellent article !

  5. Flattop

    May 3, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    Good article. Adding to your F150, mine has 2 gas tanks. one is 16gal, the rear is 18gal. I run one dry and switch to the other tank, refilling the dry one immediately

  6. BobW

    May 3, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    Nice direct article.

    Some further thought on weapons and ammo: What the author alluded to, but didn’t directly state, is that the difference between ‘hunting’ rounds in .223 and mil-spec rounds in 5.56 Nato is chamber pressure. A 5.56 Nato chambering has a higher pressure rating, or burst rating. It will take more abuse. Same with .44 Mag vs .44 Special, and .357 Magnum vs .38 special. The Nato and Mag chambers can withstand higher chamber pressures than their near twins.

    On 5.56 Nato vs .223 Wylde, and .223 Rem, I’d love to hear a guru sound off on the ups and downs of the Wylde chambering that has become quite popular. I’ve read a little on it, but not enough to speak with authority.

    Thoughts on vehicles. The author is spot on with regards to commonality. What may have been overlooked is the complexity of all modern vehicles. When trying to fish the keys out from under the drivers seat of my truck, I was shocked to see three seperate motherboards under the seat. These new beasties are sweet now, but could be a veritable nightmare to repair AFTER. I’d strongly recommend sourcing a mid 1980s Chevy K5 Blazer or K10 truck. These were still very simple, and sourcing replacement parts hasn’t been trouble. The more modern, the more complex, and the more fully integrated telemetry suite.

    Drive that sweet new hemi now, but have an old K5/K10 ready to roll.

    • BobW

      May 3, 2017 at 5:30 pm

      Also, repair parts for the modern vehicles can be terribly expensive.

      Alternatives to the K5/10 setups, would be gen 2 4Runners and Tacomas. Gen 1 IMO was simpler, but the off-roaders have gobbled them up in recent years. Gen 2s are still very, very common here, many of which look nearly new.

  7. JD

    May 5, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    I agree with 2/3 of the article. Guns, comms, electronics, buy the best you can afford and all ancillary items related to them. I slightly disagree about the aa batteries for everything. My flashlights use 18650 batteries because they are light years ahead of simple aa alkalines. Yes the aa are lots more common and i do stock them, but they cant compare to the 18650s for power output, longevity etc. They are rechargeable up to 500 times. And the charge lasts. My edc light is 950 lumens and its been over a month since i charged it last.

    The part i disagree with in the article is in buying vehicles. I refuse to own a vehicle simply because everyone else is driving one. I enjoy automobiles and if i want to drive a 2017 ram power wagon, well thats what im going to buy. I do have a bugout vehicle in a 79 jeep cj-7, however thats on the chopping block to upgrade to a 99 4 runner. The jeep is not a winter vehicle, its carrying capacity sucks, and it doesnt have much of a range with its 13 gallon tank. Yes it is capable in off road conditions. However i believe i can turn a 4 runner into just as capable a vehicle with better carrying capacity, and something i can drive in the winter. Im not into comforming into the whole “greyman” line of thinking. I dont go around advertising stuff, but i do enjoy certain things in life and refuse to not enjoy them because of something that may or may not happen.

    • BobW

      May 7, 2017 at 2:05 pm

      I’m a big proponent of the 4Runner/Tacoma lines. The one problem I have with the more modern 4Runners is the complicated computer control systems. I don’t know everything about the ’99 4Runner, but IIRC, thats gen3, which would add another layer of computer control.

      My aversion to the computer control, honestly is related to repair/replacement parts. Sure a clutch is a clutch, but anything with circuit boards on it is going to be more expensive to replace, and quite possibly impossible to repair for anyone without a computer engineering degree.

      On the CJ7, couldn’t agree more. Its a BOB on wheels. All you are getting in that sucker is a couple backpacks.

      If you like the modern-ish convenience of today’s vehicles, an interesting option is actually a Chevy/GMC K1500 with the venerable 350 under the hood. 1990s would be a strong option in the field. All that computer control/EFI/etc can be ripped off the old style block and replaced with a carbeurator and distributor that you safely stored in your farraday cage.

    • BobW

      May 7, 2017 at 2:19 pm

      As for trucks/SUVs as BOVs, I’ve thought long on the 2nd gen Dodge Dakota pickup as a fall back. They aren’t sought after by off-roaders, many came with the bulletproof Mopar 318 V8 / 5-speed manual combo. A lot of these are male office worker owned. They wanted a truck, but just drove it to the office, and maybe the little boat to the lake on the weekend. Not saying many of these were not thrashed, but there are still many solid examples out there.

      The Dakotas have a wider stance than all other sub-full-size pickups, giving them good stability to go with decent ground clearance, and easy upgrades to larger wheel/tire combos to further enhance ground clearance without sacrificing stability.

      As for finding good used ones, unless you are a ‘body man’ who doesn’t shy away from dents, body damage, and rust focus on clean, high mileage units that just need some mechanical refurbishment. You should be going through all the mechanicals anyway, so super cheap with a clapped out 318 is cheaper than rust repair and body damage work for the average non-auto body prepper.

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