Friday, August 27, 2010
Welcome Preppers and Survivalists,
Spartan, one of my brothers, read my post titled Preppers, Survivalists, and Military Equipment, He suggested I write an article about hiding and fleeing because I had stated that preppers and their family should leave the country, if we started seeing military weapons.
Then I got to thinking. Maybe, I made a mistake; maybe, preppers do need to know about military weapons because most preppers won't be able to flee. Plus, this is the United States of America a bunch of fighters live in this country.
Before we begin.
First, this is what I know from experience, so I am going to cover the basic military weapons that a prepper/survivalist would see during a period of violent upheaval.
Second, you will notice I will address these tools as rifles, pistols, weapons, and all their variations, but I never called them a "gun."
Visualize in your mind a group of new young soldiers and an old grizzled Drill Sergeant (at the advanced age of 27) with a young, new, fresh-faced soldier running around the group shouting in a loud and thunderous voice (that never seems loud enough)
"This is my weapon" (holding up your rifle)
"This is my gun" (grabbing your crotch) (Yes, this includes you ladies)
"This is for killing" (holding up your rifle, again)
"This is for fun" (grabbing you crotch, again)
Now, this young soldier will run and shout, until the Drill Sergeant is tired of hearing it and everyone gets the message. Remember, these tools are for killing, nothing else.
Third, this article relies on Wikipedia to provide additional information, general and technical. Most of this information, from Wikipedia is correct; however, you must check with the appropriate military manuals for the final word.
Lastly, if you are really interested or think you will need to know how to use these weapons, you can download and read the appropriate military field manuals and technical manuals to gather more, a lot more, information.
So let's begin.
Military weapons are categorized into two groups, individual weapons and crew-served weapons.
Individual weapon is the term used by the military to label a soldier's individual weapon. It is either a pistol/revolver, rifle/carbine, shotgun, or sub-machine gun that a soldier carries for protection and combat, day to day.
The majority of the United States military uses one pistol, the M-9; it is based on a Beretta 92F pistol. The 92F is a pistol that you can buy at your local gun store. The M-9 fires a 9 millimeter bullet. Its standard magazine holds 15-rounds.
When the military first started using the M-9 pistol, it had some problems. The biggest problem was the slide cracked. The problem has been taken care off by removing a very small section of the slide.
There are other pistols used by the military, some exotic. Pistols that are used mainly by the military's truly elite forces, (Special Forces, Delta Force, and SEALs) but they are beyond the scope of this article. I have also not mentioned the pistols used by the Coast Guard.
Lastly, I was going to be uber-cool and write about US military revolvers, carried by undercover military police, then I realized that these weapons are rare, so I'm not writing about them, either. Plus, the revolvers are mainly civilian models purchased by the military. Nothing special or unique about military revolvers; just like the ones, you can buy in a gun store.
Now, most folks new to firearms confuse the black rifles you see in a gun store for military rifles. They are not military rifles; they are rifles based on military rifles.
Military rifles are selective-fire. Selective-fire allows you to fire automatic (one squeeze of the trigger fires multiple cartridges) or semiautomatic (one squeeze of the trigger fires one cartridge) Newer military rifles have a "burst" option instead of automatic. The rifle in burst will fire three cartridges for each squeeze of the trigger.
There is a reason for the military's switch from automatic to burst. The reason, the average soldier could not effectively control a rifle firing on automatic.
Now, don't get all grandiose on me thinking that you could fire a rifle on automatic because you are better than the average soldier. Trust me, it is a lot harder than you think.
By the way, to tell a military rifle from a military-style rifle is easy, just check the price. A M16 will set you back $12,000. Yes, that is twelve thousand dollars. Oh, don't forget the federal tax and paperwork issues. A military-style rifle will cost only about a grand ($1,000)
The M-4 carbine is a shortened version of the M-16. It is just under 30 inches long with the stock collapsed, and it is about 33 inches long. It uses standard 30-round and 20-round magazines. The M-4 carbine has a collapsible stock, uses the standard 20 and 30 round magazine, and it fires a 5.56 millimeter (,223) bullet.
The M-16A2 and M-16A4 rifle are the full sized version of the standard rifle carried by the United States military. It is a little over 39 inches long and weights over eight pounds. It uses the standard 30-round and 20-round magazines, and it fires a 5.56 millimeter bullet.
The M-14 rifle was used during the Vietnam War as the basic Infantry weapon. It was replaced by the M-16. Well, no good intention goes unpunished, so the military had to pull some out of storage because the M-16 wasn't effective at the long distances in desert warfare.
The M-14 is under 47 inches long and weighs just over 11 pounds. Its standard magazine hold 20 rounds, and the M-14 fires a 7.62 diameter bullet.
The U.S. military uses modified civilian shotguns. Two of the three shotguns I am going to mention are pump-actions. All three fire the standard 12 gauge shotgun round and hold from 5 to 8 rounds.
The M-870 is based on the popular Remington 870 pump-action shotgun. As far as I know, it is rarely seen in use by the United States military.
The M-590A1 is based on the Mossberg 500 pump-action shotgun. It is the most widely used shotgun by the U.S. military.
The USMC uses the M-1014 Combat Shotgun. It is a semi-automatic shotgun based on the Benelli M4 Super 90.
Sub-machine guns are weapons that shoot a pistol cartridge, usually the 9 millimeter round. They have been replaced by the M-4 carbine in most cases.
I am mentioning them because they were originally conceived to replace the pistol for military officers and other personal that rarely use their weapons for combat.
M-3 sub-machine gun
The M-3 sub-machine gun shoots a 45ACP cartridge just like the M-1911 pistol. It is usually seen in the hands of mechanics. (very rarely now a days)
This is the German sub-machine gun from the '80s. It fires a 9 millimeter round, the same round as the M-9 pistol. They are rarely used by anyone in the military.
If you have seen Stargate, you have seen a P-90. As far as I know, these are also very rare in the military.
The U.S. military is in the process of developing a new grenade launcher for its soldiers. I don't know when it will be finished and implemented, so I will only talk about the M-203, in this article
The M-203 grenade launcher mounts to the barrel of a soldier's rifle. It shoots a 40mm grenade out to about 300 meters. The path of 40mm grenade is arc-shaped this allows the person shooting the M-203 to hit targets behind walls or through windows, killing anyone within 15 feet of the exploding round.
These are the weapons that need more than one person to operate. They include machine guns, grenade launchers, mortars, and anti-tank missile systems.
M-249 Machine Gun / M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon
The M-249 fires the same round as the M-16 rifle. It is belt-fed (means the rounds are linked together in a metal belt that disintegrates when fired) The belts come packed in plastic magazines holding 200-rounds. The machine gun is carried by one soldier and can be mounted on vehicles.
Unlike the M-16 rifle, this weapon is designed to fire only on automatic. The gunner (the person firing the machine gun) squeezes the trigger and fires 6 to 9 round bursts. The assistant gunner, if there is one, will carry extra ammo and help the gunner effectively use the machine gun.
The M-249 can be fired laying down with its attached bipod or a tripod. If the M-249 is going to be used with a tripod, the assistant gunner will carry the tripod and other needed equipment, along with extra ammo.
M-60 Machine Gun
The M-60 machine gun is being removed from military service, if it hasn't already been removed.
The M-60 fires the same round as the M-14 rifle and is belt-fed. The M-60 machine gun takes two people to fire the machine gun. One is the gunner; the other is the assistant gunner. The assistant gunner feeds the ammunition into the machine gun and helps change the barrel of the M-60. Changing the barrel allows the machine gun to fire longer without overheating.
The machine gun also comes with a tripod, pintle, and T&E mechanism to help stabilize the machine gun and provide a method of aiming the weapon during the night. The assistant gunner carries these when moving from place to place.
M-240 Machine Gun
The M-240 is the replacement for the M-60 machine gun. It fires a 7.62 round (same as the M-60). It can be mounted on a vehicle or carried by one person. Just like the M-60, it is belt-fed and has an attached bipod. An assistant gunner helps feed the ammo and change the barrel. The assistant gunner carries the tripod, pintle, and T&E mechanism, also.
M-2 Machine Gun
The M-2 machine gun is heavy; it is rarely carried a long distance. It is usually mounted on vehicles. When the M-2 machine gun is ground mounted, it is always on a tripod, no bipod.
It fires a round 1/2 an inch in diameter. The round can kill someone 1.42 miles away. (No, I don't count the current record because the soldier used a purpose built rifle for his record kill, 1.51 miles)
As a little factoid: The M-2 machine gun has no safety. The inventory, John Browning, believed the gunner was the machine gun's safety (at least according to military legend)
The MK-19 is a 40 millimeter grenade launcher. Like the M-2 machine gun, it is usually mounted on a vehicle, and carried only a short distance. It uses a different round then the M-203 that is belt-fed and can shoot a round over 1,00 yards.
Mortars fire various explosive projectiles in a high arc. This allows the military to engage targets behind tall building, hills, and other obstacles that prohibit machine guns or rifles from directly hitting the target.
This is the smallest and lightest of the three mortars. Being the lightest and the smallest also means that it is the one with the shortest range and the least explosive effects. I believe, it will be the most likely one to be seen by the prepper or survivalist. In extreme situations, it can be fired by only two soldiers.
This mortar is the next most likely to be seen by civilians. When walking, it can be moved by a group of about four soldiers, but they will have a limited, very limited, number of rounds. It is really only effective with some kind of vehicle support or in a fixed position that allows stockpiling of mortar rounds. After the M-224, it is the most likely to be seen by a prepper or survivalist.
This one is heavy, over 300 pounds. I have only seen it once; it was mounted in an armoured personnel carrier. As far as I know, it has never been moved a long distance by foot.
Anti-Tank Missile Systems
I have very limited experience with anti-tank missiles, but anyone with a basic education and the proper manuals should be able to fire one of these missiles.
According to Wikipedia, this missile is no longer in service with the United States military.
This is a fire-and-forget anti-tank missile. This means that a soldier can shoot the missile and leave, very quickly.
These weapons are neither individual or crew-served weapons, but they can be used by anyone who needs them. Usually they are used by combat soldiers such as Infantrymen, Engineers, Cavalrymen (Scouts and Tankers), and Military Police.
This is the standard grenade carried by soldiers in the United States Army and Marine Corps. It has a kill-radius of 15 feet, and a casualty radius of 45 feet. This means you have to throw it that far or take cover to protect yourself.
AN M-8/AN M-18 Smoke Grenades
The M-8 smoke grenade gives off a thick white smoke; it is used to block the enemy's view during an attack or retreat. The M-18 smoke grenade comes in various colors, like the M-8, it is used to block the enemy's view or signal your comrades.
There are two types of land mines in the military, anti-personal and anti-tank mines
Anti-personal mines are small mines designed to kill or maim people. US soldiers receive training experience with two anti-personal mines, the M-16 mine and the M-18 claymore mine
You usually see this type of mine on tv shows; the hero or his buddy steps on a "Bouncing Betty," and the hero must save them. The hero takes a knife and slowly renders the mine harmless until they can get to safety.
In real life, the mine shots into the air, about waist high, killing everyone within its kill radius. Yeah, the hero or his buddy would be dead about 1 second after stepping on this type of mine.
Plus, this mine can be used with a trip wire.
This is a mine that you can use to cover specific areas because the mine's blast can be direct towards a specific area. It has a curved form; the mine's front has a gazillion steel balls embedded in a sheet of C-4 explosives. (Military legend says the steel balls are government rejected ball bearing)
To effectively aim this mine, you need a popsicle stick, so ask a soldier how to sight the claymore properly. OK, you can use any straight stick, such as a pen or pencil to aim the mine.
By the way, just like a grenade, if you aren't behind cover when you detonate this mine, you can be hurt or killed.
Anti-tank mines are used to stop vehicles and tanks. Soldiers usually receive training on two of these mines, the M-15 and the M-21.
All I can say is they are big and heavy, and they work.
Lastly, My Thoughts
Most people assume that military weapons are prohibited in these United Stated; they are not prohibited. Military rifles, carbines, machine guns, and hand grenades are legally available; you just have to look.
And illegally buying a military weapon can get you many years in prison. Be warned, national, state, and local law enforcement operate stings to apprehend stupid folks trying to illegally buy machine guns and other military weapons.
Now, with that said. During a Yugoslavia-type national break up or an Iraqi-style ethnic cleansing situation, military weapons may be available to preppers and survivalists on the black market or from supportive government organizations. Another situation, where military weapons may be available is during a severe economic collapse or drug war.
So be warned.
In the movie "Panic in the Year Zero," Harry Baldwin assumes automatic weapons fire is from the military. It might not be in real emergency.
Next, if you have to use land mines to protect your family, please, please, please make sure to record where the mines are. All over this world, farmers still can't use fertile fields to feed themselves and their families because folks didn't draw a simple map of where they put the mine fields.
Lastly, this article was a very brief overview of the common military weapons that a prepper or survivalist might see during a severe disaster/conflict. Hopefully, these weapons are never used on a large scale in these United States; however, it is a possibility that has happen before around the World (Mexico, Iraq, Yugoslavia, and ...) and in this country during our Civil War.
Update: 28 Aug 2010
I talked with my wife, and she told me that I should list the field manuals (FM) and technical manuals (TM) that would be used for these various weapons.
Now, don't go out and buy these manuals. If you cut and paste to a search engine, you can find a free copy in .pdf or go to the military websites to download the appropriate manuals.
Update: 5 September 2010
Rewrote some of this article and added more information. There is still more information to be added.
M-16 and M-4 Rifle/Carbine
MODEL 500 and 590
M-3 Sub-machine Gun
M-203 Grenade Launcher
M-249 Machine Gun
M-60 Machine Gun
FM 3-22.68 or FM 23-67
M-240 Machine Gun
M-2 Machine Gun
FM 3-22.65 or FM 23-65
Anti-Tank Missile Systems
FM 3-23.30 Grenades and Pyrotechnics Signals
Wikipedia - List of Individual Weapons of the U.S. Armed Forces
Wikipedia - List of Crew-Served Weapons of the U.S. Armed Forces
Wikipedia - List of Anti-Tank Guided Missiles
About.com - U.S Military: United States Military Weapons of War
Impact Guns - Machine Guns
Wikipedia - Combat Shotgun
Wikipedia - M-1911 Pistol
Wikipedia - Stargate
Wikipedia - Machine Gun Tripod
Wikipedia - United States Hand Grenades
Friday, August 6, 2010
Welcome Preppers and Survivalists,
The military is a unique organization when I say unique I mean strange, very strange. First, there are two militaries, there are the non-combat related jobs then there are the combat related job. The non-combat related jobs are the folks that have a 9 to 5 job, kind of. They move supplies, fill out paperwork, repair equipment, treat water, work in hospitals, operate bulldozers, and et cetera. The combat related jobs have folks blowing up stuff, dropping bombs, shooting at people with rifles, machine guns, cannons, 16-inch guns, missiles, ...
You get the idea, killers and non-killers.
Now, both groups use common equipment that they use to survive warfare.
The first item I am going to write about is the helmet. There are three types, the M-1 helmet (the steel pot), the PASGT helmet (kelvar or k-pot), and the 3rd generation helmets (Modular Integrated Communications Helmet, Advance Combat Helmet, and Light Weight Helmet)
The steel pot is a steel shell with a fiberglass liner. It protects a person from shrapnel, pieces of bombs, artillery shells, and hand grenades. A rifle bullet will go right through it. (See the beginning of "Saving Private Ryan") This is the same for the kelvar helmet. It is only though luck that a person survives a rifle shot, to the head, when wearing a k-pot. The MICH and ACH have only been designed to stop a 9 millimeter round, a handgun round.
The next protective item is body armour. Just like the helmet, there are three generations of modern body armour. OK, there are really four, but I'm not going to include World War One steel plate. The first is the flak vest. It was used from World War Two until the 1980s; the flak vest/jacket was designed to stop shrapnel but not bullets, just like the M-1 helmet. In the late 80s, the military issued the PASGT vest; it is also known as a flak vest. This vest is only designed to stop shrapnel, too. The Interceptor Body Armor, a third generation protective vest, is designed to stop rifle bullets.
So, which one should a prepper buy?
First, you have to ask yourself, do you really need one? Remember, military gear may be inappropriate for preppers because we should be leaving places of danger, not running towards danger.
Next, you have to ask, does my threat analysis require me to have tactical gear such as helmets and body armour?
Lastly, do you have the money? A MICH helmet runs about $400 and a tactical vest start at say $600, plus another $400 for two rifle plates, $1400 for one person. $1400 will buy a lot of food.
Load Carrying Equipment
Just like the name says, this equipment carries a military person's combat gear such as magazines, canteens, and hand grenades. Just like helmets and protective vests, load carrying equipment comes in three generations. The first generation is from World War Two. The next generation is called TA-50, web gear, LBE, or ALICE gear. The next generation is what you see soldiers wearing, today; it's called MOLLE gear.
The World War Two gear is made out of cotton canvas. It is rugged but the gear is more difficult to maintain. The gear will rot, if it is poorly maintained. Plus, it has very little padding and uses metal hooks to hold the pieces together. These metal hooks allow canteens and other gear to unnecessarily flop around.
The TA-50, web gear, LBE, or ALICE gear was also originally made out of canvas, this caused problems during the Vietnam War. About half way through that war, the military transitioned to nylon. As you probably know, nylon will not rot like cotton canvas, and it is lighter in weight. The military also changed the hook attachment system to a metal clip system. The metal clips will prohibit accessories from flopping around, but they will rub on you and cause "hot-spots." Plus, they can unexpectedly open that is the reason for smart-cords and other modifications.
The military currently uses MOLLE gear made out of nylon and other human-made material. MOLLE gear is very modular because the gear uses rows of wedding, sewn to vests and plate carriers, and plastic clips to attach stuff.
So, which one should a prepper buy, ALICE or MOLLE?
I'm going to ask some of the same questions that I did before.
First, you have to ask yourself, do you really need this? Remember, military gear may be inappropriate for preppers because we should be leaving places of danger, not running towards danger. Plus, which is more important, food or gear?
Next, you have to ask, does my threat analysis require me to have tactical gear such as load carrying equipment?
Lastly, you have to ask yourself, how big is your budget? A set of ALICE gear (belt, suspenders, two canteens with carriers, two ammo pouches, and a butt pack will run $35 to $75. A set of MOLLE, the sky is the limit. Just so you know, some quality names are Practical Tactical, Blackhawk, Tactical Tailor, and many others. Just make sure you shop around, and remember, if it's to good to be true, it probably is.
Note: Practical Tactical is going out of business. He is offering a 15% discount on in-stock gear 'til it's gone.
Load carrying equipment is more then LBE or MOLLE; it includes packs, big and small. The World War Two canvas packs are collector items. They are rugged, made of canvas, and uncomfortable because there is little padding in the shoulder straps.
The ALICE nylon rucksacks, medium and large, are rugged and some what comfortable. The medium rucksack has three outside pockets and one inside pocket; it also has webbing on the sides to add one and two quart canteens. The canteens need carriers that can use either the hook system from WW2 or the clips from after the Vietnam War. The large rucksack has basically the same set up, but it has three small pockets just above the three outside pockets. Plus, the large ruck holds a lot more gear and will need a frame because the shoulder straps do not attach directly to the pack like the medium rucksack.
MOLLE-type packs are too numerous to write about. There are small, medium, and large packs. There are probably even extra-large MOLLE packs, but one thing they all have are rows and rows of webbing to attach stuff to the outside of the pack.
So which one for the prepper?
I'm not going to ask any questions, this time, because I am going to make some observations/recommendations to help you make a selection.
First, don't buy a big pack because you will want to fill it up. Try and buy the smallest pack that you can.
Next, stay away from camouflage packs. Buy your pack in a single subdued color such as O.D. green, coyote brown, or gray. Black is an OK color for the city or suburbs, because it seems everyone has a black bag, but not for the wilderness because it won't blend in with a wooded or desert environment.
Lastly, look at your budget because you can spend a lot of money for a MOLLE-type pack you may never use.
The military has two types of tents; they are either too small or too big for the prepper. (I'm joking; it just seems that way.) The first is the shelter-half or better known as the pup tent. It is the classic two-person canvas tent. It is rugged and inexpensive, but the shelter half has some problems. You have to crawl into the tent; there is no floor in the tent, it is made of canvas, and you need two halves to use it
Note: I will be writing an article, within the next few months, illustrating how to make shelters with such items as a shelter half, military poncho, or a blue tarp.
The next tents are a little bigger. They are considered squad or crew tents; they hold from 4 to 10 people. They have names like Combat Tent, Extreme Cold Weather Tent, and Crew Tent. These tents are made in a variety of material, and they have a variety of prices, plus, an assortment of styles.
The next size up are the larger tents; these tents can get huge. Some folks call these tents 'walled-tents.' The military calls them GP medium, GP large, Temper tent, to name a few. Unlike the previous tents, these tents are tall enough for a 6 feet tall person to stand straight and not hit their head, except when going through the doorway.
If you are interested in doing more research, you will need to do an internet search for "Military Tents" or "Army Tents," to get you started in your search.
I don't have any specific suggestions. From personal experience, the canvas tents are rugged and will last for a few months when erected. Don't put them away wet; they will mold and stink. Use aluminum or steel tent stakes to hold the tent down. If you are going to hide in the woods, you are going to need a few camouflage nets with the specialized spreaders and poles.
Just like all of the other gear, there are three generations of night vision. Wikipedia says there are five. I'm not counting Gen Zero (Crap) and Gen 3+/Gen 4 (hype)
First Generation (Gen One) night vision is primitive. It really only works on a bright moonlit night. They are limited to scopes, and they are bulky. An example is the PVS-2 night vision scope. The official name is AN/PVS-2 Starlight scope. OK, it's really Scope, Starlight, AN/PVS-2.
A warning: Be careful of the hype. At four to five hundred dollars, make sure (in writing!!!) that you can return them after an inspection period. Make sure you try the night vision gear and return it if it sucks for you. Don't let the salesman tell you it's your fault, send it back immediately!!! Lastly, the military doesn't use this stuff any more for a reason. They suck.
The next is Gen Two night vision gear. The US military used (some military units still use) the AN/PVS-4 Individual Weapon Night Sight and the AN/PVS-5 Night Vision Goggles. The PVS-4 has various reticules (they provided the 'cross hairs' for the scope). Both the PVS-4 and the PVS-5, if I remember correctly, used a special battery to power the gear, but the military soon modified them to use standard AA batteries. These are very good units, but they have problems. The PVS-4 sight is bulky; the goggles will slip on your face. Plus, they won't work in complete darkness.
Be warned: Some folks are selling units that use a different type of battery, instead of AA, to power the PVS-4 sight and the PVS-5 goggles. If you decide to buy one, please make sure you can get a supply of these non-standard batteries for your sight or goggles.
Third generation goggles and sights are awesome, and expensive. The AN/PVS-7 goggles and the AN/PVS-14 monocular/weapon night sight will work in almost complete darkness. They are great, but you have to train with them.
Be warned: Folks are trying to sell inferior models as authentic PVS-7s and PVS-14s. Plus, be careful. Some of the pictures, at a website, may be exaggerations; the night vision gear just turns a black night to green.
Heck, any generation of night vision gear you buy, you will have to train with it. The military commanders thought they could get away from training with these very expensive sights and goggles; they were wrong. They quickly found out that soldiers tripped over trees because they had little or no depth perception. Natural night vision was lost for 30 to 60 minute after using the night vision goggles, and the soldiers just didn't know how to use them.
The military has had many different types of sleeping bags in the last three decades. This section is going to be limited to four of them, the most common available for the prepper.
The Mountain Bag (Bag, Sleeping, Mountain, M1949) is a down and feather mummy-style sleeping bag. It is designed for temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit (°F) to as high as 50 °F (-10 degrees Celsius (°C) to 10 °C). If you plan to sleep in 14 °F (-10 °C) weather, you will need to wear long johns, socks, a close fitting hat, and maybe thin gloves to be comfortable. As you get closer to 32 °F (0 °C), the less clothes you will need to wear for extra insulation. At around 50 °F (10 °C), you may want to open the sleeping bag and cover yourself with a poncho liner or thin blanket to avoid overheating while you sleep.
The above general guidelines may not work for you because I was a fit, slim, and exhausted soldier the last time I used a mountain bag.
For arctic conditions, the Mountain Bag would be inserted into the Arctic Sleeping Bag (Bag, Sleeping, Arctic). I have only heard of an arctic bag once. Yep, it was during a trip to Alaska.
The Intermediate Cold Weather sleeping bag (Bag, Sleeping, Intermediate Cold-Weather) was the 1980s replacement for the mountain bag. It has a polyester fill, instead of down and feathers. It is temperature rated down to 15 °F (-9 °C). The guidelines from above for extra clothing also apply for the intermediate sleeping bag.
The Extreme Cold Weather sleeping bag (Bag, Sleeping, Extreme Cold) is a down bag good to temperatures to -20 °F (-28 °C). Don't forget the long johns and other clothing, it will be warmer that way, especially at -20 °F (-28 °C)
All three bags should be covered with a cover. The military called it: Case, Water-repellent, for Bag, Sleeping. It is a cotton cover that protects the outside of the bag from dirt and moisture, not rain. It has eyelets that allowed the cover to be laced to the mountain sleeping bag but not the intermediate or extreme cold weather sleeping bags.
The current sleeping is a system of three pieces, a gore-tex bivy bag, a patrol sleeping bag, and an intermediate cold weather sleeping bag. The bivy bag provides protection from the rain. The patrol sleeping bag uses a synthetic fill good for 50°F to 30°F, and the intermediate cold weather bag can be snapped into the patrol bag for use down to -10°F (if properly dressed in long john, socks, gloves, and a knit skull cap.
So what should a prepper buy?
It will depend on your budget. A mountain bag with a cover runs about $50 and up. An intermediate sleeping bag without a cover can be had for $50, also. An extreme cold weather sleeping bag will set you back $100. The cotton covers run anywhere from $10 to $15.
Buy the cover, if you can afford it, it will help keep the outside of the sleeping bag clean.
Plus, you need to look at what temperatures you plan to be prepared for. If you plan to stay in your home and live in Florida, an extra blanket will probably be fine. In Indiana, outside in the winter, an intermediate might work. I would probably get an extreme cold sleeping bag, just in case. Montana, in the winter, you need an extreme cold weather sleeping bag, period. If you plan to move from place to place by walking, a modular sleeping system, the current US military sleeping bag is recommended.
Lastly, you have to ask yourself: do you really need a surplus military sleeping bag when there are modern civilian sleeping bags that weight less, use modern insulation, for the same temperature ranges as the military sleeping bags?
Would you and your family be better served by buying wool blankets for extra warmth for your beds during a disaster?
Entrenching Tool (E-tool)
I forgot who it was, might be S.L.A. Marshall, during World War Two complained about soldiers being issued small shovels to dig fighting positions with. He thought that soldiers should carry full-sized shovels and picks to dig their protective/fighting positions.
During World War II, the military issued a folding shovel with a metal shovel and a wooden handle. After that war, the military issued an improved entrenching tool with a pick blade. Two decades later, and two wars, the military issued a folding all metal entrenching tool.
Yes, all three could be sharpened along the blades to be used to kill people. One story, from of the Grenada invasion, told of folks running out of ammo. Two soldiers were told 'No one passes. Hold this position.' They were given three rounds each. When the leader came back, there were five dead. The two soldiers, in their dead hands, held bloodied e-tools. No shoots were fired and no one had passed.
I personally like the improved entrenching tool, with the pick. It is versatile. I use it for landscaping, digging fire pits, and other digging chores when a full-size shovel won't do. It is heavy though. The folding all metal e-tool is lighter, but it has a habit of breaking. It breaks at the handle and shovel blade connection. Supposedly, the U.S. military fixed the problem by inserting a metal bar to beef up both folding points, supposedly.
So, which one?
I had an older soldier, when he saw my 'old-school' wood and metal improved e-tool, tell me that thing will break. It's better to have the all-metal entrenching tool.
I ended up carrying that thing for the next ten years; I still have it and use it, to this day. During those ten years, I saw over ten all-metal e-tools break.
So, if you are looking for light weight and won't be do heavy digging, such as foxholes or digging up deep caches, it might work for you. If you plan to dig deep, especially in rocky soil, you might want that extra heft of an improved entrenching tool with a pick.
Plus, do you really need an e-tool if you are staying in your home during/after a disaster? Won't a full-size shovel, or a garden shovel, be better for your purposes?
As preppers, if we start seeing a lot of this stuff, we need to leave, very quickly. Remember, we bug out during extreme emergencies. To another country if needed.
M16 rifle/M4 carbine
M249 light machine gun
M240 machine gun
M2 machine gun
M203 grenade launcher
M-16 Bounding Anti-personnel
Lastly, when all is said and done, there is much more about military equipment because I primarily focused on just some of the common equipment of the United States military. Plus, foreign militarise have some good equipment, but I have learned that the United States usually has the best.
Really lastly, this is an overview of military equipment that a prepper may want to investigate. You do not need any of this gear to survive. There are many other options for the prepper, so you have to do the research and make a choice.
Remember, watch those opinions, even mine.
And before I go, remember, the military always buys from the lowest bidder. Should you?
Wikipedia - M1 Helmet
Wikipedia - PASGT: Helmet
Wikipedia - MICH: TC-200 Combat Helemt
Wikipedia - Lightweight Helmet
Operation Helmet - Military Combat Helmets
Merriam-Webster - Shrapnel
Wikipedia - PASGT: Vest
Vietnam Gear - M69 Flak Vest w/ Stiffeners
Olive-Drab - Vietnam Flak Vest
Wikipedia - Ballistic Vest
Note: has a chart listing the threat levels
Wikipedia - Interceptor Body Armor
Time - How Safe Is the U.S. Army's Body Armor?
Load Carrying Equipment
Olive-Drab - ALICE Load Carrying Equipment
Wikipedia - ALICE
Civilian Defense Force - ALICE Gear MODs 101
Wikipedia - MOLLE
Military Photos - ALICE or MOLLE?
Olive-Drab - WW II Field Packs
Olive-Drab - U.S. Army Rucksack of World War II
World War Two Gyrene - 782 Gear
Note: I added this because of the bedroll article at Survival Blog
The Backpacker -
1st Tactical Study Group (Airborne): Combat Reform Group - A Durable Rucksack for all Seasons
Olive-Drab - Modular Lightweight Load Carrying Equipment (MOLLE)
Olive-Drab - U.S. Army Tent: Shelter Half
Eureka - Military Tents
Mountain Gear Surplus Sales - Home
Wikipedia - Night Vision Device
What a Country- AN/PVS-2 Night Vision Scope
JRH Enterprises - US PVS 2 Night vision rifle scope
Wikipedia - AN/PVS-4
Federation of American Scientists - AN/PVS-4 Individual Weapon Night Sight
SPI Infrared - AN/PVS-4 Night Vision Weapon Sight
Global Security - AN/PVS-5 Night Vision Goggles
Night Vision Depot - AN/PVS-5C Dual Tube Night Vision Goggle
Savvy Survivor.com - PVS-5 Night Vision Goggles
SPI Infrared - AN/PVS-7D Night Vision Goggles
Wikipedia - AN/PVS-14
Vietnam Gear - M1949 Mountain Sleeping Bag
Vietnam Gear - Poncho Liner
Olive Drab - Military Sleeping Bags
Total Survivalist Libertarian Rantfest - New Army Sleep System
Wikipedia - S.L.A. Marshall
Just see Wikipedia