This is a contest submission from Security Guy.
There are good reasons why the military and law enforcement standardize their equipment and uniforms. But most preppers don’t think of that when they do their purchases. They buy the coolest firearms they can afford and the neatest camouflage. But these items require more thought than even your food production. First, camouflage. It needs to blend in with the terrain where your retreat is located. Believe it or not, most don’t consider that. They only consider having something that matches their group members, or (even more common) the coolest they can afford. If you live in the desert and it is mostly sand and dried out tan colored plants around you most of the year, then brown and green Swiss alpenflage won’t cut it. The opposite is also true, in the woods those DCUs are just a big “HERE I AM” blinking neon sign. Another thing to consider are the seasons. In winter you really should at a minimum wear a white poncho over the top of all your equipment and cold weather gear. Another thing I should mention is avoid digital camouflage and all black like the plague. Why you ask? Because that is what is worn by most law enforcement and the military. Just because you don’t have a problem with those agencies doesn’t mean that Jim Bob or Hakim do. If there is a collapse there will be a lot of people with a HUGE grudge against anyone they perceive as an authority. They see someone in digital walking through the woods and might take a shot to “get revenge” for all that is happening. Doesn’t matter if it isn’t even a pattern used by law enforcement or the military.
So go with a different pattern. Consider everyone’s monetary capabilities. Just because you can afford $60 for a camouflage jacket doesn’t mean everyone else in your group can. The cheapest and most common in the USA is Woodland BDUs. Other good choices would be OD Green Fatigues (like they used in Vietnam), DCUs (Desert Camouflage Uniforms), and British DPM (the Brits are changing to digital now also). All of those should be fairly cheap at a surplus store. A good idea may be to buy an example of each that you want to try and test it in the area your retreat will be. Have at least 3 people. One wears a type to be tested. Have that person stand, kneel, and lay in the prone position in multiple areas. The others should have their eyes closed or turned the opposite direction till the tester is in position. Then have them try to locate the tester from different distances, slowly getting closer and see how close they have to be to spot the tester. The winner is your best option for that area. The winner being the one where the spotters are the closest to the tester before being seen easily. Do the same for winter camo choices also. Plain white may work good, but maybe a type with green splotches to blend in with small vegetation will be better. For my area German winter camouflage works better in the woods around us.
Next area is your equipment/field gear/tactical gear. There are really 3 types out there. The old US LBE (load bearing equipment) is the cheapest and does work good. This consists of a set of suspenders, pistol belt, and pouches on the belt. Next would be a chest rig like the US LBV (load bearing vest). This was a huge improvement over the LBE which had basically been in existence since around WW2. This moved the magazines to the abdomen and freed up room on the belt for additional pouches for whatever you needed. Maybe for an additional canteen, field dressings, or a pouch for binoculars. The Cadillac choice and next step in the evolution is the MOLLE (modular lightweight load-carrying equipment). The MOLLE at its base is a vest with straps sewn on to it where you attach pouches in whatever configuration you need. You can use MOLLE pouches and the old LC-1 pouches on there (the type used with the LBE). You don’t necessarily need the MOLLE adapter if you use the LC-1 pouches, the clips do work just fine on the vest without one. In our group we did not choose a standardized type. If someone can only afford an LBE then that is what they buy. If they can afford a MOLLE then that is what they can buy. We did standardize the colors. It has to be green, brown, black, or a green camouflage pattern. Because it makes no sense to wear Woodland BDUs and put desert camouflaged tactical gear over the top. I prefer to mix up my pouch colors. I may wear a couple black ammo pouches and a couple all green ones. Then have a radio pouch that is woodland camo patterned. Just mix it up and spread it out so it adds to your camo, not make you more visible. This way you can also take advantage of cheaper items, marked cheaper just because of it’s color (I see it all the time online and in catalogs, 2 different colors on the same thing but possibly $5-$10 difference). It also does not need to be US military surplus. There a lots of foreign made sets for sale in the surplus market also. You are best to avoid cheap Chinese knock-offs though, unless you are good at repairing and upgrading field gear. Unfortunately, even the US military buys A LOT of it’s equipment from China, don’t believe me look at the labels. Your gear needs to be functional, meets your needs, and is affordable.
Now the hornets nest, weapons choices. You should have 1-2 choices for rifles and 1 choice each for shotgun and pistol. If you can’t legally own firearms then get a crossbow or bow (if you can legally). Consider the following when making your choices:
1) legality in your area/country
2) availability of weapons, spare parts, magazines, ammunition, accessories, and literature to support them
3) abilities, training, and monetary capabilities of members
I say 1-2 choices for rifles mostly because of monetary restrictions. Some may be able to afford a tricked out M-4gery but others may only be able to afford a basic Mini-14. Or some may be able to afford a M-1A but others only a no frills M-700 in .308. Try to keep to a common caliber. In our group we couldn’t do that so we chose AR-15 as a tactical rifle and Winchester 94 lever action for those who can’t afford the AR. The AR-15 because of commonality with the M-16 series. The Winchester 94 because of availability, cost, ease of use for those with less training, and it can cover the roles of tactical and hunting abilities. If we were all rich we would have chosen M-1As for everyone, but we don’t have that kind of money. Sometimes you just have to go with what you got and can afford. I won’t go into the debate on what is the best caliber or best weapon choice. Every choice has its strengths and weaknesses. If all you can afford is Norinco SKS-56s, then go that route. I also hold no real preference on an ammunition manufacturer. As long as my weapon can fire it and not damage it, then I’ll buy it. I will say though, try to buy brass cased ammunition. Only brass cased can be reloaded easily. Steel cased is a 1 time use thing and can leave a thin layer of lacquer in the chamber (an issue over time). Don’t forget to have a good cleaning kit with tons of supplies. Extra cleaning rods, brushes, patches, q-tips, rags, or whatever you use when you clean your firearms. Have lots of magazines, the 2 you get with a purchase won’t cut it. The old combat load for the M-16 was 7 30 round magazines (consider this a minimum). If you go with 7 as a combat load then have at least 14 magazines on hand. This way you can rotate magazines so as not to over stress the springs and replace magazines when they wear out. Buy spare parts for all your weapons, especially springs and sears. Parts will wear out. Make sure to get as much literature pertaining to your weapons choices that you can. From basic owner’s manuals to the gunsmithing books about repairs. If you need a special tool to repair your weapons, then maybe you should invest in a couple to keep in the box with the parts.
Now, why does this all matter. I’ll give you a scenario. Things fell apart, the worst case scenario of your nightmares. The group did not standardize anything, just told their members to buy whatever they wanted. The retreat gets hit. The attacking enemy has mixed camouflage and civilian clothes, some in full camo, others in civies, most in a mix of the 2. During the firefight 3 of your defenders are hit by friendly fire because they were mistaken as attackers (adrenalin can cloud you mind and vision). The defenders had camouflage on but had used mixed patterns, pants and jackets are different patterns. The attackers are too strong and better organized and push you out of the retreat. During the pull-out 1 of your members gets up from his position in the woods, is seen, and is shot by the attackers. His desert tan tactical vest gave him away in the vegetation. Another member, wearing ACUs (US army digital), is captured. The attackers think he is a former member of the military and torture him till he dies (listening to them yell about their dead relatives and friends as they cut pieces off of his failing body). The remainder of your group meets at a prearranged site. You take stock of what you have for weapons and ammo.
1) SKS with only 4 strippers left for a total of 40 rounds
2) AR-10 with a scope and 6 magazines left
3) M-1 Carbine with 2 15round magazines
4) Remington 870 with 10 bird shot and 3 buck shot all 12 gauge
5) M-4 with 4 magazines and Glock 19 with 2 magazines
6) Double barrel shotgun of unknown type in 20 gauge and 2 shells
7) Modified AK-47 with 1 magazine
Now the issues
1) SKS is OK, the ammo is steel cased
2) He dropped the rifle when he was running through the woods and cracked the scope. Does not have back-up iron sights.
3) Broke the recoil spring
4) Action is acting strange, not going into battery correctly each time
5) Bent the buffer on the M-4 using it to break their fall when going to the prone
6) Spring broke on the trigger, most likely because of neglect in cleaning
7) Found out that when he fires it he can’t control it, fires until magazine is empty even after releasing the trigger due to changes he made internally found on the internet.
How do you repair the weapons because all the spare parts were left behind? Most had only 2 or 3 magazines to start with because they didn’t set a standard for a combat load. If they had standardized weapons they could try to repair what they could by using the parts from the most damaged. They could also cross level ammunition to even it out with each person. This was just a quick thrown together scenario, reality could be way way worse. Especially in the friendly fire incidents. Patrol comes in earlier than expected, misjudges how close they are to the defensive perimeter. A sentry on duty sees them, is tired, and shoots first because they are convinced it has to be an attack. Jumpy sentries at other posts open up automatically, close their eyes from fear, and just keep pulling the trigger till they run out.
Standardize your selections. Follow the law in your choices, don’t give some overzealous rookie cop a reason to get the bust of his career. You want the authorities on your side if something does happen. Whatever you do buy, test it and then check and re-check often. Make sure it will hold up and not fail you at the worst possible moment. Practice with your weapons often and keep them clean.