Three Survival Articles from American Family Survival

How Much Ammo is Enough?

The ability to defend ourselves is an important part of surviving. There are many survival scenarios where the chances of encountering dangerous people or dangerous animals are very real. So, we buy guns and ammo, tying to make sure we are ready to defend ourselves.

But defending ourselves and attacking others are two distinctly different things. I see a lot of preppers with AR-15s, which are great defensive rifles, if your home comes under attack by a hungry gang. On the other hand, I see a lot of sniper rifles too. Unless those are hunting rifles in disguise, I’m not really sure what scenario they are thinking of, where using a sniper rifle to shoot their enemies can be considered to be self-defense.

Nevertheless, firearms selections are about as personal as you can get in the survival community. We all have our own ideas about what’s appropriate and what’s ideal and we buy accordingly. What’s actually more important is how competent we are with the guns that we have.

Another big debate is over how much ammunition to stockpile. That’s a difficult one, as we don’t know what sort of survival scenario we’re stockpiling for. Perhaps that’s why some people give blanket answers like 10,000 rounds or 1,000 rounds per gun.

Like many people, I have several different calibers of firearms, both in pistols and rifles, although I only have one shotgun gauge. But assuming we leave practice ammo out of the question, I can’t see any situations where I can imagine myself going through 1,000 rounds of pistol ammo; either for my EDC pistol or for what I think of as my combat pistol, the one I would probably carry in a for-real breakdown of society type scenario.

Pistols are purely defensive. As one famous marksmanship instructor put it, “A pistol is so that you have something to fight with, while making your way back to your long gun.” Using it as a defensive firearm, I can’t think of a single situation where I would go through three full magazines of ammo, let alone more.

For that matter, the 1,000 rounds of rifle ammo seems a bit high too. Especially when we compare it to what the Army thinks an infantry solder should carry. Army doctrine calls for an infantryman’s basic ammo load to be seven 30-round magazines. That’s a total of 210 rounds. For those carrying a pistol, the basic load is three magazines, one in the gun and two in magazine pouches. With the new SIG Sauer M17 & M18 pistols, which use 17 or 21 round magazines, that works out to either 51 or 60 rounds of ammunition.

So, the question then is, how many basic loads of ammunition do you think you’ll go through, killing others, before someone will manage to kill you? Do you actually think you’ll manage to go through more than two or three full-scale attacks, before they finish you off? In reality, the amount of ammo you need, is the amount that will get you through to that point.

That’s not to say that you have to limit yourself to just that much ammo. When things get bad, ammunition will probably become one of the most valuable trade goods available; especially .22LR, which will be used for hunting small game. All I’m saying is, don’t let someone scare you into spending a lot of money on ammo that you’ll never use.

Oh, and make sure you have adequate body armor.

Finding Shelter in the Wild

Most bug out bag lists you see today don’t include much in the way of shelter. Few people bother packing along a tent, even though there are excellent backpacking tents on the market, which don’t weigh very much at all. Instead, we tend to carry rescue blankets and a tarp. While that can work, there are times it may not work very well.

Of course, there are situations where we might need to survive in the wild, without having the convenience of our bug out bag being with us. In those cases we’d either need to build a shelter from the available material or find something that’s already available. While I have nothing against building a shelter from what nature provides, it just makes sense to see if there’s something already available, before going through the trouble of building something.

This takes looking with an eye to see beyond the obvious. Many of the natural shelters we find need a little modification in order to work. They are more partial shelters, than whole shelters. Still, using one as a basis and adding our tarp can turn it into a very comfortable shelter indeed.

In the Old West, cowboys and drifters kept their eyes open for shelter constantly, when they were on the trail. One never knew when they might need a shelter, if not that night, then another. Many of these men’s heads contained a traveler’s guide to trails, water holes and campsites they had never been in, but had heard others talk about.

So, what sorts of natural shelters can we expect to find, when out in the wilderness?

  • Caves – Probably the best shelter that nature has to offer is a cave. Surprisingly, they can be found in almost any type of geography. However, they aren’t all safe to go into; so, take care if you find one. Make sure that something else doesn’t call it home, before making it yours.
  • Rock Outcroppings – While a rock outcropping isn’t a cave, it can be a great start to a shelter. Often there will be rocks sitting together in such a way that stringing a tarp across the top will make an excellent shelter.
  • Undercut Embankment – Flood waters flowing downstream can and often do cut away from the embankment, leaving the untouched rock or soil above. This can form a shallow cave, providing at least some protection from the wind and rain.
  • Upturned Tree – Many times when large trees fall due to storms, the root ball provides an opportunity for shelter. At a minimum, it provides a wall which might block the wind. But if the tree falls in such a way as to leave space under the trunk, it can shelter from both wind and rain.
  • Thicket – One of the simplest natural shelters is a thicket of trees. There’s usually enough room to get between them, where the overhead branches provide some protection from the rain and the trunks and underbrush provide some protection from the wind.
  • Pine Tree – One of my personal favorites is a big old pine tree. There’s usually space under the bottom branches, even though their tips may brush the ground. That space will be covered with a blanket of pine needles to sleep on. About the only thing that usually has to be done is to break or cut off some of the dead branches under there.

Always remember that you should stop two hours before sunset, when traveling in the wild. Those two hours will be needed for gathering fuel, starting a fire and erecting a shelter. Once the fire is lit, the light from it will make it possible to cook dinner, so leave that until everything else is done.

Oh, and make sure you are carrying a Tactical Tomahawk with you.

Cooking When the Grid Goes Down

All that food in your survival stockpile isn’t going to do you the least bit of good if you can’t cook it. Most of us are so accustomed to just turning on our stoves and cooking, that we might not be ready for cooking if that stove doesn’t work. But if the grid goes down, an electric stove will definitely be out of the question and a gas stove might not work either.

Fortunately, we humans have been cooking for millennia, long before electricity or natural gas were available. So if our ancestors were able to do so, it seems that we should be able to as well. All we need is to decide on what method we’re going to use, then make sure that we have what we need.

There are actually quite a few options to choose from, depending on our personal circumstances. You may want to have more than one available, as cooking outside in the winter isn’t much fun and cooking inside can be awfully hot in the summertime.

Barbecue Grille or Fire Pit

Almost everyone has a barbecue grille of some sort or other. We already use them as an alternate means of cooking, so it only makes sense to use them for survival cooking as well. Wood can be used as fuel in any barbecue grille, although it might mess up the burner on gas grilles. That’s okay; they’re replaceable.

The grille can be used for cooking with pots and pans as well. However, if pans with an enameled outer finish are used, there’s a good chance that it will become damaged by the fire. They can still be used; but they won’t look as nice.

Wood-burning Stove

If you are going to use a wood-burning stove for heating your home, then make sure you buy one with a flat top, which you can cook on. Some newer models don’t have a flat top or the top is insulated, making it difficult to cook on. But if you’re buying it as a survival tool anyway, then it only makes sense to buy one that can be used to cook on as well.


If you’re going to be heating with a fireplace, rather than a wood-burning stove, than you can use that for cooking as well. This was the standard way of cooking in many homes during the early years of our country. Pots were either set directly into the fire’s coals or suspended over the fire.

Adding a fireplace crane to the fireplace makes it possible to hang pots over the fire. This is a metal hook on a swivel arm. Attached to the front corner of the fireplace, the pots can be swung over the fire or swung out to gain access to them. The addition of a fireplace crane is an inexpensive way to make it easier to cook in the fireplace.

The other thing to consider is a cast-iron dutch oven, the old-fashioned kind with feet and what looks like an inverted lid. The feet make it possible to set it down in the coals, while keeping it level. More coals can be piled on top, into the lid. This surrounds the food with heat, making it an oven. Great for breads and pies.

Camping Stove

Most camping stoves today are made to use bottled propane. That makes them not very useful in a survival situation, as you would have to have a good stockpile of the propane bottles as well. But Coleman still makes their old “dual-fuel” camp stove, which will run off of their “white gas” or unleaded gasoline. While gasoline may not be as readily available after a disaster, it will still be around. People will siphon it out of cars and hoard it for various uses.

Solar Oven

Finally, it’s a good idea to have a solar oven, unless you live somewhere with no sunshine. There are a number of different types of solar ovens made; but he most basic type is essentially a box, with reflectors. The reflectors mean that more sunlight gets into the box, which is then turned into heat.

This sort of solar oven is a slow cooker, somewhat like cooking with a crockpot. Nevertheless, it will produce great meals, making it possible for you to cook things you might not otherwise be able to.

Spot threats in the pitch blackness with the Tac Vision Night Vision Binocular.

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