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Monday, February 15, 2010

Preps: Standardization versus Variety

The Standardization vs. Variety debate is an interesting one.  Do you plan your preps around one single standard or do you intentionally have a wide variety of options?

For instance, consider handguns.  There are dozens of chamberings.  Does it make more sense to choose one or two calibers or should you have as wide of a variety as possible?  Is your answer the same concerning food or fuel?

Many of us standardize without even really thinking about it.  Judging from the logs I view on my business web site, virtually everyone uses a computer that has some flavor of the Microsoft (MS) operating system.  There are only a handful of Mac and Linux users.

By virtually any technological measure, Mac and Linux are far superior to MS.  But MS has them both crushed in terms of the available application software, supported hardware and available technical support.  We compromise on quality for ease-of-use.

We also add variety to our daily lives without even thinking about it.  Few people eat the exact same food every single day.  We use a variety of methods to heat our homes or cook our food - electricity, natural gas, propane, wood and kerosene.

There are pluses and minuses of each approach:

Variety Pluses:
  1. Gives you more options.  Particularly important with food categories.
  2. Availability.  Unlikely to ever run out of sources of re-supply in any given category.  
  3. Spot cost savings.  Allows you to stock up on whatever you use that is readily available and inexpensive at the moment.
Variety Minuses:

  1. Expense.  To ensure sufficient amounts of each item, you must purchase more of each.
  2. Adequate storage space.  Since you must store sufficient amounts of many more items, you must have increased storage capabilities.
  3. Increased knowledge requirements - must know how to use and store each type of item.
 Standardization Pluses:

  1. Fewer replacement parts.  You don't need to purchase repair kits for each individual piece of equipment.  One repair kit can be used for multiple similar items.
  2. Better knowledge.  It's easier to become an expert on price, quality and repair.
  3. Safety/functionality.  It's easier to become an expert on how to use or operate the commodity or equipment to it's fullest potential.

Standardization Minuses:
  1. Loss of supply.  The "all of your eggs in one basket" syndrome.  If you need one type of widget, and it is no longer available, you can be in deep trouble. 
  2. Monotony.  Variety really is the Spice of Life, especially in things like food and entertainment.  This is a much bigger potential issue than many people realize.
  3. Obsolescence.  Unless you can re-supply yourself, a large piece of equipment may become useless.  Anyone out there with an 8-track tape player?!
In general, I thing some variety - to a certain extent - is the prudent course of action.  I'm a big believer in the PACE concept - Primary, Alternate, Contingency and Emergency.  Give yourself some options.

BUT, I standardize within a category.  For instance, regarding handguns.  For semi-automatics, I've settled on the 9mm.  Within that sub-group, I've also (mostly) standardized on Glocks.  In this way, I don't need spare part kits for 5 different manufacturers.

Still in handguns, for revolvers, I've standardized on Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum pistols.  These allow me the flexibility to use either .357 Magnum or .38 Special ammunition, both of which I store in quantity.

With foods, the widest possible variety is our goal!  We have a dozen or so types of dried beans, two types of rice, five different grains, a dozen different spices, 10 different types of animal protein, 3 different types of fat, and so on.

For emergency cooking fuel, we've standardized on propane and white gas.  We store the propane in the 20 lb tanks, and I have a couple dozen of the 16 ounce cylinders.  Most of the devices that use the cylinders also have an adapter so I can use the 20 lb tanks as well.

The stoves that use the white gas will also use unleaded gasoline, which we also store, but in limited quantities.

I think it comes down to the preparation category, and how easy re-supply or self-supply will be.   We're standardizing on AA and D battery sizes, AND converting to rechargeable.  In this way, when we use up our supply of one-shot batteries, we can essentially re-supply ourselves with the rechargeables.  And Yes, we're getting a solar panel to run the recharger if need be!

Another key is designing your plans by having alternatives for as many items as possible.  The dual-fuel stoves are a good example.

We store a large quantity of white sugar, but I also know how to make syrups from mashed grains (I know how to make other things from mashed grains, but that's another post!).  And of course growing/catching/hunting your own foods as opposed to buying them at the store.  Develop some skills!

Accept The Challenge

When developing your emergency plans, give yourself as many options as possible.  Don't "paint yourself into a corner" by making your survival dependent upon a few items which may be unavailable (or cost prohibitive) in the future.

But, unless you have an endless supply of cash, where practical, standardize to limit your re-supply, knowledge and repair expenses.  In general, the higher the cost of the object, the greater the need for standardization.

Finally, whenever possible, develop the skills to become self-sufficient.  Make yourself your own supply-chain!

The image up top?  20 varieties of jello shots.  Variety and standardization all rolled into one!  ;-)

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Unknown said...

Gosh, I think standardization is essential when it comes to firearms. From logistical and tactical perspectives there are enormous benefits to it.

Case in point. Awhile back I got a new gun. Took it home without buying anything else just fine because I knew I had all the stuff to keep it going already.

Depending on the size of your collection multiple platforms can be used. For example 9mm Glocks and .38/.357mag wheel guns. (Great minds think alike) If your collection gets real big toss in a .45 or two. You now are vested in probably the 3 most common pistol rounds in the US.

For batteries it makes sense also.

For food variety is good.

Shy Wolf said...

Yup. Makes sense to me. (But we all know I'm opinionated- and always right. Well, some times. Maybe.)
Commonality if weapon platforms is smart, for sure. Unless one has a "mine is bigger than yours" attitude.
Really- do you need an 8-track player? I have one... it's attached to my record player...

Chief Instructor said...

TOR, yeah, I keep wanting to get a .45 for the collection, but I somehow find the strength to resist! I want to first pick up another Glock 19 and 26 so I can cannibalize if things really get bad. And I want to pick up a lever rifle in .357 for some mid-range stuff, THEN perhaps I'll get the .45...

Shy, I have a couple buddies with the "mine's bigger than yours" syndrome. Vastly different personality types - ones a former cop and the other is a CPA - but they both gotta have more and better than anyone else. When I point out the logistical nightmare of ammo and spare parts, they look at me like I'm on crack. "That's why they invested gun shops and gun smiths". Ok, good luck with that.

I traded away my 8-track about 20 years ago, but cling to my turntables (yes, I have 2) with a, "from my cold, dead fingers" attitude!

Unknown said...

Chief, I acquired most of my firearms collection (at least they are more useful than big stereo speakers or the like) before standardization was even a thought.

Some of the more oddball ones have been sold off but a few are too good to get rid of, and if you already have ammo and such a gun costs nothing to have lying around.

I can use a 2-3 more Glocks myself except I would go 19 and 17.

I am in favor of redundancy but why plan to cannibalize? Most Glock parts cost 2-4 bucks. Personally I spent about $220 but I got pretty much everything except a barrel, slide and frame. Next time I buy parts I might be a touch more selective.

Chief Instructor said...

TOR, no plan, per se, to cannibalize the guns, but I have that option if no other spare parts are available.