Clothes don’t make the man. All too often in the Survivalist & Prepper scene a lot of focus gets placed on gear. In fact so much so that a lot of sites devolve into simply reviewing individual pieces, which in turn is basically an overview with nothing else. And don’t get me wrong, I love some good kit and appreciate original or out-of-the-box thinking that goes into really innovative products. But skill, specifically mastery of basic skills, can never be supplanted by a product. And in turn, no product will make you better if the fundamentals ain’t there first. Those fundamentals, with some very basic supporting gear, lay the foundation for you to be effective whether it’s combat weaponcraft, movements in potentially hostile environments, or tactical communications. The basics of anything never, ever change. And you might be surprised at what can be done with just a mastery of what’s simple.
I was in between deployments somewhere around a decade ago and got bit by the 1911 bug. All my buddies had one, I drooled over an Ed Brown Special Forces model since I was a kid, and had recently unearthed a tattered old copy of SOF that favorably reviewed a Springfield Full Rail Operator. That single soldier money burnt a hole in my pocket and I needed that SA TRP Operator sitting at the gunshop yesterday afternoon like a junkie needs a fix. Bye, bye mid month pay. While I had shot my share of lower to mid-tier 1911s before, this was a new animal. An overly heavy, tricked out, more than I’d ever need animal. And while I shot those GI-Spec guns my friends had fairly well, the first outing with my uber-high-end cool guy hand cannon was disappointing at best. I couldn’t shoot for crap with it. I’d have been better off with something plain-jane and worked my way up, in the process tailoring the pistol to my needs based on my skill rather than getting something with more features than I could comprehend. In turn spending the money on a basic pistol and the rest on ammo would have made me much better much earlier. That cool guy stuff actually made my decent skill with a 1911 look tremendously worse, steepened my learning curve on the platform due to design differences, and in the long run made me feel like an idiot. Joe does Joe stuff, normally influenced by the cool-guy ad gimmicks they see in the PX checkout aisle, and since then my skills grew into that very expensive piece- with a LOT of rounds down the pipe and lessons from training classes. These days I’m more of a CZ and Glock man for a number of reasons but that’s another story. What could have been done with something bare-bones instead I tried to do by being over the top- and the results were poor. I think we’ve all been there. Your equipment only enhances the baseline of your skill, and in many cases, will let you know exactly where your skill level is- or isn’t.
There’s not some magic shortcut to a high skill level, and there’s not some magic wizardry that makes you any more capable than anyone else. There’s only proper application of the basics and those that don’t know what they don’t know. In my classes, whether its small unit tactics or communications, I emphasize basic operator skills and drive home those capabilities without needing telling you what’s the latest n’ greatest. Because the reality is that most students are bombarded with products and wanna know how to use them, whether it’s that neat QRP rig or brand new Trijicon scope. But what they don’t know beforehand is that the antenna for that QRP rig can be made with less than $15 in parts and a bundle of scrap wire, the stalking skills to get a shooter into position to really use that Trijicon take a lot of time to develop, and that in both cases the skills gained in getting there- through recognizing and training on the fundamentals- can be replicated to everyone on your team. Once you’ve mastered them, don’t let it be lost on you.
None of this is to say just blow your money on bargain-bin junk; quite the opposite; but there is definitely a point of diminishing returns with a lot of the stuff on the market in all areas of preparedness. It’s a happy place a close friend of mine calls “good enough.” A VHF analog radio from a functionality perspective does the same thing any other VHF analog radio does, and what’s important to learn from the operator end is how to maximize the potential of any VHF analog radio if that’s all you have. Or any other piece of gear you’ve got. And learning to run what you have to the pinnacle of its capability has a huge value in and of itself. You’ll develop confidence in your skill and confidence in your gear versus simply throwing money at what may just be a training issue. That confidence in turn makes you and your group the absolute best they possibly can be. Start humble, get good training in the fundamentals, and then set your own training based on building from there, and you can’t go wrong. Your group will end up more capable than you thought you ever could be with far more time and money wisely spent on training rather than that new whiz-bang widget that actually hinders more than helps. The clothes don’t make the man.