Emergency ChecklistIn my previous National Preparedness Month blog, I encouraged you to review what preps you’ve made in the past year and consider strategic purchases to improve your preparedness position. Some of you know off the top of the head what your highest prepping priorities are, but for most of us, I’m guessing a more directed approach to evaluating your preps would be helpful. We’re here to help. Use the Preparedness Check and Challenge checklist below to evaluate where you are now and where you want to be.

There are more areas in which we need to prepare – communications, transportation, and medical, to name just a few. But our readers tend to be beginners in prepping, so we’ll stick with these basic topics for today’s blog.

We’re still working on every area (of course), but we’re making progress. My personal challenge for September is to complete a 3-day and a 1-month food plan with recipes. As I was writing this blog and explaining my alternate approach to evaluating my stored food, I realized that I can easily look at my pantry and evaluate if I have the necessary food to meet my immediate and short-term needs. Today, that is. That wouldn’t be the case in an emergency. You see, cooking is a weakness for me. Phil can grab ingredients and make good food. I can’t. I used to become paralyzed in video rental stores – there were just too many options. I also become paralyzed when faced with an immediate need to make food if I don’t have a plan.

So, by the end of September, I hope to have several written menus for the first three day s and first month of an emergency, and make sure that we keep all the ingredients on hand to make those meals. If we don’t have the ingredients in stock, the menu plan isn’t worth anything.

Let me urge you – spend a few minutes reading this brief checklist, then challenge yourself in one area. Set a specific goal of what you want to accomplish before the end of September (National Preparedness Month). That’s only two weeks away, so be reasonable about what you might be able to do, but don’t be too easy on yourself. The harder you work now, the easier you’ll have it when you need it.

Water

  • Recommendation: The government recommends 1 gallon per person (and pet) per day for drinking and cooking. We say more is better, but 1 gallon is a minimum place to start. Oh, and if you want to keep yourself and your things clean, plan on needing more water.
  • How much water do you need/want to store:
    ____ (Number of people/pets) x ____ (number of days) x 1 gallon
  • How much water do you have stored: ________
  • What are you going to do to upgrade your water storage and/or purification capabilities?

Food

  • Recommendation: The average adult intake is about 2000 calories/day under normal conditions. In an emergency, you’re likely to be burning more calories than that, so if you can plan for 3000 calories/day, that’s a good thing.
  • How much food do you want/need to store:
    ____ (Number of people) x ____ (number of days) x _____ (number of calories)
  • How much food do you have stored: ________
  • Don’t forget pets. If you have pets, how much do they eat each day? Multiply that by the number of days and you know how much pet food you need to have stored.

An Alternate Approach — Having just given you the formula, let me tell you that I don’t use the formula any more. I did at first, as I was developing my plan and understanding of long-term food storage. Now I take a different approach. I consider my preps in three stages: immediate, short-term and long-term. I approach my evaluation according to these three stages:

  • Immediate: How many meals can I make with little or no preparation in the first 72 hours? My goal is 3 meals per day for 6 people. I can easily look at my pantry and determine if I am at that goal.
  • Short-Term: How many meals can I make from my pantry with minimal dipping into my long-term storage food during the first month? My goal is 3 meals per day for 8 people, with some desserts added to help keep up morale. Again, I’m going to visually inspect my pantry to determine if my goal is met.
  • Long-Term: How much long-term food do I have? Phil and I met our one-year plan for the two of us last year, so now we look at how many other people can we help.

Cooking

  • If the power grid is down, do you have the capability to cook the food you have? What key purchase would allow you to say “yes” in response to that question? Consider a propane camping stove (don’t forget to store some propane), an outdoor fire pit with grill, a rocket stove and/or a solar oven. (I have plans for a DIY solar oven that I can’t wait to try. Oh if there were just enough hours in the day!)
  • Do you know how to cook the food you have with the cooking method(s) available?

Shelter/Heat

  • If for any reason your current shelter is no longer available, do you have a backup plan? Where will you go and how will you get there? What kind of challenges are you likely to face in getting there? What will you take with you? What do you need to be able to make the trip? How quickly can you be on the road?
  • In a no-power-grid situation (whether it’s from a snow storm, a tornado, a hurricane, or a power-grid failure) do you have a plan to keep you family warm? Start with buying extra clothes and blankets. Add to it by developing an alternate heat source.

Security

  • Is your home an easy target for being broken into? What can you do to “harden” your home? (Think about things like upgrading your entry doors or planting thorny bushes under first floor windows.)
  • Are you prepared to protect your family? What do you need to do to become more prepared and better trained?

Documentation

  • How’s your prepper notebook coming? Read more about it here. People tend to put off gathering important documents and creating a prepper notebook. If this is the one thing you do during National Preparedness Month, you will have done a good thing.

What’s your Preparedness Check and Challenge goal for this National Preparedness Month?

BudgetingToday’s article is by Gale Newell, a young woman who is taking positive steps toward becoming self-sufficient. Gale has written for a number of prepper blogs and submitted the following article to us to help us get control of one of our most important resources — our money. This may become the first installment in an ongoing series on financial issues from a prepper perspective. I’ll turn this over to Gale now, and chime in with my own comments below hers.

Budgeting for Prepping

Paper currency will always be a major factor in your life, unless you plan on disappearing into the mountains to live the rest of your life in a cave. Some of us (including me) hope to do this someday, and live a self-sufficient life. Even then, someone will probably find you and want money for something. Until TEOTWAWKI comes and the foundation of our society crumbles, paper currency will continue to hold value in our world. So, what can you do now, as a prepper?

Step 1: Keep track of all of your expenses. There is still a lot of value in balancing your checking account. In addition, recording all your transactions in your checkbook’s register allows you to double check everything your bank does, without relying on an internet connection. A bank has thousands of transactions every day and mistakes, while rare, do happen.

I personally don’t carry my checkbook on me. While this means I can’t record my expenditures as I make them, I keep the receipts from all my transactions in my wallet and then add them to my checkbook’s register at the end of the day. It only takes few minutes and it provides me with an organized record of all my expenditures. Furthermore, it provides me with an accurate, up-to-date balance. Online banking is great, but it can take a day or two for transactions to clear.

I personally like to sit down and compare my checkbook’s register to the information available at my online banking. It’s a quick way to double check my work and the bank’s numbers. This could be seen as an optional step, and it is, but I highly recommend doing it. If everything is accounted for and looks good, it’s time to create categories to sort your finances into.

Step 2: Budget. After about a month of recording transactions, the process of creating a budget can begin. Here are some very useful budgeting forms from www.DaveRamsey.com, which can help you divide your overall budget into meaningful categories. If you are looking to cut certain expenses out of your life you could label a category “unnecessary expenses.” Once you have sorted your various expenses into their proper category, add them up. The totals in each category should give you a good idea of where your money is going.

Step 3: Evaluate. Now that you have a good picture of what you are actually spending your money on, you can decide which areas require some cutbacks. If you created an Unnecessary Expenses category, you could immediately use that money somewhere else. The Unnecessary category could be very handy if you need to save up money to put towards outstanding debts, or if all your debts are paid off, put that money towards additional preps. All you would have to do is set aside the amount you would normally spend on expenses you deemed unnecessary into something like a savings account. Any money sitting in a savings account should not be touched for any purpose other than putting a down payment on a house or getting out of debt.

Hopefully this will help readers see how staying organized and planning ahead can reduce the stress of living within the current times. Budgeting is not something over the head of a prepper. In fact, it becomes doubly important for reducing your financial footprint and making strides to getting off the grid. In a capitalist economy in which everything revolves around money, remember there are things much more important than material goods and extra stuff. Use saving money as a chance to reconnect with friends and family, not spending so many nights out or making impulse purchases.

Gale Newell is continually working on being a self-sufficient human being. She finds herself spending her summer days outdoors, whether raising food in her organic garden or playing cards with friends and family. She enjoys grilling meals on her old-school charcoal grill and has overcome an addiction to multiple television series. Gale feels freer than ever and is truly happy. She is prepared for the future and ready for whatever happens next.

Phil’s Two Cents Worth on Budgeting for Prepping (pun intended)

Gale brings up some excellent points. The late, great motivational speaker Zig Ziglar was known for saying, “Money isn’t the most important thing in life, but it’s reasonably close to oxygen.” Next to tithing and providing for the needs of your family, budgeting for prepping may be the most important thing you do with your money.

Creating a realistic budget can be terribly difficult because it forces us to be deadly honest with ourselves. The things that will really kill your budgeting process are the dreaded occasional expenses. We all have WAY more of them than we are aware of. I read recently that the Back To School season is the second biggest shopping period of the year, second only to Christmas. The average family spends $600 per child on back to school expenses. Did that annual expense make its way  into your monthly budget? I just had my roof replaced a couple of years ago. It cost thousands, and it’s something that typically has to be done about once every 15 years where I live. Is that in my budget? How about medical expenses, insurance, car maintenance, saving for my next vehicle, replacing my aging water heater, or the need to travel across the country to visit a sick or dying relative? How do you budget for these kinds of things? I’m going to need to replace virtually everything that I own at some point. Do I have that in my budget? Do you?

I recommend making the most realistic budget you can possibly conceive of, then adding about 30% to it, which you stick in the bank or your private vault, and guard it against foolishness and dissipation until you really need to tap into it. Great advice, Phil. [ Note to self: Maybe I really need to start doing this myself, instead of continually being taken by surprise and driven into debt. ]

An obvious way to squeeze the most out of your prepping budget is to buy items when they’re on sale. September is National Preparedness Month. (Who says our friends at FEMA aren’t looking out for us?) You’ll find some deep discounts on prepping supplies from all of the following vendors. We’ve bought from them and are able to recommend them to our readers.:

Once again, our thanks to Gale Newell, who saw a need and stepped up to address it. I look forward to more thought-provoking articles from her in the future.

In case you haven’t seen the emails or heard the news, allow me to let you in on a secret — September is National Preparedness Month. That brings several questions to my mind:

  • Am I more prepared today than I was at this time last year? In the light of the very long list of things I could (and want to) be doing to be better prepared, it’s often easy for me to be discouraged by this question. That’s when I say “STOP! Take a deep breath and let’s get specific.” When I made a specific list of things I have done this year to become more prepared, it turned my discouragement around. Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed. Stop. Take a deep breath and encourage yourself before you move on. (Having trouble identifying what you’ve done to improve your preps this year? Maybe reading our list will help. It’s at the end of this article. We’re providing it just to help you jumpstart your list of things you’ve done.)
  • How can I take advantage of National Preparedness Month? One obvious answer is to take advantage of the sales that most preparedness vendors are having this month. It’s a great time to make some very strategic purchases. The definition of “strategic purchases” will be different for everyone, so before you make those purchases, now is a great time to evaluate your preparedness – otherwise, how can the purchases you make be strategic? While we generally have the perspective that buying more food is always a good thing, our cash available for purchases isn’t unlimited (not even close to it). That means that we have to balance our spending and fill in some of the gaps in our preparedness plan. So, as good as the food sales might be, perhaps the most strategic purchase would be a sun oven or a rocket stove to help you cook some of that food if your normal energy sources aren’t available. Maybe it will be a solar energy kit. We can’t know that until we take a step back and evaluate where we are. Don’t let your “wants” leave you with a long list of “needs.”
  • How can we help our readers take advantage of National Preparedness Month? We are all at different places in our preparedness. Those of you who have been prepping for a while undoubtedly have a list of “next steps” or “wish list” items, many of which will require making some purchases. Later in this article we’re including a list of some of our favorite vendors. You’ll also find ads from some of them in the sidebars of the various pages of our site. Let me offer a bit of help to those who are new to prepping. The question we get asked most often is “How do I get started?” If you’re in that category, stick around! In a month or two, we’ll be starting a “Prepper 101 Club” (or something like that). It will help you get started in prepping with a logical and easy to follow approach. In the meantime, what can you do this month? A great place to start is by reading our article, Getting Started with Prepping. After that, start with the most basic stuff – water and food. Below you’ll find some links to other articles that will help you get started.

Water comes first. How adequate is your water supply? (Hint: You need more than you think.) How do you go about collecting and storing water? Check out these blogs:

Storing Water – How Much is Enough?

Water Storage – a Primer

Our Three-Layered Approach to Prepping – This blog is a good intro about to our approach to prepping in general (short term, medium term, and longer term), and we use water storage as our example, so it gives you an idea about how to plan for your water storage needs.

Food is next. We recommend starting with our two-part Food Storage 101 series:

Food Storage 101: What Types of Food Can I Store for an Emergency?

Food Storage 101: What Types of Food Should I Store for an Emergency?

Once you’re past that pre-school stage, browse our site for other articles on food storage, preservation, gardening, and more.

Now food and water are just the beginning, but everyone has to start somewhere and we don’t want to overwhelm anyone. Wandering around our site will help you understand prepping more and will help you identify where you should spend your money and time this month.

Here’s a list of some of our favorite vendors:

Emergency Essentials
TheReadyStore.com
Both of these vendors are preparedness superstores. They’re best known for their food products, but they both offer a wide range of preparedness products. Both of them have frequent sales.

AugasonFarms.com
Augason Farms is almost exclusively a food vendor. They also run great sales, especially on their large pails of staples. When they put stuff on sale, their prices generally can’t be beat.

Amazon.com
We buy a lot of stuff from Amazon. So much so that we have a membership to Amazon Prime, which gives us free 2nd-day shipping on most items.

SpicesForLess.com
One of the most overlooked area of food storage is spices. All of those buckets of beans, rice, and wheat are going to taste pretty bland without a good supply of spices. Spices For Less sells a wide range of spices and seasonings in any quantity you want, with good discounts applied to larger quantities.

Biblica.com
It’s no secret that The Approaching Day Prepper is a site that has Christian beliefs and values at its core. We believe that God sometimes gives warnings of approaching calamities and that when He does, He expects people to prepare themselves for those events. We also believe that if a prolong period of hardship were to come upon our nation, people who have never given much thought to spiritual matters will seek God. Part of our preps is a stockpile of inexpensive Bibles and New Testaments that we’ve purchased from Biblica.com. We want to be ready to lead a network of home Bible studies and we recognize that in today’s culture, not every home has a Bible. Ours now has dozens of very affordable Bibles that can be given out freely to anyone who will use one.

Here’s what we’ve done to improve our preparedness this year. We still have LOTS more to do. But perhaps reading our list will help you identify your own progress since last September.

  • We’ve started making and storing meals in jars. (Watch for a future blog on this topic!).
  • We expanded our garden by 50% this year and we learned tons more about gardening that we didn’t have time to implement this year. That’s OK. Learning comes before doing, then doing enhances the learning. We’re making plans for next year’s garden right now, applying some of our “lessons learned” during this growing season, so that we’ll be able to increase the size of our garden next year.
  • We rotated our water and increased our water reserves. This included buying a food-grade water barrel, a rain barrel for the garden, and a Katadyn water filter that can process thousands of gallons of water.
  • We’ve bought an ammo reloading press, dies, components, and supplies.
  • Bought a new rifle that could be used for both hunting and home defense.
  • We’ve picked out a pellet stove that we’ll be buying next week. Watch for an article on that purchase decision to come soon. We know buying a pellet stove doesn’t make sense to many people from a true preparedness point of view, but we decided that it was our best option.
  • We’ve added storage racks and begun to reorganize our long-term food storage.
  • We increased our inventory of long shelf-life food.
  • We’ve purchased many non-food survival items – paper products (at last count we have about 300 rolls of toilet paper, enough facial tissue to last a year, and plenty of paper towels) and miscellaneous supplies like tarps and tape.
  • I learned a lot about essential oils and use them regularly.

We’re making progress. It’s a continual process – one that sometimes gets interrupted by the necessities of work and family, but is never abandoned. We hope that you will take advantage of the sales offered by some of the vendors represented on this site during National Preparedness Month, and that you will become more prepared tomorrow than you are today. Also, watch our Facebook page as we’ll put notices there about sales we find interesting.

Stopwatch showing 15 minutesWe’re sorry that you haven’t seen many blogs from us over the past couple of months. Well, any blogs actually. That’s because work and life has exploded for us and we’ve had to put The Approaching Day Prepper on the back shelf for a short time. But that doesn’t mean that our personal prepping efforts have stopped. We didn’t do all we would have liked, but we did more than nothing.

Perhaps your life gets crazy sometimes, too. During those times, your prepping efforts don’t need to come to a standstill. Here are some ideas for moving your prepping efforts forward when time is at a premium.

Build Prepping Into Your Everyday Shopping

  • Find a sale on something that you use a lot of? Stock up. It doesn’t take any longer to buy ten of them than it does two.
  • Perhaps it’s not on sale, but you can still buy two of some of the things on your shopping list – one for now and one for your storage shelves.
  • Add a case of bottled water to your cart.

Shop Online – Especially for Bulk Supplies

  • When placing an office supply order for our business, I add cases of toilet paper, facial tissues, and paper towels. We’ve been getting our stuff from Quill.com. (Watch for sales.) We get free shipping with two-day delivery. One day our whole front porch was filled with big boxes that weighed almost nothing! They packed one 20-pack of toilet paper in each carton. The shipping cartons are worth almost as much as their contents.

Do a Quick Project

  • Rotate the batteries in your battery charger. (You are using rechargeable batteries, aren’t you?)
  • Plan or prep a new storage area. We bought three new 5-shelf storage racks online a couple of months ago. We put them in a spare room on the second floor and started to move some of our food from the basement (which could flood if our sump pump failed) to the storage racks upstairs.
  • Write down some “lessons learned” from this year’s gardening season. What should you do better or differently? What would you like to try next year?

Learn Something

  • Stay up to date with a good prepper blog. www.SHTFblog.com is one of our favorites, but there are gobs of others. (Note to self: Post a blog about our favorite prepper websites.)
  • Spend some time researching your next major purchase. We’re looking at wood stoves and learning more about solar energy.
  • Find a new recipe for your long-term storage food and add it to your personal long-term food storage recipe book. (If you don’t have such a book, start one.)
  • Squeeze in some handgun dry-fire training time.
  • Practice some skills. How are you at tying knots? Or building a fire?

We all get pinched for time, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t cram some prepping tasks into a few minutes of down time. What ideas do you have? Drop us a note in the Comments section below.

Preserve Food at Home Ultimate Resource GuideOnce in a while I stumble upon a free resource that’s so good I want to get it into the hands of all our readers. I didn’t actually “stumble upon” this one. I’m a subscriber to Melissa Norris’ excellent blog on pioneer living. (The “city kid” in me still shakes his head in amazement when I say things like this. What a long, strange trip it’s been.) Melissa has a number of valuable resources available for download through her site. Today she’s out-done herself with the Preserve Food at Home Ultimate Resource Guide.

I’m a snake-bitten skeptic. When I see superlatives like “ultimate” bandied about, my BS radar goes on full alert. But hey! It’s free, and you know what I always say — “If it’s for free, it’s for me!” So I punched the link for this so-called “ultimate resource guide” and loaded it. All nine pages of it. And that page count includes the front cover. Another over-blown pamphlet that calls itself an “ultimate guide”?

Not this time. This ultimate guide really delivers. After you get past the attractive front cover, you’ll find that it’s a true resource guide, chock full of links to other sources — web sites, articles, videos, product reviews, books, online courses, etc. Be advised that not all of the resources that the Guide links to are free, but if you’re looking to learn about these topics and will need to buy some of these things, the Guide is a real time-saver. It covers the most common means of food preservation (canning, freezing, and dehydration) and some lesser-known practices like salt curing and using alcohol or oils to preserve foods and make your own extracts.

It’s no secret that we here at The Approaching Day Prepper aren’t experts in the topics that we discuss. We are perpetual newbies. That’s why I love it when someone like Melissa not only does all the heavy lifting for me, but then she freely gives away the fruits of her labor. There are a lot of links in her Guide that I want to dive into. Things like:

  • Which pressure canner is best? The budget-priced Presto or the spendy All American?
  • How to can meat
  • How to make your own vegetable powders
  • How to dehydrate cantaloupe (say what??? )
  • How to cure and store onions and garlic (you can NEVER have enough onions and garlic in your preps)
  • How to dehydrate ground beef safely (I presume that the operative word here is “safely”)

I’m pretty jazzed about this resource guide. So much so that I stopped what I was doing as soon as I found it and posted this blog. Click here to link over to Melissa’s site and grab a copy of it for yourself.

You’re welcome.

Essential Oils_Depositphotos_44493511_originalIn my previous article, I shared my journey into essential oils by presenting a series of questions and answers. As promised, in this blog I’ll share the contents of my starter kit, my experience thus far, some of my personal recipes, and you’ll be able to download some helpful EO cards or information sheet. Enjoy!

I’m afraid I have to add a medical disclaimer to this blog. The information provided in this blog is not offerred or intended as medical advice. Consult your doctor before using essential oils.I am simply sharing my experience and research. I am not a doctor. I’m a desktop publisher, preacher, blogger and prepper (not necessarily in that order).

My Starter Kit and Experience

The components of my starter kit were determined by two factors – the oils most often recommended as good, general-purpose oils (because I knew my starter kit would be limited and I wanted to get the most bang for my buck) and the conditions we were most likely to use the oils to combat. I’ve already mentioned that I sometimes have difficulty sleeping. Phil and I both suffer from sinus congestion, especially in the winter. While I was doing my shopping, I had an upper respiratory variety of the crud that was going around last winter, so I’m sure that impacted my decisions. I occasionally suffer from asthma and headaches, and both Phil and I sometimes experience anxiety, stress, and a bit of the blues. Phil also has a touch of arthritis.

I’m sharing my experience using the oils in my starter kit, but keep in mind that it’s only been a few months. While my experience has been generally positive, it’s also been somewhat limited.

My starter kit included the following oils:

  • Eucalyptus With antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antiseptic properties, this oil has tons of uses. I was most interested in its effectiveness against congestion and inflammation. We use the eucalyptus in a diffuser most evenings and Phil and I both notice that about half an hour after starting the diffuser we are breathing better and our sinuses are more open. They don’t just feel “minty” —our sinuses are actually open more than they were before. Phil hasn’t been able to breathe through his right nostril for years, but it is opening up since we started diffusing eucalyptus. We’ve also used it in a massage oil to ease chronic muscle inflammation. We didn’t notice any relief from this.
  • Lavender As a “balancer” this oil would help my sleeplessness and could be used to perk me up on those afternoons when a nap after lunch is appealing. I have in fact found it to be very effective in encouraging restful sleep as well as helping one remain alert during the day. Yeah, I know – how can that be possible? Read about it in my previous blog. Shortly after buying my lavender oil, I started to get a cold sore. Lavender is also supposed to be good for skin rashes and it was one of the few oils I had at the time, so I put lavender on the cold sore. Surprisingly (to me) it really helped – the cold sore developed, but it was significantly smaller than when it started and it was short-lived.
  • Frankincense This oil helps strengthen the immune system, and who doesn’t need that? It can also be used to combat depression and stress, as well as upper respiratory infections. We use it in our night-time blend and sometimes in the office.
  • Lemon Lemon has antiseptic and antibacterial properties. It stimulates the digestive system and can be safely used to add flavor in small quantities. Its clean citrus aroma makes it a nice addition in blends. And in our household it doesn’t hurt that lemon is one of Phil’s favorite scents. Happy, happy, happy.
  • Peppermint Said to be effective against headaches and nausea – two conditions I suffer from. I dabbed some on my temples when I had a headache recently, and the headache was gone in fifteen or twenty minutes. I’ve suffered from nausea regularly throughout my life. I don’t actually get sick, I just feel “yucky” frequently. I haven’t had a chance to test the peppermint oil for this condition yet, which is unusual. Could it be because of my regular use of eucalyptus and lemon each evening? Or maybe the peppermint that is in a common blend I diffuse in the office? I don’t know, but my frequent “yuckiness” hasn’t been so frequent.
  • Tea Tree (also known as Melaleuca) Great for small cuts and scratches. In all honesty, I haven’t noticed that mine consistently heal faster with tea tree oil, but everyone recommends it. I probably don’t have the discipline to use it frequently enough.
  • Four Thieves (sold by Edens Garden)/Thieves® (sold by Young Living) – This blend is sold under various similar names. It’s based on a legend that during the bubonic plague four men would rob those who had died from the plague. To everyone’s surprise they didn’t catch the disease. They were reported to use a blend of spices that protected them. The most common ingredients in today’s version of the blend are clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus and rosemary. This blend has very strong antibiotic and antiseptic properties. It was one of the last oils I bought and I haven’t used it, except as an occasional alternative in my night-time blend.
  • Patchouli This isn’t in your typical starter kit, but my husband loves the smell of it. It’s very musky. Some people love it, some people hate it. It has antibiotic, antiseptic, and antifungal properties. It also combats depression and congestion. It promotes the regrowth of skin cells. I use this primarily in my night-time blend (see below), but I want to try it in place of tea tree oil on scratches and cuts.
  • Jojoba Carrier oils (also called base oils or vegetable oils) such as jojoba are used to dilute highly concentrated essential oils so they can be safely applied to the skin. I didn’t do as much research into carrier oils as essential oils, but chose jojoba because it has a long shelf life and is easily absorbed into the skin. It’s been nicknamed by some as the “king of oils.” Kinda like the Budweiser of the carrier oil world. Seemed like a good place to start and I’ve been happy with the blends I’ve created using it.

Since then I’ve added the following oils. I chose these largely because others say they’re essential to a starter kit. I haven’t used any of them yet.

  • Rosemary Antimicrobial and antiseptic, balancing and calming, this oil is also used to ease respiratory issues and skin conditions. I haven’t used it yet but bought it for those times when my asthma is bothering me. It also seems like it would be a great starting oil for a relaxation blend. I’ll have to work on that! Be careful with this one, though – it should not be used if you have high blood pressure.
  • Clary Sage Its unique feature is that it’s good for PMS and menopause relief. Hmmm. I think it would be good to combine with that Rosemary blend. It is a sedative with slight narcotic properties and shouldn’t be used before driving or doing other things that you need your full attention for. I’m thinking that a rosemary and clary sage blend is the perfect thing to diffuse in the bathroom while taking a warm bath before bed. But it’s new to my arsenal and I haven’t tried it.

Reputable Essential Oils Companies

Wow, what a hot topic! People seem to have strong opinions about the best companies from which to buy essential oils. I found reading people’s opinions helpful, but try to stay out of the fray. After spending quite a few hours reading reviews (and rants and raves) on a variety of blogs and shopping sites, then spending more time reading about various companies and how they handle their essential oils (from harvesting to storing), I created a spreadsheet listing the oils I wanted to buy and the various companies that sold them. I added prices to that spreadsheet and made my purchasing decisions. I ended up buying my oils from a couple of different companies.

With that background, I am comfortable recommending the following companies. If you recommend others, please share them with us. If you’ve had negative experiences with any of these companies, share that, too. But I truly don’t want this to become a forum for ranting against companies simply because you sell essential oils for a competing company.

Before long you’ll also need supplies – dark bottles with lids and droppers (don’t store your droppers in your oils). I’ve bought from a couple of sources, but be careful to read what you’re getting. My first purchase was half a dozen teeny-tiny bottles. They work great except they really are small. So I’ve found that they’re good for giving a sample of an EO to a friend, but not very good for my intended purpose – mixing my own blends. A second purchase of larger bottles was required.

Using Your Oils

There are a number of ways to use your essential oils. Typically you’ll blend them with a carrier oil, but they can also be used “neat” (that is, undiluted). We use them three different ways:

  • Direct inhalation – When I’m traveling I put a couple of drops on a cloth (I use a wash cloth) and wave it in front of my face periodically. I’ve done this with peppermint to stay alert on long car trips and with eucalyptus or peppermint to relieve allergies or congestion.
  • Apply topically – I’ve applied a variety of undiluted oils on scratches or cold sores. I also apply a small amount of lavender to my feet many evenings for a more restful night’s sleep. I’ve also applied peppermint to my temples and back of the neck to relieve headaches. Phil and I use a blend we’ve created for massaging away sore muscles and stress.
  • Diffuse – Diffusers disperse oils into the air, much like a humidifier puts out steam. The best diffusers use ultrasonic technology. You should not use heat to diffuse most oils. We purchased this medium priced diffuser for our bedroom and were happy enough with it that we purchased a second one for our office. I’d like something more decorative for the main floor of the house but haven’t been willing to shell out the extra bucks for it yet.

Some oils can be taken internally, but be careful that they are safe for that purpose. You can also place some in a bath to relax or detox.

Resources:

The Aromatherapy & Essential Oils Handbook by Rashelle Johnson – This book is comprehensive and an excellent resource. It lists more essential oils that I could use in several lifetimes. For each one it provides an average price, identifies the plant source of the oil, recommends other oils that it blends well with, defines the therapeutic properties and gives a paragraph or two about its general uses. If there are warnings associated with the oil, you’ll find that front and center. What a treasure trove of info! I got the Kindle edition last week when it was free for a short time, but am seriously considering the print version because it’s so helpful. [Note: We occasionally post notices about free Kindle books on our Facebook page. We use Facebook for these kinds of things because it's more timely than a blog posting. Find us on Facebook by clicking here.]

The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy: Over 600 Natural, Non-toxic & Fragrant Recipes to Create Health • Beauty • A Safe Home Environment by Valerie Ann Worwood – This book is recommended by many sites. Available at Amazon, this book is excellent because of its breadth. Not only does it offer over 600 EO recipes, it also organizes oils by how they can help you. It includes chapters covering EOs for the office, for sports enthusiasts, for beauty (to replace skin and hair care products), for babies, for women and men, for “help in the maturing years”, for cooking, gardening, and cleaning. It also addresses using EOs on pets. What I don’t like about this book is that it doesn’t list the oils and define their properties. You’ll have to get the first resource for that.

My Recipes

I’ve developed a few blends that I use regularly. I make them in large batches (usually at least double the recipes below), and store them in dark, one-ounce bottles.

First, here are some helpful measurements. All are approximate because drops.

1 ounce equals approximately 30 milliliters
1 ounce equals approximately 600 drops
1 ounce equals approximately 6 teaspoons

Allergy Blend #1 – Equal parts Lavender, Eucalyptus, and Peppermint

  • Lavender for balance and aroma – I find that the lavender makes the scent of the eucalyptus a bit less prominent. Sometimes I get tired of the eucalyptus smell.
  • Eucalyptus for decongestant, sinus issues, and aroma – Having just said that I get tired of the smell, let me also say that when my allergies are bad, I find that strong scents help a great deal. And eucalyptus does a great job of clearing your sinuses.
  • Peppermint for alertness, headaches, and aroma – When my allergies are bad, my sinuses are full and my head feels like a balloon. Anything that makes me more alert and inhibits headaches is wonderful.

Office Blend #1 – 20 drops Frankincense, 6 drops Eucalyptus, 6 drops Peppermint

  • Frankincense for fighting infections, general good health – Don’t you want to breath in something that makes you healthier instead of the just smelling the equipment you’re using all day long?
  • Eucalyptus for decongestant
  • Peppermint for alertness, headaches

Night Time Blend #1 – 50 drops Eucalyptus, 30 drops Lavender, 5 drops Patchouli (optional) – Phil and I notice a significant difference when we diffuse this blend at night.

  • Eucalyptus for decongestant, anti-mucus
  • Lavender for good night’s sleep
  • Patchouli for woodsy smell, anti-depressant, aphrodisiac – if you don’t like the smell of patchouli, you might substitute frankincense (see recipe below).

Night Time Blend #2 – 50 drops Eucalyptus, 30 drops Lavender, 15 drops Frankincense

  • Eucalyptus for decongestant, anti-mucus
  • Lavender for good night’s sleep
  • Frankincense for fighting infections, general good health

Massage Blend #1 – I use a 2-5% dilution (i.e., 2-5 drops of EO to 5 ml of carrier oil) – so my recipe varies but here’s a good starting place: 200 drops Jojoba oil (2 teaspoons), 2-3 drops Frankincense, 2-3 drops Lavender, 1-2 drops Patchouli

  • Jojoba oil (or other carrier oil – sweet almond makes a nice choice)
  • Frankincense for cell regeneration and arthritis relief
  • Lavender for stress relief and good night’s sleep
  • Patchouli for aroma, anti-depressant, and aphrodisiac affects

Travel package: When I travel, I take small bottles of at least eucalyptus, lavender and peppermint. Sometimes I throw in frankincense and patchouli.

EO Info Cards

I’ve created two sets of EO info cards. The first set helps me remember what the various oils I have can be used for. The second set helps me find the oil I need to meet a specific ailment.

You can download the cards and/or the information sheets below.

After you enter your email address, you will be taken back to the top of this blog.Scroll down to this point and a button to download the files will appear in both boxes below. Click on the button(s) to open either (or both) PDF(s). When the file is opened, save it to your system and then print the file(s). After printing the cards, simply cut them along the dashed lines.

Enter your email address to download Essential Oils 101 Info Cards

Enter your email address to download Essential Oils 101 Information Sheets

This 332-page book was a free Kindle download at the time this was posted.

This 332-page book was a free Kindle download at the time this was posted.

I’ve been writing this blog for a couple of months now – sometimes life gets hectic and I wanted this to include some free helps. We’ll get to that. I’m releasing this as a partial blog today because…BIG NEWS – the excellent book The Aromatherapy & Essential Oils Handbook by Rashelle Johnson is currently available for FREE (as of this writing) as a Kindle book from Amazon.com. Get your copy here. What – you say you don’t have a Kindle? No problem! There are free Kindle apps for computers, tablets, and smartphones. Read our blog about that here: http://theapproachingdayprepper.com/free-prepper-book-downloads/

Now, on to my essential oils blog. Because I’m rushing this to post, you’ll only get Part 1 today. I’ll publish Part 2 with some free downloadable helps in a few days.

Essential Oils 101, Part 1

I’ve always thought of aromatherapy as nothing more than making your house smell good. In my ignorance I considered it a waste of time and money. Then on a whim I bought a nice-smelling orange spice oil…which proceeded to make my eyes swell from an allergic reaction. Nope, essential oils weren’t for me…or so I thought.

About eight months ago I was having trouble sleeping and a friend gave me some lavender oil. She told me to rub a small amount on the bottom of my feet before I go to bed, then inhale the residual that was on my hands. Rub oil on your feet to help you sleep better? What kind of voodoo is this? With a bit of trepidation I tried it. To my surprise, I found that my sleep was consistently more restful when I used it. I convinced Phil to try it…same result for him.

Hmmm…maybe there’s something to this after all.

So about six months ago I started doing some research on essential oils. I spent a lot of time reading about them and within a few weeks I assembled a “starter kit” of oils. After looking at a number of pre-packaged starter sets, I decided that I could get a better price by buying select individual oils from a number of different vendors. Since then I’ve added a few and I’ve been putting all of them to good use. More about my starter kit in my next blog.

Now that I’ve studied the topic and applied what I’ve learned, it’s for a first blog on essential oils. It’s so hard to know where to start because there’s so much info to share. Let’s start with some Q&As.

Q. What makes essential oils a prepper topic?

A. It’s a prepper topic because essential oils are a great alternative to western medicine, and we seem to be drawing closer and closer to a time when access to doctors and medicines will not be as easy as it is now. For example, if you can’t get antibiotics for an infection, there are essential oils that may work just as well or even better. (Not to mention that the more I read about essential oils, the more I think they could be better solutions to many of our health issues than western medicine, but that’s another blog.)

Q. If I’m using the oils in a massage before bedtime, won’t they stain my sheets?

A. Good question. I was concerned about that. But guess what! Essential “oils” are not really oils at all! They are actually liquids from various parts of plants. They aren’t greasy. You will mix them with a carrier oil that really is an oil (certain types of vegetable or nut oil), but the purpose of the carrier oil is to dilute the highly concentrated essential oils and to help your body absorb them. The carrier oils you’ll mix them with will quickly absorb into your skin. No stains!

Q. Preppers store things for future use. Can essential oils be stored for long periods of time?

A. The shelf life of essential oils varies quite a bit, but most will maintain their properties for at least two years if stored properly. Some have a shorter shelf life, and since the carrier oils that you frequently mix them with are true oils, some are good for only nine to fifteen months.

Q. I’ve seen some wild claims about what essential oils can do. Can an essential oil really do so many different things?

A. As I began to study about essential oils, I was a bit put off by the many claimed benefits of various oils. For example, eucalyptus oil is a favorite of many and considered a “must have” in your first kit. I’ve read many sites and seen it recommended for the following:

  • Improve the circulatory system
  • Help with respiratory issues including asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and pneumonia
  • Help with alertness
  • Help eliminate congestion and coughing
  • Cools your body temperature and is therefore good in treating fevers
  • Its antiviral and antibacterial properties make it great for infections and for adding to cleaning products
  • Helps with digestive problems and diarrhea
  • Combats sore muscles whether they be from over-exercise or the flu
  • A natural insecticide
  • Help with sinus issues including rhinitis and sinusitis

OK, seems like we are solidly in snake oil territory. How can one oil accomplish so many different things? As it turns out, essential oils contain an average of 100 different “constituents” – components or elements that make it up. Many of these constituents have some serious therapeutic value. With that being the case, I can understand how it can do so many things.

Because each oil has so many constituents, man-made reproductions are totally inadequate substitutes. They may approximate the smell and perhaps even have a few of the qualities of the oil it approximates, but they can’t come close to the real thing.

Q. How can the same essential oil do things that seem to be exact opposites – for example, help me relax and perk me up when I get the afternoon blahs?

A. This one really bothered me. Lavender oil is a favorite of many because it can be used to help you relax (hence it’s great at bedtime) or help energize you (so it’s the great afternoon pick-me-up). OK, now we’re really talking snake oil, right? Well, no. It turns out that there are oils that are called “balancers.” Lavender is one of those oils. What they do is bring your system into balance – so it makes sense that it can either help you sleep or keep you awake in the afternoon.

Q. How can smelling something really improve my health?

A. Yeah, at first thought that didn’t make much sense to me either…but then I thought again. You may remember the anthrax attacks from a few years ago. Simply coming in contact with the anthrax spores – breathing them in or having them come in contact with your skin – can kill you. Well, if there is stuff that can kill us simply from breathing it in, I can believe there is stuff that can make me better simply by breathing it in.

As it turns out, essential oils work much more efficiently than taking a pill. Medicine that is taken orally must first go through the digestive system which (1) takes time and (2) breaks down some of the medicine’s properties. Essential oils, on the other hand, are often applied topically to the source of the ailment or are inhaled, which gets them into our membranes and blood much more quickly.

And if I still doubted that inhaling thing…I only need to remember what I do when I have the occasional asthma flare-ups — I inhale medicine through a nebulizer and almost instantly breathe more easily.

Q. Why is there such a difference in price for the same kind of essential oil?

A. That’s a challenging one. The short answer is that it’s a combination of quality, marketing, and greed. It turns out that some companies that sell essential oil at a premium advertise their products as “certified” or “therapeutic grade.” The truth is that there is no regulatory agency that certifies essential oils and there is no official category called “therapeutic grade.” These are just made up terms that have no official meaning. Some companies that capitalize on such terms are doing so to both justify higher prices and gain market position. For example, one well-known brand of essential oils is doTerra, I have no doubt that they sell high quality products, but in their marketing they use a registered trademark phrase, “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade® (CPTG)”. It’s just a marketing gimmick. It means whatever they want it to mean. There is no organization that has certified them but themselves. It’s a promise to the consumer that their oils adhere to their own standards, not some authoritative third party. Like I said, I have no doubt that their standards are high and their essential oils are good – I just take a bit of exception to their misleading marketing. [End of rant.]

Other companies may use the term “therapeutic grade” simply because their competition use it and they want to communicate that they provide high quality oils. Again, there is no organization or governing body that certifies oil or classifies them by grade. So if no one is doing any certifying, how do you know what you’re getting? It’s not easy.

Key words to look for are “perfumed oil” and “fragrance oil” – stay away from them. “100% pure” is a good thing, but it still doesn’t speak to where the plants are sourced from or how they are inventoried. Quality essential oils are sourced from quality plants, are processed properly, and are stored properly.

“Quality plants” – We’ll leave that for another time because each oil comes from a different plant and many times the plants are grown in many regions. If you are a tea enthusiast, as Phil is, you know that tea can have different shades of flavor depending on where it’s grown and how it’s harvested or processed and stored. Essential oils are a lot like that. If you’re just getting started, stick with reputable retailers. You’ll find a few listed in my next blog.

“Properly processed” – Generally you want to purchase essential oils that have been steam distilled with no added chemicals and undiluted with carrier oils. You can select your own carrier oils for your particular preference or application.

“Properly stored” – That’s pretty easy, at least at the basic level. Essential oils should be stored in dark colored glass bottles. Yes, glass bottles. If the place you’re buying from provides them in plastic, you’re probably not buying high quality oils – unless you’re buying in bulk. When buying in large quantities, the shipping cost for glass bottles is prohibitive so most vendors ship in plastic or aluminum. You should transfer them to dark-colored glass bottles as soon as you receive them. Store your oils in a cool place that is not subject to temperature changes and out of direct sunlight. Do not store with a plastic/rubber topped eye dropper as a lid. Essential oils do not turn rancid like vegetable oils, they simply lose their effectiveness.

Those were my top questions. If you’ve got others, post your question on our The Approaching Day Prepper Facebook page (“like” us while you’re there) or as a comment on this blog and I’ll do my best to respond.

In my next blog, I’ll share the contents of my starter kit and my own experience. I’ll also identify resources – both companies and books. And, I’ll share some of my own essential oil recipes and a set of cards I created to help me remember how to use each oil. You’ll be able to download the cards for your own use.

This 332-page book was a free Kindle download at the time this was posted.

This 332-page book was a free Kindle download at the time this was posted.

For now, check out the FREE (as of this posting) Kindle book.

As preppers, we believe that is highly likely that life as we know it is going to be interrupted – it’s going to go crazy. We might not agree on what will cause that craziness, but we prepare so that when it happens we’re among the less crazy people.

At TheApproachingDayPrepper.com, we want to always remember that the first and best preparation is spiritual. I posted a blog today at ApprehendingGrace.com about staying grounded in God.

My life has been crazy over the past couple of months. As it begins to return to normal, I am enjoying routines that ground me – dissipate the negative energy of the world and refresh and recharge me with positive energy from God. I’m also recognizing the importance of those activities that we maintain in times of chaos that keep us grounded.

Friends, if we don’t learn to stay grounded before chaos ensues, we’ll be hard-pressed to develop patterns that keep us grounded in the midst of chaos. Check out my blog on ApprehendingGrace.com for symptoms of needing to be grounded and ways to accomplish it.

I just bought a new rifle. I could cut to the chase and just tell you what I bought, but I like letting you in on my thought processes regarding why I bought the one I did. There will be a bunny trail or two along the way. Here goes.

First Steps

One of my first steps into prepping was the purchase of a handgun for home defense. When I started prepping, in addition to storing water, food, and other basic necessities, I reluctantly came to the realization that when the going gets rough I’ll need to be able to discourage others from taking the supplies I’ve invested in. If (when) things get ugly, I might need to be able to defend my life or the lives of others. So I got some training and bought my first handgun, a full-sized Springfield Armory XD in .40-caliber.

Yeah, my “first” handgun. The mighty XD-40 is a great gun for home defense, but a bit on the large size for concealed personal defense, so it was back to the store to buy another. (Sandy wrote a really excellent piece on this site some time ago called “How Many Handguns Do We Need?” which chronicles her side of that chapter in our lives. It’s a good read.) Needless to say, I’ve gotten a couple of other handguns since then, and if I don’t make it out to the range to practice at least twice a month, I start to get cranky.

For those of you who have the proper mindset (a combination of maturity, self-control, wisdom, and determination to use a gun if the situation warrants it) I strongly recommend that you get training, get a handgun that is appropriate for you (different strokes for different folks — there is no one “best” overall handgun), and get lots of regular practice. In that order.

What Next?

But the question arises, is a handgun enough gun? While it’s a good option for home defense and your only option for concealed carry, a handgun is not a “one size fits all” solution to my prepping needs. If you can become a reliable marksman at 30 feet with a handgun, you’ve done well. When you need to extend your reach further than that, you need a long gun.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog (and we hope that you will enter your email address in the block near the top left corner to subscribe), you know that we approach prepping in stages. Once you’ve met your basic needs in any of the many areas of prepping, you’re ready to step up to the next stage. These stages won’t be the same for everyone. If you’ve grown up in a rural area and been a hunter for most of your life, you probably have a nice selection of rifles and shotguns. That would be Stage One for you, and moving into handguns could be your Stage Two. Being a “townie” who has never hunted a day in my life, my firearm acquisition stages came in the reverse order. For the past several months I’ve been in the process of learning about and clarifying my values regarding long guns. I found a couple of very popular options.

The Gold Standard

Remington 870 Express

Remington 870 Express

Many people consider a 12-gauge pump action shotgun to be the premium home defense piece. Just the sound of it being racked will give any reasonable, prudent bad guy second thoughts about their intended course of action. It holds anywhere from 5 to 14 shells at a time, and it’s good for hunting, too, as shells can be loaded with anything from granular birdshot to solid lead slugs. One downside of shotguns is that they aren’t good at longer distances. Because shot pellets spread out as distance increases, the effective range using shot is only about 25 yards. Solid slugs are good to about 100 yards. This might be a good, logical, and appropriate Stage Two gun choice for you, but we already have a Mossberg 20-gauge shotgun. It’s a nice little gun and a decent option for home defense, but it only holds three cartridges in the magazine and one in the chamber (3 + 1). I want more ammo capacity than that and I wasn’t sold on the idea of a second shotgun. I had a rifle in mind.

A Real Crowd Pleaser

Customized AR

Customized AR

For many, the choice among rifles is almost a no-brainer. Get an AR-15 and you’re good to go. ARs are hugely popular and, like the shotgun, they hold multiple rounds. 30-round magazines are standard equipment on most ARs. (Thirty rounds for an AR is not high-capacity – it’s standard capacity.) I’ve only shot an AR one time and it was fun. That’s not my highest criteria for a gun, but why would I want one that I don’t like to shoot? There are a lot of advantages to an AR-15. They’re light, easy to maneuver with, holds a lot of rounds, and are endlessly customizable. Just like you may know a computer guy who builds his own PCs from parts and pieces that he cobbles together, there are a lot of people who build their own ARs the same way. And let’s face it — ARs look bad-ass. Cradle one of these babies in your arms and you’ll look like you’re ready to go commando.

And that’s why I stayed away from the AR (or as gun enthusiasts call them, an MSR — modern sporting rifle). People are afraid of ARs. Not just the guns themselves, but also those who use them. As the gun control culture picks up steam, there is a continual cry for an all-out ban on these types of guns. Some states are passing this kind of legislature right now. Places like New York, Connecticut, Illinois, and California are unfriendly environments for people who own ARs.

Do I care what other people think of me and what I do? You bet I do! I want to have as much control over how people evaluate me as I possibly can. Sometimes I want to send the message that I’m not a guy that you want to mess with. But other times (probably most of the time) I want people to grossly under-estimate me. I don’t want to telegraph what I know, what I have, or what I’m capable of doing. That’s part of OPSEC (operations security). We don’t practice a lot of OPSEC here at TADPrepper because our mission is to get the word out that we need to get ready for hard and potentially dangerous times to come, and that means being open and transparent about sharing information that we would much rather keep private. But just as I carry a handgun concealed so as to not alarm anyone or let those around me know that I’m equipped to stop a threat, I want a rifle that would fly under the radar as well as possible while still meeting my needs.

My Solution

I wanted a rifle with more effective range than I could get with a handgun. I wanted a rifle that held a decent number of rounds of ammo. I wanted a rifle that met multiple purposes — suitable for both defense and hunting, usable by both Sandy and me, fairly economical to shoot, easy to reload the ammo, and that didn’t scream “bad-ass commando (wannabe)” to anyone who saw it. So where do you find something that meets all those criteria? I found mine 122 years in the past.

Here’s something that I’ve found to be a general (but not entirely universal) rule of thumb about prepping. The solution to many of your prepping issues is to go as old school and low-tech as you can get. If the electricity goes off, you don’t want all of your preps to be computer-controlled. You want to be able to thrive in semi-primitive conditions. For me, that meant no gun that looks like it was used on the set of Battlestar Galactica. I went for an antique, a cowboy gun designed by John Moses Browning (the most brilliant gun designer of all time, IMHO) way back in 1892. I chose a lever-action rifle made by Rossi, a clone of the classic Winchester Model 92.

When I arrived at this conclusion there were still some decisions to be made, most notably which of the calibers that it’s available in would I like. I was initially drawn to the .357, with the hopes and dreams of someday pairing it up with an excellent .357 revolver. Seemed like a good idea at the time, with one notable problem. You can’t find them anywhere. I asked for one at my favorite gun shop and the man laughed in my face. He said they get a shipment of them once in a while, but they sell out in no time. I found none of them at any of the big online gun dealers, either. Time to go to Plan B.

Plan B

Plan B wasn’t a bad option. I was getting excited about it. It was the venerable .30-30, the cartridge credited with harvesting more deer and elk in North America than any other round. Some of the reloading forums also said it was an ideal round for beginners to start with. And availability wasn’t an issue. Every store that sells lever-action rifles carries it in .30-30.

With my mind firmly made up, I made the pilgrimage to a gun shop about an hour’s drive from my house. I had never bought from them before, but I had visited once and was greatly impressed with their inventory. They have things that you only see in magazines but are never available in any other gun shop I’ve been in. And their prices are rock bottom. What’s not to love? Sure, they had the lever-action .30-30 that I had decided upon, but there was another little beauty in the rack, a .44 Magnum with a stainless steel barrel. I love stainless steel guns. Love ‘em. I know that they’re not as discrete as a blue barrel, but I love ‘em just the same. And they don’t rust.

Plan C — or was it Plan A?

I was just about to call an audible and buy the .44 when something caught the corner of my eye. It’s not easy for me to read those little tags they have on guns from my side of the counter, but I could have sworn that one of them a few slots over from the .44 said .357 Magnum. Naw. Couldn’t be. You can’t get them anywhere, as the past six months of Internet window shopping had abundantly proven to me.

But there it was. Brand new. Calling to me. “I saved myself for you, Phil. Take me home with you.”

No stainless steel barrel, but it was $80 less than the .44, it holds four more rounds than the .30-30 (10 + 1 versus 6 + 1), it’s cheaper to shoot, and easier to reload. The action was so smooth I could cycle it with just one finger and the trigger was fantastic. And here’s the kicker — the shop owner said that it’s illegal to hunt deer in the great state of Ohio with a .30-30 because it’s too high-powered, but they’ve recently changed the law to say that you can hunt deer with a .357. I don’t know if I will ever set foot in the woods with this gun, but I wasn’t going to let this Holy Grail moment slip away from me. The .357 went home with me that day.

Rossi Model 92 Lever-Action .357 Magnum

Rossi Model 92 Lever-Action .357 Magnum

I haven’t fired it yet, for all the same reasons that we haven’t posted a new blog on this site for the past three weeks — our  life has exploded a bit and we’ve been swamped, but soon I’ll get it to the range…and hopefully, often. I’ll let you know how it goes when I do.

Female Holding HandgunI don’t know about you, but where we live, we had a LONG, COLD winter. The weather’s starting to get nicer, but it’s been too long since we’ve been able to get out to our outdoor range. Sure, we could have gone to an indoor range, but that holds almost as much appeal to me as going to the outdoor range in 10°F weather. I’ve been told by a number of instructors that you should get some kind of practice at least once a week and I wasn’t about to make weekly treks to either an indoor or outdoor range between November and March. That left me with a problem. What to do?

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation for any of a number of reasons (perhaps you’re short on money or ammo, or your schedule just doesn’t allow time for the range this week, or you’re laid up with an injury), the answer to your dilemma and mine is dry fire training.

What is Dry Fire Training?

Dry firing is when you go through the motions of firing your gun, but with no ammo in it. If done properly, it helps reinforce the muscle memory you’re building up to be able to draw your weapon, get it on target, and squeeze off an accurate shot in a minimum amount of time. It can be especially helpful for new shooters as they learn the proper stance and become comfortable handling their gun without the possibility of the bang and recoil you get when you pull the trigger.

“Without the possibility?” Well, that’s the key. Safety first. Dry firing can be very dangerous unless you focus on safety first and always. An overwhelming majority of gun accidents occurred because the gun handler thought the gun was unloaded when in fact, it had at least one bullet in it. So let’s talk safety.

Safety First (and Always)

Dry firing can be completely safe if you follow a precise set of steps every time – every time – you begin and end a dry firing session. While we’ll add to this list, first let’s review our six rules of gun safety and discuss how they apply to dry firing.

Rule 1 – Get enough training to be proficient and keep your skills current.

Before dry firing, be sure you know how to use your weapon properly. You should especially know how to check your weapon to be sure it is unloaded with no bullet in the chamber or magazine.

Beyond that, consider dry firing to be a critical part of your training. Dry firing will help you learn and reinforce of the fundamentals of shooting. The fact that it lets you do that without an explosion occurring at the end of every trigger pull helps you develop a smooth trigger pull, avoiding or helping to eliminate a flinch.

Rule 2 – Never mix guns with drugs or alcohol.

While this would seem to be irrelevant when dry firing, you should view your dry firing session as real fire arms training. Any practice performed with a real gun has the potential to be deadly, and drugs or alcohol have no place in that effort. Guns and drugs or alcohol should never mix — even if you believe the gun isn’t loaded, because drugs and alcohol keep you from thinking clearly, and you don’t want to find yourself with a loaded gun that you believed to be empty. Which leads us to the next rule.

Rule 3 – Always assume all guns are loaded, and act accordingly.

Any time you pick up your handgun you should assume it’s loaded. That means your first step in dry firing will be to check your gun (both the chamber and the magazine) and unload your gun. Kathy Jackson of CorneredCat.com (a site I love) suggests that you also put the bullets in a different room. It’s an extra step to ensure your safety. You’re not going to reload and then take an extra dry fire practice shot by accident when you have to go to another room to get your bullets.

Rule 4 – Never point your gun at anything you are not willing to destroy.

When you know your gun is empty and you’re in the process of practicing by dry firing, you’re going to be looking for a target. It can be very tempting to point the gun towards something that you would never want to destroy. Sure, that thing (or person) makes an easy target to focus on while you practice, but if you are unwilling to destroy it, don’t point your gun at it. That’s how a lot of TVs and wall switches have met their demise.

“Why?” you ask – “I mean, I’m only dry firing, right?” Well, there are two very good reasons for not pointing your gun at anything other than a safe target:

  • People make mistakes (even smart people like you and me), and if you’ve made a mistake about your gun being unloaded, you’ve just placed that person you’re pointing the gun at in a life-or-death situation. A slip of your finger (or the purposeful pulling of the trigger, because you are, after all, dry firing a gun you believe to be unloaded) may very well kill that person.
  • If you let yourself get lazy about where you point your gun when you believe that it’s empty, you’ll get lazy about where you point your gun when it’s loaded. The purpose of dry firing is to develop good habits that become automatic – you are training your mind and your muscles to perform movements that will happen “automatically” in a crisis. You only want to point your gun at another person when your life or someone else’s life is on the line.

Rule 5 – Always keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target and you are ready to shoot.

When dry firing, handle your gun properly (that is, with your finger outside the trigger guard) until you are taking aim at your target and are ready to dry fire. Again, don’t develop lazy patterns when dry firing because they will become automatic every time you pick up a gun.

Rule 6 – Know your target and what’s beyond it.

Bullets can travel through walls, ceilings, and floors. Be sure you know what’s on the other side of the wall where you’re dry firing. If you don’t know what’s beyond your target (you did put a target up, right?), don’t fire. See rules 3 and 4. Don’t just aim at something in the room where you happen to be sitting (remember rule #4). Build a safe backstop where you’ll set up a target. Then let dry fire training begin.

Will Training Without Bullets Really Improve Your Shooting?

In a word – yes! If done properly. Dry firing isn’t just pointing your gun and pulling the trigger. If you ever need to use your gun to defend yourself or someone else, your circumstances are likely to not be ideal. It might be dark. You may be woken up suddenly from a deep sleep. You might be in an awkward position. A dry firing training regimen will help you learn to deploy your weapon safely, quickly, confidently, and accurately. The goal is to make safe and effective gun handling as automatic as possible. Concentrating on each element of shooting will help you learn good habits and gain control and confidence, and those things will translate into improved shooting. Here’s what to practice when you dry fire:

Gun Handling

  • Get comfortable handling your gun. Pick it up and put it down. Do you always do both actions safely – with the muzzle pointed in a safe direction and with your finger outside the trigger guard? Learn to establish a good shooting grip as you pick it up. You don’t want to fumble with your grip and need to adjust it.
  • Learn to ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. As part of your dry fire practice, go through the motions of moving, changing direction, and scanning the area around you while keeping the gun pointed in a safe direction. It’s harder than it sounds. Don’t assume that you already know how to do it and that it will be automatic for you when you need to do it.
  • Become adept and purposeful at flipping the safety on and off. Someday you might need to operate the safety while you’re in the dark or while you’re focused on a threat. Learn to tell if the safety is on or off by feel and learn how to operate it without looking at it.
  • Practice racking your gun. Learn multiple ways to rack it — overhanded, the “slingshot” method, with either hand, and even with just one hand.
  • If you are planning on carrying your gun concealed (assuming you have a permit, of course), practice taking your gun out of your holster or purse, as if you were drawing it from the concealed position. Practice this very slowly at first. Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. Doing it slowly will reinforce the proper method and feel so that when you need to do it quickly, you’ll be ready to get it right the first time.
  • Give the same attention to learning how to re-holster your weapon. A surprising number of accidental discharges happen while guns are being returned to their holster. The trigger snags on something like the drawstring of your windbreaker and makes the gun unexpectedly go BANG! and put a hole in your leg or foot.

Trigger Pull

  • Dry firing is the key to improving your trigger pull. Your trigger pull is the most difficult aspect of shooting accurately. This is one of the reasons why shooting rifles is so much easier than handguns. Most rifles are much heavier than handguns, but they have lighter and shorter trigger pulls. That, plus their much longer sight radius, makes them a lot easier to shoot accurately. Keeping a handgun that only weighs 2 pounds on target through a 9 pound trigger pull is a real challenge. Practice gently and steadily pulling your trigger while keeping the sights on target. When shooting from a distance of 20 feet, being off-target by just one-sixteenth of an inch will cause your shot to miss your intended target by four inches!
  • Do you have a flinch that sends most of your shots low and left? A shooter’s flinch isn’t a response to the noise and recoil of a shot being fired, but is the anticipation of it. We flinch during the shot, not after it. Dry firing helps you identify and overcome flinches. As you slowly pull the trigger you’ll also notice if you tend to pull the gun to the right or left, up or down. Be intentional about correcting these. The recoil from a handgun really isn’t that severe. It’s pretty similar to driving a nail into a board. Practice getting used to the recoil by laying a board in your driveway or patio and banging on it hard with a hammer. Focus on not flinching from the noise and impact.

Effective Stance

  • Practice your shooting stance. Practice picking up your weapon, holding it properly and getting into your shooting stance without a lot of fidgeting. Practice until the motion becomes natural.
  • After you’ve gotten very good at your basic stance, learn and practice other stances. If you need your gun for self-defense, you might not be able to use the isosceles or Weaver stance that you use at the shooting range. You might need to shoot while moving, or from a sitting or kneeling position.
  • If you ever need to use your gun for self-defense, it would be best if you could shoot from behind cover. But while cover provides good protection, shooting accurately from behind cover is incredibly difficult. If you can maintain all of the safety rules while practicing from behind cover, do it. Practice dry firing while kneeling behind a table or sofa and shooting around the side of it. Then practice it while not tipping over. (Personally, I’d like to practice it while being 25 years younger than I am.)

Yes, the weather is getting better and the range is calling me. I’ll also be training (without the cost of ammunition) between range visits by dry firing. And I’m looking forward to my range visits being more fun and on-target.

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