Trapping Food When You’re On The Go

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Some traps bought as a teenager for my first trapline at 15. Victory No.2 double coil spring on the left, 110 Conibear, center, and a Victory No.1 single leaf spring, right. 

Over the years I’ve had a number of people ask me what I suggested for trapping in an “On the move, supplies on my back” survival scenario. My usual suggestions are snares if you are travelling very light (example, in the smock kit), and at least four 110 Conibears body hold traps (one for each of the cardinal directions) along with snares if you are carrying a rucksack. Although snares will do their job well if you set them correctly, they also are “one time use” if the animal tears them up. The 110 Conibear will work again and again and again for decades if taken care of.

One of the best ways I’ve found to carry my Conibear traps is by using a mil issue SAW pouch. The SAW pouch was originally designed to carry a 200 round squad automatic weapon (SAW) plastic drum/box, and I have found that it will conveniently carry four 110 Conibear traps, some snares, trap building gear (wood screws, nails, wire, twine and heavy staples) and even a bottle of lure if you want.

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Four brand new Conibear traps placed in a SAW pouch for a new ruck kit. Note how they fit perfectly in the SAW pouch with some room to spare.

My Buddy Bergmann normally uses a British bergan ruck, and at 3:45 in this video, he shows where/how he carries his Conibears in his bergan. One of the advantages I see in carrying your traps in it’s own specific pouch (like the SAW pouch), is your ability to take that pouch off of your ruck, attach it to your LBE/LBV, belt, etc., and go out to run your small trapline while leaving your ruck stashed and camouflaged.

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I’ve had the top trap for 32 years, the bottom one is brand new. 

My trapping experiences and targets as a kid were primarily raccoon, fox and muskrat. We didn’t have much in the way of mink in our area at the time, and there weren’t any coyotes here (DNR imported them from out West in the mid 90’s) yet. Squirrels (one of your primary target animals for food) are harder to trap than muskrat, but easier to trap than coons (in my experience). Learning the art of trapping is a great survival skill that could serve you well if you end up in a post SHTF scenario.

One of the most important things about trapping is the need to actually get out and do it. Watching a youtube video to learn the theory and basic techniques is great, but it’s only about a third (I’m being very generous) of the “successful trapping” equation. A good place for the novice to start is Dave Canterbury’s “Modern Trapping Series“. Below is one of Canterbury’s videos on prepping and use of the 110 Conibear trap, and here is another.

The last dozen 110’s I bought, I purchased through Amazon (convenient), here’s the link. Now is the time to get your trapping kit squared away then go out and learn how to use it. As far as I know, trapping is legal in all 50 states. The requirement might be to buy a $5 trappers permit with your hunting license, or it might require that you take a “Trapper’s” course which is similar to the “Hunter Safety Course”. Check your state requirements, get squared away, and get out and practice.

JCD

 

 

Another SHTF Reality From Selco

Selco gives us some reality about a typical “Tacticool” SHTF day. Reality is a bitch, and being able to trade is an important survival skill.

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Ordinary Day’

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A lot of people wonder what an ‘ordinary day’ was like during the SHTF. I was thinking on this and remembered this day. I think it is a good illustration and answers this question… It’s odd to say but we were often glad of ‘ordinary days’ when not to bad things happened…

Rain was falling down for days, and we all felt wet and soaked with it.

Moisture was in our pores, our clothes, and kinda in our heads too.

It was kind of weather that pushes down and back the smoke from your stove, back to your room instead of through the chimney.

Holes in our roof were plugged, more or less, in the way that we managed to “channel” leaks  into numerous pots and canisters, in order to keep ourselves dry and also to collect water.

Being dirty is bad, but being dirty and smelly during several days of rainy weather is simply awful.

We dried our clothes above the stove, evaporation of dirty clothes together with smell of dirty bodies, bad “tobacco” (we “discover” some new tree leaves which we used as a substitute for tobacco), handmade oil lamps  and tea boiling on stove (we called it sometimes ‘soup’, other times ‘tea’)  made a mixture of smells which simply added to the depression of the whole situation.

In days like that alcohol intake would go up high.

When weather was fine I liked to go on second floor, remove tarp and plywood “setup” from roof hole that was made with mortar shell few months before, sit under it, watch the blue sky and drink.

Other folks would say “he is up there again waiting for mortar shell to land on his head” but it was nice and peaceful to do it, and sometimes I just did not care.

Even that weird relaxation was out of the option because of the endless rain.

In days like that we were closest to animals as we could be.

We ate potatoes for days, we managed to get it through one UN convoy that somehow entered city month ago, and it was mess to get those bags of potatoes because while UN forces tried to organized some kind of delivery system- like small bag of potatoes to each family that show up-folks simply overrun them and started to fight each other over it.

Several people get killed then, but we managed to bring home quite a stash of it.

We were happy because of the potatoes, but few days later rumors exploded that potatoes that we get were poisoned, actually it was not for human use, it was meant for seed only, or something like that and apparently they were treated with very hard chemicals.

We continued to eat it, only difference was that we were not so happy anymore about it…

And then a trade chance came to us.

It was my turn to go to visit the guy who “had some stuff for sell-trade” or at least it was information that we get it.

Good thing about this guy was the fact that I knew him little bit prior SHTF, when SHTF he had strong connections and simply had interesting stuff from time to time. He was something like “trustful” trader, he kept his stuff in his house and did trades there, which usually meant either he is stupid or very protected, and he was not stupid.

“Gogo” was his nickname, and we felt good because we are going to trade with him, because his reputation was pretty big and he (we thought) could not afford too many bad stories about trading with him.

It was as safe a trade as it could be in those days.

My relative show me our possession for trade while we were preparing for trip-it was 10 packs of Kent cigarettes, and when I saw that, it was like I saw UFO landing in backyard, with aliens bringing to us food, water, candies, and safety, and flying me then to a rock concert.

In that period cigarettes were rare, sometimes impossible to find and we were even lucky to have tobacco-which was not actually tobacco but grinded “tree” of tobacco plant, or simply all kind of tree leafs that we experimented with.

White filters Kent cigarettes in that moment were something like wet dream of every smoker.

It was pleasure to even see them, to smoke them meant pure happiness.

On my question where he get it? He answered “from some mercenaries”, and I did not want to ask more, I did not care.

We started our way to Gogo’s house around midnight, because plan was to be at the most dangerous place around 0100hrs.

On our way back we would choose a different way.

That dangerous place was big opening between houses, some 100-150 meters of space where we are completely open to the near hill where Anti Aircraft gun and few m84 machine guns were located.

Those machine gun was nicknamed “sijac smrti” which translates from my language to English as a  “death seeder” or “death bringer” or similar, and when I first time heard that nickname my thoughts were:”oh c’mon-somebody is watching too many movies, it is bombastic nickname for ordinary weapon”

Later when I was targeted first time from that weapon, when they shoot at me, I correct myself and I thought something like” death seeder? It is more, much more, it is Satan, it is hell, it is pure horror…”

And much later I also realized it is more or less common nickname for some other similar weapons.

So I built pretty fast my respect for “sijac smrti”, that shit was way too fast and deadly. It sounded like whole bunch of small deaths flying directly to you while they screaming.

(years later, after my SHTF ended and all things go back to some kind of let s say normal, I was watching member of Serbian elite parachute unit, while he was trying to explain his battle experience to another guy.

He and his small unit were holding position in dense woods on some hill during NATO bombing of Serbia, it was on Kosovo, and they were attacked by Albanians, Albanians were much stronger by numbers, but poorly trained, as he said, and he and his comrades did pretty well, morale was high, they were tough guys.

And then he said airplanes came. He said planes were firing from cannons destroying the hundreds years old trees like simple matches and obliterating his unit.

But he said that was not scariest thing-pure horror was sounds of that planes and cannons while they firing down on them, while he was trying to explain that he opened his eyes wide and said” it was sound like there are 10 big cows is in the air flying to you and they are screaming because they are being slaughtered”

Other guy was watching him probably not understanding what is so scary about that sound to terrified big strong elite dude.

And I said to myself “Oh man, I know that horror”)

Anyway we came to that open space without too much problems.

Nobody know what kind of view they had there on the hill, but during the night they fired often, without real cause, on that opening, so it was matter of luck sometimes are you going to be shot.

And somehow it was a myth that it is safest to cross it around 0100hrs.

In that time it was many openings like that in the city with different weapon and different tactics for crossing it and different myths about it how to cross it safely.

Lot of folks find God and faith on openings like that while they run or crawl over it.

Of course lot of folks end up dead there too.

I have seen guys being shot dead there while they run as fast as they could, I saw some crazy dudes walking slowly there and nothing happened, some guys were wounded and screamed there for hours with their guts hanging out until they died…

No rules.

We sat down behind the wall next to the opening and I told my relative “ok give me the cigarettes”

He said “it is not smart, it is for trade”

I did not care, so he gave me one pack, I opened it and smoked a cigarette.

It was cool to smoke it, white paper cigarette with white filter, after long time of smoking trash tobacco in any kind of paper that we could get.

It smelled like perfume to me in that moment.

I finished it and told to him “ok I can die now if I need”

He answered to me “fuck you man”

We run across that space while rain was pouring down, nothing happens, not a single shot on us.

Gogo’s house was close by after that, and nothing dangerous happened until we came to his home.

After some guy show up to us at the yard, we were allowed to enter the house with weapon, which was good feeling but not necessary good sign, but when we saw Gogo he recognizes us, and after some casual conversation which includes people that we together know we started to feel better.

We entered small room, two of us and two of them, sat down and had a drink.

Rakija (A strong, locally brewed spirit) was available then, so it was not a surprise when he gave us two glasses with that drink.

Numerous different kinds of that drink were circulating around, most often it was pure poison, simple not finished product from destroyed distillery diluted with water, but his was soft and nice.

Room where we sat was something like weird version of display room for customers, so we could see all kind of different stuff around in bags or open cabinets.

I saw pack of beer, even couple bottles of coke, and room strangely smelled of coffee which was high luxury in that time, everything there was set up for turning your senses “to want stuff”.

Bags full of something were lying everywhere and steel cabinet from army barracks was locked in one corner.

After some chatting he put down his hand under the table and put “Zolja” (“wasp”) single use RPG on table and said to us “this is good stuff for you folks, and it is cheap”.

I take it and said to him” it is empty man, fired, useless”

He open his mouth laugh with joy and said” ok man ok, you know that and I know that, but how many idiots outside know that? You could paint water pipe in green and state it is RPG and 90 percent of folks would trust you in dark, this looks real man.  Just fill it with something, point that thing on someone and ask right question”

“Yea, and then I can be killed from the guy who know that weapon is fired long time ago, he could choke me slowly with his bare hands, no thanks”

He said “ok ok, I agree, but here is right one” and then he pull out brand new one, same type, not used.

We said no man, we do not need weapons right now.

He said “ok ok, I have this too, I sell a lot of these and everyone is satisfied man”

Than his buddy opened wood cabinet behind his head and gave him wooden box, size of shoes box, bit smaller.

I look at my relative and look back at me with short surprised expressions.

It was wooden engraved box, pretty common in households in this region prior the war, something that you would put as a display in your living room, and when you opened it there was small wooden bird with mechanism inside, mechanism was activated by opening box, and melody would start, like birds singing…

Is he trying to sell us wooden singing bird in middle of the civil war?

Then he opened the box and push it to me.

Wooden bird was not inside, box was full-maybe some 25 bottles-vials of Penicillin. It was pretty expensive stuff.

I took one bottle and check it, expiration dates were good, Serbian manufacturer, labels looked originally “glued” on bottles.

But on the top of the bottles some of those were missing small thin metal “cap” that is covering rubber sealed “plug”(trough that rubber Penicillin powder is being diluted and aspirated into syringe)

First thought was that some those of the bottles could be used and then filled with flour.

He noticed what I am checking and said “ yeah, some of the caps are missing man, it is being transported through some rough situations before they came to me, but they are good”

I said” cool stuff man, but we do not need it” It was bit suspicious stuff and way to expensive for us at that moment.

He asked finally what we want.

And I said” Meat man!”

He leave the room and get back with one can, and I know he finally meant business because he brought only one can, without showing how much he actually has of it.

He put it on table and said” I have it, it is “Konj“(horse).

In that time different kind of canned food was circulating around, lot of expired stuff, broken, spoiled…

But popular was “horse”.

Horse had good and bad sides, but more good then bad sides.

It was canned meat, stamped label on tin was saying only something like “help from EU” or “help from UNHCR” I do not remember exactly.

Funny thing was that under the marking “type of meat” was written “meat”. Just that: “meat”.

It was kind of partially cooked meat with huge amount of grease inside that looked like snow.

If we ate grease alone it induced bad cases of diarrhea, but you could use it for cooking, melt it and use like oil for lamp, or simply folks stated that it is good to put it in places where you have pain, like an ointment (“bad knees pain – horse grease, rifle butt to the head-horse grease…  😉 )

Meat alone did not had any particular taste, it was unrecognizable, and people simply after some time said it is horse meat because nobody had clue what exactly it is.

So that can was nicknamed “horse”.

There were attempts to call it “kangaroo” but “horse” just stuck to it.

Simply it was usable.

He asked what we have, and I take out one pack of “Kent” he said “nice” without too much enthusiasm but his buddy stand up and said “where you get these man? Cool”

And that moment I knew we gonna get good deal because they are interested, they just kinda “blinked”.

He said to his buddy ”sit down man and shut up, you smoked too much pot” (Use of cannabis was rampant during the war)

And he asked how much of these we have, I answered it depends how much horse he have and bargain started.

At the end, we agree that we gonna gave him 9 packs for 15 cans.

It was great deal for us, and probably cool deal for him, because he knew folks who will appreciate those cigarettes a lot I guess.

After setting up a deal, and after we exchanged stuff we chatted for a bit and he offered me a hand made cigarette.

He gave me a small tin box with hand rolled cigarettes.

And I looked into the box, it used to be small box for cigarillos I think and I looked at the box, I liked it very much.

We carried our tobacco in all kinds of different bags, boxes, foils or whatever, but that tin box simply was “laying” down in my hand so cool. It was foreign stuff clearly.

It somehow “clicked” and perfectly lay down in my hand when I took it.

I gave it back to him asked where he got that, and he clearly saw that I “blinked” this time.

He said ”offer something, it is nice box man”

I only had that one more pack of Kent, with missing cigarette inside (which I wanted originally to keep for myself)

I pull it out from my pocket, gave it to him, he said” ok, I’ll give the cigarette box for this pack”

It was outrageous price, and I could almost feel my relative sending thoughts to me like “you fucking idiot, pack of cigarettes for tin box? We could get more meat for that…”

But I liked the box.

Then Gogo said” wait the second, cigarettes are missing from the pack, it is opened”

I said” yes, but still man, only one is missing and this is Kent real cigarettes”

Then he open drawer from the desk and pull hammer from it, we almost jumped ready for fight, but he took hammer and hit the tin box.

Then he said “ ok, one cigarette is missing in your pack, box is little bit damaged on one end now, but still working, now it is fair deal, we need to keep our business in some rules, it is reputation man!”

I was looking at him, realizing that he kinda lost it, just like most of us did in that time.

But we make the deal done, and all went good.

We get home in one piece, we ate those cans mixed with herbs and potatoes. Older member of family was happy with grease on his knees for some time…

I had a lot of bitching because of that tin box trade, but I survived.

War ended and years go by, I lost tin cigarette box, Gogo moved to Canada, and I heard he is doing apartment decorating business, and sometimes play guitar in some clubs, and have drugs issues…

Then one year, me and my wife were doing big renovation in my old house, and in some box with all kind of mess she pull out that tin box and said to me” oh it is some box for cigarettes, we gonna throw it away or you need it?”

Then she opened it, and inside she read small words that I wrote long time ago “GOGO” and date of trade.

She asked me “what is it, who is Gogo? Is it man or woman”?

From all of the explanation that I could gave her somehow words that came from my mouth were “ Yep, I could have got maybe two horses instead of that box during the war if I were smart”

“you had horses during the war? You rode it? I thought this was city siege! Where in the world you got horses?” she said looking suspiciously at me. (she spent war years in Germany without too much clue how was it here in reality)

I said smartly” no no, I didn’t ride horses, we ate it, it was good stuff”

Then she look at me with horror stating “you killed and ate horses, how could you, they are beautiful animals”

And then finally I said” you know what, forget it, it is long story, just throw away that box, it is useless”

Still, for a week or so she had suspicious looks at me from time to time.

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JCD

Carrying Your First Aid Supplies

Over the years there has been a lot of thought put into how troops can conveniently carry their personal, team, and platoon level first aid gear. It would behoove the Survivalist to take a lesson from the military when it comes to carrying this type emergency gear.

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Both the left and center pouches are the same compass/field dressing pouch. The left has a lensatic compass, and the middle has two field dressings (old style, non “Israeli” dressing ) shoved into it.

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Old style field dressing on the far right. A military style magnesium fire starter on the far left for scale.

Starting with the lowest level, you have the basic First Aid/Compass pouch that we all used in the military to carry an “Old School” field dressing or a compass. this is the minimum you should carry for a trauma/gunshot injury. Although most of us think it is too spartan, it will cover the basics (literally).

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“Airborne” First Aid kit. Note it has one field dressing right side, center.

Next up is the “Airborne” First Aid kit. This is what a lot of us used in addition to the field dressing pouch we talked about above. It is a convenient (if you can still find them) way to carry and protect your supplies, especially since the heavy duty plastic box will protect things like crushable ampules better than a soft pouch will. I carry my “Boo boo” first aid kit supplies in one of these in my buttpack.

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The standard issue IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit) is shown here right below the holstered pistol.  This is where everyone within the Company was required to carry it regardless of whether you were left or right handed.

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My issue IFAK has a 4′ and 6′ “Israeli” field dressing, a roll of first aid tape, rubber gloves, a CAT tourniquet, and a needle to reduce a tension pneumothorax type injury. I keep it in a Spec-Ops X-6 pouch.

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If you want to go with a smaller pouch (maybe only one field dressing with the other supplies), you can use the X4 pouch from Spec Ops.

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Here is another type of IFAK carrier. This one is a “tear away” type, and it is made by Condor. The advantage to this pouch is that it can be easily removed from the side of the patient, and laid out flat for more convenient access to different items.

The standard issue IFAK is a pretty squared away, compact unit. It is designed to treat trauma, not regular boo boos (I keep the “boo boo” kit in my buttpack, since you generally don’t need quick access to it to treat those kinds of minor injuries).

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Here are two “Swamp Fox” rigs from UW Gear. Note both have the IFAK in the same location.

Something to keep in mind if you have a group that carries a fighting load is that everyone should carry their IFAK in the same general location on their gear. This is done so that the individual that will be treating you (with your kit), can readily find it, even in the dark. It doesn’t matter if your high speed, low drag kit is marked by red tape, or a first aid cross if it isn’t readily observable by the person treating you.  How are they gonna tell if it’s red tape. a red strap or a red cross if you’re using a red lens flashlight (or some other color) as you should under fire?

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The “Combat Lifesaver” (CLS) bag used in the US Army. One of the things a qualified Combat Lifesaver carried (not anymore) in this was equipment for giving an IV in the field.

Next up would be team level first aid/trauma gear carriers. In Combat Arms, we usually had at least one guy carrying a “Combat Lifesaver” bag per team (more if we had qualified guys). It can carry a number of trauma related supplies, and bridges the gap between the individual’s IFAK, and the M17 Medic Kit or STOMP bag used by platoon medics (M17 is smaller and lighter).

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The M17 Combat Medic Kit

The M17 Combat Medic bag is good for carrying a lot of supplies for your group if you have to move and can’t conveniently carry something like a footlocker (what we store the majority of our first aid supplies in) with you.

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As you can see, the M17 Combat Medic bag can carry a lot of medical gear, but the decision you have to make is, “Do we need to carry that many med supplies?” That large a bag (in the Survivalist oriented arena) is for a “Bugout” of your area, not for a “presence” or “combat” patrol. The “Combat Lifesaver” bag is designed for typical patrols.

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The CLS bag uses just a general purpose military carrying strap, while the M17 Med bag uses Alice pack straps.

Last but not least is the first aid bag I use in my vehicles. It is a Condor Tactical Response Bag. It is perfect for carrying trauma and regular first aid “Boo boo” type supplies, and the pockets are laid out for ease of use. It is easy to organize, and the cost won’t break the bank.

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That’s it for my recommendations on first aid gear carriers. Hopefully, this will help you organize your levels of first aid response gear into something that makes sense, includes all the necessities, but doesn’t include the kitchen sink when it’s not needed.

JCD

 

 

 

 

Brushbeater Talks Gun Logistics

Although I’ve done a number of posts about Survivalist firearms, I haven’t put my thoughts on the blog about the logistics of keeping them running. Brushbeater did a good job here of pointing out the problems and some solutions for long term firearms issues.

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Running Spares- Keeping Your Weapon Going

AR-15 vs. AK-47. 7.62 vs 5.56. 308!! Mil-spec, mil-surp, match grade, green tip, etc, etc, etc. If you’ve been a shooter any amount of time, you’re familiar with these terms. In the internet-land these are hotly debated for some reason, each time by people who’ll no doubt prove this time around that their choice is the right choice, yours is not if you disagree, and whatever they’ve bought is by default the best (because they say so of course, along with it’s high price if talking among champagne elitists or it’s budget price if talking with the buildabag crowd) and every so often it’ll get backed up by unverifiable claims of “someone they know/trained with/watched a DVD of/thought lovingly about once who’s a no-crap SHTF ninjatype baddie” told them it’s what they run…

Yeah, Right. The overwhelming bulk of these people have never fired a shot in anger. Being a gun enthusiast doesn’t make one combat proficient. Pardon me for my genuine disinterest in their ‘opinions’.

What you very rarely hear is discussions about keeping your weapon running, long term. I guess that’s not ninja-enough. Believe it or not, it has little to do with weapon selection itself- it’s a question of logistics. Each of the common platforms have nuances, big and small, that need attention to keep your weapon from being deadlined. Nothing is worse that spending a month or more’s wage on a defensive rifle, an optic, mags and ammo, to have the weapon fail due to a dead trigger spring. It happens. It happened to an SR-25 I was running on a Known Distance (KD) range. Great rifle, but not widely known for its reliability. Even the Kalashnikov, the alleged marquee of reliability, has needs and can fail fairly easily and unexpectedly, especially with some of the lesser-quality brands out there. So all this being said, here’s a few guidelines to follow in order to keep your weapon running, post unpleasant-ness:

  1. Spare Bolts: Far and away, the only part I’ve actually seen break on the AR-15 platform (aside from the dead trigger spring on the SR-25…but that was different…) is the bolt. Just buy a spare, right? Well, yeah. BUT- Did you check the headspace with a go/no-go gauge? Do you own a go/no-go gauge for your weapon? Did you re-check it after so many rounds out of the weapon (the wear changes the spacing)? Did you test it for function? Is there any binding or unusual wear on the lugs? It goes without saying that the bolt must be quality- proper gas key staking, proper steel and heat treat, and no gimmicks (like the ‘lube-free’ AR-15 bolt…wtf, over?). The Kalashnikov also can have issues with the bolt. Some of the Yugo models have had mushrooming of the rear of the bolt where the hammer strikes- which could cause premature failure. You need to keep an eye on potential stress fractures as well, as some production runs from differing countries/companies have different heat treatments. You also need to understand not all AKs are the same; different countries have variations on their design. So know what you have, and pick up a spare parts kit for yours.
  2. Use Standardized Parts: Cornerstone to the homebuilt/bubba gun issues is the use of bargain-bin non-spec/non-standard parts. This is endemic to the AR, with all the snake oil being sold, so the watchword for keeping a rifle serviceable is using standardized simple spare parts. Believe it or not, for the money, DPMS makes a good lower parts kit.  On the AK, it’s a good idea to pick up a trigger pin retainer plate to replace the shepherd’s hook (you know, that paperclip that keeps the trigger in place and fails far more often than thought). They’re cheap, take all of 10 seconds to swap, and usually will never need replacing.
  3. Spare Trigger Packs: On the note of spare parts kits, the bulk of those parts are the trigger components. Now if you’re into custom triggers (and there’s some nice ones out there) that’s fine, but understand how it works. I strongly encourage new or inexperienced AR shooters to leave the internals alone- you need to get a feel for a bone stock weapon, and the trigger itself usually breaks in nicely with the weapon over time. In addition, if it’s a standardized trigger, with standard components, one can stock several running spares for all the rifles in the battery relatively cheap. The AK comparatively speaking has a very simple trigger, but believe it or not, can be the largest point of failure on the weapon. As cheap as the Tapco G2 is, if you’re a Kalashnikov kid it’s a great idea to have a spare on hand. Assemble it. The AK trigger is a drop-in component once assembled, but requires a tiny spring that loves to fly away if you have fumble fingers (ask me how I know). Have one pre-assembled so that it becomes simple under duress or less-than-ideal circumstances.
  4. Know the Points of Failure on Your Weapon: Every design out there, even the mythical Kalashnikov, has failure points in the design. It’s common knowledge that cleanliness is important to keep an AR bolt running (although it’s far more resistant to fouling than commonly thought). But other issues can arise, from the potential problems we’ve already identified to things unforeseen (like gas block issues or bolt hold-open failures) so it’s worth your training time not to just get mechanically better with the manual of arms but also to identify potential issues you may run into. The AKM for example, using a stamped-steel receiver, can suffer from broken rivets if improperly done. A broken trunnion rivet kills that rifle, then and there. Improper heat treatment or excessive wear of the bolt guide rails can cause failure to cycle. It happens. Having a working knowledge of the mechanics of your weapon is critical to being combat proficient- it’s a lot easier for a supporting apparatus to get a weapon running if the operator can diagnose the issue (more on that in a second).
  5. Use Common, De-Facto Standard Rifles: I really like the Sig MCX. That’s a cool little carbine, and although I haven’t run it with a can, I would be willing to bet it’s a dream to shoot suppressed. But aside from aesthetics, it doesn’t have a lot in common with the standard direct impingement AR. In fact, there’s a lot of proprietary components, such as the bolt carrier and dual recoil springs, which just might fail (and have, which is why it’s been recalled). If no one else in my Patrol is carrying that weapon (or can afford it), and we don’t have running spare components, then in the event my very expensive toy is deadlined, maybe it might be for good. Now I’m ineffective, all because I wanted to be the cool guy. The same for the PTR-91/G3/CETME weapons. Good rifles, sure. Popular in Iran, not so much with Rhodesians (according to Dennis Croukamp). But the HK roller-locked system is unlike anything else found in the wild here in the US, and although no doubt someone will comment to attest to it’s reliability, et. al., once those rollers go belly-up, that gun’s done. Get your spares now. So unless you’re a collector or enjoy cheap magazines for rifles that destroy brass, AND YES, THEY DESTROY BRASS, I wouldn’t bother but then there’s that rule that two is one and one is none if you happen to disagree. Be ready to supply spare parts or have the means to fabricate them. The AR on the other hand, far and away, along with the Garand action (both M1A and Mini varieties) and the AK to lesser degrees, are quite common and therefore are known quantities, so resolving group standards or potential logistical issues will much simpler. Any gunsmith in the world can usually keep them running…a CETME, maybe not. More on this in a second.
  6. Start Right, End Right. Buy Quality Parts: One of the biggest myths of the current gun culture is that quality must be equated with cost. While you do get what you pay for in most contexts, there’s also a definite law of diminishing returns. Quality, standard parts kits for the AR don’t usually cost a lot. $40-$50, maybe a little more, is about the norm. Spare quality bolts are a little more. The Tapco G2 AK trigger is ~$30. Spare milsurp AK parts, consisting of a spare bolt, bolt carrier and piston with recoil spring is around $100. Not a lot of money if you’re counting on that rifle working for the long haul. But in all cases, buy from a reputable manufacturer. On the other hand, you will reap Murphy’s rewards for being a cheap skate if you skimp on your resupply. Buy from reputable sources, buy from makers who stand behind their product, and buy from those who can tell you where and of what their stuff is made.
  7. Make Friends with a Gunsmith: There’s gonna be problems that come up that you can’t fix. Billy dropped his weapon during an IMT and bent the barrel at the receiver. Johnny’s gas block just failed. Jeff showed up with a non-standard kludge stick and won’t fire six rounds without binding up. Mike’s well-worn AK just became a runaway gun or even better, broke two rivets on the front trunnion. If you’re training the untrained to become Light Infantry, which is what a lot of this ‘SHTF’ talk boils down to, these things are going to occur. I’ve observed each of these things happen with well trained guys by the way, and while that might be great for a chuckle, it happens more often than you think. It’s also very easy to laugh and say that ain’t us while sitting comfortably in your chair reading this…people do clumsy stuff under duress. A person cannot fix everything themselves, but a good Gunsmith is a great person to know and crucial to an Underground support. In addition to being a de-facto gun guy, he’s going to have a base of knowledge that you don’t, and chances are high he’s also gonna have the means to fabricate the parts that you otherwise cannot. (As an aside, I’ve never met a Gunsmith who wasn’t a pretty serious Survivalist) But along with that, just like a Doctor can’t look at you and just know you have the flu vs. an appendicitis, he needs an accurate description of symptoms, and a Gunsmith’s job gets a lot easier if the shooter can accurately describe what’s going on vs. mah gun just don’t work! -that takes experience and knowledge of the weapon, only gained through trigger time.

Standards matter. It’s not really about whatever your particular preference may be, or even what weapon is better for this or that, it’s about what the group can acquire, standardize upon, proficiently employ, and keep running long-term. In the US that favors the AR-15 the strongest. There are no guerrilla forces I can think of off-hand that simply picked what they wanted, either- it boils down to what the external support supplies them with or is expropriated (but this, of course, is another discussion for another day). So while that may or may not be your concern, creating a standard for your group, adhering to it, training around it’s strengths and limitations, and having a plan to keep those weapons running is critical to your success.

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JCD