Understanding Armed Robbers

I am not the author of this article. It was posted as a very long comment over at AR15.com by BurnedOutLEO - I have taken it, removed some profanity and made a very few edits to improve readability. Based on my study, however, it is a very good summary of the mindset of hardened criminals and how to respond.

I worked on the streets of one of America's most violent, dangerous cities for 15 years. I usually worked in the worst part of that city. I spent 15 years in patrol. I liked patrol. It was wild. Most of the time I worked in areas covered in ghetto--by that I mean large housing projects combined with run-down slum housing. I have worked all shifts. Later I became an investigator including a robbery investigator. I have spent countless hours in interrogation rooms talking to hold-up men. I know them. I am still an investigator, but have quit playing the robbery game because my family was starting to forget what I looked like.

The Enemy
Some may object to me calling hold-up men "the enemy". You can call them whatever you like. I can assure you, however, that they are as deadly an enemy as you will find anywhere but the battlefield. Even many soldiers probably lack the viciousness and utter disregard for life that most hold-up men possess.

No one wakes up in the morning one day and decides to become an armed robber. It is a gradual process that requires some experience and desensitizing. Before a man will pick up a gun and threaten to kill people who have done him no harm in order to get their usually meager possessions, he has to get comfortable with some things.

He has to get used to seeing others as objects for him to exploit. He has to accept that he may be killed while robbing. He has to accept that the felony conviction for robbery will haunt him all his life. He has to accept that he may need to kill a completely innocent person to get away with his crime.

This is a process that starts with stealing candy at the corner store as a child. It progresses through bigger property crimes that may also involve violence. But one day G gets tired of selling his stolen property for nothing and decides it would be better to steal cash. Cut out all that tiresome sales stuff.

Keep in mind many petty thieves, auto burglars, residential and commercial burglars, paper thieves, and hustlers will get to that point and decide not to become armed robbers--in fact, most will. It is a special group of outliers who decide that threatening to kill people for a few dollars is the way to go.

Once a man starts armed robbing he has crossed a line most won't. Don't forget that when you are looking these criminals in the eye. Their decision to kill you is already made. Your life means nothing to him. Only his does. His sole motivation for not killing you is he doesn't want a murder case. He has already accepted that he may pick one up, though.

We hunt hold up-men around the clock once they are identified. We send teams of fire-breathing fence-jumper/door-kickers to find them. We will bring their mother to the office and convince her she is going to jail if we don't have Junior in our office in an hour. We have her call her son crying hysterically for him to turn himself in before she is arrested and held without bond as a material witness and her home seized for harboring him. Most of the time they won't. 

We will hit all Junior's friends' and family's houses. We make it so no one will harbor him. He is so hot no one will let him in their house or even talk on the phone with him. We put money on him so he knows he is right to be betrayed and set up. We do this because of one thing.

That thing is they WILL kill someone if they keep robbing. That is why the city is willing to pay all the overtime. They don't want the murders. Think about that when you see Junior coming. The more robberies he does the closer he is to killing someone. Maybe you.

The guys who hit you on the street are gang members. They are Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords, Crips, Sureonos, many others. They do not see themselves as part of society. The street is all they know. They don't expect to live long or stay out of prison. They take a delight in your fear and suffering. They are warped individuals for the most part. They can be extremely dangerous.

One time we were locking up a hold-up man and having a conversation about how they target their victims. I was saying they pick easy ones, another guy was saying they preferred easy ones but would take anybody.

I pointed out a uniformed officer there who was an NFL-sized guy to that hold-up man. Frankly the dude was a monster. I asked the hold-up man if he would rob him. He said, "If I needed the money."

Chances are good you are a law-abiding person except for maybe a little light weed smoking and maybe driving a little drunk every once in a while. Most of your life you have been taught to be nice and don't point guns at people. You are the exact opposite of your enemy, who was taught just the opposite. Remember, a lot of street life is like prison life. Who's the man is everything. Violence is the currency of the street.

You do not possess total disregard for the lives of others and you do not want to kill anyone. You are concerned about the ramifications of shooting someone. Your family, your possessions, and your finances are on the line. Your enemy has none of these concerns.

The laws that keep you from carrying your gun in bars or wherever mean nothing to your enemy. Your reluctance to shoot someone works to his advantage. His greater experience in street violence and the element of surprise is on his side.

Everyone should call their local FBI office and get a copy of "Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted". When it first came out it was groundbreaking because it demonstrated to academics and other elites what street police knew all along. What did it show in interviews with cop killers? Nice guys finish dead. That's right. Most of those offenders commented that the officer they killed set himself up to be killed because of reluctance to use force early in the encounter.

You can probably find it online now. A lot of the victim officers were a lot like a lot of other people, normal people. They were the opposite of their enemy.

Am I advocating becoming the enemy? No. I am saying the person who is robbing you has certain traits, attitudes, and background. That is all.

Dynamics of Encounters
Hold-up men target victims on the street in an impulsive, opportunistic manner. They see someone and make a quick judgment call on whether to rob them. The time between when you are targeted and when they are on you isn't long. Therefore, situational awareness is everything.

If you see G coming you are in good shape. If you don't you will be the victim who says, "He came out of nowhere." No he didn't. There are many tricks to watching out, but simply watching your back is the main thing. Watch your back. If you do it enough it becomes second nature and you won't even realize you are doing it.

Watching out is great but unfortunately many self-defense courses stop there. You have parked you car in a well-lit area, you are aware of your surroundings...and looky here, here come three guys across the parking lot and they start to kind of fan out.

When you lock eyes with G the very first thing you need to do is indicate you have a weapon. It doesn't matter if you do or not. If you are a woman, put your gun hand in your purse and keep it there. If you are a man, fan your shirt or coat tail with your gun hand. Make it clear to dude that you are mentally prepared to draw and are making sure your gun is clear. This will many times result in an about face by dude. It is the single best robbery avoidance tactic, in my opinion.

Not long ago I was walking down the sidewalk in my town to go get my car. I was holding a folding chair in my gun hand. A car slowly rolled past me with four heads in it. The guys in the back seat turned around as they went by looking at me. They went a little farther and U-turned in the street.

Here they come back. As they started to slow down I looked at them with as contemptuous a look as I could muster and switched the chair to my left hand and flicked my shirt tail with my right hand. They just drove on, mad dogging me.

In another case I was at a Christmas party and walked a girl to her car at about 3am. As we said our good-byes two guys were walking across the parking lot. One went behind a dumpster, and came out from behind it with a bottle.

As they got closer I stepped clear of that girl and unzipped my jacket at those two guys. When I did the guy threw down the bottle and they walked by, cussing at me. 

If someone challenges you after you indicate you are armed, say, "I don't have a gun." Then they will know you do.

Here is an opposite story. A girl my brother knows was walking her dog when a guy approached her. She was polite. Mistake. He talked to her about the dog and said she had pretty hair and reached out and touched her hair. She did not slap his hand down or aggressively object. Mistake. He asked her if her dog bit and she said "No". At that time he slapped her, dragged her into a wooded area, and raped her.

The answer in the street is always "No". Can I ask you something? No. Do you have a cigarette? No. Can you tell me what time it is? No. The answer is always "No". Don't be nice. Stop the encounter as soon as it starts.

When to draw
Despite warnings I often see on the internet, I have yet to encounter an instance in which a hold-up man called the police to report that his intended victim threatened to shoot him. Thugs do not want to come into contact with the police. They may already be wanted or realize chances are good they have been identified in a recent robbery. Or whatever. They are not going to call the police if you draw on them.

Supposed two guys are approaching you in a parking lot and do the classic fan out maneuver. You indicate you have a weapon by clearing your gun hand and fanning your jacket at them. They are not discouraged. DRAW!

I am not saying you should pull your gun out, assume a Weaver stance, and scream, "That's close enough!" What I am saying is draw your gun and hold it beside your leg as you start to move to cover. I am very fond of telephone poles. Anything will do though. They will see this. They will remember they have to be somewhere else. They will not call the police.

Then you can just put your gun back in the holster and go back to whatever you were doing like nothing happened. Why? Because nothing did happen. A happening is when shots are fired.

Do not hesitate to draw. If you are somewhere you are supposed to be and someone appears who is not supposed to be there (e.g. in a closed business), show him the end of your gun. Could it be Mother Teresa looking for the lost cat she left behind in your closed business? No; it is some criminal up to no good. He won't call the police to report that he was prowling a location when a guy ran him off.

When to shoot
The time to shoot is immediately upon seeing his weapon. You are not a policeman who has to try to arrest the guy. No need to scream at him. No exposure while you yell for him to drop the gun.

In deer hunting the experienced hunter takes the first good shot. It may not be the perfect shot, but it never is. Novices pass up a good shot waiting for a better shot, and then the deer is gone. Take the first good shot you are offered. Hopefully your alertness and hostile cues will prevent you ever having to fire. But once you see his weapon, shoot.

If a guy is coming at you with a gun in his hand, shoot him. Shoot him right then. If you don't shoot first you may not shoot at all. I have known more than one person who was shot and received life-changing injuries and also shot their attacker. Their only regret was not shooting sooner. Like Bill Jordan said, "Nothing disturbs your enemy's aim like a slug delivered to the belt buckle area." 

Guns and weapons
The handgun is the best weapon you can carry easily. I understand that it is not always possible to have one due to laws, restrictions, whatever. I am not telling anyone to disregard laws about carrying weapons. Each person has to decide for themselves what they are comfortable with. I will say that there is no substitute for a pistol when you need one.

Also, if you can not be trusted with a pistol after a few drinks, you can't be trusted with a pistol period. Booze is liquid bad judgment, no doubt, but it shouldn't make you into a damn moron. If you are a moron sober I don't know what to tell you.

Types of guns and ammo are always debated and probably always will be. I have seen people shot with all common calibers. My conclusion is if you hit someone between the collar bone and the tip of their ribs three times with anything, they are handled. Bigger is better but something is better than nothing. Get your front sight on his shirt and stay on him as long as he is standing with whatever gun you have.

Just have a gun with sure fire ammo. Draw early and fire immediately upon seeing his weapon. That course of action is about all you can do to up your odds of ending things favorably. Guns like the Ruger LC9, SIG 239, Glock 26/27 are examples of guns small enough to carry but with enough power and capacity to be useful. Do not be afraid to use a French Lebelle if that is the only gun you have. A gun is a gun. I like a Glock 19.

We all want the best training. It can be expensive if you are having to pay for it and it can be hard to find the time to do it. Plus there's a lot of bad information out there. What can you do? First, pistol handling is not rocket surgery. If you will learn the basics and practice on your own you can be fine. Smooth draw, quick pairs, reload. If you know those things well you can be OK.

I know a young man who shot down two hold-up men in 2010 at very close range while he and his girlfriend were walking home from the store. In Wyatt Earp fashion he ignored the fire coming from the gunman and killed him and wounded his accomplice. Neither he nor his girlfriend were injured. He, like many, was willing to give them the money until he picked up on nonverbal cues that because of his girlfriend they were not quite satisfied with the money. He had a Glock 27.

He had only the most basic of training in gun handling, but did do some draws and some dry fire a couple times a week and live fired maybe once a month. That basic skill combined with knowing what to do was enough. He shot at the first possible moment despite having let the guys get the drop on them. When the gunman turned his head because a car drove by, that was the opening. A split second is a long time sometimes.

Work on some one-hand shooting at close range. That skill is not as popular as it once was, and of course you want to use two hands when you can. But often you'll find yourself doing something with your off hand, so be able to shoot with one hand out to five yards or so.

If it comes to pass that you are forced to shoot someone, do not feel bad. When the police come, just tell them a guy threatened you with deadly force and you were forced to fire. I know there are bad police out there in some parts of the country who don't support self-defense. I can't help you with that.

Do not talk to them until you have your attorney present. Now, most young guys don't have an attorney on retainer and you may have no idea who to call. That is OK. You will figure it out. But in the mean time don't talk about what happened other than to say that you were forced to fire. You don't have to be mean; just remember to wait for your attorney.

Hopefully you will not give a statement for a couple days. Remember, if you are put in jail that doesn't mean you are charged. Most places can hold you 48 or 72 hours on a felony before charging you or letting you go. Breathe deep and get an attorney.

Expect to never get your gun back. You may get it back one day, but maybe not. Do not buy expensive guns for the street. Buy yourself a nice sporting gun if you want a nice gun. Keep your street guns basic. The factory Model 10 Smith and the GI 45 have done a lot of work over the years and aren't fancy.

We all live in different worlds. My world is filled with felons and gang members. Violence is commonplace. No one would be surprised if one of their friends called and said they shot a hold-up man at a place of business or parking lot. In the past when I made calls, the fact that the guy who is beating his girlfriend is also on parole for 2nd-degree murder flavored my world.

You may live in a smaller, less violent place where shootings seldom occur and it would be a rare to shoot a hold-up man. I envy you and will be moving to a place like your town as soon as I can.

But be advised: no matter where you are, a hold-up man is going to be about the same. Whether he is a home boy or a guy who just exited the interstate into your town and needs some quick money, he is going to have a vicious streak and no regard for your life. Treat him like he treats you.

Giving them the money, doing what they say, all that may work--but there is no guarantee. If you have never read Jeff Cooper's book The Principles of Personal Defense, I suggest you order a copy immediately. It is a short book but summarizes a lot of important things.

Last year we had a trial here regarding an armed robbery that occurred. Three or four guys took a young couple from a parking garage near a college to a deserted area out by some railroad tracks and raped, shot, and beat them. The victims' lives will never be the same.

The lesser thugs all turned on the trigger man at trial. The trigger man's statement in the paper was after all that had happened, he felt like he was a victim. Think about that. That is the mindset you are up against.


One of the most pressing needs following many types of disasters is security. Throughout most of America, Law Enforcement presents to criminals the threat of discovery, arrest and prosecution. No matter how seared a criminal's conscience may be, his self interest will often restrain him from many acts. As much as he may want to kill, the prospect of prison still holds him back. What we've seen over the last few decades, with incidents like The Dartmouth Murders, the Cheshire Home Invasion, and things like this horrific carjackings is that many criminals are starting to become more brazen and sadistic. Thankfully, these incidents are not quite common, and still tend to shock people. 

But we must consider - if your local law enforcement organization was disrupted and shut down how many criminally minded individuals, previously restrained out of fear of consequences, would rise up and prey on the weak and defenseless? My guess is many. Many times many. And if times got very hard how many "nice" but morally-anchorless people would start to consider theft and murder as viable self-preservation options? In most areas when there's civil disorder of any kind the looters come out in droves; they are reasonably sure they won't get in trouble for stealing. What if they could be reasonably sure they could kill without getting in trouble?

For this reason, among all the other important areas of preparedness, it is essential that security be seriously considered. There are an almost incredible number of ways to improve the security of your person, family, home, vehicle, business, and even neighborhood. Many are very passive in nature: avoid looking like a rich, oblivious victim, keep your doors locked, install motion sensing lights around your house, etc. But no matter what other steps you may take, if you want a truly effective security plan you must eventually develop the ability to effectively project lethal force. Lord Willing, you will never need to use that ability - but far better to have it and not need it than the reverse.

Now, many Christians will be uncomfortable with the idea of killing other people - even in defense of themselves or others. Some believe it's wrong - others believe it may be OK but still have a lot of hesitation and reservations in thinking about the topic. At one level, this is very good. Genesis 9 teaches that one reason murder is wrong is because we are made in the image of God; ANY exploration into the topic of lethal force must be done with this principle in mind. Further, unjustified killing is strictly forbidden throughout scripture. On the other hand, we must be careful not to try to be more Holy than God in this area. Samuel "hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord" (1 Sam 15:33). Phinehas used a spear to kill two fornicators and was strongly commended by God for it (Numbers 25:7-13). David used a sling and sword to kill and then decapitate Goliath (1 Samuel 17). Many of the heroes of the faith used lethal force - and many were commended by God for it. God is also the one that gives the victory and heroes like Gideon and Jonathan never would have prevailed in killing so many foes apart from God's delivering.

If you doubt that Christians can use lethal force to stop and attack, please go listen to these two messages: John Weaver on Self Defense and David Botkin on Self Defense.The first message is over an hour long; the second is a litttle less than half an hour. Not specifically about self defense, this sermon by Phil Kayser deals with individual responsibility - which is essential for Christians to understand as they discuss defense. 

Achieving a truly effective ability to project lethal force will require three main elements: mind-set, training, and weaponry. In nearly all the Biblical heroes who fought we can see these elements: David's mindset was solid (he was utterly convinced of his justification and need to confront Goliath - he also knew how to go about this), he was obviously skilled as a result of extensive practice, and he chose to use a capable weapon with which he had expertise.

Security must be taken seriously - but even as we may strive for really good physical security we must still keep in mind that it is God that gives victory, and that we are only talking about physical security. Our eternal security is still of vastly greater importance.

CDC updates PPE recommendations.

A doctor just forwarded me an email he got from a State Health Commission. Basically, the CDC is updating their recommendations on PPE for treating Ebola infected patients. Here the CDC link. 

Big new change? "Principle #2: No skin exposure when PPE is worn"

Ever since I've been looking at how doctors treat Ebola patients and what PPE they wear I've been amazed that they mostly just wear goggles and a mask - that leaves a fair bit of skin exposed real close to a lot of mucous membranes. 

Now, I do think that goggles and a mask can still work provided you aren't dealing with a patient that has explosive diarrhea or vomiting.  The CDC says the shields should be disposable, but that may not be a realistic requirement outside of a fully funded hospitals. Another potential solution are workplace face shields - they run $15 and up and are typically made to stand up to extended use.  


Ebola: Disinfectants

I previously wrote about PPE for Ebola. Also critical in your preparedness place are disinfectants. They are used when:

  • Exiting a hot zone
  • Doffing (taking off) your PPE
  • Cleaning your gear
  • Disinfecting YOU
  • Cleaning structures, vehicles, bodies, and anything else potentially contaminated

The good news is that, Ebola, a virus, is relatively easy to kill.  Compared to cysts and bacteria, viruses are much more fragile and require much less contact time with a disinfecting agent in order to be effectively neutralized or inactivated.  The bad news is that there has been relatively little testing done on which specific disinfectants work against Ebola. Typically when you buy a medical disinfectant it will have a label on it that will specify what the disinfectant can successfully be used against.  At this point there is no disinfectant that has Ebola listed on its label, and there are only a handful of disinfectants that have been successfully tested against Ebola.

Back to good news again.  Ebola is relatively fragile; there are a number of viruses that are much harder to kill.  The current thinking in the medical community seems to be that, in the absence of solid testing information, to use a disinfectant that is rated for some of the more durable viruses, such as Norovirus or Rotovirus.  Basically, when it comes to killing Ebola, you can never have too much overkill. 

Now, the information below should be considered a starting point. Do some research of your own, and please only trust credible, medically knowledgeable sources. I'm not a doctor - take what I say with a grain of salt until you confirm it. But what I've assembled below is a list of chemicals that have scientific backing to support their effectiveness in killing Ebola.  


Chlorine is the most common disinfectant currently used in battling Ebola. You can buy it in liquid form from any grocery store as bleach or purchase dry Calcium Hypochlorite - try Pool supply stores for large quantities - or Amazon has 10 pounds for $29. It's mostly the dry form that is currently being used in Africa; UNICEF has 250,000 Kg of it on order, for example, for just the next six months. This is chemically equivalent to roughly 870,000 gallon jugs of household bleach. That would weigh something like 6.5 millions pounds; so, the dry stuff is way more economical to ship to Africa. The dry Calcium Hypochlorite is also much more stable for long term storage and is less volatile to ship.

For info on use and mixing of Calcium Hypochlorite look at this document.  The basics are these: if you have 60-70% powder, mix 10 ounces of the powder with 1 gallon of water. Stir, then let the sediment settle. Once it has, gentle scoop out the clear water. The water now has roughly 5% chlorine content. 

At 0.5% concentration, chlorine/bleach needs to come in contact with Ebola for at least 10 minutes to kill it. For use on people, use a 0.05% concentration. (Bleach is normally around 5% - so, dilute 1:10 or 1:100 to get the desired concentration)

Chlorhexidine Gluconate (CHG)

Hibiclens is a disinfectant/scrub solution. It works well on lipid viruses like Ebola, though it's not very effective against Norovirus, so it lacks the level of "over kill" we are trying to maintain. But it has the bonus of offering continued antibacterial effects for a further six hours after washing with it. A gallon of 4% solution costs about $70 on Amazon. A gallon of generic 2% for veterinarian use is a little over $20 shipped. A 0.2% solution will kill many viruses in less than a minute, so a 2% jug will last a long time.

At 0.2% concentration, wash for at least 60 seconds. Upping the concentration does improve performance, so consider taking it to 0.5% if you are actually facing Ebola.  
It also appears that mixing with Isopropyl Alcohol (0.5% Hibiclens + 70% Isopropyl Alcohol) improves performance - but research this before depending on it. Here's a starting point. 

Hydrogen Peroxide (H2o2)

Another option which seems to be effective is hydrogen peroxide. It’s used for Noro and Rotovirus (which are sometimes resistant to bleach) and can kill them in only a couple minutes. That means it should kill Ebola quickly also, but I never saw anything to indicate it had been successfully tested against Ebola.
H2o2 must be kept in airtight, dark containers. To dispense, screw a squeeze-sprayer top onto the bottle the peroxide comes in - they share thread patterns. This keeps the bottle sealed and makes dispensing much more efficient and economical.

3% Acetic Acid (vinegar)

As strange as it may sound, vinegar (as long as it has more than 3% acetic acid) works to inactivate Ebola. I couldn't find any information on what contact time is required, so I’d be cautious. Also, since you need a full 3% acetic acid, you probably can’t dilute your vinegar to make it go farther. There's not a lot of hard data on this out there, though, so use caution. Until more data becomes available, I'd only use vinegar on sensitive items and in conjunction with other agents of mechanisms, or if it was all I had available.  


Also considered effective against Ebola are alcohol based disinfectants - but it appears that you need at least 60% alcohol to be effective. More research is needed before this is adopted as a sole disinfectant.  

Physical Inactivation Methods

Ebola can also be killed with heat. Bake for an hour at 150 Fahrenheit or boil for 5 minutes.

UVC Light apparently is also moderately effective. This is very interesting, since bulbs are available for relatively cheap. $20-25 can get you a bulb that will screw into a regular light socket. I haven't yet researched how much exposure time is needed to inactivate Ebola. 


My personal plan is to use bleach for disinfecting large areas and to spray down PPE as part of the doffing process and to use my generic Hibiclens for handwashing, pre-treating gear, etc. 

What concerns Me about Ebola?

This site is meant to be a general repository of preparedness information, specifically for those emergencies that I think are relatively likely for people in the United States to experience.  That said, a lot of the information I've posted recently has been about Ebola. Do I think Ebola is a world-ending event that's going to kill everybody? No. But do I rule out the possibility that it could kill millions? No.

I'm not an epidemiologist, but I do know a little history. A little less than 100 years ago the Spanish Flu killed somewhere between 50 and 100 million people.  Yes, medicine has progressed greatly since then - but even today we still have no clue how to treat Ebola other than fluids, rest, and maybe transfusions from Ebola survivors.  The doctors in 1918 would have been almost as well equipped to deal with Ebola as we are, apart from the PPE and greater general medical knowledge we have today. But in spite of our lack of ability to treat it, Ebola is advancing only slowly (albeit steadily) in terms of the number of cases. The number doubles roughly every two or three weeks. This is not a crazy, explosive disease. And it's not unstoppable, either. Nigeria had 20 cases, but recently determined it was Ebola-free after going six weeks with no new cases.

So, I don't think Ebola is going to contaminate the whole USA in the next week or two, and I don't think it's an unstoppable force either. But I do think we must consider and plan for the potential of Ebola doing a lot of damage. Why? Two reasons:

First, because God uses plague as a judgment - and America is richly deserving of judgment. As a nation we've killed so many unborn babies, waged so many unjust wars, turned morality upside down, and dishonored God. Ebola is very strange, and while it's plodded methodically across Western Africa, in America God could allow it to do far more damage. We are entirely at His mercy.

Second, even a very small epidemic could cause much larger problems for Americans. I don't consider this particular scenario probable, but what if truckers stopped making deliveries? With the hand-to-mouth existence many Americans lead, even a short disruption in the food supply could cause incredible civil disorder and loss of life. There are any number of ways an epidemic, even a very small one, could result in some very unpleasant outcomes. Not insurmountable outcomes, by any means, but ones that are much easier to deal with if you've made a few prudent preparations beforehand.

My concern is not so much the virus, but the response of a fearful, faithless, immoral people when they realize:
1. Ebola is not being contained
2. Our government is not able to save us
3. Life saving supplies, such as PPE, are running out

We've seen small demonstrations of the first two. If these two points become obvious to large sections of the population, and if #3 comes into play, we will likely see that start of something more ugly even than Ebola.

In closing, am I over-reacting to Ebola? Perhaps. It depends on  what you consider an over-reaction. A skillet of grease on fire is not a very large fire, or even very dangerous. But if I hear we have a grease fire in the kitchen I'm not going to slowly lumber over there and then ponder where I last saw a fire-extinguisher. The danger may not be very great, but that may only be true if it is met promptly with the correct response. I've also seen a what happens if you don't promptly attend to a grease fire: it can gut a whole house. I'd rather overreact just a little than discover too late that I haven't reacted fast enough.

WHO Assistant Director General Dr. Keiji Fukuda recently said of the growing Ebola epidemic:  “Of course in retrospect I really wish that we had jumped much higher much earlier. Of course I wish we’d poured in more and more earlier.” But, he added, “if this outbreak had been a typical outbreak, nobody would be saying we did too little, too late.”

Don't be this guy.


Ebola: Quarantine Policy

For our purposes, there are two kinds of quarantines, with two different purposes. There are probably more specific terms to refer to what I'm talking about, but everyone basically understands the idea of a quarantine.

Quarantine for Disease Containment

This is the classic quarantine - a patient that is known  or suspected to be carrying an infectious disease is isolated and kept with minimum contact with other people until:
1. The disease is identified as being non-threatening
2. It is proven the patient is not carrying a dangerous disease
3. The symptoms (and disease) are resolved successfully (either through treatment or naturally with time) such that the patient is no longer infectious
4. The Patient dies

In the case of Ebola, many people who have had contact with known Ebola cases are being quarantined. It's not known if they are carrying it, but simply remaining quarantined for more than three weeks will conclusively rule out infection. Or, if they ARE infected, they will have been kept from infecting more people. But, because these individuals are at a higher risk of having been infected they are placed under quarantine.

Based on risk of infection, there are two basic recomendations for quarantine:

1. Quarantine for low risk of infection

It is my recommendation that if a family member starts showing Ebola-like symptom you impose a partial quarantine until you rule out Ebola. It's probably just a cold or the flu, but stay home and recover.

2. Quarantine for high risk of infection

Now, if the Ebola spreads in America, and there's a real possibility you've come in contact with Ebola, and you develop symptoms then you need in have a very firm quarantine until you either rule out or confirm Ebola. This means no visitors, no going out, and isolation from other family members. Hospitals are probably the best place to seek Ebola treatment right now, but if this becomes a major crisis it's likely the hospitals will start to be overwhelmed, and you may be better off attempting care at home.

Caretakers of a potentially Ebola infected person need to be kept to a bare minimum and PPE must be worn at all times.

Quarantine to prevent becoming infected (shelter in place)

Another reason to isolate yourself or your family is if there are known cases of Ebola in your area and you want to avoid the possibility of becoming infected.

Ideally, you avoid all outside contact until there have been no cases in your area for at least 42 days (double the incubation time of Ebola). Of course, the ideal and the possible are rarely the same. Also, an Ebola Epidemic is not a binary event, either "on" or "off", but something that can grow or shrink in terms of danger for you and your family. One case of Ebola in a city of a million people is still less of a risk than driving your car, so some precautions will probably only be practical to implement if cases of Ebola become very wide spread and near your area of operations.  

  • You need to treat your home or property as a secure, clean environment and the world outside as a hot zone.
  • Nothing enters your home unless it's been disinfected first.
  • Contact with strangers is minimized as much as possible.
  • Everyone going out wears PPE (dependant on the situation) and is disinfected upon returning. 



Tennessee Health Laws - Quarantine

Here's a summary of Tennessee's quarantine type laws: (from http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-quarantine-and-isolation-statutes.aspx)


Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-1-201 (2006)
Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-2-609 (1985)
Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-9-204 (1977)

Authority. The commissioner has the power to declare quarantine whenever, in the commissioner's judgment, the welfare of the public requires it.

The county health officer is empowered to order the quarantine of any place or person if the county health officer finds that such control is necessary to protect the public health from an epidemic.

No one but the commissioner, a state, municipal, district or county health officer or such person's duly authorized representative shall establish and terminate isolation or quarantine of persons with infectious tuberculosis.


Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-1-203 (1989)

Penalties. Any person who willfully disregards or evades quarantine, or violates any rule or regulation made in attempting to prevent the spread of any epidemic disease, commits a Class B misdemeanor.

And here's the full, actual text.

68-1-201.  Power to quarantine. 

  (a) The commissioner has the power to:

   (1) Declare quarantine whenever, in the commissioner's judgment, the welfare of the public requires it; and

   (2) Prescribe such rules and regulations as may be deemed proper for the prevention of the introduction of yellow fever, cholera and other epidemic diseases into the state.

(b)  (1) Whenever yellow fever, cholera, smallpox or other epidemic diseases appear in any locality within the state, and information thereof is brought to the knowledge of the department, the commissioner shall prepare and carry into effect such rules and regulations as, in the commissioner's judgment, will, with the least inconvenience to commerce and travel, prevent the spread of the disease.

   (2) Whenever the commissioner determines that an influenza outbreak may pose a threat of an epidemic, the commissioner shall prepare and carry into effect rules and regulations that, in the commissioner's judgment, will, with the least inconvenience to commerce and travel, prevent the spread of the disease.

68-1-202.  Quarantine stations. 

  (a) The commissioner shall select suitable localities for establishing quarantine stations, and may erect necessary temporary buildings for the disinfection of passengers, baggage, cargo and other matter believed to convey the contagious principle of cholera, yellow fever, smallpox and other epidemic diseases, and may enforce the transshipment of passengers as the commissioner may deem necessary.

(b) The commissioner shall assign to the charge of each station a competent physician and necessary assistants, who shall receive such compensation as the commissioner may deem reasonable and just.

68-1-203.  Violating quarantine a misdemeanor. 

  Any person who willfully disregards or evades quarantine, or violates any rule or regulation made in attempting to prevent the spread of any epidemic disease, commits a Class B misdemeanor.

68-1-204.  Recommendations by commissioner to governor on allocation of health care resources in affected areas. 

  In the event that an emergency or disaster as defined in § 58-2-101 occurs, that involves outbreaks of disease that present a danger of an epidemic, the commissioner shall make appropriate recommendations to the governor for actions under this title and title 58, chapter 2, to allocate all available heath care resources in the affected areas for immediate and long-term health care needs of the affected populations.


The items mentioned in the video are these:

Sawyer Water Filter Bottle - $40
These filters are awesome. They do need to be backwashed from time to time (more often if you are using really dirty water). Their biggest weakness is that they should NEVER be allowed to freeze as this can shatter the filter and render it useless. 

Sawyer also sells a complete kit for attaching a filter to a 5 gallon bucket (includes the filter), which is a solution more appropriate for filtering water for family needs inside the home. Since clean water is needed for nearly all sanitation tasks, you should plan to have a way to generate plenty of clean water. 

Sawyer Mini Water Filtration - $20
I haven't tested this unit yet; but apparently it's the exact same technology as the above filter. I fully trust it, and I'm planning to buy one for my "crash bag".

AA Steripen - $40
This is a really neat idea, and is a decent option for some tasks. Downsides are that it uses batteries, is somewhat fragile, and can't hand dirty water. That said, it will kill viruses, which the above Sawyer filter won't take out.

HTI XPack - $35 (used to be $60)
This (and some of HTI's other products) are probably the best water filtration solutions in the worlds. Only downside is the cost and the limited lifespan of the filter when in use. These units only come with a 10 day supply of sugar charges - but you CAN use other sugary syrups to cause the osmotic reaction to draw water through (I've heard that Coke syrup works). One of the guys that works for HTI also told me that the 10 day filter has been used all the way out to over a month. 

Ebola: Personal Protection Equipment

I STRONGLY encourage people to acquire at least some PPE to protect them against a potential Ebola outbreak. I'm writting this on October 7th. I expect we will start seeing new Ebola cases popping up starting in about a week - this expectation is based on the Dallas patient's exposure to a large number of people and the incubation time Ebola requires. If I'm correct, large numbers of people will start buying masks, gloves, tyvek suits, and anything else they perceive as being needed to protect themselve, to such an extent that it may become diffucult if not imposible to acquire these items after the rush starts. 
Many of these items are not that expensive and have many other uses besides Ebola protection. Please consider purchasing ASAP.

Bare-minimum supplies

Doctors Without Borders created this list of gear to send home with families when they have an infected family member but there's no room at the local clinic for them. It's a good, basic starting point (click image for full size):

Some of these items are linked to further down, so keep reading.

Reusable or disposable PPE?

Modern hazmat PPE/BSI uses a lot of disposable supplies. This works great - until you run out of out of supplies and are forced to start improvising solutions, as has started to happen in Africa (and as has happened in times past). It appears that the roughly 5,000 cases in Africa may already be stretching the production capacity on some items. UNICEF recently reported “Securing availability of EVD PPE for high-risk settings is even more difficult. Suppliers have not experienced such a high demand previously, and production time is longer.”. DuPont has apparently tripled production of their tyvek coveralls in an attempt to keep up with demand.

Rather than fully and exclusively equip with traditional PPE (much of which is disposable) I think it preferable to start with at least some improvised equipment - but the best, reusable, improvised gear available. It may not be QUITE as good as the disposable gear, but should last longer than a supply of disposable - thus, in the long run it’s better.

The following list and information is based on my research - I’m not a doctor and I’ve been greatly hindered in my research by the fact that there’s really not a whole lot of hard data about Ebola. Lymes Disease, for comparison, is still very mysterious. But in the past I have been able to find far more hard data on Lymes that I was able to find recently on Ebola. As such, many of the items listed below are untested. If we have an outbreak in the USA it may become impossible to acquire the conventional gear and improvised will have to be used; this document is the result of my research with that eventuality in mind.

Information Resources
I Highly recomend this manual, created by the CDC and WHO, on dealing with Haemorrhagic Fevers in Africa:
Manual: Infection Control for Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers in Africa

Here's some other useful documents/resources I've found:
UNICEF PPE and supplies information
Ebolavirus Pathogen Datasheet
CDC: Interim guidance on infection control

Goggles and respirators serve two main functions:

1. To protect you from aerosolized droplets of saliva or mucus getting in your mouth and eyes (Ebola may not be “airborne” - but people still sneeze and the droplets of moisture they eject can contain Ebola)
2. To protect your eyes and mouth from inadvertent touching.

These are probably the most critical equipment to prevent an Ebola infection.

Goggles (reusable)
Dewalt anti-fog goggles - $10
3M TEKK Goggles - $9

Moldex 2212 N95: 100 units for $40 shipped (.40 each)
Gerson 2130 N95: 200 units for $32.50 shipped (.16 each)

Reusable respirators are much more effective than disposable masks (they create a better seal, have better filtration, etc), but will probably need their filters disposed of after possible exposure to Ebola. The normal filter modules are too expensive to replace frequently. An alternative is to alter the filter system to accept other filter mediums. Specifically, some filter cartridges can have a housing added to allow the use of prefilters. Another option may be to rubber band a disposable mask (like the Gerson 2130) onto an Organic Vapor Cartridge. I will test this as soon as my Gerson masks arrive and report back.

3M makes a variety of respirators with disposible filters - I use the 7500 half masks quite a bit and find them comfortable and worth the extra few dollars over the cheaper models. You could go a little cheaper with some of their other masks, though.

On Amazon:

3M 7502 Reusable Respirator - $23
3M, Pair Organic Vapor Cartridges - $8
3M Prefilter retainer #501. (buy at Lowes as well as prefilters)

Another option over goggles and respirators is to use full face respirators. These are more costly, but would seem to offer more comfort and safety than two separate items. Your entire face would be continuously covered and protected.
I would get the 3M 6800 full face respirator (that's for the medium size - other sizes also available); it will use the same filter cartridges that the half-face respirator I mentioned earlier uses, and is relatively inexpensive at about $90. 


After goggles and masks, gloves are probably the next most critical safety gear. Current practice in treating Ebola patients is to wear two pairs of gloves; A lightweight sugical/exam glove with a heavy weight, reusable glove on top. 

When you shop for reusable gloves be aware that some may not resist cleaning with vinegar or other disinfectants.  

PVC Gloves, 14”, - $9
Atlas 26” Nitrile Gloves - $12

Nitrile Exam Gloves - $9 for 100 or $67 for 1,000.
Super Tough EMT gloves - Made for handling chemicals $119 for 500


The conventional solution is to use Tyvek coveralls. Typically these are disposed of after a single use, though reuse may be possible provided the suit is still in good condition and can be disinfected.

Dupont makes a variety of Tyvek suits for different purposes - some are more robust or impermeable than others and are therefore recommended for Ebola. Dupont suggests using their Tychem C, Tychem QC and SL lines, though some of their other lines can be upgraded by taping the seams and making use of more robust “accessories” (aprons, arm protectors, etc).

Normal retail prices on appropriate coveralls range from $10-15 per unit, though cases of new/old stock can greatly reduce that. Searching ebay I was able to find a number of lots of cases of 25 for well below $100, though some of these were the cheaper, less durable/impermeable models. I actually found two cases (50 suits) of Tychem QC for about $80 shipped.

Another option if you can’t find any tyvek suits, or if they are out of your budget for the number you need, is to create reusable gear or buy ex-military NBC suits. The latter can be found for around $20, though these are also originally meant to be disposable - but they are far more robust than Tyvek suits and are meant to survive extended use in battlefield conditions. If they can be disinfected I think they could be reused many, many times.

If you want to make a reusable clean-suit it should be tough and very cleanable in addition to being impermeable. Ebola can be inactivated by chemical disinfection or via heating (for an hour at 60 C.) or boiling (5 min).Your suit should be able to survive this disinfecting process repeatedly - it will be essential to do this after every likely exposure to Ebola.

One option may be to waterproof existing clothing - silicone can be diluted in mineral spirits and be brushed on. This is allegedly highly effective at waterproofing the clothing. However, the silicone treatment will apparently be destroyed if you heat the article of clothing, as in a clothes dryer. Another treatment option is wax.

A more “pre-made” option may be to purchase heavy-duty rain suits.

There’s not a whole lot of information out there on reusable suit options, which is partly because there’s been very little scientific testing done on what’s necessary to disinfect and inactivate the Ebola virus. Ebola prevention and treatment is still somewhat a frontier, with little reliable information and  


Another piece of gear which is vital if you are treating actual patients is a heavy-duty apron. It helps keep infectious fluids off your more easily damaged suit - and if you are trying to reuse your suit this will dramatically increase your ability to keep it unsoiled and damage free.

I’m working on a simple way to make a heavy-duty vinyl apron, but don’t have anything to post yet.


This particularly applies if you are walking around in an area known to be infected, like an isolation clinic. When you leave the area (or enter a safe area) you need to be able to disinfect your footwear or remove a disposable covering. Ideally, you do both. You wear gum boots, which will be disinfected, and they are then covered by disposable shoe covers.  In my research I couldn’t find anything to indicate that for gum boots you need anything other than a strong, waterproof boot, and simple disposable shoe covers (or two layers of garbage bags).

$450 AR-15 - and some better options.

I was just poking around on Palmetto State Armory's site. You can get everything you need to build a very decent AR for just over $450. $400 gets you a build kit.

AIM Surplus then has lowers for about $40.

You'd still need a rear sight and mags. But otherwise, that's a lot of quality and features for not a lot of money. I'd probably rather have a Chromed barrel than stainless, but still...

Here's some other, better, options (as of October 8th):


PSA - Blemished 16" M4 - $350
PSA - 20" "M16" upper - $409
PSA - 16" Midlength CHF - $419
(all of these uppers have had the $99 Bolt Carrier Group added to make price comparison more fair)
Of these three the 16 middy would be my first pick, then the 20", and then the M4. 

BCM - 16" Midlength Lightweight - $500
Configured with bolt, charging handle, magpul handguards, and a BCM compensator
This is an amazing deal. BCM has a stellar reputation, and rightfully so (please go read this link, BTW). This upper is about as close to perfect as you could want for general purpose/home defense. 


LPK with the Quality Milspec Trigger - $65
This is a great deal on a very decent trigger. There are nicer triggers, but they usually start at about $100 and go up from there. 

M4 Stock Kit - $50
You can find cheaper stocks out there - but not a lot cheaper. You can also spend a little more to get a kit with Magpul furniture. Is it worth it? Maybe. 


AIM Surplus Deal: $40


All you need to build a functioning AR-15: 
Upper Receiver Group (Upper)
Bolt Carrier Group (BCG)
Charging Handle (CH)
Lower Parts Kit (LPK)
Stock Kit
Stripped Lower Receiver (a stripper lower) 

Some uppers come with BCG and CH, so be aware of that - you don't need duplicates of these items (though it would make subsequent AR builds cheaper...). 


I built my first AR with nothing more than a pair of vicegrips (for the difficult roll pins), a hammer, and I think a pair of forceps (for the detents and other tiny parts), and did so in a little over an hour. 
Since then I've added a few punches and an armorers wrench. I also have an action block, but that's only needed for making relatively major changes to the upper.  The instructions I used are still to be found over at Ar15.com - HERE. 

ITS Tactical - This writeup is a bit on the excessive side, but still appears helpful.