|Click here for Amazon Link|
1. What would you recommend be the primary goals for someone in an apartment or urban setting (moving is not an option), beyond the standard beans, bullets, band-aids and PT?
This is a very interesting one. I will give a few thoughts in response to what could become a very involved topic. Most would say: AVOID, as in either don’t be there or bug out to avoid the problem. But let’s assume that you are living in some sort of apartment in a big city and for whatever reason you can’t get out.
There are a few things that come to mind. We will assume some form of societal and rule of law breakdown, with scarce resources. Your city center is going to be where the worst rioting and also the initial law enforcement crackdown is going to be. Look at recent riots in Spain. You want to consider your OPSEC procedures to avoid becoming a target of mob and looting activities both in the initial stages and then later as the riots subside and you have marauders and gangs looking for food.
So it will be an administrative and ‘hunker down challenge. Aside from the mobs, one of my big concerns would be fire and even firestorms through the city. If you are hunkered down, you may or may not be able to do anything about that, except bug out. We said we could or would not bug out but assuming you decide to stay and have the option to go, look into low profile ratline type escape routes.
In an apartment you will be limited as to what you can store. The more you can, the less you will have to go out and try and forage or more likely actually become a raider yourself. Water storage may be a big issue so consider options such as access to a water source that is non-obvious. You may even be able to divert downspouts or use the roof etc. to collect water after the collapse. In an apartment you don’t have stand-off to any potential attackers so you will have to consider who lives around you and the routes in or up to your place. You will want to consider close range urban CQB style weapons and skills to defend corridors and stairwells to your apartment. But another issue could be that if you live in a city center, you may have pre-collapse restrictions on firearms ownership, another reason not to live there! If you are a group, consider taking over a floor or even better a freestanding concrete building where you can post sentries to cover all round and this will give you stand-off to keep people away and thus protect against arsonists as well.
If you look at urban civil wars, such as the siege of Sarajevo in the Balkans or Beirut, you see different groups fighting each other (could be gangs or cartels) and ‘snipers’ become a problem. If you are doing any sort of movement you need to avoid open spaces such as the streets. These will become kill zones either for ‘snipers’ or for roaming gangs. Think about using or creating ‘ratlines’ through buildings, basements and sewers in order to move to places, such as collecting water or whatever.
My thought as a small group would be to move to a more defensible location such as a building or warehouse perhaps in an industrial part of the city; something along the lines of the warehouse in ‘The Colony’, where you can have a perimeter and also stand-off distances. Unlike the Colony, you would hopefully have the required firearms to keep the attacking mobs at bay.
2. On home hardening, what are some options against small arms fire? How many sandbags thick? Is concrete filled cinder blocks thick enough? Any other inexpensive modular options?
Ballistic protection for your home is a balance between what you can do pre-SHTF and what you have ready to put in place after. The two strands are access denial/obstacles with stand-off, to slow any attackers down, and ballistic protection for fighting positions. You can’t beat the mass of simple dirt, which is why a basement is an ideal safe location, but not good to fight from. I have written elsewhere in detail about how to defend a property. Likely, your house itself will not provide protection against incoming high velocity rounds, so you will have to select and build fighting positions at key locations. Outside, you can do a combination of digging foxholes and building up bunkers. If using sandbags they should be ‘two deep’ and stacked in such a way so they are interlocked, like when laying bricks. Don’t fill and tie the end of the sandbags, but fill two-thirds full and then lay the open end under the sandbag as you lay it down.
If you are creating fighting positions in rooms, remember that they should be back from the window, with sectors of fire through the window, but a stand-alone bunker built back in the room. Use torn curtains or other material over the window to conceal your firing position. This is where weight is a consideration. Stacking dirt may cause the roof to fall in! You can shore up your floors, or best look at ways to lighten the ballistic protection. Perhaps you can use a combination of sandbags and maybe steel plate? I see a lot of comments about ‘oh I shot right through steel plate with my .308” etc. Thicker plate? Thing is, work out something with what you have to ‘laminate’ the protection so it all adds up to stopping rounds but does not collapse your house! Even phone books laid in place between plywood will help stop rounds. You can put in an OP/firing position by putting someone in a non-obvious position up in the attic and cutting out a small portion of the roof to observe and fire through.
Bricks and cinder blocks are better than simple wood siding but they will be shot through and also they can be shot so they crumble down with enough rounds. A 240 hammering at your brick wall will tear it down. You can do simple things such as filling a chest of drawers with dirt and getting behind it. But if it is just loose dirt it won’t do much. Filled sand bags are compacted and tamped down into position. If you come up with a laminate solution, best to take it out and shoot at it with .308 and see how it performs.
3. I read your article on vehicle movement during a SHTF situation. If someone was going to purchase a vehicle with the explicit purpose of this in mind, what should they get? How should they modify? Must hold 4 people.
My thoughts on this are that a really good vehicle would be a contractor type van. You know, the big ‘white vans’ which have the racks of contractor supplies on top. This would be great because you have a large enclosed space, which is basically a box. The space is enclosed so whatever you do to armor it and carry supplies/people, it will be low profile. This would give you the opportunity to install whatever ballistic protection you have decided to inside the ‘box’. You only have the two seat cab up front so this limits the areas where you have to install ‘complicated’ armor, such as lining the two doors to the driver and passenger side. You could then also modify this van as you wanted, maybe to go more high profile in total ‘Mad Max’ situation, by cutting firing ports in the sides or putting in a top gunner position. But what I really like is the idea of a ‘crappy’ contractor van tooling along all low profile with an armored box in the back, containing supplies and precious cargo such as kids. It also has less windows, with the van sides, so less access for mobs to get at the occupants. Get one with no back door windows.
4. Would like some advice on how long magazines for the AR15 and M1A should remain loaded (less one round left out while stored away.).
Ok, straight up I have never had a really technical answer to this myself. The idea, which may be an ‘urban myth’ or not, is that the springs will be weakened if you leave magazines constantly loaded. I always rotate my magazines. When deployed and having loaded magazines all the time, you will ‘unload’ them either on the range or in a contact, so you will routinely do this and not have to worry so much. At home, I leave most of my magazines unloaded except for a couple ‘just in case’; the idea being that when ‘the balloon goes up’ I will load the rest. I saw a photo on the internet of a locker stuffed full of M4 type weapons and full of loaded magazines ‘ready to go’ and my immediate thought was it was going to be a pain in the butt to have to unload them all….!
But it may be a myth, because I heard somewhere that the original idea of M4 type magazines was that they would be ‘throw away’ and supplied pre-loaded from the military supply chain, so obviously stored like that in a warehouse for a long time. I have never actually seen that though….If you are worried about it, keep most of them unloaded and if you are not fast with loading loose rounds, get some strip clips and a speed loader so you can ‘bomb up’ fast in a crisis. Sorry that I don’t have more technical detail on this, if someone has the definitive answer I would also be interested. I also think that Magpul PMAGs are designed with the supplied dust cover to remain loaded for long period of time, but please correct me if I am wrong. Does Arctic Patriot have a better answer on this one?