March 21, 2020

Thinking Beyond the Gun

When planning for survival, guns, camo, and ammo are usually at the top of the list. Some consider firearms a must have, while others spend most of their time and energy focusing on this one aspect. The trouble is that there are plenty of places where owning certain firearms is difficult at best or firearms are frowned upon in total. These people are still in need of a tool to replace the firearm’s utility. In this article we will explore the many different options that can replace a firearm in your survival plan.  

First, let us look at the niches a firearm can fill.

  • Security/safety: having a gun makes you a much harder target to exploit, be it by vandals or wildlife.
  • Hunting: it is generally easier to kill an animal with a gun than many other tools.
  • Signaling, attracting attention: the report and the muzzle flash can be heard and seen for miles.
  • Bartering: the value of a firearm or ammunition can be used to gain other essential items through trade

It is a respectable list for one weapon to perform, but there are alternative tools we can use that can do many of these (granted, if you want all, a gun is your best bet):

Bow and arrow—Ranging from a full six-foot wooden bow to a compact one-handed crossbow, this tool can be a capable substitute for a firearm.  Lightweight, easy to use (but difficult to master), and very easily obtained, the bow is an option for just about anyone. For healthy adults, a compound (<$100) or recurve bow (<$300) gives the ability to take down any large mammal, while also being able to hunt rabbit or squirrel. The full-size bow is also very capable of stopping a person, making it a suitable tool for self-defense. For urban environments, or for those with weaker strength, a small handheld crossbow (<$300) might be a good choice. Easily hidden in a backpack, it has the power to take down a large dog on a well aimed shot, but is very capable of hunting small game, such as rodents, cats, or birds.  It also with severely wound a human, making it applicable for self-defense. With a little training and practice, one can make arrows, meaning you can make more ammunition in the field. It is also possible to craft a longbow from scratch, making trade an option. Full size bows suffer from being very hard to conceal, while the smaller ones begin to suffer from a lack of power.

Slingshot/wrist rocket—We are not talking about the little wooden ones powered by a rubber band like Dennis the Menace has, but the modern steel framed, rubber/silicone tubed powered hunting tools of today (<$12). These come in all sizes, with the most common being a handheld vertical grip and yoke with a collapsible back-strap frame for stabilization. Powered by high strength tubing, these sling shots can launch steel balls or well-chosen rocks with the power and accuracy to hunt small game. As a self defense weapon, they can cause serious injury if a soft area (such as the face) is hit. A full-size sling shot with steel ball ammunition can even break a skull. A group of small rocks can be launched at close range (5-25 feet) into the face of an attacker, possibly disabling them. Much smaller than a bow, these can be carried in a small pouch or even some medium sized purses.  If one has access to surgical tubing, it is easy to craft. A similar tool is the sling, but it is much harder to use.

Blowgun—Used for centuries by earlier humans for hunting, with modern materials anyone can be a marksman with a blowgun (<$10). Made of either hollowed-out wood, or, more commonly, tubular steel, a blowgun can be a foot to many feet in length. The longer the barrel, the easier it is to aim and the more powerful the shot. On the flip side, as it gets longer conceal-ability decreases. Medium length blowguns can be made to look like canes, while longer ones can be made to look—or be—walking sticks. Short of perfectly aimed shots or poisons, darts themselves are not very good for self-defense, though the barrel itself makes a good staff or baton. Ammunition is flexible, and many types can be hand crafted.

Pellet/BB gun—Ranging from single-shot pistols to repeating rifles, and having power levels from barely-able-to-pierce-skin up to nearly true firearm levels, the pellet/BB gun (<$50), in many ways, is simply a less powerful firearm—but still a firearm, nonetheless.  Please note, we are not talking about airsoft guns. Those are designed specifically to not cause serious harm.  In order to hunt, we need that power to do damage and catch game. For survival situations, we recommend using only those that are powered by a built in pump, such as lever action, break barrel or multiple pump. Needing to have CO2 cartridges is a significant liability in the long run. While useful for rapid fire from a pellet gun, only 20 effective shots per cartridge makes this a short term option. Break barrel and multi-pump pellet guns can easily kill small game, while also being useful in self-defense due to their power. Pump action or lever action, such as a Daisy BB gun, can be used to hunt very small game as it has limited power. It can be used for defense, but mainly to distract. Unless a BB hits an eye, most impacts will barely break skin, making it better used as a staff or baton than a gun.

Walking staff—This should be a five to six foot tall piece of thick strong wood. Essentially we are talking about a quarterstaff. Serving as both a walking stick and a weapon, this tool fails significantly in the hunting category. It could be used as spear, but most game will retreat from you before you can get that close. Mainly, this option serves as a non-aggressive show of force and close-range self-defense. Swinging this at nearly full length generates enough force to break bones. It also allows you to keep people back, or block their advance in a less violent way. A slightly longer staff (seven to eight feet) can be used as a shelter pole should you be mobile and needing an easy shelter to pitch. Staffs can also be used for signaling by tying bright cloth to one end and swinging it back and forth.

Combat cane—Sturdy hardwood combat canes (<$30) are the tool to have. Shaped like a normal walking cane, it serves the same purpose, but is built to take the punishment of actual combat.  Made of steam bent hardwood and with many fashioned with a point on the end of the handle, these are “concealed” weapons. Rarely seen as anything other than a tool for the “disabled,” a cane can also attract more attention by making you seem like a more vulnerable target, so use with care. However, it is well built for self-defense. A stab in the abdomen with your full weight behind it will cause internal injuries; the weight of the handle makes it a useful club; and the curved handle can be used to capture and immobilize arms or weapons. Be warned, training is need to be able to have a chance with these more complicated techniques, though just about anyone can use it to stab and bludgeon.

Pepper spray—Cheap, easy to find, and easy to use, pepper spray is an excellent self-defense tool, but lacks any real hunting use. It should be noted that Mace, or tear gas, is not the same, and some individuals can become immune to it through exposure. Pepper sprays range from 20 ounce bear spray cans to sub-ounce lipstick models, this tool can fit any environment. The biggest concerns with this tool is that it is very easy for spray to drift onto yourself during use and it does not always incapacitate the target. High winds can increase this risk as well as decrease effectiveness. Indoor use has the interesting effect of causing the spray to hang in the air, meaning that even a few minutes after use, if you walk through that area you can still acquire trace amounts of spray and cause discomfort or worse. While short range, under 20 feet for many models, the ability to unleash a continuous spray and/or multiple bursts makes this a versatile tool. I recommend having some no matter what your gear load. Having this in your kit takes up as much room as a single battery, but opens up many options for self-defense or bartering.

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Stun gun—The Taser is a good tool for subduing a single target, assuming you do not miss and their clothing does not interfere with the prongs. If there are multiple attackers or if you miss on the shot, you are left in a disadvantageous situation. With the ability to only take one target, the lengthy reload time, the high price point, the weight, and the large size, this tool is very low on the list as a survival self-defense weapon. Once the charge is expended it turns into a stun gun. These are handheld, and lacking any range, placing you in more danger to use than any of the other tools listed. That said, if this tool makes contact with an opponent, the slightest brush where the contacts touch causes significant pain. A solid stab with this can cause debilitating, yet temporary, pain and muscle convulsions, hopefully disabling the target. You have the ability to cause this effect as long as you have batteries in it. As a single set of batteries can last in standby for a very long time, the stun gun has sufficient life span to be considered for survival situations. If you lack the strength to swing a staff or cane, but want easy-to-conceal-non-firearm defense, a stun gun and pepper spray combo is a good choice. Use the pepper spray to disorient and distract, while the stun gun can be used to finish the submission, should the pepper spray not do the job.

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In all, there are plenty of options beyond the firearm for survival situations.  While none will directly replace a gun, each has qualities that a gun does not have. One of the biggest advantages that many of the listed above have is the ability to be concealed or hidden in plain sight. Also, all of these items are far less noisy than a firearm. Sometimes it pays to think outside the box, and you should never feel defenseless simply because you lack a firearm.

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