Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What we got here is...

Sitting at my in-laws' kitchen table last Sunday, I thumbed through the addresses on my Palm Centro. My wife's father, who hadn't crabbed about anything in about 15 minutes, tried to buttonhole me.
"So what are you going to do if you have to communicate and your phones don't work?"
Before I get into what followed that question, it's worth noting here that my father-in-law had "misplaced" his own cell phone six days earlier and hadn't yet replaced it. (He still hasn't.) Tempted as I am to chalk that up to his trademark procrastination, I think he's trying to assert his independence from technology -- which is fine, except that it's become a sort of object lesson imposed on the rest of us.


Patiently and rationally, I described my family's plan for the scenario he'd posed. If satellite communications were down and electric power was out, first we'd try our hard-wired home telephones. If those backups didn't work, we'd fall back to one of two different RF (radio) systems. And if our family was separated with no direct way to communicate, we'd rendezvous at designated checkpoints.

"Hmph," was his only reaction -- neither approval nor disapproval, simply a sign that he had no rebuttal to offer. Mrs. KintlaLake, sensing an opportunity, reached over and tapped my leg. It was her way of saying, "Fine, now please just let it drop."

I didn't do that, of course.

Over on American Bushman Blog, our hero recently kicked off a series about ten items which, in his experience, are "exceptional or essential for wilderness living/survival (or both)." I told my father-in-law that the blogger had put
the axe at the top of the list, and then I asked him what he considered the most essential item.

He paused for a moment before responding. "Adequate clothing."

I'm with American Bushman on this one. Even though I would've picked a knife first, he makes quite the compelling case for an axe. But seriously -- clothing first?

Under the table, my wife was tapping my leg again, more insistently this time. I wasn't done, however -- I wanted to give the old man a chance to redeem himself.

Choosing my words carefully, I asked, "Suppose the shit hits the fan right now and you're thrust into a survival situation. You can have only one firearm -- what would it be?"

He didn't hesitate. "My carbine," he said. "No question about it."

The gun he was referring to is a semi-automatic clone of a venerable European military rifle, chambered for the 7.62x51mm NATO round. He's had it for several years but it's never been fired and, as far as I know, he has no supply of ammunition.

Never mind that the rifle, by itself, is a real bitch to carry -- the thing weighs nearly nine pounds, minus magazine and optic -- and that even a much younger man would grumble under a typical .30-caliber loadout. To each his own, but better him than me.

I took a deep breath and suggested, with respect, that perhaps there might be alternatives to a beast with a Belgian accent -- like a decent AR-15 or M4gery chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO. ("Decent" is discussed intelligently here, here and here.) Carbines in this smaller caliber are more manageable (typically around seven pounds) with a correspondingly lighter ammo loadout.

Finally, I offered my personal choice -- a Ruger 10/22 rifle with three 25-round magazines and a few hundred rounds of .22 Stinger ammunition. I pointed out that it's a versatile, capable package built around a reliable, relatively simple five-pound gun and America's most common round.


That ended the conversation, and not a moment too soon. Had it continued much longer, I suspect that my wife would've stopped tapping me and started punching.