Saturday, January 19, 2008

Post-apocalyptic weapons

The other day, Corum asked:

Scrub, i wanted to ask this for a while, are you going to practice with weapons too?
If your tribe is going to be the only ones with food in the area, or even if you are going to have just more comfortable lives than other people... you sure as hell will need to defend your way of life.

I/we haven't put a whole lot of thought into this, and at this point my sole experience with guns involved missing a soda can with my one shot from an air rifle. I may well change my mind about what I write tonight, but I might as well start brainstorming somewhere!

I expect us to have weapons of some kind, if for no other reason than for hunting. Beyond that basic decision, I see two immediate next questions:

  1. What sort of weapons?
  2. What emphasis will we place on defense rather than simply hunting skills?

For question #1, I see two general approaches to hunting given our desire to ultimately depend on primitivist skills: 1) start off using all the heavy equipment, guns, and ammo we want to buy, and incrementally replace them with more and more primitive tools and techniques; or 2) start from scratch with primitive tools & techniques, using civilization-dependent technologies only if and when we need them.

For question #2, two aspects of our envisioned way of life help mitigate against a need to explicitly prepare for defense: our focus on learning skills such as nature awareness, silent stalking, and tracking; and our preparedness to rely entirely on mobile hunting & gathering. Those first skills should give us an advantage in many situations of conflict, assuming evenly matched weapons and numbers. I have no idea though to what extent those skills can compensate for an uneven match of weapons and/or numbers! Unfortunately, to whatever extent we carry out horticultural food procurement (permaculture) in one or even multiple fixed spots, we will present an attractive target to others if the shit seriously hits the fan. We do expect to involve ourselves with the community to whatever extent they welcome our input, to share our thoughts (and especially successful experiences once we have them worked out) with whomever will listen. Hopefully we can make ourselves too valuable a resource in knowledge and community support to leave anyone who knows us wanting to knock us off for a mere partial-year harvest. And if worst comes to worst, we hope to have developed the skills to disappear into the woods to hunt and gather (perhaps from plots we tend to some extent) in a roving lifestyle, where we never have enough accumulated food or other wealth for anyone to bother with us.

So, my practical plans for the next couple of years include:

  • Buy a slingshot and learn to use it
  • Practice throwing a rabbit stick
  • Maybe experiment with other weapons - atlatl, those twirly bola things, nets, others?...
  • Try to actually kill some squirrels (and eat them, of course)
  • Make and/or buy a bow, and learn to use it
  • Buy one or more guns, take a gun safety class, and start learning to shoot. (I might wait on this until we live rurally and can practice shooting without needing to pay at a city shooting range.)
  • Practice body skills - fox walking, balance, etc
  • Keep learning about bird language, learning from my sit spot, learning tracking, etc
  • I don't feel really inspired about this, but maybe I'll start again with some form of martial art


John said...

Slingshots are great fun :)

Mathew said...

I would suggest an air rifle- .22 caliber if you can find one. It is the most effective and humane way of dispatching rabbits and squirrels in an urban backyard.

As far as long term survival, John Michael Greer at The Archdruid Report makes an argument that the best way to ensure survival is to have valuable skills and ties to the community.

As far as weapons go, I wouldn't plan to go to primitive- firearms are durable enough to last a lifetime with good care, and you can bet that the last drop of oil will go into manufacturing ammunition.

Think of the poorest parts of Africa, where most people live on less than a dollar a day yet the warlords can afford AK-47's.

I am also certain that as long as there is metal to salvage, there will be steel weapons. Remember that gunpowder predates fossil fuels, and it can be made with renewable resources.

Bpaul said...

I'm working with a lot of the same thinking.

A friend taught me how to make an all-wood, all hand tools (steel ones, not planning to go all stone any time soon -- maybe ever)hunting bow. It's beautiful, functional, and I'm proud as hell of it.

I still used modern materials for the string, because I didn't want the string to fail and blow up my beautiful bow. I set up an archery range on the driveway and got decent accuracy after a season's practice. I made arrows by hand but with modern materials (wood dowels intended for arrow making, pre cut fletching). Got good enough accuracywise to hunt -- and learned to flint knap an obsidian head.

I didn't take a deer my first season, but there was one I aught to have and didn't take the shot.

Now -- I've changed over to guns. I am learning how to shoot and clean both shotguns and rifles, and will probably take animals with both before I bring out the bow again into the field for anything but small game. I do plan to use the bow, but want to get good at hunting first, then ratchet down to bow hunting.

So I am going all over the place with these questions, having fun, and learning a ton. I'm going to make sure that I'm having some kind of success to keep my interest up and food on the table. I'd rather not eat any factory meat (though at this point I do all the time, freaking school pressures) -- so some hunting successes soon would be very appreciated. Besides, The Wife wants some hides to learn to braintan on.

Cool post, been enjoying this series.

Bpaul said...

Ps: I spent some time as a fire lookout, and decided to try to get hunting-good with a slingshot. I bought a modern "hunting style" and practiced and practiced. I swear, it was harder to get accurate than with a bow!

At one point I hit a ruffed grouse square in the side (right on the wing) and it flew away like nothing had happened. Apparently the wing is not a good place to hit -- but at that point I put the thing away, I have to admit.

I think there is enormous potential there, and people hunt incredibly well with them, but I haven't had much success.

Corum said...

Oh man... now i feel responsible for the death of those poor squirrels, at least start practice on live targets only after you trained a fair amount of time on dead objects and you are fairly sure you can kill with on shot...

Anonymous said...

Hey Norris, this is Nat from, um like preschool, high-school, etc. I live in pdx too and am effectively on board with your philosophy as outlined in this blog. Let's get together sometime soon.

R.e. shootin critters and/or people, you might consider a hand-pump-powered air rifle/pistol. You can easily get a bajillion little pellets, some of which will be reusable.

But I agree with mathew, it would be better to be useful than armed.

Sarandipahtee said...

My favorite novel THE FIFTH SACRED THING, by Starhawk (a witch in San Francisco who teaches permie certification classes) addresses these questions - with lots of different angles of looking ... check it out!
Blessed Be!

Garden Cushions said...

Hunting and defense are two completely seperate issues and weapon choice depends on emphasis, for defense guns would be automatic for hunting rifles with sights, it woould also depend on what is readily available and the strength and numbers of assailants, you cannot really combat guns with sling shots.

Your unarmed neighbor said...

Hi- I've had this discussion with others too. First of all, I've been vegan for so long that my first thought is confusion... why would you worry about hunting? But, I know that not everyone comes from my perspective. As for shooting people, here are my thoughts. When the shit goes down, everyone will face that basic question. Do I help my neighbor or steal from my neighbor. Overwhelmingly humans choose to help their neighbors in the face of disaster. Rather than living with a gun or weapon in your home in fear of the unlikely event that someone will attack you, your time and energy would be better served learning a hand-to-hand martial arts (or other) self-defense. You can defend yourself from guns and other weapons more effectively with your hands, body, wits and practice than you can with a dangerous, symbolic, accident-prone gun.

Anonymous said...

"your time and energy would be better served learning a hand-to-hand martial arts (or other) self-defense. You can defend yourself from guns and other weapons more effectively with your hands, body, wits and practice than you can with a dangerous, symbolic, accident-prone gun."

Ooooh boy. That's the kind of thinking that's going to get you snuffed quick son. Ask any martial arts instructor worth his salt and they're gonna tell you that if someone shows up with a gun, you better run like hell. The whole reason martial arts were developed in the first place is because there were societies that outlawed the use of weapons and the poor folks needed something to defend their lives with. If martial arts were so great against guns, no cop or military person would use one. I'll say that knowing a martial art is good, but it ain't the end all be all.

Those who talked about a .22 pneumatic pump air rifle have a good idea for small game hunting.

If you want a firearm for self defense (like a hand gun), take a course and get someone to teach you. Just remember that only in Hollywood is a hand gun a primary weapon. Home defense would be served nicely with a pump shotgun. Remington 870 or a Mossberg 500, take your pick

Unarmed neighbor said...

Hi anonymous pro-gun person. The UK police force does not possess guns. Even if you have a gun, running or walking away is probably your safest chance. Personal story: After 2 years of the most basic beginner martial art training (I got to 3rd degree white belt, I bet you're impressed?) I disarmed an attacker, flipped him to the ground and pinned his elbow to the point of breaking while walking in Manhattan. The 180ish pound man poked me in the back and said "give me your wallet". Even with my limited training, my instincts pounced. I spun around with an automatic defense I had had drilled into me in class. Fortunately for my "attacker", I recognized him just in time before seriously injuring him... it was just a friend pulling a joke. He did get a concussion, but fortunately no broken elbow or wrist, which were both pinned under me (I'm only 5 feet tall, 120 - he could not move). His "gun" was only a lighter and was out of his hand before he knew what was happening. Admittedly, he had no true malicious intent to harm me, so he was not expecting anything. But I have no doubt I could disarm and incapacitate more than one armed assailant if, as you wisely point out, walking away was not an option. Guns are poor weapons for self defense. Guns are poor weapons for offense! They make you over-confident. Focus on how to help the people who have less than you and you will reduce your risk of attack.

FarmerGeek said...

Howdy, new to the blog and I am going to read up on what you are looking at but just a thought about this. For hunting especially, but even for protection, I would definitely add learning trapping. You can get food and useable hides, and you can stop people from sneaking up on you with traps and snares.

Just a thought.


Anonymous said...

Ok Unarmed neighbor you stated that "Guns are poor weapons for self defense. Guns are poor weapons for offense!" Firearms are a force multiplier, they give a person the ability to overcome a threat grater then they could if they had no weapon. For example a woman pertinent in her 3ed trimester isn't going to stop a dedicated attacker no matter how much hand to hand martial art training she has, but if she has a firearm & know how to use it she has a better chance to defend her self. And on the "offense" part your effective rang with your hands is about 3 feet, 4 if you kick, with my cheep 10 shot SKS rifle it's like 300 yards and that's medium rang for a rifle. And if you manage to get up close to me it has a bayonet you'll have to git pass. I,m not saying that hand to hand martial arts are useless, but it's just one tool you should be utilizing. That brings me to something else if you only eat plant matter then you are cutting a lot of potential food sources out of your diet and if you are in a survival situation you can't afford that. One last piece of wisdom Mr. 3rd degree white belt, their is all ways someone better then you out there so you might as well stack the deck in your favor.

Tom Gibson said...

The "Shakers" a 19th century community much like the one you are describing when they noticed people were stealing their food decided that the appropriate response was to plant more food. The same thing works well with deer and other animals-plant clover or something else that will keep them away from your fruit trees, etc.

On the other hand, if you want to grow more bullets then start using them. You will probably get more than you expected.

Tom Gibson

Anonymous said...

Unarmed neighbor, you are a complete dolt.