Survival Gear: Setting Your Group Standard

I am talking about the decisions you will make regarding the survival gear and equipment that your larger mutual assistance group is going to use. It is important to standardize on several major pieces of gear if you want to function cohesively as a unit.

Everyone likes to think they are unique and many people even go to great lengths to show the world just how special and creative they are. You have seen these types of people, maybe you are one yourself. Those who have tattoos all up one side and down the other (no judgement), who have multiple piercings and giant gauges in their ever expanding earlobes. They wear all manner of fashion that seems to be designed purely for shock value and their hair is carefully combed into their eyes.

Now before I get anyone upset, I am not advocating anyone dress any differently. I am a firm believer in the philosophy of if you want to let your freak flag fly, go right ahead. You aren’t bothering me at all. Except maybe the hair thing on guys today… I just want to cut that mop out of your eyes because it would drive me insane…And stop with the hair products maybe…

Seriously, I love variety and if you feel that you are expressing yourself, go right ahead. More power to you! However, in a survival situation there are times when being the only round peg in a room full of squares could be a disadvantage so today I want to talk about conforming.

The importance of the group standard to preppers

Now when I mention conforming, I am not talking about conforming to my version of society, your morals or style of dress or personal hygiene habits. I am talking about the decisions you will make regarding the survival gear and equipment that your larger mutual assistance group is going to use. It is important to formalize a group standard on several major pieces of gear if you want to function cohesively as a unit.

If each person is unique, their own purple flower with magenta ombre highlights, and does their own thing – you aren’t a group at all. You are just a bunch of individuals hanging around together and believe it or not, that could be a drawback. Let’s imagine a SHTF scenario for example. It’s bad, really bad and you are huddled together with your survival group, trying to get by and taking each challenge as it comes.

Choosing standard firearms

One of our posts that has had the most discussion back and forth has been The AK-47 vs AR-15: Which Rifle is Better? I wrote this back in March of 2014 but debates about the best firearm in a SHTF scenario have probably been raging since men were carrying around flintlock pistols. We are unlikely to find consensus as a whole prepper or survivalist movement, but your own survival group needs to come up with one choice and stick with it.

Why can’t I have my AR15 and Bob have his FN SCAR? Why can’t Julie carry her KRISS Vector while Mary rocks the tried and true AK-47?

I can give you a lot of reasons:

Standard firearms behave the same way. One you learn the mechanics of your AR15, every other AR15 behaves the same way

Magazines: Each of your battle rifles should use the same magazines so that if needed, you can grab a spare one from your buddy, lock and load and keep going. You never want to find out that you are under attack and nobody around you has the same magazine, or that two people do, but they aren’t with you at the moment. Try telling your buddy to just hold them off-while you reload a few more magazines.

Spare Parts and Accessories: Let’s say someone has a rifle that has a part malfunction that renders that rifle inoperative. You could either let that sit on the shelf or you can use the spare parts to fix other rifles that may need it. Yes, you should always have spares but it’s far less trouble to buy three of one thing as opposed to one different part three times. You won’t have to learn how to pull apart three different weapons either although knowing how would be a good skill.

You can also look at accessories the same way. I have at least 3 different sets of scope rings I got for 3 different scopes. If I were to have the same scope as my buddy and mine went bad, if needed, I could simply swap his out with mine. The alternative of strapping that nice Vortex Strike Eagle down with duct tape isn’t a good option.

Operation and features: Standard firearms behave the same way. One you learn the mechanics of your AR15, every other AR15 behaves the same way. Learn how to disassemble one, you know how to disassemble all of them. Have a misfire? You know how to quickly clear one AR…I think you get the point.

Reliability: I will also add this minor factor in there. Assuming you buy comparable quality firearms, the make of your rifle and the reliability will be comparable to the other rifles so your lifespans should work out close to the same period of time assuming proper care and maintenance. I know I had an M-16 from the 70’s when I was in the Army and it worked just fine. I did get some new hand-grips though.

Choosing standard calibers

This one should be in the same category but I wanted to break it out because we could be talking about Shotguns, Rifles and Pistols above with your standard firearms. Your ammo should be the same for all firearms as well. So if you have standardized on Glock for example for your pistol, everyone should have the same caliber. This can be .45 or .40 or .357 or .9mm but everyone should carry the same ammo. Same point as above for magazines. When you run out, someone else’s magazine and the ammo naturally will slide right back into your pistol. Which pistol caliber is the best? That is a different argument and a completely different post.

Choosing standard camouflage

Uh, yep! I think camouflage is very necessary in a survival situation.
Uh, yep! I think camouflage is very necessary in a survival situation.

Is camouflage necessary? It really depends on what you envision as being possible in your survival group. Do you see this as the end of the world as we know it? Do you imagine hostile refugees coming down your street to demand food or the use of your women? Do you expect to be fighting traitorous UN forces who are marching across town? Do you think you will need to hide? Do you think you will need to hunt?

Having the same outfit can prevent someone from easily sneaking into your perimeter unnoticed. Granted, they could be wearing the same old Woodland Camo fatigues I wore in service and if that is what I chose for my group I would be in trouble. There is a case to be made for selecting something a little more novel like German, Australian or British camo. I prefer the easy options available at any hunting store in the US made by RealTree. They match your local foliage and if you are caught in them, you can easily say you were hunting. No need to look like a paramilitary type and gain unwanted attention if you don’t have to.

Choosing standard communication equipment

Baofeng makes a great, affordable radio for preppers.
Baofeng makes a great, affordable radio for preppers.

I am referring to shortwave radios here. Radio frequencies are the same no matter what equipment you have so why do we have to purchase the same radios? I will give you two reasons. The first is batteries and the second is operation. I have yet to see two HAM radios that were programmed the same way. I know there is software that can make this easier, but to my mind if everyone has the same radio, everyone will know how to use it the same way. Less problems, fewer mistakes. You can choose from a lot of manufacturers and spend a little or a lot of money, but radios should also be the same for your group. My personal choice is Baofeng’s BF F8HP model.


There you have a few of my reasons and rationale for setting a group standard and in these instances at least, not trying to be a purple unicorn with sparkles. I am sure there are those out there who have different opinions so let’s hear them!

  1. Although the information contained here is sound, and many good points were made, it is rather unrealistic. Here’s why….

    First, many of us are financially strapped. Some are vets on a pension. So, as far as similar firearms, most have either 5.56 or 7.62 mm. for rifles. Some have other calibers. Some have long range rifles, others have moderate range. That’s as good as it will get.

    Second, small arms vary. Many were smart to get NATO (9mm) but many are varied, .45 ACP, 40 cal. etc. Again, we have to work with what we have. That’s it.

    The best advice is about the comm. units. We have similar radios (different makes) but they can communicate with one another. Again, we work with what we have. We’re just regular “joes” who are working together to survive.

    Your advice is better for millionaires, rather than middle-class neighbors working together to fight or survive. It is, what it is.

    1. I’d have to disagree. It doesn’t take a millionaires wallet to have a group standard.

      A decent AR pattern rifle in 5.56 can be bought for about $500 and you don’t to plop an ACOG on it. A decent red dot sight can be found for under $100. I only have Aimpoint Compm4s on mine because they where a good deal on fleabay.

      You can get a Ruger American Rifle or Remington 700 at Walmart in pretty much any caliber, i prefer 308 Winchester, for a few hundred. Again you don’t need Zeiss optics when a Nikon Prostaff will be serviceable.

      A Mossberg 500 is in $300 range and good quality pistol about $500. Beofung radios are in the $40 range.

      All not near the price range of Daniels Defense, Wilson Combat, Benelli or Barrett. Although I understand the run what you brung point you’re making. I’m saying you don’t need to break the bank and still have a standardized set of equipment

      1. x2 Thomas’s

        We may hate it, but we may have to sell something that’s already in our closets if we want to bring the cost on something new down or have enough magazines for comfort. Life’s full of those tradeoffs. What we want more – group conformity or 3-5 bolt guns instead of 1-3 – factors in.

        That conformity goes into all kinds of things for ease and convenience when working with a group – or should at least be discussed – not just firearms and common calibers.

        Head’s Up:
        Not all ARs are actually interchangeable. We had a guy on a forum a couple years ago who sank better than $1K into an HK off the shelf, then asked our opinions. (Telling me about your $1K or $2K rig and then whining that you can;t afford ammo or training does not go far on that forum.)
        His buyer’s remorse when up when with some research, we discovered that several generations of that model didn’t actually have interchangeable parts and some of the gun forums and reviews had people who could only run factory mags in that model without doing some extra work on it or other mags. Oops.

        Nice article, Pat!

        1. I didn’t know that about ARs in 5.56. I know my LR308 isn’t interchangeable with other AR pattern 308s since the M14 is/was the issue rifle in 308.

          Wow 2k for 1 rifle! I’ve probably got that much in 2 with Aimpoints on both and 3dz Magpul mags and few hundred rounds.

          1. My bust. I must have shielded my brain with a faulty memory. $2.8K, not 1-2K, and before the Aimpoint.

            Oh yeah.

            It went much gentler on him than expected from the group that was on that forum at the time when he posted:
            “Im the kind of person that would rather buy quality even if its a good
            deal more expensive. … My HK MR556A1 rifle lists for 3,500.00 but I got it at buds for 2,800.00. The Aimpoint red dot scope was almost 800.00 with the mounts and extras. Do you think I am going overboard…. I’ve been an HK fan all my life. I own a few pistols and they have never let me down.”

            And then on another thread in the same forum he was crying about the cost of ammo.
            Went SOOOOO much better than expected. There were two in particular who were expected to shred him, and didn’t even sniff or nibble.

            I’d have liked to go AR with the .308s, but boy toy and another really liked the M1a especially in SOCOM Scout setup, so we went that painful direction for a thump with hi cap mag.

            Still makes me suck wind a little to drop that much on one gun. There were many hugs offered to my S&W MP15s, old beat-up bolt guns and shotguns as I assured them they were worth 10x that beast.
            ; )=

            1. I looked at M1As because of the M14. I ran across the last LR308 online with the free-floating forearm, A2 front sight and detachable carry handle for $800 NIB. And as a bonus the Mossberg MVP uses the same mags. Now that things a tack driver!

              Plus the $1600-1800 for the M1A was tough to get my wallet around.

      2. Great points Thomas! And yes, I wasn’t suggesting anyone go out and buy matching Kimber Tactical 1911’s. Sure would like to have one myself though…. One day 🙂

    2. Millionaires? OK, I do know that firearms cost money, but I am not advocating spending one cent more than you are already spending or have spent. My entire point was around the benefits of having standards in your equipment and how that would be an advantage. I am not saying that if you don’t all have the same equipment you are doomed to fail or that you should just give up but I do think equipment standards are the best possible scenario and if you are buying now, that is something to take into consideration.

      Oh and I myself am just a middle-class guy, working to survive too so I feel your pain.

  2. The Baofeng BF-F8HP (and it’s two identical cousins, the BF-F9V2+ and the UV-5R TP) are all 8w (on VHF) and 7w (on UHF) radios, so those of you using FRS or GMRS are down to 7w on UHF. The Baofeng series of these HP radios were consistently well liked for several years, but in today’s communication world they have fallen behind in both performance and reliability.

    A far better choice for preppers nowadays is the TYT TH-UV8000D V4 handheld for several reasons:

    One, the TYT actually does 10w on either VHF or UHF (and sometimes the extra power is really handy when you’re out in the sticks),

    Two, the TYT (version 4 model) actually does cross-band repeat (which means your group can have multiple repeaters set up around your location greatly expanding your off-grid communication range),

    Three, the TYT offers compandered audio (like a speech processor for FM), making your audio louder on the receiving end of the transmission,

    Four, the TYT ships with a 3600 mAh battery as standard (vs. a 2000 mAh battery – or less – on the various Baofeng radios). Yes, I know you can add an extended battery for the Baofeng models, just remember to add that extra cost.

    Five, the TYT ships with two different antennas in the box. One antenna is approx. 7.5″ and the other long range antenna is approx 15″. Again, I know that you can add a longer and better antenna to the Baofeng model radios, just remember to add the extra cost.

    Certainly the various model Baofeng’s already owned by any group don’t need to be tossed into the trash, but intelligent prepping means you also need to follow advancements in the field, and the TYT TH-UV8000D (V4) allows far greater range for basically the same cost (or less) than the Baofeng BF-F8HP series (once you add in the options like the larger battery and longer range antenna).

    Just because you used to watch TV on tube sets doesn’t mean you have to now. The same is true with comm gear.

    1. I have the 2016 build for my Beofung UV5Rs. I’m a serious neophyte in ham radio and still trying to figure out how to work the radios I have.

      For other ham newbs who haven’t bought anything yet, how do the radios you talked about compare for ease of use and sharpness of the learning curve?

      1. No inexpensive Chinese built radio has all of the built-in ham-like functions of a $300 to $600 Japanese ham radio radio from Alinco, Icom, Kenwood, or Yaesu, but TYT and Wouxun are both closer to many of those ease of use features than any Baofeng (I own nearly every one of them to test our programming templates on that our company offers).

        Both TYT and Wouxun also offer various features not found on any Baofeng model (like the cross-band repeat function) which always turns heads when we demo that feature at various prepper shows (like PrepperCon, SurvivalCon, and the Dallas Preparedness Expo).

        TYT radios also have the ability to only show one frequency (or alpha-named channel) on the display (instead of always showing two), which is very handy if the user is new to radio comms, as they sometimes have a hard time knowing which of the two frequencies is actually active on the Baofeng radio line. Once they become more adapt at radio comms, it’s easy to restore the display to two frequencies later on.

        Several of the TYT radio’s also offer audio inversion (aka scrambling) which can’t legally be used on ham radio frequencies here in the U.S., but can be used on other radio bands.

        Not knowing what specific issues you may be having with the Baofeng radios, it’s hard to offer you a direct answer to your question, but if you email me at [email protected] I’d be happy to send you one of our whitepapers on how to avoid common Baofeng problems with your new radio.

  3. So if I read this correctly, post SHTF, you would exclude someone if they had an AK-47 and your group had ARs? What about women who aren’t skilled with guns at all? There’s 300 million people in America, I think thinking like this is too rigid for what the world would actually look like in a post fan hitting scenario.

    1. Pretty sure he’s talking about groups that have already established or are in the process of establishing in a PRE world, not post.

      Also, there are men out there who are utterly clueless about firearms, even in the south, lots of them. There are also men who understand one type, say a shotgun or a hunting rifle, who can be just as dangerous or more so as one who’s only used his thumbs on a video game when it comes to pistols.
      I almost lost a toe to a relatively experienced AR-toter (8 years Army noncombatant, at least 8 in military sporter competitions; his host thought he’d be fine and he didn’t nut up that he was clueless and had never used holsters or revolvers before). Bullet passed so close, it actually burned the side of my pinky toe while it was wrecking my shoe.
      There were oh so many ways that one could have been avoided, and it was the last time I turned a blind eye when somebody at a range makes me uncomfortable but a supposedly certified and experienced host member waves me off and assures me they’ve got it.

      Inexperience, lack of skill, and lack of training is universal.

      Rebecca Ann
      (Roll Tide)

      1. Greetings,

        Here’s my take on group standardization.
        Why are you asking just about weapons how about the other things in the article?
        Do you have our camouflage pattern?
        Do you have a compatible radio?

        There is a plethora of standard gear that each member is required to have and in a post SHTF situation chances that you have all ,if any, our standard gear or training is about ZERO.

        The reality is in a post SHTF situation it comes down to your skill set not your gear.

        We will not lower our standards to take in one under-equipped under-trained individual.
        My families safety and the group safety as a whole comes first.

        So yes we give you a bottle water a couple of MRE’s and send you on your way.

    2. I think you may have misunderstood Bamagrad03. I never said anyone should be excluded from your group. I did say that having a standard will allow you to “function cohesively as a unit.” I am only advocating what would be ideal to those who are making the decisions now.

      Naturally, if you get thrown into the mix with 5 other people and you all have different platforms, you are just going to have to roll with what you brought. My contention is that it is better for all concerned to be on a standard.

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