Survival Shotguns: How to Choose the Right One for You

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The shotgun is one of the most valuable survival firearm one can own instead of a rifle or pistol. It possesses a great force of firepower compared to shots fired from a pistol. Therefore, owning the right to say that “no one really wants to be hit by one” when it is draw out.

The main advantage that labels a shotgun as a good survival gear is the variety of ammunition. It generally means that a shotgun fires at least 8 to 26 large lead pellets from a single shot every time the trigger is pulled.

This is advantageous especially when we are not experts in aiming or in a chaotic state that our ability to aim has been blindsided. It increases the possibility of landing a bullet on the attacker without needing to constantly reload.

There is a wide range of shotguns offered in the market and each with different capabilities. Understand the characteristics of  each shotgun to be able to select a suitable shotgun for survival needs.

Choose a suitable gauge

The fundamental of operating a shotgun is to fire numerous rounds of round lead pellets down a smooth bore barrel. Shotguns barrels are usually chambered in gauges instead of calibers.

A gauge represents the number of lead pellets it takes to enter the barrel to make a pound. The most familiar gauge sizes for shotguns are 10, 12, 16, and 20 gauge being the easier ammunition to find. It’s important to select a gauge size that is suitable for your usage.

Recoil is typically the significant factor that decides what gauge size you will pick as not many can handle the recoil produced. If the recoil for a 20 gauge is too much to handle, consider going with a 20 gauge. But if a 20 gauge is overly powerful as well, you can choose the .410 bore as your last choice.

Other sizes are too rare and you will have a hard time finding ammunition on the shelf at a megastore.

Break open shotguns

This shotguns are classified as those that break open on the hinge to insert or remove shells. They are included in classes which is the single shot, over under and side by side.

Break open shotguns can come with single or double triggers and a wide selection of barrels. A double barreled break open shotgun with two triggers means that each trigger represents one barrel. So by pulling two triggers at a time, you will be firing two shots straight but you will most likely be abusing your shoulders.

These shotguns are the easiest to maintain and with good quality performance it can go up to 150,000 rounds without any problem. Break open shotguns with side by side or over under class usually comes with exchangeable chokes resulting to different shooting characteristics of each barrels.

However, the drawback of a break open shotgun is the limited amount of rounds they can shoot without reloading. As each shotgun only offers a maximum of two barrels, you are only able to fire twice and needing to break open the shotgun to reload thereafter.

Semi-automatic shotguns

Unlike break open shotguns, a semi-automatic shotgun has a single barrel and majority comes with a magazine tube that stores additional shells. This reduces the number of reloads you have to perform after firing a few rounds.

Semi-automatic shotguns is classified to two basic cycling actions. They can either be recoil driven or gas operated. Shotguns that are recoil driven are usually inertia or kinematic driven. Despites the difference in name, both mode operates similarly.

If the shotgun is kinematic driven, the recoil of the shell releasing will push the bolt back discharging the used shell and loading the shell from the magazine tube. If the semi-automatic shotgun is gas operated, some of the expanding gasses from the shell releasing are spread out through ports in the barrel ejecting the spend shell and reloading the next shell afterwards.

Anyhow the difference in method, both operate by using the force from releasing shells to recreate the action which in return lessening the recoil of the firearm. However, these shotguns do require a certain level of maintenance to keep them operating properly.

Instead of releasing gasses which are carbon filled like how normal pistols would, the gasses are spread throughout the ports in the barrel. This result to having barrels that are congested with carbon particles leading to further cycling issues. Fortunately, they are easy to take apart and reassembly so there is no reason for you to not clean it.

The reliability of a semi-automatic shotgun is definitely less than the break open shotguns or pump shotguns. Its only major disadvantage is the cycling problem. The spring within the barrel has an expected lifespan of firing approximately 10,000 rounds before wearing out even though with constant cleaning. However, this does not label the shotgun as incapable.

Pump shotguns

A pump shotgun is the one where the fore-end can be shift forward and backwards. This cycling movement is controlled by shifting the fore-end to the direction of the receiver to discharge the used shell and then forward to load a new shell.

The pump shotgun is usually single barreled with a magazine tube to store additional shells. Therefore, the movement rate of the fore-end is controlled by the speed of the user.

The recoil force from this shotgun is greater than a semi-automatic shotgun because it does not spread out energy throughout the port of the barrels. There are many other guns classified under this category such as riot guns, tactical shotguns and self-defense guns.

However, it requires less maintenance and greater reliability compare to semi-automatic shotguns. It will still be able to fire even after years of not cleaning just that probably its performance is slightly sluggish.

Nonetheless, here are the few common series of survival shotguns for you to consider:

Mossberg 590 Mariner

The Mossberg 590 Mariner is a 9 shot 12 gauge shotgun which means that it can store up to 9 shells in the magazine tube. It is a tactical pump shotgun with a single barrel that fires smoothly with a reasonable price tag for newbies.

The production of this firearm’s barrel is stainless steel making it sustainable for harsh environments. This is suitable as a survival kit as storage in any condition will not affect the well-being of this firearm.

Mossberg 500 Lineup

The Mossberg 500 series is slightly similar to a Mossberg 590 Mariner but instead of a stainless steel barrel, it is manufactured based on an aluminium receiver. This lightens the weight of the shotgun remarkably. However, it prevents the use of majority sidesaddle slug carriers.

A shotgun sidesaddle is an accessory used by owners for convenience to carry more shells on their firearm. This series comes with a polymer safety button and trigger assembly. But the Mossberg 500’s magazine tube cannot be lengthen due to the fact that the barrel is fixed to the end of the magazine tube.

Remington 870

The Remington 870 series consists of a wide range of selection with more that 30 different models. Its level of reliability is better compared to a shotgun from the Mossberg series in terms of having a smoother pump action. Furthermore, the Remington 870 is the perfect choice for hunting small game too, in addition to being an excellent home-defense shotgun.

In a scenario of unexpected home intrusion, you would want to be loaded with as many rounds as possible.

Shotguns from this series can be equipped with an extension tube to store 7 additional shells. To acquire this extension you must first remove the dimples from the magazine tube to attach the accessory. But by doing so, bear in mind that you may compromise your ability to manoeuvre.

The model most suitable for home defense would be the Remington 870 Express Tactical 18” barrel with a synthetic stock. It comes with a multiway synthetic stocks with a 18.5 inch or longer barrels making them versatile for both female or male user.

However, the Remington 870 uses a safety push button that is not as obvious as the Mossberg making it less safe to have around younger ones.

Winchester SPX Defender

This shotgun is known as the Winchester Super Pump X Defender with a 12 or 20 gauge size. It’s probably one of the best value tactical shotgun out there with great performance, light weight, short barrel and all within a reasonable price.

The shotgun comes with a 18 inch slim barrel receiver made of aluminium. This results in lighter weight allowing smaller shooters to operate the shotgun with just a single hand on both the grip and the trigger.

Many shooters believe the Winchester SPX Defender to be one of the fastest performing reloading action out there. These shotguns loads and ejects shells smoothly and reliably without jamming up.

When the shotgun is fired, the tension of the spring produced by the shell pushing towards the rotating bolt partially opens the spring by itself and begins the pumping action.

However, just like the Remington 870, the safety push button is not as obvious. Its difficult to reach as it is place in front of the trigger guard. This makes it unsafe to have around children or young adults.

Benelli Nova Pump Tactical

The Benelli Nova is classified as a pump shotgun that shoots 12 gauge and 20 gauge. The barrel comes in different length variation such as 18, 24, 26, and 28 inches. It can operate on any load of weight such as a light 2¾-inch load to 3½-inch magnum load.

This shotgun is extremely reliable as it seldom has a problem even when cycling with different shells. Besides that, it is able to handle extreme weather conditions as it is made of part corrosion proof-polymer.

However, similarly with the previously stated shotguns, the safety push button is extremely small on this model making it difficult to find. Another downside would be the limited ability to customize accessory for this model due to its single-piece receiver. This also limits the magazine tube to only holding 5 shells at a time.

Conclusion

There you have it, a detail guide for picking a suitable survival shotgun. Take some time to understand the shotgun that you have selected to purchase. This will help you familiarise their functions and be able to react quickly during hectic timings. Bear in mind that having a shotgun lying around can be dangerous, therefore do not have it in plain sight.

Note: This was a guest post.

How to Build an Underground Bunker

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An underground bunker could be your best asset in many different survival scenarios. It gives you a place to wait out whatever chaos might be going on above-ground and helps ensure you and your family stay safe — even comfortable — no matter what’s happening in the world. Many survivalists dream of having an underground bunker. While it’s not cheap or easy to build one, it is doable. If you’re ever in a situation in which you need a bunker, you’ll be glad you invested the time and money. Here’s our guide for building your underground bunker.

Get a Permit

Before you start building your bunker, you need to get a permit to ensure you stay on the right side of the law. Consulting local authorities will also give you crucial information about utilities, such as gas or water pipes, that might be on your property — one of the main reasons you need a permit. Before you do anything else, research the laws in your area and take the steps required to make sure your project is legal. You don’t want to spend a bunch of time planning a bunker, only to find out you can’t legally do so.

Start Planning

Before you start building your bunker, you’ll need to have as many details planned out as you possibly can. However, planning is second nature to a survivalist, who is always thinking about the future.

Choose a Location

One of the first things you need to plan is the location of your bunker. You probably need at least half an acre to build a decent bunker. Some important considerations when deciding on a bunker location are:

You’ll also need to decide where you want to locate your bunker in relation to your house. Some people build their bunkers directly underneath their home, which allows for easy access, but can make it more likely you’ll run into obstacles like plumbing pipes and electrical equipment. You can also put your bunker elsewhere on your property and build a tunnel to your home, or erect a small shed to conceal the entrance.

Excavate

If you’re building a decently sized bunker, you’ll likely want to use some heavy excavation equipment. You can rent this equipment or hire someone to do your digging for you. If you’re using heavy machinery, plan for excavation to make up a significant portion of your budget. Technically, using a shovel is an option, but that will take much longer unless you’re just building a small shelter.

Build Your Structure

You’ve got several options when it comes to the structure of your bunker. If you want to go the quicker and easier route, you can use a premade structure such as a shipping container. While this is an efficient way to get shelter finished, it will give you a lot less flexibility in your design. If you do use a shipping container, make sure you reinforce it, as the design of these containers doesn’t allow them to take a heavy load on the top and sides. You’ll again need some heavy machinery to lower the container into the hole.

You can also build your structure yourself. While it will take more work and time to do so, you can customize your shelter to your precise specifications.

One significant consideration when planning your structure is what material to use for your floor, walls and ceiling. Wood is not the best choice for a bunker. While it’s cheap, sturdy and easy to work with, it won’t last as long as many other materials. Untreated wood is susceptible to weathering and rotting. Even treated wood will eventually break down and may suffer from insect infestation.

A better option is metal. Welding thick metal sheets together and supporting them with tube steel makes for a sturdy, moisture-resistance structure. The downside to using metal is that it’s more expensive than some other options.

If you want a more affordable but still sturdy option, consider using bricks or cinderblocks. They last a long time and are relatively easy to install. Bricks will also provide excellent insulation.

Another excellent option is concrete. It’s long-lasting, sturdy, affordable and relatively easy to work with.

Be careful when choosing the materials you’ll work with. Even small items like the fasteners you select have an impact on your structure’s durability and safety. Bolts, for example, can typically withstand more pressure than screws or nails.

Build Entrances and Exits

How you get into and out of your bunker is another vital consideration. Many survivalists opt to create a passage from their house to their shelter so they can get underground without going outside. You can also create an outdoor entrance and conceal it by building a small shed over top of it. You should always have at least two ways in and out in case one of your passages gets blocked off.

Ensuring you have correctly supported the passages into your bunker is essential. Use pillars made from concrete or bricks to keep your passages sturdy and safe.

Waterproof Your Bunker

When building your bunker, do everything you can to ensure moisture doesn’t seep into it. Using a sturdy metal, concrete or brick structure is vital to keeping water out, but you may also want to place a waterproof sheet over the top of your shelter to provide some extra protection from moisture.

Plan for Air Filtration

You’ll also need to make sure you have access to fresh air in your bunker, which will be crucial if you end up needing to shelter there for an extended period. Have at least two air vents. They’ll keep fresh air flowing in your bunker and help cool it down during the summer. Also, invest in an air filtration system and stock up on air filters. You may also want to purchase a gas mask in case you have to leave your bunker before the outside air is safe to breathe.

Plan for Clean Water

Of course, you will also need access to water while you’re in the bunker. While you can store containers of water in your shelter, you’ll run out quickly if you’re stuck underground for longer than you anticipated.

One option is to install a large water tank next to your bunker. Doing so means you’ll have to do more excavation, but a water tank will provide you with a significant quantity of water.

Even a large water tank will eventually run out, though, if you’re in your shelter for a long time. For this reason, it’s ideal to have a water delivery system that can replenish itself, in addition to a water tank. You may be able to tap into the water table from within the shelter. You might need additional permits if you plan on digging a well in addition to your bunker. If you have running water nearby, you may be able to install piping to channel it into your bunker. You could also create a rainwater harvest system that collects water above the ground and pipes it to you underground. Just make sure you invest in equipment for filtering the water so you can ensure it’s safe to drink.

Conceal Your Underground Survival Bunker

You also need to determine how you’re going to conceal your bunker once you’re finished building it. Your hideout is going to be a lot less useful if everyone can see where it is. So, how do you hide your bunker?

Of course, you’ll cover your bunker back up with dirt once you finish building it. Use the dirt you dug out of the ground, so it blends in with the surrounding earth. Also, plant fauna that matches the surrounding area. You want to do everything you can to prevent the space above your bunker from standing out.

As mentioned earlier, you can build a small shed to hide an outside entrance to your shelter. If you have an entry in your house, cover it up with a piece of furniture or carpet. You can conceal your air vents by planting bushes over them and hiding them behind rocks.

Get creative with this step and use what you have to your advantage. The better disguised your bunker is, the more secure it will be.

You’ll also want to make sure your bunker is relatively soundproof. Consider installing soundproofing materials, such as acoustic foam, to keep any noise from escaping into the outside world.

Add Access to Electricity

Having electricity in your bunker is optional, but it can make survival more manageable and allow you to be as comfortable as possible while spending time in your hideout.

Keep in mind fuels like propane and kerosene are off-limits. Even if you have a good ventilation system, it’s dangerous to use these kinds of fuels in an underground bunker due to the fumes they create.

You can connect your bunker to the power grid, but in a real doomsday scenario, you likely won’t have reliable access to it. You can consider connecting to the grid as a backup, though, if you like.

Your best bet for getting power in your bunker is an off-grid renewable energy system such as solar panels or a small wind turbine. If you have running water nearby, you may also be able to build a small water turbine generator. Having a power source can make it a bit more difficult to hide your bunker, but you could make it look like the system is powering your home, but also run wiring to your shelter. It would be useful to have a battery system alongside your renewable generation so you can have a more continuous flow of energy.

Even if you do include electricity in your bunker plans, make sure you can also survive down there without it, as your aboveground generation equipment could get damaged.

Stock Your Bunker With Supplies

Once your bunker is ready to go, what should you store in it? Everyone’s list will likely look a bit different, but here are some supplies to consider.

  • Food: Obviously, you’ll need a supply of nonperishable food items such as canned goods and dehydrated meals. One positive of keeping your emergency food cache underground is that it will naturally stay a bit cool. You might also want to dig an extra room for food storage. Just make sure it stays dry.
  • Medical supplies: You’ll also need a first-aid kit that includes essential over-the-counter medications and emergency medical supplies such as alcohol wipes and bandages. If you need certain medicines that are specific to you, you might want to keep a supply in your bunker as well.
  • Weapons and ammunition: You might also want some method of self-defense. If you store a gun, make sure you have an adequate supply of ammunition. Just make sure you don’t sacrifice too much space you could use for food or medical supplies to make room for more weapons.
  • Entertainment: Just because you’re in an emergency, that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun while in your bunker. Keeping a positive mindset will be crucial to your safety and survival, and having some way to entertain yourself can help you stay upbeat. Store some board games, a deck of cards, books, art supplies, a musical instrument, video games or whatever else you like to use for entertainment.

Keep Yourself and Your Family Safe in Any Situation

Building an underground bunker isn’t easy. With adequate planning and the right attitude, it is doable and well worth it. It can even be fun. It’s not cheap, either, but you can do it affordably if you plan and get a bit creative. Just make sure you never sacrifice safety to cut costs.

Having an underground shelter could be useful to anyone. Doomsday preppers have lots of reasons for wanting one, but they’re also helpful during natural disasters such as tornadoes. Plus, they’re excellent for storing emergency supplies. If you go all-out with your bunker, you might even find yourself wanting to hang out in it.

Note: This was a guest post.

25 Survival Gadgets You’re Going to Want!

I happened upon this first video and then the never-ending YouTube trail led me to find the rest. I’d say that I definitely haven’t seen at least half of the gadgets shown in the following videos–possibly more–many of which look really interesting! Hope you find them as enjoyable as I did…

Can You Spot What’s Wrong Here?

This is a photo of my front door, maybe you can spot what’s wrong quickly:

If not, maybe this photo helps:

You see the door security latch there? It’s missing an important part:

I’d say it’s kind of useless without that piece, wouldn’t you?

The sad thing is that nothing major happened to make it break off. In fact, all I did was fling the door open a little harder than normal (because I was hauling in some firewood) and the piece literally just fell off.

The door (and thereby the security latch) didn’t even hit the wall but, instead, a shoe rack that we have to contain all of my kids shoes that they can’t figure out how to put in their room.

Perhaps this security bar latch was just a dud but, to be honest, that doesn’t give me any “warm and fuzzies” that these devices will do their job if/when the time ever comes that they’re truly needed.

Beware! Now I get to go test the other latches I have… and maybe you should too.

3 Innovative Door Security Devices

My kid likes to watch YouTube videos about new gadgets and occasionally I watch them with him. One video caught my eye recently where it showed a few different door security ideas. This one on the Barricade Box was particularly interesting:

Even though it’s meant for schools I can see how the barricade box may be of use for some exterior doors at home.

Another interesting device I watched was about The Barracuda Defense System which also seem more applicable to office buildings or schools, but may find some applications at home too:

The final video I watched was about the Nightlock Door Barricade which is definitely more applicable to home security situations even though the video focuses on schools:

Anyway, I thought these door security devices were neat and figured you might find them interesting as well… and maybe you’ll find them useful for your home or to recommend to your school or place of business.

Images Credit: YouTube.com

Why You Should NEVER Use Paper to Start a Wood Stove

My family and I have been visiting my in-laws over the Christmas holidays. The time has been nice and mostly without incident, but the day after Christmas we had an unpleasant surprise await us when we returned from the movies… the house was full of smoke!

You see, my brother-in-law had been trying to keep the house warm with my in-laws wood stove as it’s been rather cold of late here in Missouri.

Unfortunately, he had been using paper to get the wood burning fireplace going rather than firestarter bricks which they normally use.

That, coupled with the fact that they (my in-laws) haven’t had their stove flue cleaned in probably a few years AND, equally important, the flue has two 90-degree bends in it, well… the inevitable happened and the flue clogged up just enough to continue a very slow burn yet not exhaust the smoke up the chimney. And since the smoke had nowhere to go it filled the house.

Normally, we would have quickly noticed something was wrong but, since we all went to the movies, there was nobody home to realize it!

Who knows why my brother-in-law decided to try and start a fire even though we were all leaving. I assumed he wasn’t successful and had given up when I walked out the door, but I was wrong… which brings up another great point: NEVER leave your home unattended if you have a fire going because you never know what might happen.

You see, my in-laws have a few dogs, one cat, and even our dog was trapped in the house as well. Here’s my father-in-law with all the dogs standing outside in the cold:

Fortunately, my sister-in-law (who chose not to go to the movies with us) had decided to stop by and, to her surprise, found a house full of smoke along with a handful of terrified animals. If she had been 15 or 20 minutes later, who knows if we would have had a few dead animals on our hands as well.

When she realized what was going on my sister-in-law quickly called 9-1-1, ushered out the dogs, and managed to corral the cat too. Within minutes the fire department showed up, along with an ambulance and two police cars; I’m sure it was a scene for the neighbors, to say the least.

Within an hour or so the fire department had removed the obvious smoke so we could go inside again. Regrettably, ever since then the entire house has smelled like a campfire but worse because there’s no fresh air to replace the smoky smell. The first night or two most of us had a bit of a headache and I actually slept with the window open even though it was quite cold that night.

It was so bad that we (really my wife and sister-in-law) decided to wash the walls with a vinegar/water solution and vacuumed the carpets with baking soda. Eventually, they’ll get the carpets cleaned professionally too. The cleaning has helped, though, it will probably be months before the smell complete dissipates.

Anyway, I figured I would share a personal example of a failure to be safe to get the New Year off to a running start, lol. Yes, it was a “perfect storm” of mistakes that caused the problem, but all of the mistakes could have easily been avoided had we considered our safety–and that of our pets–and bit more.

Be safe out there.

How to Survive Getting Stranded in the Snow

Winter is here, and the temperatures are falling fast. One thing no one wants to think about is the possibility of getting stranded in the snow. How will you survive if you get stranded in the woods during a blizzard, or your car gets stuck in a snowdrift on the side of the road? What about getting snowed-in when the power goes out? Here’s a comprehensive guide that will help keep you alive if you get stranded in the snow.

Stranded in Your Car

You’re heading over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house when the unthinkable happens — you hit a patch of ice and drift into a snowbank, getting your tires stuck. You can call AAA, but you’re stuck with the task of surviving until they reach you. How can you survive getting stranded in your car in the snow?

Car survival starts with proper preparation. You should keep a survival kit in your car at all times, which should include supplies like:

  • Food: Keep some high-protein,non-perishable snacks in your survival kit, like nuts and protein bars. You’ll need more calories to keep moving if it’s cold.
  • Water: Store plenty of drinking water in your kit. If you can, store them upside-down so that the tops don’t freeze. You can still get dehydrated even if it’s snowing outside, so make sure you drink plenty of water.
  • Extra clothing and blankets: You need to stay as warm as possible. Keep an extra set of clothes and some blankets in your car so that you can layer up or change clothes if you get wet.
  • Flares and flashlights: Emergency flares can help rescue crews see you even if it’s snowing heavily. Flashlights will keep you from draining your phone battery trying to see in the dark.
  • A spare phone battery and charger: Keep your phone charged so that you can contact emergency services.
  • A shovel: A military e-tool (folding shovel) is ideal because it takes up very little space when folded. You’ll need to keep your tailpipe clear of snow and other obstructions if you’re planning on running the car to stay warm. If the exhaust pipe gets blocked, it can cause carbon monoxide to back up into the car.

The key is to stay warm until the tow truck or other rescue services can arrive. You can run the car to keep warm, but make sure that the tailpipe is clear. Car interiors aren’t very good at conserving heat, so if you’re worried about running out of gas, just run the car until it’s warm, then shut it off. Turning the car on for short periods will conserve fuel while helping to keep you warm.

Try to remove the snow around and underneath your tires, as well as the snow in front of your car, as much as you can. Then, try to move the vehicle forward and back slowly, a few feet at a time, to see if you can get enough traction to get yourself out of the snow and back onto the road. If you’ve got a few people in the car, you may be able to get yourself un-stuck with some old-fashioned elbow grease.

You can give yourself more traction with sand or kitty litter too. Just make sure you’re using something natural — you’re not going to be picking it up afterward.

[Editor’s note: A come-a-long could be a useful tool for this very purpose.]

Keep snow chains or other traction tools in your survival kit as well. It might be cold outside, but adding chains to your tires is a lot better than staying out in the cold for hours or days on end.

Stranded in the Woods

Camping or hiking in the winter can be fantastic, but getting stranded in a blizzard can be dangerous. The key to survival here is to have the right equipment. You’ll need four primary things to survive if you’re stranded in the wilderness— food, water, shelter and warmth. If you’re camping or hiking, chances are you have at least two of those things. If you don’t have water, melting snow over a campfire is a useful alternative.

You should know that shelter is essential if you’re hiking or stranded without a tent. A proper shelter will help protect you from the wind and keep you a little bit warmer while you ride out the storm. If you find yourself stranded in the wilderness, building a shelter should be your first priority. Look for downed branches, especially those from coniferous trees that still have a lot of foliage on them. You can use them to build a lean-to in a sheltered area to protect you.

If the snow is deep enough, don’t hesitate to start digging. Snow insulates and can help keep you warm and out of the wind. Just make sure the roof of your snow structure is strong enough that it won’t collapse and trap you inside. You can even dig a trench in the snow just large enough for you and top it with the branches you found.

Your second priority is to build a fire, which serves two purposes: to keep you warm–which is vital in these situations–and the smoke from your fire can help rescuers or passers-by narrow in on your location.

Doing so can be difficult in the wintertime because most of the dead wood is wet from the snow, but if you can get a good fire started, you should be able to dry out most anything. You’ll need a firestarter (the Swedish Light My Fire firesteel is good). If you smoke and have a Bic lighter in your pocket, you should be covered. If you don’t usually carry a lighter, starting a fire with wet wood can be nearly impossible. It might be a good skill to practice when you’re not in a survival situation.

Significant Health Hazards in the Winter Woods

Be aware of the two most significant health hazards that come from wintertime survival situations — hypothermia and frostbite.

Hypothermia is the condition that occurs when your body temperature drops too low. You’ll start to shiver uncontrollably — it’s your body’s natural way of trying to warm you up — and you may begin to get confused or have trouble thinking. You’ll know it’s progressed to severe hypothermia if you stop shivering. At this point, your body has used up your energy reserves and can’t keep you warm any longer. At this stage, medical intervention is needed.

Frostbite occurs when the tissue in your extremities or any exposed areas freezes. The water in your cells turns to ice crystals, causing the cells to burst. Severe frostbite can even require amputation. Stay as covered as possible, and take the time to warm up your fingers and toes, especially if they start to tingle or the flesh starts to feel hard.

If you know you’re going to be out in the woods, investing in some self-heating clothing which can help keep you warm no matter how cold it gets. If you’re going to be out in the snow fora while, or you find yourself stranded, this gear ends up being worth every penny.

Once you have a shelter and a fire, it’s time to start thinking about food and water. There are plenty of foods you can forage for in the winter time. Just be sure you double and triple check anything you harvest to be sure that it’s not poisonous.

Stranded at Home

Weathering a winter storm at home might not seem like the hardest thing in the world to do, but if the power goes out and with it your heat, it can quickly become a survival situation.

Keep a storm preparation kit in your home at all times. It will be similar to the one that we listed above in the section about getting stranded in your car, with a few notable differences:

  • Water: You might be able to get by with a few water bottles in your car, but at home, you’ll need more. Plan on one gallon of water per person per day for the duration of the storm. Half of that is for drinking, and the other half is for hygiene needs.
  • Battery or crank-powered weather radio: Keep track of the storm and changes in the weather with a radio that’s tuned in to your local NOAA station.
  • Diapers, formula and other infant supplies: If you have a baby in the home, keep everything they’ll need in your emergency kit.
  • Pet supplies: The same rule goes for pets. Make sure you have everything they could need for the duration of the storm.
  • Prescription medications: If anyone in your household relies on prescription medications, make sure you have a sufficient supply on hand before the storm hits.
  • Flashlights and lanterns: If the power goes out and it’s storming outside, these tools can make it easier to see.

The most important thing to do during a winter storm–especially if the power goes out–is to stay warm, fed and well-hydrated. In most cases, all you can do is wait it out.

If the power is likely to go out, consider investing in a generator to keep your lights, heat and other appliances running until power is restored. Always place the generator outside, and make sure it’s clear of snow and other obstructions before starting it up. Don’t plug your generator into your home’s main power though as doing so can create dangerous feedback for linemen who are trying to restore power after the storm.

Further Steps to Take While Waiting at Home

Unless you have a fireplace, don’t start a fire in the house. If you do have a fireplace, make sure the chimney isn’t blocked by snow for some odd reason. Otherwise, the smoke and CO2 can start building up to dangerous levels inside your home since it will have nowhere else to go.

[Editor’s note: ALWAYS have a quality battery-powered CO2 alarm if you have a fireplace or any gas appliances… it could save your life!]

Keep each room closed, primarily if you’re relying on a fireplace or portable space heaters to keep warm, and try to avoid going outside if at all possible. Homes are designed to maintain their internal temperature, but opening doors let in more cold air which then must be needlessly heated. Besides, it’s usually safer to stay inside during a winter storm anyway.

Remember to be aware of the signs of frostbite and hypothermia even at home. Make sure to stay dry. You might sweat or get wet from moving snow away from the door or generator. If you do, change your clothes immediately upon coming inside! Wet clothing pulls more heat away from the body, increasing your risk of hypothermia.

When you’re sheltering at home, the best thing you can do is stay warm, stay hydrated and wait for the storm to pass. Electric companies sometimes can’t work to restore power until the storm is over, so be prepared to remain in place even after the sun comes out and the storm dies down.

Take the time to check on your neighbors once it’s safe to do so as well. Young children and the elderly are more at risk during a winter storm, so if you can safely walk to the neighbors’ house then it might be worth it to check on them and make sure they’re warm and have plenty of food and water.

Staying Safe in the Worst Circumstances

No one wants to think about getting stranded in the snow, but it does happen. The best thing you can do, in any of these situations, is to be prepared for it. Set up an emergency kit in your car and home. Keep a small survival kit — with supplies like matches, a knife, a saw and some high-protein snacks — on your person or in a vehicle at all times. If you’re heading out into the wilderness, be prepared. Have proper clothing, and remember the four most important things that you need — food, water, shelter and warmth.

Winter is here–ready or not–and the snow has already started to fall. Being prepared for such a situation can quite literally mean the difference between life and death. Take the time to prepare now, before you need any of these supplies or survival skills. Wintertime is beautiful, but without the proper preparation, it can also be deadly. Stay safe out there.

[Editor’s note: This was a guest post.]

Beware: 5 Dangers You May Encounter in the Woods (and what to do about it)

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Who doesn’t love a good trip into the wild? Whether you’re hiking, kayaking down a river, camping for the night, or doing some other manner of outdoor activity, it can be therapeutic to unwind in the great outdoors. Many of us crave that escape from society to spend time out in the quiet, desolate expanse of the world. There are no loud noises and bad smells… well, for the most part. There’s no dealing with light pollution, so you can get a great look at the stars. The air is clean and fresh.

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe. Although the human race has collectively spent millennia outdoors, it’s no secret that many have lost their lives due to poor planning and mistakes. Problems like running out of food or water, or dealing with extreme temperature changes — read hypothermia — can lead to severe bodily harm if not death.

If you’re not careful, the wilderness is not a forgiving place, and it’s relatively easy to make a mistake that can put you in danger. Make a wrong turn during a hike, and you could end up lost for days or running low on supplies. Forget to pack the supplies for a fire, and you could be forced to endure a long, cold night. It’s even worse dealing with a cold night if you’ve slipped and fallen in some water. Forget to dispose of your food scraps properly, and a bear could wander into your camp.

We could drone on for days about how many potential dangers you face out there in the wide open expanse of the wild. However, it makes more sense to discuss the most common dangers — things you may very well come face to face if you spent enough time out in the woods.

1. Snakes, Bears and Wolves — Oh My!

Although it certainly feels like it when there are few humans around, you’re never alone in the woods. There’s always a chance you might come across an animal. There are plenty of small ones like porcupines, skunks and possums out there, but there are some big ones that can be dangerous too.

Bears are incredibly dangerous. If you don’t bury your trash, leave half-consumed foods laying out and do not follow proper hygiene you might have one stumble into your camp. The same is true of wolves and coyotes, especially at dusk and late at night.

If you come across a large animal, don’t panic. Do your best to keep your distance, try not to attract their attention, and always keep them in sight.

Depending on where you’re hiking or visiting, snakes may also be a concern. Some, including rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths and water moccasins, are poisonous. Always check your sleeping bag before climbing in, even if it’s inside a tent or sealed area.

If you are bitten, stung or attacked and you think the creature might be poisonous — usually, you’ll see some discoloration at the wound — it’s important to get to a hospital as soon as possible. While waiting for help to arrive, follow proper poison protocols. Clean and cover the wound, but don’t flush it with water. Remove all tight clothing and jewelry before you begin to swell, and keep the wound at or below where your heart is if possible. Don’t cut the wound, try to suck out the venom, apply a tourniquet or apply ice to the area. Don’t drink alcohol or caffeine, as they can speed up your body’s absorption of the venom.

2. Plants, Berries and Mushrooms

Berries often look downright delicious at first glance, adorned in vivid red and purple hues. But some are incredibly dangerous if eaten. The same is true of mushrooms and a variety of other plants you might come across.

Unless you’re expressly trained in spotting these types of foods, you should avoid them altogether. Foraging can be dangerous if you are inexperienced.

It’s entirely possible something you eat won’t hurt you in the short term, but mess with the wrong poison, psychotropic or chemical, and you could find yourself debilitated in the middle of nowhere with no help and no motor skills to seek it.

Oh, and let’s not talk about how foraged foods can sometimes contain parasites. That’s nightmare fuel for sure.

3. Insects Can Be More Than a Nuisance

Bugs can be annoying, but there’s a lot more out in the wilderness than just bugs that are a nuisance. Even some common insects can pose a risk. Mosquitoes, for instance, can carry deadly diseases like malaria, West Nile Virus and Zika.

Other potentially danger insects include spiders — some of which are poisonous — ants, fleas, ticks, hornets, bees and wasps. If you’re allergic to any of these insects, which you may not be aware of before you come into contact with them, those dangers increase tenfold.

It’s hard to believe but bugs can be and are one of the most dangerous things you’ll experience in the great outdoors, and they also happen to be incredibly common. That’s why it’s vital you take the necessary precautions regardless of where you’re traveling or visiting.

Insect repellent containing DEET or picaridin can help considerably, but you must remember to reapply it regularly throughout your trip. You can also apply creams, essential oils and several forms of mint to deter insects more naturally. Before climbing into your sleeping bag check it and your body for insects — ticks are easy to miss. If you do find a tick burrowed in your skin, remove it immediately. If you get insect bites, clean and protect them as soon as possible. If a poisonous insect bites you, you need to get to a hospital as quickly as possible.

Smoke also helps deter insects. Some outdoors enthusiasts will light a cigar or use smoke-creating plants and materials to scare off the bugs. These are sometimes useful strategies, but they also come with significant risks. Both of these methods have the potential for creating a wildfire and causing severe damage to the surrounding forest. It’s probably best to stick with the tried and true methods for deterring insects — liquid or cream based repellents.

4. Dangerous Weather and Temperatures

One of the most common mistakes that people make when visiting the wild is that they do not properly prepare for the local temperatures and weather. In certain places, for instance, the temperature can drop dangerously low after dark, despite being comfortable enough to wear shorts and a t-shirt during the day.

It’s always essential that you pack the appropriate clothing and protective gear, even if you’re not expecting inclement weather. Hypothermia can set on quickly, even after something like a cold rain. It doesn’t have to be the winter, and there doesn’t have to be any snow present. Having your body exposed to the wet and cold can have serious repercussions.

The opposite is true, as well. In areas where extreme heat is present, or where there’s constant exposure to the sun, it’s important you stay hydrated and properly rested. Take a few moments here and there to sit down in the shade, and be sure to continue drinking water — not sugary drinks, alcohol or other beverages. Drink at least one liter of water an hour, more if you’re sweating profusely. You should also cover your head and face and wear sunscreen if you’re going to be in the direct sunlight for an extended period. These practices will go a long way toward keeping your body cool and comfortable in the hot climates.

Furthermore, be mindful about your surroundings at all times. For instance, when setting up camp try to avoid placing your tent in low-lying areas or near water. It’s possible during a storm that the water will rise, and if you’re sleeping inside, that could prove deadly. Try to find camp areas that are on relatively high ground and ensure you have ample space to build a fire and remain dry.

If you do fall in the water or get wet, be sure to dry off as soon as possible. You should change your clothes and then sit around a fire or get into a sleeping bag or under a blanket. Worst case scenario, you can huddle next to someone in your party to share body warmth.

5. Watch Out for Fire Hazards

In a thick forest, fire can be absolutely devastating. When a fire spreads, it can happen fast — so fast that you have little time to react. We’ve seen this happen in some of the recent major fires like the one in Tennessee that consumed 100 acres or the ones raging in California right now.

You might not be the source of the fire, so keep that in mind. Also, it’s entirely possible to plan a trip, and visit a location without ever knowing there’s a potential threat. You could set up your camp or hike through an area only to find yourself trapped by a wildfire.

Of course, it’s also important that you follow proper safety measures when building campfires. You don’t want to cause a wildfire, which happens more than you might think.

Always build your fire at a safe distance from flammable objects like your tent or underbrush. If you can find an existing campfire ring or location, it’s best to use that space instead of creating a new one. If none are available. Surround your fire with stones or dig a small pit to keep it contained. Never use accelerants or fuel in the fire, and try to keep papers, liquids and other debris away.

You should also inspect the area thoroughly, checking for overhanging branches, trees and dry foliage. Store any extra wood and other materials you plan to use at a distance from the fire.

As for what you use to light the fire, paper is out. Never use paper as a fuel source. If you do light the fire with a match, be absolutely sure the match is out before disposing of it. Never throw a spent match into the underbrush or nearby foliage. If you have extra water handy then spread it around the edges of the fire to keep the nearby ground moist. This helps contain the flames. You should also use water to douse the fire when you’re all finished.

Never leave a campfire unattended, as a breeze or wind could easily blow embers and debris into the surrounding area and spark a larger flame.

After dousing a fire with water, use a stick or pole to stir the embers and ashes. This helps ensure that any stray coals are not still lit.

Ultimately, if you have a small camping stove or cooking station available, it might be better to use that instead of a conventional fire. But it’s not always possible to have these tools handy, so just be sure to stay safe and attentive.

Have Fun, But Don’t Be Reckless

By now, you’ve surely noticed that many of the dangers discussed are fairly common and would be easy to avoid or prevent so long as you are vigilant and careful. While having fun and enjoying the great outdoors should always be the focus of any trip, that doesn’t mean you should be reckless. Often, the people that are careless when spending time outdoors are the ones that either find themselves hurt and in danger or lose their lives altogether.

In addition, there are also many tips that haven’t been discussed here including packing the right amount of food and water, staying aware of your surroundings so you don’t get lost, choosing the appropriate hiking and camping locations, and wearing clearly visible gear to alert any hunters in the vicinity of your presence.

Be smart and careful when you’re out in the woods so that you can enjoy your trip and get home safe.

[Note: This was a guest post.]

Top 3 Considerations For Carrying A Firearm During A Grid Down Disaster

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There are an abundance of articles online that provide you with critically important tips on carrying a firearm.  But far fewer of those articles cover how to properly carry or use your firearms in the event of a grid down disaster.  

Fortunately, that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about today.  Here are the top three considerations for carrying a firearm during a grid down disaster:

1 – Conceal Carry A Handgun

Carrying a handgun on your person is wise so that you always have a defensive firearm within quick and easy access. That is, you shouldn’t have to run into your house or car to grab a gun if you are ever attacked by looters or criminals during a disaster.

Instead, you should be able to draw your pistol or revolver right away to engage your attackers the moment they attack!

At the same time, the last thing you want to do during a disaster is to draw attention to yourself, whether it be from law enforcement or by other people.  This is why it is crucial to keep that firearm concealed on your person. 

Therefore, you’ll want to invest in a high quality concealed carry holster and to carry at least one spare magazine with you as well.  Even if you don’t have to reload due to running out of ammunition, the number one cause of failures in a semi-automatic weapon is due to an issue with the magazine rather than the weapon itself, so packing a spare magazine or two is always a smart call.

2 – Keep A Rifle or Shotgun Within Easy Access

A handgun may be a great self-defense tool, but it’s still not as effective as a rifle or a shotgun in certain situations.  It just isn’t. Handguns don’t have as much stopping power or velocity, and they lack the range of a rifle, in particular.  If your home or property comes under attack by multiple assailants, defense will almost always be easier with a long gun than it is with a handgun.

If anything, handguns are either backup weapons when all other options have been expended or weapons that you use until you can get to your main weapon, and they should be treated as such.

This is why you want to also keep a rifle or shotgun within easy access.  No, you don’t want it to be out in the open, but you want it to be somewhere that you can reach it quickly, such behind the front door of your home or in your car. [Editor’s note: follow all state and local laws regarding proper storage.]

3 – Keep The Rest of Your Guns Hidden

Do you want to know what a real possibility will be during a grid down disaster? That’s right: the government declaring martial law, even if not officially in name.  

Martial law simply means that the Constitution and all regular laws will be suspended as the government takes direct control via the military and law enforcement.  All of the rights that you’re accustomed to having, from free speech to a right to privacy to the right to keep and bear arms, will be treated as if they never existed.

In an effort to control the population, the government will be going door to door confiscating firearms.  It’s what happened during Hurricane Katrina, even though martial law was not formally declared.

In order to keep as many of your guns as possible, you’ll need to get very creative about hiding them. A gun safe won’t be good enough because it will be the very first place confiscators go to look, so you’ll need to hide them around your house instead or, better yet, completely off site.

Conclusion

Contrary to what many folks think, it’s not necessarily like people are going to be walking around with a pistol on their hip and a rifle slung over their shoulder when the grid goes down.  On the contrary, you’ll want to be very careful about how you go about carrying a firearm during a disaster.

And remember: just because the grid has gone down doesn’t mean that the laws will no longer be enforced.  Be sure to comply with laws regarding storage, concealed carry, and defensive use of a firearm in your area even after the grid has gone down because people have been and will be prosecuted when society does return to normalcy.

[Note: this was a guest post.]