After a conversation at work last week, I figured I’d write this post, because certain things need to be said, and too many out there think the terms “Survivalist” and “Prepper” are synonymous. The topic of conversation was a Glenn Beck “Tik Tok” sent to me (No, I don’t and won’t have a TikTok), and the difference between “Preppers” and “Survivalists”. This was specifically about the difference between their mindset and responses in a SHTF scenario.
The Beck video is interesting, because Glenn actually goes off on the people responsible for the situation we are in as Law Abiding Citizens in the Former United States of America. I stopped listening and watching him around 2005-2006, because I was sick of his crying mealy mouthed, excuses about what was wrong and his worthless, “Pie in the Sky” ideas of how to fix it, by singing “Kumbaya” with bad guys. So now I’d like to say, “Welcome to the party pal.”.
He recounts that none of those politicians (most of them), bureaucrats and elites have been held to account for the proven, numerous and egregious violations (Whether they are acts or negligence) of not only the U.S. Constitution, but State and Local Rule of Law and plain old human decency. Although he doesn’t give a solution to the problem (probably from fear of being prosecuted for fomenting an “Insurrection”), he does a good job in recounting just some of those “In your face” violations.
I’ve always believed that there is a difference between “Survivalists” and “Preppers”. If you’ve seen Episode 3 of “The Last of Us”, you’ll notice when Joel asks Bill, “Were you a “Prepper” before things fell apart?”, he replies with, “Survivalist.“. From what we see in his already stocked preparations at the beginning of the episode, he proves that, while continuously striving to improve his “Position” (his home) after things fell apart.
[BTW, if you decide you’re gonna comment with some remark about the brief (I know, surprising for Hollywood) depiction of Bill’s sexual lifestyle/orientation in that episode (same as the game), your comment won’t see the light of day. This isn’t “That” type of forum, we discuss Survival/Survivalist related topics here, and that’s all. My personal thoughts on that are my private thoughts, and none of your business. MDSA isn’t the “Crying, Vax Lunatic” at the DW that made a video response concerning his “Indignation” at episode 3, and he had obviously never even watched it….AT ALL! BTW, how many people has “CVL” helped kill and/or injure with his “Educated” Vax advice, and No, I don’t want a vax amnesty for those that tried to shame people into getting vaccinated. In my estimation, they fomented attempted murder.]
To me, “Preppers” are the guys that want to acknowledge that the world is coming apart, but only in a theoretical/peaceful way. They come across as not having a realistic understanding of what SHTF means as a threat to their physical lives. Those of us that have been overseas, especially in a combat zone, understand what people are willing to do to their fellow man when they don’t get what they want. Imagine what they’d do when they can’t put food in their child’s mouth.
The last three years have shown the depravities that American society will allow without consequences. When anarchist/terrorist groups (and that’s what they are) have “Mostly peaceful protests”, and burn the towns down that they’re protesting in, where are the Citizens who live there? A few will do the right thing, but a large majority of Citizens won’t step up to stop it, or they’ll say they don’t want to get involved because they’ll be prosecuted (à la Kyle Rittenhouse). Realistic or not, it’s a cop out. The “Prepper” mindset won’t fix that situation, but the “Survivalist” mindset can.
A “Survivalist” has a more realistic opinion of how to deal with the world in a “Post-Apocalyptic” world (Like it or not, that’s what we’re in now). The “Survivalist” mentality has a militant aspect to it, because those types of skills will be needed during situations like the riots that have already occurred in several areas in the Country.
The term “Prepper” reminds me of what I read from the Economist, Howard Ruff in the 1980’s (“Prepper” wasn’t a term in popular use back then). If memory serves, he recommended you get a 20 Gauge shotgun for hunting, and that’s it. He wasn’t worried about your neighbors trying to steal your preps, let alone, roving bands of parasitic marauders. Canadian, Mary Gilman, (shown in the video below) is a Howard Ruff Acolyte, and expresses this same opinion (11:05).
One of the first people that comes to mind, that pushed the “Survivalist” mentality, was Mel Tappan. As much as I like what Tappan said and wrote, especially about firearms choices, in many ways, his advice was less than practical. Buying an over under Parazzi 12 Gauge with two sets of barrels, (one out of the 43 other firearms he recommended for the Husband/Wife team in a Retreat group of 30-50 people) seems somewhat…..specious.
Although Ragnar Benson and Duncan Long were practitioners and writers of “Survivalism” (As opposed to “Prepping”), I always thought Bruce Clayton was the most down to earth of the three. God knows there were many others, that I won’t list here, but I read Bruce Clayton’s, book, “Life After Doomsday” in 1981, right after reading Cresson Kearny’s seminal work from 1979 titled, “Nuclear War Survival Skills”, (Both were in my public library) and both were a big reason why one of my Military MOS’s (Military Occupational Specialty) was “NBC”-Nuclear, Biological, Chemical Warfare (Which is now called “Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Warfare” -CBRN.
I thought Bruce Clayton’s book, gave out the template for what a Survivalist was and does. To begin with, his chapter called, “To Have and to Hold”, had not only recommendations for firearms selection, but it talked about (and briefly showed) the rudimentary skills and set ups needed to mount an adequate defense of a Retreat, and what you might have to defend against.
He covered all the basic skills a Survivalist needs for surviving SHTF. Included within those pages are Defense, Shelter, Food (to include gardening), Medical, and Commo gear recommendations, and there’s even a chapter on whether to “Bug Out” or not. If you couple the info given in this book with “Nuclear War Survival Skills”, your knowledge on SHTF survival, and specifically, nuclear war survival goes up exponentially, and it could very well be needed shortly.
In the face of all the crap we face as Survivalists, what should we do? First, let nothing stand in the way of continuing your preparations. A mantra in the Infantry is that you always strive to improve your position as long as you’re gonna be there and have the capability. This should apply to Survivalists as well, if you’re serious about being prepared.
Second, there’s an old saying that the more training someone has, the less equipment they require. This is true, to a point, but understand that this doesn’t just apply to formalized professional training. This also falls under the “Improving your position” mindset mentioned above. The training you do with your gear is also very important. If you don’t train with it, not only do you not know if that particular item will cut it, but you don’t develop the familiarity needed to use it when things go sideways.
It doesn’t matter how “High End” your gear is. Even expensive gear with a good rep, needs to be put through it’s paces and vetted. If not, you can’t say it’s reliable. If you need to look at the manual to run a piece of gear, you don’t have familiarity, which is essential for certain pieces of gear. Firearms, Medical and Commo come to mind, as items that need to have a working familiarity, and better yet, a “Muscle Memory” capability.
Third, determine how you will deal with the situations going on in many areas of our Country, if they finally get to your neighborhood. “Legal” is the last hurdle I’d be concerned about, when dealing with a threat to your life or that of a Loved One. “Moral” and a distant second being “Ethical” are the concerns I have when having to deal with one or a dozen bad guys. Slavery was “Legal” and consuming alcohol was “Illegal” at different points in our Country’s history.
“Malum in se” are the laws I will always adhere to. “Malum in se” concern acts of evil, such as Murder, Rape, Kidnapping and Theft. “Malum prohibitum” are laws prohibiting actions or things that a group of people subjectively decide they don’t like, and it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with “Right” or “Wrong”. The 1934 National Firearms Act and the 1968 Gun Control Act are prime examples of Malum prohibitum law.
Fourth, stand up for what you believe. The difference between a “Conspiracy” and the truth is between 6 months and three years. We’ve learned that the majority of those left in the medical community are not worthy of our trust, and are some greedy bastards to boot. They took and oath and not only violated it, they downright murdered people to line their pockets.
I don’t know which is worse, the unelected bureaucrats, the politicians or the “Elites” posing as authorities. The politicians have been elected (but have they….really?), and the majority have lied and violated their Oath. Years ago, many of them would have been put in prison or hung from the gallows. The unelected Bureaucrats are appointed by the Oath breaking politicians, so……
The “Elites like Gates, Schwab, Soros and Clinton, to name a few, have literally been complicit in murder. If they have their way, they will murder a majority of the world’s population before they are finished. They’ve already said that’s the end state they desire. I remember hearing of a speech by David “Mr. New World Order” Rockefeller back in the 90’s where he said (paraphrased), “Once we get rid of 95% of the people, we can make this world into what we want.”.
Here’s the reason I mentioned to stand up for what you believe in. Most don’t realize how much of an affect the people who stood up for what they believed in (to the point of losing their job) had on the truth coming to light about the vaccine. Many things are coming to light now, that were just “Conspiracies” three years ago (China lab leak).
Fifth, don’t dwell on the fact that the above mentioned miscreants haven’t been brought to justice. Just like dwelling on who was responsible for “9/11”, “Oklahoma City”, “Waco” or “Ruby Ridge”. Brooding over what the aforementioned Ne’er-do-wells have done up till now will not do anything for your psychological disposition or mindset, except damage it. Just have a plan to deal with their henchmen when they come to your neighborhood.
Sixth, and probably most important, live life! Enjoy the little things that bring you happiness, whether it is spending time with Loved Ones, taking a walk through the woods or getting a good steak at your local restaurant, just do it. We don’t know when something will happen that will “Seriously” alter the course of the County’s every day life (Yes, worse than inflation), but if you watch some YouTube celebrities, you’ll believe it’s everyday, and in the words of “Jayne” from “Firefly”, that will “Damage you calm!”. DON’T LET IT!
Possibly for at least some there is a process… a transition… from prepper to survivalist. Maybe from ignorant to awareness to concerned to prepper to survivalist depending on the inputs they get and how they respond to them. Someone with several pails of rice and a shotgun thinking they are ‘prepared’ don’t understand the situation. Thanks for the read. Good article.
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Good advice. My tribe and I have been of the survivalist mindset since before Y2K. Living in earthquake country, it was an absolute necessity. Since my spouse is an Idaho girl, we relocated awhile ago. Our biggest challenge now is learning what to grow where we live-east of Spokane. The shooting practice still happens along with the most important tactic: situational awareness. Bleib ubrig.
Hey Dweezil! Good to see you’re still around! Hope all is well!
Hello, my friend! Yep, the tribe and I are still here in Winterfell. We’ll be starting the seedlings under the grow lights in early April. The beat goes on. Stay safe. God Bless.
Well, done, sir! Your comments were insightful and thought provoking. I will point out, however, that your definition of survivalist, while justified, is not understood and accepted by everyone.
The reality is that, just as you say, back in the 1980s, the word survivalist was the only one in common usage that described those with an interest in preparedness. No one would have recognized the meaning of the word prepper. While it as an excellent, descriptive word, unfortunately, along the way, the word survivalist became a bit tainted. Due to a few bad examples that made their way into news reports, a great many people painted with a brush that was much too wide in categorizing the crazies along with the well-intentioned.
And then there are those who have their own particular take on what being a survivalist means, and they disagree with others. To each his own.
So, after that, the word prepper was invented out of necessity. I suspect that it was intended to give “cover” to the middle class who wanted to begin efforts toward reaching higher preparedness levels, and they eschewed the word survivalist because of the bad apples’ behavior.
I resist calling myself a prepper. Nat Geo’s “Doomsday Preppers” was the channel’s big hit series ever, but the episodes focused on the outliers and fringe personality-types because it was so good for ratings. In general, however, it was mostly a blackeye for those who were seriously involved in the preparedenss movement and who didn’t want to appear to their friends and relatives as being kooky.
I’ve been involved with the preparedness matters for a long time. Cresson Kearney called me to compliment me about my book about a nuclear war. Bruce Clayton and I had a disagreement about the advisability of using fish antibiotics because I proposed using them in hard times, and because he was skeptical about that. Being of “a certain age,” the word “prepper” reminds me too much of “preppy,” i.e., a lifestyle and manner of dress in the 1980s. I now prefer the terms Self-Reliant and Self-Reliance. I don’t think that there could be much criticism of those terms. I find it hard to believe that anyone could find that spin disagreeable These terms would cover every middle-class urban American who has an extra case of Chicken Noodle Soup, a 10 lb. bag of rice, flour, and pinto beans, and two jars of Skippy Peanut Butter in the garage, as well as an off-grid hermit living by himself in a Unabomber, 12-foot square cabin, on an Idaho mountaintop.
It would serve everyone involved in preparedness to convince as many people as possible to become a Self-Reliant, as well. The better prepared the population is now, the fewer the incidences of violence, hunger, and sickness there will be after a national calamity occurs. Leftist radical, Saul Alinsky, said, “He who controls language controls the masses.” That is probably true, but included as part of that concept is that he who controls language also controls the debate. Therefore, we should do what we can to control the language. That’s why I call myself a Self-Reliant.
Just like the term, “Militia”, “Survivalist” was tainted by the media on purpose. I refuse to let those narcissistic, elitist, NWO infomercial, fan boys pervert a term that is appropriate for the people in question. Never spoke with Kearny, but I had a decent conversation with Bruce Clayton about 6 or 7 years ago concerning his book, “Life After Doomsday”. Thanks for the comment.
I figured the difference was one of degree, or maybe a spectrum. Preppers are baby survivalists, and Survivalists are extremely advanced preppers.
The prepper sees that there are dangers out there and tries to build a degree of resilience into his life.
The survivalist sees that extremely hard times are going to inevitably come, and works to get ready.
The prepper plans for things like earthquakes, job loss, snow storms, and riots. The survivalist also prepares for things like nuclear war, complete economic collapse, global famine, and rise of the antichrist economic system.
I think of preppers primarily “buying stuff”. They buy some emergency food, a water filter, first aid kit, one or more guns, a few books, and some camping gear. They might also keep some cash on hand. This puts them a little way ahead of the average American.
The Survivalist buys WAY more stuff. He has more guns, way more ammo, way more food (one year bare minimum), multiple methods of water purification (and collection/storage), way more medical supplies, backup power supplies, radios, off-road vehicles (and fuel for them), night vision, armor, tons of books, tools, silver, gold, large emergency fund of cash, and much more.
The survivalist also adds knowledge and experience. He often has military or first responder experience, may have lived overseas, has mechanical skills, plus a combination of farming/homesteading/gardening/cooking/fishing/hunting/butchering type skills.
He seeks out training for medical, firearms, martial arts, small unit tactics, and radio communication. He also reads a lot of books.
He always carries a firearm, trains with it, and knows how to use it.
He regularly works out to keep his body and mind strong.
He uses his gear and has tested its capabilities.
He doesn’t just “have an AR15 (or better), he has also sighted in his optics, humped it around for days, trained his whole family with it, can field strip it in the dark, utilize it with his NODs, ring steel at 500+ yards, has killed animals with it, stores dozens of magazines, spare parts, and thousands of rounds of ammo for it, etc.
Hopefully he also seeks to know the God who is, by reading the Bible and prayer. Ideally, he also understands that the Lord Jesus Christ is his only hope in life and in death.
The survivalist also works to build community, friendships and networks with others.
In all likelihood, the survivalist has already relocated from suburbia to a more sustainable and defendable rural property.
I’ve been on this “prepper – survivalist” spectrum for well over twenty years (before Y2K for sure). Over the last decade, I’ve been moving steadily towards the survivalist side, especially over the last three years of insanity.
The time is short, and really bad times are coming, and are here.
Thanks for the fifth estate video. I never saw that.
I know a couple of the people in the vid, one was at my wedding. LOL
A great article! Those were all my heroes to, back in the seventies and eighties!
Care to explain why you think the PTR is superior to the HK91?
The PTR91 comes stock with a paddle mag release and they are available with a scope rail already welded on if you want the original configuration. Several variations of the rifle are available as well including a 51 type 8″ barrel, K type 12″ barrel, and 16″ barrels as well as the standard 18″. PTR also has a 7.62x39S version.
Do you see much practical value in the 7.62*39 version? I know the .308 PTR-91 in general is excellent (I’ve seriously considered getting one).
Does the 7.62*39 version offer much that you can’t get in a much cheaper AK (like PSA) variant?
I imagine the PTR is a little more accurate. Also, it gives you similarity of function if you also run the .308 version.
That’s kinda why I went with an AR10, already being familiar with the AR15.
I know the HK/PTR rifle is more robust than an AR, but is it any more so than an AK?
Just curious, you know far more about all this than I do.
Thanks again for all the excellent articles.
I’ll have one soon, so I’ll let you know when I buy it. From what I understand, the bolt is the only thing different between the two calibers (same frame size), and Ski at AK Ops Union said it’s the most accurate 7.62×39 he’s ever shot, so there’s that. I’d imagine most of the things I said in Part 1 and 2 of my PTR 91 series, applies to the PTR32.
An excellent essay, you made a good distinction and comparison of “Prepper” and “Survivalist” and Tater 7’s comments build on it, to the point I can say He “wrote my comment’.
I will add that, IMO, Preppers are Hoping that things won’t Really Fall Apart, but survivalists Know they eventually Will. Like the difference between a Storm and the Line Power out for a Week, and Nuclear War/Full-on Mad Max. If you are Ready for the latter, you won’t even notice the rest.
I would break it down to Preppers are food and water storage, electricity generation and long distance communications in suburbia. Survivalists are firearms and combatives, medical, route finding living outside in the rural setting. Preppers are the genteel who are looking for their families and friends to be comfortable. Survivalists are seeking defeating sources of evil who want to take over their AO.
Thank you for very well written descriptive above. Great comments too.
I suggest that survivalists are higher functioning preppers. Survivalists, however, have all the bases covered. Self-Reliants is a term that would cover both categories. There is a “journey” that many take in moving up the ladder from prepper to survivalist.