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Starting Your Tactical Library

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Books are timeless, in depth, explainers of who, what, where, when, and why. They teach us skills, educate us, and serve as valuable references. Unlike other resources in common use, books work with or without electricity. YouTube is a great place to go learn skills until you can’t access it because you don’t have power. Or worse, because the entire Internet is inaccessible, due to either crisis or government intervention.

In The Everyday Marksman community, we talk a lot about “Scenario X,” a temporary Without Rule of Law emergency situation where individual families and neighbors need to band together to survive. In this article we’ll list out some of the top recommended books to have on your shelf, both before and during Scenario X.

I’m a voracious consumer of books, across all sorts of topics and genres. I don’t discriminate against electronic books by any means, as my worn out Kindle can attest. But when I find a particularly useful resource on digits, I’ll turn around and purchase the physical copy as well. That’s partially because I want it to serve as a reference if I lose electricity, but there’s another reason.

Books can and should motivate you to be a better prepared citizen. At least they motivate me, as both a reader and an author, when they’re sitting on my shelf.

They either serve as reminders of topics I’ve already mastered, or simply sit there as a visual cue in my ever-growing “To Be Read” pile. That said, a book sitting on the shelf in TBR status doesn’t do you any good when Scenario X kicks off. That’s why we’re going to recommend one primary title on several topics below. Our suggestion is to read at a minimum that one book on each topic before moving on to supplementary resources.

And remember – skills from the primary books in each section should be read and practiced.

Why This List? Why Now?

We pulled together this article because of a perceived gap in the broader preparedness sphere. Some other sites list dozens of books without explaining why you should read any particular one. Others may be shilling their own books as an all-in-one, “everything you need to know to prepare your family for the apocalypse” guide. In many cases those are really just a huge list of topics to read about in further detail in other books.

In our less generous moments, both of these approaches can feel like a money grab rather than a resource to help you figure out which books are worth your time and money.

In this list we’re explaining why books we personally own and have read, and in some cases have already created full reviews on, are precisely what you should have on your shelf. As a disclosure, we will use Amazon affiliate links as well, but we hope the work we’ve put into this article makes you feel that it isn’t our own money grab.

One final note about the why of this list, before we get into the books themselves: we feel that books are valuable for more reasons than simple utility. Admittedly, some books out there are primarily references, but others can alert you to new topics you haven’t considered, expand your thinking by putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, or simply serve to delight and entertain you in a down moment. That down moment can happen during a doom and gloom period where the world seems increasingly unsafe, or it may come during a candlelight reprieve in the midst of Scenario X.

In either case, we believe wholeheartedly that books can comfort you, your spouse, you children, and other members of your group just as well as they can teach you.

The Set Up

Scenario X is our stand in for a massive disruption of civil and government services, which could be caused by a Hurricane Katrina-type storm, or any sort of other event, up to and including the Zombie Apocalypse.

As Matt originally introduced it, “I once thought that Scenario X sounded like something out of Red Dawn, but it’s a useful illustration. There aren’t black helicopters, blue-helmeted UN troops representing the Illuminati Global Order, or even jack-booted thugs looking to shoot your dog. It’s just a bad situation, and you have a need to provide some safety where others cannot.”

In the U.S. we made it through the shortages, lockdowns, violence, and unrest of 2020 and are now dealing with supply chain disruptions and the possible eruption of World War Three in 2022. These situations are unpredictable, and any one of them could have or still could put us into some form of Scenario X.

Planning for Scenario X is a useful thought experiment, because at a minimum several elements of it apply to anyone who reads The Everyday Marksman.
If you’re like me, a middle-aged suburban remote worker with a wife, two kids, and a dog, all living on a cul de sac, it really drives home the point that you need to be prepared for this sort of weeks-long eventuality.

Whether you live in an urban city center or a remote rural homestead, you ought to be prepared for a Scenario X that disrupts electricity, supply chains, and civil/governmental relief organizations.

However, Scenario X isn’t a Mad Max-style end of the world apocalypse, either. There’s an expectation that things will return to some sort of “normal,” eventually. Preparing for Scenario X doesn’t require selling all your belongings to move to a rural retreat in the mountains of Idaho or the hollers of West Virginia. It simply means you need to learn to plan and train for a nasty situation in a balanced manner, taking into account you and your immediate group holistically.

Suggested Reading for General Preparedness

Our book recommendation for an encompassing, layered take on getting ready for Scenario X is Practical Prepping by Steven Konkoly and Randall S. Powers.

Konkoly is a Naval Academy graduate who served in multiple Navy and USMC billets over eight years of service. He is now a professional author, having now written several books with Scenario X-type events. Konkoly’s most well known work, particularly after the events of COVID-19, is likely The Jakarta Pandemic, which depicts precisely the response of a suburban family to Scenario X.

He wrote this book along with Randall S. Powers, who expanded from his original work as a journalist to become a personal preparedness strategist and consultant in his role as the Chief Managing Partner of Practical Tactical.

The two of them together each take fictional elements from Konkoly’s novels and explain how to prepare for such a situation in a balanced way, without allowing preparedness to consume your life. Each topic they cover could require follow up reading, equipping, and training. That said, it’s an excellent introduction without claiming the sky is falling, and you must buy their book to get ready.

Suggested Reading for Physical Fitness

In Scenario X you’ll be leading an extremely active lifestyle. Whether it’s fetching water, cutting firewood, extracting injured neighbors from their houses, or actively engaging in a kinetic neighborhood defense, it’s no exaggeration to claim fitness may be the difference between life and death.

It’s a topic Matt and numerous others have harped on for years, and yet it’s still remarkably under-appreciated by many preparedness minded folks. The above situations from Scenario X are admittedly the worst case scenario. But even in a best case scenario, where no such situation ever arises for you personally, the benefits of physical fitness simply can’t be overstated.

You’re far more likely to die of a preventable heart condition than a bullet in a gunfight, even in Scenario X. So if you concealed carry a pistol every day but are also in the majority of U.S. citizens that are obese or overweight, I submit that you’re bad at threat analysis.

The best way to be ready for the disparate physical demands of a Scenario X is to pursue “General Physical Preparedness,” or GPP. There are several excellent resources out there which lay out excellent plans for GPP, but our recommendation is Tactical Barbell I and Tactical Barbell II by K. Black.

Black was an infantryman, then later a Law Enforcement Officer who experimented with multiple modalities to achieve his GPP goals. He ultimately rejected a lot of “newfangled” functional fitness crazes in favor of a balanced, lifelong approach to gradually improving physical fitness.

The two books are inextricably linked, but we recommend reading them in order, and then starting with the Base Building plan in Tactical Barbell II.

Note from Matt: I also suggest an additional book in the series, Ageless Athlete by Jim Madden, that takes the approaches laid out in TB I and TB II and tweaks them a bit to remove focus from LE and military members to put it on everyday folks who want to lead fit and healthy lives.

Additional Fitness Reading

While K. Black’s books present an effective strength and conditioning program, there is always more to learn. We also suggest Body By Science written by John Little and Doug McGuff.

Matt previously reviewed this one, and it presents a holistic view of how your body functions, the importance of strength, and metabolic function.

Another excellent read is Becoming a Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett. which is about ingraining healthy physical movement patterns to prevent injury.

Suggest Books on Marksmanship Skills

On a site called The Everyday Marksman, a lot of attention is appropriately placed on combat shooting. This is just one element of many which may be important in Scenario X, so we counterintuitively don’t want to put too much emphasis here.

If we’re forced to choose just one book to take someone from new shooter to expert it would be Practical Shooting Training by Ben Stoeger and Joel Park. Ben is a grandmaster in USPSA and Joel Park is one of Ben’s students, who has also gone on to achieve GM status.

Ben has written several books on practical shooting, but this one outshines all the rest. In it the two authors explain the fundamentals of marksmanship, provide standards for beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert shooters, and lay out plans for how to move from one tier to the next.

There are numerous other texts that provide great introductions to marksmanship skills. Some of our favorites include Tiger McKee’s The Book of Two Guns, Green Eyes & Black Rifles by Kyle Lamb, and The Close Combat Files of Colonel Rex Applegate.

Note from Matt: If you’re looking for something that’s a bit more focused on pure marksmanship, I’d also suggest Pete Lessler’s books, The Shooter’s Guide to Rifle Marksmanship and the Shooter’s Guide to Handgun Marksmanship.

Suggested Reading on Medical Skills

In Scenario X you’re likely to encounter a much wider variety of medical issues and complications than are covered in a typical Red Cross CPR cert, or even your local shooting range’s bi-annual Tactical Combat Casualty Care class. Whether it’s diagnosing an outbreak of cholera or splinting a limb for your neighbor’s kid, you may be called upon to perform a vast swathe of medical tasks.

We recommend, first and foremast, attending a Wilderness First Responder or Wilderness First Aid class, as they provide one of the few venues to practice these sort of skills in an austere environment. That said, it should come as no surprise that our top pick for a medical text is Wilderness First Aid: Emergency Care in Remote Locations.

Additionally, we also highly recommend picking up a copy of Where There is No Doctor, as it supplements much of the injury focus of Wilderness First Aid with a village-health approach to preventing, diagnosing, and treating communicable diseases.

Suggested Reading for Tactical Skills

Many experts recommend military manuals like the Ranger Handbook on hand. The issue with military manuals is that they generally serve as references for refreshing the memory after you’ve already learned the task in a classroom or field environment.

Take it from this Ranger School graduate (Class 8-08), you’re not going to be teach your ad hoc neighborhood self defense force all the steps in a “React to Contact” drill based solely on the handful of instructions written down in TC 3-21.76.

That’s why we’re such big fans of Max Alexander’s Tactical Manual: Small Unit Tactics. Max, who served in the British Army’s Para unit, is better known as the author and tactics trainer “Max Velocity.” His book does a much better job of breaking down in detail everything a team does in various situations, such as the previously mentioned “React to Contact,” or laying out an ambush, or crossing a linear danger area such as a road.

Suggestions about Logistics

When I originally laid out this list, I intended it to follow the same principles as the U.S. Army Ranger Regiment’s Big Five training priorities: fitness, marksmanship, medical, tactics, and mobility.

We’ve covered the first four, but frankly “mobility” doesn’t necessarily fit in a Scenario X environment. What the Regiment means by that term is the ability to move from one spot to another, via ground, air, or naval insertion, in order to accomplish a mission. But in Scenario X you’re far more likely to want to “bug in” than “bug out.” And while you may want to occasionally send out a party to barter with a neighboring group, or to scavenge what you can from abandoned houses, everything you need to know for that “mission” should be covered by our tactics pick. So rather than mobility, we’re choosing to emphasize logistics.

In a Scenario X, the more water, food, tools, and equipment you have on hand, whether for personal or team use, the better. Some of us are years into this journey, and have stockpiled a lot of those things already. But if you’re just getting started on this path, we recommend Countdown to Preparedness by Jim Cobb. The author walks you through a week-by-week plan, laid out over the course of a calendar year, to get your affairs in order well enough to survive at least a two week crisis like Scenario X.

If you follow the author’s advice over the course of a year, or even accelerate it by doing two chapters per calendar week, in the course of a few months you’ll have set aside emergency funds, organized your important documents, set aside water and methods for treating it, stored food and begun a rotation plan, and trained up on numerous skills that will be useful in an emergency situation.

Note from Matt: It might not fall under logistics, but another book we discussed in this category is Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. It’s a great resource for getting started growing your own food in a “victory garden” style common in the first half of the 20th century.

Wrapping Up

This list is not comprehensive, of course. There are many books covering each of these topics from different angles. But as a starting point, you could do a whole lot worse than this selection. If you have any personal favorites, be sure to drop them down in the comments!

Picture of Ross


A Florida native, Ross enlisted in the Army after high school. He served as an infantryman in the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment for three years prior to his acceptance to West Point. He deployed three times to Afghanistan and Iraq during the first years of the GWOT. After graduating from the Academy, Ross spent five additional years as an infantry officer with the First Cavalry Division, including another deployment to Iraq. These days Ross works a civilian job in the Northern Virginia suburbs, where he does his best to prepare for Scenario X with fitness, marksmanship, bushcraft, first aid training, and the occasional book.

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Ryan Morris
Ryan Morris

In his biography, Call Sign Chaos, Gen. Mattis said having the ability to read but not doing so makes someone a “functional illiterate”. I find I have to make time and to read deliberately to see the best benefit. Reference material is different. Don’t stop with building a library. Read a library. I’m going to add some of the above to my list.

I’m a physician. I’d encourage people to take classes if they have a medical interest. Maybe Red Cross /AHA
and Stop the Bleed, followed by EMT basic if really interested. Once you have some professional credentials, the doors to better eduction opportunities really open; PHTLS, ATLS for example.

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