The word tactical gets thrown out a lot these days when the discussion comes to firearms and prepping. Tactical rifles, tactical knives, tactical gear, and tactical bacon—the list goes on and on. So what is tactical? Do I need to be tactical? Tactical is defined as “relating to or constituting tactics.” So your tactical gear should resolve around your tactics. Tactical is a mindset, not an accessory. As a prepper, your tactical mindset is to survive.
So before buying tactical gear out the whiz wang, you need to examine how your planning suits the situation. Also, how does your prepping budget fit in with your tactical budget? All too often you see new preppers focusing so much on guns and gear that they lack in other departments. Weapons and ammo are very important to have, don’t get me wrong. However, in all reality, you are going to find yourself hungry and thirsty more often than you will find yourself in combat.
The idea of a tactical lifestyle is to be balanced in all forms of living a life after the lights go out. As much as it pains this grunt to say this, guns and grunts win battles, logistics wins wars. The “war” you are going to find yourself in is a war for food, water, and safety. Balancing your budget to appropriately provide the food, water, and safety is critical. You can die from bullet wounds in battle and you can die from dehydration in your day-to-day life.
This is a self-defense article though, so I won’t go over how you can prep for food and water. However, I will go over a proper way to be well-equipped and save a little more of your budget for other things. I’m not trying to insult and tell you this is the only way to do things, but it is a very viable way to do things. People like to base their gear on what the military or police use and why not? Police and military are often the experts on what’s tactical and what works. The problem is, we aren’t police or military.
A big portion of planning the tactical lifestyle is trying to understand what the world will really be like in a SHTF situation. The world will not be a friendly place and will be without rule of law—we know this. You plan your tactics around this, but planning how to win a fight and how to survive are two different things. Military and police plan to win the fight; we should plan to survive. This does involve putting some pride away and focusing on what is important. You can’t always be the hero or the victor. Flush that notion away right now.
Your goal should be to be the survivor. With that in mind, I’m going to go over some tactical gear and show you some alternatives that both make sense and are much more budget friendly.
Carrying enough ammo to reload your weapon is critical in a survival situation. Even in a day-to-day operation, carrying a reload or two for your concealed handgun is highly advised. We are going to start with ammo and gear.
If your main battle rifle is going to be a semi-automatic modern rifle, then of course you’re going to need magazine pouches, which is something you really can’t avoid. Magazine pouches are the best choice, obviously. The question here is, how do you carry the magazine pouches? How do you carry a small, but necessary medical kit? What about other important gear like knives, compasses, and the gear you may need for day-to-day survival. Well, I know of a few ways.
In the last few years, plate carriers have replaced the heavy, burdensome flak jackets used in the Iraq wars. Their smaller size and weight have made our troops both more maneuverable and have increased the soldiers’ ability to operate. Plate carriers are awesome pieces of gear for police and military because they match their tactics.
For civilians, they are a sturdy platform to mount gear on. Most civilians do not own plates and the main function of a plate carrier is defeated. Some plate carriers do have soft body armor capable of stopping most handgun and shotgun rounds. There are much lighter options for body armor that protect against the same rounds though.
Plate carriers act almost like sweatshirts though. They will quickly become uncomfortable and you will sweat your butt off even without plates. If you are planning on buying 2 to 4 plates for it. you’re more than doubling its weight. Plates are great for a home defense, fortress type. They’re also heavy, fragile, and incredibly expensive.
LBVs or “load bearing vests” are similar to plate carriers and a better option, but not the best. A load bearing vest offers no protection, but supplies the same mounting system for ammo and gear. LBVs are much more comfortable than plate carriers and LBVs are, on average, much cheaper. An LBV is simply a nylon vest with a Molle or PALs system to hold gear.
My biggest problem with either of these set ups is the fact they make you stand out. In a survival situation, evasion is your best option. Wearing one of these makes you instantly stand out. Put yourself into the mind of a predator and what do you see? Possibly someone better prepared with a cool vest with all that gear hanging off it. You can just wait until you get an opportunity to take the guy out, and then take their gear. You don’t have to come at their front or on their rules. None of that gear will save them from a shotgun blast to the legs.
The ability to blend in and disappear is the best tactic the Taliban, mujahedeen, and various insurgents have. You should adopt this tactic. Appearing non-threatening is much different than being non-threatening. So how can you carry your gear and ammo?
I prefer the belt option. Tactical belts featuring a MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) or PAL (Pouch Attachment Ladder) System have actually become incredibly popular with infantrymen. Marines often call them “Batman belts” as a term of affection. These belts are easy to access and are capable of carrying an impressive payload. They make climbing in and out of vehicles easier. The same goes with movement in building and tight locations. Gear hanging off vests is often sticking out several inches from the body; belts hold them much tighter. They are perfect for an IFAK (individual First Aid Kit). No matter where you mount your IFAK, you can access it by simply taking off your belt. Perfect if an arm is hurt.
Plus, these belts can be concealed by a baggy shirt or stashed in a backpack until you need them. They are very easy to pull and strap on. A creative individual could even strap it on cross-body and cover it with a shirt for a desperate situation. If necessary, it takes only a second to strip it off and leave behind.
Bandoliers and Surplus
For shotguns and revolvers, a good old bandolier is perfect. A MOLLE-attaching shotgun pouch that holds 25 rounds costs $30; a 55-round bandolier cost $9—see what I’m getting at? The same thing works well for lever and bolt action rifles like 30-30s, revolver caliber lever guns, and Mosin Nagants. These are easy to conceal and stash if necessary.
If a surplus weapon is your main battle rifle, then surplus gear works wonders for it. Do you need anything besides a few simple pouches to carry Mosin rounds on stripper clips? The actual Mosin Nagant Soviet pouches are perfect. The M1 Garand Belts are another awesome piece of gear that gets overlooked. You don’t look dangerous or too intimidating with surplus rifles and gear. You also don’t look like a target to waste time on.
Investigate into your surplus weapon a little, dig up its history,and you’re bound to find the gear that was used with it. Surplus gear can be had for nearly pennies.
To the outside observer, these things sure look cool holding handguns or even magazines. However, every Marine I have ever known who has been in Afghanistan and used a leg rig have all agreed they are a great concept but a terrible idea. First off, anything strapped to your leg is going to be uncomfortable and is going to chafe. Next, should you have to cross any water, you have to remove them and juggle them with your main weapon.
Sure, drawing a handgun from a leg rig is fast and easy, but good luck concealing that. A waist holster is as easy as putting a shirt over it. A Blackhawk Serpa waist holster costs about half of what the Black Hawk leg rig does. Pulling a magazine for a reload from the leg rig is uncomfortable and clumsy. Four fully loaded magazines hanging off your legs are going to be heavy and a hassle.
Before you buy any optics, you should be fully proficient with iron sights. Optics go down—iron sights are simpler and more reliable. A pair of back-up iron sights should be installed on your rifle as well. Optics should be the first thing on your weapon, with a pair of irons as backups.
Next, I’ve said this before and so won’t go too deep—you should focus on making your weapon more durable and easier to handle, such as a better charging handle on your AR-15. You can install better triggers, and more durable pins and springs. Invest in high quality magazines, focusing on quality over quantity. A sling should be the next item. Then you can focus on accessorizing and adding lasers and flashlights.
So that is a few things in the gear section of a survival tactical lifestyle to consider. Tactics are tactics and should be bound to your survival plan, not the gear you carry. Focus on learning what you carry, abusing it, and making sure you can depend on it.