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Outdoors Business caters to ‘survivalist on the go’

Battle Group Quartermaster, a military surplus, survival and preparedness store, is located just south of Franklin, NC on Hwy. 441 at 3197 Georgia Road. The store is open Tuesday through Saturday. Photos by Colin GooderBattle Group Quartermaster geared for disaster.

The following in the second part of a two part story on preppers in Western North Carolina. While WNC Supply, Inc., teaches preppers more about hunkering down long-term at home, in a bunker or some other shelter, Battle Group Quartermaster in Franklin is geared more for the rugged, well-armed survivalist on the go.

The Quartermaster's slogan, "The Tactical Advantage," speaks volumes about the store's average clientele. Catering to military personnel, law enforcement officers, EMS, firefighters, outdoorsmen and the hardened survivalist, Battle Group Quartermaster has all the uniforms, specialty clothing, equipment and gear to support and protect an individual surviving a disaster or emergency situation in the wilderness, a crowded city or suburbia.

Located on Highway 441 just south of Franklin, Battle Group Quartermaster was originally established as an Army/ Navy surplus store by father and son owners, Stan and Brian Coss. Brian's father, Stan, is former military, as was his father, so the family has a military heritage. But due to popular demand, they added onto the store.

"We decided to add boots and knives, camping supplies and recreational kayaks," said Brian Coss.

According to Coss, over the last couple of years, increasing numbers of people started asking about survival products.

"Carolina Readiness Supply over in Waynesville created a market for readiness and preparation supplies here," observed Coss. "They've been open for about two or three years. Rather than just your military personnel and occasional person looking for military MREs [Meals Ready to Eat], more people were coming in asking about survival food, and didn't want to drive to Waynesville all the time to get it."

Battle Group Quartermaster now carries a full line of dehydrated food products, but the emphasis here is less on tasty food or comforts of home and "more on a mobile survival situation," said Coss. Mobile survival means being able to defend one's self and family, to establish basic needs like shelter, to hunt or trap game or forage food, and locate or filter drinkable water; but above all else, to keep moving, and in the process, keep living.

"We carry everything a person could need to survive a crisis situation like that," said Coss. "Food, water filters, water purification tablets, fuel, fire starters, military mess kits, signal mirrors, solar lanterns and devices, small solar chargers, binoculars, night vision scopes, and tactical clothing and gear, among other things.

"In my opinion, the camping supplies go right along with the survival supplies," said Coss. "If you think about it, if you need to come up with some type of shelter, the tents, tarps, sleeping bags, cookstoves and all that go together."

He said MREs and bug-out bags are also popular items, but lately he's had a tremendous amount of interest in the simple, inexpensive water purification system he recently ordered.

Owner Brian Coss is always willing to share his experience in small arms, survival and preparedness with interested customers. Above, Brian displays some of the more popular and essential items for survival, including a small portable solar charger for electronic devices. The cabinet below is filled with a wide variety of ammunition."They last a long time," said Coss, "and as I understand it from reading up on them, they purify water up to almost a hundred percent."

Using a couple of slightly modified buckets and a ceramic filter, the setup purifies up to five gallons of clean drinking water at a time, and is good for a minimum of 300 uses. The unit can be used many more times by placing a special "sock" around the filter that catches larger particles of dirt and contaminants before they enter the opening. Dirty water goes in the top, and drinkable water comes out the bottom. "For under a hundred bucks you can have clean water," said Coss.

Quartermaster has military quality knives and tools for any situation, such as a hand axe that can double as a shovel or weapon if necessary, but can also be used to open fire hydrants. The model of knife used by Navy Seals is displayed for sale in the same cabinet.

Then there's the guns and ammunition, a big seller these days since the recent push toward gun control and placing more restrictions on gun ownership. Battle Group Quartermaster offers a variety of rifles and handguns, as well as powerful hunting crossbows, along with night vision scopes to balance the odds in your favor in the dark.

For less extreme conditions, pick up a new compass and waterproof containers of matches, even a fancy new paracord survival bracelet.

"It depends what you think of as survival," said Coss. "There are some people that take it to the extreme and are buying as much guns and ammunition as food, because I don't think anyone really knows what to expect. It could be another world war. It could be an EMP [electro magnetic pulse] that knocks out the power grid; disease; or it could be a revolution. It could be any number of things," Coss continued. "But there are some really serious people out here," he laughed. "People from Western North Carolina, from Kentucky, Virginia and all over."

Quartermaster carries a full line of Just how serious do some of his customers take survival preparedness? About six months ago, one new customer told Coss the unlikely story of the small Alabama town in which he lives. He said the entire town got together, including the police department, and got organized. Based on who had different levels of money and resources, the townspeople delegated responsibilities to help protect the town in case of disaster, dis ease, economic collapse, war or invasion. The wealthiest of them were charged with buying guns for everyone, others ammunition, still others water and canned food, and so forth. The townsfolk even pooled their resources and bought two new generators for the police department in the process. Coss told how the customer said, "If anyone comes to take our things (i.e. guns, food and supplies), they'll have to go through us first." That's serious.

Coss lends more insight into the mindset of the average prepper. "I've talked with so many people. Everybody has their own idea about what's coming. It could be a war. Or a natural disaster like a solar flare."

Coss is a genuinely cheerful, upbeat guy who acts more like a laid-back hipster than the owner of a survival and military surplus store. But the scenario he describes next is dark.

"Assume it's an EMP or powerful solar flare. Once the communications and electric grid went down, it would be complete chaos," he said. "People would storm the stores. They'd wipe out everything on the shelves, go to drug stores and take as much medicine as they could. Where would the people that live in 25-story apartment buildings go? They're not going to be able to stay in that town.

"So then that's when a lot of disease would become rampant, and a lot of people would die. And you'll not only have to protect what you have, but you'll have to protect yourself from the disease that's coming," Coss explains.

And he doesn't rule out the threat of invasion or bombing. He's concerned that U.S. military forces are being down-sized drastically due to budget cuts.

"We will not have the largest military in the world for long," warns Coss.

Apparently it's a sentiment that other people share. Coss said that he's met a lot of customers that have been looking for property in Western North Carolina.

"But they're not just looking for property. They're looking for strategic property," said Coss. "High up, with a 360º view so they can see what's coming. Near water if possible." He said one customer told him that there are 51 caves in this area, and that he knew where just about all of them are. "He said some of them have water, some don't. So there's people that seek all of this information out."

Because knowledge can often be as important as the gear, Battle Group Quartermaster carries books published by the military with titles such as "First Aid for Soldiers," "Close Combat" and "Survival." There's even a book entitled "Boobytraps," and "Explosives and Demolitions" for the learned survivalist."One of the best things we've got going on around here is that there's a lot of fresh water, and elevation. And there's still a lot of old-timers around here that know these places like the back of their hand," said Coss.

Quartermaster caters to the minimalist crowd of survivalists and ex-military types, most of whom don't care about the taste of the dehydrated rations in the MREs.

"Some people ask: Survival food, how good does it taste? Well, you know what? If you're trying to live, it's not the taste that matters. It's all about the calorie count," Coss explains. "You need a certain amount of calories to survive. If you don't have that, you start breaking down your own body tissue, and you're in trouble."

But, he said, "The eggs are so good that you can't tell the difference."

In a scenario of societal collapse, money will have little to no value, but vital resources like food, water and medicine will be worth more than gold. Among these vital resources is ammunition.

"There's a real bad shortage right now on .22 ammunition," said Coss. "You can't find .22 ammunition." He said manufacturers are actually producing more, but that people are buying it and hoarding it. And now the military is buying a lot of it, "plinking" .22 at the range, using conversion kits on their M-4s to fire the smaller caliber ammunition.

Due to the rush on ammunition of late, Coss noted that a lot of store owners are price gouging their customers. "But this is my store, and how I make my living. I want repeat customers, so I try to price everything reasonably but where it's still making money for the store. I don't gouge anyone," said Coss.

The shortage of .22 caliber ammunition is a concern, said Coss, because if things get bad society will turn back to the barter system, and .22 ammunition would be one of the most valuable commodities after securing shelter, food and water.

"Imagine how many .22 shells you can carry on you, compared to larger caliber shells. Three to five .22 bullets could be traded for a fresh rabbit or other game, water filters, whatever," he said. "And you could still have plenty left over for hunting later if you have a good stockpile."

To keep ammunition and other gear dry, Battle Group Quartermaster carries a variety of virtually impenetrable steel ammunition boxes with rubber seals so tight the boxes can be submerged under water without the contents getting the least bit wet. The ammunition boxes are one of the store's top selling items.

Besides a range of specialized tactical gear, some of the most popular items at Battle Group Quartermaster are the "bug-out bags." Also known as "72-hour bags," the term comes from the fact that the bags should be packed with essential supplies needed to survive in the first three days of an emergency. Coss tries to carry packs that feature tactical straps, so it's easy to clip on or attach additional containers or gear.Military first aid kits are another. Any survivalist worth his salt knows it's important to remain healthy and patch up any wounds, whether from a firefight or accidental fall, before infection spreads. Coss points out that there won't necessarily be a doctor around when you need one, so people would have to learn to treat illnesses and injuries with what they have on hand.

Prepping, it would seem, is all about being more prepared for any situation that may arise, and improving one's odds of survival by accumulating the knowledge, gear and supplies you want to have on hand.

Like the Marceaus holding survivalist and preparedness classes at WNC Supply, Inc., Coss thinks that the right knowledge is just as important as the right gear and clothing, so he's beginning to carry books with valuable information on the subject of survival. Currently he's trying to find comprehensive books on plants, roots, mushrooms and other foods safe to forage and consume in the wild.

Paracord survival bracelets like those pictured here are one of the most practical items a person can carry on them when "bugging out." The paracord bracelets can be unwoven to create long strands, often seven feet or more in length, of incredibly durable cord. The cord is trusted by mil- Brian Coss of Battle Group Quartermaster explained that the paracord bracelets live up to their name as "survival bracelets," and can even be broken down to the tiny strands beneath to provide string for stitching or suturing wounds.But already Battle Group Quartermaster stocks a variety of books published by the military on topics ranging from emergency outdoor survival to orienteering. There are guidebooks for "Map Reading and Land Navigation," "First Aid for Soldiers," "Survival Evasion and Recovery," a "Special Forces Handbook," and even guidebooks entitled "Boobytraps" and "Explosives and Demolition." The Marine Corp's "Close Quarters Combat and Hand-to-Hand Fighting" tactics guide features a collection of simple, direct, and deadly combat techniques for dispatching an enemy or assailant quickly and often, quietly. The tactics are geared for killing, rather than capturing an opponent, and surviving at all costs.

It's the same spirit of surviving at all costs that motivates so-called preppers to do what they do best: Prepare for the worst. With an unstable world economy, wide-ranging political upheavals, and numerous natural disasters in recent years, most of them would agree that, "If you're not preparing, you're not paying attention." The average prepper is just a regular person who believes in taking action to assuage their fears. By preparing for apocalyptic scenarios, each to different degrees based on what they may expect to occur, preppers may not have to worry as much about the future. They're prepared for anything.

Battle Group Quartermaster, a military surplus, survival and preparedness store, is located just south of Franklin, NC on Hwy. 441 at 3197 Georgia Road. The Quartermaster is owned and operated by father and son team, Stan and Brian Coss. Visit the shop online at www.battlegroupqm.com or contact them at (828)342-7769.


What to put in a ‘bug-out bag’

The purpose of a 72-hour bug-out bag is to help a person survive the first three days of an emergency and must cover every necessity in almost every imaginable condition.

It's a good idea to pack a bug-out bag for every member of a family that can carry his or her own supplies, in case the family gets separated. First, take care of the essentials — food, water, shelter and fuel or fire.

Here are some simple tips:

The Essentials:

  1. Food: It's important to pack enough food without going overboard and weighing the bearer down. Dehydrated food or militarystyle Meals Ready to Eat (MRE's) are always a good choice, with maybe a little seasoning to improve the flavor. It's also wise to bring along high-protein, high calorie energy bars from the local health food store. The biggest mistake is to try to carry too much food, so that it slows you down. In a pinch, energy bars can support a person for the first few days until the situation improves.
  2. Water: Carrying enough water for an extended period of time is difficult, so experts advise carrying enough for the first two to three days if possible while rationing the supply so you don't run out. Water should be stored in non-BPA plastic containers whenever possible. It's always a good idea to pack a water filtration system or tablets that purify drinking water, along with a steel container for boiling contaminated water and cooking.
  3. Shelter: What is considered shelter comes in various degrees. At the very least, carry a single or muti-person tent or a tarp that can be used to create a livable shelter. In the colder months, carry a sleeping bag or lightweight thermal blanket to provide extra warmth. Other means of shelter can be found in building lean-to's and simple shelters from tree branches, or digging large holes in the ground or snow. But these take time, and it's time— and energy— that you may not have.
  4. Fuel/ Fire: Pack lighters and waterproof matches and maybe small containers of lighter fluid or other fuels to help get a fire going. Knowing how to start a fire by more primitive methods would be invaluable in a crisis situation. If possible, lightweight modern camping stoves and the small propane tanks that come with them can come in handy to eat quickly and get back on the go.

Less essentials:

Once the four basic needs are taken care of, these necessary items could signifiantly contribute to quality of life.

  1. Toilet paper
  2. Personal hygiene items for women, and men
  3. First-aid kit
  4. Medications and prescriptions
  5. Light sources such as flashlights, head lamps, or lanterns
  6. Water purification tablets or filters
  7. Knife, multi-purpose tools, guns or other defensive weapons; can also be used to hunt
  8. Radio powered by solar energy or hand-cranked to listen to news and emergency alerts
  9. Extra clothing for two to three days, with layers that can be removed or added throughout the day
  10. Practical shoes or boots that cover the foot and fit well
  11. Blankets or sleeping bags
  12. Wet weather or winter clothing and rain gear
  13. Phone and electronic device chargers
  14. Identification including driver's license, passport, and birth certificate if possible
  15. Legal documents such as deed to home or vehicles, insurance policy, etc.
  16. Contact information for family and friends
  17. Maps – whether road maps, or regional forest maps – to help you navigate potentially difficult terrain. GPS may not be available.
  18. Recent family photo for identification purposes
  19. Cash in small bills, along with coins.
  20. Ammunition. Also for hunting and simply because you neverknow what to expect in a crisis situation.


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