Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Fallacy of the Fallacy of the BOB

Over the summer, a hotly debated pair of articles addressed what the author calls the fallacy of the bug out.

If you haven't read it yet, you might want to familiarize yourself with the premises along with views challenging the current trajectory of preparation that many of us have chosen. It is not so much that the author is wrong since we are all speculating, but instead, regardless of what direction your prepper’s compass points, you must accept some assumptions as true in order to move on to the solution phase. The author just runs wild with some assumptions, and as far as I can tell, throws up his hands in surrender to the unknown.

My two main concerns with articles such as these is that many readers will use them as evidence of pending doom and fail to digest the take-aways that could benefit one’s own preparation. At worst, the articles can be used by the ill-informed as evidence to make fun of preppers at best, and encourage inaction at worst.  Another concern is that the BOB or bug out bag will fall victim of the so-called fallacy as well.

There are plenty of examples where the BO is a fallacy. For instance, if the world is totally irradiated in an all-out nuclear way, then I for one have not sufficiently preped, nor have a place to BO to. My bad. I should have built that space ship when I had the chance.

But if there is a wide scale shortage of food, fuel, or electricity, I can ride it out for a while. Even if there is mild to serious civil unrest, I have plans so while my survival is not assured, I will have an above average chance of beating the odds by being a minimum of one step ahead of the rest of society. At least that’t what I think.

The article’s author presents a compelling case for bugging in (as well as pretty much giving up all hope). And he’s right. On the bugging in part. If one bugs out for fun, you call it camping, or traveling, or vacationing, or visiting relatives. The BO is for when you don’t have a choice and you’re not doing it for fun. But that certainly doesn't mean your BO plans lives in vein. And the same is true for the BOB.

The BOB is not a gun, knife, roll of duct tape and a granola bar. The BOB is a portable insurance policy you are allowed to write yourself. Each item included in your BOB can be a lifesaver, or a liability. And like insurance, everything is a gamble. I honesty hope my BOB gathers dust for the rest of my life.

If we could analyze and deconstruct a realistic TEOTWAEKI ex post facto, or even just a localized SHTF event, there would be several important angles to study. First, the nature of the event itself. Another would be the public reaction. A third would be the secondary effects, and finally, the duration of the recovery phase. Preppers must consider each aspect that requires assumptions, and then move forward further piling on the assumptions on previous assumptions. And each aspect can be prepared for well or poorly.

Most weekend preppers have tunnel vision when it comes to functional preparedness. Health cannot be improved with more ammo. The best tactical flashlight will not make up for those dozens of extra pounds you’re packing around. And two tanks of gasoline won’t protect you if you have nowhere to go (as you might have noticed when pulling off the interstate to pee, you will most likely go to where everyone else also chose to go before you).

Prepper’s networks might be your gig, or perhaps you’ve got a Kaczynski Kabin tucked away off-grid in the sticks. Regardless of your bend, you have to be useful, whether to the group or to yourself if you want to see tomorrow.

So back to the scenario. You don’t need a list of bad things that could happen, but it might be helpful to consider time banding the BOB. A 72 hour kit is a different beast compared to a BOB. Three days of stuff is to keep you from becoming a bigger problem while the immediate problem is solved. 

A BOB is your parachute after you bail out. The BOB is not to be taken lightly, nor is it to be treated as just more survival supplies. The BOB is your last attempt at maintaining a structured and controlled existence. The BOB must match the knowledge you carry in your brain. The BOB is an the physical manifestation of your intelligence and your plans. One peek into your BOB and I can tell if you will be an asset or a liability.

Your BOB is a personal extension of the persona you will have during a disaster. You can outfit your BOB with what you want to be during the event hoping you’ll become that person. Or you can take a serious look at who you are and what you need to survive. Many of the most adept survivalists (climbers, hunters, adventurers, outdoors folks) I know are also the most minimalist. They carry nothing they haven't used (let alone something they don’t know how to use).  And as expected, much of their equipment is surprisingly low tech, but never low quality.

There is a tradeoff between quality and quantity. Would you be better off with a dozen cheap Chinese knives or one Benchmade? How about a case of Hi-Points, or a single Glock? Food for thought? Nope.

Would you rather have two pairs of cheap shoes or one good pair? How about an endless supply of leaky raincoats or one nice Gore-Tex one? How about a parking lot of junky trucks or one that runs perfectly?

There are subtle elements of hoarding that seep into prepping in general and BOBs in specific. I do not want a single piece of substandard equipment in my BOB, or in any other aspect of my prepping. It often startles me how quickly free crap is gobbled up at trade shows and conferences. How many crappy flashlights do you need? Weak keyring carabiners? Total crap daypacks and cheap shoulder bags? Garbage pocket knifes. I’ll give you the answer: ZERO. In many cases you would be better off without the garbage equipment.

If you ever have to dig through a bin of junky just-in-cases looking for that single good one, or sift through a pile of look-alikes in search of the real one, then you know that having those quality decoys are a detriment to solid preparation. But let’s get back on message.

There are several real-life needs for a proper BOB that don’t involve piles of corpse or mass civil unrest. The BOB can go into action from just a few unorganized events. Add a touch of panic, and criminal opportunism and you and BOB will be good friends. You don’t have to imagine a localized issue such as a disease outbreak, gas line explosion, chemical leak making land unlivable for a while if not for ever, forest fire, flood, and my favorite, airplane crash into your neighborhood to justify the BOB. Instead, your insurance policy against the unknown is its own justification.

My BOB is not going to get me through any level four biosafety release, or give me a fighting chance against an invading army, but it will buy me some time, and give me the piece of mind for protection and to put some distance between me and the threat.

So the fallacy of the BOB can be argued while sliding your glass back and forth on polished wood, or while picking at the label on your longneck, but when the SHTF, my BOB and me, we’re best buds.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Dear Professor Prepper,

Are multi-tools worth it?


*They have their place, but that place is small. 

I certainly have more than my share of multi-tools including Leathermans, SOGs, Gerbers, Bucks, and a few other odd ducks where a handful of pocket tool trinkets were stuck together somehow. In fact, I have a weakness for multi-tools and often pick up a good but used one if it only commands a Hamilton or two. 

But multi-tools do nothing well. Nothing. However that is not their purpose. They are not supposed to do anything well. They are a one-size-fits-all solution for every problem. Except perhaps for answering the question of "what should I give as a gift, there is no situation that exactly matches a multi-tools design, Multi-tools can never be more than an imperfect solution even if you can complete the task with the multi-tool. When I want pliers, I want pliers. Not some uncomfortable object that seven out of 10 third graders would identify as pliers. And when I want a knife, I don't want a sharp piece of metal riveted to the handle of something that three out of ten third graders can't tell are pliers.

Sure, multi-tools can be life-savers, and even the crappy Chinese ones will cut your arm free if trapped under a boulder in a Utah canyon, but that’s not the point. Multi-tools are nothing more than a do-it-all-but-not-well object designed to simplify your choices when heading out the door. I have serious concerns about a person's abilities when I see them use a multi-tool indoors when REAL tools are available).

I’ve never met anyone who uses all the features of their multi-tools on a regular basis. Even on an irregular basis for that matter. And what’s with the tweezers? But I digress.

Most people only use two features, the knife the pliers. And the only thing more ridiculous then the pliers (except for the tweezers of course) is the knife. Long ago I relegated my Swiss Army knives to the junk drawer and glove box (with the bottle opener permanently deployed. SA knives are inefficient design except if you want to snap off fingernails.

The evolution of the knife has taken thousands of years. Good blades are natural extension of the index finger, and can be manipulated with the same dexterity. The sharp blade on a multi-tool is a similar to a knife, but not one. It is a sharp blade-like thing attached to a awkward metal brick. It fits in your hand like a rock, and we usually throw rocks, not cut with them. Many multi-tools do not have blade locks meaning the awkward shaped handle now has a better than average chance of “mousetrapping” your fingers; I guess effectively adding yet another useless feature to your tool: A paper cutter that also works great on flesh.

As the Christmas shopping season approaches, the feature set on multi-tools grows. If  you thought the Swiss Army Champion knife was an exercise in futility, check out this one.

The core of a multi-tool is the blade and the pliers. All the rest is marketing. If you need a saw, use a saw. If you need scissors, use scissors. And by all means, if you need a screwdriver, use a screwdriver.

I've had the unfortunate experience on more than one occasion to offer assistance to a friend or hapless citizen with a mechanical problem. Imagine how hard it was for me to remain positive when I’m looking at a dead car (often when it's raining for some reason) and the only “tool” available is a cheap multi-tool likely received free with a $12 magazine subscription.

I got the car running, but I still remember the bad taste of that tool. Just like knives, pliers have been making great advances in design and function ever since they crawled out of the primordial swamp millions of years ago. I already wrote about my knives, but my EDC pliers include the following:

I have others, but the Knipex ride with me in my bag (even on airplanes) and the Snap-ons ride along anytime I’m on the road.

All my vehicles have tool kits, and for longer adventures I supplement or double up on my tools, but for pliers, the Knipex are astoundingly handy clamping down on anything from a sheet of paper to a one inch bolt! Leverage is separate issue, but given their weight is a few hairs over three ounces, it’s a minimal disadvantage.

Recently I picked up a Leatherman Style PS. Ever since the TSA disprepared Americans, I’ve traveled at a disadvantage. I only carry-on luggage (packing no more then I can run with) so often I buy a blade on the other end, then giving it away before flying back (rather give it to someone I know than a TSA agent to sell it on eBay for beer money). But the Style does a fine job as long as your expectations are low. Another handy device is the Swiss+Tech keychain multi-tool. The blade is sharp, serrated, and the bottle opener really does make you earn your drink.

If you are still leaning towards a multi-tool, then I endorse the Leatherman Skeletool.

It still has a few hokey features, but the pliers fit nicely in your hand, both when squeezing and using your little finger to provide reverse pressure for efficiency and precision. The knife is also well thought out. It deploys easily with a thumb hole, and locks in place with a solid snap using a liner lock. It has a combination carabiner-bottle opener that sucks as a carabiner and sucks as bottle opener. Yea, they function, but neither is fun to use. I prefer opening my beer bottles with the pliers because its more fun. The thing intended to be a bottle opener works backwards from tradition and usually takes as many pulls as the pliers.

The bit driver is also a worthwhile tool, and pretty much the only other tool in the Skeletool, with skeleton meaning both full of holes and a lack of tools. Available to this tool is a separate bit kit , and bit extension

I have both and actually use them more than I would have thought. It is still not on the same planet as a quality screwdriver or hex/torx wrench, but  using the Skeletool with the bits and extension is no where near as painful as it it with much other multi-tools.

So in a nutshell, are multi-tools worth it? The reason I say no is because there should be better options available. Multi-tools are a last resort. They are what you grab when you are out of choices. They are an acceptable backup especially if you haven’t planned well.

But then planning is what it’s all about, right?

Asking a question indicates there is a choice. So if you have ask, then the answer is no.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What knife should I carry?

Dear Professor Prepper,

What knife should I carry?

That’s easy. The Gerber Silver Trident.

Too big, you say? Then how about the Spyderco Ladybug?

Too small? Then the Benchmade Nimravus.

Doesn’t fold? Oh, then you must be looking for a Kershaw Ken Onion Tactical Blur.

Don’t like the handle? Well then how about the Surefire Delta.

Too expensive? Then how about a Buck Nobelman?

Not strong enough? Then how about the...

You know, why don’t you just tell me what you want the knife for and I’ll tell you which one is best for you.

Let’s see, you want a lightweight, strong folder, of high quality, with a functional blade shape, one hand deployment but not automatic, excellent steel, textured handle grip, and a price around $100.

That’s easy. The Benchmade Griptillian. You even get a choice of sizes, blade shapes, and plenty of other options. It’ll cost you about $80 online, or if want a totally customized set of Benchmade pieces, they offer such a service on their website.

Benchmade will custom-make your knife with your choice of right and left hand handle colors, serrated or plain edge, blade shape, blade steel, black or satin blade color, highlight colors, and even blade text, and get this, blade image (uploaded from your computer). That  last point should be a hit with the zombie lovers. But none of that really matters here.

The Griptillian won’t turn any heads when it comes to bulk, beef or mass. What makes the Griptillian knife so great is that it is a true performer, and a worthy EDC. And the Griptillian offer choices. Some prefer the tactical black blade and black handle of their black opps dreams, while others go for “emergency orange” to complete their hero fantasies. Black is less obvious, but can look scary. Orange is highly visible, but the that’s the point, and you hardly look fearsome with a safety orange knife. That latter point is important when you have to whip out your blade in public to open a box or cut some rope.

Folding knives are great except for the fact that they fold. Folding means a hinge, and a hinge means a weakness.

Most of us won’t need to stab a tree then stand on the knife in order to shoot over brush or cars, but then again society usually doesn’t crash down around us. The solution is two knives. An EDC folder, and a fixed blade. The value of a knife is so great that outside of he-man Bowie knives and Tennessee Toothpicks, the size and weight of a second blade is trivial compared to its potential contributions.

My opinion is that the knife is for cutting. Use a different tool for heavy tasks since it might be the end of your knife. Now, as much as any other beer drinker, I love the youtube product destruction videos where paintball mask wearing outcasts chops firewood with a pocket knife. But really, if it comes to that, you got bigger problems. Baton if must, but save some edge for your own jugular.

And then there’s the raging argument between plain and serrated blades. I say get the serrated edge, then then my truck has only six cylinders, and I don’t shoot a 1911. Purists will claim they can cut through anything as well or better than a serrated blade, and their so much easier to sharpen. While smooth edges take less skill and time to sharpen, the rest is hogwash. Like the Glock is for shooting, the knife is for cutting. Sharpening is not the job of the knife. With your smooth edge, try slicing through thick cardboard smart guy. After five inches, your plain blade will useless squeaking like Jeep Wagoneer. And how about plastic sheeting? Forget it. Wet polypro rope? Especially not after dulling your blade on the plastic sheeting. This ain’t a contest solder, it’s a mission.

A razor sharp plain edge is like a fine meal. It’s a pleasure for the moment and makes a fine memory, but still, it won’t last long. And anyway, if you have to ask me, then you need a serrated blade for you pocket EDC knife. But your fixed blade, now that’s a different story for a later time.

My crystal ball gets a little smoky when predicting just when the end will begin, but I have this gut feeling that I might get plenty of use out of my EDC knife long before the fan turns brown. Sure, I got one or two in my BOB, but the essentialness of a knife demands that one is with me at all times. 

My EDC knife must compliment my BOB knives. Since I work in an office and most of my cutting tasks involve envelopes and frozen burrito packages, my EDC is nothing to stick a pig with. However, in my desk, car, truck, daypack, computer bag, and the junk bin on my dresser are many more choices from a Cold Steel tanto, to a Spyderco Rescue, to a Kershaw 1620ST, a Glock field knife, and others. Which all leads me to my final answer to your question “What knife should you carry?”

You should carry a serious knife as often as possible, and a smaller one when the serious one is too much. This EDC carry is merely for day to day operations and back up for when TSHTF. In you BOB you need a fixed blade. A good fixed blade. Not one of those sub $20 specials on Amazon so popular with the hobby preppers. You know the type. The ones who expect a long and loud government warning before the trouble arrives, and only plan the end to arrive conveniently during a warm summer evening, not in the dead of winter while out of town.

Here are the knives to get
(choices influenced by availability, price, warranty, and, of course, experience):

If stuck on a deserted island: Gerber Silver Trident

Small EDC: Spyderco Ladybug, serrated edge

Fixed blade stelth: Benchmade Nimravus
Fixed blade overt / survival: Gerber LMF II (color of your choice)

Fixed blade pig sticker: Glock field knife with root saw

The point of all this is to tell you exactly what you need so you can stop worrying about it and move on to the more constructive aspects of life. Things are great right now so enjoy them. Savor the flavors. Enjoy your pillow. Drink clean water. Waste ammo at the range. But please, please don’t encourage the arrival of the apocalypse. Really, it won’t be fun.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

How much ammo is enough?

Dear Professor Prepper,

How much ammo is enough?

500 rounds. Well, actually 510 to be exact. 

This is a good starting point, but instead of just trusting me and counting out 500+ shells, consider your situation. First of all, I will assume you are prepping to go mobile so the ammo will be in your BOB. In order to arrive at a exact BOB ammo number, I am also going to assume you have only two different types of cartridges to consider, the 9mm and the 5.56 (I’m giving you credit for reading my prior blog posts). I even know some preppers who have 9mm sidearms and 9mm carbines for a grand total of one type of cartridge to worry about. Bonus points for thinking, but a final grade of C+ when it comes to overall practicality.

If you are outfitting your home-as-your-bunker, then there is no ceiling to the number of rounds to keep on hand. I’d suggest an absolute minimum of a thousand rounds for every gun you deem important, with 10,000 rounds if a .22 or two is in your safe. But going mobile is a whole different story. And you MUST plan for going mobile. 

There is an old photojournalist’s adage that you should never carry more gear than you can run with. The same is true here. If you cannot run due to health, age, etc. then insert climbing stairs, or getting in and out of the back of a pickup truck as a similar measure of required mobility while packing your BOB. The point is that your mobility is key to your survival. While a big pack might absorb more bullets, it will also give your adversary a larger and slower moving target to follow. But there is a useful caveat here. You can have BOBs within your BOB.

The simplest BOB is a sidearm in a holster, a knife, a flashlight, and a brain. The holster is on you belt, and the light and knife in your pockets. You can pile on the tools and survival bling after the basics, but stage the BOBs for effective deployment. Small survival essentials pouch should attach to a larger survival essentials pouch (not inside it in case you don’t have time to dig around). The larger pouch in turn can be a set of pouches inside your BOB backpack. Each pouch has some ammo, and of course, there is a dedicated ammo pouch for both the 9mm and the 5.56, and of course some will have both 9mm and 5.56,. The reason for the variability is you may need to leave your BOB and your rifle so don’t carry what you can’t use.

Also consider your profile. There may be times you want to be as small as possible. Dump your big BOB and strap on the necessary smaller BOBs. Did I mention that every BOB pouch must have its own way of hands-free carry. Belt loops are fine. Carabiners are great, but skip the grimlocs unless you really need the BOB to fall off under certain circumstances. I don’t. Grimlocs are worthless for hauling, climbing, and any rescue scenario. Use real equipment, not key rings.

Once you have each BOB pouch appropriately filled with its level of gear, sprinkle 9mm ammo into the pouch according to available space. These shells are not your primary goto ammo, but rather frosting on the bullet cake. What you don’t want is to have all your ammo in one place. Much of it, yes, but not all of it.

Of the suggested 510 rounds of ammo in your BOB, first calculate the percentages for the 9mm and 5.56. Some rules of thumb will help including your setting (confined city environment or open rural country side). You will always have your 9, but not always your rifle. What is your plan if you must use your sidearm? WIll you be far from your long gun (more than 10 minutes), or will it just be in another room? Is there a chance you will have to hunt game while mobile? What about sharing ammo with those who are in need?

Be realistic. Your neighborhood will remain as it is for a while so its not likely you will be totally homebound for long. And remember, most bad guys have cheap guns, little ammo, and no tactical experience. They won’t last long especially given the company they carry. Instead, it will be organized groups driven by political or religious agendas, or perhaps just basic needs. Everyone will be just as uncertain as you, and perhaps more scared. Marching around the neighborhood with your AR at the ready will only bring scorn and possibly wrath in the from of a pointy projectile. If you act like a threat, you will be dealt with as one. Don’t be stupid. Keep a low profile, and pretend to be just as vulnerable as everyone else. If you have a family, this is extremely important. You have to remain alive to function as a leader of your household. Braggers and posers are bullet magnets.

When you are driving you better not stop and pile out of your BOB rig like a deploying SWAT team. It might keep the immediate riffraff away, but certainly not the armed and desperate. Even today, armored cars are attacked. Unless you are part of a team of five or more operators, your overt GI Joe actions will only attract the wrong attention. Just look at the civil unrest across the world. What you see on TV is exactly what people in this country are capable of. Use the news footage as training videos. Consider what happens over there as pause for reflection of what could happen here. Imagine yourself in the middle of it. What would you do?  But be cognizant of the difference between cultural oppression mixed with political gain compared to whatever caused the need for your prepping plans to move into their action phase.

A Glock 19 holds 15+1 rounds. Your AR should have 30 round mags. Pmags to be specific. Pmags with Ranger Plates to be more specific (remember the carabiners?). That means there are two Glock mag dumps per AR mag dump which give you reloading proportions. TEOTWAWKI is not the time to learn to aim. Each bang is one less of your total bangs. Just like a video game, your ammo meter will steadily drop until it hits zero. At that point you better have your running shoes on. So since you cannot take down the world, and this is no drill, your single objective is to live another day. That means get the hell away! Law enforcement did not vaporize, nor did the army, national guard, or criminals. Just plan on the good guys being tied up for a while with bigger problems.

With the above in mind, add one more equation to the mix: the number of rounds in relation to the size and weight of the gun. There is no point in carrying around your AR if you only have one full mag. Of course that’s a good start, but the overhead of weight size and obviousness of a long gun should demand that you can afford to feed it when its hungry. For that reason, must have easy access to your ammo supply, which better match the gun(s) you are carrying. That way you won’t have to carry what you don’t need.

So back to the equation. Start with 30% 9mm and 70% 5.56 and let your packing dictate the exact numbers. The proportions above roughly equal 150 rounds of 9mm and 360 rounds of 5.56. You should have five additional loaded 9mm mags at your disposal. That’s five times 15 rounds or 75 shots good to go. Another 75 lay in waiting. Your Glock can take up to 33 round mags, but that is the topic for a later blog.

A total of six 30 round 5.56 mags would give you 180 of your 360 shots. Eight total mags is a common practice for combat, but we are not in combat. We are trying to avoid combat. The remaining 180 rounds of your 360 would allow a total reload of all mags. As you can see, keeping things simple has its benefits.

If you read any of the prepper fantasies or survival romances, you will see a glorification of gunfire. But that is just to sell books. In reality, it would be best if the world recovered and civilization returned without a shot fired. I doubt that would happen, but prepping is not looking for a firefight. Effective prepping includes how to evade one!

There is no right or wrong here. Only degrees of hindsight. While some would argue to carry as much ammo as possible, I would argue that my nimbleness is more advantageous then the weight of their ammo pile. Some would argue for heavier firepower. I would argue in favor of my stealth and accuracy. Some would argue that their combat experience makes them superior. I would agree and try to be their friend.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Combat rifle or Hunting rifle? Or both?

Dear Professor Prepper,

I’ve heard that I should have both a combat rifle and a hunting rifle. What do you think?

Get yourself an AR15 and a thousand rounds of PMC ammo, and then stop worrying about it and get on with your life.

If you want both rifles, great. Have at it. But if you are serious about prepping in the spirit of prepping, then there is no competition to the AR except lightly from the AK. I say lighty because it all depends on if your prep-scenario includes unstructured urban combat. The AK excels at spraying bullets. Great for taking over Mogadishu, but surviving during a dark period in the US, not so much.

In most prepper fantasies, one imagines living off the land, hunting and fishing for food, and keeping a low profile until civilization returns. Nice idea, but totally unrealistic. First of all, the moment it hits the fan, it’s going to be a free-for-all with everyone on their own. There will be no hunting, only poaching. And poachers follow totally different rules, if any.

Some envision a hunting camp and game hanging from nearby trees. Well, imagine hunting in Afghanistan or Iraq, or Sudan for that matter. Hunters will also be hunted. And hanging game will become a grocery store.

First of all, every easily shot animal will be easily shot. That includes horses, cows, goats, dogs, and any moving type of wildlife. If you truly don’t know where your next meal is coming from, or how long you are on your own, you will hoard game even if it means most of the game is wasted. Hey, leaving that Bambi walking around does not mean it will be there when I need it, so I better take it now.

So in less than a week, anything that even weakly resembles hunting is gone for good. 

Let’s get down to business. Any gun whose names can be abbreviated with postal codes will rule, with Arkansas and Alaska taking the lead. ARs are highly accurate arms with plenty of combat experience. The fast but small bullet will drop any game under 300 lbs. if cleanly shot. If you are poaching bear, you might want to think through your plans since a mad bear tends, unlike a deer, to attack its attacker. 

Sure, this might be a good reason for a .308 in the AR platform, but for many of the same reasons you should go with a 9mm over a 10mm or .40 S&W, stick with a 5.56. If it ever comes to absolutely needing the .308 over a .223, then you planned poorly. The differences between a 5.56 and a .308 are largely on paper. Both will kill. Both are accurate. And both drop deer. If you must have the added power of a .308, then why not a .338? Or a 45-70, or a .460. The essential keys on this ring are 1) reliability, 2) abundant ammo, 3) accuracy, 4) light weight, and 5) interchangeability of parts.

AKs shoot a heavier bullet but were never designed for long range accuracy. Yea, I know there are AK fanboys who have accurized their guns, but after replacing the stock, barrel and loads of receiver parts, I’d argue it’s no longer an AK in the spirit of what Mikhail had in mind back in 1947. But AKs are not in the same league as ARs. Just as Hyundai vehicles are totally different from Toyota pickup trucks. One is cheap and almost disposable, but highly reliable in its short life. The other is more precise, and has a longer range without attention, better quality, and tighter tolerances in its guts. There is a tradeoff between accuracy and a strong digestive track. AKs can eat junkfood all day, can sprint quite well, but suck at marathon running. ARs can be pickier eaters, but not vegans. They will serve up a heaping dish of lead up close, and still poke holes in flesh at 500 yards.

Those who profess the need for hunting rifle of popular caliber should think through the real numbers for which the gun is suited including the weight of ammo, the weight of the gun, and if scoped, its usefulness at close range such as under 50 feet. Sure, I’d love to have one handy for the specialized tasks a hunting rifle serves well, but there is no way it would make the cut if I have to load the car/truck and hit the road. And it would not even be under consideration when on foot.

And while we are on the topic of ARs, skip the tactical furniture. If your AR’s weight is more than 20% aftermarket add-ons like lights, optics, HWSs, stock enhancements, oversized quad-rails, laser sights, night vision, stock storage filled with 123 batteries, extra bolts, etc. then get a grip on your manhood and ditch some bling. I see many so-called “Katrina guns” all Barbie’d up to the point they need scheduled maintenance whether or not they are used. The first tumble down the stairs or mountain side will selectively remove all superfluous accessories from your Barbie. Let’s just skip the middleman and avoid the excessive bling in the first place.

Here’s what will happen the moment you venture out during daylight with your snazzy Barbie gun. You will appear so tacti-cool that you’ll be shot on sight, most likely in the back of the head. Tactical gear is a flashing blue-light special that your pack and pockets will be filled with a treasure chest of survival goodies, ammo, and high-end cutting tools. Don't advertise yourself as an ammo dump! If you want to remain alive in an urban environ, then you better look like no more than a homeless man with a gun. Someone to stay away from, but not to bother robbing. If a possible threat has a gun, they do not need your gun so likely they won’t initiate a fight. If they don’t have a gun, then you are more of a threat to them then a victim. But if you have tactical gear oozing out between your cracks, then you are a hard target worthy of takedown. Go play laser tag to see just how fast you’ll be killed.

So, in answer to the question about a rifle, a basic AR with iron sights is 95% of the equation. Then you can customize it for your needs filling out the last 5%. An EOTech HWS is a good add on, but unless you plan on pulling some pretty stupid stunts and getting yourself into a Mexican standoff, simplify your firearm. Get a basic AR15. Practice once a month with a hundred rounds. Enjoy life now and stop worrying about if you made the right decision. You did.