The FM 21-76 is the Army’s Field Manual for survival. It is inexpensive and concise and has saved many soldiers lives.
FM 21-76 Army Survival Manual
The FM 21-76 Survival Manual was written to be very straight forward and easy to understand. In a survival situation it has everything you’d need to get out alive.
There are many versions of the FM 21-76 Army Survival Manual. I have a few of them ranging from 1957 all the way through March 1986. The new version has updated information that can be very valuable.
The FM21-76 Army Survival Manual is broken up into the following chapters:
- The Will to Survive: This covers the psychological implications of being lost, alone or stranded and describes how the will to survive is a major part of you staying alive.
- Survival Planning: Leads you through deciding what you should have in a survival kit and takes you back to the basics of “Be Prepared”. This should sound familiar to you Boy Scouts out there!
- Survival Medicine: What do you if you or someone with you is injured. It covers most types of general traumas you can encounter and is broad enough to help you deal with situations that it may not cover verbatim.
- Field Expedient Weapons and Tools: You may not have all the weapons and tools you might need in a survival situation so here’s how you can make them from things you’ll find around you. That’ll get you thinking.
- Water Procurement: This is one of the most important chapters, you should buy this manual just to read this section. Without water you can die within 3 days, pretty easily. Find water and how to make it safe to drink. Bleach, my city dwelling friends, bleach!
- Wild Plants for Food: Ok, you’re lost or stranded, alone, time for a salad. Ok, all joking aside, foraging for wild foods is an essential skill. I have tons of books on this subject alone, but this manual gives you the easily identified plants so that you don’t poison yourself. You didn’t come this far to die of poisoning.
- Wildlife for Food: This is where you get the good input of calories and fats to keep going. This chapter covers traps, snares and some hunting. It’s good knowledge to have and almost all animals are edible (especially Mammals, yum).
- Shelters: I am under the assumption that if I’m lost, stranded or in a survival situation that the weather will not be sunny and mild. Trust me, it’s going to be a blizzard or raining fire on me, that’s just how it works. Things will be bad enough already so shelter will protect you, keep you warmer than sleeping in the open, and allow you to get some rest for the tasks ahead.
- Firebuilding: If you’re lucky, you’ll have matches or a lighter, but if not, this is your ticket. Even if you do have matches and a lighter, that’s not going to do you much good if you don’t understand the concepts of tinder and kindling and fire platforms. There is a whole wealth of fire best practices. Read this chapter if you want to cook that snake or mammal you killed and if you don’t want to freeze to death. Fire also shows Lions that you are one bad dude and not to be trifled with, so learn to make fire, BIG FIRE!
- Water Crossings: Believe it or not, but there are rivers and streams outside. You may find yourself in a situation where you have to ford a stream or cross a river. I mean if there was a bridge right there, then there would probably be a road, so you could pretty much, just follow that back to safety, or hitch a ride. So count on there being no bridges anyplace that is convenient!
- Field Expedient Direction Finding: How to plot a course and keep traveling in the same direction. Otherwise humans tend to walk in big circles, even when they see their own footprints and assume they are following someone else’s tracks back to safety. Which leads them back in the same circle (wait, didn’t I see that on TV?). This chapter will tell you how to determine directions via the sun, shadows and the stars. Good stuff. Can you find the North Star? I can!
- Signalling: This is handy and can save you lots of wasted time trying to survive. A signal mirror can be seen for over 50 miles in the right circumstances. Do you know how to signal for help? The skills in this chapter are fantastic and could save you and anyone with you.
- Desert Survival: I can’t imagine anything worse, than being lost in the desert. This chapter provides the caveats you’ll need to avoid becoming a pile of bleached bones.
- Tropical Survival: While the tropics are nice for vacations, it is also full of things that want to kill you. Even the insects carry diseases and parasites that are nasty. The water is full of bad things and more parasites. You need to be aware of the dangers and how to avoid them.
- Arctic and Subarctic Survival: Oh man, you know it’s cold in these areas. I am assuming that fire and shelters come into play here, but there is more to it than you think.
- Sea Survival: Pleasure cruise gone wrong? Chances are if you are surviving at sea then you aren’t the only one who will need to stay alive. If you read this chapter you’d keep most people alive (except that fat person you had to kill for food, but we’re not judging you) and will likely be a hero. Seriously though, you’ll need water because salt water is bad for you, will make you dead, and tastes really bad and the scorching sun being reflected by the miles and miles of water will be relentless. If you don’t have the information in this chapter then you’re not going to make it.
From the table of contents alone, you can see that this book is chock full of solid information. I didn’t even cover the wealth of information in the Appendixes!
Even if you just read it, when you’re on the can, you’re going to pick up some good tidbits, that will come in handy.
This manual can be found cheap at military surplus stores or can be purchased online. Buy a few copies, toss one in your trunk or glove compartment along with a few mylar space blankets, a multi-tool (Leatherman or Gerber are fine, but I’m a Swiss Army Knife guy) , and a good bic lighter and your chances to survive just got better!