When I write about SHTF world and interactions between people in that time, I always emphasize that you cannot trust in people any more. There are many examples why in my course.
Your neighbour that had been always nice to you in normal times is simply not same guy when SHTF, because now he may have hard time to keep his family fed, and comparing to his family you are nothing.
So simply trust no one outside your group.
Your group matters, you need people who you can trust, people that you can put your life in their hands. It is your group of people that you are preparing with for the time when SHTF.
Loyalty is one thing that you need to “grow”, and it needs time to grow, that is why it makes sense to have prepared your group before SHTF, it may be slow process, and you need to be sure what kind of people you have there.
My SHTF experience was very bad from the perspective of what I saw when it comes to loyalty.
When you have big number of unprepared folks thrown in really hard situation like war, you can see all kind of examples, mostly bad one.
Yes, I saw people betraying their friends, or even families. Sometimes for the few more hours of life.
Sometimes even for food.
But I have seen also people getting killed trying to save their families, sometimes they were almost sure that they going to get killed.
My old school friend get killed at the beginning of the war simply because he did not wanted to leave his wife under the ruins of collapsed house, he was trying to save her until the moment when rest of the building collapsed and kill them both.
And I already mention people trying to help friends or family members who get shot and wounded from sniper fire, only to get themselves killed from the same sniper.
Once I was pass out from the explosion (detonation) and my relative drag me to safety, while shells were still exploding.
You need to know what kind of people you have with you when it comes to loyalty.
Before you expect loyalty, ask yourself, are you loyal?
What kind of man you are? Do you have feeling of belonging to the group and what that group mean to you?
Of course there is your family or your friends inside the group, but what kind of the things you are ready to do for them? Do not expect more from them if you are not ready to do similar for them.
What keeps your group together?
There s few answers to that, fear can keep group together, or temporary circumstances too can keep it together when SHTF, but both of those examples will keep it together on very short run, and be sure that group not going to function good.
If members of the group are loyal to each other group will function much better, loyalty will be thing that keeps it together when things get tough. Creating a shared goal, idea and identity everyone feels part of, is another way to create more loyalty. You want as much things to be loyal to as possible. Patriots are examples of people loyal to something bigger.
Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it.
I would slightly modify the quote for survival groups and add “loyalty to the group and cause” and not the government. Some of us also do not feel loyal to country anymore because most important ideas and values that country was build upon have been lost long time ago. Just look in your group who is loyal to something. These people can be loyal to your cause or group as well if they want to.
Just try to be realistic when it comes to the loyalty of the people in your group. They are people, not machines. Do not ask from them impossible things.
Everybody has a breaking point. It is important to know EXACTLY where (or when) that breaking point is in every man. Observe people and see where their limits are in low risk situations.
Expect some weird things when people get to that breaking point. You may be surprised when you find out that some “tough” guys have much lower breaking point than you expected. When people break they often forget to put group interest first and just think about themselves. So a loyal weaker person can be much more worth than tough guy who is very selfish.
Point is to understand loyalty ends somewhere for most people. Try to find out that breaking point today BEFORE the SHTF so you can know what to expect.
Vision, goal and causes in your survival group
I saw some groups turn to gangs simply because it was easiest thing to do and took not much effort besides lack of compassion for others. There was no shared cause, vision or goal. Just selfish people who want to survive. Same groups often fell apart because of internal fighting.
In other words what makes group of survivalists different from the simple group of scavengers and thieves? Vision, goals or a cause.
While one group is simply going to use the opportunity of lack of law to do nasty things, other group will try to survive in order to make some sense in all of that chaos. In short you MUST have goal or cause however strange that can sound. Our simple shared cause was to keep our family save. Very simple. I went out and risked my life every day for people back at our place. Think now about shared cause or goal when you are with other families or friends in survival group.
For someone it may be trying to survive in order to build better society afterwards, for other trying to teach folks good things. Do not ever let your group get lost without cause or vision of better tomorrow. A cause or vision can carry group like picture of a loved one you look at when you are held hostage.
A cause can be simply to survive to tell others how it was back then. In this sense I found another cause years after, writing here today.
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Another great and favourite topic in survival community is matter of best caliber and weapon for SHTF, and ammo with most stopping power. Stopping power means how quickly and with few bullets you can make threat unable to attack you or anyone else.
I tell you now, even for urban survival and the situation I have been through and speak about in my course, it is more important to discuss water filtering in urban SHTF scenarios than talking about stopping power.
Do not get me wrong, I am perfectly aware that burst from the machine gun in the man standing in front of you will do much more damage (and probably will stop him forever) than shooting at him with a pistol.
I have seen and been in lots of gunfights and in real life, shootings are not so simple that guy with bigger gun wins.
It is about you
Guy who was standing next to me pulls pistol (TT 7.62 mm like in the picture above) at attacker who was starting to run away from us. I did not want to shoot at the guy because he was running away from us, and I thought he did not need to be shot, but my friend thought different.
Anyway, he raises the pistol, and fired 6 bullets at the guy. Guy was some 6-7 meters from him. And he missed him, all six bullets missed the guy, who run away.
Guy who was running away was moving away from us, but not in straight line, he was moving diagonally so I guess that adds little bit to why all bullets missed.
But man who was shooting from the pistol did next:
- He held the pistol with one hand
- Fired 6 shots in very fast manner (recoil did its job so he did not spend to reacquire target)
- Screamed very loud while shooting
I had (and still have) lot of confidence in TT pistol, it is reliable and scary thing in good hands, and can do lot of damage.
But point is that you are the man who makes the shot (and kills). So first you need to work on your skills. A .22 bullet to the head is worth more than .45 to the shoulder. Common sense.
Weapon is something that in my opinion needs to be good and correct for you and your hand. There is no point in having some weapon just because it is good for someone else, maybe it is completely wrong for you.
Recoil, trigger pull and general feel are just few of many factors that determine what makes sense. Get gun that enables you to hit your target even if people on shooting range shoot bigger caliber. We train for survival and not to show off.
About gunshot wounds
Gunshot wounds are kinda strange stuff, because you never know what you can expect from it. When bullets enter the body it can make quite interesting stuff, so I have seen people being hit from high caliber weapon and they even did not know they are hit, OK adrenaline works there too, but it is simply important the vital organs are damaged.
Bullets can have very weird path once they enter the body, so even if entrance wound looks not so dangerous it still can shred organs in body.
You never know what it will be, because there are many factors involved like weapon caliber, distance, angle… Bullets ricocheting from wall or ceiling above you still can kill you, actually small pieces of wall exploded from bullet hits can kill you if they hit right spot.
Generally speaking exit wound (if there is any) should look more “nasty” than entrance wound, but still there were cases when in middle of the fight some folks did not know they had any wound at all, until later they were carefully examined and entrance and exit wound were found.
I treated man once who had gunshot wound in forearm, some 10 minutes after the battle people pointed at him and at the blood coming all along his arm and fingers. He had entrance and exit wound, no bone damaged, and still no pain. Adrenaline.
Stopping power, penetration etc.
Remember the guy from the beginning of the post, maybe if he had knife or alternative weapon in that moment he would stop that man with more success.
And yes, I would always choose to have good and reliable pistol over a spear, but you get my point. I have seen guys who “stop” other guys with bullets from .22 CZ rifle in some very very cool (and scary) way, and on quite some distance. They simply were good with that rifle.
Shots in the head and chest have more chances to “stop” a man. Man can be also stopped with few shots in legs, but remember that he still can shoot you.
Still do not expect that man will be “blown away” with one shot in the chest, like i movies. Even if you hit the man in heart, he still have chance to shoot you.
So in short, yes, bullets in chest and head are good, but BULLETS not A BULLET. Just be sure. Keep shooting until the threat is gone. Nothing worse than stopping too early.
Bullets in the stomach are bad things, but I have seen people firing back at their attacker with rifle with their intestines hanging out.
Also important to consider is the meaning of the word “cover”. Remember that some things just cannot give you enough cover. There is not much better than big pile of compact dirt or concrete wall between you and man who shoots at you.
Use common sense with taking cover, objects like wooden door, bush, glass and similar are not cover, they are concealment. They can maybe HIDE you, but you still can be killed with bullets through it.
Many times I mentioned it that in SHTF you need lots of ammo, people shoot at whatever is suspicious. If you are hiding behind wooden door, attacker can shoot burst just through the door, to be sure. You are not covered.
Will to kill
When I wrote those 3 points about what the guy with TT gun did and why he did not shoot the other man, there needs probably (but I never know for sure) to be number 4 and that is “he did not want to kill the man”.
Yes, even in life threatening situations lots of people simply would choose not to kill, even if that means death for them. I believe it is something that some people simply can not do. They are not capable of that, to take some other mans life.
Maybe it looks that this is not connected with this topic about stopping power, but it is. So while choosing what weapon is good for you, you need to ask yourself “am I capable of taking other mans life?”. Any hesitation can kill you when it matters, whatever caliber you have.
Lesson here is, instead of researching “tacticool” stuff online, learning about survival and going down to shooting range and finding gun with common round in the area that one shoots well with is what makes sense. The gun you know how to use best has biggest stopping power.
Konrad suggested in comment on recent blog post I write about typical day during my time in SHTF trying to survive. Usually I think about what topic to write about first and write, this time I did other way around and just wrote. So while there are lessons to learn, this is just typical day during my time in war.
I woke up with feeling that I do not have legs under my knees, only some strange feeling, something between numbness and pain.
Second feeling after that was that something wrong with my head, and definitely something wrong with my room because ceiling was pretty much black instead white. I sat up in my bed too fast, and it was mistake, I forced myself not to throw up, barely. And then everything came back to me:
There was war outside going on, for last couple of months.
My legs under the knees were numb because I slept with my boots on, not that it was something unusual, I did that whenever I felt that there is big chance to be forced to jump from the bed completely ready, but mistake was that I did not ease laces a bit before I fell asleep.
Ceiling above my head was black because we used oil lamps for months, with bits of old laces dipped in oil. It smelled bad, and leaves nasty black greasy spots on walls, clothes, probably lungs too.
And finally my head was about to explode because again I drank some homemade booze last night during the trade with folks from 6th street. I remember that after we finish deal, guy from 6th street pulls a bottle somewhere from behind the back, and we all felt little bit more comfortable because something like old custom that you are not going to share drink with the guy who you want to kill or cross. Old habits.
Guy was banging on box of tomato juice cans yelling: “this is good first class stuff, it worth a lot, healthy for kids …” like he personally handpicked the tomatoes in Italy, and then make the juice in his refinery which is in his family for centuries… In reality that case was 3rd class stuff, probably bought some 100 kilometres from there on some bargain market and then brought to the dude through weird black market channels to be traded at 50 times its worth.
I was there with T. and after we traded some alcohol and baby food for that package of tomato juice cans, he saw some piece of machinery. It looked to me like big old part of car engine, completely not useful for anything. (Want some ideas for items for trade? Join our discussion)
But T. was obsessed with making homemade grinder that he could use for all kind of stuff.
“What do you want for this?” he asked.
“Oh , you see it is perfect for…for… you see you could use that for…” guy from 6th street tried to rise the price trying to discover for what T. is planning to use that piece of junk.
“I want to use it for making the grinder” T. said again, ignoring my leg signs to be quiet and let me finish the deal.
Finally guy from 6th street put big fat trading smile on his face, with more holes than teeth in his mouth.
We all were missing teeth in that time, but somehow always surprised me when I saw it on someone else. Funny and disturbing at same time. I did not want to confront T. in front of the guys because it was not smart idea. When you trade you must look and act confident, giving the other side clear picture that you are know what you are doing.
If two of us looked like we are not agreeing, or we have something to argue, or that we are not confident, other side could get the idea that we are weak. And that could be dangerous.
So T. traded some stuff for that thing. We drink some more stuff and went home.
Now, after I woke up and sat in my bed I was trying to remember how much tomato cans he gave back for that piece of machinery but I could not remember.
It was pretty dark in the room with all junk moved on windows and I started to carefully look for rifle. I had ritual of leaving my rifle always in same position next to my bed, at the reach of my hand, loaded and ready, but not too close to me.
I remembered stories about incidents with weapon, guy who slept with his loaded rifle next to him, so after his friend storm into the room and yell at him “Wake up! They are attacking” he panicked and blew his own feet into the pieces.
Other folks would do opposite things and store weapons at “secure place” so after someone attacked them they had trouble to “unsecure” it and make it usable. There were lots of funny situations in world where whole bunch of folks trying to shoot and fight but without too much previous experience with weapon.
I get up from the bed, and search my pockets for cigarettes. Could not find single one. Then I turn my pockets out and collect tobacco dust.
I found enough for one cigarette. In corner of the room I picked some paper from newspaper and roll one fat cigar.
While rolling dust in paper I checked what was printed on that piece of paper : “…and we must all be patient and do everything… some people want to use panic…I promise you…” some political bullshit from peace time. It looked so far away now.
I went out to the yard, pulling the small pieces of crap that would make cigarette taste bad from the cigarette, carefully watching to hold it in vertical position all the time, otherwise tobacco simply would go out from the cigarette in split second.
Skinny was on the balcony, doing something like watch, but in reality daytime was peaceful time in the terms of the surprises and dangers at the front door of our yard. He was just trying to catch some sun there.
T. was sitting on the old car wheel with screwdriver in his hands while small fortune of tools were around him. Old piece of steel that he traded last night was in his hand, he was trying to attach it to complex mix of stone wood and steel that he worked on for last few weeks.
“And how much food you gave up for that piece of ****?” (pointing at the steel) Skinny asked me.
“I did not give anything, he wanted to take it, he took it, he give it leave him alone” I said, at same time thinking that he gave that food for nothing.
T. put some oil on that part and continued to work, and talk to us:
“How long already are we living like animals? 4 months? 5? How dirty are we? All that we can do is to shoot, sleep and find food to eat?
Did you even try to really DO something? I am building something here.”
Skinny completely ignored him, he made “kids binoculars” with his hands (fists) and watched plane barely visible high in the sky. In last few weeks foreign fighter jets flew high in the sky, as a part of the effort to stop civil war under them. I guess the thought they gonna somehow scare folks and armies under them to stop fight with simply showing the force.
Only mistake in whole thinking was that they forget that they deal with Balkans. We slaughtered each other here for centuries with unbelievable rage, and then lived together in big love with silenced hate. No too much sense.
Most of the folks watched those jets like they are some kind of magic or not even real.
Interesting and maybe dangerous magic, but far away and in some other dimension. Much bigger transport planes flew at night, throwing food for us, in the form of MREs (we called that “lunch packets”).
Skinny still looked at fighter jet high in the skies, and asked me “how high you think they are flying there?”
“Why you ask?” I said.
“I just ask”.
I kept looking at him suspiciously, because I remembered our neighbour who stated (OK he was completely drunk) that he had brilliant plan to end this siege. When we asked him how, he explained that he will shoot at the airplanes, and when they respond to that they will bomb whole area and everything will end.
One of most stupid things that I ever heard. It was like shooting the man who brings you sandwich when you are hungry but desperate folks will talk lot of nonsense.
“I am just thinking how funny and how far away we are to that pilot up there. He looks down and sees some buildings and smoke, some shitty place, and then 15 minutes later he is out of the whole area, going home, or wherever out of this mess. Can you imagine how cool is that to be out from here in 15 minutes?” he asked me.
“No I do not” I hated discussion like that, “what if” or “imagine if we..” or “only if…”
We were here, and thats it. I learned or trained myself to live and think only for today or only few days into the future. I learn not to hope too much.
Hope can be shitty thing when it proves to be false.
In first period we all thought like “oh this is temporary” or “someone gonna solve this” pretty soon people realize that nobody gives a damn about us, and that we are on our own.
After that realization some folks just lost touch with reality, some else use their skills, brain or imagination to survive.
T. always was doing some projects, trying to make things easier, to create tools for easier living. Usually it was useless. Skinny was dreaming all the time, about when “all this come to the end” and “what if” scenarios.
I learned to stay in present moment. Each one of us had some kind of mechanism of coping with new reality.
Later that same day guy from the neighbourhood came with info that chemical gas was used in one part of the city from some unit so we pretty soon forgot discussion about planes and everything.
And what about the project that T. Was trying to finish?
Yes he actually made it, he did made some kind of grinder, but much later. And funny thing was that few days after he finished that siege was over, so there was no need for that anymore.
Maybe he was building that grinder so slowly with purpose to keep some sense for him, I do not know.
This was how one of my days went. Lessons here are keep yourself busy and what works for others does not have to work for you. If you have also experienced survival situation head over to our Personal Survival Experience & Lessons Learned forum and share your story.