The other day someone wrote to me on another board:
Until about 2 days ago I had not ever heard the term "prepper" and don't know what the difference really is. Seems to me that one is a subset of the other rather than an entirely different thing, but I would be happier to have someone who understands that difference more deeply explain it. Care to do the honors
I'm self-treating a self-diagnosed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome with a "Thumb Stabilizer" (wrist brace) and so have been truncating many of my postings of late. I touched on this subject in my novel TEOTWAWKI Beacon's Story http://desertdavesteotwawkisurvivalguide.blogspot.com/2011/10/teotwawki-beacons-story-part-one.html
However I'll try to give you an explanation.
You are correct. "Preppers" are a reaction to "Survivalists". While I embrace "preppers" I eschew "survivalists". But how to tell the difference?
Years ago I was watching an interview with a self proclaimed survivalist on TV. As he talked about his guns a fly began buzzing around his head. Instead of trying to shoo it away with a hand he began snapping at it with his teeth. It took several tries but eventually he managed to catch the fly in his mouth and swallow it. He explained to the stunned interviewer that flies were protein and in a "survival situation" every gram of protein was precious.
Years ago my wife and I began tentative talks with two other sets of people with regard to teaming up in case of a nuclear exchange between the USSR and America.
One guy turned out to be congenital liar and megalomaniac who planed to start his own tribe after the bombs fell. We distanced ourselves from him. The other seemed OK and we went so far as to buy a Ruger 10/22 with him at wholesale through a friend he knew. But then one day we drove up into the mountains and he showed me the local Boy Scouts camp. He told me once law and order had been bombed out he planned to come up to the Boy Scout camp, kill the camp's live in grounds keeper and set up, you guessed it, a community in the mountains with him as leader. We distanced ourselves from him too.
The term "prepper" hadn't been invented yet so I guess my wife and I were technically "survivalists" back then. But I didn't want any part of people like that and so made plans to go it alone if the need ever came. Fortunately it never did.
A "prepper" may have a bungalow in the burbs and vacation cabin in the woods. They'll have stocks of food and water and a few guns.
A "survivalist" has some food, a lot of guns and may have a bunker in the bush.
You probably know some "preppers" without knowing it. Telltale signs are always fully stocked cupboards, food stored in the garage and/or basement and maybe a 55 gallon water barrel.
If you know a "survivalist" he'll have shown you his gun collection.
When "survivalism" was big in the media a friend of mine (fellow prepper) knew a Sergeant on the local police force. My friend told me that when the subject of preparing for TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It) came up the cop had told him he intended to survive by taking what he needed for him and his family with his gun.
It's attitudes like that that cause "survivalists" to stock up on ammo and "preppers" to keep their heads down.
If properly stocked up you can feed your family for a year, your family and neighbors for a month and the neighborhood for a week.
Getting back to your point, "preppers" probably split off from "survivalists" about the time "survivalism" became a hit with the media. Preppers just want to quietly prepare in case something happens.
Those people you see on Doomsday Preppers
parading around with guns and gas masks seem to me to be more interested in garnering their 15 minutes of fame than surviving anything.
Of course you could argue that "survivalists" storing ammo are "prepping" too and that a "prepper" with a gun is a "survivalist" but I would argue that the difference is in the size of the food locker vs. the size of the gun locker.
I've got to stop now, my thumb is starting to hurt again.