The modern survivalist movement has been influenced by a number of people. But a select group of influential authors and speakers have virtually shaped or perhaps created the modern survivalist movement. This article is dedicated those special people, those founding fathers of survivalism.
*Note, this list is in no particular order
- Mel Tappan
- Howard Ruff
- Don Stephens
- Joel Skousen
- Cresson Kearny
- Ragnar Benson
- Bruce D. Clayton
- Jeff Cooper (colonel)
- Kurt Saxon
- James Wesley Rawles
1. Mel Tappan
Mel Tappan began his career collaborating with other members of the survivalist movement. Co-authoring a book and writing a small column for “Guns & Ammo” magazine in the 70’s. He is best known for his book Survival Guns which is still in print today, 32 years later. However, despite his popularity we couldn’t manage to find a single image, video or audio clip of Mel. Mel encouraged his readers to relocate away from metropolitan areas as a part of their survival strategy. Mel was once quoted by the Associated Press as saying:
“The concept most fundamental to long term disaster preparedness, in retreating, is having a safe place to go to avoid the concentrated violence destined to erupt in the cities. When you have a growing apprehensive awareness that the time grows short for you to relocate away from areas of greatest danger, then choose [where you will live] carefully.”
Unfortunately Mel passed away in 1988 but his legacy will continue to live on with the admiration and weight his name currently carries. His wife, Nancy Mack was one of his biggest supporters and continued his work for a number of years.
Books written by Mel Tappan:
2. Howard Ruff
Howard Ruff is another one of the original Survivalists who entered the scene in the 1970’s. Drawing on his experience in financial advising, he has written several books focusing on financial preparedness topics. He has been known to encourage investing in precious metals and food storage, rather than traditional stocks and bonds. Although he may not have a household name, Ruff has been fighting for sound economics for a lifetime. He recently appeared on MSNBC to speak about the fragility and possible threats to the current US economy in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Through his books, speaking and other engagements, Howard has become one of the foremost pioneers of sound economic principles as related to self sufficiency.
“It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.”
Books written by Howard Ruff:
- How to Prosper in the Age of Obamanomics: A Ruff Plan for Hard Times Ahead
- How to Prosper During the Coming Bad Years in the 21st Century
- Ruff’s Little Book of Big Fortunes in Gold & Silver: A Middle Class License to Print Money
- How To Prosper During The Coming Bad Years: A Crash Course in Personal Financial Survival.
- Famine And Survival In America
3. Don Stephens
Don Stephens entered the Survivalist scene in the 1960’s with concerns about a possible financial collapse (which seemed to be the trend at the time). H A strong proponent of relocation, Don used the knowledge gained studying architecture at University of Idaho Don has written many great books on eco friendly, self sustaining home designs and living as well as contributing to many others works (including working with Mel Tappan). An influcencer, a thought leader and an innovator are just a few ways to describe Don Stephens.
Books written by Don Stephens:
- The survivor’s primer & up-dated retreater’s bibliography
- Personal Protection, Here and Now
- Retreating on a Shoe-string
- Green Papers
- The Complete Survival Guide)
4. Joel Skousen
Joel Skousen is a political commentator, former Marine and survivalist author. His non-fiction books mainly focus around homes, land and security. Joel has been a huge preparedness advocate since his early adulthood and he’s still fighting the good fight today, appearing on many major news stations.Joel tows the line between generations, helping spread wisdom from past generations to the newer generations.
Books Written By Joel Skousen:
- Strategic Relocation
- High Security Shelter
- 10 Packs for Survival
- How to Implement a High Security Shelter in the Home
- World Affairs Brief (a news blog with emphasis in economics and law)
5. Cresson Kearny
Cresson was a popular survivalist author, writing most notably “Nuclear War Survival Skills”. Cresson server in military and government positions for his entire life, which gave him incredible expertise in military and technical aspects of survival. His works have been a staple of survivalist reading and have hugely impacted the education level of survivalists (especially with nuclear information). Sadly Cresson passed away in 2003. His daughter commented
“Throughout his life he believed in being prepared for trouble.”
Books written by Cresson Kearny:
- Jungle Snafus … and Remedies
- Nuclear War Survival Skills: Updated and Expanded 1987 Edition
- The KFM, A Homemade Yet Accurate and Dependable Fallout Meter
- Will Civil Defense Work?
6. Ragnar Benson
Ragnar Benson is actually the pen name of an author who has written some of the most dangerous books available. Ragnar was considered dangerous because of his exposing works on munitions, explosives, “mantrapping”, creating new identities and more. Despite the controversies associated with his work, his writings had a powerful impact in the survivalism movement. Much of his work is focused around living an independent life and escaping the trapping of modern government/society. If you don’t own at least one Ragnar book your survival library is incomplete!
To this day at age 72, Ragnar is still active in Survivalism, recently writing the book Long-Term Survival in the Coming Dark Age: Preparing to Live After Society Crumbles.
Books written by Ragnar Benson:
- Ragnar’s Guide to the Underground Economy
- Ragnar’s Urban Survival: A Hard-Times Guide to Staying Alive in the City
- Do-It-Yourself Medicine: How to Find and Use the Most Effective Antibiotics, Painkillers, Anesthetics and Other Miracle Drugs… Without Costly Doctors’ Prescriptions or Hospitals
- Starting a New Life in Rural America: 21 Things You Need to Know Before You Make Your Move
- Ragnar’s Big Book Of Homemade Weapons: Building And Keeping Your Arsenal Secure
- Ragnar’s Ten Best Traps: And A Few Others That Are Damn Good Too
- Survival Retreat: A Total Plan For Retreat Defense
- Modern Weapons Caching: A Down-To-Earth Approach To Beating The Government Gun Grab
- Ragnar’s Action Encyclopedia
- The Modern Survival Retreat
- Eating Cheap
- Guerrilla Gunsmithing: Quick And Dirty Methods For Fixing Firearms In Desperate Times
- Ragnar’s Guide To Interviews, Investigations, And Interrogations: How To Conduct Them, How To Survive Them
- Acquiring New ID: How To Easily Use The Latest Technology To Drop Out, Start Over, And Get On With Your Life
- Survival Poaching
- Ragnar’s Homemade Detonators: How To Make ‘Em, How To Salvage ‘Em, How To Detonate ‘Em!
- Live Off The Land In The City And Country
- New And Improved C-4: Better-Than-Ever Recipes For Half The Money And Double The Fun
- Survival Nurse: Running an Emergency Nursing Station Under Adverse Conditions
- Long-Term Survival in the Coming Dark Age: Preparing to Live After Society Crumbles
- Ragnar’s Guide To Home And Recreational Use Of High Explosives
- Most Dangerous Game: Advanced Mantrapping Techniques
7. Bruce D. Clayton
Bruce D. Clayton, Ph.D., a black belt in the sixth degree, is a scientist, writer, and teacher who gained popularity with his book “Life After Doomsday” in the 1980’s. He is the author of over a dozen books on survival and self-defense, including the revolutionary Shotokan’s Secret from Black Belt Books. Shotokan’s Secret has been called a
“manifesto for a modern revolution in the way martial arts are learned and taught.”
Books written by Bruce Clayton:
- Fallout Survival
- Life After Doomsday
- Life After Terrorism: What You Need to Know to Survive in Today’s World
- Shotokan’s Secret: The Hidden Truth Behind Karate’s Origins (With New Material) Expanded Edition
- Survival Books, 1981
- Thinking About Survival
- Tough Times Survival Guide (contributor)
- Urban Alert
- Handbook of Practical Pharmacology
8. Jeff Cooper (colonel)
Colonel Cooper was an actual Colonel who pioneered many shooting techniques, especially for small arms. In his life Cooper was a gun advocate, helping teach others how to use guns and even creating the American Pistol Institute located in Arizona. Additionally, Cooper invented The Combat Color Code (mentioned here), a code based upon situational awareness.
The will to survive is not as important as the will to prevail… the answer to criminal aggression is retaliation. – Jeff Cooper
As of 2006 Cooper is no longer with us RIP.
Books written by Jeff Cooper:
- Principles of Personal Defense
- To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth
- Art of the Rifle: Special Color Edtion
- Tactical Pistol: Advanced Gunfighting Concepts And Techniques
- Another Country
From His Books
9. Kurt Saxon
Kurt Saxon is one of the first “survivalists”, so much so he claims to have invented the term “survivalist”. Gaining fame in the 1970’s with his popular book “The Poor Man’s James Bond“, Kurt has had an impact on the modern survivalist movement in ways most of us don’t realize. Having grown up during the Great Depression, Kurt was somewhat of an expert on surviving on a budget. Many of his publications offer various tips and do-it-yourself guides on topics ranging from home medicines to home made self-defense weapons. If you are interested in survival and preparedness, chances are you have most likely read something reflecting the views and knowledge of Kurt Saxon. Kurt was in many ways a philosopher, speaking loudly his ideals of societal structure and it’s inevitable failure. To really get a feel for who Kurt Saxon is, read A Philosophy For Survivalists.
Kurt is still active and teaching survivalism in Alpena, Arkansas.
Books written by Kurt Saxon:
- The Poor Man’s James Bond
- Gran dads Wonderful Book of Chemistry
- Gran dads Wonderful Book Of Electricity
- Survivor, Volume 1
- The Survivor, Volume 2
- The Survivor, Volume 3
- The Survivor, Volume 4
- The Survivor, Volume 5
- Fireworks & explosives like Granddad used to make
- The Weaponeer
- Old Time Home Food Processing for Fun and Profit
**Disclaimer, We know that Rawles isn’t a “founding father” of survivalism and is instead a significant figure in the movement. However his impact cannot be ignored and deserves an honorable mention from us.
10. James Wesley Rawles
James Wesley Rawles is perhaps the most famous Survivalist of our time. He is the author and editor of www.survivablog.com, which has become a staple in the online survivalist community. His blog offers a plethora of information on survival topics from food storage and gardening to do-it-yourself survival shelters. He has set himself apart in the industry by offering a comprehensive guide on the best places to relocate to avoid disaster, and offering private retreat consulting by phone from his North Idaho home. His book “Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse” was one of my personal favorites and interestingly enough, some of the scenarios Rawles sets forward in his book are beginning to come to pass today. Many of us who currently know Rawles would say that he has become, in many ways, the modern archetype for survivalists. He has been one of the major players in the modern survivalist movement for the last several years, drawing fans and readers from varying backgrounds and demographics.
Books written by James Rawles:
- How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It: Tactics, Techniques, and Technologies for Uncertain
- Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse
- Rawles on Retreats and Relocation