Archive | September, 2013

Reality Prepper Versus Fantasy Prepper

26 Sep

For those who’ve read my book, you know I focus on providing the basics for most common disasters. You don’t need to know what disaster or emergency you face to know that storing water and food is a good idea. Anything that can isolate you for a week or two from grocery stores is covered if you have a two-week supply of food. It doesn’t matter if it’s a hurricane, flood, civil unrest, or icy roads. You stay home. You eat.

If you have a two-week supply of water, if anything disables your plumbing supply pipes to your house, you have water to drink. It doesn’t matter if it’s an earthquake or flood that disables your supply pipes. The basics are valuable in many scenarios.

As a life-long “prepper” I’ve seen other survivalists prepare for everything from economic collapse to nuclear war to EMP to runaway viruses. Each of us must ask ourselves: Just how far should we take our preps? How much specialty preparation is “too much”?

Let’s look at some of the absolute basics that are too often overlooked:

1) Your physical health. This is crucial to survival in many situations. If you need to flee a burning building, escape rubble in an earthquake, or just minimize the chances you have a heart attack or get diabetes, you must make your physical health your number one priority.

As we age, we lose physical capability. This is a sad fact. Each of us should be realistic but still aim to be in the best physical shape we can be in. If you’re in your twenties and exceptionally fit, go ahead and try out for American Ninja Warrior. If you’re in your late sixties, go for a daily walk. Choose a level of exercise that fits where you’re at in your life.

Regardless of age, try to eat healthy. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are your friend. Get regular check ups so you catch medical issues early.

2) Your financial health. I don’t know why, but some preppers hate to hear this: Your ability to successfully recover from “economic collapse” is directly proportional to your wealth. Sure, owning a Glock 19 and being able to defend yourself from a breakdown of law and order is good. Having a year supply of food is great. Investing in gold or foreign currencies can’t hurt. But from the recent economic downturn in America, to the Great Depression, to the economic problems in Greece to the economic meltdowns in Argentina and Russia, more wealth is better.

The more you have saved, the larger your earnings, and the more stable your earnings, the better off you are. Money is the highest predictor of how well a family will be able to recover from most disasters.

The super rich can afford financial losses. It’s just a number on a paper. The Middle Class can’t afford to lose income or it adversely affects their life. Unlike squirreling away guns and Geiger counters, saving money isn’t sexy.

Find a career you love and which can earn you a good living. Live below your means and build a nest egg for emergencies.

3) Your social connections. This is a topic that’s getting more attention in the prepper community. Demcad has several videos that talk about the importance of building relationships. In his book Prepper’s Home Defense, Jim Cobb writes about “Lone Wolf Syndrome.”

Many preppers are loners by nature. We like to figure things out for ourselves. We like to be self sufficient. The reality is that few of us can survive without the help of others. We need to draw on the knowledge and experience of others. We need help from time to time. It could be help lifting sheet rock to finish a basement or help guarding our neighborhood in a riot.

The more diverse your connections the better. Social connections can partly offset number 2) your financial health. If your home is destroyed in a flood or fire, where will you go? If you have family or friends that will put you up, you’ll save a ton of money compared to staying in a hotel.

To have people you can rely on, you need to be reliable yourself. Said another way, to have good friends, you need to be a good friend. Of course, in society there are some people who don’t reciprocate. They want others to help them, but they never want to help others. You don’t need people like that in your network of friends and family.

A recent study said married people have a better chance of surviving cancer than single people. It makes sense. If you’re run down, do you have somebody who forces you to go to the hospital? If you have nobody at home to feed the dog, you level of stress skyrockets.

A reality prepper should focus on the basics before engaging in prepping for highly unlikely events like a nuclear war. Sure, if you have the time and money, put aside a complete high-end hazmat suit to protect you from biological viruses. First, though, shore up your physical health, your financial health, and your social connections. Everything builds from there.

Charlie Palmer -author The Prepper Next Door: A Practical Guide For Disaster And Emergency Planning

What is the best pistol to have in a firefight?

18 Sep

This is a good question. I’d say if you know you’re going to be in a firefight, the best weapon isn’t a handgun at all. Semi-automatic rifles are more shootable, have more stopping power, and have more range. If you don’t like the recoil of the 7.62 NATO, a cool choice would be an AR-15 in 6.8 SPC. I don’t own one. It should have more stopping power than the 5.56 mm and be more than adequate.

If, for whatever reason, you can’t have a rifle, another question is this: Are you absolutely going to be in a firefight? The weapon I’d want in my hand wouldn’t necessarily be the weapon I’d want to carry day-to-day or even keep at home for home defense.

I write quite a bit about the 1911 pistols in my book. Because they’re single action, they aren’t the best carry piece. But, if I had to have one pistol in my hand and knew I’d need to stop attackers, that would be the one I’d choose. In 45 ACP, I’d load 200 grain JHP Cor Bon ammo at about 1,000 feet per second. If money were no object, I’d prefer one in 9×23, which is like a stronger 38 Super. I don’t own one of those and probably never will, but I think it would be a superior caliber to my 45 ACP. It would roughly be equivalent to a 357 magnum in power.

A more popular choice would be the Glock 19 in 9mm which holds more shots. If I knew I was going to be in a firefight, I’d want a magazine fed pistol, so I could drop a magazine and pop in a new one. As much as I like them, revolvers would be out. If I knew I was going to be in a firefight, I’d carry half a dozen magazines. Or more! Why? Two words: Paranoia and fear. I wouldn’t want to run out of shots.

An expression I’ve heard many times is that the purpose of a handgun is to fight your way to a rifle. This is nonsense. If you’re attacked, it’s not like a game of Doom. You’ll either stop the attackers or you’ll get shot and go down. Whatever weapon you start with is the weapon you’ll end with, for better or for worse.

The other reason I pass on a revolver is because it’s difficult to shoot a double action revolver as well as a tuned 1911. The trigger pull and length makes all the difference. If I knew I was going to be in a firefight, I’d want a pistol I could shoot fast and accurately. Statistically, in a self-defense situation, you’ll be within 21 feet of your attacker. I don’t want to rely on statistics if I know I’m going to be in a “firefight.” The word “firefight” conjures up images of multiple opponents and unknown distances. A good case can be made for the 9mm over a 45 ACP or the rare 9×23: You can get off multiple shots faster.

Whatever pistol I choose would need to have good sights. Given my vision isn’t what I’d like, if I knew I was going to be in a firefight, I’d look into the Red dot sights like the Trijicon RMR. I’m a purist. I don’t like scopes or optical sights on pistols. I like to live more, though!

A sight like this on a carry pistol is awkward. But if the gun is in your hand and you know you’ll need to stop an attacker, why not have it? Up close and at night, another choice would be one of the Crimson Trace Laser Grip sights. These sights send out a laser to tell you where your shots will land. It’s like cheating on point shooting. On the plus side, if somebody sees the dot on their chest, they might surrender. On the negative side, a laser beam can help your opponents find your position.

To sum up: The best pistol to have in a “firefight” would be a reliable and shootable semi-automatic pistol. Have extra magazines. Have good sights.

With all this said, there is a line of thought that goes way back. What’s the best gun to have for self defense? It’s the gun you have with you. It doesn’t matter what you have in your safe at home if you’re accosted on the street. If you feel comfortable carrying a 1911 Commander or Glock 19, that’s fine. If that’s just too big for you to carry comfortably, go with something smaller. A Kahr K9 for example. You can get laser grip sights for it.

While the 1911 is the pistol I’d want if I knew I was going to be in a firefight, a more common situation is that you don’t know if you’ll need to use your gun or not. The gun I keep for home defense is a 357 magnum revolver. The longer heavier trigger pull assures me I won’t touch off a round accidentally. Many armchair commandos say this shouldn’t ever happen with a single action automatic pistol, but it does happen to shooters, some of whom shoot 25,000 rounds or more annually and compete in pistol competitions.

The best pistol to have in your hand if you know you’re going into a firefight isn’t the same as the best pistol to have if you might not need to use it! Most self-defense situations aren’t full blown “firefights.” Pointing a gun often scares away an intruder. Some attackers won’t even have guns. Up close, a good case can be made for the Snub Nose revolver.

My final answer: At the end of the day, the best pistol to have in a firefight is up to you. If you have confidence in your weapon, it’s reliable, and you shoot it well, it should serve.  The guns you’d choose for practical self defense and to fight off 100 MNZBs could be quite different.

Charlie Palmer -author The Prepper Next Door: A Practical Guide For Disaster And Emergency Planning

Prepper Book Alert: Bargain on Back To Basics

18 Sep

Just a quick note to say I saw “Back To Basics: Third Edition” on sale at Edward Hamilton ( for $7.95. If you don’t have this in your prepper library and are interested in homesteader skills, check it out. I reviewed this book on Amazon. Flat rate shipping adds $3.50.

Another book in their new catalog is “Modern Survival” by Barry Davies. I haven’t read this one. Its price is only $5.95.

Pet Emergency Supply Kit on

After the Colorado flooding, many residents are returning home to find no home. It washed away. The article says the average resident doesn’t have flood insurance. What would you do next if your house vanished tomorrow?

This Youtube video shows how to clean contact switches on your electronic devices. If you have a button that you push and push and push and it doesn’t always work, this can help:

Keep Your Car Going Forever

14 Sep

Most readers of this blog know that purchasing a used car and driving it into the ground will save you considerable money compared to buying a new car and only keeping it a few years. Preppers should be pragmatic with their vehicles. You don’t need a status symbol, only reliable and safe transportation.

If you purchase a used car, three important things to consider are: 1) The engine; 2) the transmission; and 3) the body.

There are four main ways cars die: 1) The engine fails or wears out; 2) the transmission needs to be rebuilt and it would cost more to rebuild it than to replace the car; 3) the body rusts out, especially structural metal in unibody frames; and 4) Some idiot crashes into your vehicle totaling it.

Purchasing a used vehicle with problems in any of the key areas is likely to lead to substantial repair costs or a shortened vehicle life. If you want your vehicle to last twenty years and/or over 200,000 miles:

1) Treat your engine properly. Regular oil and oil filter changes minimize engine wear. A clean air filter prevents air borne dust from getting into your cylinder bores. Construction dust is particularly harmful because it contains pulverized concrete. Protect your car from junk in your gas by changing your fuel filter regularly. In the winter, ISO-Heat helps remove moisture condensation as does keeping your gas tank full.

Other fluids shouldn’t be neglected either. Coolant contains rust inhibitors which degrade with age. Flush your old coolant out every 2 or 3 years. Brake fluid absorbs water. Every 3 or 4 years, replacing brake fluid is a good idea.

Follow your vehicle’s maintenance schedule. Don’t overlook things like the PCV valve.

Catch and correct problems as early as possible. Failure to replace a squishy radiator hose leads to losing your coolant. You’re on the road. Rather than stopping, you make the major error of driving just a bit further. Your car overheads and blows a head gasket. An inexpensive problem to correct becomes an expensive headache.

Engines made in the 1990s should be reliable for at least 100,000 miles and probably 200,000 miles. 300,000 miles isn’t impossible.

2) When purchasing a vehicle, many give the engine special consideration. Is it a reliable and proven design? The same should go for the transmission. What model of transmission does the vehicle have? Google it. You won’t find as much information, but if it has significant issues, a Google search could give you a heads up.

Many automotive do-it-yourselfers hesitate to do their own transmission work. It’s a big job to rebuild a transmission. You can find rebuild manuals to help you. With transmission work, the motto should be “cleanliness is next to Godliness.” You don’t want to introduce impurities into the system.

With transmission maintenance, the big question is: To flush or not to flush? Car guys debate this. Too many vehicles go in for “routine” transmission maintenance and come out with a buggy transmission. The consensus seems to be that if you have an older vehicle which hasn’t had regular transmission flushes, you shouldn’t flush the transmission. The newer fluid might lead to gears slipping or the flush process can remove build up which can lead to fluid leaks.

Another option is not to flush, but to drop the transmission pan, change the filter, and top off with new transmission fluid. The older fluid in the torque converter isn’t changed, but this partial fluid change posses less risk than a flush. Most crucially, the filter gets changed. Don’t forget to clean metal shavings from the magnet and replace it, if your transmission has one. Don’t sweat small amounts of metal shavings there though. I’m told that’s quite common.

3) If you don’t drive a lot and you live in a Northern state where roads are salted in winter, underbody rust can threaten the life of your vehicle long before the engine or transmission fails. After a couple decades, structural metal vanishes. In a crash, your car could collapse uncontrollably.

One solution to the build up of road salt is to wash your car in the winter every two weeks. That removes the salt. Give the most attention to the underbody.

The most dangerous time is when the weather warms up and built up snow under the vehicle melts. The salty mixture wrecks havoc with metal.

Modern vehicles have a “unibody” frame design. There isn’t a separate frame, which can be replaced in parts. The metal wraps back and forth, and it’s challenging to know how to make a proper repair. Inspect the underside of your potential car purchase. Are the jack points solid and intact? Is metal missing? If so, it’s probably best to pass on the vehicle. Vehicles in Southern states should last much longer because of body rust.

Cosmetic rust on the top of the body shouldn’t be neglected either. Once it starts, it grows. At a minimum, hit a dinged area with a drop of automotive paint.

If you’ve maintained your engine, prayed for your transmission, and fought underbody rust, the one thing that can still knock your vehicle out of commission is an accident. The only way to keep your car going forever, is to leave it sit in the garage.

As preppers, we should all be careful and responsible drivers. Accidents still happen. In a way, we can take advantage of this. If you drive a popular model, after it’s six or seven years old, there should be quite a few on the road. A bunch of those cars will have been wrecked and will be sitting in junkyards or insurance company salvage yards. Those unfortunate vehicles can be a source of hard-to-find parts for your vehicle as it ages.

I’m not talking about parts like shock absorbers, spark plugs, brake rotors, filters, and hoses. Those parts you’ll find produced by after-market parts companies for decades. Or the parts are so universal, they’re common to many newer vehicles. Nor do I mean parts that are easily fabricated. You can bend and make your own brake lines from coils of brake line. The parts I mean are those which are likely to be ignored by the after-market but which look likely to fail. They’re the parts you can’t easily build yourself.

Several parts come to mind. The gas filler neck on older vehicles can rust out after a few decades. Refurbished ones can be found, but there isn’t much of a market for newly made ones for older vehicles. Custom molded plastic parts, like coolant surge tanks, integral to the cooling system, are another part you’ll struggle to find once your vehicle is a few decades old.

You’ll want to be selective in what parts you stockpile. Obviously, you can’t and don’t want to stockpile everything! Don’t worry about purely cosmetic parts. Don’t worry about parts that look like they’ll never fail, like heavy-duty engine brackets.

If you plan to keep your vehicle for decades, you might want to drop by a local pick-your-parts salvage yard and snag some spares. Because rare parts aren’t any more expensive than common parts, some people make money reselling rare parts they scavenge.

Some serious do-it-yourselfers pull entire engines and transmissions from wrecked vehicles. For most of us, that’s overkill. You’d need to be a hardcore driver before you’d need a spare engine and spare transmission!

The Internet makes this market more efficient today. If you need a part and can’t find one locally look at sites like These used car part websites compile lists of what junkyard dealers say they have.

If you follow this basic advice, you can keep your vehicle going a very long time. You’ll save a ton of money.

Charlie Palmer -author The Prepper Next Door: A Practical Guide For Disaster And Emergency Planning

Keep Your Brain Healthy: Train Your Brain

10 Sep

We all know the benefits of exercise and healthy living. It’s good for your body. You have less risk of diabetes, heart attacks, and other ailments. It’s important to keep your brain healthy too!

Here’s how:

1) Get cardio exercise. It improves blood flow to the brain which helps the brain repair itself and build new brain cells. If you read about the brain today, you’ll come across the word “plasticity” which means that the brain has a surprising ability to change over time. The healthier your body is, the healthier your brain will be. Just like biceps or belly fat, the brain can get better or worse, depending on our actions. The building of new brain cells is called neurogenesis. Neurogenesis can happen in anybody, regardless of age.

2) Avoid getting hit in the head. Well, duh. If you walked into a boxing gym in the 1980s and started talking about “brain damage,” many boxers would argue that brain damage doesn’t happen to every boxer. Today, we know better.

In non-technical terms, the brain is relatively soft and gel like. The skull is bone and hard. When the brain gets bounced around, it smashes up against the skull. It develops tiny cuts. These cuts are a source of a plaque that cause problems.

The sad fact: Any serious amateur or professional boxer with six or seven years of serious training and competitive fights has some level of brain damage. It’s unavoidable.

More powerful blows to the brain can cause concussions. Repeated concussions are especially bad. If you suffer a concussion, you must let your brain fully heal before you risk injury again.

Some sports commentators predict that American football will cease to exist in the next thirty years, because of the risk of head injury. Many professional football players will not let their younger children play full contact football.

Be sure your children wear helmets when they bike or skateboard. In my time, this would have been seen as a sissy thing. The truth: protecting your head is always smart.

3) Reduce stress. Stress floods the brain with harmful chemicals. One study showed poor people make worse decisions because they’re under financial stress. If you can remove the source of stress that’s best. If you can’t, meditation can help people deal with stress. Exercise relieves stress too. Laughter reduces stress. Building strong social ties reduces stress.

4) Use it or lose it. To prevent mental decline we must challenge our brains. The fancy term given to this is “cognitive engagement.” Engage your brain in a challenging activity. Read a book, learn to play chess. In fact: Learn anything new. Whatever it is, is up to you. The process of learning will create new connections between brain cells that will keep your brain functioning at its best.

Mindfulness or concentrated thought is good for the brain. It doesn’t matter if its reading, meditation, or gardening. Mindfulness is all about learning to do one thing and give it your full attention. The more challenging it is, the better.

5) Eat healthy. It’s believed foods rich in antioxidants, like blueberries, protect the brain. A balanced diet that’s good for the body is good for the brain.

The opposite is true too: An unhealthy diet can damage the brain. Too much fat and sugar damages the hypothalamus. This can interfere with the body’s metabolism. It takes a long time to repair the damage, but the brain can heal with changes in diet. This is believed to be one of the reasons why it’s so difficult for overweight people to lose the extra pounds.

6) Engage the senses. The brain has a surprising number of jobs. It deals with sight, sound, touch, and smell. It can be rational or creative. It deals with emotions. It processes language. Certain parts of the brain have even been found to be active in spelling words. If, like me, you’re a lousy speller, blame it on your brain! That part of your brain just isn’t up to snuff.

Learning new motor skills forces the brain to learn and adapt. Lawrence C. Katz, author of Keep Your Brain Alive, coined the term neurobics to refer to brain exercises which engaged the senses in unique ways. You’ve probably heard about trying to brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand. This is a neurobic activity.

When you use your non-dominant hand to brush your teeth, you engage both sides of your brain. Watch a child use a spoon and you’ll see motor skills need to be honed through practice. We aren’t born with them.

For more of a challenge, try occasionally writing with your non-dominant hand. Other creative ways Katz likes to engage more of the senses: Learn some Braille. Reading with your fingers is no small thing. Or learn American sign language. Talk with your fingers, listen with your eyes.

The one thing I was shocked not to see in Katz’s book was dance. Dance could well be the ultimate neurobic activity. Even just taking a few steps backward powerfully engages the brain. Learn to dance GANGNAM STYLE and improve your ability to think on your feet.

One neurobic suggestion from Katz will go over well with preppers: He likes searching for edible wild plants or trying to identify flowers and trees. That can engage a sense of vision, touch, and smell. In the modern world, we let many of our senses wither and die. Get outside and enjoy nature. It’s a richer environment than a cubicle.