No matter how much you know as a prepper, there is always something new to learn. And even if you are a genuine master when it comes to one skill or the other, having reference materials on hand is always a good idea.
Maybe you just need a refresher. Maybe there is a particular question that you don’t know the answer to and desperately need.
Maybe you’re trying to bring someone else up to speed in a hurry. Whatever the reason, having the manual close at hand is a great idea.
In furtherance of that objective, we are bringing you 26 of the best civil defense texts and manuals for your survival library.
All of them are linked with a free download in PDF format below, along with a description of the relevant information they contain. Enjoy!
Table of Contents
1. 11 Steps to Survival, by the Canadian Emergency Measures Organization
Everybody has to start somewhere. For you seasoned preppers in the audience this 11th step basic readiness manual is probably going to be old hat, but a refresher never hurts and this is just the thing for getting yourself organized and underway if you are indeed starting from scratch.
It opens with an overview of basic nuclear preparedness, but all of the steps are actually applicable to Natural disasters, man-made catastrophes, and all sorts of other unfortunate happenings.
Presented in an extremely clear and concise format, this is one of the best quick start guides of its kind.
2. Civil Defense Notebook
The Cold War was a period of tremendous uncertainty, military buildup, and civil preparation.
Although we can all be thankful that era is long past we can still make use of the tremendous amount of effort, resources and education that occurred at the time.
This civil defense notebook is a collection of articles, excerpts, and manuals taken from a variety of the best sources of the day, and the information is far from dated.
Many of the concepts presented within are just as applicable now as they were those many decades ago.
Since we are entering a new era of simmering nuclear attention, unfortunately it might be more relevant than ever.
3. Operations and Control of the Civil Defense Services
Understanding how the federal government, state governments, and other concerned agencies will respond to society-shaking events is valuable information.
This information won’t necessarily help you solve your own pressing survival problems or get you out of a crisis, but it will shape your planning and decision-making processes.
Unfortunately, you can only rely upon the government to come riding to the rescue in comparatively small-scale disasters.
When seemingly everything is falling apart, regionally or nationally, or the government itself is directly threatened you’re almost certainly going to be on your own. But that’s reality, so you had better plan accordingly. You can get this free guide from here.
4. Design Guidance for Shelters and Safe Rooms
When you were designing a purpose-made solution, it is almost always easier to start from scratch than attempt to modify or retrofit something.
This is particularly true when you were talking about structural engineering. Considering the virtual necessity of making a safe room, if you are lucky enough to start from scratch when building your home you’ll have a much easier time of things and a much better safe room at the end.
This free guide from FEMA will walk you through the process, from understanding the basics of a safe room to choosing the right materials, ensuring ventilation, redundancy, and more. A must-have for any prepper that is getting ready to build to suit.
5. 10 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Moves Every Cop Should Know
So much of what preppers train for concerning self-defense revolves around lethal weapons, knives, firearms, and the like.
Sadly, most self-defense problems are best solved by hand-to-hand combat, not necessarily lethal Force.
In that regard, knowing how to both apply and escape from Holes and handle yourself when the fight invariably goes to the ground is paramount.
And that regard, there is nothing better than Brazilian jiu-jitsu, or BJJ. Exploding in popularity over the past two decades, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is easy to understand but difficult to master and indisputably effective when it is time to go Hands-On.
This linked document will give you a great crash course for 10 techniques that are applicable to nearly any fight.
6. Guerillas in the Mist
As much as we would all like to consider defending ourselves, our families, and our homes and isolated incident, and anomaly that arrives and is over quickly, the reality and the wake of a major crisis might be very different.
You might be defending yourself in a new society that does not benefit from the rule of law, and you might even be defending yourself from a government gone mad with power.
When that happens, not if, you had better know what you are doing in a society that will truly be at War. Conducting war is very different from an isolated fight or even a small battle.
If you don’t know what you are doing, you are certain to become a casualty. This comprehensive guide to genuine guerrilla warfare will help you get ready.
7. MCRP 3-01A Rifle Marksmanship
More than any other weapon, having a rifle will equip and prepare you to protect what you have, from all enemies.
Only rifles have the range, precision, and power that will allow you to personally assert control over the area that you can see. But those advantages mean nothing if you cannot deliver that power with certainty and accuracy.
Having a rifle is not enough, you must know how to shoot, and when it comes to genuine, old School marksmanship the United States Marine Corps is still unsurpassed.
Learn from them as they do with this manual on rifle marksmanship skills.
8. MCRP 3-01B Pistol Marksmanship
The rifle might be the firearm that will help you maintain control of your domain, but chances are it will be the pistol, a handgun, that will be immediately available when you need a lethal Force solution to a self-defense problem.
Pistols are portable, concealable, quick into action, and easy to maneuver in the most cramped quarters and that makes them the default weapon of civilians in virtually all circumstances.
Nonetheless, the Marines really know what they are doing when it comes to shooting them and you are wise to learn from them. Download their field manual here.
9. FM 21-11 First-Aid for Soldiers
First aid is one of those skills that sadly many preppers neglect. It isn’t that fun, it isn’t high speed and it isn’t sexy looking when you share your weekend on social media.
What it is, though, is indispensable and you’ll have far more occasion to use first aid skills than nearly any other in the aftermath of a disaster or emergency.
The very best thing you can do is go get training. The next best thing you can do is start learning on your own, and when it comes to practical application in a no-nonsense format FM 21-11 is still a standard for a reason.
Covering everything from support to basic trauma intervention, this is an indispensable resource for your survival library.
10. Where There is No Doctor: A Village Healthcare Handbook
As an old saying says, hope is not a strategy. It’s definitely not a strategy when you or a loved one are gravely injured or terribly sick and are hoping you can eventually find a doctor or medic in the midst of all the chaos that is going on.
Smart preppers know that they must become their own first responders, and occasionally that means becoming your own nurse or doctor.
People aren’t machines, and you cannot just switch out a part and send them back on their way good as new.
This amazing book covers all facets of care, particularly how to deliver that care in austere environments where technology and resources are scarce to nonexistent. It is a must-have.
11. Where There is No Dentist
A companion book to the previous, this one covers care of the mouth, gums, and throat.
A chronically neglected or even completely forgotten task when preparing for long-term survival situations, failing to take care of your teeth and mouth can lead to agonizing pain, illness, and complete incapacitation.
Do you know how to deal with a broken or rotted tooth? Do you know how to suture a wound in the mouth or on the tongue? Just how do you go about cleaning the teeth?
You had better know, and it’s not something you can afford to get wrong. This is another truly priceless book concerning long-term care and deserves a place and your personal library.
12. Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Encyclopedia
With so much of our preparations revolving around stockpiling stuff in the form of consumables, including drugs, there is hardly any attention paid to what might happen when all of those drugs are gone and there aren’t any more being made. This book can help you answer that question.
Although it is a technical and extremely dense work, the information it provides is invaluable for anyone with a fundamental grounding in chemistry.
With the right tools, supplies, and raw materials it is entirely possible to manufacture your own medication in the aftermath of a society toppling cataclysm.
A great reference to have on hand, even if not everyone can make use of it.
13. Northwestern Handbook of Surgical Procedures
Probably the most unthinkable scenario that could befall any of us is being forced to undertake amateur surgery during a long-term, grid-down situation.
Maybe you have to do it to yourself, or even worse, maybe you have to perform it on a loved one.
Frankly, it is no exaggeration to say that most of us have absolutely no idea what we are doing if it is anything worse than removing a splinter.
Thankfully, there is a guide that can give you at least a working knowledge of the proper setting, procedures, and execution of various common surgical tasks and treatments.
This might be a book that you would only call upon in the gravest extreme, but it is extremely interesting and invaluable nonetheless. This heavy Tome belongs in every amateur medic’s bag of tricks.
14. The Effects of Nuclear War – from the Library of Congress
A conclusive and frankly frightening 1979 report compiled by Congress. If you really want to know what the United States is facing in the event of a major nuclear exchange, this is your guide.
To say that the aftermath is apocalyptic is probably selling it short. Nonetheless, some people will survive and life, and a completely new way, will go on.
Despite limited nuclear disarmament in the United States, these weapons are not going away and will only continue to proliferate at a global level as time goes on.
You must know what you are up against, as frightening as it is to learn. Consider this report a must-read.
15. Nuclear Weapons Effects
Understanding what is at stake considering a nuclear war is one thing, but really knowing what a nuclear weapon will do to the surrounding area when it goes off is another.
It is no exaggeration to say that it is the stuff of nightmares poured into a mold and made entirely real.
You don’t need to be a soldier or in the defense industry to care about this stuff.
If you understand the risk factors associated with earthquakes, floods, and tornadoes you need to understand the risk factors and threat vectors of nuclear weapons just the same. This guide is something of a crunchy reed, but a good one.
16. What to Do if Nuclear War is Imminent
Complex theory is great and a nuanced understanding of the damage mechanisms of a nuclear weapon is fine but sometimes you just need to know what the hell to do when the chips are down.
If a lone nuclear detonation is on the table, or nuclear war is brewing, minutes count and you must be able to act quickly. This guide will tell you what to do in a short, simple and easy to remember format.
From assessing your nearest cover location to securing it against the intrusion of fallout, this guide covers your actions at every phase of a nuclear alert.
17. Fallout Protection – What to Know and Do about Nuclear Attack
The detonation of a nuclear weapon is scary enough. The vaporizing heat, devastating blast front, and immense fireball are awe-inspiring.
But it is perhaps the nuclear fallout generated by a near-surface blast that is its most insidious threat.
The dust that settles back to the Earth after a nuclear explosion will be dangerously radioactive, and exposure can easily result in acute or even fatal radiation sickness.
Defending against this fallout can prove to be even more difficult than surviving the blast itself but this Department of Defense guide will give you all the information you need to know to do just that.
18. Your Basement Fallout Shelter
For many, having an in-home fallout shelter is considered the crown jewel of nuclear preparedness. Once upon a time, these shelters were far more common.
Not long ago, they were seen as passé or no longer needed. But it seems that a fallout shelter in or near one’s home may once again be a requirement for readiness.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know for constructing such a shelter in virtually any kind of home with a basement and covers all the essentials from equipping and outfitting to stocking with supplies.
And even provides useful information for determining when it will be safe to leave your shelter. A must-read that you can get here.
19. Shelter Management Handbook
If you have taken shelter with your family, or even with other people, and any kind of fallout shelter you’ll be dealing with emotional pandemonium in the aftermath of the event.
It does not take much imagination to think of just how out of control a group of people crammed into a small space in the middle of a terrifying situation can get.
This guide will equip you with the mindset, tactics, and considerations for keeping yourself in charge of that shelter and managing the people inside no matter what has happened.
If you live through an event where breaching your airlock shelter for any reason might mean death, you’ll need to know how to keep people in line.
20. FEMA – Protection in the Nuclear Age
An excellent 1985 publication from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, this hefty guide covers all facets of nuclear protection in society, particularly in build-up areas like cities.
From the basics mentioned above like general nuclear readiness to the protection or reestablishment of critical infrastructure for servicing society.
Although less useful for small families and rural areas, it nonetheless can equip you with the information that can make you an asset to recovery teams and other survivors.
21. NBC Decontamination Field Manual 3-5 – U.S. Army
Nuclear weapons are certainly one of the greatest threats facing the modern world but they aren’t the only weapons of mass destruction.
Chemical weapons, biological weapons, and dirty bombs can all create chaos and casualties over a wide area.
But compared to nuclear weapons, surviving and counteracting these hideous tools of destruction is it somewhat easier. But only if you have the know-how.
This field manual is the gold standard for not only protecting yourself and your loved ones against the threats posed by these weapons but also for decontaminating people, objects, and places from their lingering danger.
You’ll need plenty of specialist equipment and lots of preparation to make use of this info, but it is indispensable.
22. Recovery from Nuclear Attack
Surviving a nuclear attack is one thing, but picking up the pieces is another. Unless you want to quit and just lay down and die in the aftermath, Life must go on and there will be lots to do to rebuild any place shattered by a nuclear detonation.
But, as Hiroshima and Nagasaki both prove, it can be done. You’ll need lots of grit and the right knowledge, but it is possible to be a force for good reconstruction in the aftermath.
This lengthy manual will give you guidelines and expert instruction for the cause.
23. Family Shelter Series – Aboveground Earth-Covered Lumber A-Frame Shelter
Constructing the right kind of shelter could make all the difference when things are getting dicey, particularly when open warfare is underway or, even worse, nuclear war.
With plenty of sweat equity, a little bit of know-how, and the right materials it is possible to construct a meaningful shelter that is simple and effective.
No matter where you are, this above-ground, dirt-covered A-frame shelter can work to keep you safe from the worst of what is going on outside. Get it here.
24. Family Shelter Series – Basement Concrete Block Shelter
As mentioned above, the crown jewel of most families’ preparedness preps is going to be a built-in shelter that is part of their home, and preferably in the basement if they have one.
This is yet another option that is within reach of a savvy DIY-capable prepper, and one that does not have to cost a fortune.
As long as you have some space to work with, the right tools, and a little bit of money for materials this is something you could install yourself and as little as a weekend. Download it here.
25. Family Shelter Series – Outside Semimounded Plywood Box Shelter
When time, finances, or resources are tight you have to make do with what you can obtain for free or salvage from another structure.
It might not be the best and it certainly won’t be pretty, but it could still save you and yours from a terrible fate.
This shelter design relies upon plywood and mounded Earth to provide structure and worthwhile protection. Learn how to build one here.
26. Family Shelter Series – Belowground Corrugated Steel Culvert Shelter
If you have access to Earth moving equipment and a little more money to spend on heavy-duty materials, you can install a below-ground shelter that will be the envy of all of your friends, and one that can provide serious protection against most threats.
This shelter ingeniously makes use of corrugated steel culvert to provide a strong structure and is more than capable of withstanding tremendous impact and blast forces. You can get full plans for free here.
Download and Start Learning
You might be a seasoned, veteran prepper or a relatively new green horn, but regardless of how much you know or don’t know you would be wise to have access to the right reference materials to guide your education and your activities when it comes to civil preparedness.
The list above represents an excellent cross-section of such documents and guides, and all deserve a place on your tablet or on your bookshelf. Don’t wait, download now and get to learning.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.