Ours is an age of difficult financial decisions. Some folks blessed with near-limitless resources can prep for literally any eventuality. An underground shelter awash in shelf-stable food and military-grade firepower is great, but what about the rest of us? What is the young father with a working-stiff paycheck and a kid in diapers supposed to do if he wants to be something other than dinner when the trucks stop rolling and the freaks come out to play? Fortunately, I’m cheap by nature and have come across some excellent gear that represents a superb value for the cost-conscious survival prepper.

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9mm Backup

First, spread the investment out over time and it doesn’t sting so badly. Unlike other sorts of investments, this kind is fun to play with on the weekends and can actually keep you and your family alive in a pinch. Try doing that with your typical well-balanced stock portfolio. The first stop should likely be a reliable handgun.

The Canik TP-9 from Century Arms is a well-executed copy of the esteemed Walther P99 in 9mm. The TP-9 comes standard with a pair of 18-round magazines as well as niceties like interchangeable backstraps and an excellent polymer retention holster. There is the obligatory railed dust cover as well as an ambidextrous decocker. The TP-9’s novel design allows either a traditional single-action/double-action firing mode or consistent striker-fired operation based upon user preference. The TP-9 is a complete DIY gunman kit with its own case, holster, tools and spare magazine, and it typically wholesales for $389.95. I have run a zillion rounds through my personal Canik TP-9 with zero failures and found that it shoots straight to boot.

High-Caliber Defense

It is easy to drop $2,000 on a decent black rifle tricked out with all the latest bling. Equip that same weapon with a transferable full-auto switch and you just put a zero behind the purchase price. However, if your mission is to protect your family when the zombies come, much of that may be overkill.

A serious comparison shopper can still find a no-frills AK rifle at a decent price. Internet suppliers like Mississippi Auto Arms regularly run specials that yield some great bargains. Drop your sights to a used pawn-shop SKS and you cut the price in half. While a stripped-down AR will typically add another couple hundred bucks to the cost of an AK, the man of the house still paying for baby formula or their teenager’s orthodontics has other options.

I have never heard any seasoned shooter claim that a 12-gauge shotgun is too little gun for any reasonable social applications. The average pump-action shotgun from American Tactical Imports (ATI) incorporates the time-proven Remington 870 action and synthetic furniture. The shotgun comes standard with a chrome-lined, 18.5-inch barrel and a five-round tubular magazine.

The ATI shotgun I tested required a brief break-in period but was soon reliable as a screwdriver. It is also cheaper than your handgun. You can easily drop more cash putting a new alternator in your car. Tack on a few extra bucks and you can get a spare 28-inch barrel with interchangeable choke tubes to make the shotgun an effective hunting tool.

The cheap $30 light actually hanging on your weapon beats the $300 version the SEALs use that you cannot afford. Inexpensive, imported accessories available from box stores or the internet are good options for preppers on a tight budget.

The cheap $30 light actually hanging on your weapon beats the $300 version the SEALs use that you cannot afford. Inexpensive, imported accessories available from box stores or the internet are good options for preppers on a tight budget.

Lock & Load

There are more ammunition options for the humble 12 gauge than for any other weapon. Slugs will provide accurate and devastating fire out to 100 meters, birdshot will feed you and your family on your trek out of the hot zone, and buckshot will stop anything that walks.

Bulk-manufactured, steel-cased 9mm ammo imported from the former Eastern Bloc represents a great value. Having launched countless thousands of these rounds through my personal collection, I can honestly say I have never had an ammo failure. This ammo is imported under the Wolf and TulAmmo brand names and is stocked at my local Wal-Mart. It typically costs about half what commercial brass-cased ammo does and makes for inexpensive training. Splurge on a box or two of quality expanding ammo to keep in your ready magazines and you are set.

Armor Up

Body armor is a combat force multiplier. In addition to protecting your body from various tactical hazards, a proper set of plates makes it a little bit easier to run to the sound of battle. While military-grade armor can be prohibitively expensive, there are other reasonable options.

AR500 Armor sells legitimate Level III plate armor with a carrier for less than $300. The company’s armor can be had in a variety of configurations, shapes and coatings, and it is, at its heart, hardened steel plating. The armor also weighs about the same as the expensive ceramic stuff. I shot the holy bejeebers out of one of these plates with dozens of high-velocity rifle rounds up to and including 7.62mm NATO FMJs and left little more than dimples for my effort. I have logged many an hour in the company’s armor and found it to be comfortable and effective at a remarkably reasonable price.

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Survival Stash

You’ll need water. A decent water filter can be found for $50 to $60 online. However, you can improvise a water filter by cutting the bottom out of a water bottle and stuffing it with clean socks. Filter your questionable water through this device until it is clear and treat it with eight drops of Clorox bleach per gallon of water. Let it sit in the sun for a while, stir it up to introduce a little air and you are good to go. It will taste funny, but it won’t kill you.

You already have everything you need to maintain a survival stash of food. Just add a little planning and organization. Find some space in a closet or pantry and stock up on canned goods and shelf-stable food that your family will actually eat. Rotate your stock by eating what is in front and adding to the back. Write the date of purchase on the label with a marker and eat the old stuff first. In this manner, and with a trivial initial investment, you can keep two to three weeks’ worth of shelf-stable food on hand for those times when the trucks stop rolling and the supermarkets empty out.

Canned ravioli, along with canned vegetables and dried beans, make good choices so long as your family will eat what you stock. One hundred pounds of dried legumes and five jars of peanut butter look sharp on the shelf, but if the kids won’t eat it regularly then it will just rot before it can be used. Food stores are the easiest piece of the survival package to maintain so long as you use some forethought.

Prepper ammo

Steel-cased, bulk-manufactured rounds imported from Eastern Europe, such as Wolf Performance Ammo and TulAmmo, are inexpensive and readily available.

Odds & Ends

The incidentals can take care of themselves. Knives, hatchets, sights and lights make great Christmas and birthday presents. Store enough ammo in airtight GI-surplus ammo boxes to help you deal with a rainy day and it will outlive you. Toss a box or two of ammo in the buggy whenever you are buying other stuff at your local department store and you can build up a decent stash of zombie bullets over time without overly straining the family budget.

Don’t shy away from inexpensive imported accessories from department stores or internet retailers. The $30 weapon-mounted light actually perched on your gun does you a lot more good than the high-speed $300 version the SEALs use back on the rack at the gun store. Spring for quality at every opportunity, but be on the lookout for bargains when money is tight. In the case of the TP-9, an inexpensive tactical light on the forend makes for a formidable close-quarters weapon both indoors and out.

With a little forethought and logical planning it doesn’t take a zillion dollars, an underground survival complex and a bunch of NFA tax stamps. Being prepared simply requires a survivor’s mindset, some patience and a little creativity. Finding yourself poor or broke doesn’t mean you have to be defenseless. Plan your food and comparison shop for gear and you can still acquire everything you need to secure your family in a crisis without going hungry in the process.

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For More Information

American Tactical Imports
americantactical.us; 800-290-0065

AR500 Armor
ar500armor.com

Century Arms
centuryarms.com; 800-527-1252

Mississippi Auto Arms
mississippiautoarms.com; 662-232-8011