Book Review: How to Survive The End of the World as We Know It

It is not too often that I read a book where I feel totally on the same wave length as the author.  This recently happened to me when I read “How to Survive the End of the World As We Know It” by James Wesley, Rawles who is also founder – one of our favorite websites.

Sort of a funny story how I came across this book, I recently had a birthday and was visiting my in-laws back in Wisconsin.  My mother-in-law surprised me with Mr. Rawles’ book and I said to her “Oh ya, this guy runs the most popular Survivalist blog in the world.”  And then she frowned and said “I hope that it is OK that I bought his book for you.”  Like somehow James Wesley, Rawles is the enemy because we both have survival websites, not the case.  I was thrilled.

Karambit Knife

By the time I read the 2nd page I was hooked, by the time I reached the 15th page I realized that James Wesley Rawles JWRRawles and I might be brothers from a different mother.  We share a favorite quote on the topic of firearms “Better to have a gun and not need it than to need a gun and not have it.” He picked up the quote from his father, I picked it up from Christian Slater in the movie “True Romance.”  I have been saying that quote since 1993 when the movie first came out and this was the first time I ever heard anyone else use it, written or said.


The book covers preparation from A to Z for a SHTF event or even TEOWAWKI with a focus on JWR survivalblog.comyour Bug Out Location or Survival Retreat.  Mr. Rawles doesn’t just gloss over areas that he covers in this book.  Each section is given proper attention and he tells you where to get more information if you require it.  Throughout the book, Mr. Rawles encourages his readers to “Live in your retreat”, obviously that does not work for a lot of people who have high paying jobs in the city but he makes some points on this topic which are worth considering.

About the Author

(From Wikipedia) James Wesley, Rawles is a TEOTWAWKIsurvivalist-fiction author, blogger, and survival retreat consultant. Rawles is a Christian conservative. He was a United States Army Military Intelligence officer, serving from 1984 to 1993.  He is the editor of, a blog on survival and preparedness topics. Rawles is the author of the survivalist novel Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse.

Favorite Part

I really enjoyed reading this book.  A lot of his ideas on “defense in depth” for your survival retreat including razor wire, sand bags, natural barriers and road cables are things that I have been thinking about for sometime but haven’t heard a lot of people talk about them or explore the topic like JWR does in this book.  It is nice to know that there is at least one other person as crazy as I am in this world.  I also liked the fact that he covered charity, giving some of your stored supplies to neighbors, friends, and people in need during a crisis.  I never thought of this before and for most survivalist that goes against common sense.  However Mr. Rawles covers ways to properly give to charity while keeping OPSEC on how much stuff you have stored up.   One such method he recommends is using intermediaries such as your local church to pass along the extra supplies to those in need.  The other great thing about this book is that Mr. Rawles names names.  He tells you what brands he thinks are the best and why, where to get them and why you want to stay away from other brands.  Not too many people go into that much detail in books.


There was not a whole lot that I disliked about this book and this is not so much a dislike as an observation.  If you are struggling to put food on the table every night or living on a fixed income, this might not be the survival book for you.


Mr. Rawles’ book is for the dedicated survivalist who makes preparedness part of his/her life style.  This book is about commitment to the modern preparedness movement from alternative energy to canning food.  If you are committed to a self reliant style of living in case of a “grid down” event, then I highly recommend you pick up “How To Survive The End Of The World As We Know It” by James Wesley, Rawles.  You won’t be disappointed.

It is also available on Kindle (click here)

Photos by:
MD Creekmore
Penguin Books

49 thoughts on “Book Review: How to Survive The End of the World as We Know It”

  1. Sounds like a decent book, I will have to check it out when I don't have as much required reading… maybe over the next semester break! Here is a question and sorry but I have to ask- Did you REALLY want to read the book, or were you just putting that in there about the mother-in-law gift to keep everything "hunky-dory"?

    It is nice to see a few other folks looking at options like blocking off roads, and other topics that other folks would consider "crazy"! In my opinion, folks can call what is rattlin' round in my head crazy all they want, when the time comes and they need the "crazy ideas" of mine I will be sure to remind them of their previous opinion!

    • No, I wanted to read it but I just had never gotten around to picking the book up. So it was a pleasant surprise and a good read.

  2. I have both books and both of them give great advise. Rawles is very detailed in making sure that you have a proper survival retreat. His suggestions are a bit on the pricey side but he has a lot of very useful information. I have also read Patriots and it is an excellent fictional book and is quite the page turner. I stayed up until 5 in the morning to finish the book. M.D. Creekmores book is a little more for the common man or someone on a budget. He is one of my favorite bloggers. He takes the same kind of approach as Rawles but on a limited budget. Great post. All of them are good books if they help you to better understand prepping.

  3. Sounds like a good book, I will have to read it. You can never have too many of these types of books. Even though everyone tends to cover the same general stuff everyone also tends to have a slightly different view on something or might even havea completely different idea that you might not have every thought of. Plus, if you have several different types of these books and TEOTWAWKI happens then you wil have plenty to read or you can use the crappier one as fire tinder.

  4. I have to say one of my favorite parts of survival cache is the book reviews. When I first got into survival (at the VERY green age of 15) I would prowl Amazon book reviews for survival books. It was difficult gleaning whether or not books were good because of the mixed reviews, here there's at least reliable in put.

  5. It's a great book and Rawles goes into a lot of detail and gives you a lot of information. His site is chock full of information as well. While I am not a big fan of Mr. Rawles, I do believe in a lot of his precepts and he certainly knows his stuff.

  6. This was the first survival book I got, love it. It's dog eared and highlighted. An easy read, not too over my head! Great book to start your survival library.

  7. I have to admit I have not read this book, the reason is that I don't like Patriots. Aside from the problem of relying on large expensive retreats. Fully automatic weapons are another problem, these type of guns can deplete an ammo supply in a hurry. They are more for large scale attacks with a steady supply of ammo, as found in army on army fighting. A survival group would be better served by precision fire, from semi-automatic rifles.
    Rawels also contradicts himself in that book, at one point he takes time away from the main charters to tell a side story meant to illustrate that people have the right to travel freely with our government interference. But his main charters have no problem stopping people on a public road as part of their protection plan. It is no better for an average citizen to stop people on the street just for walking down it than a police officer.
    Rawels has obviously never kill anybody in his life, that's O.K. I haven't either. But one thing I am sure of is that if I ever had to I would not simply go about my business after word. Even trained people like soldiers have trouble dealing with war and killing.
    The biggest problem I have is that Rawels markets himself as a expert, and people take what he says a gospel. The fact is he has not really live in a TEOTWAWKI situation, or even a large scale disaster from what I can tell. He really should place a disclaimer that his plans and ideas are opinions, and that what goes on is his books are nothing more than products of his imagination.
    I'm not saying that all of the information should be disregarded, what I am saying is that just because Rawels or anyone writes it does not mean it is God's own truth.

    • John,
      I think you are correct in several areas; not so right in others. One of the things that I appreciated in Patriots is that the survivalist lose when up against a trained military force. That is the classic guerrilla fighter mistake. The Viet Cong made it in the Tet Offensive. Going up against a trained military in a set piece battle for non-conventional fighters is usually fatal. The other thing in Patriots is the value of the group vs. the individual and for me, (that distraction you mentioned) the trouble you cause yourself getting crosswise with the law.
      I do agree that Rawels' approach is somewhat expensive and heavily weighted toward combat. Makes for a good action story. As for the inconsistency – remember the advocates of open travel got burned for their actions, just as the 'income tax is illegal' (don't start a flame war, please) are simply going to go to jail. Regardless of the 'rightness' of the position, the Supreme Court has said they are wrong.
      A big key is when do you metaphorically pull the trigger on rebellion? I suspect that if that is the form TEOTWAWKI takes, Patriots may still be pessimistic. Argentina went there and is still suffering from such problems but the open rebellion hasn't happened. The key thing is that it does cover many of the requirements for a successful bug out location. You need a group, you need training, you need supplies, you need a defensible position, etc. Military training can be had from a number of sources but you can not survive as a military unit for a long term. A militia yes, but you must operate your retreat not patrol, guard, practice (how much ammo do you have?) etc. all the time. One of my sticking points with many survivalist is they don't think about what happens AFTER they survive their encounter with the MZB's.

    • I first read Patriots in 1999 after picking up a copy at a Georgia gun show. Since I grew up in the Palouse Hills and am intimately familiar with the territory, I had high hopes for this book. It quickly turned into a lackluster, poorly developed work of total fiction. I procured the current expanded 2nd edition and could discern little difference from the original work. Would I recommend it to a new "prepper"? Only as a work of fiction.

      Regarding Rawles: first and foremost he is in business to make money. He is a self-styled "expert" on survival who, aside from possibly some SERE training in the military, is really in over his head when it comes to advising others regarding survival matters (Walter Mitty comes immediately to mind).

      In general Rawles provides some interesting perspectives but always with a "throw money at the problem" type mind set. From what I can deduce his "retreat" is in or near the St. Joe National Forest around Potlatch, Idaho, an area that I camped, hunted and fished for many years. Beautiful country, for sure. The thing you have to always be aware of in dealing with Rawles and his "advice" is that he is a business man first and a survivalist second.

      Just sayin;.

  8. Since there is no open forum for questions, I guess I'll ask here. Not on subject, and I know there is an article on this, but I never know if I'll get a response on older articles. What does one consider as a good shotgun and do you prefer short or long barrel? tactical or standard?

    • Tidermike14,
      A little OT, maybe, but not much. I go back and review past topics but it could be a while so this works.
      You've asked several questions and the answer is a definite 'that depends'. The thing about selecting a weapon (unless you are buying for a 'because I want it' kind of reason) is that you absolutely MUST define what the role of the shotgun will be.
      If you are looking at a home defense (only) weapon, definitely a short barrel weapon is in order. If you are looking primarily at a hunting arm for long term use, a long barrel is appropriate. The long barrel will double more easily as a defense arm than the short barrel will as a hunting weapon, in my not so humble opinion. While I prefer a double barrel for most uses (fastest second shot in the world is a second barrel – that's why professional hunters often use double rifles, a failure of one tube still leaves a working gun), both a single shot and a pump have a lot to recommend them. For TSHTF semi-autos have additional complexity that I think is unwarranted.
      As far as gauge, that depends a LOT on the users of the guns. To start with, there is not enough ballistic difference between 10, 12, 16 or 20 gauge to drive a decision to a particular gauge. I'd eliminate 10 and 16 gauge just because the ammo is unusual enough to be hard to get post SHTF. 12 is probably the easiest to find but it might be a little stiff on recoil for smaller/older shooters. My 12's are not as much fun at 62 as they were at 28. (CONTINUED)

      • (CONTINUED)
        Knowing what I know now, I would probably have gone 20 gauge for everything. As it is, I have 12, 20 and .410. My wife likes her .410 pump and it is more than adequate for anything except larger game animals. She has a long barrel single shot 20 gauge that is great for hunting. Both of my 12's are short barrel. A double coach gun and a pump. I'm trying to decide if I want a double 12 or double 20 in long barrel.
        The tactical shot gun is, in my not so humble opinion, not worth the extra price for the 'tactical' mystique and it could cause problems at a trial with the DA waving around a fully tricked out, man killing, shotgun. For the price of a tactical shotgun you could get a single or double long barrel AND a pump or double short barrel. Hang a light on the short barrel and that is your defense gun and you have a solid hunting gun in the long barrel.
        As to gauge, the 12 is probably most available (every town big enough to have a store selling ammo will have 22 and 12 if nothing else) but 20 is not rare, is easier for many to shoot and will do the job if it can be done by a shotgun.
        This is my not so humble opinion – I don't know what your financial or other considerations are. I've recommend the Savage 22/20 gauge or 22/.410 combo as a decent survival gun. Not close quarter combat weapon but certainly a good survival gun.

        • (continued)
          The bottom line is get a shotgun that you trust and that is absolutely reliable. Mossberg is good, the Remington's 870 is legendary, Savage is solid and inexpensive. The Winchester 94 lever action (and its clones) has been around a long time but the line around cowboy action shooting is that they called it that because it has 94 different ways to fail! Simple is more reliable so my recommendation would be as follows:
          If price is an absolute – 12 or 20 gauge single barrel, long tube (perhaps with a short tube as well to move from one or the other). For a little more, a .22/20 over under for flexibility.
          Moving up – a short barrel double (Cowboy Action Shooting clones are cheap, serviceable, and relatively inexpensive – think 'coach gun') and a single barrel long in the same caliber.
          Moving up – a short barrel semi or double and a long barrel semi or double in the same caliber. Lights, lasers, slings etc get added as the need manifests itself and finances allow.
          I hope this helps. Always remember, these are my not so humble opinion and others, whose opinions I respect, have been known to disagree with me.
          It is your survival so do some research, if possible shoot what you think might be good before buying and then go for it.

          • Thank you sir for your input. I have a .410, 20, 12, and 16, what I was wondering was in a survival situation what do most folks prefer? standard or tactical. I am looking to add another to my collection and am leaning towards a short barrel as I don't have one yet. It would be for home defense. I agree with you on the double barrel, my 20 is a double that was passed down from my grandfather. I have thought about making it my short, what are your thoughts on that? I really enjoy this site and could be on her for days asking questions.

          • Tidermike14,
            I would NOT shorten the 20 – your great grand kids might never forgive you! A gun passed down from your grandfather probably has value beyond its basic worth as a double barrel. As to what you get next, I goes back to what you see as your primary need. My home defense shotguns are a 12 GA Coach gun (EMF double barrel) and a Mossberg 12 GA Pump.
            Based on ammo availability, the 12 GA is probably the right gauge. If there are shooters of smaller stature in the family, I think I'd do the 20 so more folks can use it.
            A new shotgun can be had under $400 for either a pump or coach gun so price probably isn't the biggest deal. Since you have your hunting weapons covered, there is no real disadvantage to a 'tactical' layout provided you can use it well. The term Tactical can mean many different things. If you're talking pistol grip only, no stock, then it wouldn't be my choice.

            I don't like taking all the recoil in my hands. If your shotgun is configured for pistol grip only, that is where the recoil is going to go. Can you handle the weapon with your weak side hand? If you mean a full stock with a 'pistol grip' as part of that stock I think that would be cool. Same with the 'add ons'. Basic light and laser sight work just fine. Plastic stocks are cool if you like them – I would not pay more for the plastic but they wouldn't be a deal breaker.
            As a rule of thumb – remember you are going to have to be operating this thing at oh-dark-thirty, while half asleep, scared half to death and with zero fine motor skills. If all the tactical gizmos require switches and buttons you may not be able to find them in the dark. You must practice with your weapons until you are as familiar with them as the local SWAT team. For me, the simpler the arrangement, the less the likelihood I'll screw it up when I'm scared. The fewer things I have to practice, the less likelihood I'll screw something up when I'm scared. The fewer things I have to remember, the less likelihood I'll screw something up when I'm scared. There is a pattern here – one of the reasons I like Crimson Trace lasers is that simply picking up the weapon turns it on – one less thing to remember.
            So for home defense I chose short, double barrel in 12 GA. Not a tactical. (continued)

          • (continued)
            The tactical makes sense in an offensive weapon. If I'm leading a breaching team then I might want a long magazine tactical. If I'm defending my safe room, the bells and whistles are not needed (except a light and maybe a laser), the double is more than adequate, and the price is easier on the pocket book. At home, if the house needs sweeping, the professionals are going to do it – I'll stay put until they give me the all clear. Post TEOTWAWKI, things are different and there are plenty of books and training material out there on clearing a house. I'd study them but I still don't think that scenario demands the tactical shotgun.

          • Thanks, was really going back and forth on the 20, but you have swayed me to keep it as is. My son is getting old enough to start shooting and I think the 20 will be perfect for him. He is itching to fire the .410.

          • Sounds like you and your son have some fun times ahead. When I was teaching my girls to shoot, I made a mistake. One of my daughters didn't have the stock well placed in her shoulder. She'd been told but didn't listen so I let her fire the .410. It took me almost a year before she'd shoot again. I didn't 'teach' her, I scared her. Took a good while for her to get over the flinch – all my fault. Please make sure to spend some time on proper stock placement. While we might think of a .410 as tame, for a first time shooter it is a cannon and can make them afraid of not only the .410 but terrified of the bigger bores.
            I'd start with 2.5 inch shells, probably bird shot, just to tame the recoil until they get comfortable with the noise and the gun. Then move up as you see fit. Just a bit of my not so stellar history teaching others about firearms.

          • That happened to me when my dad was gonna take me bird hunting for the first time. He let me shoot his 16 and I wasn't holding it properly and the recoil about knocked my shoulder out. My son has been shooting the 22 regularly, not a shotgun but he is getting confident and I will continue to teach him proper shooting form. Thanks again for the comments.

    • I like my Mossberg 835 Ulti-Mag turkey and deer special. It is fully camouflaged and has 2 barrels, one 24 inch smooth bore with 5 choke tubes and a 24 inch rifled slug barrel. Both barrels have overbored chambers and are ported near the ends. The choke tubes are the greatest asset, it is like carrying 5 different barrels at no cost of weight and handle the various shot sizes and distances needed for hunting different game. The longer barrels give you a longer sight radius. They also allow for better follow through when wing shooting but this can be relearned when using a shorter barrel. Practice shooting clays. The 835 also handles all sizes of 12 guage shells form 2 3/4, 3, and 3 1/2 inches. With the plug out you have 5 rounds in the gun. In a SHTF situation I would dump the deer barrel and go with the smooth bore with the choke tubes.
      I also prefer pumps to autoloaders. I have both. The reliability of the pump gun far outweighs any advantages the autos might offer.
      I have taken deer, geese, duck, squirrel, rabbit, quail and dove, (yet to get the turkey,) with this one gun.
      It is rock solid and did not cost an arm and a leg. I take it in places that I do not and would not want to take one of my high end guns.
      Just remember to get the most gun for your money in your price range.

    • .12 Gauge pump w/ a couple boxes of slug and buck shot and a case of smaller game and bird shot. Barrel length and choke helps to keep tighter grouping at distance. If you want something for tight spaces use a pistol.

  9. I have a Remington 870 and a Benelli Nova pump. They are both excellent shotguns. The tried and true Mossberg 500 is an excellent gun as well. That might be a choice if you are on a budget. I have seen used Mossberg's for $200.00. If you have a local gunshop in your area, see if you can rent any of the aforementioned shotguns. Get a feel for them and see which one you like best. With most firearms, it really is personal preference. I really like my Benelli and if I had money to throw around I would get their M4. Good luck!

    • You are spot on! If I had a spare $4000 I'd have something like a Franchi or Benelli over/under and if I had a spare $15000 I'd have a double rifle. I was surprised at how reasonable the Benelli lower end guns are (under a thousand). High end stuff about 2 grand but still, I thought it was more. They have a rock solid reputation to boot. I still like my doubles but that is a personnel thing. Your recommendation about the gun shop is good. I got pretty verbose but not knowing Tindermike14's requirements made a simple answer difficult.

  10. My favorite and most reliable shotguns are my single shot shot guns. I do have others, but I have an H&R single 20 gauge that I have been hunting with for almost 30 years. I shot my first deer with the gun when I was 12 and it still shoots great today. It is not the best self defense gun if you need multiple quick shots, but if a 12 year can shoot a deer with #3 buck shot at 30' think what an adult could do in a defense situation.
    As far the book review goes I have not read the book , but do read his blog. Some of us are not as fortunate so we have to plan based on our budget. As was I was writing our bug-out and bug-in plan I came across a writing contest on and I got 3rd place with my article on buggin in on a budget. I will try to post a link. Maybe we could get a writing contest on this site?

    • Got one of them there H&R 20's myself. It does put lead downrange nicely. My penchant for doubles is that they are TWO singles mounted side by side. Best of both worlds, simple with the fastest second shot available. The third shot is a little slower but faster than many think if you practice. Check out the Cowboy Action Shooting competition videos
      and others for how fast those old, slow, cowboy guns could shoot in the hands of a decent shootist.
      I read your essay. Not bad at all. A few quibbles but not bad at all. Thank you for sharing.

      • Thanks! It had been many years since I wrote an essay. Great YouTube videos, with a good ammo belt a guy could shoot quite a few rounds in a short amount of time. I enjoy your comments on this site.

  11. I read this book several months back and getting ready to reread it again. One point made in the book struck very close to home with me. Getting myself back in shape and taking care of some things that I have been putting off. I finally went back to the dentist. I am also scheduling a surgery that I have been dreading. Not much bothers me in this world but I am absolutely terrified of doctors and nurses. However, we all need to see them now because we may not have them at our beckon call in the near future.

  12. I love books like this. Some of his stuff reminds me of work ups we did prior to deploying… Kind of hard to maintain all year round but there are ways to be successful at it. Change up your activities. Work on your endurance. Work on strength training and fighting techniques. Shoot from fixed positions as well as on the move. Test your gear, your team and yourself. Start simple with a bug-in weekend. Blackouts are a great time to test the systems you have in place. I picture the author and Josh getting really exited when the power goes out. Test in all weather conditions. Plan trips when it’s hot, cold, wet etc.
    Most of us can’t just go out and buy everything we want however you can plan to buy the most important item you are missing from your survival gear… Then find it on sale, at a yard sale or on Ebay but get it. Then plan for the next item when funds allow.
    Like everything the supplies will get old. Re-supply around Thanksgiving… A great time to donate food that is getting towards the end of it’s shelf life and lots of basic supplies go on sale prior to the holiday.

  13. Healing and recovery is an important part of maintaining a strong body. Take a full month off to recover in December. But remember you still need to fit into your wet suit and body armor in January. It’s called a holiday not a holiweek or holimonth. Push away from the buffet… Live to fight another day.

  14. Great Book – this one's on my "TOP 10 Preparedness – Must Have List" that I share with all my friends and family. And for anyone that wants to be on 'My Team' – this is Required Reading 101… a
    great Foundation to build on… cause there is so much more in depth to get into… helps anyone get off to a Flying Start!

  15. Has anyone ever read the FoxFire books? If you have not, they are books about how they survived in the good old days.

  16. Josh… Came across an old book called The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven & David Borgenicht. I think you would love it. The chapters are all How To. Like how to break down a door, hotwire a car, land a plane, deliver a baby, treat a gun shot wound, fend off a shark. If nothing else some of it is entertaining.

  17. I came to this site after getting tired of going to Mr Rawles website and reading about his self promotion everyday. Reading your glowing review of a book that is mediocre at best has made me look, yet again for a good site.

  18. I'm about 70% into the book so far, I think its a must read. Lots & Lots of great tips.
    To the guys who don't like Rawles, Your not going to agree with everyone all the time but there is a lot of useful info in it.

  19. The only thing I don't like about the book is he really leans towards "living in your retreat all year around" thing and how to prep your retreat for SHTF.

    Yea let me quit my job and stop supporting my family and live in this awesome fantasy world where I can have BARRELS and barrels upon barrels of food and whatever else I would love to have.
    It wasn't a terrible read. I'd say pick it up at your library, skip a few pages, and make sure you remember to return it to your library. Those late fines can kill ya.

    • Mike,
      Yep, that living in your BOL is a great idea, provided you thought of it in time to set up your life to allow it to happen. As I get older I tend to have to pay attention to medical issues for me and for my family. Access to hospitals is important – yeah, I know, they won't be there post TSHTF but until then they are needed. Just like jobs and family concerns – I want to live close to my elderly family members. My job is as an astrophysicist – not a lot of call for those in the tall and uncut. The good parts of the book for me are ideas that can be adopted for a Bug In plan and/or used for a BOL that I will be able to find if needed. Nothing works for us all and I sometimes get tired of the 'you aren't a real survivalist if you don't live out in the tall and uncut' attitude that some seem to have. Still reading and finding what is useful to me in my situation is critical.

  20. Nice blog! a lot of good info. Something`s coming I can feel it. It`s up to us to secure our families well being when disaster does strike. Survival Gear n More has everything; survival kits,emergency preparedness,long term food storage, emergency preparedness seeds,disaster kits,camping supplies,tents,first aid supplies and a lot more.

  21. Didnt really get into Rawles fiction , and have trouble with the unending ,commercials for sponsors, felt like we are taking a break brought to you by fillintheblankcorp stay tuned. We have differing taste, and budgets, so although a lotof the info is valid the plugs got old quickly.


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