Have you seen the movie "Something Wicked This Way Comes?" Unfortunately, I have, but aside from bad acting, '80s clothing, a weak plot, terrible special effects and the 94 minutes it sucked out of my life, the movie had one thing going for it: a catchy title.
That phrase is on my mind more and more these days, except it is not an evil (and cheesy) carnival owner who threatens us, it is genuine trouble on a global scale.
A quick scan of news headlines, market trends or simply paying attention to the nearest protest yields multiple red flags. Attitudes and conversations with just about anyone tell me I am not alone in my thoughts. I have no idea how the country will be doing when this column is printed, but I am positive things will not be any better than they are as I write it. Actually, they may be much worse.
So what should you do about it? Prepare. In this case I am talking about preparing your firearm game plan for a sustained societal breakdown—imagine a violent mob or gang is within a half-mile of your residence, intent on taking whatever or hurting whomever they want, and then plan accordingly.
Like most other folks, a handgun is my go-to choice for dealing with an immediate threat in the home or at close range on the street. But, I will choose the rifle's ability to keep bad things as far away as possible if I see them heading my way. If trouble is inevitable, make use of any warning to be as well armed as possible. Get your go-to gun out of mothball storage and have it within arm's reach at all times. Deployed troops learn to live with rifles strapped to their bodies, always. The practice is now taught in Basic Training, which makes a lot more sense than some of the idiotic parade stuff we did a quarter-century ago. There is no handier place for your primary fighting tool than across your body or in your hands. Plop down $40 for a decent tactical sling and get used to it. Consider that gun an extension of your arms and don't get caught without it when the heat is on.
Fodder The U.S. military's switch to the new "green" ammunition has resulted in excellent prices on surplus 5.56 NATO M855 ball ammo. M80 ball overruns have pushed more surplus 7.62 NATO FMJ ammo to the market, too. Both are good general-purpose rounds to keep on hand in case the premium stuff becomes scarce. AK ammo—particularly in 7.62x39 mm—is very cheap and still available in sealed tins. The 40 rounds of .308 Win. my local hardware store keeps in stock will be scarfed up during the first 5 minutes of a crisis, so I know better than to rely on purchasing ammo around here.
Several retail outlets offer bulk deals on ammunition in the most common rifle chamberings, so stock up—now—on what your rifle will digest. Be sure to store ammo in a location that is temperature and humidity controlled. Old ammo cans with intact rubber seals make good containers, but place desiccant packs inside each one, and avoid leaving them in extreme heat or cold. Buy as much spare ammo as you can afford and store safely. Some is better than none, and a lot is better than a little.Properly cared for ammo will last for many years, so if things get all rosy again, have fun with it at the range or will it to your heirs. Ammunition has real value, unlike the dollar, so it will be useful for barter, too.
You may not convince your neighbors to have gun or caliber commonality, but consider doing so within your family. Logistics will be much simpler if your family firearms are the same—anyone will be able to pick up another's rifle or spare ammo in a pinch. Remember to plan for spare magazines, including extras to replace those lost or damaged during a protracted emergency. Think months, not days.
Gun Gear A wide variety of equipment is available to carry extra ammunition and/or magazines. Find something comfortable enough to wear for at least a few hours at a time, handy enough to get on quickly and able to carry extra personal gear like medication, a light, knife, etc. If you have never had to live in, run with or go prone while wearing a military-style assault vest, borrow one, fill it up and try these tasks before you spend a week's pay on the latest "rack" system. Many models were designed by people who meant well, but never fought while wearing a full vest. Less bulk and greater simplicity equal more agility, comfort and the ability to wear for longer periods.
A spare parts kit is also a good idea. At a minimum, extra faster-wearing parts like extractors, firing pins and springs are good to have around. Maintain a set of critical parts for each rifle you plan to have in someone's hands during a crisis. I recommend at least one spare bolt for each rifle type, too. It will never expire, so if the worst never happens, you have a part that will be useful down the road. Think about a backup plan for optics, too: iron sights, a backup scope—something that allows you to aim the rifle if your primary sighting system is damaged when there is no way to get a replacement.
Training The best rifle is not worth a lick if you cannot use it fluently under stress. Practice practical shooting. Shoot at partially exposed targets at or beyond the distances your house/yard/property may present. Shoot in hasty, uncomfortable positions and in low light, if possible. Learn to shoot from cover and understand the ballistic differences between cover and concealment. Ensure someone else in your family is able to implement the home-defense plan without you present—you may not be there when trouble strikes, or you may need help.
The concept of a zombie apocalypse used to get a passing laugh. It is no longer a joke. Such talk is now thinly veiled code for a violent, man-made catastrophe. Do not be complacent with your approach to defending your family when—not if—things turn nasty. The rifle in your hands may well become the great equalizer you need to keep bad people away from you and yours. I truly hope I am wrong about where we are headed, but I will be ready if I am right. I hope you will be, too.